To say that I am overwhelmed is an understatement.
We begin the day with an early morning swim in the pool of the mountaintop resort. It is the temperature of a hot bathtub and tastes like sulfur as it is presumably pumped in from thermal hot springs of the local volcano. To get there we take a short stroll, pass through a ritual gate, perhaps indicating inside and outside, to a small fishing pond complete with a palm thatched gazebo. We then cross a small bamboo suspension bridge and eventually reach the pool and the resort restaurant. After a sumptuous buffet breakfast - perhaps the best we've ever had, as it is enhanced by gorgeous tropical scenery, we take a walk on the grounds and see a mosque in the distance – one of many architectural indications that Java is predominantly Muslim.
Martin and the drivers pick us up at 9:30AM for the next leg of our journey. It took 6 hours of driving time to reach the volcano and mountain resort from Jakarta. The duration is primarily due to traffic as the distance between the two is only about 100 miles. Bandung, a large city that is close to the volcano, is still in Western Java, the land of the Sundanese. Our destination (the arrow) is in Central Java perhaps, a few hundred miles away at the most, as the entire island of Java is 606 miles long by 127 miles wide.
But we leave Sunday morning and must first plow our way through the horrendous traffic again.
Sunday Traffic in Bandung
After about 3 hours we make a brief pitstop for a snack of grilled corn and some pictures of a tea plantation.
A magnificent lunch in a serene setting was the primary punctuation to a long 12-hour drive from the mountain resort behind Bandung through Sunday traffic to here, Wonosobo, a small city in Central Java. A koi pond surrounded the restaurant, evidently a somewhat common design to supply or at least imply that the fish is fresh. We consumed the standard fried whole fish, rice, vegetables, fruit drinks, tangy hot sauce, plus 3 types of saute (meat on a skewer with peanut sauce) – beef, chicken, and goat. We have no pork because Martin’s wife is Muslim. We sit on the floor on bamboo mats in this tranquil setting filled with tropical flowers and a dragonfly with whom I established a casual relationship.
This refreshing interlude is in sharp contrast with our brief stop for dinner. Due to our 9:30 PM arrival time, we could only find a laughable Indonesian pizza on top of gummy bread, a thin tomato sauce and a sparse topping for our evening's repast. Laurie and I are not hungry at all as we are still stuffed from our sumptuous lunch.
Martin had regularly stated that he had made no hotel plans for this evening – that we might even have to sleep in the car – actually 2 minivans. Laurie and I don’t mind the uncertainty or the long drive. It’s part of the adventure. One of the vehicles included Danny, the driver, the four women and Jadon, the 2-year-old, while the other contained Martin, Laurie, Juan (pronounced Jew-an) and the driver, William – 11 in all. So the logistics of lodging us in the minivans would not have been easy.
The children are well behaved, polite and never complaining. Juan mainly sleeps. The drivers are focused upon the chaotic road conditions – rarely ever speaking unless for directions. Martin and I gab nearly non-stop about current events, history, and finally my science.
Me: "I've been struck by how happy the Javanese seem - big ocular smiles whereever I look."
Martin: "Although the Indonesian government doesn't provide a safety net like in the Western world, the Javanese take care of each other. Everyone is supported by both their extended family and their local community. However, this is not so true in the slums of Jakarta, where people have been displaced from their community and the land."
"The community support seems to engender a feeling of security. The Mexicans in California are very similar. They are relatively poor compared to we Anglos, but are frequently laughing and happy perhaps because of a sense of security. In contrast, we rootless Americans are always changing locations. As such, we don't have family or community support. Further we have confidence that our government will provide for us when we are old, sick, or poor. Each of us must provide for ourselves. "
"The result of American individualism. Everyone is encouraged to be independent and not rely on others. Perhaps this is why Americans love their guns. They want to protect themselves from a hostile world."
"As an indication of the importance of weapons to the average citizen, our politicians must cater to the gun lobby to get reelected."
"It seems that Americans are angry and need an enemy to motivate them. They want your president to prove his manhood through military aggression. Witness Reagan and the 2 Bushes."
"An abundance of propaganda from the military-industrial establishment creates the fear and the resultant anger."
"There must be a ground for the anger."
"Perhaps our child-rearing practices. Parents are encouraged to put their new born babies in a crib as soon a s possible, presumably to protect them from harm. They are even counseled to allow the babies to 'cry themselves to sleep'. Makes them independent."
"Sounds barbaric. More American individualism. We Asians sleep with our children until they quit breastfeeding and leave of their own accord."
"Same with Laurie and I; also the Mexicans I've polled. None of us would think of putting our baby through this unnecessary suffering."
"The parents too. It gives me pain to hear my children cry. I want to make them happy. Babies are small and must eat frequently. It's better if the mother and her milk is nearby. Everyone sleeps better and is healthier and happier."
"Could it be that many Americans are angry and afraid because of this early childhood separation?"
"Who knows? It's not perfect in Asia either. Here the community dominates our culture, blocking change. While individualism has its drawbacks, Americans can think outside the box more easily. Witness your computer industry."
On and on we talked – Chinese culture, Indonesian history, and the class system.
Martin: "China doesn't have a class system based upon family. Even though the rich have an advantage, anyone can rise to the top and will be respected."
Me: "True. Peasants uprisings led to the formation of both the Han and Ming dynasties. Establishing that you have the Mandate of Heaven is more important than bloodline. Mao's successful 1000 mile march established that Heaven was on his side."
Martin: "Exactly. India will never really become part of the international community until they give up their caste system."
Martin and I were well matched, as he had anticipated.
When we arrived in Wonosobo, we ate a hilarious pizza dinner. Nothing else was open. We have nowhere to stay. Martin and the driver ask multiple locals for advice. It seems that everyone wants to be so helpful that they will provide directions even though they don’t really know the way. Then out of the chaotic jumble of dark side streets – late at night – populated by a mere smattering of locals – emerges the Kreshna Hotel. I had been teasing Martin about being Moses leading us on a long journey into the unknown wilderness. And here we are at the Promised Land – suddenly, unexpectedly, dusty, sweaty, disheveled and raw. Adjectives attached to a few nouns and some verbs don’t do it justice, but I will try. An old Dutch hotel – mahogany floors – exotic statuary both Western and local.
One of the notable pieces was a colorful full-size ferocious demon – nothing even close in any museum I’ve ever visited. It was love at first sight for Laurie. Before we left, she knew she wanted to bring back a painted wood sculpture that the Balinese are known for. After seeing this magnificent piece of art, she knew this was the type of sculpure she had come for. (The next day, Martin informed us that this is not just a demon, but Garuda, a mythological bird who serves as Vishnu’s transportation. He is also a key character in the Ramayana, the national symbol of Indonesia, and the name of their local airlines.)
Polite and unpretentious staff – high ceilings – garden and the numbered paintings – museum quality diversity, ranging from local to European – Gauguin style – Klimpt style. Each more breathtaking than the last – A gamelan in the lobby - a 2 century old Javanese instrument with performance on Friday and Saturday.
Maybe a hundred or more painting decorating the walls - each startling the viewer by the quality and difference from that which surrounded it. The art collector has a high level taste - far over shadowing many museum collections, including the Getty in Los Angeles with its endless rows of Renaissance portraiture – an over abundance of 1 genre that puts this viewer to sleep. But I haven’t reached the best – a pool with a century old water tower. Surrounded by lush vegetation – only Laurie’s camera could capture its splendor. I will not try. Gorgeous rooms to match the well–appointed surroundings.
But this is only part of the reason I am overwhelmed. I spoke today with Martin about my science for the first time. He understood immediately that it was cutting edge - likening me to an Einstein laboring in the patent office behind the scenes – and then springing his discoveries upon the world. Being one who pays attention to divine omens, the marvelous, serene lunch and this stupendous hotel ratify my work, my relationship with Martin and the world, my Dharma path. A long struggle - a drive through nowhere - from the land of the Sundanese in the west of the island to the land of the Javanese in the middle – through a bewildering array and tangle of streets and traffic jams right through the heartland. The Chaos followed by the Divine Order of this spot. The symbolism is obvious. I am humbled and overwhelmed by the part I have been chosen to play.
(Note: the next morning we wake to the sound of traffic. It turns out that a major thorough faire is in front of the hotel. The symbolism is tainted. Although the discoveries are grand, the world rushes busily by without observing their wonder. Ah well. Such is my fate.)