Accepting Kerouac


Okay, time to get serious. I’m sorry I haven’t sent any letters lately. I haven’t been able to get to a post office that won’t charge me a dozen times the normal rate to send letters home. However, I’m desperate for a letter from you, if you are reading this. I miss you and I need something to remind me of what normal life is; my new life is still abnormal, foreign, and rather tumultuous, at least in my head, sometimes.


What does “integration” mean? How am I supposed to “integrate” into this community? I’m feeling very anxious about the daunting reality of language barriers and the very large possibility that I will never be able to communicate in the way I want to, not because I won’t be able to master Indonesian but because I will not be able to master Javanese as well before two years has passed (two forms of it, no less). I will always be an outsider, of course, but it doesn’t help that I am not learning the everyday language of the community. There’s no sense in starting to study it now, either, since I need stronger Indonesian for work: all of the teachers and students speak Indonesian at school, in the classroom and most of the time outside the classroom, and town/official meetings are done in Indonesian.

It’s so frustrating to be left out of all conversations at home. If we have guests or family over, Javanese is spoken…I greet the guests and then sit on the couch, not really there. It’s depressing. It’s not helping me make friends. In fact, I feel myself caring less and less about speaking English in front of Indonesian friends when I’m around Andy because I reason that they speak Javanese in front of us and don’t seem to care that we can’t understand. Then I feel like a jerk for not caring. It’s my awful way of reacting to the situation and it’s terribly closed-minded. Not very Peace Corps, huh? Isn’t that ugly? At least I’m willing to admit it, I guess. I’d rather tell the truth than say everything is gumdrops, lollipops, and multicolored doves holding wings and flying off together into the sunset.

It’s startling how impatient I’ve become over the past month, with myself and others. I can’t tell if I’m over-stressed or homesick or still adjusting to the move or what, but I’m sure losing my perspective. But don’t worry, I’m not acting on my frustrations…actively. I’m trying to remember the words of wisdom from SK and others who have helped me out over the past couple of weeks. Still, I feel guilty for not being as patient as I thought I could be.

The impatience leads to the possibility of very bad days and potentially great days. If I get set off or feel angry at myself for some silly thing I did or didn’t do, I feel homesick and (almost) want to go home. If I have a day that goes smoothly or even spectacularly, naturally I feel elated and imagine staying on for a third year. The rollercoaster of the high-highs and low-lows. I wish I wasn’t so attached to my emotions; this is what I’m working on and will probably be working on for the rest of my life.


Busted open a letter from Evelyn last night. I couldn’t wait. I was feelin’ so blue and lonely and idle (a Sunday with no plans, PCV worst nightmare). Wrote her a letter back and felt immediately relieved and somewhat normal. Now, to find a way to Madiun to send it. Gah!

This past weekend, Andy and I went to Pacitan, a district/city on the south coast, about three hours away from Magetan. We went with a family from Andy’s village, the mother of which heads a bank branch in Panekan. They have two kids, a girl in college and a boy in high school, both great. We chatted most of the way to Pacitan and scenery during the drive was the most spectacular I’ve seen since traveling through Southern Europe.

We first went to the hot springs, which turned out to be hot swimming pools with which I was unimpressed. Next we went to a neat cave that was crowded, muggy, and impossibly beautiful but in serious danger of being destroyed, I thought; there were enormous fans blowing constantly, flood lights, little to no restrictions about what could or couldn’t be touched/walked on, and definitely not enough garbage bins. I shared my thoughts with Andy and we had an interesting discussion about the culture of conservation and whether the tendency to preserve is exceptionally American (or Western) and whether we over-protect things in the West. The division was that land is part of the world that we share but it’s also the property of its governing body, which can do as it pleases. Are there any international or worldwide standards for nature preservation or conservation?

After the cave we stopped at the market just outside it and I bought a great ring. We headed to the beach and got caught in the rain but managed to stay dry under the awnings at the fish market just offshore. We ate shrimp, tuna, and marlin…freshly caught earlier that day and fried right quick. The marlin was the best fish I’ve ever eaten in my whole life. (I love how there are tons of new superlatives in my life as a result of embarking on this adventure.) Andy and I were both stuffed from the lunch we ate before hitting the beach but we couldn’t resist the tasty treats! I thought my stomach would explode and if it had it would have absolutely been worth it! That marlin was unbelievably delicious!! Salty and fresh and meaty and perfect. Andy and I are already planning a trip back to Pacitan just so we can eat some more of it.


Highlights from the 4th of July and some more house pictures. Bon app, as mama bastio would say.


One thought on “Accepting Kerouac”

  1. I enjoyed reading your letters. I learned more details about the trip than Andy told me about. Things will get better as your language skills will improve.


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