Post by Jen
I am convinced that the world’s nicest people live in Yogya (according to Brit Amirah, Americans describe everything in superlative… despite my lack of American-ness, I am evidently also guilty). I am able to tap out this blog post because a fellow Dunkin Donuts (a fancy restaurant here in Yogya… I sometimes wonder if the KFCs, McDonalds’ and Pizza Huts of Asia are fancier in actuality or just in comparison to their local siblings; certainly this DD is fancier than the one in West Virginia that my family always seems to break at while road-tripping… the one with the unisex bathroom and missing stall doors…) patron offered me his extension cord after watching me hunt for a plug for my waning ThinkPad.
I feel like travelers tend to attribute the “nicest people in the world” award generously to many a place, but never have I felt it to be so fitting as in Yogya. Here I don’t feel like I get extra attention because I am a boleh (the Bahasa word for a foreigner) like I would in Kampala, nor because I am a woman like I would in Quito. I have never met more universally friendly or eager-to-help people. A smile seems to be the default expression around here. Sure I can only speak for Yogyakarta, because I have not had extensive interactions with Indonesians from other parts of the country. It’s also possible that I am on the upper end of the culture shock ‘U,’ but if that is so, it seems that I am luckily spending the majority of my time in Indonesia up here.
In this city, perhaps the only thing there is more of than friendly people is universities (almost). Yogyakarta is home to over one hundred diploma programs, and government, state and private universities. If that doesn’t qualify the city as a college town, Boston has no claim either. Given the vast number of educational institutions and students in the city, few would suggest that when Amirah, Phil (a Jakarta International School student working with us on this project) and I settled on the topic of education for our documentary that our idea was either out-of-left-field or particularly innovative.
After kicking around a couple of theses along the lines of ‘obtaining an education while overcoming personal obstacles,’ we collectively agreed that we didn’t know enough about college life in Yogyakarta to form concrete opinions. A couple things are apparent even to the unobservant - Yogya students don’t live on-campus nor do they party as much. But these observations obviously weren’t much help in developing a topic. Instead of forcing our documentary to fit a list of objectives, like showing that boys are prioritized for educational opportunities as compared to girls (which we have not found to be the case.. in fact, we are working with mostly girls in filming) or that religion divides education (which we have again found not to be the case, as we’ve met Christians attending the Islamic university and vice versa), we have decided to search for a theme within our observations while filming.
Our work station at Kampung Halaman, overlooking the jungle (rough life)
Getting comfortable with being on-screen
A local public high school - “sweet school like home”
Amirah and Laras