Yogyakarta – Long Lost Cousins, Great New Friends

Yogyakarta – Long Lost Cousins, Great New Friends

About 5 years ago my Uncle Dennis met a woman named Shanti.  They clicked immediately and chatted at length nearly every single day – both of them felt there was something special about the situation.

But there was one minor obstacle to be overcome; Dennis lived in Vermont and Shanti lived in Yogyakarta, the second most populous city on the island of Java in Indonesia…nearly 10,000 miles away.

To make an incredibly long, almost unbelievable story short – they made it work.  After continuing their correspondence on the Christian dating site where they had met, Dennis flew out to Indonesia (one of the first, if not the first flight he’d ever taken) to woo Shanti in person.

It worked.

They were married and Shanti, along with her youngest daughter Yaya, then 14 years old, packed up their lives and followed Dennis back to the Green Mountain State where they lived for the next 4 years.

Here’s a photo of the happy couple:


Shanti and Dennis

My family had the pleasure of getting to know these two wonderful ladies during their time in Vermont leading to the obvious question, how the hell did Uncle Dennis get her?!?! (sorry Uncle Den!!)  

Shanti proved to be one of the sweetest, happiest people I’d ever met, immediately becoming close with the rest of the family especially my grandmother who lived nearby.

And with Yaya, I’d like to put some emphasis on her situation; she was in the middle of high school, fourteen years old and made to move to a new country.  She did not speak any English and had never seen snow before.  Snow is pretty much all Vermont has to offer for 9 months of the year!

But despite this she was an absolute beacon of happiness, doing everything with a smile on her face.  She also learned English quickly and turned out to be a top student in her school!  What a badass!



This past year Yaya – now 19 and having completed high school – began attending a university in Tokyo and during our visit this April, we met up with her and her aunt (whom she was living with) for coffee.

After a great couple hours of chatting we found out that her older sister, Tata (these are not their birth names by the way – they have been shortened to make it easier for people like me who would have trouble pronouncing Hariza Novi Shara Gunawan on a regular basis), was going to be getting married in about a month’s time.

Yaya suggested that we come but at first we resisted because after all, I had never met Tata and felt we may be intruding on her most important day.  But in the weeks that followed, Yaya and Shanti insisted so we finally relented and booked our ticket to Yogya!

Once we arrived at the airport in Yogyakarta (pronounced Jogjakarta, Jogja for short – I still have not gotten used to the pronunciation), we were greeted by the entire family – Shanti, Dennis (had arrived earlier that morning), Yaya and Tata.

Not surprisingly, Tata is just as wonderful as her mother and sister – albeit with a couple more (awesome) tattoos.  As we would find out over the next week she is an incredibly bright young woman with an infectious smile and great taste in music (according to me anyway…).



She’d been studying cultural anthropology at a university in Yogya when a young gentleman by the name of Ryan, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Vin Diesel (see below ;), had stolen her heart and asked for her hand in marriage.


The Vin Diesel of Indonesia!

I didn’t get the details but I’m assuming Tata said yes.

The very night of our arrival, after Shanti’s brother took us shopping for traditional Indonesian clothes for the wedding (called batik), we were whisked over to her young sister’s house where we met the entire extended family.

They made us feel so incredibly welcomed in what proved to be an incredibly intimate, traditional evening of the Tata and Ryan’s families exchanging gifts and traditional vows.


Ryan’s family on the far side of the circle


Jenna in the foreground and Uncle Dennis sitting in the circle


Uncle Dennis and Shanti’s Younger Sister receiving gifts from Ryan’s family


Dennis and Shanti chatting with Ryan’s parents


Jenna throwing a forward peace alone in the dining room

We felt so honored to be a part of such a beautiful evening which culminated with a delicious Indonesian meal (the name is escaping me but it had this ridiculous peanut sauce which I need to find again) and family photos which they graciously requested we partake in.


Sitting with Shanti’s younger sister, her husband (next to me) as well as Shanti’s older brother Iwan (far right) and his family


Dennis and Shanti getting ready to dig in


Tata (far left), Jenna (the only non-Indonesian) and the rest of the ladies!


Both families!


Me, Yaya, Shanti, Tata and Dennis

The wedding took place the next morning with a simple ceremony in a Catholic church in Yogyakarta – a rarity in the world’s most populous Muslim country.  Tata looked absolutely stunning in her wedding dress and Ryan equally as handsome – they have a baby due in August whose certain to be picking up some good-looking genes!


Ryan and Tata – the Bride and Groom!


Dennis giving Ryan his blessing


Shanti giving Tata her blessing


Yaya and her boyfriend Felix!


The Bride and Groom with their immediate families


Put a ring on it



The entire crew!

Afterwards we were all carted off to a beautiful riverside restaurant Shanti had picked for the reception.  Here we were offered more opportunities to get to know extended family and friends as well as take some more photos with the bride and groom!


Jenna and I in our traditional ‘batik’


Heart-shaped rock – we interpreted it as a good sign for the marriage.


Ryan, Yaya’s friend, Felix, Yaya, Tata and me at the restaurant


With the bride and groom!


Me, Jenna, Ryan’s Mom, Ryan, Tata, Yaya, Shanti and Dennis

It was such a great couple days and we can’t thank both families enough, especially Tata and Ryan, for letting us join in on their big day.  We had such an amazing time and can’t wait to see you again soon!  And best of luck with the little one in August!

Posted by on May 21, 2015


  • Uncle Mike

    June 18, 2015

    Awesome post, fantastic photos!!! Thank You Guys!!!

    • Chris

      July 20, 2015

      Thanks for reading Uncle Mike!

  • […] our wonderful stay in Indonesia we hopped on one of Air Asia’s delightfully cheap flights destined for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s […]


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