The trip being ten days in length, of course was not purely a foodie’s exploring of local cuisines; it was also an academic field study. It might sound like work will overshadow the fun part of the trip, but I found it a refreshing way to travel. During other voyages I almost never do much research or preparation before I actually arrive. Often I’ll have a blast doing touristy sight seeing like visiting Fragonard Perfumery Museum in Paris, or listening to Harry Potter soundtracks strolling around in London (Amelie in Paris, The Godfather in New York, you get the picture). Everyone does this, surely? If they don’t, then they should – it’s like walking about in your very own movie set! Well in Indonesia I had none of this, but I had an equally if not more fulfilling time.
Now this blog will take a more academic tone compared to the others I have written. The first few visits in central Java were to farming agencies and a farming village called Cinangneng. The village life produces a stark contrast to the city life in Jakarta, or even Bogor, a suburban city. The economic disparity, social, and intergenerational mobility is limited for many of those in small-scale farming. This is rather problematic as small-scale farming is the largest source of agricultural products in Indonesia. Cinangneng and other villages share the same issue of farmers only being able to sustain themselves on the most basic level, they can eat the harvests and sell of the little excess produce to middlemen that come to the village. Of course, the lack of physical infrastructure to ships the goods and the technology to know the value of their produce; the price they get is far below the market value. A grim picture of farming, that nonetheless is still the current practice.
Another category of food commodities produced is the value added goods of food and drinks like Yakult, Pocari Sweat, and Indomie. These factories is what I initially thought would be the source of income for the average Indonesian, industrial type jobs. However it is only a small segment of the population that works in this sector compared to small farm holders. The stage of industrialization is not geographically specific, but reflects a slowly changing landscape. These mass-produced food products are identical no matter which island the factory is on. The local cuisines however defers greatly in Indonesia. In central Java food is much more spicy and in West Java much sweeter. In most of Indonesia the population is Muslim beside in Bali and therefore people do not consume alcohol, but in Bali where many are Hindus there is a lot of fruit based alcohol produced and consumed such as pineapple and banana liquor.
On a lighter note the trip also allowed for bathing of buffalo, milk cows and plant rice. For me and the other students from Singapore it was window to a different way of life. A group of friends taking a course with a filming project has captured my travel to Indonesia in their project and can be viewed through this link if you want to see more visuals http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x23wlrw_cindy-travels-to-indonesia_travel. Since we went to central Java we could not pass up a visit to Borobudur, the world’s largest Buddhist temple – thus the pictures of Buddhas. The next post will likely be the final post in the series of sharing my summer exchange with you as it is nearing an end. So long.