Category Archives: Logistics

Campur-campur (All Mixed Up)

So many emotions today!

First off, I got into the house I’ll be renting for the next year. It is still quite disheveled and empty; this week is going to be hectic as I start working and try to organize things. It’s making me feel a little nuts, but there’s already a light at the end of the tunnel. We worked out water and locks today and bought some shelves. Just a little ways to go: buy a stove top and bed, clean things up, and then I must unpack. I have lovely neighbors. Really cute ladies with even cuter kids and husbands who fix the pipes of my house. Ha!

Second, culture shock! It always happens. Lost my cool at about 5:30 pm today. A lot goes on: switching back to bahasa for most of the day (mental exhaustion), readjusting physically to foods/heat, being back in center-of-attention land, not yet being able to be independent (housing and transportation not yet settled), etc.

Third, gratitude. I’m so excited to see friends and to be starting my jobs. I’m glad I’ve got a good support network at home and here to help me. So glad I made the choice to push myself out of my comfort zone and try this on my own. Glad for connections old and new, devoted love and caring, kind attention, and technology that lets me get in touch with everyone in a heartbeat.

Feeling super groggy and exhausted; tomorrow’s a house-organizing and workday (lesson planning and tutoring). Still feeling pretty good about a daily post. A photo of me and my favorite new neighbor ladies!

Love,
Sam

PS: Meaty thought of the day: code-switching for cross-cultural integration/harmony (assimilation? adaptation?) purposes is an act of giving, which means there’s nothing wrong with taking time out for self-care, rebooting the system, re-charging the battery, whatever. We make the choice to be responsive and reflective, reactive and attentive, patient and respectful, open-minded and open-eyed. It takes energy, and it can take a lot out of us. What it gives us in return helps make it worth it.

Difficulty at the beginning works supreme success. –I Ching (Book of Changes) 

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Midsummer dreams!

Of course, I’d never want do anything to jinx myself, but I decided to post a little update since I’m currently halfway through my summer break and planning to head back to Malang in a little over a month. So exciting!! I’ve got a lot of tasks to complete before I take off on September 14th, not the least of which is organizing my visa details. 

I’ve been working on a few exciting things lately, and I can’t express how much I’m looking forward to the next year or two of working and enjoying my travels! If you’re reading this and you know me, you probably remember what a huge struggle it was for me to decide to postpone my enrollment in graduate school. I had planned last year to begin this fall, and in January/February of this year I decided it just wasn’t the right step for me. It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, but I feel more vindicated than ever that it was the right one, and it’s my current excitement for the future that’s fueling the fire!

Here’s my basic work plan: I’ve been hired to do some online writing tutoring, I’ll be studying Indonesian at my host university (and if you’d like to talk to me about what that means, please let me know and I will email you!), and I’ll hopefully be doing some additional tutoring. It has been a total blessing to get this online job since it fits my work experience, keeps me teaching in some capacity, and pays well by US standards. I’ll be working part time hours. I have been going through the training program for the past couple of weeks, and honestly I’ve been learning so much about how to be a better tutor. It has been most validating and inspiring. It’s my first time doing online/remote work, and it makes me so happy and relieved to know that wherever I go in the next couple of years I’ll at least have that to focus on and use to support myself. Nothing to motivate you to do well at a job than financial necessity, huh?

Yep, it’s been on my mind: I’m moving to Indonesia for the first time on my own funds! Magical opportunity! This is going to be yet again a totally new experience of life over there, and I’m super into the idea of trying things from all different angles and through all sorts of programs/means. Constantly being pushed out of my comfort zone and required to be scrappy and resourceful, feeling like an adult for the first time in a long time rather than an eternal adolescent doing school and getting my hand held. I mean, there’s something great to be said about being taken care of by the federal government, but I know I’m going to learn and experience a lot more by doing it all myself. Empowerment!!!

One of the most exciting things I have going on is my housing situation. It is pleasing me on several levels. First, the simple fact that I enjoy my own space and haven’t lived alone since 2009. Secondly, I get to live in a house abroad and pay less than what most people pay per month for their mortgage for two years’ rent.* I tell you this not to brag but rather to entice you to join me. 😉 Thirdly, the most exciting thing is just that the house is so dern cute! I have some pics of the outside and expect to receive inside pics sometime in the next couple of weeks. Here they are, not great but it’s something.

There’s a front porch area, and I’m going to get plants that stay alive. Mark my words! It has a little living room, one bathroom, a bedroom that’s apparently proportionally large compared to the rest of the place, and a kitchenette. There’s room for a motorcycle, and it’s about half an hour from campus (worth the drive time considering the price, and I won’t be on campus everyday). I’m just tickled. Can’t wait to get in there and get settled! 

So that’s all from me for now! Just a little update. Lots of fun to look forward to, and lots of magical and wondrous times ahead with friends and family Stateside during the next five weeks… will post about that stuff later!
Sammy

*Signing a two-year lease was part of the “deal,” and I don’t have a time frame except roughly 1-2 years more in Malang. Still. We found a cheap house even by Malang standards, and paying the 2 year rate for 1 year would have even been a bargain. #Vforthewin.

One month in


— follow me on Instagram @tisamlette —


As it turns out, this research project is off to an incredibly easy and incredibly difficult start, both at the same time.

Choosing to research a topic I had very little concrete knowledge about was quite wise, in retrospect (I’m not exactly sure how my proposal was successful; after a few weeks, I can see for myself that I was misguided in my understandings of things I suggested to be true my proposal! I didn’t realize just how little I knew!). Since I have so much to learn, I can learn a lot quickly, which feels great. Generally, asking a few questions to one or a few people yields a great deal of information and many new ideas for topics, events, or cultural/religious phenomena to research. As a result, I’ve learned a huge amount in a short time, and most of it seems to be quite essential to grasping what’s “going on” with participants and/or healing culture here.

It’s just the same as the language learning curve; in the beginning, there are lots of basics to learn, like survival verbs (eat, sleep, drink, want) and phrases (thank you, please help me, where’s the bathroom, I don’t speak your language). As time progresses, one’s knowledge and understanding of the language becomes increasingly nuanced, and this can often be when language learning begins to get more difficult, such as in expressing abstract concepts or feelings or discussing politics or religion. Since I’m still building my foundational knowledge about the concepts related to this research project, gratification comes quickly; there are lots of basics to learn, and basics are generally easy to grasp. I’m certain that as time goes by and discussions and concepts become increasingly nuanced and esoteric, I’ll encounter more serious difficulties. This understanding is keeping me in check; this last nine months aren’t going to be a walk in the park, even if all I technically need to do is talk to people, read, and write!

Of course, few difficulties have arisen so far. Many of these challenges stem from the language barrier. My Indonesian has quickly returned, even though for the first few days I stuttered and sputtered to get out words and sentences that used to come easy to me. The real (and welcomed) challenge now is Javanese. Pak H and Mas M are doing their best to work on my Javanese with me, and the part-time undergrads in the office of international relations—where I set up shop each day—are all aware that I’m trying to learn, so they are more than happy to “take me along” for a chat in Javanese. As you may already know, there are many levels of Javanese, and the two most common are high and low Javanese (or halus, smooth, and kasar, rough). It’s difficult to try to learn them both at once, but I’m trying my best. All of my friends in the office tell people I can already speak Javanese, which puts me on the spot to practice… that’s is good, really, even if I start making a fool of myself in front of people I’ve just met. Folks seem to really appreciate that I try and often succumb to fits of giggles not because they are making fun of me but because it’s quite rare that a foreigner speaks even a little Javanese. I like the feeling of closeness it brings, and I like showing people that someone foreign can be interested in learning and trying the bahasa daerah, the language of the land.

Another language difficulty: some of the participants I’ve worked with so far use a lot of religious (Arabic) terms that are not in my vocabulary set. Since the terms are religious/spiritual in nature and contextually dependent on the religious framework from which they arose and to which they refer, learning the translation alone is often not sufficient for understanding. The translation simply doesn’t translate, so there’s another layer of knowledge I need to build (i.e., Islam and folk/local forms of Islam in Indonesia) before I can fully grasp what participants are saying. Even once this knowledge base has been built up somewhat, there’s a whole ‘nother layer of “translating” what people are saying in terms of the Javanese way of communication/expression, quite different than what I’m accustomed to in the United States (and not dependent on religious identification; it’s cultural).

Similar to the difficulties that graduate students sometimes experience in the States depending on the interests and objectives of their advising professors, I am somewhat at risk of my project being hijacked, for lack of a more polite term. It’s another challenge I’m facing. Everyone is very eager to help me, and one person in particular is very enthusiastic, but I’m not sure my project goals are completely clear at times to everyone who wants to help.

Of course, I choose to accept help in whatever form, mostly for reasons related to another challenge: finding women ‘healers’ here is difficult, and I need all the help I can get. I’ve decided to remain open to meeting with male ‘healers,’ however, since traditional, alternative, and spiritual/religious healing and curing in Javanese culture are complex topics about which, as I mentioned, I know all too little.* Obviously, I can learn about them from just about anyone without formally collecting interviews for use in the final project, and talking to male healers is useful in this stage of the project. I think it would be wise for me to seek out multiple gatekeepers throughout the next few months so that I can meet with a diverse group of people, not restricting myself to the contacts of one gatekeeper.

So there you are, just a little update about some of the practical aspects of executing the project after a few weeks’ time “in the field.” I will share some descriptions of fieldwork and interactions with healers in the next entry.

xo
Sammy


*’Healers’ is a term that doesn’t really translate into this cultural context in my experience so far. There are many different types of people in East Java who: perform curing with various methods and personal/individual styles; give spiritual, psychological, relationship, and life advice and guidance; support families in solving problems and support women in finding partners and/or conceiving and/or giving birth; perform magic to help people become wealthier or more successful; cast spells and do ‘black magic’; fight ‘black magic’ with ‘white magic’; provide traditional medicines, herbs, and supplements; provide various types of massage for various purposes; use prayer and ‘soul power’ to heal physical and mental disorders; help ‘crazy people’ regain their souls, also known as healing sick souls; help people recover quickly from illness or injury; and more, honestly. I have met with six different types of ‘healers’ so far, and each of them has a unique practice based on varying beliefs, religious and spiritual practices, and life experiences. I can’t even feel comfortable using the term dukun anymore, since five of the six of these—excluding one old woman—didn’t want to be called dukun due to the generally negative connotations of the term.