Category Archives: Pictures

Bromo Redux

Long time, no blog! I think I need to face the reality that my blog is now purely a travel blog…

This past week, I visited Bromo for the second time! I went a little over a year ago but didn’t bring my own camera or travel with anyone I knew. This time, I went with baby sis, Miss V, and Miss C (a PCV serving in the Malang Regency). We brought cameras.

If you’d like to refresh your memory of where/what Bromo is, exactly, feel free to read the intro to my first Bromo post. Basically, it’s a national park featuring several mountains and one very active volcano. One rents a jeep and driver and is driven around the park (the main stop is hiking up to see the crater). The park is east of where I live. It is magical; mountaintops at dawn are just magical, and being up so high in the clouds is magical. Stars are magical. Anyway, pictures speak louder than words, and I’m about to fall asleep.

Enjoy!

Finally… Madura!

A very short intro:

Vriz and I took a trip to Madura to celebrate the wedding of our friend and colleague, Faiz, a Sumenep native. We traveled to Surabaya for a night to visit her family, went to Sumenep after that for a day tour and night layover, ventured to the tiny island of Giliyang for a day and night, and finally zipped back to Sumenep for the wedding the next day. We took the night bus back to Malang after the reception. 🙂

Please enjoy these pictures, especially those of people– not just us, but the lovely people we met along the way!! I realize more and more as I travel and look back on my pictures (and get older, gulp) how much more important pictures of people doing and enjoying things are than pictures of what we see in nature or in our surroundings. I hope you like these as much as I do! So much for that daily blog, huh? Travel blog, anyone?? FINALLY, after nearly four years in East Java, I MADE IT TO MADURA!! 🙂

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Malang is the lowest here, Sumenep is in the center (upper right), and the tiny Giliyang is the farthest east.

Here are the photos! Very short stories, tidbits of info, and general thoughts are in the captions.

Eid al-Adha 2015

From BBC.co.uk because I’m lazy and have already written about this:

This is a four-day public holiday in Muslim countries.

The festival remembers the prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son when God ordered him to.

Ibrahim’s sacrifice

God appeared in a dream to Ibrahim and told him to sacrifice his son Isma’il. Ibrahim and Isma’il set off to Mina for the sacrifice.

As they went, the devil attempted to persuade Ibrahim to disobey God and not to sacrifice his beloved son. But Ibrahim stayed true to God, and drove the devil away.

As Ibrahim prepared to kill his son God stopped him and gave him a sheep to sacrifice instead.

Celebrations

Ibrahim’s complete obedience to the will of God is celebrated by Muslims each year.

Each Muslim, as they celebrate, reminds themselves of their own submission to God, and their own willingness to sacrifice anything to God’s wishes.

During the festival Muslims who can afford to, sacrifice domestic animals, usually sheep, as a symbol of Ibraham’s sacrifice. 

The meat is distributed among family, friends and the poor, who each get a third share.

As with all festivals there are prayers and also presents.

(This was my first attempt at uploading and posting a video. I’m going to try and do more–more in general and more of better quality.)

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.

Parting Ways…in the best way

As I mentioned before, the Malang ETAs Sarah and Grace have recently left, and Ale went to Thailand and won’t be back until after I’m in the US (and then she’s leaving before I come back in September). Grace is coming back for a second Fulbright year in the fall, but she’ll be in Bima, Sumbawa, Nusa Tenggara Timur, rather than Malang, and that’s a whole string of islands away from Java. Thankfully, however, none of my other friends (except ONE really important one) are leaving, and so I get to continue spending time with them–totally selfish sentiment, but gosh, I can’t stand any more goodbyes!

The crew (minus Grace) got to spend a few happy days travelling together in celebration of the ladies’ departures, and these are some of the photos.

Sorry for the lateness of uploading these. You probably didn’t even notice, but it took forever. The universe was against me on this one; everywhere I went, the upload speed was dead slow. So annoying! Magically, though, and without explanation, the situation corrected itself (that’s how it goes here), and now the pics are uploaded. Fun fun fun!!! I’ve just included stories in the captions mostly, so I’m sorry if it’s messy and confusing. I’m sure you’ll pick up what I’m puttin’ down.

First set: Tea plantation. We visited the Kebun Teh, a little up the road from Malang towards Surabaya. It was a beautiful place, and we had some delicious breakfast there (rice with veggies, tempeh, and peanut sauce…it really never gets old) and took an obscene amount of pictures. Especially selfies. And a lot of pictures of people jumping around. We were lucky that Sarah’s little sister Grace (not ETA Grace) was visiting Malang and could join us on this trip!

Second set: Selecta Park. This is a touristy destination that’s part garden, part amusement part, part park, and part water park. Whew, that’s a mouthful. It’s in Batu up in the mountains where the air is clear and free of motorcycle exhaust. Now that we’re out of the rainy season, we’ve finally got our blue skies back, and this was just THE perfect day, weather-wise, to visit a naturey place!

Third set: Balekambang Beach, site of the beautiful Ismoyo temple, perched on a rocky batu karang out in the ocean. Another popular tourist destination for Malangers, it’s a place I hadn’t been to but had wanted to visit all year (now that I’m a Malanger, kinda!). There are several really wonderful beaches on the south coast, as you may recall, and this one is particularly wondrous because of the temple and the crowds it draws. Luckily, we went on a Wednesday, and it was pretty much deserted. Ate a great meal, took excessive amounts of pictures (Lisa, get me?), and stayed bundled up in my jacket to brace myself against the blustery south seas winds!

Fourth set: Driving around Batu. Just some additional photos from the driving we did to get places. I think most of these were taken the day we went to Selecta.

Final set: Random fun with friends! A few more pics.

I hope that was enjoyable, even if it wasn’t as informative as I’d like it to be! I apologize for not providing enough information– please leave any questions in the comments section and I will reply. BUSY life these last couple weeks, and it’s only getting worse as my departure date looms nearer!!

ENJOY ENJOY ENJOY
More intellectually substantive posts forthcoming 🙂
Sam

Sammy Meets Bromo

I’m so excited to share a little bit about finally making the trip to Bromo.

All photo credits in the gallery go to the lovely Sharis Coppens, who does fascinating documentary-based anthropological work in Peru that’s worth checking out. I realized the night before this trip that my camera wouldn’t hold a charge, and I’m very grateful to Sharis for sending these shots my way. Before now, all I had was a smartphone pic snapped of myself by a cute group of Indonesian college kids that I cajoled into enduring data costs for my sake…

So, oddly enough, I’d never actually been to Bromo Semeru Tengger National Park, despite its easy location in East Java; it was one of those things about which I kept telling myself “You have plenty of time!” only to realize that Peace Corps service was over. I’m so glad to have finally made this pilgrimage. Here’s a map with Malang and Bromo circled (click to enlarge):

At the time of the Bromo adventure, I had a couchsurfer with me–a German lady from Switzerland. We were picked up at midnight in a Range Rover, went east to the park after picking up Sharis and her partner and another tourist couple, saw everything, had lunch, saw some more things, and were back by noonish. But wow I tell ya, that trip felt like it was never going to end. Total exhaustion, but it was totally worth it!

Yes, I look the same in both of those photos, but there we are. Below you’ll find the rest–all taken by Sharis. I went through them one by one as best I can and explained what’s going on in the photos; click for gallery view so that you can see the whole captions, which will show up at the bottom of each image.

Enjoy!
Sammy

PS: The next week, my pals and I went back to Rainbow Falls for a little more fun. Coincidence! The first and only two times I’ve been there were in the same two-week time span. Anyways, I love these people and can’t wait to go to Ijen Crater with them in a couple of weeks!

Gili Trawangan is a Strange, Strange Place

Maria and I traveled to Gili Trawangan for New Years this year, and, despite the fact that we spent the majority of our waking hours sitting in the exact same spot in the exact same Indian cafe not looking at much but the ocean and the clouds, it sure was strange!

Gili Trawangan is one of a trio of islands, known as the Gilis, in Nusa Tenggara Barat, Indonesia. They’re off the coast of Lombok, the island home of the famous Rinjani volcano, and Lombok itself is east of Bali, which is east of Java. Here’s a map, with the Gili Islands circled (I’ve also circled Malang, where we live). Click to enlarge:

We flew in from Surabaya on separate planes and slept our first night in Senggigi, me in a “fancy” place where I was splurging for the night, and Maria in a crappy hostel. It was kind of a mistake how we ended up in Senggigi on the same night in the first place, which is why we didn’t stay together. My place ended up looking a little shabbier in real life than it did on the hotel site I used to make the reservation, but the staff was lovely, the balcony off my suite faced the ocean, and the bathroom and bedsheets were sparkling clean. Didn’t end up getting drunk on the beach that night as I thought I would, but I did enjoy some ocean-listening in the darkness and a great night of sleep.

In the morning, Maria came over to use the nice bathroom. We needed to leave together to catch the ferry to Gili, so we hung around my room for an hour or two, just chatting. Our chatting was a big theme of the vacation. We are both having some crazy times in our lives, so we made a good travel pair.

After a taxi ride to, well, near the port, we took a cidomo (horse and carriage) to the ferry. Naturally, we had to stop at the cidomo driver’s friend’s business where people tried to haggle with us to organize our transportation. We said no thanks and explained we were just waiting for the public ferry. After a few confusing moments and even more hectic moments in the port proper, we got our tickets and went to the shore to catch the boat. The transportation hagglers (hawkers?) were super intense, even more so than in Bali. There’s a speedboat service for twenty dollars that gets you to the island in five minutes, and a public ferry that takes half an hour, but costs just a couple of bucks; I don’t think many foreigners take the public ferry, so the hawkers were really trying to get us. If I remember correctly, we were indeed the only foreigners on the public ferry– if not on the way there, but definitely on the way back; I don’t remember any other non-Indonesians on the first ferry. The boat was a rickety old wooden one, crammed with people and stuff but completely safe (or something).

We landed and had to overcome that terrible first hurdle on any travel adventure: find the place we booked to stay. There aren’t any motor vehicles allowed on the islands (yay!), so we had to rely either on the horse and carriage or our own two feet. Lots of people use bicycles on Gili T, but we had our luggage, so that wasn’t an option. Maria had booked us a hostel a month before the trip, which seemed to be the last available room on the entire island; everything was crazy full and crowded for New Years. Our hostel was a newish one, so it wasn’t on the GPS. We decided to explore a little bit while looking for the homestay, hoping that among the many many signs for various hostels and hotels posted on walls and at intersections, we’d see ours: Gili Tralala. Little did we know that this is also the nickname of the island, which would make finding the hostel that much more difficult.

My initial impression of the island and the atmosphere there was just WOW. There’s basically one major boulevard, and it’s lined with shops, boutiques, learn-to-dive resorts, cafes, bars, and restaurants. One side butts up right against the ocean, so most restaurants have oceanfront dining, which is so lovely. There were tons of foreigners around: lots of beach babes and big, buff dudes and a multitude of quirky folks since the Gilis are a major dive attraction in Indonesia (my basic estimation after my Indonesia travels is that divers are a quirky bunch). The most pleasing thing to my eye was the number of cafes with an international flair: we saw Indian, Italian, “Latin-Mexican” (whatever that is), French, etc etc! It was magical. The food scene in Malang is decent, but there’s definitely not a strip of internationally themed cafes anywhere in the city, especially not setting right next to a sparkling teal-blue oceanfront!

Eventually, we made our way down a side street with lots of signs, hoping that our hostel would be there. A nice young kid on a bike asked us where we were going, so we told him: Gili Tralala. He gave directions and we followed, promptly realizing that he had mistakenly, albeit with good intentions, directed us to a mural that said Gili Tralala. We found another man, also on a bicycle, and asked for help again. He took Maria’s rolling suitcase for us and started asking around. We made it, eventually, but not after a good twenty minutes of trudging around in the mud and muck. Our hostel seemed to be relatively in the sticks, and the arrival was, of course, strange.

The hostel had over-booked itself, so we got downgraded for the first night into a shared dorm. No big deal, except the travelers also in the dorm smelled like buttholes and sawed logs like a pair of professionals. The owner, an older Austrian man who has been living in Indonesia for seven years and doesn’t speak a lick of bahasa, was somewhat apologetic and promised us a private room for the next night. The rooms were shit and way over-priced for the New Year, but we were happy to find a place to drop our stuff and sleep at night. The best part of the hostel was the Lombok couple who managed it, and the worse part, by far, was the maniacal rooster that crowed its pitiful, morose crow all night every night, starting at about two in the morning.

The majority of our vacation was spent parked at the Indian restaurant about five minutes by foot from our hostel, on the main strip and, of course, on the oceanfront. I liked it so much I’d even link to it in case other travelers ever read this blog (or in case non-travelers want to check it out). I think I may even write a Trip Advisor review about how amazing it was, which I’ve never done before because I’ve never cared so much. The cafe is part of the Pesona resort, which does dive training and dives and also has a homestay/hotel. It’s owned (as far as I can tell) by a real live Indian family or family of Indian descent, so the food was legit…not like some restaurants, Indonesian and American, too, that offer ethnic foods but don’t really know how to prepare them well. I’m remembering Maria’s story of ordering something along the lines of gnocchi bolognese in Malang and ending up getting cubes of boiled potatoes with tasteless beef jerky gristle. Blessed be, the Pesona cafe was not of this type.

The food there was absolutely incredible. I can’t even find the words to describe the experience of eating that food. I think the best indicator of our contentment was that we ended up staying there every single day for five to seven hours, eating food, drinking amazing local coffee (and sometimes espresso treats!!!), smoking shisha, and enjoying happy hour. They had floor seating with nice wooden tables and lovely lush cushions; we sat and ate, sat and ate, and chatted for hours and hours. And oh the food, oh the food!! The naan! The chutneys! The paneer and the sauces! Oh drool. Oh, drool! We must have spent 75% of our budget at this place, and it was worth every single penny. If you ever to go Gili, you must go to Pesona. The only better Indian food I have ever had was in India. This topped everything I’ve ever had in the States, even the lovely Indian joints in Bloomington. I could keep going and going about how amazing it was. Thank goodness Maria and I are of the same mindset and could enjoy the countless hours of sitting and chatting and eating and eating, not really caring about doing much else. Just take this in for a minute and imagine this splendid tastiness on your tongue:

#Foodgasm is all we could say. On the last day, we tried to find an alternative joint to try. We walked up and down the strip for an hour before giving in a returning to Pesona. We really did try! But in the end it wasn’t too hard to give up on the search and get back to the Indian joint, especially since the cute waitress saw us walk by in the morning and basically jumped for joy and yelled, “Hey, beautiful ladies!” when she saw us. The day before we had started getting discounts in the form of happy hour specials way before happy hour even started; how could we neglect Pesona on our last day? We would have left the island full of regret. So, we did the right thing, obviously.

The other notable feature of this trip was the nightlife on Gili T, at least in the downtown area. We didn’t go wild and crazy as perhaps we would have a few years ago, but rather chose to remain aloof and take it all in, observing all of the strange drunken people in action. We had a nice New Years doing just that, drinking cocktails while sitting on bean bags watching fireworks near the water. The funniest part of traveling with Maria and enjoying the Gili T nightlife–besides her funny jokes and stories–was the attention her big, beautiful hair received, and it attracted people more easily as the long, late nights went on and people became increasingly emboldened by drink. One pair of strange birds in kilts (see picture below, courtesy of @raeraeraeraerae) were especially interested and approached us as we were walking down the promenade on New Years day, in the eveningtime.

Maria engaged with them, being the travel writer and outgoing person she is, and I kept right on walking, fumbling with my phone and pretending to be super preoccupied and way too chic for it all. These dudes were huge, buff, and shirtless, plus wearing kilts and making all sorts of smiley goo-faces and being too interested in us. Maria, in her excitement and to my great mortification, called me over to chat. (Afterwords, she said she knew I wasn’t into it, but just felt like she had to call me over since the darker man claimed to be Native American and she knows my background and interest…I was skeptical of him and didn’t really mind, in the end, that she called me over. She didn’t mean any harm.) They shook my hand and just leaned in a little too close during the conversation, ending with an invite for us to join them later at a bar up the way. Of course we didn’t, but it wasn’t our last interaction with them…

We saw them schmoozing it up the next day, still in their kilty glory, in the bar across the way from where we were sitting. Friends, it truly was a show. They were up on all kinds of ladies, and everyone seemed to know them. I came to the conclusion that they must own the bar, and Maria said if they did then the kilt schtick would be great marketing/promotion. We sat on our bar stools watching the crowd for a good three house, making up stories about people and eavesdropping like a pair of old lady friends. We are great people watchers. At one point we were considering surreptitiously filming people and providing commentary in order to make a people watching YouTube channel, which I still think is a good idea. There were just so many oddballs to watch: an older drunk man in red with cowboy boots fawning over a local guy, a pair of tortured young lovers whose story we just couldn’t figure out because their body language was so awkward, an older couple arguing over some Facebook photos indicting the man in the pair for being out and about partying when he had told the woman he wasn’t, a pair of sultry ladies with hip style being totally aloof about it all (haha, no not us, in addition to us), and oh my gosh more. It wasn’t as debauched as Kuta, Bali, but there was plenty to keep us entertained until the wee hours.

As you can imagine, we both felt great by the end of the trip, despite a questionable snorkeling excursion that I don’t even want to rehash. Travelling back to Malang took an exhausting ten hours, but Maria is sure she’ll go back to Gili T for diving. I feel like I can finally check the Gilis off my travel list; it’s kind of a right of passage to hit up these types of famous tourist places (I felt the same about certain spots in Bali) despite that one can find exciting and off-the-beaten-path alternative destinations quite easily when equipped with bahasa and a decent budget for transportation. I had a good time and will fantasize about the food for the rest of my life, and I’m glad to have traveled with Maria to experience her perspective and build a new friendship. All in all, we each spent about $350-400 for the whole thing (including plane tickets), so from a practical perspective it was very worth it, and there’s no price to be set on getting closer to a new friend in such a beautiful place. A strange, beautiful place.

Love,
Sammy