Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to School

 Sarah turns 14

Joel starts 6th grade and Will starts 2nd grade

Notice Will's styling shoe laces.

Sarah starts 9th grade (thanks to Marie for the above photos and Joel for the camera--I'm sad to have missed a few important milestones).

Beautiful Sarah after church in her new cute batik dress (which her dad picked out for her!). The flower (frangipani/plumeria) in her hair was a gift from Sister Imma the Solo Stake Relief Society President.  At church Sister Imma had a flower in her hair and as I was visiting with the family after church I casually mentioned to her that I liked the flower and that it was my favorite smelling flower in all of Indonesia. I thought the flowers were real, but they were not and so by my admiring them she then gifted some to me. Luckily she didn't pull it right out of her hair then, but instead, that evening she and her husband came by my hotel with a collection of hair clips in the shape of the frangipani flowers as a special gift for Sarah.

Once upon a time before I served in Indonesia there was a Mormon missionary who learned that if you admire something, then more often than not Indonesians will then give that something to you. Elder Bailey became so adept at admiring nice things (like batik shirts, wood carvings, etc.) in order to get gain that the other missionaries turned his name into a verb meaning "intentionally admiring something in order to be gifted that something." Whenever a missionary returned to missionary quarters with a gift, the first question asked by the other flat mates was: "Did you bailey that?" What a legacy. I have since met Elder Bailey and he is a very nice guy. Just for the record, I did not bailey the hair clips. I admired what I thought was a real flower which I knew could not be gifted to me. I was surprised when I opened the gift to learn that what I had admired was fake and could be gifted.

I started back to school today. I am teaching Geography of Southeast Asia (38 students), Political Geography (38 students) and Geography of World Affairs (180 students). Here are photos of my office during mid summer when the floor and desks were cleaner that usual.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Mt. Merapi and Borobudur

Monday in Indonesia was the second day of the Idul Fitri holiday. Since most people were spending the day with families, I opted to do some course prep instead of research. Bishop Catur of the Solo 2nd ward offered to let me use one of his cars (he runs a car dealership) and asked fellow ward member Bayu (left) to do the driving. He brought along his friend Nanda (right). My primary destination was Borobudur, but when Bayu recommended we take the road lest traveled via Mt Merapi, I readily agreed. It was a great decision.

We drove along the northern slope of the mountain through fields of tobacco.

The summit of Merapi was only clear for a few minutes.


And more tobacco

The summit enclosed.

Tobacco drying on the side of the house. There were also trays of cloves drying along the road side which along with the tobacco are the two main ingredients of the distinctively aromatic kretek cigarettes so common in Indonesia.

After three hours of driving, I then explored magnificent Boroboudur for a few hours.

I circumabulated all seven terraces before reaching the penultimate stupa on top.

I was accompanied by thousands of vacationing Indonesian families, who moved slowly, stopped to take more photos than me and carried obnoxious umbrellas that got in the way of my photos.

The first level of the temple includes scenes of Javanese life.

The second terrace begins the life of Buddha seen here being enlightened under the bodhi tree.

The third and fourth levels focus on the teachings Buddhism.

On the fifth level I was asked about a dozen times to have my photo take with vacationing families and groups of friends.

The fifth, sixth and seventh levels contain 72 Buddha encased stupas,

Once upon a time when I was a culturally insensitive 19 year old I made my first pilgrimage to Borobudur. At the time it was not yet a World Heritage Site, it was not packed with tourists, it was not treated by locals as a place of worship and it had not yet been restored completely and so there was one headless Buddha that just begged to have this photo taken. At the time we missionaries, plus many Indonesians, all had this photo taken. It was near this time that two Thailand serving elders were thrown in jail when their film showing them climbing on a Statue of Buddha was developed in Bangkok by an observant (in two ways--by noticing the photo and by being a practicing Buddhist) Buddhist. Now the head has been replaced and tourist police yell in megaphones at anyone (Muslim or Mormon) who climbs (many, but not me, still do) on the stupas, plus all visitors must wear sarongs to show respect,

Inside you can see the face of Buddha.

Happy Muslims celebrating the end of the fast by visiting a Buddhist Temple.

The getting out processional moved even slower than trying to exit from the Marriott Center after a BYU devotional.

Nearby Candi (temple) Mendut

Flying from Jogjakarta to Jakarta I caught a glimpse of the Hindu Temple Complex of Prambanan

plus spectacular views of Merapi--this is why I prefer window seats.

Mt. Merapi (right) and Mt. Merbabu (left). Our morning drive went between these two mountains.

Notice the silver streaks in the river beds of the cold lahars that flowed down from Merapi last year.


Further west were two more volcanoes. Indonesia has more active volcanoes than any other country on earth.

The close proximity of these four volcanoes is good evidence of why Indonesia is part of the Ring of Fire. Students in my SE Asia and world geography classes this fall will certainly see a few of these slides in lectures.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Muslims and Mormons worshipping in Solo

Today was the first day of Idul Fitri (Eid al-Fitr)--the two day celebration at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan for Muslims world wide. Last night in Solo they celebrated by shooting off fireworks and this morning they gathered at Mesjid Agung (Grand Mosque) to pray and be taught. I went to observe and take photos.

 Prior to the beginning of the morning prayer at 6:30, a wonderful parade of people--often parents with children--started to gather.

Mother, Father and two boys (one hidden behind mom).

While everyone was gathering the Muezzin kept singing (Muslims don't call it singing, but it is melodic to me) over and over and over Allahu Akbar--God is Great.

The Grand mosque is build in a typical Javanese style.

Soon the mosque was full and so the courtyard was used too. These women are getting set up and will soon put on their white (mostly) prayer robes (sorry I don't know all of the technical terms).

The begining of the prayers

My favorite photo of the day. She sneaked a few looks back to see what the lone white guy was doing.

After prayers some people left and others stayed to hear the sermon. From the portion that I heard, the sermon would have been a great sacrament meeting talk. Solo's Muslims were told that they need to be obedient to God, they need to pray, they need to try harder, they need to care for orphans etc. All good stuff.

I then caught a becak across town to the 8:00 AM sacrament meeting of the Solo second ward and then the 11:00 sacrament meeting of the Solo first ward. This is the chapel on Jalan Sutomo.

Unlike the Spring Creek 18th Ward in Springvillle where it seems at least 1/3 of the congregation arrives late, this chapel was full five minutes before the start of the meeting. The only late comers were a family visiting from Jakarta. I was not the only visitor. Members from all over Java had returned to Solo for the holiday. One of the speakers got emotional when she explained that she had intended to return to her parents' home (in another town) for Idul Fitri, but when she was asked to speak in sacrament meeting she opted to do her duty as a way to show her love to God. When this sister stumbled a few times on the pronunciation of Bruce R. McConkie--whom she was quoting--several people almost in unison from the congregation spoke out the name to help her, One other speaker mentioned that he didn't need to go home (mudik, pulang kampung) because he was from Solo.

At the end of the meeting Bishop Catur impromptuly and inspiringly offered concluding remarks that built upon the returning home theme. He told about how throughout Indonesia people were returning home to be with parents and family [much like Thanksgiving in the USA]. He explained that this returning is evidence of the love that exists in families and is just like the love that Heavenly Father has for us His earthly children. Just like our earthly parents--whom we return home to see--our Heavenly Father loves us, knows us and wants to bless us. On this day of asking for forgiveness, we need to make sure that our Heavenly Father can bless us (because He knows our needs) by coming to church, keeping the commandments and walking in faith. (my apologies to Bishop Catur for not explaining he remarks very well, but I was touched by what he said and by how appropriate it was for this day and this place.)

The sister offering the closing prayer also seemed to acknowledge this Muslim day of prayer and gathering, as she expressed her gratitude for those from other religions and also prayed: "Help us to love and to value those from other religions." Many in the ward have extended family members who are Muslim.

A photo of nursery for Marie--who is our ward's nursery leader. In Indonesian, nursery is called Below Three Years (BTT--Bawa Tiga Tahun)

I got to meet and visit with many nice, friendly members, They are great at saying hello and shaking hands. This is the family of Didit Sulistya Nugraha (husband) and Tariima Handayani (aka Sister Imma). She is Stake Relief Society President and he volunteers as the Central Java coordinator for the Jaredita Foundation. Their three children (girl-boy-boy just like ours) reminded me of (and made me homesick for) my three children, especially when I learned that their 11 year old son also loves soccer.

Members visiting after the three hour block of meetings.

Two wards' worth of motorcycles parked behind the church. I complimented the one lone man who chooses to ride his bike (his wife and daughter take their motorcycle). The missionaries were the other bike riders.

Amazing how many members now own cars.

In both Jakarta and Solo I observed that members have placed images of the Angel Moroni on their car windows. They are made by an enterprising Mormon.

Today I was was impressed with the faith, devotion and centrality of families noticed among the Mormons and Muslims I encountered.