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

A Day in the Life

Believe it or not, this is our last week here in Jogja and it has truly been an honor to spend the last couple of weeks here. I have witnessed tremendous growth in each student as they have delicately transitioned from their daily routines back home to what is considered now their “life in Indonesia.” Watching the students interact and become a member of their homestay families has been incredibly heartwarming. Having a home away from home can be grounding when traveling and we are all grateful for this. Our time here has allowed the students to explore what an urban city in Indonesia is like. Jogja is known for being home to the many universities and artists – and the students have been exploring the city alongside their homestay families.

In addition to the student’s homestays, they have also been involved in their individual ISPs (Independent Study Projects), Bahasa Indonesia classes as well as participating in our homespun “guest lecture series” of Jogja. We have had the gift of knowledge shared to us from a wide range of people. Some of our guest lectures have covered topics of women in Indonesia, climate change, marginalized communities, Art and Activism, Muslim 101 and Indonesian history.

After spending the mornings catching up and sharing gratitude, the students break off into their language class. After lunch the afternoons consist of the Dragons scattered throughout Jogja taking part in the ISP projects. This can look very different for each student. Here is a glimpse into all of the amazing work they have been doing!

Nate has been working with Agus, his silver making mentor. In the afternoons Nate heads off to Studio 76, a peaceful and quiet studio on the edge of town where he works away at the various jewelry pieces he has been making. Music in the background and guidance from Agus has allowed Nate to learn the skills of hand making silver jewelry in a very tranquil environment. Each session he builds on his skills he has learned and is on his way to creating a personalized collection of his work. Nate has even made personalized rings for other students in the group!

Haley and Dashiel are taking part in the Indonesian Cooking class with Ibu Made. Over the last couple of weeks, they have cooked soto ayam, pisang goreng and countless other Indonesian dishes. By now they are master garlic peelers and sambal makers. All hand ground! Working in the kitchen with Made means learning first-hand how to buy, prepare and serve local dishes. This means going to the market before hand to find the best and freshest ingredients. I can say on account for all of the Dragon’s students, instructors and mentors that we are truly grateful for all the delicious food they have shared with us! They hope to bring their new cooking skills home with them and share the recipes and food with their families when they return to the U.S.

Sadie and Lila spend their afternoons heading just outside of Jogja where they are making wood carvings under the wings of their mentor Ucuk from Taring Padi. They work in his home studio, in a quiet part of a village right outside of town. A peaceful place to consider all of the hardships and struggle of the people that the Taring Padi collective often make art about. Their work is about activism, in many forms. Ucuk is a leader in political arts activism in Jogja and in all of Indonesia as well. Sadie and Lila have been inspired to create their own pieces, using a medium of art that involves intricate wood carving. To make them into prints, they are going old school. Using ink and their body weight, they roll out paper and use their feet to imprint the design!

Sam, Babette, and Otis have been using their mind and bodies to learn all about pencak silat. Silat is a form of martial arts traditionally practiced in southeast Asia, and originated in Indonesia. There are hundreds of different styles (aliran) and schools (perguruan) but they tend to focus either on strikes, joint manipulation, weaponry, or some combination of these. Generally speaking, silat is often associated with fixed hand positions, low stances, and slow dance-like movements. The students have been learning from their expert mentor Ariez, who has years of experience practicing himself as well as training members of national army! Sam, Babette, and Otis are continuing to build upon their skills and are ready to show the group their new found confidence in self-defense!

Anna has found a little piece of home right here in Jogja. Taking inspiration from her family farm back home – Anna has a deep respect for bees and the honey and wax they produce. During her ISP she has been learning how to make batik, which a technique originated in Indonesia that involves wax-dying applied to whole cloth. Batik is made by drawing lines and dots with a spouted tool called a canting. The applied wax resists dyes and therefore allows the artist to color selectively by soaking the cloth in one color, removing the wax with boiling water, and repeating this process if multiple colors are desired. The Javanese style of batik has a long history of acculturation, with diverse patterns influenced by a variety of cultures and is the most developed in terms of pattern, technique and quality of workmanship. Anna has been finding her batik making with her mentor Ibu Susi very peaceful and is happy to take part in an art that was designated in October 2009 by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity.

Steven’s interests have allowed him to dive deep into exploring the Chinese minority population in Jogja. Before even arriving to Indonesia, Steven was interested in the history, stories, struggles, and strives that the Ethnic-Chinese Indonesians have gone through. Often they are faced with discrimination, both at the higher political level as well as within their own communities. Steven has taken an independently driven approach to his ISP, meeting with community members and interviewing them to find out more about what life is like for Ethnic-Chinese Indonesian population here. When not exploring the city, Steven has been spending hours researching academic journals at the internet café to better understand the history of this often underrepresented minority group in Indonesia.

Nicole and Jackson spent the two first weeks in Jogja with their mentor, Ibu Vita. Their time with her is somewhat flexible – as Vita embodies jam karet, also known as “rubber time.” This means their schedule flows more depending on their mood and what the day has to offer. Jamu is homemade traditional Indonesian medicine. It is predominately herbal medicine, made from roots, leaves, bark, seeds, fruit and flowers. Often animal products are used as well such as honey, eggs, royal jelly, and milk. Jamu can be found all over Indonesia, but is most prevalent in Java – where you can often find women carrying bottles filled with their concoctions selling in the street. Nicole and Jackson have been loving their time with Vita, learning from her firsthand the art and history of traditional Javanese medicine.

P.S. – Thank you to all of the mentors who have been giving countless hours of dedication and support to all of the students – For sharing their depth of knowledge and allowing space for each student’s individual quests and growth. We are so grateful!