Mount Bromo – Indonesia

February 23, 2015

After getting back from the journey to the temples and Jocja…thought I would take a little down time to rest and soak up all the amazing experiences I have had up to this point…but, then an opportunity popped up to get one more experience…normally, I would of just passed, but I am already punch drunk, exhausted and worn out…plus, how often do you get a chance to get on the other side of the world…there will be time for rest later on…so, let’s keep er’ moving…off to Mount Bromo…

Mount Bromo is an active volcano that is listed at about 4 hours from Surabaya…with the traffic faced thus far…i don’t know if I believe that…but, let’s go with it :)

Now Bromo is famous for being an active volcano…but, also for its sunrise…

Of course it didn’t take just a few hours…so, getting there in the middle of the night…and by-passing the usual suspects – hotels…settled in to a local home stay on top of the mountain…basically, the Indonesian version of the Air B&B…called the ‘Cemara Homestay’

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Now to be clear…this isn’t just a hill, it is a mountain…steep…and I mean straight up…they only let you go so far in a regular vehicle…for a couple of reasons, but, to get by the check point you have to be in one of these, and you see hundreds of these up here…

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So, after a few hours of trying to sleep…it’s up and about at 3:00 a.m….got to check out this sunrise…somethings don’t require words…in fact, sometimes words can diminish the moment.. so here it is :)

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What a sunrise…what do you think? :)  The idea of standing on a volcano and watching the sun rise…well…speaks for itself…now, this is the kind of place where you embrace silence and kind of just walk around :)  So, just a few pics for you to soak it up…

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The savannah’s…open plain…before you get to the active volcano…absolutely peaceful and beautiful…some serious views of the mountains…

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These are provided for those who would rather not take that long arduous stair case up the side of the mountain to the volcano…funny thing is, as aggressive as they were regarding getting people to take a ride…no one asked me if I wanted a ride…do you think it was because the horses were small and I was twice the size of everyone else…oh well…guess I have to walk :)

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Getting to the top, you could immediately smell the sulfur rising into your nostrils…not long ago there was a rupture that destroyed some of the infrastructure…so this baby is still cooking…

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While the area is primarily Muslim, those who live on the mountain are mostly Hindu, so they also come here for there specific rituals.  And, positioned on top of the volcano is a Statue of Ganesh…representing wisdom and learning…how appropriate…chilling on Mount Broom with Ganesh :)

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Well, as I bring this segment to a close…just have one last thing to point out…these folks are exceptionally industrious…similar to when I pointed out some cultural points when going through the mountains…these people here take it to another level…although it is a mountain, they treat it like any other field…I mean…I saw areas where people were farming on the sides of mountains at angles of 70 to 80 degrees…I mean, ridiculous…and they climbed those areas like their legs were stronger than mountain goats…absolutely beautiful and exceptional…amazed…

P1040157Well, to be straight with you…I am worn out…my cup runneth over…these past few weeks have been similar to having my head opened up and someone pouring culture, knowledge, wisdom, life experience…and globalization into my brain until it just ran over the side….grateful is all I can say…once I rest, getting ready to spread my own alchemy :)  Time to actually just take it all in….and find the proper context by which to organize all these thoughts…

Mount Bromo…a must see….

Jogjakarta – Indonesia

February 23, 2015

Now if you come to the other side of the world, and come to see the temples…more than likely you will stop and stay for a bit in Jogjakarta…Jogja for short…not giving you alot here…just a few things to give you an idea about an oasis between your temple stops….

This place embodies much of what you will find in Indonesia and it is an excellent stopping point…as is said, “we eat and we shop”…:)

You will find plenty of cultural activities here “eating and shopping”, but you will also find lots of street food, art, a large international set, nice accommodations, and it is a great place to just sit back and people watch!!  This is the main strip – Malioboro…

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Lots of food options, but it is always nice to find a traditional eatery and sit and people watch…trust me, they will be watching you as well:

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At night, this place is buzzing…I mean, like a bee hive…people everywhere, all over the place and each other…and of course…motorbike heaven:

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If you are a shopper then you must go into the market…you could probably spend a week in there digging through all the things they sell…but, keep this in mind…this is a culture that requires you to bargain…and also keep this in mind…whether you are at the temples, a city, or anywhere else…there is the local price, the Indonesian price, the Asian price, and the International Price…if you don’t see a price sticker on it…you better watch out…

There are signs warning you of pick pockets..but, some of these folks will pick your pocket right in front of you…be careful, it can leave a bad taste in your mouth…a very religious society in many ways, but they will also dig into you without any consciousness.  Now, it isn’t everyone, I met so real down to earth honest to goodness respectful people…but, all over Indonesia, especially in bali…if they can tell you are a foreigner…then you best get ready!!!!

At night, the street is packed, but all day long from open to close..the market is full:

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And, you will often find a little treat that pops up on you…plenty of folks playing music, small bands by the side of the road..or moving around looking to entertain…interesting thing is, some of them will feel you out to see who you are and where you are from…then, they will break out into something they think you can associate with….good stuff….

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There are lots of things that could be shown…having all these experiences, this blog could be endless…but, just wanted to give you a little taste of what you will find…time for some rest…relaxation…and contemplation…

As I mentioned, had an opportunity to sit atop Borobudur and read a bit of the Dhammapada…a most beautiful section…for those that are curious…here goes that passage…if you want to know more about the Dhammapada…it is better for you to look it up and fill in your own gaps, rather than me share that aspect.  As follows:

“As an elephant in battle

        Endures an arrow shot from a bow,

So will I endure verbal abuse;

Many people, indeed, lack virtue

The tamed elephant is the one

They take into a crowd.

The tamed elephant is the one

The king mounts.

Best among humans is the tamed person

Who endures verbal abuse.

Excellent are tamed mules,

Thoroughbreds, horses of the Indus valley,

Tusked elephants and great elephants.

But even more excellent

Are people who have tamed themselves.

Not by means of these animals could one go

To that place not gone to,

Where a self-tamed person goes

By means of a well-tamed, disciplined self.

The elephant called Dhanapalaka

Is hard to control when in rut;

Tied down, the tusker doesn’t even eat,

Remembering the elephant forest.

The sluggish and gluttonous simpleton

Who sleeps and rolls about

Like a fat, grain-fed hog

Is reborn again and again.

In the past, this mind went wandering

Where it wished, as it liked, and as it pleased.

Now I will retrain it wisely,

As an elephant keeper does an elephant in rut.

Delight in vigilance.

Protect your own mind.

Lift yourself from a bad course

Like a tusker sunk in mud.

If you find an intelligent companion,

A fellow traveler

A sage of good conduct,

You should travel together,

Delighted and mindful

Overcoming all dangers.

If you do not find an intelligent companion,

A fellow traveler

Of good conduct and wise,

Travel alone,

Like a king renouncing a conquered kingdom,

Like the elephant Matanga in the forest.

There is no companionship with a fool;

It is better to go alone.

Travel alone, at ease, doing no evil

Like the elephant Matanga in the forest.

Happiness is having friends when need arises.

Happiness is contentment with whatever there is.

Happiness is merit at the end of one’s life.

Happiness is the abandoning of all suffering.

In the world, respect for one’s mother is happiness,

As is respect for one’s father.

In the world, respect for renunciants is happiness,

As is respect for Brahmins.

Happiness is virtue lasting through old age.

Happiness is steadfast faith.

Happiness is the attainment of wisdom

Not doing evil is happiness.”

Personally, not that I am there yet…as I said…work in progress…but, will give it a shot!! :)

Peace!

Candi Borobudur – Temple

February 23, 2015

Leaving Prombanan, the next temple stop is Candi Borobudur…and as mentioned, that means Temple Borobudur.

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now here I am walking into this magnificent temple…and before I can get set to continue my spiritual journey into heightened self-awareness…I was accosted by a bunch of kids on a field trip…laughing…it was so funny, because one kid walks up to me and asks for a picture…then when I said, “let me take a picture of you”…all his friends came running up wanting a picture as well…they were screaming so loud and so excited that even parents, patrons, employees, security…everyone came over to look…as you can see they were an excited bunch…

And, I can say that all through the tour…kids were stopping and asking for pictures with the “giant” :)  I must say, this was a common experience all over Indonesia…kids asking for pictures with me…they would say,

“mista, mista…pic, pic”…they were completely sweet and they gave me a wonderful experience…I guess I must not be that bad of dude after all…although the nay-sayers may be adverse….you know if you are rotten to the core…kids and animals pick it right up from the start…think I’ll add that to my self-esteem quotient… :)

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Okay, back to Borobudur…walking into the temple compound, one difference stands out immediately…the grounds are exceptional: order, peace, life…a place where even before you get to the temple…you can sit and feel the still of the door of the universe  opening:

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Walking towards the temple, you can see it standing over the tree line…and right away there is the imposition of its dignity on its surroundings…you are definitely going to see something…not going somewhere to be seen…

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And, then you arrive…

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while Prambanan spikes to the sky…Borobudur is more of a mass…but as we previously mentioned, not the type of mass that disconnects humanity from the environment.  There are so many breaks in the walls, and sculptures and reliefs that it still pulls you right in…whether you are aware of it or not…

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Candi Borobudur, according to local sources, was built in the same era as Pramnaban…with the exception that this is a Buddhist Temple.  As mentioned, in this area…many things represent the collective between Buddhism, Hinduism, and Javanese culture…and this is not the exception…but, generally stands as the rule…

Borobudur is commonly referenced as one of the real seven wonders of the world, and is listed as being the largest Buddhist Monument in the world.  As with Pramnaban, the carvings and stories are absolutely amazing and really provide major major insight into not just compassion for humanity, but also compassion for one’s self.

Similar to Pramnaban, Borobudur has had to overcome significant environmental challenges.  While Pramnaban was devastated by earthquakes, Brorobudur had to endure volcanic eruptions…and yet, through the efforts of many…here it stands :)

While, Buddhism is generally known for respecting life, promoting harmony, and compatibility with other religions…obviously, not everyone on the compound may be practicing Buddhism in its ideal state…

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This little fellow may need to do some more meditation…but, we are all in a state of progression…so, he is what he is…and that is hungry…don’t know if lizard sounds good, but, hey, whatever floats your boat :)

As with Pramnaban, the architecture and sculptures are absolutely amazing…pieced together…relief sculpting…amazing stories of the road to self-awareness and peace…

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During its prime, Borobudur had over 504 images of the Buddha in various poses…each pose, with the changing of the hand position, represents something different…and much of what each stage/layer of the temple represents is the ‘path’…

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The reliefs also depict some of the history of the area.  This represents the international trade that was taking place during this period.  Specifically, the cinnamon trade.  Ships and their stories are sculpted into the walls.

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For those history buffs who want to research the cinnamon trade and Africa…do your thing!! :)

Borobudur goes up several levels…so, this isn’t an exercise for someone with cardiovascular concerns…nor for someone who has an unstable walk…while aspects of Buddhism represents forgiveness, neither the steps for Pramnaban or Borobudur are not forgiving…if you fall, you will be there until someone comes to get you…steep and hard…if you fall, you just may be there for the next thousand years…but,

making it to the top…you will find something to behold for yourself…you have to fill in that space…and the view, is exceptional:

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And, this is the grand stupa….the highest point…look like I need a rest don’t I? :)

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Now who would of thought…that kid born in Watts, L.A., would be in Indonesia at the worlds largest Buddhist Monument reading the Dhammapada…Started reading it a few years ago to try and help calm the storms of the soul, “peace, be still”…

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I’ve been lots of places and seen lots of things…some posted on this blog, some not…but, this counts as one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had…when I previously mentioned the quasi-pilgrimage…it wasn’t that I was looking for something outside of myself…but, a vehicle to go further in and to make more sense of what is in there…

Like little Santiago in the Alchemist, looking for his treasure…just to find that his treasure was inside of himself!!  And, what do we do to show ourselves that it is there…can’t argue whether the builders or worshipers of/at Promnaban or Borobudur received some ethereal blessing as a result of their work or worshiping at these temples.  but, there must of been some profound sense of peace, that goes along with the energy, the effort, commitment, dedication, suffering, the alms…like the scripture says,  “I have fought the good fight…”…in terms of humanity, culture…mutual respect…are we fighting the good fight…or the fight of self-aggrandizement….even with our imperfections, our short comings…the pain we have caused others or ourselves…when we look back at the lives we have lived…beyond the glory, or the mistakes, the uncertainty of today or tomorrow…these places last for thousands of years…something that others…who we may not even know…will stand upon…and decide that the good fight is better…life is a progression…a work in progress :)

Peace!!

Candi Prambanan – Temple

February 23, 2015

The first stop on this particular journey is Candi Prambanan.  Candi means Temple….so essentially it means Temple Prambanan.

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Now without providing an exhaustive historical description, I’ll just provide a few tid-bits.  Obviously, if you want to know more, you can look it up. :)

Built around the year 860, this temple is well over a thousand years old.  It has survived two rather massive earthquakes (You will be able to see some of the rubble in the following pics).  It is really more than just a testament of faith, it also shows how different factions in society and actually work together and build a community together.  Prambanan is primarily a Hindu Temple.  And, as you probably know, Hinduism like Buddhism, emanated from India.  Interestingly, although Hindu, Buddhist temples are in close proximity and they also share some of the same descriptions, sculptures, and structures.  In essence it somewhat represents how over time, the Javanese, Hindu and Buddhist cultures mixed in with each other…both faith wise and family wise.

Growing up in the United States provides a natural impediment to attempting to understand something that you have absolutely no idea about – system, structure, etc.  And, not to mention trying to figure out names that have a lot of letters to them :)  But, it is worth the time and the effort.  Now, if you take a little time though and have some patience then you can see the similar structure of the trinity – Christianity.  This temple compound is dedicated to the three great Hindu divinities: Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma.  However, the primary focus of this compound is on Shiva.  Really interesting stories if you get the time to check it out.

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Even with its variations and nuances, once you read the literature you can see lots of similarities to other religions, and of course…all of them have their nuances.  But, what stands out is the systematic structure of the beliefs and how they really represent values that are constructive to building a society that values life and humanity.

Now, I am not the type of person that goes somewhere and gets all spooky.  Just isn’t going to happen.  And, like Al Pacino said in his grand speech at the end of the movie – The Scent of a Woman – “i’ve been around, ya know…..”.  so I don’t have any grand ethereal pronouncements to make.  What I will say is this though!!

It is a waste of time to debate someone else’s religion with them.  They have their beliefs and others have their own.  What I am amazed at, is when you get up close to Prambanan, you can see the time, effort, energy, focus, dedication, and skill it took to build this thing.  It is not a matter of whether I believe in what they are saying, it is a matter of if they believe it.  When you get here, you can obviously see that whomever built this temple…well, they believed in their purpose, and that purpose made them demonstrate it in a most excellent manner.

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This is also an excellent example of how the built environment can be so amazing…as it reflects so much of a given time period.  Case in point is the difference between some modern designs and those that represent a historical era.  Much of what stands out about historical structures is how scale is correlated to the human touch.  Many times, designs leave no personal feeling of impact as they can represent something more mechanized.  As you look closer, what you see is the human touch.  As you venture out more, you start to feel how the human touch draws you in.  What I am referring to is the size of the stones.

There are not large pieces that stretch long distances, each stone was picked and placed in a way that reflects how a human being picked up what they could and merged it with the others.  Even in the sculptors/reliefs, they stretch out over multiple stones and the detail of the effort naturally draws you in towards it.  Something that large modernized architecture generally fails to do.  It creates an impression…sublime in many ways, that helps you to relate to the human effort it takes to create something such as this.

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Looking closer, here is a picture of the specific sculptures or reliefs that adorn the sides of the temple.  Many of them display the Hindu stories surrounding Shiva, Vishnu, and Brahma…amongst others…but, they also depict the amazing epic of ‘Ramayana’.  Now this story, I am familiar with…it is a difficult read, just because you have to take your time and look up words and meanings so that you can follow the story…but, it is an excellent epic on spirituality, love and the human struggle…Here is an example of some carvings, up close, and the reliefs:

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The way it was designed and built involved primarily the master designer and his apprentice.  The master would draw the design on the stone, the apprentice would come in and start the carving, then the master would come back and provide the finishing touches.

Stepping inside the temples, many of them have this type of sculpture inside of them…they all have meaning, and even their position and placement inside the compound represents a specific meaning.  Those who want to know more, well, I’ll let you look it up :)

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Now, as I mentioned, the temple compound has been hit very hard by earthquakes…two (2) to be exact…the latest one was in 2006, and hit near 6.0 on the Richter scale.  And, over the time it was built…local political shifting and other social dynamics left the temple neglected for some time.  But, with efforts from local and international bodies, they are working for a full restoration.  Hopefully, this fine guardian here, can move them along…

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this place speaks silent volumes of information to those interested in discernment….and moving on to the next site on this journey, I’ll have more to say about this experience as well!!

On to Borobudur….

A Pilgrimmage – Of Sorts

February 22, 2015

This part of the trip I am going to call the quasi-pilgrimage. Now, I am not the most religious person you will find, but I do have the utmost respect for the ‘path’. Leaving Tulungagung this morning, and heading to some of the most venerated places in Indonesia which really have left a mark on the entire Hindu and Buddhist world.

Knowing where I am going and having spent some time contemplating the destination, I feel like little Santiago in “The Alchemist.” If you haven’t read this book….it is really a must read. Little Santiago on a journey to find his Alchemy….a wonderful and most applicable story…
The destination is the area that is proximate to Jokjakarta….

Heading to this destination, for those that are interested in developing their sense of self-awareness through reflection, a feeling comes that could be described as personal soul searching. It is not just the destination, but it is also what you experience getting to that destination….so many things to not just see, but to also feel….the environment has its influence, but the feeling is really feeling what is inside one’s self…not the impulse or the ID…really one more of consciousness about your own humanity…

Malcolm Gladwell writes about how agricultural pursuits impacts a society. Specifically, he writes about some of the differences between communities that deal with rice versus corn cultivation. Comparatively speaking, you can put corn in the ground and let it grow with some attention. Rice, takes an entirely different level of care…much much much more attentive one must be. You can read his books to get the specifics, but something that requires high levels of attention certainly impacts the culture of those who live the rice cultivation life. And in Indonesia, rice fields are EVERYWHERE!!!!

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And, I mean absolutely everywhere…and you can see why. The only place I have seen rice eaten like this is in West Africa. I am sure my West African friends are salivating about now :)
After a few hours drive and soaking in the rice paddies, the road rises into the mountains.

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Like so many other communities that are based in the mountains, this is another side of Indonesia. They also grown rice in the mountain areas. Typically, a family will raise rice on their family property…but, they will also grow corn, sugar cane, cassava, and anything else they can find. They will keep enough to feed their families, then they will work with a co-op to sell the rest. Basically, using the excess productivity to participate in the overall market. A person could look at the houses, the fields and the environment and think that the place is replete with poverty. But, on another look, food is everywhere. So, any poverty statistic that doesn’t account for productivity, yield, and effort isn’t as reliable as it may seem. These people don’t look poor at all…they produce what they need and they make it happen. In fact, I am thoroughly impressed…again, most exceptional.

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Again, as my friend Ebzan said, “in Indonesia we shop and we eat”…so it is time to stop and grab a bite to eat :)

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And just so if you ever head to places such as this, get ready for a toilet that doesn’t look like the one you have at home. Now your personal sensibilities may be adverse when you see it….but, nature will keep calling, and eventually you will submit…lol….so this is what you may have to use…

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Personally, I didn’t have a problem with it….so trust me, when nature calls…in an uncompromising manner, trust me when I say, “it does work exceptionally well” and very clean.  Just in case you are ever in this situation, the bowl in the bucket is used to flush :)

Just a few pics of the variety of houses and other things you will come across…

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And, everywhere you go…you will find a Mosque…

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…and a store…and a market….and food :)

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Now, aside from all the agricultural activity, you will come across small towns, villages, and markets where occasionally people get together to buy and trade. You will see the agricultural products, but you will also come across what we say in Liberia is “small meat” :)

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As my Liberian friends would say, “OH, good for soup”….and, I will say this….Liberian Goat Soup mixed with some Kpelle Tribe Pepper…is lip smackin good!!!!!!

One thing about places such as this – this mountain culture – they are exceptionally productive. If there is a few feet of dirt that will hold water…trust this…they will grow something on it….you will find rice, corn, sugar cane and cassava growing together or spread out in different places…patches of dirt do not go unused….

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Coming down out of the mountains, and after a quick lovely and well deserved nap…I am at the first stop of this particular part of the pilgrimage….PRAMBANAN….

Tulungagung, Indonesia

February 22, 2015

A drive that might normally take 4.5 hours turned into more like 9 hours…the traffic was outrageous, so whatever rest I thought I got…well, the road claimed it back…I feel like somebody just beat me with a ‘tired’ stick….never-the-less though, saw a lot of the country side much…in fact…it looked like a computer operation of cutting and pasting for hours and hours…so much of the countryside is duplicated…rice paddies, sugar cane, corn, trees, all types of greenery and stores/shops…and of course…another million motorbikes :) I posted fairly extensively on Tulungagung when I was here a few years ago, so I won’t repeat that….
But, I will post a couple of new things that really stood out. One of my great loves is just to get out and walk…take a silent observational orientation…and just watch, listen, and soak it in. During my stay in Tulungagung, this fine and wonderful pair kept me company. In fact, I have found that many households here have birds. The houses tend to be fairly simple…not a lot of clutter or, as we say, stuff…just a lot of simple things that represent life, birds, plants, pictures of elders, a tv – whether they watch it much or not – and sometimes a bit of china. The birds, like these two, are plentiful and full of life:

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As my friend, Jaime in Panama, would say… “awwww…you can tell they love each other” :) Yes, she is turning her neck to the side so he can nibble on her….of course it’s a male…can’t you tell by the flashy suit he has on :)

One of my great loves, is to just walk around a place….even at home…every night, must go out and take a stroll from time to time….really helps you to get a feel of the place…outside of the car, not just on a bike…but taking a nice slow stroll around a city and through the neighborhood. This is one of my favorite spots here…at the park…families, kids, right in front of the mosque and the local government building…

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this is also where the community comes out to exercise after the “call to prayer” in the morning…literally you will see upwards of a hundred people outside walking around this small but quaint park at 5 a.m. in the morning….love to sit by this pool…and of course most bodies of water here do have some form of coy in them:

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If you love fruit, this is the place you want to be. Fresh fruit is everywhere along with the trees they pic them from…you can literally just walk up to a tree and pick/eat some of the best and most flavorful fruit you can find. Crazy colorful…and you will find so much color everywhere…even in the aisles of a grocery store…

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Walking through the market, I found this wonderful lady cleaning fruit inside the market – this is how she makes her living. She was most hospital and just overall – a sweet human being:

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But, keep this in mind….not all fruit is for everyone…at times, they will ask you if you have any health concerns. And, take this as an important note – to all my fruit nazi crazy friends – not all fruit is for everyone to eat. Some of the fruit will send your blood pressure to ridiculous highs, and some to ridiculous lows….no need to pass out and die because you think all fruit is for you….but, these are wonderful people and they will keep you on the straight path :)
Now, now, and now…this thing here – a fruit – is called Durian…and they are absolutely crazy about it here….I will tell you, it looks funny, and smells even stranger….you open it up, and there is a nut inside covered by the fruit…it is mushy and smelly, and it is even against the law in some places to eat it in a public environment….YEAH…it’s like that :) But, of course, I have to respect that I am in another country with another culture, so I am obligated to try it…again….In many ways it is repulsive, it feels awful in the mouth, and it tastes so “why are they eating this again….and who was the first person to look at this and thought it was a good idea to eat it”….

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BUT!! As strange as it is – and mind you, somewhat disgusting, it has this thing about it that makes you go back for more and more….it pulls you in….okay…that’s enough of that :)
Always loving to expand my own cultural experiences, I gave up walking for a few to try one of the local major forms of transportation – the Becak. Basically, a guy peddling a bike with a carriage in the front….since I am pretty much a giant around here….I did give the guy extra/tip, as you can see, I barely fit into it :)

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Strolling around town, really came across some interesting things….and some that were also delightful. This is a little muslim school….they are all over the place actually. As I walked I stopped to take a picture of the kids out front. Once they saw me taking a picture, they all huddled together and started screaming and giving me peace signs, asking me, “are you American are you American”…well, the answer to that was obvious….a very precious moment and a wonderful welcome!!

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Another interesting experience was walking down the street and coming across a pet shop. This fellow was playing with one of the snakes inside the shop:

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As usual, they were most hospitable and asked me if I wanted to hold it. Well, I am very culturally open and always looking to get another’s perspective on living….but as I said before “homey don’t play that”…I don’t do bats, snakes, spiders, and rats under any circumstances….now, if he asked me if I wanted to eat it, well, I would taste it…but, hold it…ehhhh….pass me the Durian and you can keep the snake.

Walking by the river was also an interesting experience. Along the river, there were people everywhere in the water digging through the bottom. I found it so curious that I sat for a while on the bank and watched them. They were everywhere….somewhat like 30 people per an average city block… I had no clue as to what they were doing, but was impressed by the work ethic….

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They were taking nets and digging up mud from the bottom of the river and sifting through it with nets…come to find out later, each man has about 5 baskets behind him….they dump the mud in the baskets and sift through the dirt looking for worms…the worms are then sold to people who use them to feed their fish. Talk about a hell-uva-way to make a living….talk about exceptional work ethic. They were out there all day in the blazing heat, sifting through mud to find worms to sell to take care of their families. My Hat off to them, and if I ever hear of someone complaining about work, including myself, that picture of those men is an excellent reminder of how detached we can get from man’s natural conditions.

While I love the cultural experience and try to expand my own every chance I get, after a long hot day, it is one of the wonderful experiences of life to go jump in a pool :) This is the pool at a new Crown Victoria Hotel in Tulungagung….absolutely delightful…

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As mentioned, although this is a Muslim Country, they do tolerate other expressions very well. Temples and churches are frequent sites here. Catholic schools, churches, Buddhist temples and Confucius temples abound….beautiful places…. Anyone studying government and the use of high culture to improve society for everyone could stand to learn a few things from studying Confucius…amazing!! This is a local temple used as a burial facility and also as a place to practice your religion….
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Well, my mind is feeling good, feet are better, not as cranky and full of good food and fruit! This has been a very full experience….and yet, there is still so much yet on the agenda….Getting ready for a deeper plunge into the pilgrimage….

Surabaya, Indonesia

February 22, 2015

During the relatively short flight from Penang, Malaysia to Surabaya, Indonesia, I can’t help but to think about those lives that were lost on the recent flight from Surabaya to Singapore. Even with all the flying I have done over my life time, I still absolutely do not enjoy flying on Airplanes…but, with so many places to go and see as well as so many things to go do around the world….how else do we get there…so, never-the-less, Surabaya is the next stop. And, it is a welcome one…after so much walking, this will be a good place to soak the feet. If you decide to come this way, just do a little research…you can find excellent accommodations with an even better cost associated with it – especially in those areas of the world where the dollar is strong :) See what I mean…great pool, great view, with a great room :)

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Whenever I come to Indonesia, no matter what part of the country, one of the things that jumps out at me so quickly is the family unit. Not to say that there are no challenges here…we know families are families…but, this is always one of the first sites I see when getting around the country:

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This is one of the more common sites around Indonesia….a family on a motorbike…sometimes you will even see a family of four on a bike, babies in the middle…daddy driving and momma holding groceries in the back….they make it happen!! This is one serious motorbike culture….you will see chickens tied to the back, goats tied to the back, vegetables in carryon containers tied to the back….and there are so many of them, once you saw it you would believe that there are hundreds of thousands of these bikes everywhere…everyone has one….one thing about this place….They Make It Happen!! Rain or Shine….No Excuses…Get It DONE!! And, after a little rest for the feet, of course it is time to get some chow….Again, Food is absolutely everywhere. Of course there are plenty of restaurants, but when in Asia I find that the best food is the most accessible food…and you get that right on the street – “Street Food” :) Right down the street from the hotel, there was a small tent….a restaurant actually…family owned and operated….this fine gentleman and his family hooked up some ridiculous seafood in short order…spicy, delicious, and left an indelible wonderful feeling on my palate:

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As in the other cities, I didn’t spend as much time going through Surabaya!! Needed rest actually, and the traffic is ridiculous…it can take hours just to get to a few places…even with all the motorbikes. But, I did make it over to a local mall. Met a find Indonesian fellow who gave me a quick primer on Indonesian Culture, “Malik, my friend, there are two things that we do in Indonesia. We Eat and We Shop.” How true those words are….all over Indonesia…. One thing really interesting about Surabaya, is that the mall is not just a place to Shop. It also doubles as a form of a community center….every month, they have at least a couple of community events. In this case, one of the local schools was having a fashion show. Quite unique the show was, but also shows an example of what some malls in the United States could be doing to serve as more than a focal point for conspicuous consumption :)

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Another interesting observation, is that each neighborhood tends to either have some form of a shopping mall or miles and miles of strip malls. Not of the variety you see in the U.S., these are more like shopping stands or small mom and pop shops that line the streets and the families live inside the store…business and home come together here….all the time!! I did venture out into the neighborhoods to get a look see…this is an example of what we would call in the U.S. a gated community. Many of them have high ceilings and unlike many places in the U.S., they maximize space as there are no set-back requirements….again, space is maximized.

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Well, I think I have my legs and feet back again….and I am adjusting now to this 12-13 hour time difference….talk about mental confusion…if you come this way, you may want to build a little time into your schedule so that you can adjust to the time difference on the other side of the world :) Off to Tulungagung and Central Java.

Around Penang, Malaysia

February 16, 2015

Now here, I am not discussing anything specific…just want to give you a little visual taste of Penang…this city isn’t for everyone…but, I love it…it is not Singapore…it has its trash, its smells, its significant diversity in levels of developed humanity…but, never-the-less, it is what it is…and it feels like that old jacket of mine :)  In fact, interestingly enough…while in the United States there is so much constant discussion about Islam and what is taking place in the Middle East…within the context of the book, “The Revenge of Geography” it would be so interesting to hear to talkers discuss Islam in Asia…not that they don’t have any problems, they just know how to live with each other from the angles and glances of multiple religions and multiple perspectives…more to be said about that later….but for now…here we go, amazing architecture…reminiscent of a time:

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mixed in throughout…

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Leaving the Temple I talked about, came across this smaller version on the street corner…it was wonderful to watch…a Father teaching his little boy the importance of and how to pray…although the little one was adverse…I’m sure he will get it soon :)

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One of the many local Mosques:

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And while Penang is very old world style organic, not to forget this is still a Muslim Country:

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With additional religions, thoughts and concepts and the freedom to do such:

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And, although this is not the best picture, what you have here is a picture of the Buddha on the side of a mountain.  Now this edifice is the size of a building…beautiful to behold…imagine that…tolerance and acceptance in a Muslim Country…so much to be said about the political, historical and cultural implications of Geography…hmmm….think on it… :)

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Let me say this, Penang was not Singapore..but, Singapore isn’t Penang…loved them both…such a culturally enriching experience…and I am just getting started…watch out now :)  Okay, there is one thing I found to be quite disturbing…McDonald’s is EVERYWHERE…

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Okay, Okay, Okay…I am a free market kind of guy…I do believe in the enterprise system and markets…I openly admit this…but, sometimes even free markets can go to the extreme..particularly when a society embraces it…but, I have to draw my limits…I have to draw the line in the sand…If any of my friends has one of these back in the States…let me be the first to tell you:

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YOU REALLY NEED TO SEE SOMEBODY!!! Really, a VIP sticker on the window for McDonald’s…. Come on NOW…Let me help you…I know people that can help you…only $20 bucks every two weeks…and if you need something more intense than that, we help you there as well…I’m going to leave it alone at that…but, you can find me online if you want to be helped…laughing…okay…

Loving Penang…Stay Up…Next Stop…Surabaya!!!! :)

If you love to eat…then Asia is your place!! These folks EAT!!  Personally, I don’t know how people this skinny and little can eat so much!! But, I also guess, it is what you eat!!

So, as usual my evening jaunts in Asia have been to walk, look around and EAT!!  And so, if you are in Penang, then you must spend some time at the Red Garden.  Anthony Bourdain mentioned this place on his show “No Reservations” and, since he is my new Super Hero…well, must check it out!!

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During the day, it just looks like another open air warehouse…but, at night it transforms into an open air food nirvana…leave your personal hangups about eating at the door…and fly/eat free…there was so much food, I lost count..there could be 50 food stations…there could be a hundred…I don’t know..there is just so much…and so much variety…this is a place where you where your old organic clothes..not the one’s designed to impress…this is where you come to eat…you will see Natives…Australians…and a bunch of folks that you can’t tell what they are…in fact..here and around Penang…it might remind you of Berkley in the 60’s…nobody cares..just throw on what you got…and eat… :)

I’ve come across so much food in these travels through Asia, that I will have a separate post at the end just to show you the variety…like I said… “this isn’t your mama’s Chinese/Asian food joints….this is the real DEAL!! :)

One interesting point that stands out though, is that many of my Asian friends told me how much they love Karaoke in Asia.  Of course…I just envisioned the U.S. style…go out with friends…get drinks…get ripped enough to stand in front of a bunch of people and show them why you don’t sing for a living :)))))  But, this was something else…Karaoke here is performed by, I would say, quasi-professional Karaoke singers.  Now the first night…it seemed corny and goofy…even cheesy…but, by the next night…I was feeling it…hundreds of people sitting around at the Red Garden, eating all kinds of food and enjoying the Karaoke…you could even see that the singers were regulars who came to sing every night….So I got my Thai food for the evening and a front row seat…

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Amazing…give yourself and others a chance, leave the judgement at the door…and you just might enjoy yourself…I DID…in fact…kinda missing these folks :) Loving the cultural experience and personal expansion…let’s do it!! :)

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