Saturday, April 29, 2006

Beautiful Merapi, Fiery Merapi

Well, our new neighborhood wartel is absolutely refusing to upload apartment pictures. I think Chad has succeded in posting a picture of the rooftop on his blog, so you should check that out (Indo Stories, on the right hand side of this page). Instead I'll talk about our trip to Mt. Merapi, near Yogyakarta.

As you may have heard, Merapi is fixing to erupt sometime soon. People who live on the mountain - and there are thousands of them, mostly scattered in farming villages - have a whole set of traditional beliefs centered around the existence of a spiritual kingdom atop the volcano. When the volcano erupts, it's because the spirits are having a big party or ceremony. Villagers believe if they take good care of the mountain and are respectful toward its god, they'll be okay.

That makes some sense to me - I've always thought mountains were spiritual places, especially New Hampshire's White Mountains. Plus the belief system seems to encourage an attitude of conservation.

We talked to one guy named Christian, who's been taking hikers up to the summit for more than 20 years. He described going up there with a villager who claimed to see the magical kingdom. "He'd say, look, horses! carriages! soldiers! houses! It's just like a town," Christian told us. Then he added with a little smile, "I can't see it. But I do believe it."

Volcanologists have the place on second-highest alert, which means "be ready to evacuate, but you don't have to evacuate yet." People are definitely nervous, but they're growing rice and selling fried tempeh and doing all the stuff they usually do. They're also performing sacrifices and ceremonies to try to mitigate the damage when it does blow. This volcano has erupted 5 times since 1990, so while the situation is urgent, it's also familiar. In 1994 more than 60 people died. Everyone's hoping this time the god is a little kinder.

Chad got to stay an extra day and actually go to a ceremony, so he will likely have some cool stuff on his page soon about it.


Nicole said...

I can't believe you live there. It's breathtaking.

The toothpaste looks so HAPPY - like it'll be a party in your mouth! I think I prefer mint flavor though...

So do all these people you've been talking to speak English? or are you just that good at Indonesian now?

kopisusu2 said...

It IS a party in your mouth! When I figure out the post office I'll send you a tube!

Oh man. My Indonesian. This morning I really wanted mie goreng, or fried noodles, which for some reason isn't fried at all - it's a bowl of noodles with a hard-poached egg and some crispy-fried onions and sweet sauce and hot sauce. Yum. But there were a bunch of guys hanging out fixing a motorcycle tire, and they kept chatting me up, and I swear I understood about one word out of 20! It was humbling. I should never try to be fluent before breakfast.

Christian speaks English, since he deals with tourists all day. For stories, I have generally had some kind of interpreter along. Chad went out to Merapi on his own the day I left and got a bunch of tape by asking simple questions. Now he's having a translator go through the answers. It seemed to work pretty well!

Cathy said...

Hi Trish!
I'm jealous you got to see the mountains. Can't remember when I've seen anything other than asphalt-covered prairieland.

kopisusu2 said...

Ah, the midwest! Amber waves of concrete! I remember it well. Unfortunately, Jakarta is about as flat as Bloomington. Sometimes when the fog lifts we can see some nearby mountains, but they only tease me as I walk the flat streets and broken sidewalks on my way to work ...

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