Weekends in Purwokerto and Yogyakarta: Gula Merah, Michael Jackson & Blindfolded Walks in the Park

After three wonderful and busy weeks spending my time and attention almost exclusively at Semarang State Polytechnic, teaching and working with POLINES teachers, students and staff, this last week took me to other cities in the area to meet friends and colleagues from the CCFA program.

Last weekend I made my way to the mid-sized city of Purwokerto, in the agricultural heart of Central Java, visiting my friends Daryono and Budi from General Sudirman University, as well as their colleague and my friend Evi. I put this visit at the top of my queue so I could see Budi before he headed off to Germany to start his PhD work. (Selamat jalan, mas! Dan semoga berhasil!) Great to catch up with them, talk some business and have a meeting or two, before they took me on a cultural tour to a village that specializes in homemade batik cloth production. That same trip then took us to a mountain village where they produce “red sugar” from the flower of the coconut palm tree. (See photos of the guy climbing the tree—no ropes!—to collect the raw liquid in little bamboo containers.)

My week at POLINES was full of the usual good things, but short because of the Christian and Catholic holiday for the Assumption. (I think that’s the translation. Catholic school was too long ago!) A benefit of having 6 official religions in Indonesia is that state institutions get all those holidays off! A quick reminder for non-Indonesians. Although Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, there are also significant numbers of the other state recognized religions: Islam, Catholicism, Protestant Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.

My long weekend in the royal city of Yogyakarta began at Bina Sarana Informatika, the school of CCFA alumnae Ani Wijayanti and Lusiana, where we enjoyed a friendly reunion, and where they kindly hosted me in their Business Hotel, which also serves as a practice lab for their Tourism and Hospitality students. Though most activities are on hold during the mid-term semester exams, a significant number of students came in uniform to meet me for a fun seminar for practicing English and cross-cultural sharing. Some of the questions were easy to answer. Some were not.

Q: “How old are you?” A: “37”
Q: “Why are Indonesians and Americans different?” A: “Uh, um…”


On to ASMI Santa Maria, the school of CCFA alumni Edwin and Adi, I was touched and honored by their official reception of my visit. I was flattered to see the banner in the conference room, with probably the largest letters to ever have spelled my name! The topic of my presentation to the teachers, Universal Design for Learning (UDL), was a bit challenging to communicate, but we gave it the old college try. And then I met with the most enthusiastic English Conversation I’ve ever met! Some of the young women were confident in their English, while others a bit timid at first, but all of us were having a lot of fun by the time we closed the meeting with a sing-along of Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World!”

Besides the school related stuff, my friends generously took me around the city and into the countryside, including the Mt. Merapi volcano museum, the peaceful Sendang Sono shrine where the first Catholic was baptized in Java, and to the Alun Alun plaza where we joined dozens of others trying to walk a straight line blindfolded across a field. The story goes that the Sultan used to choose his staff with this test, to see if they were true of heart. I’m not telling how I performed on this test.

Ok, I won’t make this any longer. Special thanks to anyone still reading this far!

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