Friday, October 2, 2009

Settling In

This post is not affiliated with AMINEF, Fulbright, etc.

My 6th day in Genteng, and already so much to tell. If you haven't already, check out my Facebook pictures of the house - Mimmie Mysterious, the name of the pink girl on my bedsheets, is probably the highlight of my experience and by far the reason I return at night only to laugh at my improbable days.

For those who have not seen the pictures, I have a two burner gas stove in a huge kitchen/back room, a dining table, a bike, and a refrigerator. At the entrance to the house there is a small living room (the floor of the house is all white tile, by the way) with ornately carved furniture, flanked by two smaller, empty rooms. I have a bathroom with a wash basin and a shower head (you just shower in the middle of the bathroom - all cold water), and a flush toilet (required by AMINEF, great requirement). My room features Mimmie Mysterious (a full sized bed, an air conditioner, and a closet. My neighbors are awesome (as are their little kids), and I have already eaten at 2 of their houses so far (and spoken in broken Indonesian as well). I've also received many gifts to boot - I need to find a way to repay them!

My counterpart, Gugy, has been great, taking me shopping at least once a day since I got here. I have met all the teachers and remember only 10 names, and have had more random/awkward encounters than I can describe. There is no privacy here, so you are liable to get a knock at any time of day and to be approached on the street ("Hello Mister!") randomly. Kids just run in your house to play, and neighbors always stop by to say hello (until just yesterday, when the rainy season started...).

For an example of wierd things, see exhibit A - on Wednesday, my first day of school, I made a speech in front of 750 students and 50 teachers, the largest audience by far that has ever wanted to listen to me speak into a microphone. As many of my fellow ETAs can testify to, there are many moments throughout the day where I say "Is this really my life?" It is, and the culture is relaxed, welcoming, and social. As I go with the flow, everything seems to work out just fine.

Tomorrow is my day off and I'm looking forward to it, although in all honesty I will probably at least stop by the school once before the day is through (it starts at 6:40 and ends at 1:00, and I would like to see some more English classes in action!). So, its time for me to sign off (of my $5 per month internet - for 50 hours???, but don't worry, that will go down to $2 per month in a few months, so its not that expensive).

Tidak apa-apa, saya aman, sehat, dan senang. Saya sayang negera ini!
No worries, I'm safe, healthy, and happy. I love this country!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Too Many Stories to Tell (So I'll only write a few)

Where to start? Oh, I know - this post is not affiliated with AMINEF, Fulbright, etc.

Let's start with the earthquake. Reportedly a 7.3 on the Richter scale, it struck nearly 3 weeks ago from today. Luckily, our group was still in Jakarta and not Bandung (where I am now), as the epicenter was much closer to Bandung than the capital. I was sitting in the immigration office, sweating, waiting for my turn to apply for a KITAS (ID) card, the building felt as if it were swaying below me, and in my balance felt very off. Suddenly, Indonesians began pointing at the TV hanging from the ceiling, which had begun to shake violently on its axis. Immediately everyone got up and began running down the stairwell as the building shook below us. Luckily, there was no structural damage to the building, and everyone escaped alive. Afterwards, however, the immigration office and the hotel had many noticeable hairline cracks running up and down the walls. It is my first earthquake and I hope my last.

We arrived in Bandung a few days later, and we had all already become better friends. Since that first day three weeks ago, I have been lucky to count many friends, including three (Ricky, Kerry, and Vidhi) that I have become closer with than the others. As a group, we have gone out in Bandung many times (despite Ramadan, there are always places open at night), explored the local culture, and eaten at many delicious and questionable locations alike.

Highlights include an ex-pat bar called Cloud 9, which is situated in the mountains and overlooks the city, an Angklung perfomance (a traditional sundanese instrument), a volcanic crater named Tangkuban Perahu (Tang-koo-bahn Pra-hoo, with a rolled r), and learning to speak Bahasa in general (although just recently I found out it may also be necessary to learn Javanese, ah!), which has been the highlight of the trip so far. I cannot explain the euphoria of being able to communicate in another language - of particular interest to me is the pronunciation, as I believe it is the key to understanding the speech of others and effectively communicating your point of view (with the proper vocabulary, of course). It helps, however, that Bahasa Indonesia is a very simple language - for example, if I want to say "Ross is tall" the Indonesian equivalent is "Ross tinggi" or literally "Ross tall". Or if I want to say "Where is the ferry?" I would ask "Di mana kapal laut" or literally "At where boat ocean?"

Another particular interesting experience has been what Indonesians call the "azan", or "call to prayer". Muslims, as you may or may not know, pray 5 times a day (as stated by one of the five pillars of Islam), and in Indonesia, they pray at Noon, 3pm, 6pm, 7pm and 4am, or some variation of those times (for example, there is a window between 11:30 and 2pm where they may pray, and sometimes there is optional prayer at 9am). The azan is what we would politely term disturbing the peace in the United States. Connected to huge speakers that can be heard throughout the neighborhood, the call to prayer is blasted by mosques all around the city, some of which are beautiful renditions of the Qur'an, others of which are just those repeatedly yelling Allah hu akbar (God is great) in discordant tones for all to hear. An interesting experience to say the least - if you want to get some sleep, get some earplugs (luckily I have many).

Tomorrow I leave for Surabaya, where I will stay for the night before driving the six hours with my counterpart, Gugy (who is amazing, a man in his late twenties who is very relaxed and willing to help, as are most Indonesians) to Genteng, in Banyuwangi province. I am excited to see the city and meet the students on Monday!

Sampai jumpa lagi! (Goodbye, or literally - Until (we) meet again!)

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Saya ke Jakarta (I am going to Jakarta)

I think I am required to say that this blog is not officially affiliated with Fulbright, AMINEF, or any of its counterparts or affiliated agencies - you get the picture.

Landed in Jakarta this morning at 10:30 a.m. and passed through customs (must've been some sort of "internal" system as our luggage was not even scanned or looked through). The flights from KC, Chicago, Hong Kong, and Singapore combined to leave me very tired, but everyone, all 32 of us that is, got their bags and we swept through the airport to a bright yellow bus.

This post is rambling as I'm working on 3 hours of sleep in the past couple days, which was a wonderful 3 hours by the way. Singapore was great, we (John, Mike, and I) walked around near the hotel and ate and drank at a local shop (Tiger beer, brewed in Malaysia) before heading up to the pool at the top of the hotel, where we brought more beers and hung out until 3:30 a.m., until at last exhausted, we headed to bed to get a couple hours of sleep. Not being able to sleep, I walked about Singapore for a bit by myself, passing transvestite hookers a number of times (scary but kind of funny) before finally hitting the hay at 4:30. Getting up at 6:30 was tough, but the shower was great, and we were off for breakfast and Jakarta.

Jakarta is a sprawling city, full of mosquitos (buzzing around me currently in the Hotel lobby), shacks, high-rises, food-stands, and people. Right now we are in the midst of Ramadan (which I was reminded of as I tried to give a tray of airplane food to the woman seated next to me... whoops), so some stands are open all night and most are crowded after sunset and just before sunrise (a gong marks both times for fasters). The hotels have been fantastic - I have a full bathroom, closet, kitchen with stove, deck, couch, TV, everything for myself for what seems to be only 268.(,)000 Rupiah, or $26.80 US - not bad. After napping here, Sarah, Raj and I went out to a local restaurant (14.000 Rupiah fare there, although the guy on the way back would end up driving us around pretending to be lost for a half hour for 55.000 Rupiah, or $5.50 US - not a big deal), where I ate chicken and fried rice for 17.000 Rupiah. All in all a cheap night. As we sat with the plastic cup/candle burning in the middle of the table overlooking the river, fireworks erupted around us, a fantastic sight. I hope there are more to come.

Last story - I misheard a street vendor when purchasing Indonesia's version of Vitamin Water (Pocari Sweat), and paid him 20.000 Rupiah. Halfway down the street, I heard him run up behind me to give me the change I had deserved, as the bottle was much cheaper than that - all I could say was Terima kasih banyak (Thank you very much) - that would never happen in America!

That's all for now - I need to study more Indonesian so I know what everyone is saying - not many speak English here. Bed time, and official business tomorrow.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

First Blog (from America)

Just a test to see that this works! Will be in Indo in just over a month - see you there.