March 1

Despite our internet silence, we’ve both been faithfully keeping up in our journals. CeCe’s is the traditional kind, with ticket stubs and other random paraphernalia glued in for color. I write a postcard each day. It’s something we started together on our U.S. roadtrip back in 2004. I like the format because it keeps me brief and helps me stay on top of things.  So to show that the last, missing week hasn’t been all urban dreariness, below is the text of the postcard I wrote on Sunday from Kaliurang, a small town on the slopes of Java’s Mt. Merapi, by some accounts the world’s most dangerous volcano.  (Here’s a photo gallery from the last time it erupted in 2006.)

March 1, 2009 – Kaliurang, Java, Indonesia

March already? Yikes! We’re getting itchy to move on from Indonesia so CeCe devised a nice overnight trip to the slopes of Mt. Merapi to help us escape the tourist glut in Yogyakarta.  A series of bemos (dingy minibuses) took us to Kaliuran, a low-key, unassuming town that’s a down-scale retreat for Yogya residents looking to escape the heat.  On the way up, I bought two kilos of salak (snake-skin fruit) and enjoyed passing them out among the locals who had directed me to the fruit seller.  I saved some for us and to share on the bus of course. I’ve come to learn on this trip that I love sharing food with strangers.

Once we found a room, one complete with a drive-in enclosed parking spot beneath our bedroom, we had a delicious sate lunch.  Sate is skewered, grilled meat.  After OD’ing on such things in Beijing, I now regret passing over it for so long.  Appetite appeased we made a bee line to Ullen Sentalu Museum, a series of Javan exhibits housed in a labyrinthine grotto tucked into a volcanic valley. It was tastefully decorated with Javan art and artefacts and quite memorably full of oil paintings of many of Java’s recent sultans and, interestingly, the most notable of their many wives.  Out tour guide was an energetic Muslim woman perhaps a few years older than us who exhuded enthusiasm for the women and their exploits.  She struck me as the quintessential modern Muslim woman as she talked at times about the traditional roles of a Javan wife in the home, yet also evinced comfort with the contemporary relaxation of social barriers and the possibilities for personal freedom. Somehow the guide, in the way she talked about how thse queens and princesses bridged the divide between traditional Islamic values and modernity, manged to do the same.    It was clear in her admiration that these queens and princesses had paved the way for her.

It was a thought-provoking hour, but our guide was almost overshadowed by the location.  Much of the museum was contained within a winding series of subterranean stone chambers, almost medieval European in feel, and the rest of the complex was equally enchanting – a series of picturesque pools, paths, and enclaves.  Unfortunately, photos were prohibited.

To close the day, we indulged our silly side and embarked on a kiddy train ride originating from a nearby Indonesian tourist park. The town itself itself is a pleasant, well-kept one which seems far removed from Java’s urban chaos.  Tomorrow, we climb Mt. Merapi!

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