Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Xmas Eve Yogyakarta

How pleasantly odd it is to be a Jew visiting a Muslim country on the eve of a major Christian holiday. Although some might feel sad and apart from the energy flow encircling the globe this night, I couldn't be happier. Had a lovely day exploring the art gallery scene and other tourist venues around Yogya and I'll soon head to dinner. Xmas ham will not be on the menu, I am almost certain.

This city moves on a wave of 50cc motorbikes. Young and old (sometimes young middle and old on the same bike) go whizzing and whirring about all over town. Though we had a car and driver for most of the last two days' expeditions, I was envious of the freedom and agility that two wheels and a motor provide. I want one.

Yogya is like many mid size cities in the developing world. The streets are lined with a dizzying variety of small specialized shops--motorbike sales, repairs, sewing machine stores, food stalls, banks, souvenir shops for batik, silver jewelry shops, etc etc. No zoning and no particular logic to how shops are clustered--this also typical of cities where shopping malls are virtually non-existent.

The people here have a particular warmth and charm that makes me, as one of the few Westerners I have seen, feel like both an object of curiosity and a welcomed friend. The few Caucasian faces I have run across are almost all Europeans. No Americans in sight. Lots of bright eyed smiles winks and nods from strangers all over town. Such a marked contrast to the Shanghai experience earlier this year.

This is a city of rebellion. Home to a sultan who led the fight for Indonesian independence 60 years ago, Yogya remains a locus of dissent. Contrarian political views and a tradition of going its own way. No wonder I feel so at home. Maybe I'll stay a while.

Merry Xmas.

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