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Monday, January 28, 2013

Indonesian Interlude I

Silk Air, Singapore Airlines' regional carrier, though smaller, proves just as pleasant.  The flight is full, and efficiently loaded in a  minimum of time.  Slim stewardesses, in simple, sculpted dresses of light, lime green, move gracefully among the passengers, black haired lilies on lithe stems. Every one of them is totally focused, graciously greeting passengers, securing luggage compartments, checking seat belts, and serving soft drinks as soon as the passengers are in place. One of them mimes the brief safety talk shown on tv screens above the seats. That awkward Asian game show where contestants attempt impossible obstacle courses before falling into a water tank is followed by a candid camera type show, accompanied by hot towels, and a full meal featuring fish or chicken.  The pilot points out the landscape below as we draw within sight of the Indonesian archipelago.  Frankly, our pilot is arguably the clearest, most cordial and articulate ever as he welcomes and informs us of flight time and distance, brief turbulence and views along our way. His landing, too, is whisper soft.

Solo Airport is immaculate and well attended. We are ushered via a short hallway and escalator to ground level where I pay $25 (in crisp new bills, as my hostess has advised) for a short visit/transit visa before exiting to the luggage area, where a porter finds my checked bag, and another attendant conveys the bags and me the short way to the portico where my hosts are waiting and waving.

Rosie, a St. Olaf grad and one of us "I-3's" recruited by the LCA to teach English for three years in India in the 60's, continued on with the ELCA as a university lecturer and librarian, and settled here with her Indonesian husband, Dani.  We've met seldom, over the years, but keep up a fast correspondence comparing notes on family life and  our shared interest in words and writing, so the renewal of friendship, laughter, and conversation flow freely. We drive the hour-plus from Solo to their home in Salatiga, which Dani says is in the geographical center of Indonesia as well as the island of Java.  Small businesses line the road the whole way, but I can see the landscape beyond the road is green and lush. 

From Salatiga, Mount Merapu, the most active volcano in the archipelago, looks soft, shrouded in mist much of the time, in the distance.
The family home is atop a hill among other hills, with a view of the town and mountains all around.  
Fruit and flowering trees almost hide the house, with a large portico and generous porch at the entrance.  

Much of the downstairs is a square of spacious rooms surrounding an atrium filled with trees and greens ranging from palm and Norway Pine to elephant ear plants and money plant vines, and a koi pond into which three jets splash water day and night. More plants in large pots surround screen doors to adjacent rooms, along with waist high, clay folk figures in welcoming postures, flanking the sliding, dining room door, and comfortable seating and a magazine table in one corner. I suspect the sound of splashing so close at hand might keep me awake at night, but it's hardly audible when I close the teak wood bedroom door.

It starts to rain as we arrive, and the rain develops into a downpour lasting most of the night, leaving every-thing even lusher and greener than the day before.  I sleep frequently and deeply, which, Rosie reminds me, is what she expects me to do after my days and the time-change of travelling.  I am surprised to find that their diet is not necessarily spicy.  We have rice and vegetables, tasty but not 'hot', every day.    A diminutive cook, Mbak Mina, pays close attention to my eating, and makes me chicken soup and gruel to counteract a cold and traveller's tummy.

We are joined for meals and forays into town by Dani's sister, Vera, pronounced Fairah, who has lived with them since 1981. She helps them to host  frequent visitors and relatives who drop in or come to stay with more or less notice, and is a person whose presence I am tempted to envy, because of the time she frees for Rosie to write.  (Rosie published her first book, LIGHT FOR THE JOURNEY, reflecting and inviting discussion on intercultural experiences, last year.)  Everyone I meet seems to enjoy an easy camaraderie, as do other Indonesians we meet on a walk through a local bazaar...but more about the Indonesia in the next blog....

These and all the Indonesia pictures are courtesy of R. and D. Kameo...manga tak, from me!

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