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

Sights and Sounds from Jogja

One week into our homestays here in Jogja, here are some little things I like:

Every night I hear food carts winding down the narrow residential streets around my house. Each one has a different sound for whatever food they’re selling, and I’m just starting to learn what each noise means. One of my first nights here I could hear a a bell ringing outside and asked my mom what it was, and was very confused when she kept repeating “noodles!” But I figured it out, and right now I can hear the sound I’m pretty sure is for bakso: a noise that sounds like a wooden ball hitting another piece of wood.

Amongst the 16 of us we have one guitarlele (that Rita brings with her), and there’s always someone playing it at the program house. In Ketambe, the guitarlele was mostly forgotten, but here it is much used and much loved. It’s extremely rare to have a bit of free time hanging out in the program house without hearing someone strumming along or working on a song, and it’s a very happy sound.

I’ve never spent any time in a predominantly Muslim area, so hearing the call to prayer every day has been a very new experience. I really love hearing it, and it is a constant reminder of how dedicated Muslims are to their faith and their way of life – something I’ve come to admire living in Jogja, and staying with a Muslim family. Yesterday we had to be at the program house at 4 am to leave for the Borobudur, and walking through the nearly empty, dark streets with the call to prayer echoing around us was a very cool and peaceful experience.

Everyone rides motorcycles here! There are many times the numbers of motorcycles than cars here, which is not something I’ve ever seen. Traffic laws are very relaxed here, and more often than not crossing the street involves walking in front of oncoming traffic with your hand up so that they’ll stop. There aren’t any walk signals that I’ve seen!

Today I asked my host mom for a paper towel and she had no idea what I was talking about. Every once in a while I come across little things like that that are different between here and America that always end in laughter between my mom and I. She didn’t know what ketchup was either, and absolutely could not understand what granola was when I tried to explain it to her after she asked what I usually eat for breakfast in America.

I find little cultural differences fascinating, and one of the most interesting aspects of daily life here, so I hope you’ve enjoyed them! Some more in-depth yaks about orientation and Jogja to come!

– Emily