Thursday, April 29, 2010

India Friends in Indonesia

Before coming to Indonesia the longest time I had been overseas was my 5.5 months studying abroad in India. I learned a lot in India and made some wonderful, life-long friends. One of those friends, Kelsey Cobb, is currently working at a non-profit that targets teens who are/were involved in gangs in Singapore. Last weekend after my family left, Kelsey hopped on a plane and came over to spend two days exploring Yogyakarta with me. It was great to see her, share stories about India, catch up on our current lives and study abroad group gossip, and travel together again.
Keeping with the style of our study abroad trip, we decided to go visit Prambanan--the Hindu temple complex outside of Yogya. I had actually never been there before because I was saving the trip for when she visited. I know that everyone loves Borobudur temple, but I actually enjoyed Prambanan more. Sacrilegious for someone from Magelang to say, I know...don't tell on me. I found it interesting because it included multiple temples devoted to different Hindu gods and goddesses. It just seemed...more impressive somehow. Borobudur is BIG, but...personal preference I guess.
True to Indonesian style, we got rained on, bought batik, and ate veg food at Milas. It was great to see Kelsey and I hope she had as much fun visiting as I had hosting her!

Kelsey looks out over the tops of the smaller temples in the complex.Me and my good friend Nandi, Shiva's bull consort.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Bali: A Whole Different Indonesia

During the second week of their trip to Indonesia, my family went to the island paradise of Bali. I love Bali, but it is very different from the Indonesia that I know and live in. So our week there was like a vacation for me too! Here are some highlights of our trip there: We went to a Kecak fire dance performance in Ubud. This involved a lot of chanting men and men pretending to ride horses and kicking flaming coconut shells everywhere. I thought it was pretty awesome. Spirits were momentarily lowered when we got drenched in a downpour, but overall it was a great performance.
Neil found his new girlfriend.
We went to Pura Goa Lawah or the bat cave temple near Padangbai. Bali is predominately Hindu and this is a Hindu temple built into a cave that is full of bats. The sound of fluttering wings and the smell of their guano was overpowering. The Hindus believe that the bats live there to feed Naga, the serpent, who lives at the back of the cave. We were not allowed to enter the cave to search for Naga.
Here are just a few of the big bats who live in the temple's cave. Much larger than your average North American flying mammal!
Mum and Dad respectfully wearing their sarongs and scarves to enter the temples. Aren't they an adorable couple?

Neil looks nice and manly in his sarong and scarf. He got along well with all of the demon statues.

Bali Fierce

Family Explorations in Java

During their two week stay in Indonesia my family was able to see many different and interesting sites. Here is a brief overview of our adventures in Java!
Ketep Pass is a lookout point high in the hills around Magelang from which you are able to get a great view of Mt. Merapi, Indonesia's most active volcano...which just happens to be in my backyard. Unfortunately, the day we visited Ketep Pass was very cloudy so my family wasn't able to see all the way to the top of Merapi.
Mum, Neil, and Dad in front of Borobudur Temple. Often called the 8th Wonder of the World and another tourist attraction conveniently located in my backyard. Borobudur is always ungodly hot and humid, but everyone pulled through nicely.
Here they are again in Borobudur Temple surrounded by all the carvings of Buddha and his life story. I've been to the temple several times now and was able to provide some background stories and history.
In Yogyakarta we visited Kraton, which is the Sultan's palace. Yogyakarta is still headed by a Sultan though I really think he serves more as a figure head. Here Neil and Dad pose with one of the statues guarding the entrance. This photo was taken just before Neil was attacked by a group of enthusiastic adolescent Indonesian girls who wanted his photo. I had to eventually chase them away when he started to turn purple.
A family portrait at the Sultan's palace. Our tour guide assured us that this was a prime spot for a good group photo.
We visited the local bird market where you can buy not only birds, but lizards, rodents, maggots, and other assorted "pets." I made a friend at the bird market with this adorable little owl.
Neil and I got close with Buddha in Prawirotaman, one of the more touristy sections of Yogya.

MacKenzies meet the monsoon! Caught outside our hotel one afternoon my family learned that rain falls quickly and heavily in Indonesia. They were thoroughly soaked, but still happy!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Dietary Journey Around Indonesia

I have several hundred photos of my family's visit to Indonesia and am at something of a loss for where to start with sharing them on my blog. Eating and drinking are surely the things to do when on vacation. We certainly did! Since I seem to have a cornucopia of food pictures, I thought I'd start with some of those. Bon Appetit!On the night of their first full day in Magelang, my family took a group of my co-workers and friends out to dinner. Out of respect to my pescetarianism, we enjoyed several seafood dishes including two whole grilled fish, spicy squid, shrimp and vegetables, and other assorted delicious items accompanied, of course, by rice.
Mum tries her first truly Indonesian meal--bakmi godog [noodle soup]. It is one of my personal favorites.Dad, sporting his new batik shirt--a gift from my school, hams it up at breakfast. Isn't he a vision in browns and whites?!?!
Dad always seemed to order the meals with the most fabulous presentation. His favorite Indonesian food was nasi goreng--fried rice. A simple and much loved staple that made me groan every time he ordered it.
Dad and I were brave enough to try kopi luwak or civet coffee. You may have heard of it. It is the most expensive and supposedly best coffee in the world. A cup of kopi luwak in the US can cost upwards of $50. Seriously. I imagine the cost has something to do with the process of making the coffee. Kopi luwak mainly comes from Sumatra. The coffee beans are eaten by civets--a type of cat. The digestion system of the civet 'cures' the beans, which gives them a particularly strong and refined flavor. The civets then poop out the beans. The excrement is collected, the beans retrieved and cleaned [I hope], and made into coffee. I admit that the idea of drinking cat excrement is not all that appealing, but considering how exclusive, expensive, and revered kopi luwak is and how comparatively cheap it is in could one refuse? Our verdict: it's good, strong coffee. Even excellent perhaps. Would either of us pay $50 for a cup of it? Hell no.In Bali, Mum tried her first mojito. A perfect place to try this cool and refreshing drink after a hot day out in the sun! She enjoyed it much more than her sip of kopi luwak!

Another beautifully presented meal for Dad. This one includes a spicy chicken curry, rice, and vegetables.

A coconut curry with squid and rice was Mum's lunch one day in Ubud. It looked and smelled delicious!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Vacation Successfully Completed

Our family vacation came to a successful conclusion today. My family started their long flights home this afternoon and I returned to Yogyakarta. We had a great time together. I will post photos and stories next week.

This weekend I'm meeting my lovely study abroad friend Kelsey Cobb for a few days in Yogya! I haven't seen Kelsey since we celebrated my 21st birthday together in Udaipur, India. Kelsey is currently working in Singapore and was able to arrange to hop over for a quick visit. It will be great to see her again. So many wonderful visitors and only 5 weeks left in my grant! 

More updates soon...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Selamat Datang di Indonesia MacKenzies!

My family has safely arrived in Indonesia on Sunday night. So far it's been a tiring and fun whirlwind of travel and activity. On Monday, they came to class and watched me teach. They fielded questions from my students [including: "What is the culture of Canada?", "What do you know about the Bermuda Triangle?", and "Can you explain the Boston Tea Party?"]. They handed out little oleh-oleh from America to everyone they met.I took them for lunch at my favorite waroeng. Here we all are with the owner of the waroeng who was thrilled to have us visit. No one cooks bakmi godog like she does!
Neil tries his first bite of bakmi goreng [fried noodles]. His verdict: delicious and spicy.
More photos and stories of their visit coming soon. I've left them in Yogyakarta for the night because I must teach tomorrow. This weekend we're off to Bali! Wish you were here too!

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

WORDS 2010: Nur Hasyim

Changing the World

There are somethings
That lost from our hands
Slide by our fingerscavity
There are somethings
That beginning don't whit resolved
But, now we begin to hope it

We look grey air at sky
We look water of lake that more decline
A little bird
Don't warble again in the morning

Woods lost their branches
Branches lost their leafs
Leafs lost their branches
Branches lost their woods

We look mountains pumped ash
Ash brought stones
Stones brought quake
Quake brought slide down
Slide down brought flood
Flood brought water
Eyes water (tears)

We look one thousand signs
Can we read those signs?

I loging to woods
To suck that air
Look the green of those leafs
Tread those grass

I longing to woods
To hear birds warble
All monkey be leap
Tigers be roar
Dears that skillful

I longing to woods
I longing to my world

Is time when we must changing The World
Better than yesterday.

By: Nur Hasyim, XMB

I think Nur Hasyim's poem is excellent. I have copied it for you exactly as he wrote it. I am so proud of his beautiful imagery. I know that I told you that I would share videos of my students presenting their competition pieces, but my Internet is not fast enough to upload them these days. Sorry!

Musings During School Testing Week #2

I have had a lot of unstructured time this week due to an unexpected additional round of testing. It has also been raining constantly which has kept me primarily caged up indoors. This has led to several musings, some of which I will now share with you.
  1. There is a lot of testing in this country. I would go so far as to consider it a ridiculous amount. I had a month off for testing in December. I've just had a week off in March and then this week. Rumor has it that there will be two more weeks of testing at the end of April/beginning of May. What exactly are the students being tested on? There isn't all that much time to teach in between all these tests.
  2. Just because you want to be friends with someone does not mean they want to be friends with you. Case in point #1: There is a tiny orange kitten that has been mewling loudly outside of my house all day long. I love cats. I especially like small orange ones. During a break in the rain I decided that I would befriend this poor kitten. Thinking it must be hungry I brought it a can of tuna. It ran away from me...again and again. This decidedly amused all the Indonesians watching me [see musing #3]. The kitten finally stopped meowing and fleeing from me long enough to eat some of the tuna. Then it hightailed it out of there and hid in the drainage trench. Clearly, this cat did not want to be my friend or my pet.
  3. In America, going to work, or school, is an obligation. Most people go to work because they must do that in order to be paid. Students go to school because the government and their parents say that they must. At my Indonesian school every teacher has Sunday off and one other day during the school week. For example, my Ibu has Wednesday and Sunday off while Ibu Mila has Sunday and Monday off. Yet, on most Wednesdays when I walk into the teacher's room my Ibu is there and most Mondays Ibu Mila is there. At first I was confused, "Isn't this your day off?" I would ask. "Yes," they would answer. "Then why are you here?" "I just came to visit." They come to visit and they stay all day long. They have no obligation to be there, they simply like to be there. Their friends are at school. Their friends are their coworkers. "But don't you have other things to do?" "No. I can do them later." The same thing happens with the students. There are always students at school. I can't take the trash out in my pajamas at 10 pm on a Sunday or 5 am on a Thursday because someone will see me. They meet their friends and they just hang out. It's interesting to me because I find myself thinking--usually in frustration when I don't want to get fully dressed to take out the trash--Don't you have somewhere else to be? But the answer seems to be: "No, there is nowhere else I'd rather be."
  4. The world is full of ants. Indonesia is especially full of 'semut'. There are more different kinds of ants then you could possibly imagine. According to Wikipedia, there are between 12,500 and 22,000 species []. I am not a fan of any of them, but some are decidedly worse than others. There are big ants here. Ones that are red and ones that are black. The red ones have visible pincers. It's the enormous black ones that have infested my house. Frankly, they creep me out even though I know they are harmless. They don't bite, but they are fast and they are everywhere. They can crawl on the ceiling and the walls. There are also normal sized ants. The kind you would expect at picnics. Then there are small ants that bite. They're small and they're red and man it hurts when they bite you. They leave little welts that itch like crazy. Then there are small ants that seem to exist solely to live in my computer keyboard. Finally, there are extremely tiny ants. Ones that you can feel crawling on you, but you have to look really, really hard to see them on your skin. I do not like that. A good rule of thumb for life in Indonesia: if you feel like something is crawling on you...something probably is.
  5. Body piercings and Indonesia do not mix. Indonesia's wet and hot climate is perfect for infections. It's amazing how a tiny paper cut can flame up in less than a day. One ETA had a small scrape on his leg that a week later was an abscess that had to be treated in the emergency room. My problems revolve around my ear and navel piercings. None of them are happy.
  6. Although I am still irrationally terrified of spiders, I have become much more adept at killing them myself. No one comes running when I scream in Indonesia. I don't like the idea of letting spiders live in my house. So the killing comes down to me. FYI: Anti-mosquito spray kills spiders too.
  7. I need to stop talking to myself aloud to compensate for being alone in public. It only reaffirms people's beliefs that I am crazy.
  8. I've recently been amazed by the importance that food plays in people's lives. People's dietary habits and their fierce attachments to their dietary habits are fascinating. When you ask someone who is away from home what they miss they start with family, friends, reliable electricity, etc. But very soon they shift their list of items to food. All those foods they miss. Bagels, salad, cheese, pesto, Greek yogurt, list goes on and on. Why is food so important? What is it about food that is linked in our minds with home? People here think it is really strange that I don't eat white rice three times a day. I think that it is really strange that they can eat white rice three times a day every day. I try to explain that Americans like variety in their meals. "But rice is healthy," they say. I don't even enter into conversations about that statement. What is it that makes me jump up and down in the isle of the Yogyakarta Carrefour when I find a bottle of Tabasco sauce or yellow mustard? It's not that I don't like Indonesian food because I do. Indonesian food is spicy and I love spicy food. But when I receive a package in the mail from my mother with a block of Vermont Cabot hunter sharp cheddar cheese, I am over the moon with excitement. I would think that maybe I just have an unusual attachment to food, but other people react the same way. I have had conversations with ETAs over the deliciousness of Cheez-Its that have lasted for over 30 minutes. Song Young, the Korean teacher at my school, tells me excitedly every time he gets a package with Korean food in it from his parents. There is just something about familiar food that makes us feel home...even when we know we aren't there.
  9. I'm nervous about reverse culture shock when I return to America. One reason is that it will be very difficult to remember that the people around me can understand what I'm saying when I am talking in public. In Indonesia, I take for granted that the people around me do not understand what I say in English especially if I am talking at a natural rate. I know that ETAs and myself have had public conversations that would have been completely culturally inappropriate if anyone had understood what they overheard. So it is difficult to remember that other people could potentially speak English. For example, in Sumatra we were having one of those conversations on the dock. One of the ETAs told us we should quiet down a little because of the other guests. "It's okay," someone responded, "they're Russian." "Yes, they're Russian, but they understand English. They were talking to us perfectly clearly in English this morning." We had forgotten to censor ourselves because the concept of being listened in on is foreign now.
  10. Non-verbal social cues do not work in Indonesia. Neither do hints or innuendos. If you want to communicate something, you need to be direct. Yesterday I found out that my grandmother died. I was upset and really not in the mood to interact with anyone. I was sitting on my porch writing an email and listening to music through my headphones. A teacher came and sat down next to me. She started talking to me. I was acting in a way that was not rude, but clearly [to me] indicated that I did not wish to continue the conversation. I wasn't making eye contact, I was continuing to type my email, I sighed, etc. She continued talking. Finally, I told her that my grandmother had died and I was sad. Another hint, I thought, that I wanted to be left alone. She started asking questions. A lot of questions. All about my grandmother's death. Frankly, her line of questioning was making me about 100x more upset than I was before. I still wasn't looking at her, I was now fidgeting, my eyes were welling up...and still the questions continued. I even hinted by saying, "I'm sad and I think I need some time alone." It was not until I looked at her calmly in the eye and said, "My grandmother died and I am grieving. You need to leave now" that she actually left. Be direct. It may not feel polite, but it is what works.
  11. Congratulations to Victor from Colgate who was selected as a Fulbright ETA in Indonesia for next year! You are in for one wild, amazing adventure.