Monday, November 30, 2009

A Very Bali Thanksgiving!

My Thanksgiving vacation to Bali was unbelievable! You would not believe how many hours it took me to upload all of these photos, but I just had to share them with you! So, please join me on an abbreviated photo journey of my vacation.
After arriving, getting into my bathing suit to lay by the pool, and greeting everyone when they arrived with many, many, many hugs; it was time for our first adventure: Mexican food! There is this crazy little hole-in-the-wall restaurant named Mojo's Flying Burritos that serves excellent authentic Mexican food. Here Alexa and I are ecstatic over our burritos and mojitos. I was the most excited about real cheese!
The next morning it was off to soak up some sun on Kuta Beach. The sun was hot, the water warm, the beverages cold, and the company perfect!
That night was Thanksgiving and all 12 of us (plus one German) went out for a nice dinner together. Kelly's mum had sent her these Thanksgiving bears to decorate our table and a jar of olives! The restaurant staff thought we were crazy, but they obliged us by providing a bowl for our olives. They were delicious and reminded me of home. Kelly's mum also sent us paper leaves for us to write down what we were thankful for. She sent string for us to string the leaves on to hang in our hotel as a garland of thanks. What a cute idea. In the picture below Sarah and Kalada are writing on their leaves. After everyone had finished, we swapped leaves and read them aloud for the table to hear what everyone was thankful for! Here are some of our completed leaves! We concluded that we are a group who have a lot to be thankful for!
This is my Thanksgiving dinner! It doesn't get much better than this...mashed potatoes and salmon. Not as good as my mum's cooking, but a close second considering the part of the world in which I am currently living.
No holiday dinner is complete without dessert. It just happened to be Emma's birthday (Happy Birthday to Nana Vickery too!) so the waiters sang to her and presented her with this delicious warm chocolate cake!
We rounded out our holiday by going dancing. Here is Jimmie, me, Ricky, and Marvin (the German). Do you like my new Bali beach dress? We met Marvin at the pool at our hotel and invited him along to dinner because he was traveling alone. I enjoyed talking to him mostly because he reminded me of Patrick (German, sweet, and adorable), although Patrick has the good sense to keep his shirt on in public.
The next day the girls headed to Ubud, the cultural hub of Bali. Aren't these flowers at our hotel beautiful? I hope that some of you have read Eat, Pray, Love because that will make this part of the story much more interesting for you. Our first stop in Ubud was to visit Wayan (on my left in the photo above), the healer from the book. She gave us full body readings, which essentially means she touched different parts of our bodies and told us what was wrong or out of balance with us physically and then read our palms to predict our futures. She then began the healing process by giving us various drinks, foods, herbal pills, and rubbing us with different lotions, leaves, herbs in water, etc. The whole process took several hours (and we didn't even have time for the final massage!). It was a truly fascinating and enlightening experience. If you ever make it to Ubud, make sure to stop by her little shop. It is well worth the money! On our first night in Ubud we went to a traditional puppet show. Bali is the predominately Hindu area in Indonesia and so the culture there reminded me distinctly of India. The shadow puppet performance was of part of the Ramayana. It was performed by flat wooden puppets held up in between an open fire and a mesh screen.
On our second night in Ubud, we went to a Legong dance performance at the Ubud palace. This was incredible! There were 9 different pieces to the performance and all of them were captivating. I was sitting next to a 5 year old German girl named Josefina who enjoyed explaining the dances to me (in German), which had her mother and grandmother laughing hysterically and nodding profusely and pretending to understand what on earth she was talking about.
This dancer is performing the butterfly (kupu-kupu) dance.
All of the dances were performed by women, but it was amazing how well they could make themselves look like big men. The masks worn in some of the dances were ornate and scary.
This was part of the opening dance (the dancer is holding a puja platter). In Balinese dance eye movements are a key part of the dance.
This dancer is representing a flower. During the course of the dance she makes a bumblebee fall in love with her.Next stop, Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana or the Sacred Monkey Forest. Basically, a ton of monkeys and some awesome Indiana Jones-esque temples. The monkeys were cute, but we knew enough to stay well away from them and to leave the fruit at home. They may be cute, but they can also be very dangerous...just ask the wife of the ex-mayor of Delhi.
Sarah, Anna, Alexa, and I in front of the Pura Dalem Agung Temple or Temple of Death. We rented sarongs so that we could be properly dressed and allowed to enter the temple. It was a great temple and I'm kinda a temple snob.
Me at the temple.
I mentioned that it was the temple of death. The entrance to the inner temple was flanked by two monsters eating children. Got to love the Hindu symbolism. Fascinating!
Monkeys climbing all over the temple. Clearly they know who is sacred here and who isn't.

Here are some women at the gate of the sacred forest selling bananas to tourists who are much braver (read: stupider) than us.

All in all it was a fantastic vacation! Now I'm home again, have a terrible cold, and can't wait to go on another adventure!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow morning I'm going to Bali for 4 days to celebrate Thanksgiving with other ETAs. It should be a great vacation and a chance to relax and escape for a little while. I'm especially excited to see the ETAs that I haven't seen since I got to Magelang two months ago! I will be thinking of all of you on the holiday! Wishing you well and many, many things to be thankful for.

This year, I'm thankful for:
-My family, which besides being big, loud, and often full of it has always been full of love!
-My friends
-Always having enough money, food, and support to not only survive but thrive.
-Growing up in a country where education is free and mandatory for all children
-Growing up in an environment that taught me to have compassion and understanding for everyone, believe in myself and my own morals, and to have the intelligence and curiosity to inquire about the world around me
-Intercontinental e-mails
-Having a Fulbright, which has given me the opportunity to explore and examine Indonesia, myself, and the world in which we live.
-Knowing English as my native language
-Students who think I look like a Disney princess
-Chocolate, which can comfort you in any lonely situation.
...and so many more reasons why I am blessed!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thank You Emma!

Emma Clerihew is amazing! Not only did she graciously talk me through the fundamentals of teaching before I left the States, but today an awesome package arrived from her! I never really expected anyone besides my mother (who loves me and is the most thoughtful person on the planet) to send me anything and Emma's package totally made my day! Thanks to Emma's facewash I can now wash my whole face and not just target potential problem areas (I was running really low and all of the soaps here include whitening creams). She also sent great Matchbox cars that I can't wait to give Rio [photos to come soon]! My students will love all the crazy stickers and you really can never have enough positive reinforcement in the classroom! Her sweet note made me smile during a week that has been kinda rough due to the approaching holidays. Thanks so much Emma!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Update: Xmas Plans

My parents were originally going to visit me in Indonesia for Christmas. Traveling from the states during the holiday season, however, turned out to be nearly impossile (at least if you're not a millionaire). Therefore, I found myself with nothing planned during my longest vacation of the year. So...
I am going to Thailand and Cambodia for Christmas!
We are only allowed to leave the country once during our grant period and only for 14 days. So, Thom, Anna, Alexa and I are taking this trip over the holidays (December 17-30) with our grace period. In addition to Thailand and Cambodia, we have two quick stops in Singapore and Malaysia. Round trip tickets for the whole adventure came to a grand total of, get this, $375! Absolutely worth it! It should be a great 14 days and a great birthday and Xmas present to myself.

Thanksgiving and a Street Art Festival

This past weekend I went to Yogyakarta for a Thanksgiving dinner (early, I know). The dinner was wonderful! There were about 40 people there from the US, England, Australia, and Indonesia. The hostess gave a little explanation of the meaning of Thanksgiving for those who aren't American. Then we all said "thanks" before we tucked into an enormous dinner. Someone had even managed to find two turkeys (not that I eat turkey anymore, but it was nice to see)! We feasted on delicious stuffing, mashed potatoes, broccoli and carrots, cranberry sauce, rolls, pies, cakes, and ice cream. The atmosphere was familiar and festive.
After the Thanksgiving dinner, I went to a Street Art Festival on Jalan Malioboro. The festival was a celebration of graffiti, which is very popular in Indonesia. There were 400+ artists who all were given wooden boards. They had from 12 pm to 4 am to create graffiti on their boards. At 4 am winners were selected and given prizes. I, however, only stayed to watch for 2 hours because I was tired. It was fascinating to see! The artists used many different techniques to create very interesting pieces. I was incredibly impressed by how talented everyone was. Within a matter of minutes they had started to create masterpieces. I would love to go back to see all of the finished pieces.
These men are using chalk to create outlines on their board. Doesn't it remind you of Bert in Mary Poppins?
These boys have opted for a more traditional graffiti medium: spray paint.
This man is using regular paint. I thought his dragon was beautiful and his color scheme is one of my favorites!
This woman is starting by applying a base coat of yellow to her board.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Three Amigos

Salma, Bintang, Sarah

5:00 AM: We have been up since 3:00. We are now waiting outside the second mosque of the day for my counterpart's family to finish the praying part of the ceremony to send her parents (and 300 other couples from Magelang) on hadji/pilgrimage to Mecca [I will write an in-depth post about this whole process and amazing experience later]. Bintang and Salma were too young to sit through the whole formal ordeal in the big mosque and I, well, there was no way to disguise the fact that 1. I am not an immediate member of the family and 2. I am neither Indonesian nor Muslim. So I had to wait outside also. That didn't upset me; Salma and Bintang kept me entertained.
Much of our conversation went something like this:
Sarah: Apa ini? [What's this? (pointing to my star earrings)]
Bintang: Ini bintang. [It's a star.]
Sarah: Sama kamu! Bintang dan bintang! [The same as you! Star and star.]
Bintang, Salma, Sarah: hahahaha
[Bintang and Salma run around in the park, run back to me laughing]
Sarah: Kenapa ketawa? [Why are you laughing?]
Bintang, Salma: hahahaha [Bintang pokes me in the stomach, I respond by tickling him, Bintang and Salma shriek with laughter and run away again]
The rest of our 3 hour wait centered on blowing bubbles, running around, and talking about colors, fish, trees, and how tired and hungry we were. You've got to love the minds of children!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jejamuran: The Mushroom Restaurant

Last weekend I went to Yogyakarta, the big city closest to Magelang, to visit some friends and generally just escape my everyday life for awhile. Yogya (as it is fondly called...pronounced Joe-jah) is a city full of culture and interesting things to do. Historically, it is an important city in Indonesia because it is a cultural, philosophical, and educational hotsprings from which many ideological and actual revolutions have started.
There are these offices around Indonesia called The American Corner and one of them is located in Yogya. These offices are a collaboration of the U.S. State Department and the Indonesian Government. Their essential mission is to convince Indonesians of the goodwill of the United States. They offer English courses, provide literature about English and the U.S., give lectures about topics pertaining to all facets of life in America, and offer assistance in applying for grants to go to the U.S..
During my weekend visit, The American Corner in Yogya decided that they wanted to take me, Lolly (ETA), Thom (ETA), and Colin (Fulbright Researcher) out for lunch--both to welcome us to Indonesia and to rope us into giving guest lectures at their center. Who are we to turn down a free meal? They took us to this restaurant called Jejamuran, which is the hot new place in Yogya. At this restaurant, everything on the menu is made out of mushrooms (jamur). We had mushroom soup, mushroom sate, mushroom omlettes, spicy mushroom relish, etc. It was delicious! I couldn't believe how each dish had such a unique flavor and texture, but they were all made from mushrooms! Enak sekali (very delicious)!
All the mushrooms eaten at Jejamuran are grown on site. After you eat you can go out back and look at how your lunch was grown. It was fascinating! I have never seen such odd "mushroom gardens" before.
Lolly and Colin approve of these crazy looking mushrooms.
Look at all of them! They grow out of plastic rolls of what I imagine is dirt.
Jejamuran set up this lovely display that identified the many different varieties of fungi they grow and cook on site.

Beach Camping

Imagine waking up with the rising sun to the view below...
A few weekends ago 8 ETAs, myself, and our Indonesian friend Oscar went beach camping. Oscar is a professional photographer and he had a photo shoot scheduled to take place on this little secluded beach outside of Yogyakarta. He invited us to go with him the night before to have a bonfire and camp for the night. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into, but we love and trust Oscar and so away we went.
We slept in the lean-to pictured below. It is made out of bamboo and sits on stilts directly on the sand of the beach. The view can't be beat, but bamboo does not make the most comfortable mattress. None of us had any camping gear so we slept under sweatshirts or towels and used each other as pillows. Needless to say, we didn't get all that much sleep. But the experience did not disappoint! The bonfire was beautiful, the weather superb, and when we woke up to the ocean didn't matter how much we slept.
In the morning, we walked down the beach and around a point that had kept our area secluded into a tiny little fishing village. These boys went out in this boat to catch us a fish for breakfast. They then proceeded to grill it up with rice and vegetables. It was a delicious local meal.
While we were waiting for our food, Thom played us some soothing music on a guitar that was lying around. (Lucas: Thom works as a counselor at Farm and Wilderness Camp!)
After breakfast we went for a swim in the warm, blue water. The waves were just big enough to make it interesting. We all agreed that we would like to extend our stay, but with classes to teach the next morning we headed back to Yogya that afternoon to return to our schools.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Just Lion Around With Buddha... Borobudur Temple.

Lucu Sekali!

Lucu sekali translates to very cute. And aren't these kids adorable? My teaching counterpart's parents are taking pilgrimage to Mecca this month. Before they leave they have to host a number of gatherings so that everyone can say goodbye and bless them for the journey. I went to give them my blessing (I was unaware that this was my task until I arrived) last weekend. These are some of their 9 grandchildren. Everyone thought it was very funny that I prefered to sit on the ground and play with the kids rather than listen to old people babble at me in Javanese (which I do not speak a word of). I miss hanging out with little kids and babysitters aren't necessary here because some extended family member is always around to watch the children.
The little boy on the far right is named Bintang (star in English). He is very shy and too cute for words! I think of him as the Indonesian version of Will. He came with me to the bookstore and slipped his tiny little hand into mine while we shopped. I wish I could borrow him on days when I need a pick-me-up.

This little guy is one year old. He ate everything he could get his hands on all day long. Here he is enjoying a huge slice of watermelon.

Sorry for how small all the pictures have been lately, but this is as large as my internet connection will let me upload. If you click on them they can be enlarged.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009