Friday, July 17, 2009

The Importance of Numbers - A Reflection of Our Journey in Yogyakarta.

By Melanie A. Chalil

17 July 2009

It started with 17...

My experience here in Yogya centers around numbers, literally. Prior to the trip, my duties involved calling up our 17 wonderful participants (it was then 18) and recording their dates of birth and emergency contacts. When I got here, however, it started with daily head-counts, making sure that no one was left behind for our informative sessions and amazing sightseeing trips. Having participated in last year's study trip to Siem Reap, the group this time had a fair share of relatively new faces and in getting to know the city, I ended up getting to know these individuals.

Then plus 5....

Our wonderful student guides are more than just guides. I have to say, they became our eyes and ears to exploring this city. Whenever I had a question, one of them were always there to provide an explanation regarding the customs, culture and language of the Javanese people. At
tonight's farewell dinner, I realized how much I'm going to miss hearing them sing from across my room. I still remember listening to their voices the first time they practiced – I dropped by their room and said, “You guys can make money out of this”. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Nana, Adi, Arum, Ambar and Ike – Terima kasih for being such great guides and most importantly, friends.

When you have too many zeros...

we've all become millionaires in indonesia!

I'll be the first to admit that I cannot count to save my life. I'm always the last person at the table who offers to count the check simply because I just dislike doing it. I was never a whiz at math in school and safe to say, that was one of the main reasons why I chose to study Arts. I was definitely out of my element on a daily basis whenever I had to count the cash that was given to me. Trust me, it took a really long time (especially the first few days) to get used to what is now the familiar rupiah. During the first few days of counting cash, I thought I was going crazy. All I saw were numbers. I think I even dreamt that I was counting money. So anyways, all this venting has a point to it (I am getting there). The truth is, as much as I disliked doing it, I got used to it. And now, I definitely get what Dr. Yeoh was saying about our accommodation here – making the unfamiliar familiar. So yes, I'm much better at counting money now. Of course, I have my little piece of technology to thank but I definitely get how much work goes into planning for a trip like this just by the amount of zeros I had to count.

my duty in this trip includes counting, counting and counting money

9 days and 999 statues...

The highlight of this trip for me was definitely visiting both Candi Borobudur and Prambanan. I knew very little about these temples and I desperately wanted to know about the history behind its architecture. I loved listening to the legend of Loro Jonggrang because its heartbreakingly beautiful. Also, watching the Ramayana Ballet was a refreshing change from the usual hyper-dramatic/expressive operas I love so dearly. I enjoyed every deliberate movement and although I personally think gamelan music is freaky, it doesn't fail to enchant me.

I count myself very lucky to be able to learn so much about this city in such a short span of time. Although we live near a certain tourist infested street called Malioboro, it was the sessions we attended that truly taught me about the people who live here. It is the lives of such individuals that truly inspire us and teach us to not take things for granted.

WRITER'S PROFILE: Melanie is currently writing her Honours thesis on vampire literature
and masochism. She is a mixed bag of different cultures and loves writing short stories during her free time. Melanie is also fascinated by ancient monuments and civilization. This is her first time in Indonesia and is hooked on Javanese Lulur.

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