Thursday, August 2, 2012

Body Image

I've been inspired to write about something that's been on my mind this whole year.
Throughout my time in Indonesia, my body image, my weight, the appearance of my figure, my clothes, the length of my skirt, how much makeup I do or do not wear--all of these things are under constant appraisal or scrutiny. Indonesian society is very direct about body weight; if you are a thin person this will be remarked out loud in front of you and you will be encouraged to eat--almost forced to eat. If you are a fatty mcfatfat, people (I mean everyone, even met-two-seconds-ago acquaintances) will tell you you're know, in case you forgot...?
But weight is also a sign of status; if you are successful and wealthy, some chub is expected and even a thing to boast about. Villagers are known to be very thin because they have physical labor jobs and cannot afford to eat a lot of food; they also eat more vegetables and less meat.

Around my birthday I was rather pudgy, and then I made the decision to stop eating even seafood--to start having a legitimately vegetarian diet. Since then I've also started exercising with my new host mother and I have dance lessons more often. All of these things have led me to lose weight, so that now I'm closer to my pre-Indo weight. None of this is important except that its been a good showcase of indonesian culture: people that I've not seen for a couple of weeks ALL comment on my weight loss with a frown. They ask me why I'm skinny now--as if that signifies bad fortune or unhappiness. For me, being fit signals happiness; for them chub is still ingrained to be thought of as a sign of success and happiness. This is a cultural difference that I've noticed between me and them. But I wouldn't go so far as to say that all Americans think like I do: being fit signals happiness and success. There is most definitely still a perception that operates along those lines of thinking--be it a minority. In a country with so much excess, being fit--being able to afford a gym membership, time to go to the gym, healthy food--seems more telling of wealth rather than a pot belly. It has been funny and interesting to interact with this cultural value. Another host mom knows that I dance Jaipong, and she always tells me I need to fatten up to he sexy enough to do the dance. It is funny. :)

The attached picture is a model of a traditionally-dressed Papuan man; Papuan culture is considered the most primitive. They don't wear much clothing; he is wearing what's called a penis gourd. This picture was taken at a huge souvenir store. Unfortunately, the store was out of penis gourds. But I got a picture!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Teaching Sekolah Dasar Karang Pawitan 1 (Elementary School Karang Pawitan 1)

I'm tardy to write about this experience but I figure it's still important to document/an interesting story...

Last week I was scheduled to teach English to first graders from Monday to Friday. The Sunday before, I returned from a trip to an Islamic boarding school in Indramayu. Unfortunately, I came back with more than just gifted souvenirs--I was very sick from what we think was food poisoning (I ate almost exclusively raw vegetables & I think that there may have been many pesticides...that happens because people do not understand the dangers of harsh pesticides). Anyways, I ended up starting my teaching stint on Tuesday, with just one class in the morning as I was frankly still quite ill. The elementary school at which I taught was very close to my house, so I can save gas and walk there and back. It is not a very large school, space wise, so there is a rotation system every day that allows for two sets of classes to use one classroom. There are a total of six classes in the first grade. Classes A, C, and E have the first session from 7:00 to 9:00. Then classes B, D, and F have the second session from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.
I ended up teaching more than the first graders because there were so many requests. To try and be fair, I taught each class in the first grade one time for 30 minutes. I had a lesson plan that had extra activities to go over 30 minutes, but the children had just finished a week of testing and said they were tired after 30 minutes of learning. My teaching style must have worn them out, too because we sang songs and played games to learn the parts of the body in English. They loved singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" but none of my classes could grasp how to play Simon Says. The whole "be honest & sit down if you're wrong" concept was difficult for them to understand. They got really into singing the song though! It was cute.
It was an interesting experience but I'm not meant to be an elementary school teacher in Indonesia. It was chaos! Insufficient facilities, and not enough teachers or materials--that's what extreme corruption has done to the education system in Indonesia. It makes me frustrated, honestly angry, when I think about the education system in Indonesia. Private schools in Jakarta are touted as meeting international standards, but public schools in regular places are...less than satisfactory in my experience. They're certainly not free or secular like one would expect from a public school. The teachers at schools outside of Jakarta rarely come to class; when they do come to class they do not have an interactive lesson plan--mostly the students are lectured or are assigned homework or projects to do on their own. This frustrates me because the students always show up and they generally do their work. Hopefully all the exchange students have just had bad luck and we're seeing the worst of the school systems. It would be terrible if all the schools all over Indonesia were just as lacking in secularism and governmental support. Anyways, I enjoyed volunteering as an English teacher at the elementary school. The children could have been calmer, but I understand that they were hysterically stoked to have a bule teacher :) Hehehe

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Notes on Indonesian Food

According to Wikipedia 2012, Indonesia produced 66.4 million metric tons of rice in the year 2010; that's third world wide in rice production, after China and India.
In case you managed to be unawares, Indonesians are obsessed with rice; it's the basis of every meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. People often repeat an ancient proverb to me when I abstain from white rice; they point their finger and they say "Kalau belum makan nasi, belum makan!" This translates to : if you've not yet eaten rice, you've not yet eaten (rough translation).

Unfortunately, of all the kinds of rice and grains, white rice is said to be the least nutritious. Oh Lord, the white rice! It's a staple component: porridge, lonton (rice packed together by wrapping it in banana leaves), sweets, pudding, you name it, they've probably discovered a way to make it out of rice.

I've yet to see a working oven--most Indonesian food is fried; I've only seen little toaster ovens and inconvenient, whopping metal convection box ovens that must be placed on a stove top--pain in the buuutt... Neither are generally used to cook anything other than sugary breads and cakes. That means a TON of oil from frying.

Indonesians aren't afraid of ANY part of an animal. They eat animal brains, feet, booty, eyes, intestines, heart, liver, stomach, bone marrow.

One thing that I do know from first hand experience is that an Indonesian's diet and his or her ethnicity (Sundanese, Javanese, Balinese, Dayak) are pretty tightly woven. The Javanese are notorious for making everything sweet; I've seen them add at least a tablespoon of sugar to fried rice and fish fries. On the otherhand, the Sundanese are known to prefer vegetables and spicy dishes. Dayak eat a lot of meat. People from Padang, Sumatera use coconut milk to add flavor to the majority of their dishes.
The Sundanese seem to be the most vegetarian-friendly.

As a vegetarian, it's not been impossible to find nourishment at Indonesian tables. There usually manages to be something I can eat--even if it's just fried tempe. Meat is seen as a status-determinant; when a special guest is being entertained, the likelihood of all-meat dishes is increased ten-fold. Vegetables, tofu, and Tempe are inexpensive, and therefore seen as the diet of a poor person or villager.

Fortunately for me, there are several mainstream Indonesian dishes that are vegetarian, they just all have the same exact spices/flavoring. Gado-gado is the Indonesian version of a salad; its basically just raw cabbage, green beans, bean sprouts, and cassava leaves that are mixed together with a sauce made from roasted peanuts, coconut milk, red chilli pepper and brown sugar. Vegan!

•Pecel is the exact same thing minus the coconut milk. Also vegan!

•Ketoprak is those same spices--minus the coconut milk--but with tofu and compressed rice chunks (lonton) instead of vegetables.. Veegan!

•Krek telur: kind of like an unfolded omlette whose base is shredded potato. Then, sugar, egg, salt, fried onions bits, sweet coconut crumblies, and two other spices added in. Cooked over a smoking fire. Finally topped with more sweet coconut crumblies and fried garlic bits. Not vegan.

•Rujak: various combination of melon, mango, pineapple, sirksop, watermelon. Cut up pieces. Spicy-sweet sauce. Vegan!

•Kue mollen mini: little pieces of banana cut up and wrapped in sweet pastry dough. Then fried until golden brown. Best when fresh, warm, and crispy. Could probably easily be made vegan.

Here's a recipe for my favorite Indonesian dish, it's kind of got a soup-vibe going on, but it's mostly veggies. It's also vegan!

•Sundanese Tamarind-Spiced Vegetables (the attached picture)

•Javanese Tamarind (broth only) or 1/2 sliced tomato
•Corn (cut into 1 inch sections)
•Jackfruit (cut into chunks)
•Squash (cut into chunks)
•Tangkil leaves
•Green beans
•**Salt (to taste)
•**Candlenut (2 atau 3 biji lah)
•Red pepper
•Bay leaves
•Galangal ("Lengkuas")

1. Grind together the starred ingredients.
2. Bring water to a boil in a pot.
3. Add in the galangal, bay leaves, corn, beans & tangkil leaves.
4. After 5 minutes, add the squash and jackfruit. Boil for two minutes.
5. Add the green beans. Add the spices that were ground together. If using tomato, add it now. Add salt to taste. Add the Tangkil leaves.
6. Taste test. If there's not enough of something, just throw in more of it. The consistency should be watery, not full to the brim with vegetables.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Tanjung Lesung (Banten)

On the 14th of May I returned from a family trip to the area of Banten. My host ayah is a doctor, and right after he got his doctoral degree, he worked in a little village in Banten near Cigeulis. Twenty-some years after completing his services there, we went on a family road trip to see how the place has changed. It was a very long car ride, but mainly because the roads are in such disrepair. Though I felt like a popcorn kernel in a microwave as we ventured the chasmed roads, my parents kept exclaiming how much better the roads had gotten. As I bounced around the back seat, my Ibu shared how she used to have to make the trip on a jalopy mini-bus without air-conditioning and over even worse road-conditions...she also had to hold onto her very young infant. A particularly large rocky mound sent me shooting up and I impaled my skull on a metal bar hiding in the padding of the car ceiling; moments later we arrived at a large house on a hill. We got out and a kind-faced woman greeted my Ibu very warmly; she explained she used to be my ibu's neighbor. Back in the day, the village did not have electricity, so this woman would help my Ibu start a cooking fire out of firewood. My Ibu says that because she was one of the youngest children in her family when she was growing up, she never learned how to cook until she got to the village; the neighbor woman would help my Ibu cook by showing her what spices to use and how to prepare the dishes. Multiple times, my Ibu expressed her sincere gratitude to this kind neighbor. At the house were a whole crowd of my ayah's previous employees; over a traditional lunch in a bamboo gazebo, they reminisced about the past and remarked all the development that had happened in twenty-some years. The whole thing was quite a revelation for me; it was amazing to learn from first-hand witnesses just how much development had happened in twenty-some years. The village market used to be open once a week on Tuesday and only in the morning; when I was there in the afternoon on a Sunday, the market was open and very busy. The village used to be without electricity, and now I saw ricefields adorned with powerline towers. It gives me chills of pride and nostalgia to realize how fast Indonesia is growing. Over these past two months, my love for Indonesia has increased ten-fold--no doubt because of my new situation; my time here has instilled in me a deep desire to see Indonesia grow even more and hopefully I can help it develop in a responsible and sustainable manner!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

"Police Won't Allow the Lady Gaga Concert"

Here is a picture of the article in the paper that I was reading while watching the news; as I was reading this clip, the news began a discussion panel about the same topic!

"I'm on the right track baby I was born to be brave"

16th May 2012
Religion. It is THE defining component of everyday life in Indonesia. When you first meet someone you can pretty much tell what religion he or she is based on how they greet you. Do they say "shalom" (christian) or "assalamualaikum" (Muslim)? Do they let you kiss their hand or are they too conservative to be touched by the opposite sex? Do they appear to have rice stuck to their forehead (Hindu) or are they sporting what looks like a nazi swastika (Buddhism + Hitler definitely ripped off Buddha by making the swastika so taboo, originally it was a meaningful & good Buddhist symbol)? Okay, I'm dramatizing a bit, I've never seen some one wearing the Buddhist symbol that looks like a swastika as a necklace, but my point is that there are endless inescapable reminders or religion everywhere all the time non-stop.
Thus, it goes without saying that society as a whole--especially the "secular" republic--is very much influenced by religion. Indonesia is a country where majority rules; thus as Islam is the majority religion, it's influence is prevalent. Indonesia's heavy influence from religion means that even though it is a "secular" Republic, the lines between religion and state are blurred and swirled together.

Perhaps the most poignant and timely example of the aforementioned dynamic has been a recurring headline for the past few weeks: Lady Gaga.
I don't know how much coverage this is getting in the States, but she is causing quite a ruckus in Indo land.

Conservative Islamic religious leaders are outraged at her planned performance this coming June. They say the concert must be banned because it is "harem" or not allowed (as in against Islamic morals). Lady Gaga struts too much of her stuff & she is vulgar & cannot be allowed to corrupt the minds of Indonesian youth!
Hold up.
Not everyone in Indonesia is Muslim, right? So outlawing the concert would be major minority persecution, right?...

Yea, not to mention a suppression of free will...
So what if a Muslim wants to 'sin' (according to some old guy) and enjoy themselves at a hoppin' Lady Gaga concert? I guess I personally just don't agree that going to a racy concert will send me to hell in a hand basket.

The government is encroaching upon private life and religious boundaries of state and religion if it thinks it has the right to regulate Indonesian citizens right to go to a CONCERT!
It flabbergasts me that this is an issue and even a heated debate right now in Indonesia. If I were an Indonesian citizen/parent/whatever, I would not be giving a care as to whether or not Lady Gaga is approved of by my religious leader, I would be freaking out about the infringement on my civil liberties! This is a big deal when you think about it: will the government step aside and allow her to perform in peace or will they take a step inside the private life of its citizens?
From the inside this feels like a big turning point, an important precedent, in Indonesian politics.
I adore Lady Gaga; I am worried that the group of extremely conservative Muslims, will wreak havoc around the spot where Lady Gaga performs, or some over kind of mess. This group of fanatics has been known to trash nightclubs during the month of fasting. They don't seem to have all theirs marbles.
Just now I had a meaningful talk with my host mother about this extremist group: we concurred that they are NOT right at all in the way they follow their religion. Anyone who has all of his or her marbles and has ever cracked a Quran open in her or his life could easily tell you that the prophet Mohammed taught a path of peace--NOT violence.
To put strong words to a subject I've come to feel so strongly about: anyone who is violent towards others and claims that his or her actions are justified by Islam, said person is utterly wrong and they are hijacking the peaceful religion of millions of good people.
I think the above statement applies to all major religions, as I am not aware of any legitimate religion that teaches or encourages violence.

I came to Indonesia without judgement and open to learning; I had no expectations or quarrels that I was waiting to pick--my suitcase was almost solely occupied by curiosity. Now I have learned quite a bit and it has opened my eyes to all kinds of prejudice--not just limited to the realm of religious prejudice. This may sound cheesy, but I think that the very conservative people attacking Lady Gaga are prejudice against her because to them she is this very Western icon of liberated sexuality and a progressive social lifestyle. In my experience those things are not accepted or embraced in Indonesia and thus I think those people feel threatened by it. Sigh. But the fact that there is a debate and that Indonesians are also pressuring the government to allow the concert--that's a great step toward secularism!

Warm wishes and positive energy going to Lady Gaga for just being her provocative self; whether she knows it or not, she has started an important dialog about civil liberties versus religious conservatives.

Attached is a random picture of me at Tanah Lot Temple in Bali; the sun is setting over the rocky cliffs that surround the temple at low tide. My host mother recently took me to Bali for the second time (!) because she ROCKS! I have a Balinese flower in my hair that I found floating in the water stream coming out of a cave below the temple cliff.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end"

Today is Monday. I write this sitting in a hospital room with my Ibu. She is getting her sore shoulder treated. After this we are going to the salon together.
Yesterday my ayah had the day off from working at the hospital. In the morning my Ibu and I woke up at five and went running/ walking. Then we all three ate breakfast together. I enjoyed oatmeal and soymilk. Later around noon we went to this graveyard complex called San Diego Hills. They drove me around the complex and showed me the various hills for each of the five recognized religions in Indonesia. Then they showed me their plots. We ate lunch at the scenic Italian restaurant that overlooks the pool. After lunch I went swimming in the scenic blue pool that overlooks the rolling and landscaped hills of the cemetery acres. Some a Japanese expat family showed up started playing in the pool too. It was interesting to hear them speak a mixture of Japanese, Indonesian, and Sundanese (the local language). After I swam around for a while, my parents took me by some of the factories in Karawang. Karawang is a city but it is rather vast & a lot of it is rural, the other part is factories. Ever wonder where your Toyota, Yamaha, or Barbie product comes from? Those are just three of the many products that come out of Karawang International Industrial City (KIIC for short). Who would have known that the Barbies I played with when I was little already connected me to my future home... We passed by lots of motorized scooter parking...the place where the factory workers park if they have a motorized scooter. We passed by tour buses used to transport the factory workers that don't have their own transportation. Then we were passed by three or four truck loads or new cars coming out of the Toyota factory gates. From there we stopped by a traditional Sundanese restaurant and had afternoon drinks and fruit. The restaurant overlooked a lake and we sat in a traditional Sundanese gazebo made of bamboo and thatch-looking material for the roof. Getting back into the car, my parents took me to see the complex where the factory owners live and stay. Almost all the factory owners are exclusively foreigners....all from India, Japan, or Korea. We headed home and relaxed in front o the TV, my parents watched the news and I read a book on my iTouch.
The day beefforre that, so Saturday, was wild! I was in the MTQ regional that's the equivalent of a state-wide parade. I'm not sure what MTQ stands for, but I think it's an abbreviation for something in Arabic. I will find out. Anyways, it was kind of a parade to celebrate Islamic arts and culture. It was a festival with competitions for reading from the Qu'ran, religious music, etc. There were real live camels, men on stilts, floats with children playing Arab instruments, young women dancing Jaipong (traditional Sundanese dance), and various organizations all marching in the parade. The head of the tourism department at the office of culture and arts asked Andrew and me to be in the parade. They dressed us up in traditional clothes and did our make-up. I really regret not taking a picture because I swear we looked like we were going to get married. That was because both of our outfits were mostly white...and my hair was done in an up do and I had a a wedding veil pretty much. I will try and hunt down one of the thousands of pictures that were taken of/with me...
At the last minute Andrew couldn't participate in the parade, so I ended up walking as the lone bule through the streets of my town. I swear to bob, it was wild. I guarantee that more than half the people there had never ever seen a white person before. When I walked through the streets next to the provincial flag and provincial sign (which were held by some school friends of mine), I literally had to have police escorts because so many people would try to rush me and get a photo or touch me. It was wild. I'm pretty sure that I can now forever sympathize with celebrities. It was wonderful to have people cheer, wave, and smile at me; it was intimidating to be called Barbie, be hollered at by teenage boys & men, and have so many people try to take pictures of and with me...without even asking people would get up in my face and get a picture with me. I just smiled through it. A little intimidating but they didn't mean any harm.

Now I'm at the salon with my Ibu. :)

In about two weeks my Ibu is taking me to Bali! I am so excited! I've already been once but only for a few days & it flooded so we didn't get to play at the beach or do water sports.

I need to back track to about a month ago and explain a major event. Ive switched host families for various reasons. Not the kind of story that I want to post on the Internet as I still want to be sensitive to the privacy of my first host family. I am thankful for my first host family's hospitality and for the fact that they were willing to let me stay in their house. I'll take home some good memories from my time with them. That said, now I'm living with my contact person's family. My ayah is an ear, nose, and throat doctor and my Ibu does not have a professional career. She is very active in the community though. I have three host siblings but none of them live at home; the two oldest are already married & I actually have a nephew :)
My contact person/now host sister is in her second year of college to become a doctor & she is an alumnus of the YES scholarship to America.
With about two months left until departure, I am trying to enjoy every moment. I am so excited to return home and start college, but I know I will miss my host family.
On the third of May I am going to participate in my class's graduation ceremony & wear a kebaya. It will be fun & I am going to get my make-up done with my friends.

Two or three weeks ago I went to Kalimantan on an AFS organized trip that last four nights & about five days. It was a whole deal. We stayed with short term host families in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan, and we met the governor of Sou Kal and the mayor of Banjarbaru. On ojek we rode up the mountain to see and swim in a waterfall. I almost got washed down the falls because the current was so strong! But some nice Indonesian men pulled me out before I hit too many rocks & fell down the waterfall. On bamboo rafts we braved rapids and more strong currents. I even got to help steer! We saw a floating market in Banjarbaru by riding on police boats to the market harbor. It was a fun trip but difficult for vegetarian as the people of Kalimantan really like meat. One night we also saw a Dayak tribal dance. Mainly it was fun to be reunited with so many of the other AFS students. Most of the Germans, all of the Belgians, all the Americans, and one Japanese came on the trip.

Suggestions for blog posts are as always welcome. I've already got a to-do list of things for college that are due before I get back! Can you believe it!
I really miss recycling & having a rigorous academic schedule. I also miss all my Mother's life anecdotes & practical advice. To say it all, I miss home. But that doesn't mean I'm not having an enriching life experience here!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Javanese Wedding

GeoTagged, [S6.86523, W107.62710]

Notice there's an "in-law" in the background...the bule.
At the wedding reception I was rather offended because people kept asking if I was the "pembantu" which means helper or servant. Towards the end I asked why everyone thought I was a maid, and was greeted with laughs at my question...
The Indonesian word for "in-law" is "menantu"... Friends of my family had been asking if I was "menantu" not "pembantu"....hahahahaha!

Monday, March 12, 2012

News-hungry American Fish in a Javanese Pond

GeoTagged, [S6.29119, W106.88064]

March 12, 2012
I feel sick listening to the NPR Foreign Dispatch News. It makes me realize how isolated I am from the world. The Indonesian news I watch almost exclusively covers news in Indonesia. The last international news I saw was about conflict in Pakistan and it was very brief. Sometimes I feel like I live in such a remote place, but I live only an hour away from the gargantuan city of Jakarta! Sometimes I flip through the 12 channels that my family has, and even though about half the channels are "news" channels, there will be no news coverage. Just now I tried to find some news and the only news I could find was a story about how this Indonesian vegetable could be made into a music instrument... Not that I don't find that cool and interesting, but after listening to my news pod-casts from the end of February, beginning of March, well... I know that the world isn't exactly lacking on news stories. I'm actually rather surprised that news stations here don't cover more stories about Syria--obviously there are a lot of important events going on there...devastating events! But I wouldn't be surprised if this lack of news coverage is from a lack of dispatched journalists, you can't get the scoop on a story if you don't have people on the scene. And even though theses channels seem to be big corporations, well, compared to American news corporations, I don't think they are that big. Maybe even rather small. So, I wouldn't be surprised if there's a lack of international news coverage because there's a lack of resources to get out and get those international stories. Indonesians are pretty linguistically oriented--as far as most of them speak two languages fluently (their local, native language and then bahasa indonesia)--but as far as international languages they are not exactly known for being proteges (almost everyone that I've met exclaims that they've been learning English since kindergarten or elementary school, but they still can't hold even a very basic conversation...actually, embarrassingly enough, I've yet to meet an English TEACHER that can carry on a conversation beyond "how are you today?".... After that it's an effort on my part to try and understand their English). My point being that I can see international language capability tying into the international news complex.
I finally took a picture of my fish pond--it's not a great one though. But you can see the bridge plank and a fish! I like to include pictures with my blogposts, even if it's a digression.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Making Connections

GeoTagged, [S6.29119, W106.88064]

March 7, 2012
I still cannot believe it's already March. How time flies by! The "Selamat Datang Amy" letters still hang over my bed in my host bedroom. The sister whose room it used to be hand made and colored the message so that I would feel more at home. Many a times I feel like beginnings are much easier than endings. At the start of any relationship there are no hurt feelings, broken promises, miscommunications, or hard feelings. All these things happen over time and by the end of something they can be very hard to surmount or let go of. Every relationship worth an owl's hoot requires both parties to contribute to the well-being of the other party. I don't know how many times I've heard the saying that a relationship is "give and take." The parties function best in their relationship when they are mutually supportive, understanding, caring, kind, and forgiving. Each party should value the other's opinion and accept the other's abilities and limitations. These are not easy things to do, so really a relationship only holds together if the two parties like each other and enjoy the relationship dynamic. This is my nineteen-year-old knowledge of the workings of relationships. I've never been married or even in a serious relationship, but I've learned a thing or two from observation of those closest to me. When I think about the relationships I'm making here, the friendships that connect me to Indonesia, I realize how hard relationships anywhere in the world are; what I mean is that I'm here to live with a completely new family for an entire year and I'm still trying to get a hang of this relationship business with my own parents. I'm thankful to be able to have such personal insight into another culture and see displays of common humanity show through a culture that seems so different from the one I've grown up in. While it can be excruciatingly frustrating to try and blaze a path of cultural understanding, one of the best balms is to remember the beginning and the fount of people's actions; I've found that people's intentions are usually good and though their actions may not accurately execute their intentions, the important thing is to remember where a person is coming from--her or his context--and know what one values in a relationship; hopefully one will choose to accept the good intentions and value peace and understanding over indulging pride or revenge.
Why am I such a serious teen, ugh. Hahah :)
Funny anecdotes:
•My geology teacher is impressed that I can name the continents...
•I lost my AFS phones somewhere along my journey down from Tangkuban Prahu...oopps!
•My friend added me on Skype today at school & he saw my skype picture. I had forgotten that my profile picture is a me with a towel over my wet hair wearing my pajamas, I look really goofy in the picture and I'm making a funny face too--they thought my picture was funny and I was a little embarrassed for still having up such a güber picture--originally I had taken it to show my mom a super recent image of my face while the skype video wasn't working.
•I have a bizzillion and one hilarious stories from times when I hung out with the other YES scholars! Ask me about them when I pulang kampoeng!

I am excited to graduate with my class! I plan to order a formal kebaya for the occasion and my friend Mila promised to do my hair traditionally, wahoo!

Always Sticking Out

GeoTagged, [S6.29119, W106.88064]

Look at that mask in this picture...
I feel like I must look like that sometimes because when I walk down the street or go anywhere away from exclusively friends, I'm stared at as if I am wearing some kind of outlandish mask; some people are shocked by my face, some people find it scary, and still other people think that my very existence is the funniest thing they've ever witnessed. And I live an hour outside of the gargantuan capital, international city of Jakarta. And all that Java Jazz.
I know that it's very strange & rare to see "bule", which means that Indonesians don't quite know how to react to my simple presence. Since my arrival, I've constantly experienced a lack of privacy in just...well living a "normal" life & going anywhere without being interrogated as to why I am existing in whatever place I am existing, etc, etc. The typical scenarios are as follows:
# Scenario 1: I am walking down a street. Minding my own business. Maybe even deeply engaged in conversation with a friend. Indonesians see my "tinggi" self and notice my flashing "pirang" hair. I'm found out & cannot hide; the rest of my journey is soundtracked by
•"buLE!!!!!! [foreigner, but kind of an insensitive nickname for foreigners]"
•"naon sih, kok bule?!?!?!? [Sundanese for "what the freak, a bule?!?!?]"
• "buset, ada bule! [like "holy cow, there's a foreigner"]"
•Any combination of the following English phrased which don't sound like English because all the "r"s are rolled & the pronunciation very Indonesian:
"Misssterrrr, ey, Misssterrrr!"
"Vwhat es yur nem??"
"Good morrrrnING! (regardless of time of day)
"Howvarrre yew?"
#Scenario 2: I go to a store, office, or other kind of building it would be normal for people to visit. The employees notice one by one & start pointing me out to each other; whispering amongst themselves Teasing one another about English language skills ensues. I pretend not to notice in hopes they will get the idea that I'm not a carnival freak. Then the situation takes one of two turns: they muster up gumption enough to question me; or they coyly interact or avoid interacting with me. If I'm feeling particularly irked by being so blatantly gawked at and I feel that my humanity has been particularly forgotten, then maybe I will blow their mind and ngomong sesuatu pake bahasa indonesia atau bahasa sunda [say something in Indonesian or Sundanese]. Then they are either too shocked to continue whispering like a 5th grader about me in front of my face, or their disbelief girds them with boldness to find out my story. When people meet me they always ask the following questions:
1. What is your name? (Siapa namanya?)
2. Where are you from? (Asli dari mana?)
3. Where do you live? (Tinggal di mana?)
4. Why are you in Indonesia? (Kenapa di Indonesia?)
5. Who do you live with? (Tinggal sama siapa?)
6. Are you comfortable in Indonesia (Betah di Indonesia?)
7. What do you like to eat in Indonesia? (Suka makan apa di Indonesia?)
8. How long have you been in Indonesia? (Sudah berapa lama di Indonesia?)
9. Do you have a boyfriend already? (Sudah punya pacar, belum?)
10. What religion are you? (Agama apa?)
You get the idea. Indonesians are very curious and usually not afraid to ask foreigners the personal details about their lives. My own school headmaster asks me almost without fail every time he sees me if I have a boyfriend yet! Sometimes I feel like I should just be flattered at being treated like a star--and at first it was a lot easier to be called out & asked for photos everywhere I went...but I'm honestly really starting to empathize with celebrities because I experience first hand how dehumanizing it can be to always be the walking photo op. It's one thing when people ask about me out of pure curiosity, but often I feel as though people interact with me only for the "glam" factor. I feel stuck up even dropping that last term but in Indonesia there really is a "glam" factor that comes with talking to/taking a picture with/having the phone number of/being Facebook friends with
I don't mean to complain or be whiny, but it really is not a considerate or sensitive thing to intrude upon people's lives simply because they look different from you. They're uncontrollably curious, I know---but if someone is in a wheel chair it would be rude to go up to them and straight up ask them why; If a woman is wearing a jilbab, it would be rude to go up to her and ask her why; If a guy was covered in tattoos from head to toe it would be rude to go up to him & interrogate him about why he chose to cover his body in tattoos: my point being that people have a right to look how they are/how they want to look without everybody having to know why...appearances, decisions, disabilities, etc are not public property and not everyone's business.
Okay, so also maybe I'm feeling a little frustrated when people I just meet ask me if I'm "betah di Indonesia"... sure it's polite protocol for them to ask but it's so superficial because I know they expect me to give an enthousiastic "YA!"
My real answer--which would go something like, "Actually I struggle to enlighten people on the downfalls and unacceptability of sexism and forcing people to pick one of five religions"--would not be dealt with well & people would not know how to act. A funny scene to imagine, though! ;)

The attached picture is of a Sundanese parade celebrating "penyunatan" or circumcision--which seems to be performed distastefully late here. The parade was going down my street & there were little boys of maybe four or five years old being carried on rocking-horse sized animals. My mamah explained the general idea by gesturing with her pinky... because unfortunately at that time I didn't understand the Indonesian word for circumcision. Since she is seorang Jawa Tenggah (native of Central Java), she couldn't explain the significance of all the masks & animals in the parade.

Later I will write about the teacher-student dynamic which varies greatly from that considered "professional" in the States. An example so people don't freak out & think the worst: It's a "good/nice thing" if a teacher treats a student to snacks at the cafeteria. In the States maybe an elementary teacher would buy a student lunch if they forgot their lunch or lunch money... But it would be weird if a teacher came up to a student & told them to go pick out what they wanted from the snack shop, his treat. It would just be weird & unprofessional in just about every situation imaginable in the States.
Anyways, next week I'm off of school so I'm going to try and rally up my host fam to take one of the vacations they've been talking about since I got here.

I'm not gonna lie, I'm missin winter right about now. And I never got to go to an Ash Wednesday service--the one where ashes are put on one's forehead & one is challenged to remember one's mortality--I always love being reminded that I have limited time left on this Earth, so I need to make it count.

I don't need an evening worship service to do that, though. I can step outside & be reminded by anyone that I am an outsider & different from everyone else; I take it as a challenge to expand people's horizons; challenge how much of the world they consider part of their community; & be reminded how far away from my starting point I am--what an opportunity I've been given to learn.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Happy Birthday to me

GeoTagged, [S6.91859, W107.60972]

March 2, 2012
Today is my Birthday. I overslept & missed school because I lost my cellphone yesterday (its alarm usually wakes me up) & my iTouch alarm sucks & did not wake me up! Yesterday I just got back from visiting with my contact person in Bandung, so my family thought I was tired and didn't wake me either. Around 10 AM my mamah came into my room & woke me up by wishing me happy birthday & kissing me on my cheeks. We've been having some cultural differences lately, so we discussed that for a several minutes & then I took my morning shower. My mamah & I ate breakfast together & I expressed my wish for her not to refer to my USA fam as "broken home"; this led us to discuss our thoughts on divorce. That was interesting. Then she worked in her office at home & I journaled some & then read my Lonely Planet book about Indonesia. Later I drank some tea & had a coconut-soaked rice cake. I noticed my sister had come home from school. Nothing good was on TV so I went back to reading in my room. Later in the early afternoon, my sister & mamah surprised me by coming into my room with a little birthday cake ("because Amy is little" haha) & singing happy birthday. It was a nice surprise. We went to the kitchen/living room & I cut the cake. My sister & I ate our slices in front of the TV & she shared that later my aunt & uncle were coming from Tegal. My mamah came in as we finished our slices & shared that my Papah & Dea would come home late tonight, too. Everyone scattered back to their business. Later Andrew stopped by & told me he would take me on a date at about this time....

Later he came by to take me to a surprise location... KARAOKE!
So I was really excited to go karaokeing at the place because it's really nice and gots swagg. When we stepped in the door there was another surprise! Anket & Nathan had come to Karawang to surprise me & go karaokeing! They brought me a birthday cake and cupcakes, too! We sang karaoke and then they surprised me again and had my mom waiting on Nathan's skype account to talk to me! They rock! :)

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012

Health & Sanitation

GeoTagged, [S6.24828, W106.99083]

Well, health and sanitation in Indonesia are very different from that of the States--to say the least. My observations of TV ads and everyday interactions has led me to conclude that companies selling modern hygiene products--such as soap, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and cleaning products--are still trying to convince the everyday Indonesian that habits such as brushing teeth and washing hands with soap after using the bathroom (if you recall my blog post about Indonesian bathrooms, you know the later should be an especially important hygienic practice). Floss is still unknown to the everyday Indonesian; tampons are a strange concept for Indonesian girls to wrap their heads around (there are none available outside of Jakarta). All that said, all across Indonesia, bathing at least twice a day is nonetheless the standard of good hygiene. My observations about health and sanitation tie directly into economic class: when I say that the everyday Indonesian is generally not concerned with toothbrushing or washing hands with soap, it is important to remember that the everyday Indonesian is more concerned with finding their next meal. "Food" for thought, an average meal from a kaki lima(street food vendor)--outside of a big city like Jakarta-- can be cheaper than Rp. 7,000. That's a little over US 70 cents; the cheapest off-brand, new hygienic-sealed toothbrush that I've seen is Rp 3,000 or a little over US 30 cents...
Maybe when the average Indonesian starts making more than about US $50 a month, they will have the luxury of worrying about healthcare as basic as a toothbrush and toothpaste. On the other hand, I remember learning about the importance of tooth-brushing and hand-washing with soap when I was in elementary school from the guidance counselor's government mandated talk with my grade. On top of that, my whole life I've had insurance from my parents's jobs and dentist visits at least once every six months; I've grown up watching both of my parents encourage and exemplify daily dental hygiene..regular Indonesians have no such instruction, and my impression is that outside of Jakarta it is unusual to have an insurance plan provided by employers.
I have had the benefit of medical insurance and regular doctor check-ups my whole life; my host mamah told me she has gone to the doctor three times--when she gave birth to my three sisters. Americans think that good health care is expensive in the States...
A few months ago I jammed my pinky toe on the wooden block base of my family's traditional Javanese couch-thingy. Before a doctor visit was considered, an Imam who was also a traditional healer was called. He massaged my toe and foot to try and get the blood flowing; let it suffice to say that even though I consider myself as having a high pain threshold, it did not help and was still painful. After four or five days of a swollen black toe, my older cousin took me to to the clinic on my street. In the front reception of the clinic, an old man was smoking, waiting to be seen. The doctor sanitized my toe, used a needle to poke a whole in the swollen blood sack that had accumulated under my tow nail, put a bandage on my toe, and called it done. I went to the reception desk and got a prescription for amoxocilin (an antibiotic), a steroid (to accelerate healing), and another drug whose purpose I do not know. The bill was Rp. 100,000. Or a little over US $ 10. The paperwork consisted of me giving them my name and address. There was no insurance paperwork or health history paperwork to be filled out; I was not even asked if I was taking any other medications. My point in sharing this is partly to try and explain the extreme cultural chasm that I am still trying to bridge. When the Imam healer was called, it was by Nathan (another YES student whom I was visiting)'s host mother who also teaches about the health profession. In the states I would consider myself a hippie and such, but if my toe is looking and feeling as funky as it was, I want a licensed doctor that I trust, modern disinfectant, and an x-ray; please and thank you. I recognize that my reaction to situations involving health and sanitation is very different from the reaction of an Indonesian. My standards of health care and sanitation have been formed by living a regular middle class life in a first world country. Thus, I'm socialized to expect immediate access to more resources and modern convinces... such as ice for my swollen toe, a nice doc', and that great invention called an x-ray machine.
This brings me around to one of the most important things I've gotten out of my experience so far: the life-experience to enlighten me and show me first hand that first-world countries are the minority and not the majority; even though I have been lucky enough to travel quite a lot, excepting Haiti, what I've seen first-hand of the world is first-world and very privileged...I'm just now getting some perspective and realizing that the majority of the world is not as fortunate as citizens of first-world countries.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A bit about Transportation by car

February 12, 2012
I'm in the car right now with my family. Yesterday we left from Karawang and drove the six hours to Tegal; after sleeping over, we left for Yogyakarta this morning. We didn't sleep very much last night, though because a dog got run over by a bus in front of grandma's house--everyone heard the crash and screaming and after that we were too alarmed to sleep. On top of that, at grandma's house the bedroom's aren't air-conditioned and the mattresses are traditional cotton-filled Javanese beds. The past two days, I've experienced driving in West but mostly Central Java. Yesterday my sister Dea drove and today my papah is driving. The roads we took to Tegal were brand-new toll roads, with spectacular views of luscious green rice paddies and misty mountains. the toll was a whopping Rp. 25,000 (over $2.50) because it's less than a year old. Now we are taking an alternative route through the mountains, headed to Yogyakarta because the usual road that goes through Semarang is apparently beyond pot-holed and chasmed. In Virginia, roads are worn down and out by erosion, ice, and snow; my mamah and papah say that roads in Indonesia are so terrible because the government skips corners when making the roads--to pocket the money--and the heavy trucks that aren't supposed to be allowed on the poorly-constructed roads bribe officials and use the roads anyways. So, the windy road that we've been hugging through the mountain passes have been unkind to our Honda Freed's tires. We just got back on the road after getting a flat tire changed in a village along the way. It's raining steadily and the sky is cloudy and grey but the circle of mountains, rice paddies, palm trees, clay-tile roofs, and sugar cane plants still brilliantly adorn the countryside. A while ago we passed along a forest of pine trees, which really surprised me. After asking what the trees were called in Indonesian, my family informed me they are called "pinus" (pronounced PEE-nus). I'm not going to lie, my immature insides chuckled. At some points the landscape was breath-taking in the same way that the mountains in Virginia are breath-taking; at times the only visible differences were young banana trees and a lack of any kind of guard-rails.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I run

February 1, 2012
This is the second day in a row that I've gone on a run! Yesterday I pushed myself and ran for 25 minutes and cool-down walked for another 5 or 10 minutes. I just now got back from a 15 minute run with a 5 min cool-down walk. I'm really proud of myself because it's so hot and humid that it's easy to be lazy--I'm also really out of shape... When I run it gives me endorphins; I sweat and I feel cleansed. When I run I interact with Indonesians and say good afternoon to them. They joke around with me about running and getting exercise; they think I'm this crazy olahraga bule who looks like Barbie but gets really sweaty and red in the face when I run.
I run through side streets, dirt paths between concrete or brick houses.
I run past barefoot children and barebutted babies.
I run next to picket-fences constructed of bamboo and reed.
When I run, I share the road with cars, motorized scooters, three-wheeled rickshaws, bicycles, vendors with portable food carts, cats and children at play in the street, and chickens.
I run past elderly men and women holding their great grandchildren;
I run past houses with tin roofs.
I run past houses with clay tile roofs.
I run past what I hope are abandoned houses that have no roof.
I run past school children walking home from school.
I run past in-house warungs.
I run past song birds in hanging cages.
I run on dirt side-pathes next to open drains filled with black and grey water; in the shade of fruit trees and the great leaves of the banana tree; skirting along the moss- and vine-covered brick wall thats mostly cement molding, I pass muddy puddles and great chasmed pot-holes in the road.
I run with the smells of Indonesia: the stench of feces, the mildew after rain, the odor of sweat, the putrid reek from the smoky fires all along the side of the road, the smell of the Earth; the wafting of spices being ground, the aroma of food being fried in a wok, the perfumes of women teachers going home from school, the crisp smell of cloves and tobacco, the detergents from laundered children's clothes and women's under garments hanging in the gated front gardens of houses.
I run with the sounds of children at play, cats fighting, chickens crowing, birds chirping, parents chastising, women gossiping, vendors calling out the names of their foods they will make you, the whine of motorized scooters entrusted with the lives of four-person families, the dragging bells of the becak rickshaws, the squeaking of bicycle gears and tires, the honking of cars trying to squeeze along the road with everyone else, the summons to the bule to come closer--join the squatting Indonesians and tell them my personal information, the encouraging 'ayo's from the dozing becak drivers without customers.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Gold, politics, and environmental disaster

The title is dramatic, I know. But so is the story.
    Skipping over a nice but rainy adventure in Bali, I will jump right into to telling about an important experience I had today.
Ever heard of Freeport? Let me give you some background information:
I hope it's legal and ethically acceptable if I excerpt some information from Wikipedia (giving it all credit, of course):
   "Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc., (FMCG, NYSEFCX) often called simply Freeport, is the world's lowest-cost copper producer[1] and one of the world's largest producers of gold. It was formerly based in New Orleans, Louisiana but moved its headquarters to Phoenix, Arizona, after acquiring copper producer Phelps Dodge in 2007; its headquarters are located in the Freeport-McMoRan Center in downtown Phoenix. In addition to Phelps Dodge, its subsidiaries include PT Freeport Indonesia, PT Irja Eastern Minerals and Atlantic Copper, S.A. Freeport is the largest publicly traded copper and molybdenum producer in the world." (Wikepedia 26 Jan 2012)

    First off, the Indonesians who've talked to me about this subject have the impression that the United States Government is responsible for this Freeport company's actions and treatment of Indonesians. For sake of discretion, I have only just begun researching this hot topic, but I have found no indication that the United States Government owns Freeport. The US government does not own gold-mines, even if they are based in the States, owned by Americans, and therefore relatively subject to US laws. I get the feeling that Indonesian media gives its people the misinformation that the U.S. owns this gold mine.
As I side note, I have been rather frustrated with the quality of Indonesian media sources. Example: When Kim Il Jong died, I only found out through another exchange student friend who brought a laptop and regularly reads American news online. Not until three days later did I see a clip of a few seconds briefly announcing that the long time dictator had died. That was all I heard about that, then they skipped on to the burning of a car in Los Angeles. Then a story about flooding in Jakarta. Which happens every year without fail. So, not exactly the best international reporting.

   I want to be careful and make sure that I'm not painting a negative picture. I've barely had any experiences where an Indonesian bashed America in my face. Most Indonesians are really friendly and like to practice their English phrases with me. That doesn't constitute a liking of America, but they are always proud to tell me that Obama used to live in Indonesia and they can name his favorite Indonesian foods. If they harbor resentment towards the U.S., they don't bring it up with me. Most times Indonesians are very happy that I chose to come and live in Indonesia and they like that I want to learn about their culture and have made a huge effort to learn their national language and some local languages as well. They're usually super friendly: try to teach me more Sundanese or Javanese; want to show me around town; want to take me to try a local food specialty; want me to meet their kids; tell me about their family members who have been to or are living in America--they generally are so hospitable! So don't get the wrong idea. 
I bring up this bad experience I had because I realize that I'd never heard of it before I came here; I still don't feel like I know enough about it. I think it's an important thing for Americans to be aware of: because it is a company owned by Americans--giving Americans in Indonesia a really bad name and association; and it's a ginormous environmental disaster as well as something that has been amplifying calls for Papua's succession from the Republic of Indonesia (since that's an Indonesia issue, on TV I've been seeing A LOT about the riots, protests, police violence, etc in Papua). The same people who've brought up the issue think the the United States Government has been killing thousands of people in Papua over this gold mine. Here is the only mention of violence on Freeport's wikipedia page (I realize this does't mean that there haven't been thousands of deaths, but I can't imagine they were committed by the United States Government and it's hard to believe--and if it's true then it's atrocious--that the deaths of thousands of people are completely ignored and not mentioned at all on Freeport's "permanent record"--Wiki page)
    "Best known for its Grasberg mine in Papua province, Indonesia, the company is the largest taxpayer to the Indonesian government. It mines and mills ores containing copper, gold, molybdenum and silver for the world market. Richard C. Adkerson is President and Chief Executive Officer of Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold and James R. Moffett is the company's Chairman.In 2003 Freeport acknowledged it had been paying the local Indonesian military and police to handle the Grasberg mine's security operations. Freeport argues that this is necessary to provide security to its employees, both local and foreign.[citation needed] The Indonesian security forces commit systematic human rights violations, particularly against environmental groups and supporters of a return to West Papuan independence as before the Indonesian military seized power in 1969.[11]
   In 2005, the New York Times reported that company records showed the total amount paid between 1998 and 2004 amounted to nearly US$20 million, distributed among both officers and units, with one individual receiving up to US$150,000. The company response was that there was "no alternative to our reliance on the Indonesian military and police in this regard", and that the support provided was not for individuals, but rather for infrastructure, food, housing, fuel, travel, vehicle repairs and allowances to cover incidental and administrative costs.[citation needed]
    Since October 17, 2011 the company halted mining operation in Papua, amid a strike that has led to a deteriorating security situation and intensified calls for independence. 70 percent of workers joined the strike appeal to increase the salary since September 15, 2011, block the roads, clash with policemen, killing of 3 people by unidentified gunmen and cut concentrate pipeline in several places." (Wikepedia 26 Jan 2012)
For sake of discretion, the last quote's neutrality is disputed on grounds that it doesn't have Freeport's side of the story. I would also like to point out the hypocrisy of Henry Kissinger--yes that Nobel Peace Prize Winner who for a long time served as the Secretary of State--who served as director of this company against whom "Claims of severe environmental damages caused by the company's engagements in the Grasberg mine in Indonesia has led The Government Pension Fund of Norway, the world's largest pension fund [13], to exclude Freeport-McMoRan from its investment portfolio, after a recommendation from the fund's ethical council." Way to promote peace, Kissinger.

This is the most recent article I could find about the protests : (excerpted from Yahoo! News)

"Freeport Indonesia union says delays return to work

Reuters – Sun, Jan 1, 2012JAKARTA (Reuters) - Workers at Freeport McMoran Copper & Gold Inc's Indonesia unit delayed their return after a three-month strike because 500 employees of sub-contractors lack job security, a seniorunion official said Monday.
The workers hope to resolve the dispute and start heading back to the Grasberg mine in the central highlands of Papua island, eastern Indonesia, Tuesday, said union spokesman Virgo Solossa by telephone.
"It's likely that we will be back to work tomorrow as around 500 workers from several sub-contractor companies still have issues that need to be settled first. Today we want to make sure that allcontractors have no issues," Solossa said.
The strike at the world's second-largest copper mine shook labor relations in Southeast Asia's largest economy because it was a high-profile attempt by workers to gain a larger share of the rewards in a booming economy.
The strike ended on December 14 with a deal under which Freeport agreed to a pay increase of roughly 40 percent for around 8,000 union members and to a framework for a better deal for roughly 15,000 other non-union workers and contractors.
Arizona-based Freeport earlier said it expected full operations at the Grasberg mine to resume in early 2012.
The union has not returned to work largely because of a dispute with contractor PT Kuala Pelabuhan Indonesia (KPI) over possible sanctions on workers who took part in the strike. Last week KPI agreed to rehire about 700 workers who went on strike with no sanctions, the union said.
Monday's dispute appeared to be similar to the union's with KPI.
(Reporting by Rieka Rahadiana; Writing by Matthew Bigg)"
The particular events that inspired me to research this was a past conversation with a family member; and today when I was trying to buy pulsa an Indonesia man gave me a nasty lecture about how America sucked and was mistreating Indonesians, etc. It hurt my feelings but I'm beyond over it because--hey! that's part of why I'm here! To show people that all Americans are not obese meat-lovers whose politics are mean and indifferent. He was intent on lecturing, so I didn't engage in arguing, I just told him that the conversation was "ngak enak, Pak" (roughly translated: "Not enjoyable/not nice, Sir").

I don't know how to end this because I have no conclusive plan of action. Definitely there was bad media representation; definitely there is a destructive American company wreaking havoc on the Indonesian environment, encouraging human rights violations, and being just all around a shitty representative of America abroad. I'd love to be able to fly over to Papua and stir up some protests about the human rights violations and environmental devastation--but alas it is far away and freaking expensive. Maybe I can swing it for my birthday? (hint, hint, mom!); until that unlikely time, I can only suggest that this information be:

Food for though, letters of protest and outrage, and petition.

Much love and Happy Late Chinese New Year!

P.S. Feel free to leave comments! While I don't have internet access a whole lot, I love feedback. If you find more info about something I blog about, share it!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

First Impressions of Bali

It's no wonder to me why bule give up their previous lives to live in Bali--even if it's rather touisty, it is still a beautiful and culturally rich paradise. We arrived on Saturday morning and landed between sprinkling grey clouds. The morning and afternoon were cloudy and filled with showers. Despite this, Bali's is still a stunning tropical heaven.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Terima Kasih!

GeoTagged, [S6.29750, W107.29841]

About a week or so I just received my Christmas package that was sent on December 15th (if I'm not wrong)! According to the Fed-Ex tracker there were security issues with the package and it spent a long time in Jakarta...
I really enjoyed receiving hand written Christmas cards from my church youth group! The attached picture is of those same cards posted on my bulletin board in my room. Some of them are not up because some of the letters were too personal and tear-inducing to be up for my everyday eye. All letters and cards were nonetheless deeply appreciated; the love that I felt from these letters was renewing, enak, and so soothing. So I wanted to make sure and acknowledge this gesture of support and love. <3 Sayang kembali!

Besok kami berangkat ke BALI!

GeoTagged, [S6.30097, W107.29842]

Of the many reasons I have to be grateful for the promise of tomorrow is the fact that it's the first day that espouses a plane flight to BALI! Just for clarification, Bali is an island east of the island of Java (where I live); Bali is not a city. Denpassar is the city into which I will fly. It is the capital of the province of Bali; the province of Bali is the oldest established one. Don't quote me but I think it was established around 1658? Look that up and correct me if you wish, I will look for a more official date, too. My lot is a ridiculously fortunate one as I am the first of the American students to check out this most famous island. My contact person, an alumnus of the YES program, invited me to join her family vacation to Bali. They are a very nice family and are very gracious to take in the bule on their family time. We leave Karawang tomorrow at four AM!