It’s been a week since my last post. I have been emersing in the culture of jogya. In the morning, I went to Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian) class from 8am to 12:30 pm. I have 7 different language Guru-Guru (teachers; to make plural in Indonesian just repeat the noun once). They are exceptionally patient. Everyday we ask our guru a whole bunch of new vocabularies and questions about the logic or the illogic of Indonesian. They would spell the word one by one and explain the grammar piece by piece. They made the class atmosphere enjoyable. Learning a new langauge requires not affraid of sounding like a fool. We, the students had no problem laughing at our silly pronounciations. The struggle to communicate with only few words and broken grammar produced many playful moments. I found that with a positive attitude the seemingly plain sentences we managed to speak in Indonesian become flavorful. Alison visited us and joined the language class for few days. We were betting on whether Alison would be a good student. She was definitely a good class citizen, but except when she was absent for few mornings.
The first two weeks in Joyga were packed with activities, not all of them planned. We explored the cultural life of Jogya, or just being tourists according to some locals. In local people’s perception, there seems to a blurry line between the foriegners and the tourists. I would like to think that I’m not a tourist. Indeed, I do much more than a tourist but sometimes I couldn’t help doing some touristy stuff. In famous tourist attractions in Indonesia, you would find “tourist hunters”. They are often local people seeking out tourists to take pictures with them. For them part of their tour is to see the tourists. Termana told me that tourist hunters would framed the pictures and put them in a prominent place in the house. They would brag to those who don;t have pictures with the tourist.
I thought tourist hunters usually seek out white westerners. This was confirmed by my observation that David and Madeleine were quite popular with the hunters. David was hunted down by a tourist at a shop in Malioboro, a famous shopping district in Jogya. Now David would live i history. well at least in the family temple of the tourist who took the picture with him. We as a group was hunted down by a family of tourist hunters at the ruin of Water Temple. We shall too live in their family history!
The trip to Borobudor added new perspective to this phenomenon of tourist hunting. Borobudor is the largest buddhist monument in the world as claimed by the tour guide. ironically, the population in the area is mostly muslim the number of buddhist is close to zero. We arrived at the temple around 7:20am. our plan to watch the sunrise failed. the sun was already burning hot. The tenple was flooded by elemnetary and junior high age tourist hunters. Mos of them were armed with a camera or camera phone. The ”white westerners” in our group quickly attracted a circles of young hunters. But unexpectedly munites later I was hunted down. “mister, picture..” “mister, mister, satu lagi.. (one more)” I enjoyed their presence. I found it hard to refuse them because they are kids and they were super adorable, and also because of my vanity for spotlight. But at some point I had to say “I need to go… satu lagi..” Eventually I lost count of how many people asked me to be in pictures.
After the picture taking i felt a sense of disorientation. “Was I white to those younf tourist hunters?” Then I started to make some connections. The images in commercials, Tv and other media popped into my mind. Most of them are fair-skin “white” Chinese. chinese is the ultimate example of “whiteness” that is fervently sought for by “people” in indonesia. But pardoxically, chinese are also hated. They were once prohibited from taking many kinds of job. Business was the best choice for many, resulting in chinese domination in business. They also become the scapegaot for corrupt officuals to milk some extra incomes. chinese occuppies a interesting niche in indonesia. In many ways, they are the Jews and the Whites in Indonesia.