Indonesia – Part I

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Kuala Lumpur Airport

After more than 30 hours travelling by train and plane, from almost 13000 km away, and layovers in Lisbon (huge line, long wait), London (rushing through the airport to pick up our luggage from one flight and check it in at the next, and then boarding the amazingly comfortable Airbus A380 – yes, the Superjumbo – which made 12 hours feel like no time at all) and Kuala Lumpur (SUPER comfortable and bright airport – where some in our group encountered squat toilets for the first time), at around 11 pm, we finally stepped out of the airplane into the outdated carpet-floor of Jakarta’s Soekarno Hatta airport, where we stayed for far too long standing in long confusing lines to get the stamp and pay the 25$ on arrival visa to enter that beautiful country.

At this point, I was in that phase when, no matter how excited you are about all the adventures to come, all you can do is dream about a fluffy pillow and cozy mattress, and you’re almost too tired to people-watch all the strangers sorrounding you in the bustling baggage claim area. So, when I heared that some of our group’s bags hadn’t arrived, and we’d have to wait even longer for them to file a complaint, sitting on the few and uncomfortable chairs under the bad lighting of the airport, my mood wasn’t exactly at its best.

The problem here was that, in the name of spontaneity, we decided to only book our first night in each of the first destinations: Jakarta, Yogyakarta (here only part of the group stayed overnight) and Denpasar. And since we would be travelling around a lot and didn’t have a fixed itinerary, there was no stable address to ship the luggage to. But a solution was found, eventually.

After everything was settled, and we passed yet another metal detector on our way out of the airport, in the dense warm humid air that I love so much, we took two taxis straight to our hostel, the POP! Hotel Airport Jakarta, which was supposed to be next to the airport, but, because of the way the main roads were built, was actually not easily accessable on foot – at least not at night. Luckily one of the boys in the group, who had to take another flight alone because he booked it a few days later than the rest of us (but ended up getting a better deal, with a shorter trip and leaving directly from Porto), had arrived earlier and gave us the tip of not even trying to go on foot. So we squeezed in 5 of us in one taxi, and 4 in the other, causing the first of countless situations during our trip in which we made the local people we’d meet laugh at the scale of our thriftiness.

 

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Here we were, at the hostel – a modern building with bright lights and decorated in vivid colors like green and orange. The tiny rooms, where only the bed and a tight shower fit, were clean and comfortable and all I wanted was to sleep – so I did, right after washing away all the travel stress with a hot shower.

Our trip, which we had been planning for months, had finally started. But it only felt real once, in the darkness of the hotel room in Jakarta, I took in the noises from the busy streets outside, and while drifting off to sleep, actually realised we were there – all those endless frustrating but fun and exciting get-togethers and phone calls of scheduling, meeting, simulating bookings, picking an itinerary… had produced an actual trip.

Indonesia – Introduction

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About a year ago I decided my itchy feet needed to experience something new. It is stunning how quickly after a trip my day to day life starts strangling all the memories of adventure and stirrs up a restlessness only the booking of a new trip can cure. So that’s what happened. I needed a trip, an adventure, something new, somewhere new. And as much as I enjoy travelling by myself, which keeps me from getting distracted by conversation and general socializing and really take in my sorroundings, this time I did something I had never done before: I booked a group holiday. And by group I mean there were 10 of us.

After researching quite obsessively (as I always do when the prospect of a new trip starts shaping itself on the horizon), and some schedule gymnastics that allowed us to set 2 weeks where everyone could take a vacation (August), we checked for the destinations where the climate would less likely betray our fun. Adding that to chosing the most far-away destination possible, to pump up the unfamiliar factor, as well as the budget factor, we quickly put our finger on those scattered islands on the east of our world map, right on the Equator: We were going to Indonesia.

It took a lot of researching, planning, reading, asking for advice from other travelers, arguing, but, in the end, we came up with an itinerary inside this wonderfully diverse huge country: Yogyakarta – Seminyak (Bali) – Ubud (Bali) – Gili Islands – Bukit pensinsula (Bali).

It was a tough decision to make in a country where there is so much to see, but we had to be realistic in terms of time and money. In the end, I think it was a good choice, even if it was a bit tiring to cram so much in so little time.

Since we came back, a lot of people have been asking me for tips on all kinds of topics. So I decided the best way to gather all of the information and make it available was through my blog. I plan on posting about each part of the trip in the following weeks, and hope to remember all of the most relevant practical information for those thinking of tracing our steps (or making their own route by learning from ours).

The places we visited definitely made me fall in love with Indonesia (although I do have to underline that we only saw a teeny tiny little bit of this magnificent country). The palpable spirituality, breathtaking natural scenery, delicious food, and welcoming people we crossed paths with have turned our trip into an amazing experience I would definitely recommend and really wouldn’t mind repeating.

I will try to post regularly, but I make no promises!

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Sunless Days

I had gotten used to the warm paleness of crystal mornings, their shades of blue and pink like the cozyness of a baby blanket unravelling a new day full of possibilities, the crisp air cutting through the skin not being enough to disuade from taking as much of the Winter sun as possible in its daily pithiness, running through dusty paths bordered by evergreens and stone pine or concrete paths by staggeringly harmonic wave sets reflecting an equally overwhelming sky…

Now the dusky tumult of the once deep blue Ocean sends its seagulls’ loud cries to wake me, while they whirl and dance through the curtain of cold raindrops, so thin the naked plants on the balcony drink them up eagerly as it falls into the dry ground.

 

Autumn

Every fall of a yellowish brown leaf, every coat of early dawn frost, every breath of air made tangible by the somehow comforting humidity of the cold oceanic air, the cyclical nature of Nature seems to suprise me with the sort of amazement that should be reserved solely for every-once-in-a-while events rather than a yearly scheduled hibernation.

Opening the terrace door to be wrapped up in the frigidness of a timidly rising sun, the aroma of a freshly made coffee mug warming my drowsy fingers, the discomfort of the cold – or maybe it is simply the changing of seasons – always gives me a yearning for change.

It might even be that Nature’s periodic shaking-off of its old in preparation for the new coinciding with the yearly celebration of my own birth ignites this sort of craving, and the associated sensation of being embraced by love from those around me just gives the final push.

After roaming carelessly and barefoot through the season of sand and salt, of living under the sun and never wanting to be home, now feels like the time to calm down, to quiet the mind, to deeply inhale the early evening air tainted with the smell of fireplaces, of togetherness and home, to bake cinnamon and apple muffins and devour them under a blanket with a side of hot chocolate.

It feels like the time to appreciate, to slow down the exterior and pump up the interior, to start over with the freshness of the grey sky.

Peachy

The whole house smells like fresh out of the oven peach muffins. It smells like summer, like bare feet and carefree lounging, even when the task for the day is typing my final thoughts about the topic I’ve been researching for months in the most academic way possible.

I am taken back to conversations had standing on red ground, sitting on wooden benches, eating corn straight from the fire, or fish just out of the river, sharing a cuia of refreshing tereré while listening to stories of fighting and resistance, bravery and optimism.

And now an insisting tiny vertical blinking line is urging me to draw analytic conclusions, establish some sort of verifiable knowledge, “contribute to the field”…when all my thoughts are drifting southwest under the immensity of blue that hovers over us all, as do the wise words of another man with the earth firmly under his feet:

Há Metafísica Bastante em não Pensar em Nada

A. Caeiro

Há metafísica bastante em não pensar em nada. 

O que penso eu do mundo?
Sei lá o que penso do mundo!
Se eu adoecesse pensaria nisso.

Que idéia tenho eu das cousas?
Que opinião tenho sobre as causas e os efeitos?
Que tenho eu meditado sobre Deus e a alma
E sobre a criação do Mundo?

Não sei. Para mim pensar nisso é fechar os olhos
E não pensar. É correr as cortinas
Da minha janela (mas ela não tem cortinas).

O mistério das cousas? Sei lá o que é mistério!
O único mistério é haver quem pense no mistério.
Quem está ao sol e fecha os olhos,
Começa a não saber o que é o sol
E a pensar muitas cousas cheias de calor.
Mas abre os olhos e vê o sol,
E já não pode pensar em nada,
Porque a luz do sol vale mais que os pensamentos
De todos os filósofos e de todos os poetas.
A luz do sol não sabe o que faz
E por isso não erra e é comum e boa.

Metafísica? Que metafísica têm aquelas árvores?
A de serem verdes e copadas e de terem ramos
E a de dar fruto na sua hora, o que não nos faz pensar,
A nós, que não sabemos dar por elas.
Mas que melhor metafísica que a delas,
Que é a de não saber para que vivem
Nem saber que o não sabem?

“Constituição íntima das cousas”…
“Sentido íntimo do Universo”…
Tudo isto é falso, tudo isto não quer dizer nada.
É incrível que se possa pensar em cousas dessas.
É como pensar em razões e fins
Quando o começo da manhã está raiando, e pelos lados
das árvores
Um vago ouro lustroso vai perdendo a escuridão.

Pensar no sentido íntimo das cousas
É acrescentado, como pensar na saúde
Ou levar um copo à água das fontes.

O único sentido íntimo das cousas
É elas não terem sentido íntimo nenhum.
Não acredito em Deus porque nunca o vi.
Se ele quisesse que eu acreditasse nele,
Sem dúvida que viria falar comigo
E entraria pela minha porta dentro
Dizendo-me, Aqui estou!

(Isto é talvez ridículo aos ouvidos
De quem, por não saber o que é olhar para as cousas,
Não compreende quem fala delas
Com o modo de falar que reparar para elas ensina.)

Mas se Deus é as flores e as árvores
E os montes e sol e o luar,
Então acredito nele,
Então acredito nele a toda a hora,
E a minha vida é toda uma oração e uma missa,
E uma comunhão com os olhos e pelos ouvidos.

Mas se Deus é as árvores e as flores
E os montes e o luar e o sol,
Para que lhe chamo eu Deus?
Chamo-lhe flores e árvores e montes e sol e luar;
Porque, se ele se fez, para eu o ver,
Sol e luar e flores e árvores e montes,
Se ele me aparece como sendo árvores e montes
E luar e sol e flores,
É que ele quer que eu o conheça
Como árvores e montes e flores e luar e sol.

E por isso eu obedeço-lhe,
(Que mais sei eu de Deus que Deus de si próprio?).
Obedeço-lhe a viver, espontaneamente,
Como quem abre os olhos e vê,
E chamo-lhe luar e sol e flores e árvores e montes,
E amo-o sem pensar nele,
E penso-o vendo e ouvindo,
E ando com ele a toda a hora.

 

In English

Meu tempo é quando

After two years without a proper summer, and the harshest winter yet, it looks like I’m going to have several months of bare feet and sunshine, even though officially Autumn just started here in the Southern Hemisphere of this beautiful globe we inhabit.

It’s been almost two weeks since I first stepped out into the sugarcane ethanol-filled, wonderfully humid and warm air of São Paulo and have been living surrounded by lush green mountains and valleys as well as tall and colorful concrete walls, fueled by coconut water and goiaba juice.

I spend most of my days thinking, talking and writing about those who called this land home long before “we” unshipped with an unshakable (and unjustified, false, arrogant, destructive) assuredness about what the future, read “evolution”/”civilization”/”development”, looks like that has permeated society until today. And the others who (try to) work to deconstruct this very idea. 

I can’t help but being constantly torn between feeling useless in my privileged presumption that there’s anything I can do, say or write and the almost hopeless dutiful certainty that not doing anything is not an option.

Then I take a deep breath and take it one day, or hour, or minute at a time. One decision at a time.Image

 

Literary hibernation

It is only when I start rejoicing at the average daily temperature rising above the freezing point of water that I realize I have been literarily hibernating (no, I don’t mean “literally”), at least on the production side of the whole verbal internal mirroring process.

I have been consuming words. Tens of thousands of them. Most of them put together under the presumption that they somehow can produce what has come to be known as “scientific knowledge”, whatever that is. Most of them concerned with food and (human) rights, or, better said, the existing world structure that allows for and even promotes lack thereof.
It has been extremely thought-consuming, I must say, and rendered every other thought I might have that is not in some way capable of producing socially or politically relevant action irrelevant, superficial in my head… but even those who are are irrelevant and superficial in the grand scheme of things. So I return to my little scheme of things of deeming relevant all that feels worth grabbing a pen for and is verbally expressible.
It is puzzling and, frankly, often impairing to try to find a rational way of establishing such a normative thing as the “right” thing to do, choice to make, way to live.
I am tempted to accept it is not possible. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t worth striving for. (And being the hipocritically judgemental person that I am, I don’t plan on giving up on it, just maybe ballancing it out.)

RH

So… First and foremost, happy new year.

Until now, 2013 has brought me a lot: a new home to come home to unending conversations at the kitchen table, discussing postcolonialism while chopping up vegetables, or while baking blueberry muffins after shopping at the farmers’ market, to sharing relaxing glasses of wine over conversations about nothings or tasting (and re-tasting) polish vodka; tons of pictures of snow, frozen lakes and bunnies; a new part-time occupation that allows me to put in practice all that I have been thinking about in theory (even if most of the time this means sitting at a computer sending out e-mails and making phone calls); a heart-warming visit to the almond-tree filled south, to my temple of literary knowledge, my well of calm, peace and love; and the beginning of the end of this part of my academic journey, with the start of my research project and the  issue of deciding what “big scientific question” my thesis is going to answer.

Looking forward to whatever else is coming my way and making travel plans for my already itchy feet.

Quiet

One of the things I enjoy the most in my Amsterdam life is the rhythm of it. The cadence of my routine melts into the natural breathing of the world around me like the honey cascaing from the spoon into my hot cup of tea. And, unlike what I expected, the shortness of daylight does not make me blue, it just mellows my rhythim, it quiets me down.

On most days I open the curtains to a dark street spotted with electric lamp light. Yesterday, like most days, I sat down, under my blanket, next to the tall window, and watched the pale sunlight come up while sipping my coffee and reading the daily news. But yesterday, unlike most days, there were no pink stripes of light to color the sky. The sky wasn’t even grey, as it is on rainy days. It was white. And soon I realized that what seemed like raindrops falling in weird directions, were actually snowflakes whirling around in the cold December wind, at first melting at the first contact with the muddy street. 

I got my bike from the storage room and biked to the center, like most days, but this time with far less fellow commuters, which only added to the peaceful quiet of riding through a silent snow covered park, snowflakes cutting into my cheeks.

It only lasted an hour or two before the rain washed it all away, and I really regret not taking a picture. But for someone who grew up with snow white Christmas pictures but no actual white Christmases there’s something magical in all of this.

Crises

“Every age, every culture, every custom and tradition has its own character, its own weakness and its own strength, it beauties and ugliness; accepts certain sufferings as matters of course, puts up patiently with certain evils. Human life is reduced to real suffering, to hell, only when two ages, two cultures and religions overlap… Now there are times when a whole generation is caught in this way between two ages, two modes of life, with the consequence that it loses all power to understand itself and has no standard, no security, no simple acquiescence.” (Steppenwolf)

Hermann Hesse wrote these words in the late 1920’s Germany, a time (and place) undoubtedly shaken up by profound changes in cultural, political and ethical realities, a crisis.

Today we are getting accustomed to hearing that crises are the “new normal”. Maybe it’s an intrinsic part of what some call the “second” or “post” modernity. Maybe reflexivity necessarily leads to crises because certainty and continuity are constantly questioned. Whatever philosophical, psychological or sociological justifications the great thinkers of our time come up with, the truth is we experience change, a lot of it, and of a profound kind.

I don’t want to speak on behalf of “my generation” but I can speak for myself when I say I don’t feel like I’m in between two ages, but in a time where you cannot speak of ages in a traditional sense anymore (and I doubt if we ever could, but I didn’t live in another time so I cannot say). There is no transition, no direction, there are multiple and multidimensional changes happening all the time.

I know it’s kitschy to talk about change, today of all days. And although I do have the 24 hour media spectacle running in the background, I am not thinking of this 4 year old change, I am thinking about crises, structural changes that are affecting several sectors of every “society”. I refuse to accept that the structure is the sole unquestionable defining force behind what’s happening and what can be done. People define structures, and, more directly, some people are granted power by these created structures to change them, or adapt to them. We do have a certain amount of freedom to decide, however limited by (constructed) structural constraints. No reality should be taken for granted.