The entire staff of SMKN 29 Jakarta was encouraged to take part in a fully paid outing to Jogjakarta to foster and/or strengthen relationships between new and former staff. It was the first time ever that an ‘outbond’ at SMKN 29 Jakarta was fully paid for and only the 2nd time staff have had an ‘outbond’. While the aims are useful for any staff, the main reason it was organised and fully funded this school year was entirely due to my visit so that I could not only experience a unique city in Java but also as a opportunity for me to get to know staff and visa versa. All goals were truly achieved.
The staff filled 2 buses. Participating staff included teachers, administration staff and non teaching staff. Even the satpams (the guys who are based at the front gate for security who also help you get in and out of the grounds if the traffic is bad). I look at faces now and most are familiar. However unfortunately there were several staff who didn’t/couldn’t go for a variety of reasons, so they are the ones I still have to get to know. However unfortunately while I recognise faces now, I still only know a few names. I am bad with names at the best of times but throw unfamiliar names into the mix and it becomes even more challenging!
As I said in my “City Of Jakarta” blog, Bu Valentina & I flew to Jogja while the others went by bus. They were late getting away and finally drove into Borobudur at 8am, the time the schedule wanted us to be leaving!
It was lovely and overcast by the time we headed through the gate and up the garden edged walkway to Borobudur. Once we got to the base, camera’s started clicking as everyone wanted their photo taken in front of Borobudur! The group then divided in half; those who were not interested in climbing to the top level headed off while those of us who did want to climb Borobudur, headed up the steps. After watching many groups approach Borobudur, I have decided that there is the Indonesian style of ‘doing’ Borobudur (climb straight to the top, take lots of photos and then climb straight down again with no detours) and then there is the non-Indonesian style of ‘doing’ Borobudur (explore each level throughly, examining and photographing reliefs and statues before reaching the top). So in true Indonesian style, we climbed straight up to the top level which is so tiring as the steps all differ both in height and depth, so it is impossible to get a rhythm and they are also very steep. This is because the pathway to Nirvana (Heaven) is not easy and thus each step to the top of Borobudur represents the many challenges we face in life.
As soon as we reached the top, it began to drizzle so our photos were rushed before joining the crush of people all rushing for the stairs. Had we all had raincoats or umbrellas, we could have stayed up there and had the entire level with all the stupa’s to ourselves before descending in peace but as only a few of our group did, we sheltered as best as we could while making our way down to the bottom. As we reached the bottom, the rain lightened and we were able to get back to the bus without getting much wetter.
We were still though, quite behind schedule but no-one seemed to mind. Bu Valentina & I jumped on the first bus and were given the front seat so that I could enjoy the view. I was totally spoilt the entire time! Women sat at the front of the bus while all the men sat at the back. Thankfully all the men had been instructed not to smoke on school outings so we were all able to enjoy smoke free travel. I really appreciated this. It is very rare to find an Indonesian male who doesn’t smoke. They seem to start very young. Hopefully numbers will decrease as Indonesia becomes more and more smoke free. This has definitely started in Jakarta, which is very promising.
Our next stop was Gunung Merapi (Merapi Mountain) which is a highly active volcano. This was added into our schedule purely because I had yet to visit Gg Merapi. Unfortunately though, the rain continued for our entire trip to Gg Merapi and with the low cloud it was entirely hidden. Once at the carpark, we ducked through the rain to head up to a cinema where we were shown a video about Merapi which was full of amazing footage of eruptions and post eruption damage to surrounding villages. It is little wonder Merapi is feared and respected here in Java! The last eruption was 30/10/10 and it was huge. On our drive back down the mountain, as we headed to Jogja, we passed many river beds which looked like river beds for water but were in actual fact for rivers of lava. They were full of huge, gigantic boulders and black sand. Very desolate looking. Trucks were in the river beds collecting the rocks and sand as it is all highly sort after for house foundations and for making cement.
After the film, we dashed back through the rain to the buses. Just as we were about to get back on the bus, there was a break in the clouds and we got a quick view of Mt Merapi! It was magic. What an enormous volcano! Many people climb Merapi but after seeing the video, I think that is one volcano I am not in any hurry to climb!
On our way to Jogja, our next stop was for lunch. It was 4pm, so we were 4 hours late and it was no surprise that the food was tepid and tasteless. The staff didn’t look too happy either! Waiting for 4 hours in Australia for a tour group to arrive would have had a very different outcome! We next had a very brief stop at a batik shop which sold all sorts of batik souvenirs. Because we were still so far behind schedule, we were only given 3/4 hour here and that went so quickly that I didn’t even get a chance to explore the 2nd floor! The clothes were so cheap; I bought a lovely batik shirt for $5.20!
We finally reached the hotel by about 6pm which gave us an hour before we had to be ready to head out again for the last item on our schedule for the day: watching a performance of Ramayana in front of Prambanan Temple. The stage for the performance was enormous and really well designed. The performers could enter the stage either via the audience or via an enormous staircase which connected this stage with another higher stage. The lighting too was very impressive and the stage was well lit at all times. However the most impressive aspect of the stage were the backlit temples of Prambanan which were directly behind the stages. Absolutely breathtaking and we could only imagine how more beautiful it would be during full moon! The performance was from a part of the Ramayana I was unfamiliar with however still enjoyable because the characters at least were familiar. There was Hanuman (the monkey king), Rahwana (the demon king), Rama (the hero), Sinta (Rama’s wife to be), Garuda (mythical magical bird) as well as lots of monkeys and demons. The costumes were beautiful and very Javanese and it was while watching the performance it suddenly dawned on why wayang have heads the shape they do! It is because they are wearing a “blangkon”, traditional headwear for Javanese.
The performance finished around 10:00pm. Bu Valentina & I were keen to return to the hotel where her sister was waiting for us. Instead of joining the rest of the staff at the hotel that night, we had accepted her sister’s invitation to stay in Bantul with her family so that Bu Valentina could catch up with them all. Bantul is a small rural community just outside Jogjakarta.
Bu Rose, her husband & their youngest daughter drove us back to their house which was about 45mins away with a stop along the way for something to eat! Providing your guests with something to eat in Indonesia is good etiquette however as it was so late, Bu Rose & Bu Valentina agreed that it was easier and quicker to grab a bite to eat on the way home rather than cook something at home! We stopped at an ‘angkringan’ which is a mobile warung found throughout central Java. The body of the angkringan is a wooden structure that includes a flat surface to both cook on and serve food and props above from which to tie tarps to completely cover the top and sides of the angkringan. Along the sides of the flat table surface are long benches for the customers to sit on. The angkringan we stopped at in Bantul specialised in Javanese noodle dishes. I had a delicious dish of Mie Kuah Jawa (Javanese noodle soup) which was cooked with egg though it. Absolutely delicious! By the time we had finished our food and reached their house, it was midnight! I had a quick mandi, said a hasty goodnight and collapsed into bed.
the stove set up behind the angringan
Four hours later, I was woken up by the call to morning prayers blaring through my bedroom window. It was so incredibly loud, I had to bury my head under my pillow. As we had to be leaving just after 5, I got up as soon as the prayer call had finished. Out of curiosity, I looked out of the bedroom window to see if I could see the speaker. It was on the roof of their house just outside my bedroom window! No wonder it had been so loud! When I told Bu Valentina later about my wake up call, she told me that when she had first moved into her house in Jakarta, she had had to ask the mosque across the road from her to redirect their speakers for the same reason! Thankfully they did and they now face upwards!
Our trip back to the hotel was via a family business which cooks and sells huge quantities of beef crackling! It looked just like pork crackling! Bu Rose bought several large packets of the crackling which was all boxed up for us to take back to Jakarta as oleh-oleh (souvenirs you give to your friends an family after any travel, no matter how near or far).
We arrived back in Jogjakarta to find everyone on the buses except for poor Bu Mula who had flown home that morning with Bu Nila to accompany her. She had been unwell all the previous day and needed to get home to rest and recover. The rest of us headed off for a day of team building and bonding! We headed to a place called Goa Pindul which translates as Pindul Caves. Several open back trucks met our buses soon after we arrived. We clambered onto the back and stood holding onto the sides and each other as we were taken over bumpy roads to what would be our main base for the day. We were ushered into a covered area with open sides where we were told to put our bags and encouraged to get changed. Not bringing a change of clothes, Bu Valentina kindly found a warung nearby which sold spare clothes and bought us both something to wear for the day in case we got wet. As it turned out, buying these clothes turned out to be a godsend because as we were walking to our first activity the rain began and it didn’t stop till much later in the afternoon. While waiting for our day to start, we sat & listened to a young girl up on the stage belting out dangdut songs. It wasn’t long before several staff members joined her! I was even invited to sing with one of the teachers! We sang, “My Bonnie Lies Over The Water”, a song everyone knew!
Our first activity included us playing games like buzz, relays and dancing and singing. The buzz game was a great variation of the one I know. Going around the circle, each person counts out loud by 1’s however for the numbers 7,14, 21 & 28, we had to call out a specific sound and each one was different! Really kept us on our toes. The consequence for getting the sound wrong was having flour streaked on your face! The relays were fun too. In teams, we had to fill up a coke bottle at one end of our line from a bucket at other end of our line using a sponge passed down the line by hand.
Another relay had teams trying to fill up a meter length of PVC pipe, drilled with many holes, with water from a bucket several meters away from the pipe using a cup! The games were so much fun and we all had so much fun even though we were all drenched from the steady rain.
The next part of our program required us to don life jackets (PFD’s) and grab a huge tube before heading down some steps to the river. We were seated in our tubes and instructed to hold the tube immediately to our right by grabbing hold of the loop attached to the webbed seat in the centre of each tube. The water wasn’t warm but thankfully it wan’t too cold either. In groups of about 10, a guide then pulled the long line of tubes towards an opening in the cliff. Once inside the cave, it was pitch black. We lay back in our tubes and focused on whatever our guide shone his torch on. We were shown huge stalactites hanging right down overhead and as we passed right under them, they were so close to the surface of the water we could actually touch them! There were enormous colonies of tiny bats too high up on the cavern ceiling. It was my first time cave tubing and I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Once out of the caves, we clambered up the river bank, surrendering our tubes to the guides who loaded them onto trucks. We too were loaded onto trucks however we hadn’t gone far when the driver stopped and asked us to walk the rest of the way carrying a tube because the rain had made the road too boggy for the trucks to continue. So began a slow trek carrying a large inner tube along a slippery, muddy, corrugated track! It was amazing that no one slipped over in the mud! I have no idea how we all kept our balance. At the end of the track was a raging river which had obviously swollen with the recent rain! However to get down to the river, we had to first climb down the muddy bank and with each person who managed this, the bank got muddier and muddier until it became a slippery dip! Towards the end, if someone lost their balance, they just slid right down to the bottom where thankfully there was a pile of tubes to catch them so that they didn’t plunge into the river! The guides then firstly helped the women across the first river which was knee deep with a reasonable current and slippery rocks underfoot! Once across, people just sat on rocks on the middle bank where another river joined with the one we had just crossed. Several staff sat there looking in horror at the river, dreading the upcoming leg which involved tubing down the rapids! Some teachers were so nervous they were whimpering while others were reassuring them them and encouraging them to be brave. Once everyone was together in the middle of the 2 rivers, and the tubes too were across, we were put again into groups and latched together by holding tightly onto the tube to our right, and sent off down the rapids. The first groups to go included the few teachers who were terrified. They sat in their tubes with their eyes clenched shut, tears streaming down their faces and their lips silently mouthing prayers! However as soon as they hit the rapids, their eyes flew open and they joined in the laughing and hooting! The transformation was hilarious and had the rest of us in stitches! The ride down the rapid was lots of fun and then we drifted down past beautiful scenery including several waterfalls, a suspension bridge and rice fields. There was also evidence along the way of just how high the river floods with rubbish high up in the trees.
Sorry about the rain drops distorting some of the photos! It was impossible keeping the rain off the lens!
At the end of the river ride, we gratefully climbed back into the trucks and were returned to our base where a beautiful hot glass of sweet ginger tea was served to us! It really hit the spot. We then changed into our dry clothes and enjoyed some lunch while sitting on the mats on the floor reliving aspects of the day and enjoying being dry again.
After lunch we headed back to the hotel via a beach which was flanked by huge rocks at both ends. The black sand was coarse and the waves were huge dumpers. The beach provided a beautiful backdrop for our last photos before heading back to Jogjakarta. The main group of teachers returned to the hotel while a small group of us instead headed to the airport so that we could fly back to Jakarta. I was very grateful that Bu Valentina had organised this especially when I heard that the bus returned to Jakarta Sunday morning at 2am! Bu Valentina & I spent Saturday sleeping and resting. We did next to nothing as we were simply exhausted.
It was an amazing experience joining SMKN 29 on their “outbond” trip to Jogyakarta and I greatly appreciated the fact that they tweaked the dates so that I could join them! Usually an outbond is held at the very end of the school year in preparation for the upcoming year. Instead, SMKN 29 Jakarta staff returned to school the next day to supervise exams, write reports and then hold the “raker”. The fact that they did it backwards purely to fit in with my timetable was fantastic and all I can say is, “Terima kasih sebesar besarnya!” ( The biggest possible thank you).