As you saw in one of the recent posts, we invited Amy’s parents to write about their experience traveling in Indonesia. Today we have Amy’s mom. This week we are in Bali with Will’s mom and we hope to have her contribute after her trip as well.
Our trip to Indonesia was truly magnificent. We have been home just over 4 weeks and I’m still reflecting on my experiences and observations. Amy definitely did a superb job in planning our itinerary and being a wonderful tour guide. As her mom I spent many years helping her learn to navigate through life. On this trip it was completely reversed! She handled transportation and drivers, boarding passes, hotel check ins, payments, issues arising and even making sure I was consuming enough fluids and eating when I needed to. I marveled at her competence and composure. She has always exhibited these traits but living and working in Indonesia has magnified these gifts.
I have given quite a bit of thought to what I might share about our adventure that hasn’t been covered already. So, being a visual artist, I will share photos I took of some of the things I love best as I saw them Indonesia. I must acknowledge what I saw was only a passing snapshot into this country and culture and all filtered through the lens of my own understanding. That said…
Art, Music and Beauty
Bali abounds in art and beauty, especially sculpture. I didn’t visit a museum—I didn’t need to, the art was everywhere. It wouldn’t be fair to talk about art in Bali and not mention Java’s Borobudur, which seemed to be made of stone sculptures!
I loved the spiritual aspect that the Hindus bring to Bali. Daily beautiful offerings of flowers, food and incense are placed everywhere! In holy places of course but also in alters on the streets, in hotels, in the fronts of businesses, inside businesses, on statues. The presentation of food was artistically done, always with an eye toward beauty. I always welcomed the drift of incense.
Music drifted by on the wind like the incense. The “music” that enchanted me most was the call to prayers on Java. At times it was hauntingly beautiful and brought us to give our own prayers when we awoke to the calls at 4:30 am. The calls are made throughout the day. Of course, not everyone has a lovely voice and at times the calls weren’t enchanting at all.
The calls to prayer are broadcast from the Mosques and are timed to ring across the land. This Mosque is in Batu.
I have always had close animal friends in my life and I value those friendships highly. Dogs, cats and horses are especially dear to me. My love of animals did cause me to wince more than once during our travels.
Dogs: Bali has many street dogs that all look very similar. These dogs seem to navigate the traffic with ease. My first days in Indonesia were in Bali and I admit I was stressed by the traffic. It was zipping here, there and around all sides of vehicles, people and dogs. Those dogs impressed me. I suppose those that aren’t smart enough to learn to deal don’t live long. Bali is working on education about care of dogs and has signage and billboards on spay neutering and caring for pets. I saw no dogs at all on Java! I am told there are some owned by Hindu and Christian families. A life with no dogs that would be a hard life for me.
Horses, hard working horses! It pained me to see the city horses providing transportation. These were small horses that were thin, sweating, salivating beasts of burden, never walking, always trotting on concrete in the heavy traffic, through exhaust, smog, and heat. When they were at rest they too often were standing in full sun while their drivers were under shade in the carts or not to be seen. They live a hard life.
On Gili Air the only transportation allowed was horse drawn carts or bikes, nothing motorized. The horses were even smaller but they seemed well kept for the most part, even if they were working long hard days. They either hauled a wagon with seats for people or wagons for goods. They were frequently parked in the shade to rest, and those hauling people were outfitted like Kentucky Show Ponies. They were the only traffic except for pedestrians. Most of these 4-legged workers got to go home at dark.
Cats. Oh poor cats. I saw cats everywhere on Java and Gili Air. They are the dirtiest cats I’ve ever seen. They have short tails, crooked tails and zigzagged tails. Amy and Will have asked about the cat’s tails, the answers are different. It is a mystery to me what is happening to their tails. At the beach for dinner one evening two cats joined us. They sat sweetly and patiently by our table never asking for a bite. We of course couldn’t resist their good manners and gave them a bite or two at the end of our meal and a few strokes on their heads. Many cats at the beach took advantage of the slow times at the restaurants for shady naps and were tolerated.
Wild Animals. My exposure to the monkeys at the Monkey Forest in Bali and the orangutans at the reserve led me to believe they fare better than the dogs and cats. Maybe yes, maybe no?
Roosters. Wherever they are in the world they are just loud! There were a lot of them in rural areas we visited. But when I learned it was a single caged rooster at the hotel in town that woke me from a sound sleep at dawn, I thought, “Really? Why are you here?”
People. I found it just amazing that construction workers on the highways or mixing concrete and building houses were wearing flip-flops and even sometimes barefoot! Most of these men were working with very basic tools, meaning not power tools. Yes they were working as hard as those horses. The horses had shoes.
I will always have warm memories of the hospitality of Bu Kis and Bu Susi. I could feel the love and friendship they feel for Amy. I received warm goodbye hugs from both on my leaving. So many people were helpful and kind and genuinely interested in where we came from and why we were there. I loved that our river guide Dodi watched us play cards until he was asking us appropriate questions about the game, so we invited him to play. He did just great. The cook on the boat and her 3-year-old daughter were just lovely. And her cooking was wonderful. She did her magic in a tiny hot kitchen in the lower deck.
In the beginning I felt uncomfortable being stared at all the time. Amy had warned us about this. But soon, I just looked at the person staring and smiled at them. I always got a warm smile back. I realized that being an old Bu (mother, Mrs.) gave me the freedom to do this, without being misunderstood like a young woman could be. Another blessing of ageing, I’ll take all I can get.
We also made new friends in fellow PC Volunteers Emily and Richie. It was a pleasure to see Peter’s cousin Steve in Indonesia of all places!
In the Square Hotel in Surabaya a man from Jamaica joined us in an elevator. He asked if we were a family. When it was explained that Amy and Will were married and were traveling with her parents he offered his condolences to Will. We all had a good laugh at that. Truly we laughed a lot. Peter and I got to know Will so much better after traveling with him for three weeks. I loved seeing he has no problem sharing power in the relationship with Amy. He also was right there and had her back when she needed it. I have always thought they were a good match, now I know just how well matched they are. Yes we shared some tough travel situations (hot bus, cancelled flight, illness) but with humor and grace. No one got snappy or hateful at all! I look forward to more adventures with Amy and Will.
I can’t write here without mentioning my number one traveling companion, Peter. Peter and Amy followed many leads to find more Pepto-Bismol in Surabaya to treat the dreaded “Bali Belly” but to no avail. He confessed when we got home that he had shorted his share of Pepto-Bismol so I would have plenty. Now that says love. Peter loves to travel and makes a happy traveling companion.
When we were driving back to Berea after our long, long flight home I was struck by the easy spacious flow of traffic on I-75. This is the very same highway that I so often dread to drive because it is so ”crazy!” I quickly adapted to the Indonesian traffic. I mean there were little kids on motorbikes without helmets riding with three other people! So what if I didn’t have a seat belt! We are very safety conscious here in the US, and that is OK by me. We are truly fortunate. We have daily comforts that I had come to take for granted, such as good thick mattresses, cushioned upholstery, OSHA, and trash pickup and recycling. For the most part people know how to stand in line and not break in front of others and don’t do it. We have clean air because we made laws that make it so. We have screened doors and maybe even AC.
Indonesia and Appalachia share likenesses for bad and for good. We too have our share of poverty, trashy roads, homeless people, mistreated animals, and negative environmental practices. We both offer an abundance of natural beauty, wildlife and warm people full of hospitality.
I can’t wait until Amy and Will return to Kentucky. Finally it’s less than a year!