Saturday, July 11, 2009

Diary Entry: Day 2

By: Rashaad Ali

10 July 2009

Space is a matter of perspective. The Comfort Zone is relative to the individual, I thought, whilst squeezing onto my bed trying to find some sleep before the long day that awaited us. Space is relative, as porous as the walls, as thick as the mattresses, as loud as the aerobics lesson next door.

I woke an hour before I thought daylight would arrive in Yogyakarta. Skipping breakfast because of my tardiness, I bundled out of the shower and hurried into the bus with my fellow travellers, sleepy-eyed for the beginning of our journey.

Our first stop was Universiti Gajah Mada (UKM) where we attended a small session, elucidating the political situation of Indonesia in light of the recent general elections. Conducted by Dr. Aris Arif, we listened in as he described his general disdain for the candidates of the election. According to him, 40% of the country’s population abstained from voting, whether due to administrative problems or as a form of political dissent. Furthermore, in Indonesia there is no compulsion to vote, and Dr. Aris practised this by abstaining as each candidate came from a military background with plenty of skeletons in their respective closets. These include the repression of student activism with state violence and involvement in the East Timor turmoil in the late 90’s to name a few.

Session at Universitas Gadjah Mada

He continued to expound the flaws of the candidates from Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) to Megawati revealing their dark dealings to us in the comfort of the Centre for South East Asian Studies’ meeting room. One thing seemed clear however, political awareness in Indonesia was not merely reserved for the intelligentsia as politics appears to permeate through all levels of society. The general election seemed to morph into a battle between the lesser of evils with citizens voting for candidates they trusted more over others. When this option would not suffice, the choice of abstention was also on the table.

A group picture in front of the UGM Post-graduate building

We left the university with a better awareness of our surroundings and an appetite for lunch. While Shazwan, our student guide, Adi and I made a momentary diversion for the Friday prayers at a nearby mosque, the rest of the group settled themselves at the FoodFezt restaurant. Joining up with the rest half an hour later, I ordered a plate of nasi kebuli with chicken and a plate of Indonesian satay. Similar to its namesake in Malaysia, satay in Indonesia is served dipped in chili soy sauce, tasty despite the fiery sensation in my stomach.

Our next excursion took us away from the city to the grounds of a local NGO known as INSIST (Indonesian Society for Social Transformation), which focuses on micro supporting systems for the local populace for social sustenance while also conducting research programs to improve the self-determination of the individual, relieving them from market dependency. INSIST has many member offices and training grounds spread across Indonesia, providing agricultural training for the locals. The presentation was delivered by Mr. Roem, who himself has been active in the political scene for many years and his anti-establishment sentiments are reflected in his personal philosophy especially with respect to the running of his unit here in Yogyakarta. His leftist ideals were teeming with altruism, invoking my inner Guevara out from its dormant period into activity.

Walking to INSIST

Another bus ride home and we returned to the confines of our residence, only to embark outward once again in search of food. We took a long walk and stopped at the Alun-Alun Selatan which is part of the Sultan’s palace. Reluctant at first, I eventually succumbed to the romantic notion of eating sidewalk food to discover an amazing plate of soto ayam which I enjoyed on the grass alongside those who embraced the questionable hygiene of the food. Satisfied with our delicious and cheap meal, we tried our hand at walking blindfolded in a straight line between two banyan trees, a task proven to be a lot harder than it sounds. Bumping into strangers, bee-lining in the opposite direction whilst watching friends try their luck caused an eruption of laughter amongst friends and strangers alike. Walking back across the field to catch a cab home, a warmth of satisfaction began to diffuse in the air contrasting the cool of the breeze, at the enjoyment and satisfaction that the second day in Yogyakarta had provided for us. Dragging our tired feet across the cobbled pavement a slow sense of familiarity begins to transcend physical space, broadening the boundaries of comfort.

*View more pictures of the day from our photo album

WRITER'S PROFILE: Rashaad is a Malaysian doing a double major in Writing and International Studies under the Bachelor of Arts program at Monash University Malaysia. He loves reading, writing, eating and sleeping. He loves the nasi padang in Yogyakarta because there is nothing like good food to supplement a life-changing trip.

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