As I walked through the airport in Bandung I couldn’t help but smile to myself. In less than a few hours I would be seeing one of my sisters living on the other side of the world.
This past winter I traveled to Malaysia and Indonesia.
I was for the first time taking a plane by myself and I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety. At 23 I couldn’t help but feel like a child. My eyes widened and I noticed the stares as I walked through my first stop in Indonesia; Bandung. I was a Black girl in Indonesia and it was very obvious that I was a tourist. I took a picture or video of every corner of the airport. Although it was hot there was a beautiful breeze that greeted me when I landed in Bandung. Stares magically became smiles. After walking around the airport clueless I finally found my way to immigration for my next flight to Yogyakarta. It took about 1 1/2 hours to reach my final destination and unlike Bandung, Yogyakarta didn’t spare me with her heat. Within minutes I was sweating. Regardless of the perspiration, my heart was happy and at peace. After picking up my luggage, I finally spotted Wike smiling at me with her phone out. Like a child in primary school I ran to greet my friend. I’m pretty sure her friends that tagged along that day couldn’t help but laugh to themselves.
My trip to Malaysia and Indonesia this past winter started my process of healing, discovery, and enlightenment. After picking me up from the airport we went to a restaurant where we prayed and then we ate dinner. To be honest one of my favorite things about both Indonesia and Malaysia is the fact that you can find a mussalah (prayer space) everywhere. Wike’s friend Tika would be getting married on the next day so after eating we drove to our hotel in Temanggung where the wedding would be taking place in a venue across the street. The ceremony or nikkah would start at 7 in the morning. But we had to have our girls time so although we promised we would sleep on time we couldn’t help but staying awake catching up on 5 months of our lives. Or at least we attempted to. It would take the entire weekend to fully catch up with one another.
On Saturday morning we prepared to attend the first part of Tika’s wedding. After her wedding ceremony we would then attend her walimah (wedding celebration). This was my first time attending an Indonesian wedding and it was beautiful. Tika and her husband looked absolutely stunning. I’m praying for their long life and prosperity as they embark on their journey together as husband and wife. Moreover, Indonesian fashion makes me want to join the fashion industry. The women wore beautifully wrapped hijabs, dresses and skirts called batik, a traditional Indonesian pattern.
My first time at an Indonesian wedding was a magical experience. First, I met people who are now my friends. Second, Wike encouraged me to do some food tasting. Indonesian food is amazing. I literally had to control myself because Indonesian food composes of spice, texture and love just like food from my native countries Togo and Ghana. Third, being in a different country helped me further understand the importance of traveling. Many times we’re enwrapped in our own world forgetting that our part is only a small part of a bigger world. We fail to realize that this world is bigger than New Jersey or the United States. The world composes of so many cultures and it’s very important to understand that each and every culture makes our world colorful, lively, and a mosaic. Every piece, while different fits together to make our world a diverse place to live.
Visiting Indonesia, helped me understand the importance of having friends all over the world. Although Wike, Arwanto, Ritze, and Rin Rin were all Indonesian they came from different tribes or the same tribe but one would be from the South while the other from the North. It made me realize how beautiful it is to embrace your differences. After Tika’s walimah we drove to Borobudur Temple. Let me interject that because of traffic in both Malaysia and Indonesia it’s better to always leave early or you’ll find yourself stuck in hours of traffic.
Once we reached the temples it felt like we went back into history. The Borobudur temples date back to the 8th-9th century during the Syailendra Dynasty (Unesco). These temples are located in Central Java. Usually tourists visit the Borobudur temples around 3am in the morning to catch sun-up. Supposedly, if you’re lucky enough to catch clear skies you’re promised a breath taking view. Nevertheless, the view in the afternoon was also beautiful . There were so many people climbing the stairs to get to the highest point of these ancient temples. In the past the inside of the temple with Buddha were said to have gold.
As I studied the architecture of the temples I couldn’t help but imagine what it would be like to live and worship at these temples during the Syailendra Dynasty. Although as a Muslim woman I would be performing my worship in a masjid I couldn’t help but imagine how life would be then. Intersectionality in religion interests me and seeing how what was once a place of worship of those who follow the Buddhist faith was now a place where everyone visited for many different reasons struck me. The details of the architecture was meticulously constructed and I understood why it was once one of the 7 wonders of the world. By the time we reached the top of the temples Wike and I decided to attempt a yoga pose which was fun until it started raining. Since both Malaysia and Indonesia are tropical countries there’s constant rain so it’s smart to always carry an umbrella. I unfortunately forgot my umbrella in New Jersey. I enjoyed getting rained on though. It made me strangely happy. After being soaked in rain we finally made our way out of the temple. As we headed back we passed through small markets where you could purchase souvenirs, food, and clothing. After leaving the temples it started to rain even harder. We eventually found a masjid where we changed our clothing and prayed Asr prayers (Muslim late afternoon prayer). After doing that we went to a restaurant that served food from Arwanto’s native village.
As you can see food is usually accompanied with some form of hot drink in Indonesia. We had to remove our shoes before being served. As always there was also a mussalah and a place to make ablution so we could complete Maghrib prayers. The food was delicious. The tea soothed my soul. The hospitality at this restaurant was refreshing. Next to the restaurant we found rice fields. As we drove through Indonesia I couldn’t help but gasp at the breathtaking views of rice, corn and cassava fields. Men and women with straw hats worked to cultivate their farmlands; scenes that I’ve only observed in national geographic documentaries. To experience this in reality made me feel so much closer to the world.
After a long day we finally ended our night with a shower, prayed our night prayer, talked a bit and knocked out. I would be leaving in the afternoon the next day and my friends still wanted to show me parts of Yogyakarta.
After our morning prayers Wike and I prepared to meet Arwanto for some exploration through the city. Yogyakarta was once a kingdom. Technically it still had a king and queen who were highly respected. After eating breakfast we went to a magical place known for granting people’s wishes. All you had to do was to be blindfolded and then you would have to attempt to pass through two lucky trees. If you’re able to pass through the trees your wish would be granted. Although it looked like a simple task, it wasn’t. After three tries I continued to end up on the far right side of the gate. My mind was playing games on me and Wike and Arwanto couldn’t help but laugh at me wandering about. We then visited the Water Castles where princes of the past would bathe. Every part of Yogyakarta was full of history, color, culture, and life.
As our day came to an end we visited the local market for souvenirs, ate dinner, and finally headed to the airport. I didn’t want to leave. It was a bittersweet moment because although I knew I would see my friends again I couldn’t help but wish my time in Indonesia could be extended.
On my way back from Indonesia I made new friends on the plane. Instead of sleeping on my flight back as planned, I spent my time talking to my new friends about university life in the United States, my trip to Indonesia, my time in Malaysia, and how much I love K-dramas. We shared similar interests and in just a few hours we exchanged contact information.
Friendship in all walks of life.
That’s how my parents raised me. So wherever I go regardless of how isolated I may feel at first I make friends, share my experiences, listen to theirs and begin a new journey of friendship. Learning and engaging in other cultures and sharing your own expands one’s scope and perception of life.
Next time I’ll share my trip to Kuantan with you which is a city 3 hours away from Kuala Lumpur in the state of Pahang. I will also tell you about my sister who works in Damansara and our adventures together. Until next time then.
That Black Muslim Girl– haLima diallo