Soaking up 'Suasana' Yogya

Kate Reitzenstein - Monday, October 07, 2013


Lisa, Balai Bahasa Indonesia Perth board member and tour blogger writes:

This morning we started our first full day in Yogyakarta with a typical Yogya style breakfast at the Inna Garuda Hotel. The “gudeg” was a new experience for many in the group, and we all enjoyed taste testing the sweet stewed jackfruit, tempeh, tofu and boiled eggs among many other buffet breakfast delights. After filling up on the buffet we were ready to meet the staff and students at a leading vocational institution, SMK2 Depok in Sleman We were greeted by the administration staff and the Principal, Bapak Aragani Mizan Zakaria who explained the school curriculum and operations of the school to us. Students enjoy a range of subjects during their 3 years of study at the school including core subjects of maths, Indonesian and English.  The students choose their specialist vocational stream – and opportunities are presented throughout their schooling to link with businesses and undertake work experience in the field. Streams include metal work, automotive studies, carpentry, architecture, computing, woodwork and mining engineering.

All the teachers are highly skilled and specialists in their field, with many having studied or worked overseas in similar vocational education institutions. Vice Principal of the school Bapak Moh. Wardianto had worked at a TAFE campus in Melbourne for 8 months, demonstrating the level of commitment that staff have to undertaking professional learning opportunities. The classrooms appeared to be very well resourced and suitable/appropriate to the needs of the course.

Our group was given a tour of the school, including opportunity to interact with students and teachers in their classes. The students were very enthusiastic and keen to interact with our group, showing us what they were learning or doing at the time. Their enthusiasm for learning was very evident and our group was very impressed with the level and type of work being undertaken by the students. Similarities were drawn between the schools where Australian teachers work and the SMK. For example, the number of students in each class in Indonesia must be 35, which meant for one staff member that students had to work in small groups and share equipment. The tour of the school provided opportunity for Australian staff to reflect on the similarities and differences that were apparent, but some mentioned a number of times that students and teachers face similar issues everywhere – eg, class sizes, optimizing use of available resources in the classroom etc. After visiting the classrooms we were introduced to other members of staff in the staffroom during their recess break. The staff members were very welcoming and eager to explain their role or position to us. We also met some university students who were doing a teaching practicum at the school. Our group came away from the tour of this school with an excellent understanding and appreciation of the very good standards being set in vocational education and training at this school. School leaders would welcome the opportunity to develop links in Voc Ed between their school and the SMK.

After the school visit we dropped into a Padang restaurant where many were introduced to the delights of West Sumatran cuisine for the first time! The lunch provided opportunity to learn to eat with our right hand, and try a range of spicy and unusual foods! After the lunch (delicious), we had brief break back at the hotel to change into more casual clothing. We then continued on with a busy but very informative and enjoyable afternoon program, with a walking tour of Kota Gede (the Old City) being one of the highlights. At Monggo Chocolate Factory we saw the process of chocolate making through to the hand packaging. This chocolate is famous for using organic cocoa. Chocolate making skills have been passed on by a Belgian chocolatier who recognized the need for introducing fine chocolate into Indonesia. From Monggo we walked a maze of small streets where we observed daily life of the residents, and learned a little more about the history of Kota Gede and local architecture. We were completely surprised when we were taken into one of the buildings, which felt like entering another world – the interior spaces were filled with an eclectic range of furniture, plants, chandeliers, artwork, statues, and water features. The museum is one of many owned by a businessman in Jakarta who buys Indonesian artefacts from throughout the world and brings them back to display for visitors to enjoy. It really was like entering a different realm that was fascinating to explore. After leaving the ‘museum’ we continued through the small lanes and made our way to HS Perak where we observed highly skilled artisans making delicate filigree jewelry and other pieces/ornaments. Tour members did some shopping here and put a dent in their credit cards!

After all the walking and shopping the group enjoyed a little break back at the hotel before being treated to more tasty treats and delights at Gadjah Wong restaurant – set next to the Gadjah Wong river with beautiful gardens and trees. At the dinner we had the chance to meet and talk with 3 ex Scotch College students who are now studying at university in Yogyakarta for 6 months. They’ve only been here for a month but already they are soaking up Yogyakarta lifestyle and developing a strong appreciation of Indonesian culture and language and forming solid friendships with the locals. It was inspiring to see that young West Australians are studying here with such enthusiasm and with minds that are open and eager to learn Indonesian beyond Year 12.

Before the evening ended we enjoyed one more typical Yoyga experience at the Alun-Alun Kidul near the Sultan’s Palace. Although it was 10pm mid-week, the place was abuzz with activity with music and becak decorated and lit up with bright coloured lights taking people around the square for fun.  We had a go in the activity where people try to walk blindfolded for a distance of about 150 metres towards and between two large fig trees (“pohon beringin”). Anyone who can do this is said to have a pure heart. Unfortunately only 1 member of our group appears to have a pure heart because everyone else ended up in completely opposite direction! It was a bit of fun to end the evening of our first full day in Yogyakarta with a very Yogya activity, and among the local people.

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