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Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Indonesian Interlude, Part II

Dani and Rosie’s morning walks in Salatiga go uphill and down, sometimes at what appear to me to be forty-five degree angles, in streets around their neighbourhood of homes, retreats, small fields, all surrounded by densely green areas of trees and bushes.  After just one try, via streets Rosie kindly recommends  for wimp-walker- me, I content myself with several rounds of the driveway and the brick patio outside my guest room windows.

Two nights of rain are followed by two nights of high wind, sending occasional coconuts, papaya, not-quite-ready-to-harvest guava, and even a few palm branches thumping against the house or littering the driveway.  But each morning the sun shines anew, inspiring songbirds and highlighting flowers, particularly a large, scarlet honeysuckle-shaped blossom with eight slender petals, hanging upside down from single straggly vine in the arbor above ‘my’ patio.  One afternoon I am treated to the sight of a slender sparrow-sized bird that appears to be a hummingbird, hovering to sip from a similar bloom, just under the arbor canopy.

The town of Salatiga reminds me of India. Medium small shops lining a faded pink, colonial era looking mall are crowded with goods in indifferent condition, somewhat haphazardly arranged.  A grocery store, like an old, overcrowded country store hanging on to its existence into the fifties.  

We visit a batik shop, where cloth of batik and other varieties are compressed into shelves and pile on tables, to view which the proprietor’s assistance is required. He unfolds several heavy bolts of a certain type of cloth, to demonstrate how the cloth feels cold and damp, the significance of which I fail to grasp:  perhaps they are ‘fresh’?  Rosie tells me that if the cloth feels cold or damp to the touch, it will be cool and comfortable to wear, and that Indonesians often consider that when purchasing cloth.

I move over to the more ordinary cloth section, and purchase two designs that please me, realizing only later that one of them is ikat, a dying/weaving technique also done in the area of India I will visit next week. The proprietor treats us to a small drink box of water, a welcome treat after shopping here and there for over
an hour.  Usually husbands tire of how long women can shop, but we have to laugh when we realize we are the ones waiting for Dani, supposedly buying a light bulb, but, in fact, visiting with shopkeepers, old friends, along the way.

I ask for children’s music at a tiny roadside CD display, and two men (I’m not sure whether the second was a bystander, friend of the seller, or perhaps the owner) scrounge up a disc by an Indonesian child rock star who, they assure me, is wildly popular in Indonesia.  I hope my grandchildren, rock connoisseurs themselves, will concur.  

Traffic is similar to that in India, everything from bicycle rickshaw (driver in the rear) and motorcycle to auto and truck, but sharing the  lane-marked road quietly: no honking of horns!  Traffic signs remind one of the rules; lest anything be forgotten, there's even a sign that is simply one big exclamation point!

One day we drive to Semarang, a city an hour to the north of Salatiga, where, as  head of the Central Java Research Bureau, which reports to the governor of Java on development policies, programs and projects, Dani convenes a meeting.  The bureau's name in Indonesian, "Dewan Reset Daerah, Jawa Tengah" looks like it could be fun to pronounce.  Dani later regales us with a humorous take on getting all members of a newly formed committee 'on the same page.'

Rosie, Vera and I lunch at Ciputra  Hotel where there is a sumptuous buffet, We visit a modest shopping mall, replete with special promotions in the atrium, and a more upscale mall, not so different from an American city mall, where Dani joins us for coffee (my vote:  hot chocolate) at a Starbucks. Travel malaise is still with me, and it’s hard to stay awake on the drive home.

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