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!