Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Alternative Medicine

The following morning (Sunday) we had booked a local tour with ViaVia called Jamu and Massage. We originally had planned on taking the Silver Making Course but the instructor had cancelled at the last minute so we chose a different tour for Sunday morning.

At 9 am sharp - most tour companies are hardly ever on time because of culture (however, I think ViaVia runs on-time due to their large European clientele) - we were met by two young women who handed both Ryan and I a helmet, instructing us to hop on the back of their motorbikes. We were off!

My giant baby

Our first stop was a traditional market. It was bustling with locals, bargaining for fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. The meat was fresh off the farm. And when I say fresh, I mean fresh..

Who wants chicken?
We also saw lots of unique fruits and vegetables. I am always in awe every time I go to the grocery store or local markets and witness all the colorful and unique looking produce they grow here in Indonesia. The best part is that it is all so cheap, even in the grocery stores! (at least compared to back home) I always try to stock up whenever I go to the grocery store.

I never knew there were hundreds of different types of bananas.. that come in all shapes, sizes and colors. Many of them have very unique tastes, too!

Vegetable or fruit?

While at the market, we attracted some attention for being tall and larger than most of the people doing their habitual morning shopping. We stopped by a booth to see Yogya's medicine woman who has practiced making and selling Jamu for the past 15 years. Now I'm sure you're wondering what Jamu is. The way I understand it (as it was explained to me), Jamu is all-natural. It uses various spices, herbs, fruit and water to cure various health ailments. Each recipe is different and catered to your specific health issue. The main ingredient in all of Jamu is water.
Posing with the Jamu Medicine Woman!

Ryan told the lady (with the help of our translator of course) that he was having stomach problems and that I was having headaches (I've had chronic sinusitis for years). She made us each a different recipe of Jamu and then we were instructed to chug it and then chase it down with some sort of sweet concoction she had created. Mine was so unbearably bitter! I couldn't throw it back like a champ. The ViaVia tour guide did though. She said there's Jamu for all sorts of things, including menstrual cramps, breast enlargement and fertility! Jamu is safe for pregnant women and children as it is all natural. You can even purchase it from local vendors in pre-packaged formulas. Some of these packages have rated R covers.. including the one for enlargements.. there's even one type of Jamu that uses dried seahorse to increase male stamina! Ryan and I couldn't stop laughing.

Seahorse - main ingredient in one Jamu packet

Ryan's special Jamu

Getting ready to take a (double) shot

Where's the Jose?


Our chasers

Of course, seeing the traditional Jamu woman is preferred as it is freshest. Many people will also make their own Jamu at home. She is the only local lady who makes the best Jamu as evidenced by her frequent customers. When we arrived her station, there was actually a pregnant woman with a baby wrapped in a sash-type thing (can't think of the name) who chugged that beast, dropped her coins for payment and sauntered away. The Jamu woman's recipes are secret and were passed down from her mother. It is tradition so whenever she passes away, her daughter will take over the family business.

Various Jamu for sale
I think Jamu is great but I could not adapt to the taste. Next time I think I'lI just take an Ibuprofen. (although I did recently purchase this menthol-based oil from Malaysia to rub on my temples which has helped tremendously..) We were also informed that many people will sell these pre-packaged formulas not only at little stalls on the street but you will also see elderly women with very heavy baskets filled to the brim with Jamu, knocking on locals' doors, asking if they need any remedies! I have never been approached by one of these Jamu door-to-door sellers but I bet they're less annoying (and more useful) than a majority of the salespeople who would come by the house and try to convince my grandmother to buy the latest carpet cleaner. These days, the only door salesperson I want to see is a Girl Scout (Tagalongs.. NOM NOM). Did you know they take credit cards now? Sneaky little..

After we said our goodbyes, we waited outside to climb on board the motorbikes once more. Before we drove off to our next location, we had to wait about 5-10 minutes for one of the tour guides to replace her motorbike that wasn't functioning properly. While we were standing around outside, we saw a man with two interesting buckets. Of course, curiosity got the best of us and we walked over and asked him what he was doing. I don't think an explanation was really necessary after close examination of his uhh, field of work. *VIEWER DISCRETION IS ADVISED*

Hmm, I wonder what he is doing?

Whistle while you work..

This doesn't look good..

OMG, are those baby eels?!

Poor catfish :(

Oh, so that's how you kill eels. Who knew..?

Basically, he was doing two things here:

1)  He was grabbing LIVE catfish with his BARE hands out of the bucket and using what resembled a sharp pocket knife to slice their sides and then remove their INSIDES within seconds. Apparently no part of the animal is EVER wasted in Yogyakarta. This includes chickens (and also explains why I so often see chicken feet and chicken necks for sale). Now I want to re-evaulate my consumption of nasi goreng ayam (chicken fried rice -- did you see those sanitary conditions earlier?!) He knocked this job out! Or pulled.. rather..

2) He was sending electric shock waves into the bucket of water containing the eels to help kill them. I was later informed that these can be found in any rice paddy (along with water snakes), where I definitely stepped barefoot last October to help plant future rice. Oh..my..god..

As if his fear factor job was of no-big-deal, he took out a cigarette and starting smoking. I'd say he basically threw down the gloves but he wasn't wearing any.

I was pretty traumatized and was grateful once the other tour guide showed back up. This time we were on our way to another market but this one specialized in the selling of herbs and spices. Ryan is really into the organic thing (probably more so than I am) so he was pretty excited to see so many natural spices and herbs, especially in their original form (such as a bark of cinnamon). And the best part about all of it? So CHEAP! We didn't buy any, mainly because it's virtually impossible to bring any of it back on the plane. But Ryan did joke about retiring in Yogyakarta. After seeing the extensive animal cruelty (which in all honestly was not even half of it) though, I think we are going to have to pass on that one.. (look, I know it happens in the States but sometimes ignorance is bliss).

Everything you need!

Fresh ginger

We had a visitor

The Beyonce concoction

The salespeople were very friendly and informative. They let us smell and hold (and even taste) so many of the different products they had for sale. It was pretty cool to see all these spices and herbs in their natural form. I was informed that one recipe had a sexy "slimming" effect. Our tour guide pulled me aside, laughed and said, "I've already tried it. It doesn't work!" Sure there was the occasional cockroach nestled in between the ginger and we also saw a little mouse having an adventure (and treating the herbs like they were a maze) but you really can't get more natural than this! I loved it! I bought some facial scrub made of all natural ingredients and also a little package of tea that came with rock sugar, tea leaves and a purple sweet potato for taste (I can't remember its name in Bahasa though).

After some quality time spent chatting with the experts, we ventured off in search of our traditional massage, done exclusively by the visually-impaired population! Let me tell you, it was one painful massage and probably the most painful one I've had in Indonesia yet! The massage facility was in a local village that had some interesting sight seeing along the way.

Who needs a dryer when you've got fresh air?

Go Green!

The massage parlor

I asked why this particular facility was hosted by the blind. The tour guides told us it was because it is believed that the blind are so in-tune to their senses due to their visual impairment. This is what is believed to make them such good masseuses. And boy was she right. I felt like Jell-o when I came out of there. Since they were unable to determine the intensity of the massage, our tour guide told us to just say "sakit" ("hurt") or "palan palan" ("slow" I think). Despite the impairment, I still felt pretty awkward being totally naked. This time we weren't even given a sheet to be covered up!

What I thought was super cool about this establishment was Yogya's government involvement in its founding. Basically, the government has created a school for those with impairments such as blindness. Since their opportunity to work a typical job (selling things for instance) is quite difficult, the government has actually trained them (all free of charge) to massage the population. Upon completion of their training, they are then given a job with a massage company like the one you see above. They also have schools specially catered to the blind (or deaf). Pretty cool, huh? Back in the States we have lots of Special Ed rules and regulations but it's really hard to find that in Jakarta, which frustrates me sometimes at my current school because I have definitely encountered students (yes, that are Asian) with learning disabilities and yet the school has no specially-trained persons to accommodate their needs (nor access to the resources). No wonder Yogya is so patriotic! They even have a sultan and do things their own way, unlike the corrupted politics in Jakarta. Many times you can see lots of patriotism in their products. There are many "JOGYA UNITED" shirts for sale. (There are various spellings of Yogya).

Our last stop was the ViaVia cafe in which we prepared our fresh tea purchased from the market (one hot, one cold -- hot was definitely better and that rock sugar had my eyes darting every which direction like a kid hyped up on Mountain Dew). We also made our rice face masks! Ryan was totally up for it. He is such a trooper!

The start of our rice facial mask recipe


Our natural tea.. and rock sugar (the yellow cubes)

Before beautiful skin [even though we are still flawless ;)]

Boyfriend up first!

It tickled!!

All done

The remaining facial scrub

Overall, Sunday's tour was so much fun! It was so cool to interact with the locals (again!) and let Ryan get a different exposure to Indonesia. Even though Yogya is only like an hour and a half away by plane, the culture and atmosphere is totally different from the polluted, noisy, hustle-and-bustle environment of Jakarta.

Before saying goodbye to our AWESOME tourguides!

Since we had some sunlight (and energy) remaining, we decided to check out the silver in Yogya. Indonesia is known for having some of the world's largest abundance of natural resources such as oil, silver and diamonds. Unfortunately, the locals don't see ANY of the money. Makes you wonder where it's going..

Anyway, Ryan bought some earrings for his mommy :) that were so cute andddd he also bought me a little pink ring! Both were handmade at the store in which we purchased them. I had so many decisions (and 2 floors) and was in my own little heaven. I think Ryan could tell and was ready to pull me away.

[And no, I am not engaged but it does keep the locals away because it's on my right hand which is the traditional hand for marriage in Indonesia. ;)]

97.5% silver.. for $10.00!

Before the silver shopping, we stopped by a little good Italian place and got a couple of beers, a delicious 4 cheese pizza, a Greek Salad and some potato wedges to share (I told you - we are total fat kids). I think we ate too much though because we DEFINITELY tipped over in the becat.. in the pouring rain.. and busted out laughing about it. I'm sure the driver was freaking out, wondering if he hurt the precious bules.. he didn't say much except "sorry." He also was unable to cycle uphill and made us walk. LOL. It's quite embarrassing to be an American here in Asia you know.. especially in Yogya. They can fit 3 or 4 Indonesians in a becat. We barely fit as 2!

We didn't stay out too late (although I was drooling over all the jewelry) since we knew our ride to Mt. Merapi was coming at 10 pm that night.. Ohhh wait til I tell you guys about THAT adventure! Yeah, I basically thought I was going to lose my boyfriend to pneumonia.

To be continued...

xoxo amber

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