43 - The Kids Are Alright (Prambanan, Java, Indonesia)
Shades of ancient Hindu yesteryear. No room for Pissy Poo-Poo here. Turn that frown upside down? Try a teenage lightning round.
by The Nostomaniac
USING YOGYAKARTA AS MY HOME BASE, I made forays into the surrounding area. High on my to-do list were the ancient temples at Prambanan (18 km east of Yogya), the best remaining examples of Java’s period of Hindu cultural development. The shrines are impressive. The tourist hordes are not. Sometimes, I hate people. My fault. I arrived late morning. Should’ve been the early bird. Busloads. Busloads of tourists. Everywhere. In your face. Up your arse. Indonesian holiday? Sure was. Between the herd and a souvenir colony at the entrance, I nearly hit the eject button.
Mr. Pissy Poo-Poo Pants. That was me. Get a grip ya ungrateful prick… is how I should’ve chastised myself. Still, I stuck it out. Mr. Pissy Poo-Poo Pants did not (thankfully). I credit the children. Always the children. As I stood before Candi Shiva Mahadeva (largest of the temples), a merry band of middle school students overran my position. They were on a mission: Find tourists. Practice English. Take no prisoners. All part of a classroom assignment with prearranged questions. With nowhere to run, I was exposed… vulnerable. I capitulated without protest. The timing was fortuitous. My inner dialogue (a la Poo-Poo Pants) was running amok. The children saved me from myself. The kids are all right.
And then came the barrage.
“Mister, do you love your camera?” (I was cleaning the lens.)
“Mister, what about Indonesia do you like? The weather? The people? The food?”
“Mister, how old are you?”
“Mister, are you married?”
“Mister, why aren’t you married?”
“Mister, what are your hobbies?”
“Mister, what is your job?”
“Mister, how long are you in Indonesia?”
I’ve never been on a game show, but that’s how I imagine the lightning round. These kids weren’t fucking around. They were speaking English to each other. Most extracted what they needed and disengaged, but I had seven diehards shadow me for an hour and a half.
“Mister, turn left here.”
“Mister, how tall are you?”
“Mister, why do you take so many pictures?”
“Mister, do you want to see Candi Sewu?”
“Mister, it is this way.”
We had a delightful discussion on the proper context and usage of “Kiss my ass!” I felt a special responsibility not to corrupt Indonesia’s youth, but they were already throwing it around with reckless abandon. Guidance was my only gift and came in the form of explicit instructions for use among trusted cohorts. I tried to impart the prudence of not getting carried away. My benevolence knows no boundaries.
One boy, Bryan, asked if sex is free in America. That threw me for a loop until I realized he wanted to know if sex before marriage was customary in the good ole US of A. I told him we fuck like rabbits. No, I didn’t, but I validated the whore-like status of Americans. Pre-martial sex? Definitely a thing. Where did I stand on the issue? My expression confirmed his suspicion. Had he had a better grasp of English and the nuances of sarcasm, I would’ve replied, “Well, I’m 34-years-old and I’m not married. Answer? I’m a dirty, filthy, stinking whorebag slut of a man. Also, I’m a Pisces.”
President Obama was a hot topic. They were huge fans. Reasons given for their admiration included intelligent, kind, dark, lived in Jakarta, and (my favorite) he supports transgenders. I couldn’t make this shit up. I thought maybe the kid was confusing his words but he went to explain “transgender.” He meant exactly what he said. So, imagine a young adolescent (maybe fourteen) Indonesian male telling me he likes Barack Obama for his stance on transgenders with tenth-century Hindu temples as a backdrop. I sensed my little friend was in the midst of a personal journey. My heart went out to him as Indonesia isn’t a bedrock of progressive thought, especially in the realm of sexuality and gender. It’s plausible he was asking on a friend’s behalf, but if I were a betting man…
A good morning. A very good morning. And the afternoon? I drove up to Kaliurang, a village nestled on the southern end of Mt. Merapi, the most active volcano in Indonesia. (An impressive distinction in a land with volcanoes out the wazoo.) Merapi has been supplying Java with regular eruptions since 1548. That’s four hundred and seventy years of hissy shitfits. It threw a particularly nasty tantrum in 2010.
Naturally, I had to climb the fucker, so I dropped by Vogels Hostel hoping to meet the owner, Christian Awuy. He’d been guiding tours since 1978 and is a fountain of knowledge for all things Merapi. Luckily, he was in and was kind enough to chat with me over lunch. Not so luckily, I discovered the approach from the Kaliurang was closed to tourists. No summit? No way. I was bummed he wouldn’t be escorting me, but reaching the top was paramount. Selo, a village on the opposite side, would have to suffice. I thanked him for his time and cruised back down to Yogyakarta.
*Drone footage courtesy of thierry yuri gapp.
*Drone footage courtesy of Skymotion Aerial.
*Courtesy of Amazing Places on Our Planet.