But this is the English Zone!

26 02 2012

Okay guys, I just have to share the ridiculousness that is happening in my office right now.

Last year, all 5 of the teachers here in my office were English teachers. We are in the super fancy, never-gets-used-because-it-cost-too-much, English Zone, after all. Now, all of the long term teachers have been moved up to the 2nd floor main office, and I’m the only one left in here.

The other department heads (NOT English) have been moved in here, and now they’re moving all the English materials out of my office and into the hallway, and moving science/math/Korean stuff in. I really want to protest, since the English materials (DVDs, games, books and other supplies) are all on open bookshelves and are going to be destroyed by the kids in about 4 days, and they moved in lockers that are lockable.

They’ve now detached the water dispenser from the pipes, moved it over about 3 feet and put a paper shredder in its place. Why they couldn’t move the broken fridge and put the shredder there, I still don’t understand. I asked if we could move the mini fridge out to the closet in the English Zone (since it is broken), but they said no, we must keep it in this office. GGGAAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

Godzilla, you understand, right? So why haven't you come to Korea?!?

Though it’s been said, many times, many ways,

Korea is where logic goes to die.

On the bright side, they’ve just demanded that the principal install walls that are real, not the loading dock door and the plastic dividers with windows like we currently have. Let’s hope that we can get in and out after that… since the maintenance guy said that our door lock can’t be fixed until July.

Where’s the tool box? I’m my mother’s daughter, I’ll do it myself.

F— Intolerance, this is ‘merica.

7 11 2010

Everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, I get it. But what really gets me going is how intolerant people are still allowed the right to the press.

Recent facebook status:

“The mosque near ground zero, I say let them build it. But across the street, we should put a topless bar called, “You Mecca Me Hot”. Next to that, a gay bar called, “The Turban Cowboy”. And next to that, a pork-rib restaurant called,” Iraq o’ Ribs”. And a check cashing center called, “Iran out of Money…” Lets see who… is really tolerant! Post if you agree!!! F— TOLERANCE”

I edited the last 3/4 of that F bomb out for humanity’s sake, but let me get down to what gets me the most frustrated. “Let THEM build it…” “WE should blah blah blah…” Why does it always have to be a matter of “us vs. them?” Sure, there are also a few sharp cuts of snarky religious banter, but that’s just mindless indifference. By the way, I’ve also never heard anyone outside the western world say “Iran” like it was an Apple product.

I may have also been a bit harsh in naming my friend’s husband a certain feminine product… but I’ve been seeing TOO MUCH HATRED and too many indifferent people in my community. Recently, Pacific University faced some hateful messages written in chalk at night all over the campus, targeting sexual minorities, Muslims and others. This is my home. How dare you be an ass at my house. My friends Chris and Kayla from the Center for Gender Equity put together an effort to counter the hatred with encouraging messages and it put off this amazing vibe all day on campus.

See the video after the jump for a real way to “F— intolerance.” (Video via koin.com found here.)

Please, be nice to each other.

Things that are not okay

29 04 2010

– whitening cream
– innocent looking bars of soap that, oh, wait. there’s whitener.
– not eating street food (this is a direct rip on a US Embassy employee.)
– bad pronunciation due to cultural indifference (Direct rip on a second US Embassy employee. Seriously, you’ve lived here for how long and you STILL pronounce the name Putri, which is quite possibly the MOST COMMON NAME IN INDONESIA like the word putrid? SERIOUSLY??)
– cultural indifference
– dueling out of tune guitars
– little kids screeching on microphones (sometimes)
– whitening cream vendors who physically attack with above noted whitening cream
– phlegm (although I love the spelling.)
– my current ailment: THE FLU!
– cultural sites being whored out for money (read: Bali)
– generic rejection “Dear applicant…”
– Students that don’t understand the concept of genocide, civil rights or know about the Holocaust
– “Haha, he has black skin! He’s so ugly!” Direct quote from some of my students. Guess who learned about Martin Luther King Jr. during the next class?
– When family members are in the ICU and I can’t be there. (Get well soon Gramma!)
– Ibu Grinch. I’m gonna take a picture of her soon. You’ll soon see a face with the name. She also decided to steal my chairs and my remote for my air conditioner. My room then turned into a brick oven since I couldn’t turn it on. I sat outside until dark, then Ennik came home, saw what was going on, realized I didn’t have a phone, and came back with a fan.

Indonesian word of the day: sakit. (Sick.)
Use: Saya sakit. (I’m sick.)

Sorry, sick and stressed Dani likes to complain in lists. Maaf.

When stranded in Bali, just walk

27 04 2010

That’s what I did.

Not exactly what I enjoyed walking past before walking through the monkey forest from my bungalow, but whatev. It was still crazy with the Full Moon festival and New Years!

New Years was an interesting experience. There’s only so much crunchy granola and more extreme yoga than Pam K. I can take. I went to Ubud, (same as the day trip from last time I was in Bali – where Wayan’s office is.) and chilled with Carrie, Courtney, Kelly, Lolly, Lolly’s sister Sarah. We vegetated with the help of Kafe (get the salad bowl), Bali Buddha (get the banana bread), Mojo’s Flying Burritos (just go there), and just chilled. I had been running around doing this, that, and the other thing for the rest of  December that it was nice to slow the pace down. I decided the night before to hop on a train to Bali. Yes, there are trains that go “between” islands, there is just a bus transfer over a ferry. I didn’t plan too well apparently, but this is Indonesia, and plans usually don’t go according to plan.

I couldn’t get a return ticket to Surabaya.

Planes, trains, busses, or travel cars were ALL BOOKED after the new year. I could (for $350,) fly first class from Bali to PAPUA, then fly to Jakarta and back to Surabaya and be back for class Monday morning, or I could wait until Monday morning and fly back to Surabaya through Mataram (Lombok) for $75.

You know me, I’m borderline frugal, and I’m not allowed to go to Papua.

Bemo drivers in Bali creeped me out after the first 3 attempts in getting to a nearby beach from the airport. Too many empty angkots and too many, “you can stay with me” suggestions with raised eyebrows. Ew. No thanks. I’ll be less frugal than normal and spring for a taxi to the next town over.

He must have thought that when I said, “surfers, backpackers, murah,” I meant, “Nusa Dua, Club Med and Hilton: MAHAL.” Because that’s exactly where he dropped me off. Hysterical. The Ritziest place in Indonesia. So ritzy, if fact, there might have actually been a Ritz.

I walked past scores of 5 star resorts and walked into Club Med’s lobby just out of curiosity. I was turned away since I didn’t have a prior reservation. I was told to go to the reservation office. Apparently I was shunned since I had a backpack and a plastic bag instead of a hired bellhop and a Gucci like all the other Bule guests.

I kept walking. I finally started to see a few locals after I walked past the St. Regis. The main line of bule hotels behind me, I could actually talk to a few people without having to pay them. Thank god. I asked if there was a homestay or cheap place to stay, and the answer was “di atas di sana.” On top over there, pointing to a hill at the end of the beach. Closer to the hill were more confirmations. Di atas di sana. Okay. At the base of the hill, there were people that stopped me to converse, to practice their English, and to interrogate why there was a bule by the not-Nusa-Dua beach. “Walk to the top of the hill and follow the road to the end, there’s a backpacker place where the surfers stay on the right.”

Well, apparently that was also hilarious to somebody. I walked all the way up there, got a few great pictures, then kept going. That hill was endless. I finally made it to the top of the hill where the road ends, and there was literally nothing. Cows. A few houses and a trail to a temple on the cliff. None of those places housed surfers or backpackers. I kept going out of desperation and frustration from the botched directions. If anything, I could call a taxi to come rescue me, (then I would have rather gone to Papua for how far from civilization I was!)

Just then, a motorcycle rode past. Bule? No way.

Yes way.

He stopped. “Are you lost?”

Buddy, you have no idea.

In a place like Indo, it’s usually safe to hop on a motorcycle with strangers. I can’t tell you how often I’ve paid to do it, but this time it wasn’t an ojek. Simon was visiting from Canada and was the hero of the day. We ended up hanging out for the afternoon since we were both traveling solo for the day. He was flying out that night and I was flying out the next morning. We went around the southern part of Bali and it was great. The temple on the cliffs, Pura Luhur Uluwatu, was really beautiful at sunset. Nothing but water from there to Africa.

Open water all the way to Africa. Rad.

In exchange for saving the day, I took him on the motorbike down from Uluwatu/Leggie’s Bungalow at Bingin Beach Hill to the airport. I think I really got the good end of the deal. I was near the beach, I was on a bike, and there was that infinity pool at Dreamland that I could literally spend an entire day in watching the boogie boarders below. It was rad. There will definitely be more solo trips before I’m back in Oregon. Maybe I’ll take one when I get home, too.

Pura Luhur Uluwatu. Beware of the monkeys!

PS, Just because it has pretty colors, doesn’t mean you should eat it.

Soft shelled crab and grilled shrimp. NO THANK YOU. Tidak enak!

Thoughts for tonight

16 02 2010

I’m not allowed to nap anymore. (Donald, this was one of those naps. You define it as “sleeping.”) I took a long nap today after being pulled from school, driven an hour away to hang out at a friends house to wait for my dive instructor. Apparently I was supposed to meet them at the pool. I rode a bicycle back to the school from there. I was dead tired. So I tried for a catnap. Ha. That doesn’t happen with me. I’m just in denial.

Now it’s 2:30 AM and I’m wide awake. Class starts in 4 hours.

Tuck me in? Sing me a lullaby? Horse tranquilizers? Please?

Although I’m using my time wisely. Thailand and Indotrip prep. My fridge is plastered with post-it notes.

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”

– Paul Theroux

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.

Lady Foreigner meets the Ministry of Education

9 12 2009

You must click here. Click to the last page, page 44, then read the article out loud. “Wanita bule” means “lady foreigner.”

You’ll see what I’ve been up to with that.

Just kidding. I was teaching with Miss Ennik when the Ministers of Education comes in for a visit. The whole show our school put on was a freaking circus. Everybody was stressed, nervous, some of the teachers cried. Students of all ages put on a show. Middle schoolers were dancing a traditional dance from Banda Aceh, the elementary school kids had marching band uniforms to the nines with their little drums, and the high school students were waving flags like it was going out of style. Medina was really nervous, but her students pulled through and were able to explain mitosis in English (it was Monday, so all classes are conducted in English.) Somehow the principal still got ticked with her because she also got pushed out of the way (see rant below). Because she didn’t “fight back to stand with the ministers,” and “weak” and blah blah blah… You’re still a rock star in my book, Medina!

Oh, and their paparazzi can kiss my bule you-know-what. If somebody’s teaching a class, you don’t walk in, physically push them out of the way, and then expect them to smile and have their picture taken while pretending to continue the lesson. Bite me, photogs.

Mom and Jeremy think I have swine flu…

4 11 2009

I don’t want to believe it. I don’t actually think I do… hmm.

I’m going to Bali this weekend! No pig flu!

Last night I was sicker than a dog, but after sleeping for 24 hours, I feel fine again. Seriously, I took a “nap” yesterday afternoon, woke up and got sick  every hour or so from 4 in the afternoon until about midnight. That legitimately SUCKED.

I am so thankful for Ennik. She came home last night to find me at my worst. When I was headed from the bathroom back to my room, I passed out standing up. Next thing I remember is her sitting there with my head in her lap trying to get me to wake up. That moment, when I realized what had happened, was probably one of the scariest moments of my life. After getting myself cleaned up and into bed, I was OUT. I had a fever, so I slept with the AC on full blast without the covers, only a sheet from time to time. I know now that the mosquitoes in my room are surely fat and happy. I’m paying for that one now.

I didn’t go to school today, and if I’m not back to 100% tomorrow, I don’t think I’ll be going then either. I really don’t want to share this lovely experience with anybody else.

Another reason why Ennik is amazing: I went out to go to the bathroom and looked over at the dining room table. There’s a get-well card, a bottle of guava juice, a loaf of french bread and some veggies. I don’t know what I’d do without her around 🙂

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