Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Good and the Bad (Written Oct. 15)

It’s Day 4 of my post-Bali week in Malang and I am still feeling the fallout/culture shock of returning from an amazing weekend. I had a mid-week high after a nice dinner out with some German girls I met at a café and after meeting some great and helpful Indos, but the rest of the week has been a bit of a mess. After seeing Westerners in Bali and eating at Western restaurants and dressing the way I wanted and going to the beach everyday, Malang is feeling a bit lonely and a tad boring. This feeling only grew worse yesterday when I signed up for an internet plan and spent a lot on a modem that doesn’t really work in my house. It was the last straw. I cried, called my mom, told her I wanted to come home for the millionth time, and then sucked it up and came to school. I taught an 11th grade class that was a bit rowdy but then I had a nice lunch with the teachers and am looking forward to seeing one of the better 11th grade classes this afternoon. The good news is also that I now have Fridays off which means more time to travel! I feel bad leaving every weekend (and I won’t leave every weekend) but I need some American company after 4 or 5 days of feeling a bit useless and living alone. Thank god for the other ETAs. I have a feeling that life will get better as soon as I really start teaching, and I do love most of the tenth graders. I am just waiting to feel like I really belong here and can actually spend 8 months here instead of yearning for America (and Bali) all the time.

Now, on to Bali. We decided to stay in Kuta for the three days and two nights we were there. Kuta is in the south of Bali and is basically like the Indonesian version of a Mexican spring break town. This is not to say that the beaches aren’t beautiful and that there aren’t a lot of cool back streets to explore, but most of the time you are surrounded by drunk Australians in Bintang Beer tank tops buying cheap sunglasses and straw hats. Oddly enough, we were all fine with this. The site of people like us to blend in with was truly therapeutic. The whole weekend I never got yelled at - “Hello, Mister” - and was never really stared at, considering I was much more conservatively dressed and a lot more sober than 90% of the people there. Altogether there were four ETAs there and we hung out with one Fulbright research fellow, a former ETA that lives in Bali, a friend of one of the ETAs from college, and Swedish and Australian friends of friends from Jakarta. Some of the people rented a huge villa for the weekend with a huge swimming pool, terrace, and gazebo that we chilled at at night, and the rest of the time we were at the beach. The REAL interest of Bali though is in Ubud, a town in central Bali, about a one and a half hour drive from Kuta. We met a couple of Balinese guys who drove us up there on Sunday and we spent a day in one of the most beautiful parts of the world I have ever seen. Rice paddies. Temples. Cafés. Galleries. It is a perfect East meets West hybrid. Everything smells so much better than in Malang. The smell of jasmine flowers and incense is everywhere. The temple we went to was having a celebration so everyone was dressed in sarungs and the women were carrying baskets of fruit – offerings to their gods – on their heads. People were bathing in a series of little fountains outside the temple, moving from one to the other. One of our friends told us people must do this after one of their family members dies. After the temple we went to a market ( a bit too chaotic, but good coconut juice) where we bought oleh-oleh, or small souvenirs, for our counterparts. I don’t really understand this practice, since the souvenirs we are supposed to buy (keychains, weird little wooden turtles, and other knick knacks) seem to be a waste of money. I did, however, buy some wooden bracelets for the English teachers at my school and they are all very happy with them. Even though they all love Bali they do not get to travel there very much since their salaries are so low (I found out how much they make the other day and it is scandalous. I hope they never find out how much Fulbright is paying us to be here.

Next week is school anniversary week and I have already been forced to promise that I will sing, ha! The teachers told me to let them know beforehand what I want to perform and they will make the school band practice the song. Anyway, signing off for now!


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