• gabrielbritonunes

Fire Mountain, The Woman I Wanna Become

Updated: Apr 28, 2020

OK, I had been warned. At Lebaran, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, most shops and offices close so that Muslims can journey home to celebrate with their families just like at Christmas. But I just didn’t expect it to be so difficult to find a place to eat. So I ended up skipping lunch on Monday and catching a cold. I had thought they’d close shop for only the two days of official holiday. After all, they were the only days marked red on the calendar. I even had to wash my clothes by hand since I had my dirty sack of clothes refused by the laundry shop last Monday in the morning. I eventually passed by my favorite warong on Tuesday and, for the love and compassion of Allah, they remained open throughout the whole holiday season. Nonetheless, I found myself real sick and confined to my little room the first days of the week. But by Wednesday, afternoon, I thought I had had enough rest and decided to put my Lonely Planet Indonesia tourist guide into use and plan a little trip for today. Besides, I couldn’t take my roommate’s heartbreak songs any longer (I hope Ruth won’t mind me saying that here). I left early in the morning and didn’t realize how chilly it was till it was to late to return and get an extra sweater. Needless to say, my cold got sort of worse and I gained an extra back pain. I know I should just have given up and returned to my room to wrap myself in bed. But I was determined to go to the mountain and get some fresh air after these first two weeks of poor air quality in polluted Yogykarta. How does that go again? If Mohamed doesn’t go to the mountain, the mountain will come to Mohamed. Or is that the other way around. Maybe I’m confusing Mohamed with Moses. Gosh! All those years of Christian education and I can’t get it right. I must have been asleep during that class. Anyway, I headed towards Kaliurang, the nearest hill resort to the city, some 25 km north of Yogyakarta. I was excited with the idea of seeing Gunung Merapi from close by. Gunung Merapi literally means Fire Mountain. It’s one of Southeast Asia’s most evocative volcanoes. Though I was freezing on my way up there before sunrise, I was treated with the most beautiful view of the sun slowly revealing first the hills around it and eventually this unappeasable deity mountain. Once at Kaliurang, I visited the Hutan Wisata Kaliurang forest park before its open hour and climbed a slope till a clearing where I got a better and closer view of the Fire Mountain itself. That was an incredible reward.

After that, I paid a visit to the Ullen Sentalu Museum. It’s considered Java’s best museum on Javanese culture. Since I had read on my Lonely Planet that it focuses heavily on notable women of Java through pictures and stories, I thought it would do some good to my gender research. I was right. Not only did I get to find the best picture models of the woman I’m supposedly becoming at my dance classes, I also had the chance to learn some interesting curiosities. For example, it was common among the courts of Yogyakarta and Solo to fully dress up and make up young princes who were then expected to perform female dances. I was particularly impressed by the part of the museum devoted to this special princess, whose name I just couldn’t retain, who refused to marry at the early age of 11, as it was expected from princesses as soon as they had had their first period. Not only that, she refused marriage proposals from Soeharto and some other three influential men of those times. My guide in the museum said she inspired double feelings among Indonesians since she was against polygamy. A very controversial woman for Indonesian society indeed. She eventually married her cousin at the age of thirty. At the end of my visit, I was happy to learn from my guide that she’s still alive and lives at the eastern part of the Island. She was also considered to be a very good dancer herself. I made sure I kept the image of this picture where she’s dancing in a wonderful traditional batik costume during the festivities of the marriage of some Queen of Holland. Now I have the model of the Javanese woman I want to become in my classes.

I didn’t go on with the program I had made for myself. By the time I had finished my lunch after the guided trip at the museum, my cold had been worsened by the dust and mold of the old museum walls and my back really hurt. So I had to leave my visit to the Hindu temples of Prambanan for some other day. In fact, I’m gonna get out of this chair and have a good night of rest (if the 3 am nearby mosque prayers allow me). If my back feels better tomorrow, I might as well wake up early again and pay a short visit to the Candi Shiva Mahadeva Temple. If so, I’ll make sure I take Viviane Westwood’s advice and overdress this time. Maybe I should get myself a burka. I’m sure Viviane’s high heels would just look swell with it.

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