Who is Wayu?

The time has come to reveal the name behind the bag! As you all know, we recently launched the newest member of the ETHNOTEK product family the Wayu Slim Pack. Aside from it's many features and THREAD interchangeability, what gives the bag so much soul and life is the man and sourcing experience behind the name. So who is Wayu? Wayu (pronounced 'why-oo') is the kind hearted, adventure seeking, futsal playing person who introduced us to local culture in Surakarta, Indonesia. He was also our main mode of transportation the three weeks we bounced around between several Batik workshops scouting the ideal ETHNOTEK fabric.

Wayu himself pictured along the banks of the Bangewan Solo River for the annual 'Getek' Boat Festival.

It was a busy three weeks on the Surakarta (locals call it 'Solo') sourcing trip and it took a while for Wayu to understand why Jake spent so much time on his laptop. A funny site actually, Jake at his laptop outside with mosquito coils sweating bullets talking on Skype. The compound we stayed in blocked us from the wind so the tropical heat mid-day made for a sweaty affair. 

Our accommodation for three weeks while sourcing Batik. Not the ritz, but a roof and four walls nonetheless. It's all for the Batik anyway. Note the bed with all the THREADS on it. Most of the THREAD photography (particularly the shots with them laying down) were shot here with a large sheet of white paper. How's that for a Wizard of Oz peek behind the curtain?! 



Team bathroom for the duration of the sourcing trip. Cold bucket showers yeah! No need for coffee after that experience :-)

After we showed Wayu and the staff of Cakra Homestay the ETHNOTEK website and explained what we were all about, they were all-accommodating. And Wayu said with a giant grin and a thumbs up "by day you work Ethnotek, by night, you see Solo with Wayu"! Love that man. And see solo by night we did. We didn't know this, but can relate because we're fellow night owls, but local Solo peeps don't actually kick it into high gear for the day until the sun sets. It's a very laid back culture and especially a street picnic culture. They're called Warungs, and Solo has made it that anybody who wishes to start their own enterprise selling food, can, by paying a small fee every year, but even that is lax. (There is a word in Solo "Jamkaret", which means elastic time, and it permeates everything solonese do, even the legal system). These entrepreneurs of cuisine pop up everywhere. The food in solo is particularly sweet compared to other parts of Java and Indonesia for that matter and incorporate a lot of coconut and sugar, ginger is often used as the spicey component to offset all the sweetness. 

Wayu guiding the Warung scene.


Nasi Gudeg Ayem. (Nasi - Rice), (Gudeg - Solo specific preparation of Jack fruit), (Ayem - Chicken). This unassuming little package of goodness wrapped in banana leaf will knock your socks off with flavor. Proof that you shouldn't judge a meal buy it's portion.


Washed it down with a hot ginger milk and a mega spiced tea that Wayu had, that for some reason he didn't feel like explaining what was in it. He just said, "there's a lot inside, and I like". Fair enough Mr. Wayu.... We really wanted what he was having after that explanation.

'Mbok' & 'Bu'. These Warungs are usually run by women and 'Mbok' means young woman and 'Bu' means older woman. The small street-side restaurants usually have their name preceded by the age title. This Mbok served us Nasi Lemak... Don't be afraid of chicken heads and feet ya'll. Life's an adventure! 


Approach to ETK's Homestay at Cakra.


Morning Futsal practice. Wayu in black and green. He scored two goals that day. Not bad for an 'old man' as they call him, twice the age of the others. Guess how old Wayu is?... Blew our minds as well when he told us.... 42 years old, What?!


Guatemala 2 Raja Pack came to practice as well.

One night after a busy day at the Batik workshops Wayu introduced us to Wayang. Wayang Kulit is a historical and still very popular form of Javanese theatre that is a legend told through the medium of Shadow puppets. We didn't know this going in, but the Wayang is an all night affair. 8 hours to be exact. Fwew. He did tell us that Solo was a night culture. 


The impressive thing is that the entire show is done by one man and his assistant. He does the voice of every character and orchestrates epic battles between the large puppets which are made from cow hide and elaborately painted. 


Wayang Kulit is accompanied by a live choir.


Wayang is also accompanied by a live Gamelan orchestra. Here's a video background on Gamelan....


Intermissions are had in between stories to give the artists a break as well as to keep the crowd warm and lively. Most of these are comedic interludes featuring stand-up, sketch comedy and as Wayu said, gets very risqué. Most of which he couldn't translate from Bahasa to english for us. The dude was laughing so hard he was crying. Language barrier or not, it was really fun being around that much laughter and positive energy.  


The next day, Wayu took us to a workshop where they make Wayang Kulit puppets. 


Intricately carved cow hide. Unbelievable! Small side note; since attention to detail is everything in this company, we asked under what conditions the hides were harvested. Wayu explained that they are taken from cows that die of natural causes. He then explained, though hinduism is mostly replaced by Muslim practice in Indonesia (87%), the cow remains holy in these parts. Using their hides as a medium for Wayang is the highest respect we could pay to the animal and to honor it's spirit. 


Wayu showing us the artisan sketches. 


Wayu showing the finished puppet to give a sense of scale. There is some serious weight behind these puppets and they are controlled by three handles to articulate every movement. It makes you realize just how much skill goes into being puppet master, especially during battle scenes as shown in our Batik Hunting Video where they flip around, throw objects or weapons to each other and spin around. Crazy!

On one of our last days in Solo, Wayu took us to the Getek Boat Festival. What a great way to close out the trip.

The great part of this photo is that the Mayor of Solo is the man sitting and paddling in the center. Politicians in these parts really get into daily life.

Part of the close out Wayu send off was a a trip into the hills of Solo where one of the last standing Hindu temples in that region existed... Candi Cetho. He offered to take us, but Jake insisted on driving himself at the crack of dawn to take website photos. His GoPro footage of that is actually really cool, but that's a separate blog/ time-lapse video. 

We'd like to close by saying thank you so much to Mr. Wayu for teaching us about Solo, their people and their story. We're truly grateful for the time we spent with you. 

If any of you plan on going to Java and want to meet Wayu and anyone else in Solo, let us know. If you want to brave it alone, we totally understand and recommend that actually. Just know one word in Javanese which will separate you from any tourist that knows a bit of Bahasa. When passing a local say "monggo". It means, 'respectfully hello', and they will be very impressed. Not many people speak Javanese these days, but we like to try here in the tribe....

Happy travels everyone!

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