Saturday, December 14, 2013

Batik Fo' Dayz

This guy had some stellar batik skills!
Channeling my inner batik artist
Trying the stamps (Much harder than it looks) 
Sorry, Mom and Dad. I'm not going to college. I'm becoming a professional batik maker. Okay, so not really. We all know that my artistic skills lack, but nevertheless, I still am always up for a good art project. That fact brought me to today, where I was FINALLY given the opportunity to test my hand at making traditional batik. But first, a brief lesson. What is batik you may ask? Batik is a traditional Indonesian fabric that typically has some sort of intricate pattern that was created from wax. Here in Indonesia, I see batik on a daily basis. It's used for shirts, laptop cases, hand bags, pillows, wallets, everything you can think of. It's one of Indonesia's most distinct attributes. All regions of Indonesia have their own styles and patterns of Batik. Traditionally, the fabric was used to show rank and class in society; especially when it came to nobility in Jogjakarta. So, the batik process is just as beautiful as the fabric itself. It takes precision, focus, and a talent that your typical human just doesn't possess. To break it down simply, you start with a piece of plain, clean cloth. From here, you can do one of two things. You can either A) Stamp the cloth with a stamp to create a repeating pattern or B) Free hand using a traditional tool called a "tjant." The second of the two options is the most time consuming, and requires the most care. Once the wax is applied and cooled, you dye the fabric in whatever color(s) you like. Traditionally, these were browns and blues as that is what Indonesians could do naturally. Today however, there is a larger array of colors available. I dyed mine in a dark red. So that's a very quick breakdown of batik. And of course, it's much easier said than done. Despite my introduction about me being a stellar batik artist, that couldn't be farther from the truth. While my stamps turned out alright, when it actually came time to freehand, I. Was. Awful. My flower came out looking more like... Well, not like a flower. My hand right hand was too shaky. My left hand holding the batik wasn't stable. Combine those two things with the fact that my sixth grade art teacher told me to never take art class again, and you get some sloppy batik. But nevertheless, I loved it. It was a very humbling experience, seeing the process behind something that has quickly become a part of my daily life, and that I may have taken for granted. All is well in Indonesia!

My final product!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Generosity: The New Normal

Today was a typical day. Well, as typical as it can be for an eighteen-year-old, bule living in Indonesia. I went to school, took my last final, and began my walk home. I was filled to the brim with good vibes as people sent me sweet smiles and waved in my direction. Just as I turned the final corner to my house, a woman whom I had never met before flagged me down.

Her: "Halo! Pulang?" (Hello, are you going home?)
Me: "Ya, Bu! Pulang!" (Yes, I am going home)
Her: "Awww, bagus. Kamu cantik sekali, dari mana?" (Good. You are very beautiful, where are you from?"
Me: "Terima kasih! Saya dari Amerika." (Thanks! I'm from America.")
Her: "Amerika, wow. Kamu pernah coba kue Indonesia?" (Have you ever tried Indonesian cakes?)
Me: "Ya, Saya pernah. Enak sekali!" (Yes, I have. They're very delicious!)

The small chat continued for another five minutes while the cake seller dished up some goodies. Next thing I know, the cake seller is handing me an entire spread of Indonesian cakes and pastries. The woman who I had just met smiled. Confused, I looked to the woman with a puzzled face.

Her: "Ini untuk kamu!" (These are for you!)
Me: Speechless at this woman's hospitality.

Things like this happen on a daily basis. I can't count the number of times my neighbors have offered me rides as they see me walking. Or how many people have paid for my angkot rides. Or how many street food vendors have given me free snacks just to give me a taste of all Indonesian foods. The security guards in my neighborhood always make sure I'm safe. My friends at school always have my back if I don't understand an assignment or I get lost in translation. My teachers are patient, and offer me support when I don't understand test questions. School kids run to me with pictures they drew for me at school. Random strangers will offer to share their umbrella when the silly bule forgets hers. Acts of kindness, aren't considered acts of kindness here. Acts of kindness are the norm. And I. Love. It.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

100 Days and Counting

Last week, I reached the 100 day mark of being in Indonesia. Wait, what? There are so many great stories I could share, but here are the highlights from the past few weeks. And I promise I haven't been slacking on vlogging, either. They just take a million years to upload here!
Visited Mount Bromo with my family! (Active Volcano)

Took my first train ride EVER (It was 12 hours long)

Reunited with this gem in Surabaya

Watched my dad play soccer in this huge stadium

Got to witness this beauty

Got lost in sand for a few hours

Watched how traditional batik is made

Reunited with these two in Jakarta

Took a visit to the beautiful Lembang Floating Market

The Lembang Floating Market has all kids of good foods and goodies for sale

Taught Abi how to kayak

Visited another volcano!

Celebrated my favorite boy's birthday

And celebrated Thanksgiving by eating cookies and seeing my best friends!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

An Indonesian Birthday

Ever since I can remember, I've had a little thing that I like to call the birthday curse. Dating back to kindergarten, when I was sick and couldn't bring my special cupcakes to share with my class on my special day, some small mishap would always happen on my birthday. Last year, for my 17th birthday, I had the pleasure of going to the hospital with a throat that made talking feel like human torture, only to find that I had strep throat. But this birthday was different. This birthday just may have been the best birthday of all.

Around 5:30 am, there was an outrageous amount of banging on my door. I jumped out of bed, dazzled and half asleep, and opened my door to find my host family bearing a birthday cake with candles. Still half asleep, but nonetheless surprised, I blew out my birthday candles and made my birthday wish for the first time that day. The first person to wish me happy birthday aside from my family, was of course Charis Ramsing. I'm sure everyone by now knows that Charis and I are the two coolest vloggers on planet Earth. But maybe you don't know how insanely amazing of a friend she is. Exhibit A can be found here.

The second I entered the gate to my school, everybody and their mother came rushing up to me just to wish me a happy birthday. By this point, I was smiling uncontrollably. Our morning break rolled around, and it was time for cake. This cake was delicious! Well, what little bit of cake that I did eat, was delicious. We ended up having an epic cake fight where we all ended up wearing more cake than we did eating it. After school, a few school friends and I went and got a few more birthday treats and then I headed home.

Wednesday nights are always reserved for Bahasa Indonesia lessons at the ITB campus with the other AFS chapter Bandung students. Today was no exception, and I made my way to campus with angkot a little bit early. When I arrived to campus, I looked at the driver and said, "Ba, hari ini ulang tahunku. Gratis, ya?" Or, "Sir, today is my birthday. Can I have my ride for free?" And GUESS WHAT. It worked. I found my partner in crime, Baya, where I got cake for the third time that day. But here's the best part. I found popcorn! Before I left the States, I was eating popcorn everyday, twice a day. So coming to Indonesia and having to quit cold turkey was not an easy task. I devoured the buttery goodness, and was on cloud nine throwing pieces up in the air and trying to catch them in my mouth.

My fellow AFS kids and I took a unanimous vote to move our Bahasa lesson to a neat little place called Ayam Madu. It's debatably my favorite place in Bandung. Ayam Madu is a small, outdoor, street restaurant where they make the best chicken in all of Indonesia. It's one of those places that holds a very special place in my heart, so it was an excellent place to end my birthday.

I got to blow out candles twice on my birthday this year. And both times, people told me to make a wish. And out of all of the wishes I could have made, you know what I wished for? I wished to beat my Temple Run high score. That's the best thing I could wish for, guys. That's how good my life is. And guess what. I did beat my Temple Run high score. (14 million. No big deal.) Good food. Good company. Good life. Great day. Simple as that.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

From the Mixed Up Files of Mallory's Mind

In the words of Tina Turner, “Big wheels keep on turning.” Why this song came to mind as I sat down to write this post? I’m not sure. But... It seems semi-fitting so just let it happen. Wow. Where to start? The past few hours have been filled with nothing but complex thoughts sprouting from every hidden corner of my brain. But now as I sit behind this brightly lit, computer screen trying to put these thoughts on paper, I’m at a loss for words. 

My exchange year is now 27% complete. I cringe when I hear the word “exchange year” because really, this time in Indonesia is so much more than that. It’s so much more than I ever expected. Life changing experience is an easy term to look at and say, “Hey, I want that!” But it’s a completely different story when you’re living it. I am simultaneously the strongest and weakest that I have EVER been. This experience has challenged me in ways that I never would have imagined. My personal strength, my ego, my beliefs, my self confidence. All have been completely pushed to the brink and back. And I’m sure this will be a continuous cycle. I HOPE this will be a continuous cycle. 

I’m at the point where I can’t imagine my life before coming to this country. I love Indonesia. My heart and soul are in Indonesia. I knew I was lucky to have been given such a unique opportunity but, I never really quite understood what that meant until now. I have been given the chance to completely reinvent myself as a person. Everyday, I am put into situations where I have to question my values and beliefs and everything that I used to consider, dare I say it, “normal.” There is a new force and drive within me like never before. I’m realizing how weak I am. How little I know about our world. How much fear is actually inside of me. And yet, I’m addicted. It’s SO BEAUTIFUL. And I never want to leave. I can’t imagine living a stagnant lifestyle with a 9-5 job in the same town my whole life. There of course, is absolutely nothing wrong with that. That’s just not for me.

I have been put on this Earth to explore. I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, boy. Another little, teeny bopper that thinks she wants to travel the world.” Well, that is and that isn’t the case. I don’t just want to travel the world. I want to serve the world. I don’t always write about the... shocking parts of Indonesia. There’s extreme poverty. Street children that work instead of going to school. Disabled beggars on the street. Sex trafficking. Being an outsider, adjusting to these conditions was not easy. I often felt out of my comfort zone, and in way over my head. But then, I realized. America has the same exact issues. These issues just a look a bit different. And it takes living somewhere else to recognize our own problems. We live in a broken world. Every country, every PERSON, is fighting their own battles. My new life purpose has become to make these battles a little bit easier. 

The world is broken. But on the flip side, the world is infinitely beautiful. And I see that now
I see that each day in the people and places and smells that have become a part of my daily routine. I see beauty in the security guards in my neighborhood that say, “Selamat pagi.” each morning. I see beauty in the smiles of the school children that follow me home from school. I see beauty in the rainstorms that engulf Bandung like a warm, needed, blanket. In the friends that have quickly become like family. In my hands that I now use to eat with. In people’s faith, and dedication to their religion. In my host brother’s giggle that often will turn into a full out roar. In the butterflies that pass me on my way home from school. In the sound of a new language rolling off of my tongue. In the many smells of food. In food itself. It’s all. So. Beautiful. And that, is a very, very cool realization.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mallory the Explorer


Mallory the Explorer. Since coming to this country that’s the nickname I have been given. I’ve also been given the nickname of Barney Stinson but, that’s another story. Over the course of the last few days, I’ve had some experiences that really allowed me to live up to that title. 

Last Saturday I skipped school and crashed an Indonesian wedding. How many people do you know that can say that? Early in the morning I met up with Agung, (My Bahasa teacher/Adventure partner,) Bre, and one of Agung’s friends, Fiko. The day started on a high note, with the sun shining and a clear sky you could see through for miles. 
A quick lesson on Indonesian weddings: Typically, there are two types of ceremonies. In the morning, there is an event for close family members in which the couple will become married by law and by religion (Apparently these are two separate things.) 
Because the first portion of the wedding is reserved for family members, my three friends and I weren’t allowed into the mosque where the ceremony was being held. Luckily for us, the mosque was built of windows and we could see the whole ceremony as we stalked around outside. There are a few special rituals where the husband makes a promise to the wife’s father, (talk about intimidating,) and everyone prays together. Once all is said and done, the bride finally enters the mosque. My BREATH WAS TAKEN AWAY. Completely. She was the MOST beautiful bride I had ever seen. She was dressed in an all white gown that made her look like a real-life princess. Bre and I joked that we were at the Royal Family’s wedding. After she entered, the couple signed some papers to become married by law. The two then stood, joined hands, and the husband kissed his new bride on the forehead. It. Was. Precious. So precious in fact, Bre cried. The first portion of the wedding ended, and we offered our congrats to the new family, where we were then invited to the second portion of the wedding. Officially.
With the bride and groom! Just stunning.
The adventure squad and I headed over to the wedding reception which was to take place at a Butterfly Garden. We arrived to the sound of traditional, Sundanese music and a large herd of guests. I’m not entirely sure what was happening but at one point people were throwing candy and money at everyone, so that was fun. Next thing I knew, there were traditional dancers, and more music, and we were escorted into the actual venue. For the second time that day, my breath was taken away. The decor was flawless, boasting shades of red and gold. I don’t know who their wedding planner was but, someday they will plan my wedding, too. The next few hours were spent eating. Like, actually. We ate for hours. There was a never ending supply of food at stations located around the venue. And let me tell ya, it was alllll delicious. Now, I’m not confirming or denying anything but... I may or may not have eaten six cups of ice cream in less than a two hour time period. After taking lots of pictures, and having many people take pictures with US, the adventure squad decided to move on to our next adventure: The Butterfly Garden.

Kupu-kupu cantik (Beautiful butterfly)
Adventure squad in awesome hats!
So in short, our Butterfly Garden Adventure consisted of frolicking through super hot greenhouses with beautiful, little butterflies. We had a tour guide that was the doppelgänger of Nelson Mandela. And I was brave enough to touch lots of strange caterpillars. We also go to wear some stellar hats.

Myself and students!
Moving on to Sunday, Baya and I had an early morning church service. Following that, we made our way to an orphanage/school where the ITB chemical engineering students were doing community service there. We were a little bit late, so when I arrived late, I had to go in front of 100 or so students to introduce myself. The rest of the morning was spent talking to kids, and making different foods. The highlight of my day? One girl looked to me with a shy smile and said, “Your Bahasa is very good!” Let’s just say I almost cried and I wanted to write that girl a thank you card and name my first born child after her. Though my Bahasa is nowhere near where I want it to be, it was a much needed confidence boost.

Found some cute kids in the caves!
Some of the coolest kids you'll ever find
Tuesday was the Muslim new year, so my school wasn’t in session. I was very much looking forward to a day off so I could explore my little heart out. However, the night before, I woke up around twelve to some lovely, stomach pain. Let’s just say that my evening wasn’t too great. Agung had planned yet another adventure for the holiday, and I was invited. Even after a sleepless, sick night, I couldn’t resist. What I didn’t know about our day’s agenda, is that we would be hiking/climbing. We arrived at the mountain and were greeted by a herd of monkeys. It took all of my willpower to not pet them all because APPARENTLY that’s not hygienic. Or safe. We spent six hours climbing, hiking, and scaling through limestone caves, stone gardens, and a few peaks. Even though I was out of breath for the majority of the day, even though a few hours before the thought of leaving my bed seemed impossible, and even though it was 1,452 degrees with 157% humidity, I couldn’t have felt any happier. In the infinite beauty that is Indonesia, I was gently reminded of just how incredible/adventure filled/literally breathtaking my life can be. As I sat with the adventure squad in a small, satay restaurant later that evening, I couldn’t help but think just how great of a reminder that is.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Current Events

I've been in a bit of a blogging rut. I have so many things I could write about, so many new experiences, and so many new thoughts and feelings that are unlike anything else I've ever experienced back home in the states. So because I'm indecisive, here's a list of the cool things I've been up to since the last post! Enjoy.

1. Went on a camping adventure with my high school! We were high up in Bandung's mountains, and it was beautiful! It was great to be out of the city for a while.

2. Went to ITB graduation with my fellow exchange students. College graduations here are big deals! The entire family comes, and there are performances by each college major. Picture a giant talent show that lasts the whole day.

3. Went exploring with Sarah, Ben, and Agung! Found this beautiful, little hideaway.

4. Sarah came to town and lived with me for a few days! We had plenty of adventures. Some of which included Sarah getting hit in the head with a soccer ball in gym class and having to leave school early, going shopping at PVJ, navigating angkot and ojek by ourselves, going to the International supermarket, and eating plenty of Indomie.

5. Went to the cutest batik shop I have ever seen. Batik is a traditional fabric made in Indonesia. It can be found in just about any color and pattern, and is made into all kinds of clothing. I found two lovely chiffon batik scarves, and I plan on buying quite a few more before the end of this year.

6. Had a photo-shoot... Well, we tried. Then it started to rain. Scratch that. It started to pour. Indonesia's rainy season has officially arrived. Odds are, it will downpour on a daily basis.

7. Brought American Homecoming to Indonesia! I had a few friends come over, took pictures, and went dinner. I obviously was Homecoming Queen.

8. Successfully navigated Indonesia's public transportation by myself AND didn't get ripped off.

9. Got to wear traditional kabaya for my angklung club and vocal group performances!

10. Took my first visit to an Indonesian hospital for a fun-filled 24 hours of food poisoning. Well, I was actually only at the hospital for about two hours where they gave me some medicine and such. Don't worry, y'all. I survived. And I'm now starting to feel a bit better.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Expect the Unexpected

Expect the unexpected. Those words have never rang more true than they have during my time here in Indonesia. The past few days have been jam packed with adventures waiting around every corner, and new experiences that I hadn't expected. Starting on last Saturday. My family and I made our way to the Jakarta/Bekasi area where over the course of the day we visited both sets of my host grandparents, my aunt and her family, and my favorite, Sarah! I felt a bit like a snowman melting because Bekasi is hot. But, the day was spent with good company so it was worth it. The next morning my grandparents, siblings and I began the eight hour journey to Cirebon where we would celebrate Eid. Yes, that's right. It was an eight hour drive. As I had been plagued by a cough that made me sound like an old, sick man, and a sore throat that impaired my speaking voice, I was expecting the trip to be miserable. Despite my sickly condition, I don't think I could have felt more content being jam packed in that vehicle. To my left, I caught my first glimpse of the sea since arriving in Indonesia. And to my right, were mountains that towered above everything else. Being cooped up in the city for so long, I had forgotten how much I love wide open spaces.

Exploring the empire!
On Monday, my host grandpa told me we were going to go do some exploring. "I can tell you love to wander," he said with a smile and a wink. We spent the morning roaming around the ancient remains of Cirebon's empire that dated back to the 15th century. Being the history fanatic that I am, I was ecstatic to get to see some of the artifacts. There were instruments, weapons, and clothing that all captured my eye. After the empire, we made our way up a mountain where I was promised we would get to see some big fish. We walked into a place that had three large pools with people swimming in the them. I thought to myself, "Where are the big fish I was promised?" Much to my surprise, the fish were in the pools. And people were swimming alongside them. As much as I wanted to swim with the giant beasts, I didn't have my bathing suit. I was satisfied with feeding them instead. My grandpa then took me to what looked like a typical restaurant. I was a bit confused about why we were going to a restaurant, because we were all fasting that day. (Muslims typically fast the day before Eid, so I gave it a try. I succeeded!) Turns out we were in fact going to a restaurant. But, it wasn't a restaurant for humans. It was a restaurant for fish, where they can eat all of the dead skin on your feet. I sat on the cushion and reluctantly stuck my feet into a pool with the little fishies. The fish swarmed my feet! For those of you who don't know, I'm an incredibly ticklish person. Sitting there for an hour took all of my power to not scream like a child. But, I survived. And my feet came out as smooth as a newborn baby's.

Fish kisses!
Casual selfie with the cow
Tuesday was finally the Eid al-Adha holiday! (Click the link for more info!) Eid is a Muslim holiday where communities and families will sacrifice an animal, or in my case, five animals. After the animals are sacrificed, the meat is cut up, and put into small bags. The meat is mostly given to the poor in the community, with some being saved for the family. My Eid holiday actually took place at a Kindergarten in a small village outside of Cirebon. The majority of my day was spent with about fifty small school children following me around. This of course was no problem for me, and we had a lot of fun together! I actually taught them the cup song from Pitch Perfect. Never thought I'd see a bunch of Indonesian children doing the cup song but alas, expect the unexpected. This place continues to surprise me everyday, and I can't get enough.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Some Thoughts on September

It’s September 30th. The last day of, my first full calendar month, in the crazy, beautiful Indonesia. I find that my biggest struggle right now isn’t homesickness. It isn’t trying to use squat toilets, nor is it learning Bahasa at an acceptable rate. No, my biggest struggle isn’t any of those things that I was expecting coming into this year. My biggest struggle now is trying to transform these experiences that I’m having, and being able to put them into words for the folks back home. People are constantly asking me how my exchange is going. And for a girl that is constantly surrounded by everything being new to the five senses, that’s a million dollar question. 

How do I possibly describe the joy that I feel when I walk home from school each day, with the local’s faces lighting up the second they see me? How do I describe my newfound love for tempe goreng to people that aren’t aware what fermented soy is? How do I explain the tight bonds I have formed with people who I don’t even share a language with? How do I share the reoccurring hum that casts over the city as the Call to Prayer plays? How do I radiate the kindness of Indonesians all the way across the globe? How do I make people that live in the “best country in the world,” understand that I’m already nervous about having to return to the States in *checks countdown on phone* 284 days? 

They say exchange is difficult. But really, exchange is simple. The hardest part of exchange I’ve come to realize, is trying to balance the two completely different worlds that we as exchange students now live in. And although the struggle is very, very real, I’m infinitely grateful to have been given this opportunity. 

 And in honor of completing September, here is a list of my top three moments from this month.

3. Number three on my list of this month’s highlights is getting to be on an English Radio Broadcast! My fellow YES Abroader, Bre, had been participating on an on-air English broadcast for a few weeks, and she asked me to join her! The English broadcast serves as a way for Bandung’s youth to practice their English, while also learning about various topics. The radio station chooses a weekly topic,  and we give a broadcast all about it! The teens are then able to call in to the show, or send an SMS, giving them a free opportunity to get experience with native English speakers. This week’s topic? Superheroes. It was very fun! 

Bre and I at the radio station

2. Number two on my list is cooking dinner for my host family! Now, for those of you who don’t know, I love to eat. However, when it comes to cooking, I’m not a top chef by any means. So when my host mom suggested that I cook a meal for them, you could say that I was a bit nervous. We made our way to the grocery store where I found the ingredients for making mashed potatoes, grilled chicken, and fresh salad with homemade dressing. Once I got home, I enlisted my host brother and sister to help prepare the foods. In reality, I shouldn’t have been stressing at all. My host siblings and I bonded as our arms turned to jello from mashing potatoes. We giggled together as I forgot to unpeel a garlic clove before I chopped it. And we applauded as though we had won the lottery when the meal was finally on the table. Dinner tasted great, but the memories that were created with my host family were even greater. 
Teaching my sister how to mash potatoes!
The finished product! Enak sekali! (Very delicious)

The potato spring courtesy of Baya
1. And number one my list of highlights for this month.... drum roll please... Car Free Day! Car Free Day, or CFD as the locals like to call it, happens every Sunday in Bandung. One street is shut down providing locals a place to dance, sing karaoke, eat lots of food, protest, or whatever else they feel like doing! This past Sunday, I got to go with some other YES Alumni, and it was a blast! I tried my hand at some aerobic dance. Now, I say dance but, picture 500 or so talented Indonesian dancers. Now throw a bule gila (crazy, white foreigner) into the mix and you have that picture. The embarrassment doesn’t stop there. One of my friends, Baya, took me to his college campus where there were some students playing volleyball. So of course I had to join in because who doesn’t love a casual match? However, the game I was thrown into was played by all males who had quite a bit of passion for the sport. While I consider myself to be fairly athletic when compared to other Indonesian teenage girls, I was quickly put back into my place when playing with the guys. After a quick match, myself and some other YES Alumni left to seek out food. My favorite thing of the day was the potato spring. It's basically a never-ending spiral of potato chip goodness. I had mine smothered in cheese. It was heavenly. Overall, what really made CFD so special and so great, was the people I got to spend it with. The friendships that have quickly been created here in Indonesia, are the kind that can't be explained in a blogpost. There aren't enough adjectives, between English and Bahasa Indonesia combined, that could possibly sum up my love for the people here. So, until I can figure that out, da da!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Another Day, Another Adventure

"Mal, tomorrow at 6:30 AM our neighbor's daughter is coming to get you and you're going to a mountain to take pictures." Uhhh. Alright, Bunda. I woke up at 5:30 this morning, got dressed, grabbed my camera, and was out the door. My neighbor and her daughter, Fia, picked me up, and we were taken to a small house. I patiently sat on the floor, still confused as to what the day would consist of, and talked to Fia about America. Eventually, about eight other high school and university students joined us. Before we left, we had to pray for our "safety within the mountain's dangers." Now, at this point, I was a wee bit concerned. I had been told we were going to be taking some casual pictures, but all of a sudden we were praying for safety... Being the Montana girl that I am, this made me simultaneously stoked, and terrified. We all piled into two cars, and drove for about an hour to the mountain. Now, I say we drove. But to put it in the words of our driver, Rafa, "Mal, we may have to do a bit of off-roading. And this car really isn't made for that. Sorry"

After a drive that reminded me of Montana dirt roads, we had finally arrived. Within thirty seconds of walking on the trail, school girls spotted me and came running asking for photos. This was of course, no problem for the photo queen that I am. And they were absolutely adorable.
Such cute girls!

Left me speechless.
The trail first went through rice fields that were absolutely stunning. A smile spread across my face as I realized that I was back in my natural, nature habitat where I belonged.

Some of the boys on the trail
Over slippery rockslide, mud puddles, tall grass, and bugs galore, Ryan and I lead the pack. After about an hour hike, (which by the way kicked my butt considering how I haven't worked out since I got here,) we had arrived at a small, quaint waterfall. The waterfall was full of people, and despite my wanting to take a few pictures, I couldn't. I was too busy trying to cross the water on slippery rocks and not fall over and embarrass myself. After the group had crossed, we continued our hike on. After a trek up a mountain face, (I kid you not, it was SO steep,) we had found a place to set up a small camp.

While the girls took selfies, myself and the boys set up shelters. "That's so cool," they said as I started making a lean-to. (Shout out to my dad for teaching me so well!) Within a few minutes, we had a hot pink, lean-to and a hammock made out of a poncho.

Then, it was time to eat. Now, this is where the Indonesian kids really beat with me their survival skills. The girls made delicious tempe goreng on an ultralight, backpacking stove. How they did it, I'm not sure. But it was dang good, and I need to learn how to do that for when Dad and I go backpacking.

Chilling in the poncho hammock
After some dang-good food, Mallory was sleepy. So, I set down my pack, rest my head on it, and within seconds I was asleep. I considered making this part all poetic and beautiful, because really, that's how it was dozing off in the Bandung mountains. However, waking up to golf-ball sized bug bites on my hands and legs was really not that lovely. We took a few more pictures, had a few more laughs, and then we were on our way back home.

Today I had to cross a waterfall with people whom I had just met hours before. The majority of them didn't speak my language, and I spoke very little of theirs. And yet, a bond was created. We trusted each other. I trusted them to not get us lost, or push me off of a mountain, or whatever else could have happened. Being an exchange student does that you. It teaches you to trust people, because that's all you can do. You have to trust your friends at school to not teach you bad words. You have to trust your new host family that just weeks ago, you didn't know. You have to trust yourself, in knowing that you are capable of this year. And even though that's the hardest part of exchange, I think I'm doing just fine.