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Temples, Selfies, and Volcanoes: A Trip to Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Earlier I hinted that I would hopefully have my thoughts on a trip to Yogyakarta posted to another website. Well, that time is now here. I’m excited to announce that I’ve begun partnering with Black & Abroad to write about my travel experience as a woman of color.

Check it out here, and please leave comments. I hope you all enjoy the piece!

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Yogyakarta: Two Trips Are Always Better Than One

 

 

I recently visited Yogyakarta, Indonesia for the second time due to a Muslim holiday. The three day weekend reminded me about the best part of Indonesia: the plurality of religions. My dear friend from Belgium came to visit me in Indonesia, so I had to get her out of Jakarta and to the UNESCO World Heritage sites that are known as Borobudur and Prambanan. While Borobudur is a Buddhist temple and the other is Hindu, both are places I can visit every year. I’m blessed to have now walked in the shadows of Machu Picchu, magnificent churches, Uluru and my mother, and I can confidently say that Borobudur is one of my favorite spiritual places.

The mixing of religions is ever-present in Indonesia. Where else can you leave a Buddhist or Hindu temple only to see huge trucks moving oxen that would be slaughtered for a Muslim holy day?

A more detailed piece will, hopefully, be published on a travel site soon so stay tuned!

 

Borobudur and Prambanan Temples

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“What is going on?” my new Argentinian friend asked me in Spanish.

“This is my life in Asia,” I responded while quickly turning a corner.

The two of us had intentionally switched from English to Spanish while conversing. Children hovered around us and some adults openly stared.  Spanish was the only way to talk frankly about the situation without being understood.

As we moved around Borobudur Temple, voices behind us could be heard practicing how to ask a question in English.

“Picture? Please? Can I? Can I take your picture please?”

Whatever spiritual moment I was going to have at this religious site was destroyed once people registered my dark brown skin. Students and adults alike wanted to snag a photo. A teacher with her students grabbed me around the waist and said “I just want to touch you.”

And there I was thinking she was going to tell the kids to calm down before gathering around me with their smart phones.

With this woman’s hands around my waist, all I could do was laugh. The sheer ridiculousness of me playing celebrity and paparazzi while at a Buddhist and UNESCO World Heritage Site was just overwhelming. I was not going to win this battle no matter how much I wanted to. Photos taken, obnoxious teens (there’s a site you’re guaranteed to see around the world) called out to my friend and I as we rushed back to our tour van. What did they want? Pictures of course. One would think that people would be more excited to snap photos of the architecture, as shown below.

 

But, no. What would be the fun in that when a Black person was wandering around?

I spent a week in Yogyakarta studying at a Bahasa Indonesia language school. Though the language is not sticking with me (through no fault but my own since it has a simpler structure than English and Spanish), memories of Borobudur and Prambanan Temples remain.

Both are astounding architectural feats, but Borobudur just resonated with me more…even with the constant photos.

Maybe it’s because by the time I arrived at Prambanan it was too hot to think about anything except “Don’t faint.”

It would still be weeks after my trip to the temples before I took some Black expats’ advice to ignore the stares, be open to people’s curiosity, and just pretend they (people who want to forever take pictures) are the paparazzi.

Regardless, the beauty that was Borobudur would have me brave the teens, cameras, and heat all over again.