Professor Janet Steele wrote another missive from Indonesia to share news of the overseas Global Scholars program she took with several SMPA students. The trip concentrated on Media and Education in Southeast Asia. She described some of the challenges below in an English translation of one column (called "Letter from America") that she writes for an Indonesian newspaper in East Java. Here's the link to the original: http://www.surya.co.id/2010/05/30/jogjakarta.html
Sunday, May 30, 2010
Obviously lots of funny things can happen when you take a group of seven students from George Washington University on a study tour of Indonesia. Fortunately, I wasn’t alone; there was also Joel, a friend and colleague from GW.
Before we left the United States, I told Joel that most Indonesians would assume that he and I were married, and that the seven students were our daughters. I was right.
In Washington, DC, our students call us “Professor Kuipers” and “Professor Steele.” In Indonesia, I said that it would be more appropriate if they called us Pak Joel and Ibu Janet. They laughed when they learned that the Indonesian titles for an older man and woman are the same as the words for father and mother.
Our first day in Jogyakarta, we walked around the tourist area of Malioboro Street. Joel and I had already explained several different aspects of life in Jogyakarta, including gudeg [stewed jackfruit] and hand-drawn batik. But what was their favorite activity? Shopping. Joel, I, and my friend Yusi (who texted from Jakarta) all agreed that a shop called Mirota was the best place to go.
Most of the girls liked Indonesian cooking, but sometimes they still missed American food. So I took them to Superman Café, a place that’s famous with backpackers, where they enjoyed banana pancakes with palm sugar.
Because there are a lot of street venders who approached our “daughters,” Joel and I taught them some basic Indonesian. “Thank you,” “you’re welcome,” “already,” “not yet,” and “I don’t want it” became important vocabulary on Maliaboro Street.
The second day we went to Borobodur. It was very hot that Sunday, and Joel and I insisted that they had to wear hats and sunscreen. All of the students were astonished at the beauty of the huge temple, something they couldn’t have possibly imagined until they saw it for themselves.
At Borobodur, Joel met Pak Asykuri, who is his research assistant and friend. The seven girls and I left Joel with Asykuri, and went on ahead to climb to the top of Borobodur. Along the way, I pointed out the statues that tell the story of the life of the Buddha.
But for the other tourists, it wasn’t only the statues that were interesting: the seven pretty students also captured their attention. At the beginning, there were several requests for photos together. Why not? The seven girls felt very flattered, like movie stars.
Our class had already watched the film “Ayat-ayat Cinta,” or Verses of Love. When being photographed, Tricia, one of the students, said “say ayat-ayat cinta!” Everyone laughed.
But as time went on, there were more and more requests for photos. Finally, it was almost impossible for us to enjoy the beautiful view and the serenity of the atmosphere. Sometimes there were groups of boys who approached us in an overly familiar way. Because my students were not yet aware of what is appropriate and what is inappropriate in Indonesia, they didn’t understand. Several times I had to pull my “daughters” away from the groups of young men.
Finally, one of the students said to a group of boys that “ibu [mother] is angry.” I laughed and said that they should say “ibu marah.” After that, I heard them use that expression from time to time as an excuse to get away.
Monday, our program began with a visit to the University of Gadjah Mada (UGM) and the Kalijaga State Islamic University. At UGM, our students had a fascinating oportunity to talk together with the Indonesian students.
Thursday, we went to Krapyak Pesantren and Mu’allimim Muhammadiyah Madrasah. Both experiences were extraordinary. I was fascinated by the students at Krapyak who recited from and explained the Qur’an. Before we left, I said to Kiai Hilmi that I wished I too could study at Pesantren Kraypak. He answered “but you have already have.” I liked that.
Wednesday was our final day in Jogyakarta. Part of our group went to Aisyiyah, the women’s organization of Muhammadiyah. I joined the other group that went to the office of Mr. Fuad, a travel agent who specializes in the Haj and Umrah. One of our students, Tricia, will be writing about the business of the Haj. Mr. Fuad was very nice and explained many business aspects of the Haj, none of which I’d known before.
During our entire visit to Jogyakarta, I was deeply touched by the friendliness of the people whom we met. Indonesians are indeed amazing.
With warm regards and until next week,