A visit to Central Java wouldn't be complete without a wander around the grounds of Borobudur. We tried to arrive in time to view sunrise over the temple but were just a few minutes shy of making that happen. One thing that has not changed in the last three years is the number of school children waiting to accost you in hopes of completing their English assignments and the persistance of of people wanting to take your picture. Just try to walk around a historical site with the intention of enjoying it's splendor because chances are, you won't make it more than five feet before you are approached with a "hey mister, mister, MISTER!" (even if you are a lady). What follows is a generalized compilation of the personal experiences of myself and friends during various visits to Borobudur. I give you:
The Stages of Viewing a Historical Site in Indonesia as a Foreigner
You've just arrived in Indonesia and you are excited to see your first temple. You've read about Borobudur and have seen pictures of the headless Buddhas and the mountainous surrounding countryside. You are excited to view such a piece of history! After buying your ticket at the "international" box office, which shamelessly charges you, as a foreigner, a substantial amount more than a local, you are snugly wrapped in a sarong and walk through the powerless metal detector (safety first). You walk down the path towards history. You know that as soon as you turn the corner, you will see the temple emerge from behind the trees. This is also the spot where the path of the international ticket holders merges with the local ticket holders.
"What cute little kids!" you think to yourself as you make eye contact. "How cool would it be to go on a field trip here as a child," you think as the kids in matching uniforms earnestly wave at you, neglecting to see the camera phone clutched in their tiny little hand. You move on past the kids and catch a glimpse of Borobudur in the early morning light and think "how lovely!" before you pull out your camera to capture the moment. You are so engrossed in the beauty surrounding you, you have yet to notice the small crowd that has gathered in your shadow.
Suddenly, you hear a shrill giggle. You turn around to glimpse clipboards disappearing in the sea of tourists that has now descended on the site. You continue walking and you once again hear the laugh followed by "mister...mister"! This time you're quicker and you turn to see a small mob of children. Amidst the overzealous giggling, the leader of the group emerges and asks if you can answer a question. "Sure, why not?" you think to yourself, "They're just so darn cute!" Further giggling ensues and five minutes pass. The pressing English question has yet to be asked. You try to get the question out of them but are unsuccessful. In the interest of accomplishing all that you had on your plate for the day, you say "nice to meet you," and move on, still surrounded by giggling and perplexed as to what just happened.
It is not long before you notice a small commotion off to your left as you are circling the monument as instructed by the informational poster as you entered. You are more aware this time as a sizeable group of teenagers approaches you. "Mister, mister, photo photo!" you hear. Because you are still jetlagged, you do not get out of dodge quick enough before the group surrounds you with their Blackberries, asking for your phone number and snapping photos. This will not be a quick event because everyone has to have their picture individually and hair has to be just perfect, which may result in multiple exposures per person. By the time they leave, unwillingly, you look like a hurricane just blew through. Nevertheless, you are still determined to make it to the top of the temple to catch the view!
This time, you are more cautious as you make your way though the crowd. You put on your sunglasses to ensure no further unwanted attention. Unfortunately, your sunglasses are not as effective as Harry Potter's invisibility cloak and you notice a person on the level above you snapping a shot on their phone. You think to yourself "how rude, he didn't even ask!" but your reflexes aren't quick enough and he shoots a few more before you can take cover.
By this point you are beginning to feel defeat and dehydration under the blazing sun. In search of refreshment, you make your way to the bottom and see a small stand selling (bottled) drinks. "Relief!" You rush forward to grab the last bottle of aqua dingin and while you're reaching for your wallet, you notice the peddler's phone slowly creeping up from behind the counter. You're learning from your experiences and this time, you slyly nudge the bottle in his way, which prevents another unsolicited snapshot.
You're tired and exhausted so you decide it's time to rest back at your hotel and begin to make the journey back to the parking lot. The people walking down the stairs are going slowly, one step at a time. You're focused on making your way through the crowd and neglect to see what is waiting for you at the bottom. "Mister, mister, may I ask you a question?". You give in because you have no energy left with which to resist. This time, the questions are asked in due time and you go on your way.
After returning to your hotel, showering the volcanic ash off, and taking an extended siesta, you are excited to get on Facebook to upload your photos and make your friends back home jealous because they are not in a place as exciting and exotic as you. You pull out your laptop and get on Facebook to see 20 new friend requests. You're feeling excited because, who doesn't love a new friend? Maybe it's that cool backpacking couple you met at dinner last night, or your surf instructor from last week. Then, you start to investigate. As you read down the list, you notice that something looks familiar....YOU are in half of the profile pictures! You immediately make your profile exclusively private and vow that next time you are in such a situation, you will only use the elementary Spanish that you picked up growing up in Texas.