Snapshot: Semarang and Kudus, Jawa Tengah

Shortly after arriving back in Indonesia, I had the opportunity to travel to several cities across the archipelago, as part of inspecting and preparing sites that had not had an ETA before this year.  This “Snapshot” series is composed of short pieces about my all-too-brief visits to these beautiful and fascinating places, which are now the temporary homes of ETAs from the 2016-17 cohort.

After visiting Balige in North Sumatra, I hopped on another plane and headed to the north coast of Central Java, where I visited Semarang, the capital of the province.

Semarang is not often favorably spoken of by tourists in Indonesia: the words I hear most often associated with Semarang are “small,” “boring,” and “dirty.”  Even on the plane to Semarang, the woman I was sitting next to, who was staying in Semarang to receive Bahasa Indonesia training before going to East Indonesia for missionary work, told me, “there isn’t a whole lot going on in Semarang.”

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Lawang Sewu, or One Thousand Doors, one of the most iconic buildings in Semarang.

I found myself pleasantly surprised by Semarang: the reports I had heard were simply not true.  Semarang is actually the fifth largest city in Indonesia, and while it is certainly not as large as Surabaya or Medan, it wasn’t exactly what I would call small.  And Semarang seemed to be a fairly happening place.  There is an historic district, with many impressive buildings left over from the Dutch Colonial era.  The Indonesian food scene seemed to be strong, and there is a growing cafe scene which has a very modern, hip feel to it.  With a mix of the old and the new, of the very much Indonesian influences and the fusion of outside influences, Semarang seemed a very interesting city, which I wish I had had more time to explore.  There will be two ETAs in Semarang this year, and I hope they enjoy Semarang as much as I did during my fleeting visit.

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Masjid Menara Kudus, or Kudus Tower Mosque,  a famous mosque in Kudus which is thought by some to have been built upon the remains of a Hindu temple (which explains the tower on the left).

But I wasn’t actually in Semarang to visit any of the schools there, as Semarang has been an established ETA site for a few years now. Semarang was, for me, a stopover point on the way to Kudus, a small city around one hour from Semarang.  Kudus is an adorable city, simply put.  It has wide sidewalks in the city center, and plenty of greenery all about the city.  Though it is not large there seemed to be plenty of cute corners to explore, and I hope the ETA who will be placed there comes to love it.

My visits to both of these cities were far too short, and I look forward to hearing stories from the ETAs who will make this pocket of Central Java their home.

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