Indonesia in three weeks

About nine years ago, my cousin, Greg Vanderbilt, invited me to travel around Japan with him. At the time he was a lecturer at UCLA and had spent a decade studying Japanese history.

It turned out that having a personal travel agent, translator and tour guide was a great way to explore a new country.

This summer my wife, Michelle Bruhn, and I did it again. Greg is now a lecturer at the Center for Religious and Cross-Cultural Studies at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. In three weeks the three of us got a dizzying taste of the world's fourth most populous country—3,000 miles of 13,000 islands, with over 700 languages and 360 ethnic groups.

My cousin Greg, a friendly giant among Indonesian school children in his Yogyakarta neighborhood