Wednesday, January 07, 2004

Into the Heartland

Into the Heartland

It will be quite tough for me to blog these coming few days as I am on the road. Finding a good Internet cafe can be quite a challenge sometimes--they are either too slow or too expensive. But I'll try to blog a few lines whenever I can.

Last night I took the Argo Lawu train from Gambir to Yogjakarta ("Jogja"). The train departed at 8.55pm and was scheduled to arrive at 4.30am; it only managed to arrive at 5.30am, which was better, as dawn was breaking and it was already bright.

I had a friendly Javanese grandmother for company during my entire journey. She was returning to Solo after visiting her daughter's family in Jakarta. She has six children in total--all of them married except for one and they are scattered all over Indonesia--Jakarta, Bandung, Bengkulu among others.

Ibu was the embodiment of Javanese grace and courtesy. We spent more than two hours talking about the differences in culture between the Javanese and the Betawi (native Jakartan) people--one of her son-in-laws is Betawi. She said she had difficulty getting along with him initially because Betawi people are more aggressive and "rough" compared to the Javanese who are cultured and reserved. We also talked about food (nasi liwet, she told me, is native to Solo) and her many grandchildren. She worries about them as modern kids are not brought up anymore with the strict discipline that her generation was accustomed to.

I enjoyed my conversation with ibu and was flattered when she told me that my bahasa was halus; coming from a Javanese, that was a compliment that made my day. The seven-and-a-half hour journey didn't feel that long.

I'm finally in the Javanese heartland. I managed to catch a few winks on the train and I didn't waste a second upon arrival early in the morning. I checked into a budget hotel, freshened myself up and rested for an hour before making my pilgrimage to Borobudur. I will probably write more about it in my coming days. Now I'm trying to digest the excellent nasi gudeg dinner I had an hour ago at the lesehan along Jalan Malioboro.

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