fresh for ’88, kill my honey dead
Well, I had a funny thing happen this morning at 3:15 am: I didn’t wake up for sahur! There wasn’t a call from the nearby mosque for some reason, and I felt so comfy in my bed and so full of memories of last night’s enormous dinner that I just kept sleeping. I managed to make it through the day today, though I had a rough time putting thoughts together during a conference call with Ken and Betsy and the volunteer advisory counsel (of which I am a part). I’m sure nobody noticed anything except me. Anyways, that means about 24 hours of not eating and drinking, the longest period in my life I’ve gone without at least drinking something. I’m sure, too, skipping or forgetting sahur is not an uncommon occurrence, so it’s good to get the perspective and feeling.
I had a lovely time this weekend traveling back to Malang to visit my former host family. I met up with Erika and Noel, too, which was excellent. My host family is doing well… still as funny as ever. None of them except Sinta is fasting. Ibu has a gaggle of kids from Kalimantan staying at the house while they’re in a study program, so she’s got to wake up at 2 am to cook; she got a stomachache after a few days of this and decided to stop fasting. Bapak said he’ll fast once he’s forty years old (ha!). He likes smoking too much.
Ibu took me to Junerejo to get a haircut, my first one in Indonesia. I was planning on letting my hair grow until I went home, but I realize now that would be extremely silly. My hair was getting way too hot and the ends were all crispy from the constant mandis and hair-washing, so it had to go. Luckily, the haircut turned out to be one of the best ever (matched only by the stylings of Ms. Evelyn). Plus it was about $0.50. Score!
Visiting Tlekung again was so refreshing and soothing (even though it was freezing cold and I found myself—to my surprise—wishing I had a sweater and a pair of slippers. Probably it was 65 degrees). It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been nearly three months since I moved away. Visiting the old host families, catching up with my neighborhood friends, and seeing the beautiful hills and valleys of the village were such treats. Big news in the village: Bu As might be marrying a man imported from the Netherlands. He apparently wants to convert to Islam and Bu As’s younger sister—who lives in the Netherlands with her own Dutch husband—is hooking her up. This is big news, especially for Bu As’s daughter, Dewi, who’s twelve years old (her father died a couple years back). I’ll be interested to see if and when it happens. Hopefully I get invited to the wedding!
Took a car back to Magetan on Tuesday, stuffed myself silly during the evening meal, and slept for about ten hours…straight through sahur! Whoops!
And then I didn’t write anything for a week because I was too busy sleeping on the beach, hanging out with my Peace Corps friends, and eating delicious toast and jam.
The end of Ramadhan was neat but I didn’t get to experience Idul Fitri since my car to Bali via Surabaya picked me up at seven on the morning of Hari Raya, the big day. I did see throngs of folks flocking to mosque for the special morning prayer, decked out and shiny in their new Lebaran clothes. From what I hear, everybody goes to Mosque on Idul Fitri, whether they pray regularly or not during the regular days of the year (it’s sort of like how the only memories I have of church are of Christmas services).
Took a private car up to Surabaya and hung out in the terminal for about five hours waiting for Noel, Diana, and Luke to show up to catch our bus to Bali. We ended up eating rice and swapping stories until the train departed an hour earlier than scheduled—we almost missed it and I’m fairly confident that had we been “regular” folks it wouldn’t have waited for us. Luckily we had the stupid-foreigner thing going for us, which lends a certain amount of leeway for imbecility; we were the last people on before it jetted out of the terminal and were privileged to pay an extra $10 for our troubles. I was supremely embarrassed and could feel all of the Indonesian eyeballs roll in their sockets as we clamored aboard, taking our seats in the very front row, but thankfully Indonesians are a lot nicer than Americans, who, I’d imagine, would shamelessly harass a group of confused Asians for delaying departure of a Greyhound. It could be wishful thinking, though; Indonesians are generally softer-spoken than Americans.
We took the bus straight to the easternmost edge of Java and hopped a ferry to cross to Bali (bus and all). It was a little after midnight and we watched the stars shine from the top deck of the boat. Once we hit Bali, the bus drove another few hours to Denpasar, the capital, before dropping us off. We hopped an angkota for an astoundingly high price and boogied on over to Kuta, the tourist city where Noel had booked our lodgings (we stayed for two days in the city before the others arrived). We hit a dog on the way. A few words about dogs in Indonesia: they are very few in Java because Muslims don’t keep dogs; Balinese dogs are notoriously rabid; dogs can scream.
We arrived in Kuta at about four in the morning on Saturday, just in time for sunrise but six hours before our check-in time. Grabbed coffee (not Javanese coffee—espresso!!) and snacks at a 24-hour convenience store and watched the drunk people stumble toward their hotels since the previous night’s party was just ending. We ended up bumming on the beach with our duffel bags and giant Peace Corps issued red life vests until checking into our hostel. After check-in, we proceeded to bum on the beach until we ate pizza, after which we bummed on the beach with drinks. Luke and I went out dancing later that evening (until four), which was a blast. Though the clubs were full of rich, drunk Aussie surfer-types, we had a lot of fun and I felt more normal than I have in a while…not having to worry about what I have to do tomorrow or who’s going to try and feed me next was delightful.
Sunday was very similar to Saturday, except we ate burritos and Noel and Diana came out dancing, too. We were out again until four, getting back to the hostel, showering, and collapsing into bed just in time for Bart to show up from Malang at five. We slept a few hours before getting up, mustering ourselves, and hitting the beach.
We headed out of Kuta toward the bungalows Sara had rented a couple months ago—some of the other volunteers had already checked in and others were still en route. The bungalows were about an hour north of the city, isolated from the hullabaloo, peaceful and luxurious. We had half of the resort rented for our party, each group of four to six taking one bungalow. This place was the max. I’ve never stayed in such a place and probably won’t again for a long, long time. Two floors, a big porch, and a spectacular outdoor, open-air bathroom and shower in a garden. We were given oil lamps at night instead of using electric lights, and each bed had a mosquito net and a fan (not glamorous but very, very appreciated). Each bungalow was a little different and they were all surrounded by beautiful trees and tropical flowers. The beach was about a ten minute walk away, itself sufficiently isolated from the storm of tourists and surfers in Kuta, surrounded by cliffs, rocks, and caves on either end of the half a mile or so stretch of pebbly sand. The reef was fairly rough and rocky, making swimming adventurous at least and sometimes difficult but providing a perfectly picturesque natural boardwalk during low tide.
Reuniting with the Peace Corps folks was even more sublime than the beach. We spent four days lounging on the sand together, eating delicious food (toast, granola, fruit with yogurt every morning for breakfast instead of white rice?! Genius!), swapping stories, collecting seashells, bumming around the pool, telling jokes, ordering ice cream, and getting really, really tan (or, in Luke and Diana’s case, trying our damndest to turn from human beings into Christmas hams). It was lovely to commune and get a sense of normalcy via conversations about everything from insane eating situations to crazy school adventures to the excitement of making it through six months to successes and failures in our host families to how great it feels not to be told to mandi since we’re on vacation.
I travelled back to Magetan with Andy yesterday, leaving Bali after eating ice cream with Truong, Maggie, Scott, Lauren, and Travis and stopping at a gift shop to buy souvenirs for family and friends here in Java. Amazingly, our scheduled travel car picked us up from Kuta early, but for some reason the ride back to the west coast seemed to take twice as long as the ride in. After the ferry and another short ride we waited at the Surabaya terminal for about five minutes before hopping on the bus (and saying farewell to Diana, Luke, and Erika), and the rides from Maospati station and then from Magetan were short and sweet. Without stopping except once to eat, it was about seventeen hours travel time for me (and I’m the farthest from Bali), not really that bad if done overnight.
The week’s tastiest treats: lycee lime cocktail with fresh basil, tamarind ginger soda, grilled pineapple sandwiches, banana juice, caramel ice cream, French fries and ketchup, smores with Hershey’s and Honey Maid and Jet-Puffed (thanks, mom!), oleh-oleh from Colleen’s village, M&Ms, everything with cheese.
This vacation was much needed (if not well-deserved*) and I’m so happy to have spent it with such good friends and in such a beautiful place.
*Disclaimer: I do realize I’m not in the middle of the Sahara eating cassava balls day in and day out, fending off camel spiders, and sleeping on a straw mat.
How did it get to be September 21? Yesterday was our first day back at school since vacation started two weeks ago. We had what was called halal bihalal, a special Indonesian ceremony to celebrate Hari Raya (I’m told that nobody in the Middle East or in Muslim communities outside Indonesia celebrates halal bihalal).
The day started with a short ceremony at school during which the entire student population individually saleemed every teacher, including me. We then visited different community and religious leaders in Turi and Joso. Luckily I didn’t feel too out of place because I had been given—and had accepted—the advice to wear a jilbab.
Unfortunately, I didn’t know the halal bihalal was going to last until three in the afternoon; the tiny people showed up for les at 1:30 and were eventually shooed away by my host mother when she realized I wasn’t coming to meet them. It was for the best, anyways, since I was feeling fairly loopy and drained.
Yes, it’s true… things take a while to get going around here. My English course for the teachers at school has been in the works since the middle of June and I have yet to hold class. It keeps getting pushed back, pushed back, pushed back, rearranged, cancelled, etc. and the anticipation is starting to wear on me. I thought that it would finally start this week, but nope! Yesterday I stayed home sick from school and the next possible day is Friday, though it’s some sort of halal bihalal again, so students are excused from school and extracurriculars are cancelled. I’m hoping I can start the advanced course on Saturday. Plus, I haven’t had a formal English club since June. And the extracurricular study group for seniors (national exam prep) that I’m co-teaching has met once since school started (it was cancelled today).
I’m hoping to start a regular English department meeting, though it’ll have to be either directly before or after school since there is not one single hour where one of the three English teachers isn’t teaching. It would be so good to get the three English teachers together: their strategies and methods are very different and they have a lot to share and teach each other, in my opinion…but we’ll see if I can make it happen.
I just had a fantastic afternoon! Lucky for me. I was feelin’ kinda grumpy about the nothing-is-happening-yet thing. I popped over to Bu Yati’s place to find her father-in-law knee deep in dry corn cobs and corn husks, sorting through the rotten ears and bagging the good ones. She excitedly rubbed my belly upon greeting me, exclaiming her immense delight at my good turn of health. Some of the neighborhood kids—the littlest and the cutest—spied me through the open doorway, despite the low lighting, and practically jumped over Grandpa’s squatting frame to fling themselves into my arms. Man, if there’s one thing that makes it all worth it, it’s the running-to-hug children.
Took a meander through the fields with the babes, playing lion and making the farmers laugh (I’m not shy to do very un-Indonesian-ladylike things when playing with the kids: running, jumping, crawling, yelling, etc.). They had a nice time fighting over who got to get piggy-backed and I ended up carrying Indah through the fields—a darling little girl with special needs.
As I headed back home, I spied my neighbor Bu Suti sitting on her front porch with her roosters. She’s an amazing old woman who was left by her husband and all but disowned by her children, for reasons yet unclear to me, and I love her. I ran inside and grabbed my last oleh-oleh from Bali and scampered across the road, sweating like crazy since today was the most humid day in ages and I kept my hair down to cover my tattoos. I offered the souvenir to Bu Suti’s extreme delight and answered all her questions about Bali, nibbling on a sweet steamed rice treat that she lovingly forced upon me.
While we were chatting, I saw a man and a little girl ride up on their motorcycle and stop in front of my house. They entered as another motorcycle showed up, womanned by two young girls. I figured they were MAN Panekan kids and started to call them; luckily, they answered and came across the street. They turned out to be a middle schooler from Panekan and a vocational school junior from Magetan, adventuring to the village in search of me. Amazing, huh?
We had a lovely conversation and snapped some great pictures. They were extremely animated and their English was great. We ate candies in Bu Suti’s house after the little girl from before—who turned out to be the middle schooler’s younger sister—and Lia and Putri joined us on the porch. Before they left, I met the two girls’ father, a very nice man from an island east of Lombok. I gave the little girl a pencil topped with a wooden tucan (I bought a pack in Bali to give out to kids as occasion offered) and gave my phone number to the older girls. Ah, new friends!
dearly beloved… we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…
dear krinkle kut… adore, b-sides
have you told truong lately that he’s amazing? go, go, go!
enjoy these photos from bali: