Tuesday, August 27, 2013

First Impressions

So I'm in Indonesia. Wait, what? Did I really just say that? Am I really here or am I dreaming? Because honestly, I can hardly tell. This whole YES Abroad journey has felt sort of surreal. I thought things would sink in in Washington D.C. at the PDO. They didn't. I thought things would sink in when I was saying goodbye to my three best friends and my family. They didn't. I thought things would sink in as I was in the air to Hong Kong. They didn't. And guess what? Now that I'm here, sitting in my new home in Bandung, it still hasn't hit me.

So while I'm still trying to process where I am, here's a recap of my first week away from home. Tuesday morning, August 20th, I headed off to the airport to leave Bozeman. The night before I finished packing, and said goodbye to my best friends. After a few teary-eyed goodbyes, I was on my way to NYC. The rest of the YES girls met again for a one night, quick pre-departure orientation.

Indonesia girls at dinner

Toasting to a good year with some sparkling cider

Our last picture before the airport!

Then came the flying. The eight Indonesia AFSers and myself were in hysterics before preparing to board our first flight. We were talking about our excitement, our nerves, and how quickly we were getting slapped in the face with reality. Then I noticed a random dude wearing glasses. “Now why in the world is this loser wearing glasses in an airport at night?”My mind immediately jumped to a conclusion: there would soon be a celebrity on this flight. I talked it over with the rest of the crew, all while being called crazy for thinking that this guy was legit. Me being the independent person I am, would not budge. I came to the conclusion that this too-cool-for-school looking guy wearing stunner shades and a snazzy leather coat had to be the one and only, Jon Bon Jovi. I immediately whipped out my phone and googled an image, only to make me further believe that this guy was him. And let me tell ya, I was convinced. Myself and Bre started hardcore fangirling. We boarded the plane, scoped for him, and thought he had disappeared to the first class. Disappointed and let down, we made our way to our back of the plane, economy class, seats. But then, BOOM. Bon Jovi and crew were sitting in the very last row of the plane. Long story short, Mr. Jon Bon Jovi himself moved up to the seat behind me. Over the course of my five hour flight to Vancouver, he gave me some pretty stellar life advice, and I gave him some as well. When he got off in Vancouver, I was left with nothing more than a few crappy photos and his airplane blanket. So that was pretty neat. 

We spent a few quick hours in Hong Kong, exploring and trying some interesting Hong Kong Food. 

Before I attempted chop sticks
Our final flight was from Hong Kong to Jakarta. Which for the majority of time, was spent sleeping. When we finally touched down, I was quickly drenched in sweat. Picture a snowman melting. It was in this moment that I realized my two inch thick, Nike sweats probably weren't the best idea for Jakarta. I quickly solved that problem by changing into jeans, which were still quite hot. We made our way to shuttles, and were taken on an hour long drive through Jakarta to our orientation site. Now, I say we were taken on a drive. But really, it was more like we were taken on a roller coaster for an hour straight. Everything I had heard about Indonesian driving was true. We side swept cards, nearly took out people on motor bikes, didn't stay in between any lines, and pounded on the horn. I got a front seat view to what I thought were going to be for sure fatal car accidents. But, to my surprise, everyone seemed to know what they were doing, and everyone was calm and collected. When we arrived to the orientation site, we got our room assignments and we checked in. Arrival orientation was a whirlwind of meeting other AFS exchange students from all over the world, learning basic Bahasa, talking about cultural norms, and adjusting to the new food. Overall, it was super fun!

My view of Jakarta from our balcony

First meal!

Sarah attempting to squat it like it's hot

Sometimes random people will ask foreigners for photos

Matching pants!

Bules go adventuring.

All 38 of the AFS Indonesia students for 2013-2014. Keep smiling!

YES girls on our way to the American Embassy... Party!
On our last day of Arrival Orientation, the YES Abroad girls got to take a visit to the US Embassy where we discussed safety in Indonesia. Later that evening, AFS Indonesia had a welcoming party for all of the AFS Indonesia students. At the party, each country got to showcase there culture with a country booth, as well as an act in the talent show. When it comes to special culture, the US sort of lacks. So what did us Americans decide to do for the talent show? A mash up of pop culture dances. You could say it was a huge hit. Did I mention that we performed this crazy dance in front of the American Deputy Ambassador to Indonesia, as well as other Embassy officials? Well, we did. After a night of good company and good food, our orientation was over.

And that brings me to today, Wednesday, August 28. After a four hour drive to Bandung from Jakarta, I finally got to get settled in with my host family. I was picked up by Bunda, (my host mom) and was taken to my new home.

Home sweet home for a year
I immediately felt like I was at my own home, and I was ecstatic to finally have a place to call my own again. Living out of a suitcase gets old fairly quickly. Tired from my five am wake up call and four hour long journey, I fell asleep fairly early. This morning I was woken up by the Call to Prayer around 5:30- much earlier than I am used to. However, Bandung looked much too beautiful to stay in bed, and it was calling my name. So I rolled out of bed and went for a morning stroll. I talked to the locals and attempted some Bahasa.
Overall, I'm so happy to finally be here in Bandung. The quirks and cultural differences of Indonesia are crazy, but, I wouldn't trade this place anything.

Until next time,