It was quite interesting to see how the surroundings changed as I got closer to Indonesia. The languages slowly started becoming more foreign and the people slowly started becoming more indigenous. On the final leg of the trip to Padang, Sumatra I was 1 of only a handful of foreigners on the plane. You could feel the change in mood and personality as the trip progressed.
The overall experience in Jakarta was very overwhelming. I was not expecting such a large and prosperous city. The fast paced lifestyle reminded me of New York or L.A. The people were diverse in education, culture, and profession. However the people were extremely nice and welcoming. I felt very safe in the city and was in awe of the amount of trust the government puts in the people. I remember in particular an area around the sports arena where they leave several thousand home garden supplies and plants outside all day long. In the US those items would be stolen in an hour.
In Sumatra I felt that the atmosphere became much more relaxed. Compared to Jakarta, Padang in my opinion was less stressful and less busy. A place more anchored in their community and family values. At its core you could feel the authenticity of Indonesian culture permeating through the streets and its people.
Just being in the homeland of Silat for an extended period of time truly tested my focus. I tried to be present in the moment and both exude and soak in everything I could. It was truly magnificent attempting to absorb even a whisper of the abundant senses placed in the surroundings. I could ponder the experience for years to come and still not grasp its true depth.
The local food was excellent! The closest I could relate it to was Thai food, which I enjoy. All of the sauces served were spiced and flavorful. The fresh vegetables, rice, and fruits were a real treat and some of the best I've had in a while. Although there are warnings to be careful of the water, none of us had an issue during our stay. One of my favorite items I had while there was the Avocado drink. A delectable mix of milk, chocolate, sugar, avocados, and coconut really hit the spot. I quickly found the recipe upon my return and attempted to recreate the masterpiece. Not to mention the banana soup! Mmmm.
This part was so exciting and different than the US! Fast and Furious is not just a great movie, it exists in real life in Indonesia. Being a car enthusiast I could appreciate the fully accessorized out minivans and taxis. Almost every taxi was race prepped with custom exhaust, water snorkel (s), sponsor, custom paint job, turbo gauges, rims, window tint, custom horn, sound system, and lighting. All of which did not work; it was just for show. Not only did they look like race cars they drove like them too. Weaving in and out of traffic at a Formula1-like pace trying to reach the non-existent front of the pack. Lanes had absolutely no meaning (which I think should be in the United States as well).
On several occasions we would be driving 4 cars wide down a 2 lane road while scooters threaded the needle between cars. Scooters would zip through openings no bigger than the size of the bike they were on. Sometimes the 2 person scooter would be carrying up to 5 people, an entire family! Hey, if the US did this we could reduce our oil dependency to practically nothing! Each time we paid a scooter guide to take us around the city they would pass us a plastic helmet to wear. Being a extreme sports junkie I quickly realized that the helmet provided was one step up from the Toys-R-Us Fireman helmets you would buy for your nephew. DOT certified helmets are expensive and so are the fines imposed by the city if you don't wear a helmet so I recognized the practicality. The protection of the helmet was almost laughable. If god forbid and accident were to ensure I would much rather the coroner believe me to have been a fireman.
Destiny is the concept of a pre-ordained chain of events guiding the lives of man. I don?t personally know whether such a notion is the fate of humanity, but sometimes you can look back to the events that transpired in your life and wonder if there was more to it than meets the eye.
My journey into Silat started out as a seemingly random chain of events that lead me from one experience of Indonesia to another until I was fortunate enough to encounter my Silat Master, Bapak Waleed. Before college, I would not have been able to point out where Indonesia was located, let alone know anything about the language and cultures of it?s people. One event after another has led me to learn and experience more about Indonesia, but the crown jewel of my experiences will always be Silat.
Over the years, I have come to realize that Silat is not just a hobby or an exercise; it is a passion, a way of life. You do not stop Silat when you leave practice, it is something that permeates every aspect of your being and benefits you in every part of your life.
I was lucky enough to be invited to travel to Indonesia a few months ago. Not only was this a great opportunity to visit my Silat Master and experience the culture, it was also my first time visiting a foreign country. It?s hard to choose a favorite part of my trip, aside from the jet lag it was a wonderful experience and I hope to return soon again. One part of the trip I really enjoyed was the visits to the multiple museums in Jakarta and Sumatra. Indonesia is known for its diversity, and the unity among Indonesians across the various islands and cultures; this unity and diversity was reflected in the museums. With Indonesia becoming better known throughout the world, and especially within the United States, it would be great to begin seeing displays in U.S. museums.
In the end, I know that Silat will continue to be an important element of my life and I look forward to a future in which Silat is a part.
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