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.
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.
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.
”]”]I 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.
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.
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.
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 “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.
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!
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.