Jogjakarta has been a magical little side trip for so many reasons. I knew I would like it here, but wasn’t sure quite why it would be so important. As I contemplate leaving tomorrow, it’s easier to understand.

This is the first of many changes of locale when I was completely “on my own” in Indonesia when I didn’t feel anxiety or unsureness about the transition. When one travels this much, it’s easy to learn how to make these transitions “safe” and relatively seamless: look for a hotel with free airport transport; have a friend/ colleague who is kind enough to make these arrangements on your behalf; know your way and how local taxis work, etc. This time I had none of the aforementioned luxuries, and yet somehow was not intimidated.

I arrived in Jojyakarta very early in the morning. Anticipating that I would not be able to check into the hotel until MUCH later, I had nothing but time on my hands.

After I retrieved my checked bag at the airport, I went to the information counter and asked for a tourist map. Then I asked about public transport or buses. By taking the public bus and walking for 10-15 minutes, I could save at least 47,000 rupiah. Done!

Of course, at the airport taxi drivers swarm newly arrived visitors. It’s tough to tell these drivers from well-meaning “helpers” and others who are at the airport to sell things. I shot past them all, then looked for the TransJogja bus line. The people who work for this bus line are remarkably helpful and not only told me what bus I needed and where to get off – they made sure I got on and off the bus at the appropriate stops. Easy.

From the bus stop, map in hand, I set off for my hotel in exactly the wrong direction. Once I figured this out it was a relatively straightforward – albeit HOT – walk to my hotel.

Hotel Wisma Ary’s is a lovely little inexpensive guest house away from the hustle and bustle of the more touristy area. While I was a little bummed about the location at first, the service and hospitality of this guest house have more than made up for the fact that I have to walk a little further than I would like to in order to be a tourist. They greeted me warmly, offered me free breakfast, and had my room ready before 9 am! Having three days of motorbike tours has made the slight inconvenience of the location negligible.

What’s been more of a challenge are the NUMEROUS loud wake-up calls from the mosque across the street. I chose to travel during Ramadan and I really can’t complain about it – merely report that it’s tough to sleep when prayers and other calls to worship loudly punctuate the night and early morning hours. Having met many Muslims who are fasting right now, I have massive respect for the holiday and those who make this commitment to renew their faith every year. I can’t imagine how people work through the heat of these days without anything to eat or drink. My guide, Aji, has been gracious and uncomplaining while carting me around (although he REALLY perks up once he has broken his fast).

The first day here I took a very ambitious walking tour around the city. I should know this from experience, but the walking tours put together by Lonely Planet are even a bit much for me, an amateur athlete. Working in the round-trip walking, getting lost, stopping for directions, and stopping for attractions, this tour is 6+ kilometers and took me more than three hours. I cheated and took a bus part of the way back. But with all that walking and the heat, dirt, and grime of the city, I was more than ready to be finished when I was.

I saw:

The Water Temple (Taman Sari)


The bird market


The Sultan’s Palace (Kraton)


And the local market/ shopping street. By this time I was hungry and tired, and the walk came to an abrupt halt for lunch.

After finding ViaVia that evening, I had Aji, my tour guide, lined up for Borobudur and the next few days.

Paringritis Beach was spectacular but definitely not a place for swimming or sunning.


When Aji could break his fast we ate at a very traditional seafood restaurant on Depok beach. I had fried squid which was excellent; he had a grilled fish. It was cheap and so fresh!

Seeing Parambanan and some surrounding hidden temples yesterday was a treat.


But then, today, the REAL magic happened when I met Aji’s mentor teacher, Rini.

Rini is a program coordinator at the best junior high school in Jogjakarta. She is a truly visionary teacher – seeking to “empower” other teachers to be active in their teaching, and her students to be active in their learning (are you starting to see a pattern here?!?) We had a great conversation about defending “idealism” to fellow educators and superiors; graduate school; getting students to think analytically and critically; and so many other topics. She wants to collaborate to do teacher training in Jogjakarta next summer while I’m here – which means that I now have THREE teacher training sites for next summer! She and I both want to involve Aji in the training – little did he know what he was in for when he introduced us:) I felt a real connection with Rini and can’t wait to get to know her better as we work out the details for the training.

So things are really falling into place here. I honestly can’t believe the people I’ve met (many of whom I haven’t even mentioned here!) and the network of incredible educators I have the privilege of knowing. Now I just need to figure out how to make it all happen again next summer. Thank goodness I have time to work it all out!

Tomorrow I’m back to Bintan to see the very first Indonesian teachers I met work their own magic in their classrooms. Full circle!

My head is swimming with ideas about where this adventure could go in the future. Right now, as usual, I’m feeling lucky and thankful for this rich experience, and for the love and support of all my wonderful family and friends back home.