Bule Christmas (Part 2)

25 01 2010

Well, when we last left our heroines, Miss Dani and Miss Ennik were frantically trying to prepare a turkey sans oven. Right.

Everything from the kitchen fiasco was finally moved to a new house and we got everything set up and ready to go. Dinner was obviously going to be on Christmas rather than on Christmas Eve like originally planned. We had a new place to stay, and we crashed hard as soon as we got there. This was a much better place than the other one. I called Mom and talked to her for a long time while it rained and thundered and I ate breakfast under the patio. I could tell that it was definitely going to be (for lack of a better word,) a different kind of Christmas. Ennik’s friends joined us for the day and it was nice to see Isna again and meet her other friends. (We visited Isna in Solo for Islamic New Year, where there was a parade with sacred buffalo and people fought over poop. Her son calls me “Tante Dani” and likes looking at pictures that we took.) We all spent Christmas day preparing a big turkey dinner and chilling. I never thought I would cook one, let alone 3 turkeys in a country where the birds are not native. I met a whole slew of people from the American Corner office, which is ironically situated next to the Iranian corner at the Muhammadiyah University Yogyakarta. I had Christmas dinner with an interesting group of people. There was a 3 year old Iranian boy in a Spiderman suit whose father kept reminding us that “Iranian people are Persian, not Arab!”, an Egyptian man who insisted that I DID remember the little Arabic I learned while in Spain, and a bunch of college boys that looked like punk rockers since they weren’t at their conservative school for the day, then there were the 5 girls: Me, Ennik, and friends. Seriously outnumbered. We went to Ennik’s uncle’s house for the night to crash and then take off in the morning for our Boxing day tourist extravaganza.

After all the time cooking on Christmas, we had a day of adventure. We went to Borobudur and to Prambanan, a Buddhist and a Hindu temple, respectively. We tried to leave from Ennik’s family’s house super early in order to make it to Borobodur for sunrise/before the flocks of tourists and the heat hit. Well, in Indonesia, my life is the definition of Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong, will. 2 AM and we’re driving. Pow. Tire not only goes flat, but falls off the wheel. I leave some of my stuff in the van and go talk to the police officer about finding a repair place that is open 24 hours. We’re not in a small city, but apparently AAA doesn’t exist here in any way, shape or form. No dice. We caught a bus a couple hours later, missed sunrise, and got attacked by both hawkers and the Indo tourists who have never seen a white person in their life. Seriously, I felt like Barbie at the end of Toy Story when she stops smiling. I took so many pictures with random strangers. It was cool though. Borobudur made up for the pushy tourists taking over the shoulder pictures of me and girls in jilbabs. Strange sight to you? Maybe I should post some of the strange sights I’ve taken pictures of. Or not. Goldfish on a motorcycle. I’m just saying.

...eats whatever a spider can.

Spiderman and his dad at Christmas. "Persian! Persian I tell you!!!" dad says.

Christmas dinner

Chow time. I'm hiding since I was still sweating profusely and in gross clothes from cooking all day (again.)

Murphy's Law.

Murphy's Law. Definitely Murphy's Law.

SO. MANY. PEOPLE. it's freaking 6 am!!!

This place is supposed to be a Buddhist pilgrimage site. Why are there bullhorns? That's not key for meditation.

The girls at Borobudur

The girls at Borobudur. We were a sight to be seen! So many "Loh, ADA BULE!!" moments.

things that are normally covered completely

Restoration projects leave some interesting situations.

Super Stupas.

Super Stupa Koopa Troopa.

One of the few that still has a head.

The others didn't have heads. There were hundreds of headless Buddhas. This guy was a lucky one. Still intact inside the Stupa.


Me at the *almost* highest level of Borobudur. I'll get there one day!

Band album cover?

The girls at Borobudur... again. I had just taken pictures of plants, so the green setting was still on. I like the picture though! 😀

I dare you

Just try and escape the hawkers. Just try.


I'll spare you the details, but I got attacked here for more "Bule!" photos. Prambanan Dec. 2009

Ruined, but so cool. Prambanan '09


That's a good question...


The group I presented to about "Education in a Digital Era." Hover for more information.

and then I went home to Surabaya on a 12 hour bus ride.

That’s right. I went home to Surabaya. It’s home now.

It’s beginning to look a NOT LIKE CHRISTMAS: Bule Christmas (part 1)

24 01 2010

It’s hot.

Reeeeally hot.

Except for in malls, but only the ones that have air conditioning and western stores. Galaxy Mall is one of those places. They had Christmas decorations up since Halloween. It’s a shame that it’s a $7 taxi trip to get there. Boooo.

December is the time when final exams happen, people go home and chill with their families, and basically get a time to just breathe in some fresh air and start the whole thing all over again come January 2nd.

Not here. In class, I was a spell checker for the entire month. This was a little frustrating, since I wanted teaching time, I had stuff planned, but there were so many exams, practice exams, remedial exams, and days of “oh, the students are tired, let’s watch New Moon again.” Honestly, I wanted to go home to be with my family for the holidays, but because my school wasn’t closed, I wouldn’t have been able to “miss class.” The entire month was wasted time, I could have taken that time and done something useful and enjoyable, but nooooooo… In my opinion, the AMINEF travel policy can just shove it… ahem. Sorry. I’m a little frustrated with the way things are/were being handled, so forgive me. Whatever, I’ll get over it soon.

Watch how this morphs into something sick and twisted:
Let’s go to Jogjakarta for Christmas to visit my family! “Okay!” → There’s a conference for English teachers at a university there, wanna go? “Sure!” → The American Corner invited you to see the office when you’re there. “Okay…” → They’re going to have you as a special guest at the conference, that’s cool! “What…?” → Dani, you’re a featured speaker at the conference! You’re listed to speak on ‘Education in a Digital Era’ and ‘American Traditions: Similarities and differences between those of Indonesia.’ “Hold up, I’m supposed to do what?” → [On the train to Yogya] There’s a Christmas dinner and they’re cooking a turkey! *I should have known that the wrong pronoun was being used.*

Honestly, I don’t know how exactly that happened. Since my school wasn’t really doing squat for the whole month, I guess I just went with it. I felt the need to do something productive after not really having much use in the class since I cooked the turkeys (maybe I set the bar too high?).  So I created two pretty good powerpoint presentations, polished them nice and pretty, had pictures and everything. They were safe and secure on both my laptop and on my external hard drive, AND on my flash drive, just in case. I was prepared, I had fancy clothes picked out (fancy for Indo), and I had everything packed into my little backpack. If you know me, you know that I’m not the best at packing. I’m pretty sure I have about 15 lbs of stuff here that I don’t really have a use for. I thought I would need it, but I guess not. I packed everything, including my laptop, raincoat, and shoes into my little backpack.

Then came the roach motel and turkey #3. (Thankfully not together. That’s gross.)

The first night in Jogjakarta/Yogyakarta/Djogdjakarta, spell it however you like, we crashed at a dive spot near the backpacker places, which were unfortunately full. I’m pretty sure it was empty for a reason. Ennik and I got settled into our rooms, and since we’d been traveling all day, we were dead tired. I wanted nothing to do but brush my teeth, wrap up in a sheet and crash. Well, I got to do one of those things. Now, when I went in to brush my teeth, I realized that it was a wet bathroom and I was wearing socks. I didn’t want to get them wet, and I was too tired/lazy/in a hurry to use the baño, so I just pulled off the socks with one hand and kinda tripped. I bumped into the rusty bathroom door, didn’t pay much attention and went into the bathroom. Soon, that bump of the door started a mass panic. A mass panic of cockroaches. One scurried over my bare foot, I freaked, kicked it away, and accidentally kicked the door from Hell again. This caused about 15 more roaches to start running for their lives OUT OF A HOLE IN THE DOOR. I booked it out of the bathroom, slammed the stupid door shut and put my socks back on and jumped on my bed. I can deal with one. Not that many. Then I realized that my bed did not have a top sheet, only a fitted sheet and pillow cases. I was exposed to the evil little creatures that lingered. Oh joy! I put my feet in my backpack and wore a sweatshirt to bed with the hood on and strings pulled tight. No little creature that could survive the apocalypse would be joining me that night. Then I was OUT.

Christmas eve was the start of the great kalkun debacle, also known as the Battle of Turkey the Third. We went to Carrefour at about 10:30 AM to get our groceries and get started, and I told them if I cooked all day, and then baked the turkey for 3-4 hours, we would still be having a late dinner. I had to give my first presentation (the cultural difference one) that day at 3. There were two things that really slowed things down: traffic and the fact that the turkey was frozen solid. I kept the icy block of poultry on my lap in hopes of speeding up the process. Ha. Like that ever works. I start prepping and cutting, then realize something really essential was not where it needed to be. Where is the oven? “Why?” *face palm* “We’ll be back.”

After an intense search for a portable oven, we decided were going to cook some things there and then take them to another place. It’s a good thing I hadn’t started cooking when they got to the place where I was prepping. I can’t imagine transporting any hot food in a van in containers without lids. That would be fun. Everything’s loaded, I’m all sweaty, and I look at my phone. 3:00 PM.

I’m supposed to be giving my lecture RIGHT THEN. We’re at least 20 minutes away from the university campus. Rizky high tails the van to the school and I’m holding (again) a turkey that’s still frozen, but submerged in a giant bucket of warm water. Turns out, all my stuff was moved from the roach motel to a new place. Well… That stuff wasn’t going to be joining me at the University. Guess what all was there? Clean clothes, (lecture appropriate clothes for that matter), my laptop, my flash drive, AND my external hard drive. Basically, I was showing up to a lecture hall of 150 people without my presentation. I had my iPod, but that did nothing for my cause. I looked like a slob covered in grease from the kitchen, makeup running, hair fuzzed out… great. I basically dunked my head in a bucket of water hoping to look more presentable. It really didn’t work.

Some of the students at the culture lecture. They were all taking pictures, so why couldn't I?

Some of the students at the culture lecture. They were all taking pictures, so why couldn't I?

I winged it. I talked for about 15 minutes and then said, “I’m sure you have questions that are unanswered. Fire away.” Questions about Christmas, Thanksgiving, why we worship the devil on Halloween (I got a kick out of that one), why Americans have so much sex before marriage (our culture likes to over-share just as much as Indonesians have no regard for privacy?), about music, movies, baseball and how it works, religion in the states, everything. Then it became a photo session. I was gross and still taking pictures with all these curious students, and suddenly it became completely worth it.

Cool kids

The kids who though I was cool even though I was unprepared and looked like crap.

This is a different Black Friday: Recap of Turkeyday in Indo

22 01 2010

If you ask any traveler, the hardest part on a long term stint is always being away from family and friends during the holiday season. I’m definitely no exception to that rule. This is was my second Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Years away from my family, and I think this one was much harder, being in a place where it still feels like late August. It was like a surprise, “Hey it’s Christmas!” when it actually felt nothing like the holiday season. In Spain, at least it was cold and there were Christmas trees and lights. No clues given here!

Thanksgiving in Surabaya was pretty interesting. I cooked not one, but two turkeys for my school. Out of the 70+ people (teachers, students, the principal…) not a single one had ever tasted turkey, or kalkun in bahasa Indonesia. Mr. Suwito, our principal, had gone to Turkey the country, but had never eaten turkey the food. It took me 3 days to prepare all the goods, a lot of sweating over the oven that is just a metal box on top of a gas stove. I did the whole thing on just 2 burners. Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, stuffing (OH GOD that stuffing was delicious!), big pots of gravy, carrots, a big green salad, garlic bread (which was warmed), fruit salad, and a few other things I know I’m missing. Yeah, that’s right Rachel Ray, bow to me and my MacGyver kitchen skills.

The girls that come over on Mondays have NEVER seen a turkey, nor have they cooked/eaten one. Guess what changed? 😀

Turkey #1 is finished at 2 AM: Ennik is happy!!! (and sneaks the first taste 🙂

Demonstrating just how to make a plate at Thanksgiving. Never thought I'd have to teach that...

They just kept appearing out of NOWHERE. 70+ people.

It was a little weird though. All the male teachers that showed up basically said the same thing, “Miss Dani, you’re going to be a wonderful wife.”

“Thanks, Pak ____. I’m glad you like the food.” I know that it’s supposed to be a compliment in this culture, but I couldn’t help but get a little weirded out by it. It’s like a high honor in this country for a woman to get married. It seems to me that it probably is the highest honor a woman can have here. We’ll talk about that later.

The day before Thanksgiving, a bunch of ETAs showed up to Surabaya for dinner with the Consulate General. I thought that this was going to be one big fancy dinner with maybe 50 people in a fancy house… well that was all right, except only 20 people were there. There was food for 50, but only 20 in attendance. Ennik and I had to fight the people at Carrefour to get our second turkey for 70 people when they said they had them all reserved for the dinner at the consulate. Yeah, Americans like their Thanksgiving turkey, (we even had a HAM!!!! And cranberry sauce!!!) but we seriously can’t put away 9 turkeys with only 20 people. Give me the freakin turkey, Mr. Carrefour Guy, and cover up the ground beef. That’s just gross.

Gobble Gobble!

A whole slew of us ended up staying at Mama Leika’s house, where Cassie lives, and enjoying our time together, rather than everybody else at Cassie’s and me in my box room at school. It was nice to crash there. It’s like a hotel but with better service. Go figure, huh? The original plan was for a few of the girls to stay at my place, but there was a, well, there was an incident. It involves one of the people here walking in and stealing my keys and a scarf while I’m in the bathroom and then the facilities staff having to negotiate for 20 minutes for me to get them back so I can go to class. I told the principal about it and he and I got bitched at by the thief, then I was told my guests were no longer allowed. I now call her Ibu Grinch. Later on, that Grinch stole Christmas. But that’s another story.

After our American holiday, there was an Islamic holiday with similar overtones. Lots of meat and sharing food. Let’s preface this a little bit with something I’ve learned – Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son to show his love for God. He agreed, but then God basically said, “nevermind, you can kill something else in his place.” That’s where livestock comes in. Muslims slaughter a goat, cow, ram, camel, whatever, and give the meat to the poor people in their neighborhoods. Well, Mama Leike’s family is Muslim, so the traditions of Idul Adha were in full swing. Their family is also pretty loaded, so they gave 3 cows and 7 goats to the mosque and kept one goat to slaughter at their house. Some of the Qur’an was recited and a big knife came out. I’ll spare the details, but it was a bloodbath. I was there with the other ETAs, and one is Jain, so I was really impressed that she stayed through the whole ordeal. Within a few minutes the goat was strung up, headless, and being skinned and cleaned up in order to be cooked. This picture is small for a reason, if you want to see it, click, but the image is of the ceremony and the goat being killed.

”]”]Photo by VI said in my post about Bali how there’s an interesting obsession with the male genitalia. Well, Pak Wawan’s son, Mama’s Lieka’s grandson, who is about 10 years old, picked up the goat’s freshly chopped off balls and proceeded to play with them. Throwing them in the air, chasing the girls with them, hitting his dad with them, rolling them across the pavement… If I had a nerf ball or a slimy frog or something, that would be something I would do. But not with GOAT BALLS. Strange child… What is it with this country? I’ll never know.

Photo by Aaron D.

Weird kid. At least he isn't playing with the balls.

Aaron (Oregon/Sidrat), Vidhi (Indiana/Medan) and Ashley (Pennsylvania/Salatiga) were my travel buddies for the weekend. After all the Idul Adha … festivities… we got on the road. We headed to Jember, hopped a 21 filled+3 giant backpacks angkot to Bondowoso. The first hotel we got to was pretty scuzzy and expensive, plus it didn’t have AC. Lame. Aaron and Vidhi found a place that was REALLY helpful, especially with the price and getting a car in line to go to Kawah Ijen. We were told that you needed a solid 4X4 to get to the top, and it was a legit piece of advice. I texted Lupi, my couchsurfing friend to see if she had any friends in Bondowoso who were drivers. Lo and behold, the chick had three. We totally got the hook up through Lupi, and rather than paying Rp. 1.7 million ($170 US) for only one day, we got a good trip with Pak Yoyo for two days for $95 US. Win. He took us to all the cool places, including waterfalls, coffee plantations, and places that served REALLY good food. He knew a good place to stay for going to Bromo, it was all around a great experience. We were flying by the seat of our pants and it all came together beautifully.

Don't breathe!!!

So here’s the deal on Kawah Ijen: Active volcano, spews sulfur, Indonesians dig out molten sulfur and carry it out. Machinery doesn’t work because the entire area is too corrosive- the air, the steam, everything. Pretty steep hike up the hill, it’s about 3.4 kilometers to the top, and there are grave stones every few minutes on the hike up. The men that work in the sulfur mining industry at Ijen have a reeeeeeeeally short life expectancy, usually about 35. I asked a guy who looked like a seasoned veteran, like he passed that age limit, just how long he had been working there. 3 years. How old are you? 19. NO WAY. He asked for some food or something to eat, but we only had water with us. If you read this blog and you’re going there, take some food for the guys. It’s hard work. They pack down 80-100 kilos of hot (almost waxy) sulfur to the bottom 2-4 times a day to be shipped off to various places. This happens from dawn till about 2 PM, when it gets too hot and too dangerous to work in an active volcano.

that's somewhere between 100-200 lbs. of hot sulfur. mmmm, shortened lifespans!

Ashley and I went into the crater while Aaron and Vidhi walked around the rim. Their route was safer. Probably smarter. Oh well. We went down to get close to the sulfur lake, but the steam vents were not wanting us to do that. The wind changed direction when we were about 200 yards from the bottom and we took off running. We didn’t outrun the toxic steam cloud, both of us ended up coughing and gagging on it. It hurt SO bad. I can’t imagine what the guys that work there feel all the time next to the actual vents digging out solidifying sulfur.

The vents where the sulfur leaks out in molten liquid form

The “water” at the bottom of the crater forms a pretty big lake. Just don’t go in the water. It isn’t safe, and it isn’t water like you’d expect. We wanted to get down there, but after the wind changed, we gave up on that hope and headed back to the top. We sounded like 40 year smokers for the rest of the trip, hacking, scratchy voices and everything, and we didn’t even get to see the most toxic part of all up close. Darn.

Don't touch it.

And now for Bromo: Part III

Third time was definitely a charm because everything lined up beautifully in terms of scenery and execution. We were there the night before after dinner, slept early, had a nice hot shower, got up at 1:30, got a jeep, got to the viewpoint and saw the sky turn from awesome starry night sky to glorious sunrise with a few accenting clouds, to a beautiful morning for a walk across the Sea of Sand. We had some tea when we were waiting for the Jeep called Teh Ramayana, and it was delicious, and let me tell you, I’ve been searching for it since November. I can’t find it. If you know where I can find it, let me know. There will be a handsome reward!!! You already heard about Bromo, so here’s some more pictures. ¡Que te aproceche!

Los tres amigos, les trois amis, die drei Freunde, tiga teman!

Vidhi at Bromo

Once the last 3 of what was 4 (Ashley left pre-Bromo) returned to Surabaya, we saw 2012, and crashed. Aaron was going to come to school with me the next day, so Ibu Mahmudah got a room in a nearby-ish motel. Vidhi took off early in the morning, so she just crashed at my box room. Monday was fun in class, my students were reminded that yes, Oregon IS awesome, and we went on an adventure in the afternoon. I accidentally fell asleep when Aaron was checking stuff online, so we went a little later to Galaxy Mall, got a few certain items, and had a picnic at Kenjeran Park. Saw the 4 faces of Buddha and had food and GOOD BEER while talking and watching all the snakes and the mudpuppies in the murky water. Then we got attacked by mosquitoes. Our cue to peace out.

Not at all like a normal Thanksgiving weekend like in the States, huh? Well, to be honest, there’s no place like home, especially here. It’s like night and day, or in this case, snow vs. tropical rainy season. I’m thankful that I got to share it with great people, that I was able to share my food and my culture, and learn a bit more about this one. It was a good weekend overall.

Bromo: Part 1, Part 2, and I’ll get to Part 3 later.

8 01 2010

Third time’s a charm? We just got everything right that time.


Part 1: The first trip was with Carrie, Courtney, Lolly, Emma and the ELF from Malang, also a Courtney. We stayed up all night to get to Bromo, with a car that was supposed to leave at 1 AM to drive us to the mountain to find a jeep by sunrise. Well, that didn’t happen. Everybody was crashing waiting for the car to show up. Finally, Courtney (affectionately referred to as “Chortney,” since C makes CH sounds in Indonesia…) called her counterpart to figure out what’s up. They thought it was the next night. Somehow Friday night/Saturday morning translates to Saturday night/Sunday morning. Carrie “Cherry” and I walked to the Indomaret (like Circle K) and ate ice cream on the steps. We were in a quiet neighborhood with nobody around at 3 AM, so loitering wasn’t a big deal. We finally got a car situated, got on the road just as it started to get light out. It didn’t really matter since we were all awake for most of the night and we all conked out in the car.

We find a jeep to rent and finally get on the road into the main caldera. We were all hungry, so we stopped at a warung and had some nasty food. I got charged Rp. 17,000 for nasi goreng that was just white rice with chili sauce served burnt. We got ripped off, tried to talk them down, then gave up. No warung anywhere makes Rp. 70,000 from a few people at one table. Sorry Ibu, that’s not your real price. I almost asked the guy next to us what he paid for his. I need to learn how to ask what other people paid for their stuff. I’m sick of getting ripped off.

Anyway, we make it to the viewpoint. It’s gorgeous, sunny, and strangely, not hotter than hell like I expected. All the Indonesian people I’ve talked to said that it was going to be really cold in the morning and hot in the afternoon. Well, it was comfortable. It felt like Bend or Sisters in the fall. Crisp, but not cold. It was awesome in my book. It’s an active volcano next to a dormant volcano INSIDE of an old volcano’s caldera. It’s the Target logo of volcanic craters. It also looked just like the Gorons’ home, Death Mountain from Zelda on N64. (Geeky, I know, but whatev.)

Shut up. 6th grader me loved this stuff!

Is this where death mountain's design came from?

There are sand trails, horses that are hip high to the withers, and desert-like conditions, a giant sulfur steam vent. AWESOME. All of us girls sat up on top of the rim of Bromo’s crater, taking in the views. It was definitely like a video game, and I was the triumphant hero on top of a volcano. Worst part was that I couldn’t be triumphant about it when I got back to school. They planned to take me there shortly after. I wanted that trip to be special too, and not bum anybody out by already going there.

All the ladies at the viewpoint overlooking the park

offerings in the crater

Part 2: Second trip to Bromo was mantap sekali. It was like I was at home for real. It was cold, it was rainy, and in the morning, it was foggy drizzly. Maybe it was home. Oregon would have thought the two were related. Just find a beach that is similar and you would have the whole fam damily of the region. All of the eighteen teachers, staff and family members of SMA Khadijah that went on the trip did a gift exchange the night before and I got a t-shirt that said “San Francisco” on it. They’re trying to kill me or something, I swear. When we went, I was definitely the most homesick I’ve been since I came to Indo. (At that point.) But I was refreshed by the weather only an Oregonian could love.

Only an Oregonian. Really.

Ennik and I climbed the path to the top of the crater, and stood at the top, getting drenched the whole time. Ibu Efie and her husband were also up there. Ibu Mahmudah stayed at the bottom as the party leader at base camp. It was really cool getting to see the Javanese people I work with see one of their nation’s greatest natural wonders. All smiles. I had my “I ♥ DJ” headband with me, so I showed some love for my school, looking like a total dork in the rain. They all went bananas when I got back to base camp with it on. “Oooh Miss Dani, you look like a student! Where is your uniform? Waaaaaaah!!!”

Look at the difference in the Bromo apparel. I win. (Also, note the size of the horse...)

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