Five Days in Transit
06 Aug 2017
Reading time ~5 minutes
I’ve now survived the swathe of disasters that one may potentially face on an international journey for a solid week (okay, more like 5 days, but Sunday’s are now fundays/blogdays). Despite the nascency of my travels, I’ve grown pretty comfortable with my current status/condition as a vagabond who must constantly explain his Watson project proposal to strangers wondering what a 5’6 Bangladeshi-American might be up to in their neck of the woods. For a Watson awardee with basically no language ability in any of the lingua francas of the countries on my itinerary, time on the ground mostly entails an obscene amount of gesticulation and politeness to cover up my constant state of confusion and incompetency. It’s pretty sweet, actually.
My first Watson stop was none other than the largest metropolitan area on planet Earth (that’s the one you’re probably in while reading this post): Tokyo, Japan. During my 18 hour layover (probably the longest ever in history) in the island nation, I met with a fellow Amherst alum and friend of mine, Kazuha Aoki, who did justice to the city by showing me around some of its dopest spots: Sensoji (aka Asakusa Kannon) Temple, Tsujuki fish market, and the Tokyo Tower .
Vibes in Jakarta
After my ridiculously long layover in Tokyo, I headed straight for, wait for it, not Solo but Jakarta for a second layover that lasted 3 nights and 2 days (yes, the airfare discount was worth it). The capital city of Indonesia was worth getting to know, albeit briefly.
Upon my arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, I was greeted by my now good friend, Tony Mahendra, an internal auditor, singer, and radio host. I had met him a couple of weeks prior to setting out of the States on Couchsurfing. Within a few minutes of sending him a request to crash at his pad in Jakarta, Tony sent me a warm acceptance message. He quickly proved to be one of the most friendly, caring, and generous people I have ever had the good fortune to meet.
Tony accompanied me on numerous rendezvous through East and Central Jakarta, where we met up with other Couchsurfers through the hangout posting section on the Couchsurfing mobile app. It turns out that this function is pretty popular among seasoned Surfers.
I’ve been keen on incorporating my project aims into as many of my daily encounters as possible. That is, when I’m unable to contribute directly to my documentary film production or conduct academic research, I’ve been trying as much as humanly possible to discover others’ thoughts on and/or experiences of music making. I’ve gotten pretty good at consistently bringing things back to this topic while having a conversation with just about anyone on my travels. In my short time abroad thus far, I’ve already gathered a good amount of insight. One instance that deserves mention is when I first mentioned to Tony the belief helf by a sizeable percentage of Muslims worldwide that non-religious music making is generally haram. Apparently, this prospect was news to Tony. I’ll never forget the look of surprise and skepticism on his face when I’d broken it to him. He replied by directing me to numerous instances of music making in religious contexts in Indonesia. I’ll have to save an in-depth analysis of the precise meaning of music-making in an Islamic context and the examples Tony cited for a future post. Suffice it to say that Tony encouraged me to give Indonesians the benefit of the doubt regarding general openness to musical activity.
Tasty Treats in Tokyo and Jakarta
On a note completely unrelated to my Watson project, I’ve decided to include a section for each of my following blog posts dedicated to the sustenance that has graced my life as of late, because there’s no denying that food is awesome. This one’s for the following tasty treats:
- Lychee iced tea: A fantastic invention of the human tongue. All iced tea should be this flavour (yes, the deliciousness warranted the British spelling).
- Poci Tea: Light and elegant. Quite unlike the black and green teas that have taken me this far in life.
- Dadar gulung: Upon first bite, I was transported to my days as a wee little boy assiting my mother in smashing jaggery, shredding coconut, and sifting flour to prepare the traditional Bengali desert, bhapa pita. For this reason, I personally consider dadar gulung “bhapa pita 2.0”.
- Tan Ek Tjoan bread on a stick: I actually didn’t get a chance to sample one of these beauties. If any of you readers out there have, I invite you to vie for them in the comments below.
After all the fun times in Jakarta with Tony and the gang, I boarded a plane with Lion Air from Soekarno-Hatta to to Adisumarmo Intl. Airport in Solo, Central Java. Soon thereafter, I arrived at the charming, little homestay that I’m currently based at in: “Srikaton” in Sambeng. I was given a warm welcome by Ibu Yuli and Pak William, the matriarch and patriarch of the lovely family that maintains this place. It seems that the “Srikaton” family are always smiling, lauging, and/or casually singing with each other, be it on their down time or while hard at work. I imagine that marital and filial relations don’t get much better than this. Pictures of and more on the awesomeness of this family in the coming posts.