Jalan-jalan

Hello! I’m alive! It’s true!

Things have been so busy lately. I haven’t even typed anything up… I’m sitting here in an internet cafe and wishing I liked what I had typed up over the past week about my village and family, but I don’t. I’m going to try and make more of an effort to type a little bit everyday so that when I come to town I have something to post here. My days have been packed with language classes, meetings, eating, adjusting, and hanging with my host family. I’ve been hesitant to spend too much time locked up in my room or out of the house for fear of disrespecting my host family’s hospitality, so I haven’t had much free time. Now that I’m getting into a bit of a routine I’ll hopefully have a spare moment now and then.

Most things here are wonderful. The things I’m having problems with are not what I expected them to be; living with my family, eating delicious Indonesian food, learning bahasa Indonesia, getting around on public transportation, and making friends have all been surprisingly simple, so far. I’ll give myself a little credit though… I’m not surprised I’ve adapted so well (thusfar). I did read, however, that the initial phase of culture shock is euphoria, so we’ll see.

I’m terribly sorry that I don’t have much more to say right now… I’ll do my best to type something up this week and post it on Friday when I’ll be at a university (with wireless internet!) for meetings all day.

Today I love, a la Emily: durian feasts, spiders as big as my hand, keffir lime leaves, Diana, recon missions, pisang Bart, malaria medication induced hallucinatory dreams, being interviewed by Indonesian journalists and speaking very little English with them, my host dad (and family), not drinking sweetened condensed milk for breakfast, and the women of my village.  

XOXO,
Sam!

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Full of Everything, Full of Nothing

Today was a day! All week we’ve been looking forward to Sunday, our first day off since we began our Peace Corps adventures, though that was only one week ago. This is probably my last blog entry for a while since I’m moving on Tuesday morning to go into my rural training site, so I’m going to make this one a good one. Enjoy!

Frankly, I thought I’d start the day by waking up late and enjoying a lazy breakfast, thanks to the lovely Bintang from last night. Not the case! I woke up at about five and lay in bed until six, then went down to breakfast. I ate and started setting up the recipe blog and managed to write a few letters (haven’t gotten to the PO yet). I dressed and headed down to go out on the town at about 9 o’clock, just in time to say hello to a bunch of PC friends who had just returned from playing soccer with some locals. They excitedly told us about how some students asked to interview them for their English classes at their high schools. We decided to split into two groups for the day, and luckily our bahasa Indonesia guru-guru Ibu E and Ibu N decided to come with my group!!! They’re so amazingly sweet and kind and adorable. I love them. The others, the soccer players, decided to go off on their own…brave souls!

We first decided to visit the patung Obama at the S.D. Mentang. It was very tiny and rather anti-climactic, but we were still excited to see the statue of little Barry. We took a taxi there and three of us (no guru-guru!) were totally flustered because our driver kept speaking very fast bahasa Indonesia to us! He didn’t know how to get there… we had tiga taxsi, so we all stopped so our leader (our driver) could ask the second driver for directions. Whew. When we were standing outside the green gate, some kids rode by in a bejaj and yelled “OBAMA!!!” They were so excited, as were we! Our prez! Hooray!

After seeing Barry we walked for a bit and evenutally caught another tiga taxsi-taxsi to the Kota Tua, the Old Town. Let me just pause here and describe the roads in Jakarta. There are about five million motorcycles in the city alone, tons of bejaj, and many cars and buses (in addition to a public bus lane). There are lane lines painted on the roads, but I don’t think anyone really cares. You see people and motos waving in and out, cars narrowly missing motos crowded with families and children, and buses and taxsi-taxsi crowding each other nearly off the road. Almost all of the roads are three lanes wide, with turn lanes and curves at each corner. At some of the busier places, the stalls and lines of parked motorcycles and empty taxsi or bajaj wait along the edge of the road (ON the road) and people walk by… on the road. Crossing the street… I probably shouldn’t talk about this because my mother will certainly read this. There aren’t any crosswalks in most places and if there are crosswalks, they might as well be invisible. Our Ibu-Ibu would confidently yet slowly stride out into traffic with one hand up implying “Stop!” or maybe “Don’t kill me!” Then, we cross… quickly, or else? It’s insane. Motorcycles don’t even stop, it seems, but just lead you as a target and avoid you as you walk across (I don’t know if that makes any sense; I’ve been up for nearly 18 hours after 4 1/2 hours of sleep. Sorry!). I’m sure it’s like this in most major cities in most third world countries, but I’ve never seen anything like it. The only major city I’ve ever spent any substantial time in is NYC, so that’s all I have to compare with Jakarta; NYC is like Jakarta but busier, faster, dirtier, brighter, sweatier, smellier… you get the point. Anyways, Kota Tua.

Old Town is a big square full of people and centered around some sort of former official building that now serves as a museum. Immediately upon our arrival we were approached by twenty or thirty kids and teenagers who wanted to talk to us for class. The older ones wanted to practice their bahasa Inggris on us by interviewing us and asking short questions such as “Where are you from?” and “What do you like about this country?” We’d then pose for a picture. The younger ones wanted to practice their language with us. I’d estimate that we spent half an hour or more talking with these students and their teachers, right in the middle of the square! It was so interesting. We were immediate objects of attention because we were foreign; I think I counted four foreigners (white males) throughout Jakarta all day long today, which surprised me since we traveled around what seemed to me to be a fairly decently sized area (of course, Jakarta is huge and I’m sure we didn’t see anything). Foreigners, especially white people, are noteworthy. Many of the young ladies were extremely shy and giggly, wanting only to wave at us or snap a quick photo. Some people yelled basic English words and phrases at us, not wanting to engage significantly with us but not wanting to let us pass them by. Of course, many were begging. Adults and teachers on the whole seem to treat us respectfully, especially when they hear us trying to speak bahasa Indonesia.

But I was talking about Old Town! After we talked with the students, we split up into two groups. A couple people went into the museum while the rest of us decided to walk around Kota Tua and look at the buildings. They were, as their name suggests, old and bedraggled. Most of them were abandoned, which is a shame since they are beautiful and full of potential; there’s no money to rebuild and perhaps no desire to do so. Many street vendors crowded the alleys between the delapidated buildings, and we even saw a tattoo artist with an impromptu tattoo parlor out in the open on the side of the street. Yes, he was tattooing as we walked by. As we continued, we made our way out to the edge of Kota Tua and came upon a large river that reeked of sewage (I am very anxious to get out of the city and away from the stench of sewage and rotting garbage). We snapped a few shots and headed back to the square. After meeting up with the others, we chatted with a couple of more people and then decided to head to Chinatown. We walked there… (I think? Maybe we took a bus. We took the bus a few times today, which was great; the Ibu-Ibu helped us with directions and tickets were only Rp 3500 (roughly 35 cents) per. A couple of the buses were air conditioned!)

Chinatown was very provocative. We started out by walking down through the alleys past vendors with dingy pull-carts and piles of rotting garbage. Lots of people, motos, and mobil-mobil crowded the narrow streets until we made our way to a larger area with brightly decorated awnings and a huge Buddhist temple. After asking a local if it was acceptable, we went inside the temple. People were crowded inside, performing their prayer rituals and burning huge handfulls of enormous incense sticks, some as big as baseball bats. The room was red and the Buddhas (and other statues of unknown deities) were golden and gilt, and red candles as tall around as me and a foot and a half or more in diameter burned all around us. There were many offerings of fruit at tea at the base of the altar. The entire place was beautiful and mysterious, but I felt compelled to put my camera away and observe the temple without a viewfinder.

After we left the temple area (but not before we were stopped by a few more bahasa Inggris students), we meandered for a while and saw more of Chinatown’s less glamorous side. There’s so much poverty and garbage around, and anytime we saw standing water it was practically unrecognizable. Other interesting sights… caged birds, a man chopping up frog legs, old women sitting one after the other in the sun, more mangy cats, even more vending carts with unfamiliar foods (we tried some sort of dumpling or other, but were all nervous about getting sick), and many disenchanted locals. After stopping at a grocery and buying some teh botol apel and cementing the phrase berapa hagarnya? (how much is it?) in my mind (empat ribu, Rp 4000, $0.40… the same kind of bottled fruit tea you can buy at Bloomingfoods for $1.79+), we made our way to… a padang restaurant!!

It was just like we read about. The bowls and dishes of foods were piled high in the window and the room was small, dark, and hot. We sat at two tables and were given small bowls of water to rinse our fingers (although we were also fortunate enough to have some hand sanitizer on us; washing our hands in the local water and then eating with our hands, even if we have a utensil, is not the best idea). The Ibu-Ibu were gracious enough to help us “order” our meal. We were given plates of rice and the servers brought about a dozen small dishes of various unrecognizable foodstuffs, which we eventually discovered included: sambal, warm hard boiled eggs with brown sauce, ayam goreng and curried ayam, saucy cow’s hooves, fish goreng, chicken livers, stewed beef, vegetables with yellow sauce, and some sort of vegetable or potato goreng. We also had cow skin crackers which were similar to pork rinds. It was all interesting and delicious, though we were wary of our first meal in a less-than-clean establishment out on the town. After the meal, the server came and asked our teachers to help us figure out the bill based on what we ate; everything left unconsumed in the small bowls went back to the larger bowls in the window, ready for the next customer. After about ten minutes, our tab was delivered; lunch was about $1.30 per person! And that’s it. Nobody in Indonesia tips. We paid and chatted a little bit longer (and I went to the restroom to use my first squat toilet, which was fine. No sprayer, though, just a dipper!). Then, we made our way out of the restaurant and walked on the edge of Chinatown toward our next destination, the National Mosque (Masjid Istiqlal). On the way out of Chinatown, we passed more stalls and walked on the narrow edge of the street, past moving cars and motos as well as tiny stalls and larger shops filled with bags and bags of novelties and candies. We also saw someone selling rambutan, the fruit we were informally challenged to find before the week was up. Though we walked by too quickly to buy any, we noticed the red spiky hairs (rambut) that are its namesake.

After catching another bus and riding through the busy streets, we arrived at the National Mosque. There were silver gates surrounding the grounds and the dome loomed large in the sky with the crescent moon and star minaret. The only opening in the gate was a one-foot wide gap propped open with a block. As we entered and approached, our teachers, especially Ibu N, became increasingly excited. We snapped some pictures in front of the elaborate gold and marble sign before heading toward the main entrance to the mosque itself. We took off our shoes before climbing the creamy marble steps and meeting our security guide at the top. Ibu N said we had to have a guard with us at all times because of bomb threats and security issues, which made sense to me. He led us to the mosque and we first saw it from above, along a balcony that stretched around three sides of the enormous room. There were a few people praying or sleeping sprawled out on the huge floor; the security guard later told us that the mosque can hold almost a quarter of a million people (and does so at the end of Ramadan). The mosque was quiet, dim, and very calming. The women pray at the rear of the mosque and struck me as the most beautiful part of the visit, even more so than the gigantic glass dome and its silvery pillars or the singing during the call to prayer. I haven’t ever seen Muslim women (or men, for that matter) actually in a mosque or preparing to pray. Their white robes (Diana, what are they called?) were so beautiful.

On the way out of the mosque we saw an extremely large drum and a smaller one, both of which are used in a similar way to church bells. We went downstairs and waited for Ibu N to finish her prayers and suggested to our other guru that we might visit the large Catholic cathedral across the street. Both of the Ibu-Ibu said they had never been inside a church, just as I had never been inside a mosque. Many in our small group were familiar with Catholicism, so we told them what we knew and showed them around the cathedral, which was beautiful (but not as unfamiliar as to warrant a long description).

After the visits, we hopped on a bus and went home, finally! We were all rather exhausted and eager to get out of the sun, though nobody got (too severely) dehydrated or sunburned. Score one for team Peace Corps! We took the bus back to the hotel and a few of us went out to buy a cake for one of our fellows who’s celebrating a birthday. We managed to find a chocolatier and purchased a fancy black forest cake for Rp 16,700 ($16.70). Dinner was in the basement of Sarinah’s and it wasn’t too great. I had a mango lassy (which was great) and spicy nasi goreng that didn’t taste like anything but spicy. We walked back sleepily to the hotel, and from what I heard this morning, almost everyone slept the whole night through but still felt a little wonky today, probably from the sun and weather and activity yesterday.

*****

Today was an exciting day of language class, speakers, and finding out our site assignments. Everyone wore their batik shirts and looked lovely. We had fun in language class because the first was taught by our PST director Pak Jack, who had us memorize and practice a dialog about saying hello and politely refusing to enter a stranger’s home. Also, Pak H, our homestay coordinator, spent some more time with us (he went to supper last night, too) and helped us practice our bahasa. The afternoon language class was taught by our regular guru-guru but was interesting because we had an assignment: mewawancarai! We had to go out into the hotel and find someone to interview. Mine went something like this:

S: Selamat siang, bapak. Saya mau Tanya!
My new friend: … O.K.
S: Siapa nama anda?
MNF: Nama saya (name omitted!)
S: Anda berasal dari mana?
MNF: Berasal dari Jawa.
S: Di mana anda tinggal?
MNF: Bekasi.
S: (I bombed this one. I was supposed to say…) Apakah anda punya saudara kandung?
MNF: Ya, saya punya saudara kandung, satu saudara laki-laki dan satu saudara perempuan.
S: Apa pekerjaan anda?
MNF: Saya seorang waiter.
S: Terimakasih banyak! Selamat siang!Anyway, it was supposed to be like that, but it was more like me sweating through my batik and wondering how silly I seemed. It was great, though! I saw MNF later on in the day and said senang jumpa dengan anda (nice to see you)! That was great!

After our later language class we got our homestay assignments! I’ll be living with a couple who has a 16 year old daughter. I’ll be in one of four villages (“clusters”) with four other folks. I’m in a “link” with nine others, but I only see them every couple of days. The only thing I know about my family is that they just moved into this house, which they own, but they wanted so much to have a volunteer stay with them that they moved into this house, which has a spare bedroom (one of the requirements for being a host family). I also learned that the families had to go through an application and screening process in order to have us, as well as providing a separate locked room.

As for me… I’m doing well. A little tired and loopy from our adventures so far, but I’m definitely adjusting. I feel fine, not homesick, not nervous, just excited and happy. Language acquisiton seems easier than I thought it would be and my new friends are all so wonderful. I’m really looking forward to PST and my new homestay; Jakarta has been amazing but I’m not a big city gal.

I don’t think it’s possible to get a better placement than PC Indonesia 1. My fellows are exceptional, as is the country and the people we’ve met, both Indonesian and American, especially those who have been instrumental in our coming here. They’re just as excited as we are !
Well, we just got back from Sarinah’s and I still need to pack and shower before our 4:00 am wake-up call (tonight may be interesting, too; I started my malaria medication today, which can give people wacky hallucinogenic dreams!). We’re flying to Malang tomorrow!!! I don’t know when I’ll next have internet! It’s a grand mystery! However, I should have a mailing address soon.

Leave me a little something to look forward to!
Semangat!
Sam

Party Time Jakarta

Wow, yesterday was quite a day. We had training and language class all day, plus our medical briefing on malaria and… some things even less savoury.

We had a guest speaker come and show a PowerPoint presentation with photos of her life in Indonesia; she came as a high school senior to study here and has does various types of aid work here at different times since graduating and getting her bachelor’s and master’s. She told us a lot about the Indonesian sex industry, social change since the Reformasi post-Suharto, and other sub-cultures (street kids!) and social issues. This may sound strange, but it was nice to have a reality check; we’ve been living in a sheltered paradise since arriving here, and seeing pictures from outside Jakarta and especially those from brothels in Yogyakarta was sobering. Of course, we’re aware, but… really, it’s been fantasy land here in our hotel.

We had the evening free after our bahasa Indonesia classes and dinner at the hotel. It’s been so nice to share meals and spend most of our time together; we haven’t yet gotten sick of each other (I don’t think we will) and we always seem to have great conversations, no matter the mix of people that end up together at a table. So, we chatted after dinner for quite a long time before a small group of us went out to a big shopping mall down the road.

At the mall, we spent a lot of time on the floor devoted entirely to batik wear. An entire floor (this mall is bigger than anything we have in anywhere near me… I think there were about 14 floors and a basement)! There were shirts, dresses, scarves, accessories, pillows, etc. So beautiful. Actually, our financial lady had bought us all batik shirts and passed them out yesterday, and I wore mine to the mall. I wanted to buy another but I think I’ll wait until we’re out of the city, which is full of expensive stuff.

After returning from the mall, we gathered more people and went out to a cafe. We ate gelato and drank Bintang, a beer brewed in East Java. It was so great to sit around and relax and talk! I got a chance to take a few pictures, as did a couple of other volunteers. We sat outside and listened to a band play covers of 90’s American music… Alanis, Michael Jackson, the Cranberries, etc. So excellent. We may have danced… we may have ruffled some feathers. We certainly sang and applauded like Americans do. And we spent about $200 after all was said and done… it’s so expensive here. That’s about Rp 2,000,000!

We came back and I thought I’d sleep the whole night through, but I ended up getting about five hours of sleep, and now I’m here, in the dining room of the hotel, hanging out with everyone else who’s already awake. I’m going to go drink some jackfruit juice!

Bye!
Sam

Selamat pagi! Good morning from Jakarta, land of exhausted Peace Corps volunteers!

We arrived here on Thursday after a short flight from Bangkok and caught a bus to our hotel. The bus ride was about an hour long, and we met a couple of our staff including our medical officer, who’s extremely kind. Initial impressions… hot, humid, beautiful, busy. There are so many motorcycles and bajaj that streets here are constantly congested.

We arrived and checked in Thursday night and finally met our country director over dinner on the top of the hotel, in the open air. There was an amazing view of the Jakarta skyline. It seems the skyscrapers stretch from one end of the horizon to the other; I’ve never seen such a sprawling city center, not even in New York.

Yesterday was our first day of pre-service training… I think. We’re all still reeling from the flight and time changes. My poor feet and ankles are twice their normal size by the end of the day. Hopefully today will be different! We’ve started our bahasa Indonesia classes, begun our medical briefings, and learned a lot more about our upcoming trip to East Java. We’ll be staying with host families, five volunteers and one staff member per “cluster,” two clusters per “link,” and two links that are across a large road (and reasonably far apart) from one another. Every couple of weeks we’ll meet at the “hub” for more classes and activities, and weekends will be free for travel with our families, by ourselves, or with other volunteers.

We’ve met some amazing (and improtant) people since arriving in Jakarta. Our safety and security officer is an amazingly kind East Javan man who took us out to supper our first night free on the town… although we only went a couple of doors down. Still, he’s been so helpful and patient with us! Our language instructors are both equally patient. The American staff are great and full of information and experiences. We’ve also met the deputy governor of tourism and culture in Jakarta, the American ambassador to Indonesia (who was very serious and quick to inform us rather sternly what a “big deal” it is that we’re here), and a bunch of former PCVs who are now living in Jakarta (though they served all over the world). We met them over dinner last night, though everyone was so tired that I don’t think we took as much advantage of their presence as we would have liked. Yesterday was our first full day of training and language classes and that, on top of the weather and jet-lag, made for a tired bunch of superheroes.

The food here has been great! We’ve had all sorts of nasi, lots of fruity soups and fresh fruit, delicious savory soups (although the tom ka last night was so spicy that I took one bite and coughed for three minutes), great juices, excellent coffee with gula, and meat dishes that I gobble up like nobody’s business. A few of us will be starting a blog to keep recipes and photos of food, which we’ll compile in a year into a cookbook for the next group of volunteers (who will arrive in a year). So keep an eye out for that! It’s going to be great!

As far as cultural adjustments… we’re not using squatty potties yet! But we’re getting practice using the sprayers. Heh. Also… everyone is so nice and they like to laugh at us, but I’d rather appear silly for trying something that have people resent me for being closed-minded.

Today, we have a full schedule, including two hours of language class. Though we’re busy through dinner, I think our friend Pak Wawan (our safety and security officer; I don’t want to use anyone’s full name, so I’ll just use initals) will take us out to find some dessert and maybe look around at a mall. Wonder how we’ll get there… taxi or bajaj?

After our outing, I’ll try to post my new pictures. I’ll also try and get the link to our group flickr page!

Sempai jumpa nanti!!
Sam

I’m in Love Already

I can’t believe the amazing things I have seen, done, and eaten today… or the amazing people I’ve met.

Today was staging day. We met in the hotel lobby and moved into a conference room. First, we finished up our registration paperwork and got our first H1N1 vaccination (I think there will be one more soon, then another in a year). Then, we started talking, doing activities, making skits and silly drawings, and listening to some amazing speakers… a very important regional director for PC was here, as well as the “number two” from the Indonesian embassy in Washington, DC (I’m thinking he’s maybe the junior ambassador?). We finished up our staging by getting our malaria pill package and discussing travel plans. I volunteered to be a group leader and will be in charge of some important stuff tomorrow. At the end of the staging, we were invited to supper at the consul general’s house in San Francisco, one of seven Indonesian consulates in the US.

The consul general’s house is absolutely amazing. It’s full of Indonesian artwork and furniture and it has thirteen rooms. There’s an amazing view of San Francisco (including the Bay and Golden Gate bridges) from the rooftop. The consul general and his wife were amazingly kind and wonderful, as were all of the other Indonesian folks I met there. I even got to practice using some of my Indonesian words and learned a few new ones.

But I’m going to talk about the dinner. During the initial reception, a lovely woman brought out trays of hors d’oeuvres: a spring roll, a coconut bar, and a crazy but delicious gelatin snack that had a green layer, a pink layer, and a brown layer. All three were do delicious! After the consulate general, the regional director, and the embassy representative said a few words, we moved into the dining area. We started the meal out with baso (meatball) with tofu and green onions. Our main course was chicken satay, sauteed vegetables, sweet corn cakes, nasi goreng (fried rice) with extremely, extremely spicy pepper sauce and sweet cucumber pickle, and fried shrimp. Then, the most amazing dessert ever… a clear glass bowl with very thin coconut milk, avocado cubes, jackfruit, tiny baby young coconuts that were so young that they were about the size of a grape and had no milk in the center, and strips of regular coconut meat. It was absolutely amazing! I’ve never had anything like it. Finally, we had some Sumatran coffee with sugar, which was, of course, divine. Plus, the conversation all throughout the meal was just lovely, inspiring, and exciting (yet relaxing… calming).

The Indonesian people I met tonight were so incredibly kind and helpful. They were gracious and tolerant of our questions, which to them, I’m sure, seemed extremely basic and perhaps silly. Their openness and willingness to help us learn a little bit more about Indonesian culture was so comforting.

Tomorrow morning… I’m waking up at 5:45 so I can go with another trainee to get coffee before our departure at 7. Since I’m a group leader, I have to be in the lobby by 6:45, which isn’t that bad. Our flight for Tokyo doesn’t leave until 12 or so, but that just means we’ll have time to talk and have breakfast at the airport (ALL of the trainees, by the way, are totally amazing, impressive, funny, happy, smart, and fantastic people. There are 12 ladies and 8 gents and the regional director gave us all a nice overview of what we’ve collectively accomplished in our lives so far, and it was amazing! I’m so impressed and proud to be a part of this group!).

We have a three hour layover in Tokyo and then it’s off to Bangkok, where we’ll stay for 9 hours and get rooms in the hotel at the airport. Then… Jakarta. I’ll try to post again as soon as possible, but I fear that now is the moment for us to begin reciting our new mantra… “embrace the ambiguity.”

I love you! I think of you! I’ll try to get online again as soon as possible!

XOXOXO, see you in 27 months, America!
Samantha

San Fran!

Took some lovely pictures today in San Fran. Here they are! (I hope that link works. If it doesn’t just log onto Facebook and look at the album via my photo albums page. I am not dealing with figuring out how to get a Facebook widget into this blog. I’ve been up for nearly twenty hours, so forget it! Maybe after this I’ll just use my Flickr.)

Met my lovely hotel roomie tonight! She’s from Michigan, too. Super sweet gal! I fear I may have talked her ear off already but I’m just so excited to start meeting my fellows that I can’t stop the beat.

Today I had a great day. Everything was just what I needed it to be. I hung out at the wharf and took some pictures before Al and Liv picked me up… while I waited for them to arrive I managed to scratch out a few post-cards and take my first self-portrait (I plan to take a self-portrait every day for the next 27 months). After Liv and Al found my hotel room, the three of us took the bus down to Haight-Ashbury and got delicious drinks and the best burritos ever… plus, I bought another book, and Liv and Al gave me yet another! We got to walk and talk and be sweet to one another… such a pleasant day. Boy, those ladies can sure catch buses. I wouldn’t have seen as much of the city as I did if they hadn’t been here. San Fran love!

And… I’m totally sunburned! It’s excellent! I love summer!!

Sam goes to San Fran

Well, I can’t believe I’m about to type this… I’m currently blogging from the airplane on the way to San Francisco. Yes, it’s true! Wireless internet, on the plane. Mix that with baby laptop and I’m in business… for only $9.95 for the entire flight. I don’t think I’d normally bother buying internet access on an airplane, but I’m going to take what I can get since I don’t think I’ll have much internet access once I get to Indonesia.

Mom (and family) threw me an excellent going-away brunch yesterday! In addition to seeing lots of lovely family members and friends who might as well be family, I got to spend some time with four fantastic ladies from Bloomington. After their arrival on Friday evening, mom made chocolate martinis and we got to visit for a bit… even with Nanny, who was resting in her royal blue satin jammies in bed. There were ten women plus my stepdad in the house that night! How lovely!

The best part of brunch was seeing my friends and family start to learn a little bit about Indonesia. Mom had checked out lots of children’s books, which turned out to be the best idea ever. They were full of pictures and maps and basic info that was easy to sort through and quick to read. I should have gone straight to the kid’s section of the library when I got back from New York City a few weeks ago… In addition to the books, we all watched a two-part travel documentary featuring one very silly American woman and a rather beautiful Aussie man trekking around Indonesia. I had seen it before, but it was great to watch everyone, especially my little (and big) cousins, get some visual idea of where I’m going. Plus, the food was great!! Mom made doughnuts and tiny quiches, plus we had a coffee bar with chocolate covered spoons… outrageous! The desserts were great, too. Thanks to everyone who came by and helped out with the party!

Now, I’m on my way to San Fran. Orientation at the hotel doesn’t start until tomorrow at noon, so I have from about noon today until then to hang out, write some post-cards, find some sourdough bread to munch, and meet up with two fellow Bloomington gals who are traveling through SF this week. I’m so excited to see them!

I’ll try to post again soon, probably from the hotel tomorrow evening after orientation. I don’t imagine we won’t get free wireless internet at the hotel… but even if I have to pay again, I’ll do it. That’s how much I like you!

Love,
Sam