Thursday, October 22, 2009

Feeling at home (finally)

Things are getting better. This past weekend I had a great trip to visit another fellow in Yogyakarta and a lot of our friends came. There were eight of us hanging out in Yogya – basically the cultural hub of Java and a huge ex-pat spot. Even though I am still loving in Malang, it would definitely be cool to be in Yogya – there are bars, tourists, an awesome vegetarian restaurant, and a general hip feel going on in that city. However, it’s extremely hot. It’s one of those cities in which you need a 4 hour siesta everyday to survive. No walking outside unless the sun is down. We’re talking crazy, crazy hot. My friend in Yogya is placed in a vocational high school so she actually lives in the hotel the school owns so that its students can get hands on training. I took an overnight travel car over to Yogya and stayed in her hotel room for the first night. After my gi-normo house, the hotel room (and the maid/concierge service that goes with it) was looking pretty nice. The first day I was there we went to a huge Buddhist temple in Central Java called Borobudur. If you google search Indonesia, 2 out of 3 pictures you see will be of this temple. It is in the middle of a huge forest and is built up almost like a pyramid. As you ascend the temple the pictures and carvings turn from earthly pleasures to godly pursuits, an illustration of the stages of Buddhist enlightenment. Even though there were lots of Indo tourists there, you can walk around and the temple and not see a soul. It’s huge and it winds around like a maze. There are hundreds and maybe thousands of Buddhas, and hundreds of carved scenes on its walls. We stayed there for a few hours, each going our separate ways. I joined a French tour group, listening to broken French at a Buddhist temple in a predominantly Muslim country with other white foreigners. Surreal.

The second night we drove to a beach south of Yogya and spent the night in a lean-to built up about fifteen feet off of the beach. We woke up the next day to the sites of a deserted beach like nothing I’ve ever seen. When I originally signed up to come to Indonesia, this is actually how I pictured my life. Turqoise water, palm trees, coral, reefs, little Indonesian children running around, and not another foreigner in site (except for my friends). We spent the day frolicking in the water and ate at one of the houses in the village – fresh grilled fish, veggies in peanut sauce, rice, and coca-colas. Later that day, we came back to Yogya to shop for batik (traditional Indonesian clothing). I bought a long piece of blue-y purple-y silky soft batik that looks very Anthropologie-esque for about 6 bucks and I am going to get a dress made out of it at the tailor. I don’t think I’ll spend more than 5 dollars to get it made so it’ll hopefully be a less than 12 dollar dress that I will love. Cheap fabric, cheap fruit, cheap transportation…. so many reasons to live in Indo. I am thinking about getting a house cleaner to come once or twice a week and it should cost me $2.50 per visit. I will never have to clean my own floors again! Though, keeping my floors clean for more than a day will probably prove an impossible task seeing as volcanic dust blows in everyday from the slats in the windows. I can’t really keep anything out of the house. Flies, ants, mosquitoes, and the small lizards that eat them all come and go everyday in my house. I gladly welcome the lizards even though in the beginning I was freaked out by the way they leap from wall to wall. I’m also afraid I’m going to step on one at night when I go to the bathroom…. So many issues. Also, cockroaches occasionally come inside my house and there are tons of big ones in my kitchen. You can’t really kill them unless you spray them with a ton of this insect repellant and even then they don’t die for a long time. They just run around in circles until they fall on their backs, shake for a few seconds, and draw their last few breaths. Then I have to sweep them out, hope that some poor unsuspecting lizard won’t eat them and get poisoned, and then disinfect the whole area where they died. Tropical climates come with many, many issues. Gross issues.

Moving on to school. School this week has been pretty amazing. For the first time the workweek is actually passing really quickly. I taught most of my own lessons and I bonded a lot with the 10 graders. I don’t know if I have mentioned this, but the 10th graders are actually scholarship students sent to SMA 10 to attend a program called the Sampoerna Academy. The Sampoerna family is actually an extremely wealthy Indonesian family who own cigarette factories. Apparently a lot of the big tobacco companies in Indonesia support education, so the Sampoerna Academy is an all-expense paid scholarship to come to SMA 10 to learn. Even though my school is a public school this program is privately funded and exists pretty autonomously in the school. The 10th graders have completely different curriculum than the 11th graders and 12th graders, and most of their subjects are taught in English. Not to mention the fact that these kids are all geniuses. Their English is ten times better than their older peers and they want to learn more so badly. They all ask me how they can go to college in America, and I think a lot of them might be able to pull it off. They are so smart, so modest, and so nice. I feel bad for them all since they had to leave their families, live in dorms and have no free time, so I try to hang out with them during free time as much as possible. Yesterday I went with some of the Sampoerna academy consultants to visit their dorms. They live about 10 people per section, with two people per room and one common room. The girls keep their rooms much nicer than the boys but in general they are pretty legit dorms. Much better than I thought they were going to be. When we got there they were eating dinner, but they all freaked out and even though they had just seen us they came running up to shake our hands and talk to us, and take our pictures (I think they take my picture everyday. I keep trying to tell them that I’m not leaving and they don’t have to take a picture to remember me yet). I spent about 10 minutes in each common room talking to them, and I realized how much I already love these kids. One of the consultants pulled me aside after and told me how much I am going to miss them when I leave. I already feel sad just thinking about it and I’m only one month in! Anyway, after the dorm visits I went out to a traditional Indonesian restaurant with the consultants and as usual I was forced to sing in front of everyone at the restaurant. Fly Me to the Moon. Indos love their music and I’m actually getting more used to it. And I’m loving it.

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