Over the past week I have recovered from a pretty bad cold after driving three hours up and three hours back to visit hot springs and a white crater south of Bandung (and breathing in exhaust the whole time). I have eaten more plates of veggies covered in peanut sauce than I can name. I have ridden in dozens of angkots (Indo transportation; basically minibuses with two little bench seats inside. Very crowded and hot, but they leave the doors tied open so there's a good breeze). I've celebrated the end of Ramadhan laying on pillows with some friends while listening to imams calling from mosque to mosque, watching amateur fireworks, and trying to understand how we got here, how we were actually in Indonesia. In the beginning this feeling almost never left me, this feeling of awe, of being displaced but of experiencing something unlike anything I had ever seen or felt before. Now though, these moments of raw amazement are quite sparse. Yesterday we ventured north of Bandung to an Indonesian park to see waterfalls and to bathe in some sulphur hot springs, and it just seemed like a normal thing to do on a Sunday afternoon. Very little - the rickety wooden bridge with a handwritten sign limiting the number of 'orang' or people on the bridge; the monkeys soaring from branch to branch in the trees; the little old lady grilling corn for us right next to one of the most spectacular waterfalls I've ever seen - none of this brought these feelings of 'how did I get here?'. Instead seeing a group of 'bulehs' or Westerners in the park actually freaked us out. Yes, we are all Americans (though quite diverse looking; I definitely stand out the most) but seeing ourselves in another group of people was a bit shocking. Being a head taller than everyone around me, in elevators, at markets, has become day-to-day life.
Now I just need to get ready for being The American in Malang. The English Language Fellow in my city has told me people stare, follow her, and occasionally touch her. And she's about 4 inches shorter than me and a brunette. This means getting comfortable with never having privacy; it means getting your picture taken with whole families of Indonesians everyday; it means hearing the phrase "Hello, Mister" about nine or ten times a day (a lot of Indonesians know this, and only this phrase). But it also means I get the chance to experience real Indo life; it means I will be teaching full time; it means I will be speaking Indonesian instead of English outside of school everyday; it means I will be traveling on weekends (first up, Bali), and it means my fellowship is actually kicking off...
Selamat Idul Fitri!