I go to class four hours a day, six days a week, leaving me Sunday as my day of rest. I’ll probably eventually look for a church, but for the next few weeks at least, Sunday is my designated tourist day.
This past week I went to Prambanan with one of my homestay mates. She’s from Europe but currently lives in Malaysia. Consequently, her Indonesian is much better than mine, making her the ideal person to go with me, because then I didn’t have to ask about buses or ticket prices. She could do all that for me.
Prambanan is a Hindu temple. According to Wikipedia, it was constructed in the early 800’s and abandoned in the mid- to late-900’s. It was also heavily damaged by the 2006 earthquake and since then has been under reconstruction. Nevertheless, it remains a popular spot both for tourists and locals.
My homestay mate and I were, of course, charged the tourist rate of $13. I watched somewhat enviously as the locals got in for less than 25% of that. One day, when I have the proper paperwork, I’ll get in for that price too. As one of my teachers at language school told me, once I have my visa, I’ll be just like an Indonesian person. And by that time I’ll be able to speak like an Indonesian person and since I look like an Indonesian person, I’ll be just like an Indonesian person.
As usual when this is brought up, I smiled and said, “Oh.”
I hope that this is actually true and that one day I’ll be able to blend in, but I doubt it. I think my clothes make me stand out, and beyond that, once I open my mouth, my accent will give me away. Still, whenever my homestay mate and I are together, she’s the one kids stare at and talk to, not me.
At any rate, we paid our tourist price, which entitled us to an air conditioned entry room and free coffee, tea, or water. Not for the first time I wished that I liked coffee or tea so that I could get my money’s worth. At least my homestay mate had a cup of coffee.
“Look at the puppet,” she said, mug in hand.
I looked. Outside, standing in the shade of a tree several yards away, was someone dressed up in one of those suits that you see at Disneyland or Seneca Park Zoo. In this case, the costume was that of a girl with short black hair and a purple backpack.
“Whoa,” I said.
I watched as a somewhat frightened child had his picture taken with her.
“You know,” I said, “She looks sort of like Dora the Explorer.”
I then had to explain Dora the Explorer to my homestay mate, a task rendered somewhat more difficult by the fact that I have never actually seen the show.
When we passed the person ourselves, we were rewarded by a small child shrieking, “Dora! Dora!” proving my suspicions.
Past Dora, we approached the temple itself, walking first through some rubble before reaching the part that still remains standing.
The temple was composed of tower-like structures with steps leading up to an inner room and a walkway around the whole tower. Inside of each was a statue of a god. The main tower structure (with Shiva and Ganesha, among others, inside) was unfortunately closed to visitors. We walked around the whole thing anyway and went inside all of the smaller towers, sometimes running into an Indonesian tour guide speaking French with an accent better than mine.
Once that part of the complex was exhausted, my homestay mate and I broke away from the crowds, partly because we had no map and didn’t know where we were going and partly because I wanted to suck all the life out of every single one of those thirteen American dollars.
There were three other clusters of buildings and a large terrace of ruins both of which, I thought, were more interesting than the original part of our excursion. Here, we got to see the actual process of reconstruction: numbered pieces of re-cast stonework, headless statues, and scaffolding.
According to the guidebook, there were supposed to be other temples to see, and when we looked at the dioramas there appeared to be other temples within walking distance. However, we couldn’t find them. Were they the ones being reconstructed? We didn’t know. Eventually, my homestay mate called her fiancé who said that to see more we’d have to leave Prambanan itself and pay more money. We decided it wasn’t worth it.
On the way out, we passed through the usual stands of people selling souvenirs. We stopped among them to buy lunch: gado-gado, a dish consisting of mixed vegetables and peanut sauce. I asked (read: had my homsetay mate ask) for the peanut sauce on the side because I knew it would be spicy.
The woman selling the food looked at me like I was a little crazy, but obliged. Of course she put it all over the rice, sort of defeating the purpose of having the rice, which I use to counteract the spiciness.
As expected, the peanut sauce was spicy, and both my homestay mate and I were nearly dying by the end of the meal. Well, I was, anyway. She managed to hold it together a bit more than me.
Thus, reinvigorated by food in our stomachs and a pleasant burning in our mouths, we made our way back to the bus stop.