Tuesday, August 18, 2015

In the Mountains

Notes from Mount Halimun. 

Long drive from Jakarta. Steep mountain roads, some unpaved. Luckily the steepest stretches seemed to be the best-kept. Still, some worrying moments. 

The lights were on in the villages by the river. Looking down from the side of the mountain into a valley full of stars. 

The stars above were not too shabby themselves. They seem closer. We're in a different hemisphere from my usual, so I can barely recognize the usual crowd. 

The palace and guest house made of bamboo. Like a fairy tale. And of course I am entranced by the construction. 

The curtains and rugs are of earth colors. Woven mats are more colorful. Photos, mostly of the king and his family, adorn the walls. The furniture is all real wood, carved beautifully with geometric patterns. 

Since the king studied electrical engineering, there's a substantial electronics workshop outside of his throne room. 

Every fiber of my democratic, peasant-stock self wants to deny the existence of a "royal aura." But the king and queen have something special about them. You can tell without being told that they're important. The queen is objectively beautiful and graceful and has the kind of open, smiling face that makes you feel at ease though you would not dream of behaving casually around her. The king has a similar aura of benevolent authority. Though they are young, you can tell they have earned the respect of their community and that they sincerely wish to rule well and honor their traditions without being stuck in the past. It's pretty awesome and I want to be like them. 

(Side note: a more honest statement would be that I want to be more like the king, because while the queen is a wonderful woman, her role and her aura seem strongly gendered female. The king is probably correspondingly male-oriented but the male narrative is taken as the default and I'm naturally masculine-leaning in mentality for most things, so I see the king as someone I could grow into as myself, while to become like the queen I'd have to become significantly more feminine, which cuts strongly against the grain of who I am.)

The kitchen is seriously fairy tale stuff--and in fairy tale I include Miyazaki, because traditional buildings with hearths and lots of people gathered around and bamboo mats remind me of Princess Mononoke. 

Is it cultural appropriation if I think the way the men wear their head wrappings looks really cool and I want to try doing that with my bandanas or smaller scarves?

Black and ochre and gold: are these colors significant? They must be, since all the aforementioned headscarves are in those colors. 

Hiking to the generator house. The first time, I have a headache and my legs feel weak and it starts raining as we head back around 1830, the hour when the sky goes dark rapidly. I focus on putting one foot in front of another. Note if you know me in real life: my parents do not hear about this. The second time is better. Been a while since I went hiking. 

Trying to enjoy my last week in Indonesia instead of daydreaming about the things I miss back home. But I'm going to make a list so I remember what to be extra grateful for when I get back:
Hot running water
My own bed (not a specific one, just the concept of ownership)
My own tea and hot water boiler
Generally, having my own stuff
Contra dancing
Getting late night or TAP with friends
Hugs given and received
My cat
Speaking English naturally and directly (the way I normally speak feels too rude here)

I need to get my computer fixed. It has accumulated a lot of useful stuff: Github, Dropbox, the Anaconda distribution of Python 2.7, a couple gigs of civil engineering documentaries. 

Taking a walk along the forest path. Why is there still so much litter? I seek to gather impressions for a scifi horror adventure story featuring mutant lizards and an agender protagonist (a revision of a story I wrote in sixth grade) but we are too close to the village for the primordial feeling really to set in. 

I am sitting on the carpet of a room in the king's house glaring at my teammate's computer screen trying to get the Arduino to do what I want it to do. Some things are the same no matter where you are. 

Infrastructure is an eternal delight. 

Code that worked perfectly in testing fails spectacularly in the field. Growing ever more agitated as the sky begins to darken. Finally switching to old and inelegant code, which works like a patchy charm. Lesson: preparation won't always help. Don't cling to ideas out of pride when you could be finding real solutions. 

Talking about entrepreneurship and the benefits of being a student as the car speeds through the dark highways. Trucks filled with supplies are the night crowd, and for some reason these also remind me of a Miyazaki movie--large, lumbering spirits, intimidating though devoid of malice. 

Reentering Jakarta around four in the morning. The city is nigh unrecognizable without the traffic. Big Asian mega cities stir something in the blood. Stories. Stories. 

1 comment:

  1. The imagery is especially strong in this post.