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Students in a long tail boat in Indonesia. Photo by Aaron Slosberg, Indonesia Semester.

Impressionistic Indonesia

A rough timeline told in snapshots of colors and feelings from our time in and around Yogyakarta:

Purple: After a bird flew into the engine of the soon-to-be-our plane and our flight from Medan to Jogja was cancelled (understandable, I suppose) we ended up at a fancy touristy hotel near the Medan airport. That night we found ourselves on the flat, wide-open roof of the building neighboring our hotel. Our aerial view of the bright sprawling metropolis was contrasted with the model mountain houses and twisted bonsai trees that had been a somewhat confusing part of the hotel grounds. Standing in a line along the railing with a cool breeze flowing over us, we looked out at the blinking lights of airport runways and watched as storm clouds oozed in around the edges of our vision. The accompanying sense of peace and togetherness we felt was not dampened by the rain that chased us back into our beds to rest for our coming day of travel.

Brown: After arriving late to the program house after a long day of sitting on a plane (both in the air and on the ground for extended periods of time), seeing our families ready to take us back to our new homes was certainly a bit of a change from what we had been doing so far. As we became more comfortable with a real daily schedule, the (gorgeous) program house became a weekday-only neutral space where our group could be around each other and learn even more new things in relative peace.

Orange: My first impressions of the city of Jogja had more of an orange feeling than an actual presence of the color itself. Jogja is certainly alive and full of character, and although somewhat chaotic at first glance, it is truly lovable once you get to know it a little. Later in our stay here, we watched a perfect sunset from the ruins of a huge brick building atop a hill overlooking the rusted metal roofs and tight winding roads of Taman Sari with the feeling of having a truly good day even though almost nothing at all had gone to plan.

Yellow: I sometimes passed by a nearly offensively bright and obvious sign during my daily taksi ride to the program house. This sign read “SAY NO TO DRUGS!!!” (in black lettering, all caps, complete with three exclamation points) and appeared to be the main sign for a zoo on the corner of a city block at a bustling intersection – I never got the chance to investigate further.

Green: Before exiting the cave at Goa Pindul, the final room had sunlight pouring in through an opening in the ceiling into the water where we were swimming. Looking up and seeing the sky framed with plants was a moment of realization of the natural beauty around us. Jumping into the river off a rock ledge encompassed the satisfying feeling of our first successful, fully student-planned day.

Grey: On a weekend evening, I sat with my host family on the front porch of our house. We watched as a silvery dead leaf, still dangling from a tree, danced with the passing breeze in front of rice fields and the pale post-sunset sky.

Pink: After watching a cabaret on the rooftop level of Hamzah Batik on Malioboro Avenue, we rushed the stage and danced through the artificial smoke to the background music that was still playing. Our spontaneous dance party bewildered of the remaining audience watching us from behind stage lights. Pink is also the color of my nails right now (they’re neon) and the eyes of a horse I encountered that would not stop staring at me (extremely intimidating).

Red: During one of our last days in Jogja, my host father took me to the village stables where he kept his horse (for pulling the dokar he took to Malioboro), whom he wanted me to meet before I left. These stables were also home to the above-mentioned terrifying pink-eyed horse and filled with the scent of hay and livestock as well as the soft peeping of swarms of chicks trailing behind their mothers.

Blue: The walls of my homestay bedroom were a soft, calming blue reminiscent of my old bedroom walls back home and accompanied by floral sheets and tile floor. Here I always knew there was a bed waiting for me each night and a loving, generous family to feed and care for me. Leaving them at the end of three weeks was emotional, and I felt we had really connected, but I am glad that we are able to move on and am secure in the knowledge that I will always have friends back in Jogja.