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Observations, Adjustments and Temples

Borobudur temple
Borobudur temple

I'm starting to feel like I live in Indonesia, not like I'm just passing through. It's taken some getting used to though, and I've noticed some interesting things. Like the vehicles here are bigger than America. Most people ride motorbikes, but almost everyone else has a van or SUV. Asked about why that was and I was told it was so people can take their whole family home during the holidays.

The amount of cigarette advertising is also a bit jarring. The main advertisers seem to be Black and Mild, Marlboro, L.A. Lights and Djarum but I've yet to see a package for Black and Mild or L.A. Lights. Vina told me that 2/3rds of the men here smoke but it doesn't seem like that many do. Smoking is allowed in all buildings here which is the exact opposite of my home state where it isn't allowed anywhere.

Smart phones here are more prevalent than in the states. In fact, most locals seem to have two cell phones. The most common brand is the BlackBerry with Android and iPhone after that.

I've noticed something different about the way people here crouch. I call it the monkey crouch because I saw a street performer with a monkey both squatting in exactly the same position. I'm surprised it took me so long to pick up on. I saw it in Southeast Asia when I was there 6 years ago and I see it in images of other Asian countries. It's a way of crouching where your butt is much closer to the ground, almost resting on your heels. I tried it myself and it's a very comfortable way to squat for extended periods of time. It's something I've never seen a white person do though.

Guy sitting in the monkey crouch

The money here takes some getting used to. There's almost 10,000 rupiah to the US dollar which means things here are cheap. Very cheap. Before you know it you've fallen into the trap of financial relativity. It's a principal we've known about for a long time. It's the reason you may drive 10 minutes out of your way to buy the same pen for $5 instead of $15 but you won't drive 10 minutes out of your way to save $10 on a new car. You find yourself haggling for prices you wouldn't bat an eyelash at back home. You may refrain from buying a shirt that you really like because the person is asking $5 for it but you know you could get it for $4.

When you pair the money with foreign measurement system—the metric system—it gets even more complicated. How much would you pay for a 5kg watermelon back home? I've gotten used to the metric system quickly but it makes me feel bad that I didn't know it better sooner, especially considering my love of science. It makes me feel like a dumb American and I'm sick of being a dumb American.

So sick in fact that I've decided not to be. Miguel, who's decided to come traveling with me for a couple weeks, is going to try to transform me into a European. The goal is to look completely European by the time he's done with me. So if anyone asks, I'm Bobich from Slovenia.

My transformation may help me blend in with other bules(white people) but I just wasn't built for this country. Many things are too small for me, including public transport. Speaking of transport, another thing I've had to get used to is all the vehicles driving at night with their lights off.

I've also had to get used to cutting things with a spoon. They don't seem to use knives ever here and they rarely use forks. They use spoons and their hands and they're very good at cutting things with spoons. I'm getting much better myself as I've had a lot of opportunity for practice lately.

One thing that hasn't taken any getting used to is eating rice. Many people here seemed shocked that I've eaten rice before and I think a couple didn't believe me when I told them I usually eat it several times a week.

My days have been as packed as ever, if not more so. Since I last updated you I drove to Yogyakarta with the Green Canyon crew and saw much of what it has to offer. That includes two ancient temple sites, a Dutch fort, a couple museums, a traditional ballet and a park at night that was out of this world.

Prambanan temple

The first temple I went to was Borobudur(shown at the top of this post) which is a Buddhist temple with many similarities to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The second temple was Prambanan(shown above), a Hindu temple which isn't far at all from Borobudur. They were both cool to see but both a little beat up due to all of Indonesia's earth quakes.

The people here have been just as friendly as in Bandung. It was great of them to show me around their city. They took me to this park at night which has two trees maybe 10 meters apart. They say if you stand about 15 meters down the perpendicular bisector of the trees, close your eyes, turn around three times and then walk with your eyes closed between the trees all your dreams will come true. We all tried it but no one succeeded. It's surprisingly harder than it sounds. I also got to experience a little bit of Indonesian night life when one of the locals took Miguel and I to a club.

Our host last night was great and now we're rested and ready to hit the road again. We're going to hitchhike up north to Surabaya to drop in on a friend of a friend from Madison.

Soundtrack: Bitter Sweet Symphony (The Verve)


gramma pearl
September 26th, 2012 at 1:27 PM

im enjoying your travels,,It seems like your writing a book. its nice that you found such nice people to hang out with,enjoy yourself. lov Gramma

October 1st, 2012 at 2:16 PM

Re: Crouching - When I was a kid this was called the Korean squat. Tai Chi instructor Tricia Yu recommends it as a way of preventing back problems.

If you're asking a question, it may be better to just email me at beau@dangertravels.com