Coming into Kediri as a 20 year old who’s spent all his 20 years in the hustle and bustle of Jakarta, I thought that the trip to this countryside town of Kediri wouldn’t be exciting. Sure, I was looking forward to the trip and going out to experience the rural, daerah life but still the thought of ‘what’s there to do in Kediri?’ frequently crossed my mind. Little did I know that this trip to Kediri and my participation in Kediri Bertutur would be a very enjoyable experience for me. As I write this now, I still smile and think of the happy emotions back in the days I spent in Kediri.
There was no sleep on the night leading up to Kediri. Having a dawn flight and having to be at the airport by two in the morning meant that I would stay up and just sleep in the plane. Turns out though that while everyone else was asleep, I could not catch any Z’s.
I looked out the window.
The dawn flight brought about a pink-purple-orange sunrise. The light hit the mountains of the eastern Javanese countryside and there, I was enchanted. A good feeling rushed through my body almost as if to say ‘I’m going to have a good time, I just know it’.
We settle down in Surabaya as we land and go out to eat. While waiting for a friend who was held back and had to take a later flight, we walk around the airport and have breakfast. Lele goreng and tempe goreng was a good way to start the day. After wrapping up, we walk to the bus and what’s this I see?
Oh my, it’s an A&W outlet.
My stomach begs me for one last taste of civilization and after a Mozza Burger, a side of fries and a root beer; it’s off to Kediri.
Our first stop is to a small village on the outskirts of Kediri where we are introduced to the village life. Our taste buds are immediately shifted towards Nasi Pecel and our eyesight towards the vast paddy fields surrounding the households of the desa.
Sugeng rawuh di Kediri.
From the many ‘tourist’ attractions in Kediri such as the Kediri ‘Arc de Triomphe’ known as Monumen Simpang Lima Gumul to the day market of the Pasar Setono Betek, Kediri offers more than just eye pleasing sightseeing spots. Most importantly and what I realized was that Kediri offers smiles. What do I mean by this?
Compared to the hardened exterior of the ‘Jakarta keras, bos’ lifestyle, Kediri’s close community and friendliness resonates throughout the area. There wasn’t a single time where a smile wasn’t repaid with another smile. Whether its walking down Jalan Dhoho in search of a midnight munch or sitting in the hilltop warung of the Bukit Banyon, every single place that we visited had a feeling of warmth and approachability that was instilled in every single person that we encountered. How you look does not matter in Kediri, its how you are as a human being and how you treat others. Now being half-American and half-Indonesian, I have desensitized myself to being called bule. What was intriguing to me though was the fact that not a single person called me out on my physical appearance, rather they commented more on the camera that adorned my hands. The numerous questions regarding why I was taking photos were the most frequent ones that I heard, ranging from being a journalist at a local newspaper to working for the local government in a project for the city of Kediri.
Anyways, I’m rambling. I want to talk about the highlights of the trip in Kediri for me.
1. Gereja Tua Poh Sarang
In this Catholic site of pilgrimage, rests one of the statues of the Holy Virgin Mary. While we walked through the courtyards of the religious complex, there were numerous people there enjoying their prayers in the silent atmosphere and quaint, covered lawn facing the statue of the Virgin Mary. As the many pilgrims whispered their prayers, an aura of peace and quiet swept over the courtyard. We walked out towards the canteen to get a bite to eat and to my amazement; there were an assortment of dishes.
The thing about these dishes though were that these were not average cuts of meat, these dishes consisted of pork, rabbit, and dog meat, very rare to eat in Jakarta and yet here they had it in the canteen of a century old church on the outskirts of Kediri. My imagination and curiosity got the better of me and felt that I had to try all three (even though I have had pork before). I have gotten mixed reactions for eating the dog meat but what can you say?
When in Gereja Tua Poh Sarang, do as the Gereja Tua Poh Sarangians do. Although, this was a not a major event that changed how I felt about Kediri, this was a major culinary highlight for me.
2. Pantai Prigi
The last time I went to the beach was a couple years ago and I have waited so, so, long to go to the sand and sea. You can imagine my excitement when I woke up from a sleepy bus ride to the shouting of ‘WE’RE AT THE BEACH!’. Like a child who going to Disneyland, I leapt out the bus, taking off my shirt as I ran full speed ahead to the water and dived in the water. What a good way to wake up.
Pantai Prigi isn’t the best beach aesthetically as it is mainly used as a fishing ‘port’, however, what is amazing about the beach and surrounding area is that the rock faces for view that are available on boat tour for 300,000 thousand. These eroded mountains of marine rock were amazing and the definition of natural beauty. Standing straight up out of the water like pillars rising up from the sea, what was around Pantai Prigi matched that of scenes out of a movie. It was all worth the two-week sunburn that I had to endure.
3. Kediri Bertutur
Being that Kediri Bertutur was the main event and one of the main reasons for going to Kediri, it is no surprise that Kediri Bertutur is one of the highlights of the trip as well. Filled with historically cultural performances that are brought to the modern age, Kediri Bertutur teaches us to love one’s heritage and appreciate the existence that we have today because of the path that our forefathers have carved for future generations. With numerous Javanese presentations of song, dance, and storytelling, Kediri Bertutur provides the modern viewer a glimpse and look back into a time where all that mattered in life were the fundamentals such as community, family, respect etc.
With the converging of the local villagers as the main crowd for Kediri Bertutur, one could see just how important community is to the people around the area; which is much different to that of how some Jakartans are and how isolated they are even from their own neighbor and family. It was good to see how much core values still mattered a lot to the people living there and how they were still true to themselves even though there was influence from the major cities and on television, handphones, movies etc. This, I admire a lot, because it is not a trait that is easy to find in big cities such as Jakarta.
I made friends in Kediri that I won’t forget for a long, long time. One of my friends is Mas Jarwo. For a guy who I knew for just a couple of days, he is one of the people who I believe is of kind heart. He was keen on telling me the stories behind the performances at Kediri Bertutur, he was more than willing to help out with trying to find souvenirs to bring back home, he was even so open as to invite me to enter his home as we went out searching for trinkets and photos to take of Kediri. Now, Mas Jarwo may be a specific individual but what I have observed is that how he acts and what he does is a reflection of his upbringing and his community. I firmly believe that he is the way he is because he was raised around people that are that way. To Mas Jarwo, I thank you once again for your kindness and your help to want to accommodate our wishes and being patient. My thanks to Mas Jarwo are not just limited to him, I also would like to thank all the people that I crossed paths with in Kediri for helping in making this a very memorable trip for me and a very great experience.
How I feel about Kediri is that this trip changed me. This trip made me realize that sometimes we don’t need to be surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the city to feel alive. We don’t need to be surrounded by numerous people just to feel rame. We don’t need to fool ourselves and strap on other influences and then feel that that’s a part of ourselves. I appreciate the warmth and silence of Kediri. I appreciate the smiles from the old market stall owner in Kediri who didn’t need to say a word because her smile was a story. I appreciate the friendships made in Kediri.
On our last day in Kediri, it felt as if the past six days had passed by extremely quickly, which is quite opposite to how we felt in the beginning. There was a silence on the bus; a silence similar to that of yearning and when one misses a person or a place. Deep down, everybody was sad to be leaving Kediri and as much as we missed home, we would also miss Kediri. I am proud to say that in the beginning, I was completely wrong about Kediri. I misjudged it and I misjudged the experience that I would have there. Now, when I think of it, I miss Kediri and the people and the atmosphere. Although, still a native Jakartan boy, a part of the countryside has found its way into my being.
With that, I say: matur nuwun to Kediri, its people, Kediri Bertutur and all that were involved in making my trip to Kediri a very enjoyable experience.