Friday, September 4, 2009

One Week In

Despite the fact that I have about eighteen mosquito bites, a jammed finger, and a giant black and blue mark on my ankle I am happy to be one week in to orientation here in Bandung, West Java. We got in Sunday to Jakarta after a night in Singapore and spent a week doing our administrative orientation. Since Jakarta is one of the most polluted cities in the world (the third worst, I think) we were all happy to get out of there, even though our hotel was great and we did get to see some of the tourist sites. Let's just say I am happy to see the sun again after 6 days. Now we're spending the next three weeks in Bandung simultaneously learning to teach AND speak Bahasa Indonesia. We'll see how that goes...

So far it is tough to say a lot about Indonesian life or how the actual teaching will go once I reach Malang, my home site. That's because we've moved from one air conditioned hotel to another with about 30 other ETA's. I can't complain though, because everyone doing the program is hilarious, interesting, and a lot of fun to hang out with. It's going to be tough to leave everyone to go to Malang. However, I just found out that one of the English Language Fellows, an American teacher picked to teach and train teachers at the university level in Indonesia will actually be in my town. Oddly enough her name is Courtney (we both introduced ourselves at the same time during orientation, and freaked each other out). Even though she is going to be very busy at her university, I have a feeling that we will hang out after classes and on weekends. We both want to do a lot of outdoor stuff in Malang -- Mount Bromo, apple orchards, and who knows what else. I'm happy I'm not the only Courtney in Java.

Since I didn't post at all from Jakarta, I'm including a list of some of my more interesting encounters here so you can get a better impression of the city.

- Jakarta is known for its incredibly large and diverse malls. The first day we were there we went to a huge electronics mall with lots of strange American restaurants like A&W. No purchases but we did get lost a few times. The second mall we went to was a cross between the Mall of America and Epcot. There were more stores than I have ever seen, and it was tough to remember that I wasn't in New Jersey.

- The old Dutch corner of Jakarta has seen better days, but we did go out to a place called Café Batavia, an old Dutch residence with large rooms and huge windows. Definitely gave me a sense of the old colonial days, but the area surrounding it had a lot of abandoned buildings and strange street dwellers. Probably better to see by day.

- I went to a lot of great Asian restaurants, including a place called Face Bar with some of the best Thai food I've ever had. I am missing pizza, but mangoes, curries, and other dishes keep cravings at bay.

- Some of the bars we went to have gone "speakeasy" since it's Ramadhan and a lot of them are supposed to be closed. Yesterday we were beckoned into a small door with a closed sign, were guided down a darkened hallway, and emerged in a large, walled courtyard with tea lights and lanterns where people were drinking at picnic tables. Very cool.

- Since it's big world news, I should say that I probably should have taken the earthquake here in West Java here more seriously. I woke up thinking someone was trying to break into my bathroom and when I realized it was just an earthquake I ended up going back to sleep. Only afterwards did I hear that all the other ETA's ran down to the lobby with the hotel staff and tried to call me multiple times to come down. Anyone who knows me has already witnessed, I am sure, how much I value sleep.

That's about it for now, but if I remember anything later I will keep posting. Anyone know how to heal jammed fingers? Only I could hurt myself on a bus door.

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