Thinking about Merapi.

“Mt. Merapi just erupted” — was all I could think to tell my sister on the day it happened. We had visited it a year ago in April as a part of our Indonesian adventure or more likely, our own adventure as sisters.  It was the first time we traveled together and our ten-day trip was nothing short of memorable.

The fourteen year gap is to blame for our oil and water personalities but if there’s one thing I learned in Indonesia, it’s that harmony exists in a world of difference. As the world’s largest archipelago, Indonesia fuses together over 13, 000 islands. Our ten days over three places was hardly enough to inform us about the country. But as most travelers would say, we leave to find ourselves. So, at a view deck  across unyielding Mt. Merapi, I wondered why we had traveled so far to be here.

Gunung Merapi sits on the border that separates Central Java from Jogjakarta. It took us close to a day to complete the journey to and from the Ketep Volcano Center found east of Borobodur. There were no other people around that day except for a few locals on dates. They sat in the little huts by the view deck exchanging jokes and meaningful looks. It would not have surprised me to find their names written somewhere on the tables or the wall beside the entrance to the deck. The excesses of love normally manifest themselves in public places. Tools used to taint structures vary according to place, as well. Perhaps the view of Mt. Merapi also heightens the need to speak of feelings and emotions. Merapi is an Indonesian word that roughly translates as “being full of fire”. Other translations opt for a different word and refer to it as “being full of passion”.

We stayed nearly four hours just  milling about inside the Ketep Center. The calm blue skies and quiet clouds hovering over the mountain gave off this illusion of calm when in fact, we were hungry, tired and a bit disappointed over having to endure this intense heat to watch a hiding volcano. I’d say that the highlight of this trip to Ketep was what followed our exit from the volcano museum.

Smoke slid out of a small shack across the street from the parking lot. A man was selling grilled corn (something familiar that both my sister and I love  because it brings us back to our Baguio roots). We sat in a corner close to the ledge, looking out opposite the volcano. The taste of burnt corn and bits of it between our teeth was enough to break the ice among the three of us. The sound of my sister laughing along with Danang and the quiet wisps of air used to fan the grill’s flames were the last things I remember hearing.  Outside, the heat was less searing the sky blue as ever felt cool to the eyes. We nearly forgot to look back but when we did, we were amazed. Merapi had shown herself.

Thinking about that day a year later as Indonesia faces a crisis of recovering from both the eruption of this volcano and the recent tsunami that hit its shores, I can only hope and pray that the people are safe.

One thought on “Thinking about Merapi.

  1. I miss you and reading what you write. I really enjoyed this one, ironically. Not the events, per se, but just reading your thoughts, and trying to learn and understand what that particular tragedy meant to you.

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