More East Java Adventures + A Quick Jaunt to Gorontalo

21 Oct

On October 7th, I flew to Surabaya from Lombok. From the time I got to Lombok (so 3 weeks ago) until I left for vacation, they has already opened a new airport, which now supposedly has international flights. It’s so much dirtier than the last one, and after 6pm there isn’t anywhere to buy food. It’s also almost an hour from Peduli Anak, whereas the other one was a maximum of 20 minutes away! My flight was delayed 3 hours (which I’m just chalking up to new airport malfunctions), so I met Rachel (current and former ETA, she renewed this year), Heather (former ETA now teaching at a tri-lingual school in Surabaya), Emily (works as a Foreign Service Officer for the Consulate General in Surabaya), TJ (Emily’s housemate, works at the Merlion Singapore International School in Surabaya), Rem (a current ETA in Surabaya) and Rizky (Emily’s boyfriend, former rockstar turned businessman) at Emily’s apartment rather late. We stayed up until 3am eating terang bulan (like a pancake filled with chocolate, peanuts, sometimes coconut and sometimes cheese) and catching up – I hadn’t seen Emily, Heather and Rachel in months!

The next day, Rachel and I woke up, thinking we had made a reservation for a travel car to take us to Malang, a city 3 hours south of Surabaya, at 9:30. When it was clear that the person we told to make the reservation did not make it, we hurried to the train station to see if we could catch the next train. There was one at 11:00, but it was economy, and therefore we were not guaranteed a seat and would be surrounded by cigarette smoke the whole time. We opted to stay in the taxi that had taken us to the train station and pick up McDonalds take out on the way. While the ride was comfortable and I was able to sleep, it was about two times more expensive than we thought it would be. However, we got to Malang in time to catch the car that was taking us to climb Gunung Bromo, a still-active volcano that actually erupted in March the day after a few of our friends had climbed it, 3 hours south of Malang. We met up with Iris, an ELF teaching at Brawijaya University in Malang, who had arranged the whole Bromo trip, and Herbert, another ETA from this year from Genteng (south of Malang). Together with Gozi, a friend of Iris’, and his four friends, we began the car ride there. We stopped to buy instant noodles, eggs and bread for the night. At first we were going to go through what Gozi and his friends called the “Sea of Sand” at night as a short-cut – when they told us that yes, there was a slight chance we would get stuck in the sand and have to wait until morning for help, we decided to go the long way. As we wound our way up the mountain, it started to get cold – luckily I had brought enough layers for myself and others. We ended up camping on the side of the mountain huddled in our tents under one blanket – we barely slept, but the sight the next morning was completely worth the lack of sleep.

We woke up at around 4:45 (thanks to Herbert!) to try to catch the sunrise. Walking over the hill and seeing the sun hit the sides of the mountain was like walking onto a movie set – it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, and the sunrise looked surreal. We sat there a while, huddled in our sheets and blankets, and watched the world embrace a new day. Now we could see the Sea of Sand, and we were really glad we didn’t go through it at night – it would take an hour in the day time and cars take no particular road through the sand, they just go in the general direction of the hills. After some breakfast, we hiked down to the sand and trekked across it to a Hindu temple that was closed. Though the sun was up, it wasn’t hot at all – there was a strong wind that blew the sand everywhere and we were relatively comfortable in long pants and a long shirt. To get to the caldera of the volcano, we climbed up a mountain of ash and then around 290 steps to the crater. People were selling medical masks to block the ash from getting in your lungs and nose – I totally should have listened to them and bought one! By the time we came down from the crater, I was covered in ash, more so than any of my friends for some reason. They cleaned off half my face, called me a coal miner and took pictures of me J We then rode back through a town in the mountains that rests in between two cliff-sides and disappears into the mist when you go through it. That night, after a vigorous shower, I met up with Emily and Rizky, who had come to Malang for business, and met Max, Emily’s friend and colleague who helps her organize her educational outreach work when she comes to Malang. We met in the Tugu Hotel, which has a museum of Javanese art in it and it one of the most carefully decorated hotels I’ve seen. After getting my tarot cards read, I got a ride with Max to Iris’ where I slept for about 11 hours after barely sleeping for two nights.

The next day, Monday, we woke up late and went to a coffee shop called the Java Dancer for lunch and some of the best coffee I’ve had in Indonesia. We hitched a ride with Emily and Rizky in a car back to Malang, and half way there I realized I had forgotten my wallet and several other less important things at Iris’ house! We called Iris, but she was sick from dehydration and wasn’t getting out of bed. Then I called Max who I had met the night before and asked if he could send my things via a travel car. He opted to drive to Surabaya himself on his motor-bike to see friends he hadn’t seen there for a while. On Tuesday, After I got my ticket to Gorontalo, Max and I went to the mall for some lunch, a movie (Green Lantern! I know I’m late in seeing it) and some Sour Sally frozen yoghurt. We hung out and then went with TJ to get some pasta, pizza and ice-cream, and then watched Thor. He’s a really nice guy and wants to go traveling in Bali with me and my friend Rachel, so hopefully we’ll make that happen!

I finally got to Gorontalo (via Makassar, where I stayed with Emily in her hotel Thursday night) on Friday, and for the first time, there was no one who could pick me up there. Ibu Sarkiah and her husband were on haji, Yunus was in Pohuwato, and Ria (Ibu Sarkiah’s daughter) has given her motorbike to her uncle to borrow. So I took a “taxi” for the first time ever in Gorontalo, which made me feel somehow grown up and independent, even though only tourists take taxis there. It costs Rp. 100,000, which is really expensive for anything in Gorontalo, but it was over an hour to get to Ibu Sarkiah’s house. On Friday I just hung out at the house, got some work done, played games with my sisters, and watched five six-year-olds dance to the Indonesian song “Playboy” for me, which was super cute and also disturbing. Yheyen and Ria’s aunt, Mei, was there and helped cook and keep everyone safe – she’s really nice and had a sad story to tell. She has been divorced from her husband for three years, and is “already” 32, and she worries that she won’t get married again, but she’s still in shock from the divorce and doesn’t want to try to find another guy just yet. She also asked me a lot what I ate in America to get so fat, which would be so offensive elsewhere, but I just shrugged it off and told her Americans eat everything :).

Saturday I went to my old school, MAN Limboto, where everyone said I had gotten so thin (last time, for a reference, they told me I got so fat – I can’t tell anymore!) and hung out with the students, who didn’t have anything to do after sports ended at 11. I ran into my old principal, who said I could stay at the school any time and asked if I could come back to teach (it was hard to believe the veracity of either of those sentiments) and also met a lot of teachers there and some staff too. Since this is my second time back in Gorontalo, people didn’t rush to see me as much – the teachers were so busy preparing tests, and some of them even said “Oh hi, you’re back again? Sorry, I have to go, see you later!” and ran off to do the important thing they had to do. I was really happy about this actually, because it’s nice to know I’m becoming somewhat of a usual thing to see around the area, rather than a princess who needs to be taken care of every second of the day.

I talked with my students about their hopes for next year, and what they think of school and we reminisced about last year. We made plans to hang out the next day and eat at Farlan’s house, one of my students.

Then I went home to get ready to go to the airport with Trisna and surprise Lisa and Marjorie when they got off the plane from Manado. We picked up Ibu Dewi first (she manages the canteen at MANIC). We dropped Lisa off in Limboto, and then went to see Ibu Dewi’s aunt (I think) in Limboto. Her nephew had just come back from Canberra and his English was great, so we talked for a while. Then we picked up Cica and made our way to dinner and a karaoke place that had more cigarette smoke than air in it, and then they dropped me off. I love those ladies so much – I felt a little bad because I forgot about a very important thing that happens in Gorontalo – when you say you like something someone has, often they give it to you. I told Cica I loved her bracelet and asked where she got it, and at the end she just GAVE it to me! I was so surprised. I felt bad because I think Marjorie was super tired and I feel like I’m hogging the attention sometimes because I’m loud and outgoing and she’s much more like my sister, who watches everything and adds very salient things to the conversation. I make jokes in Indonesian and take on the character of a Gorontalo person, which means I get even louder than I already am! Jolie and I also just had this rapport with them that developed very early on, and they’re so easy to be with. I really hope I’m not stepping on any of the new ETAs toes – they are AMAZING and rarely complain about anything. I feel like compared to them I was a spoiled brat when I first got there, and was really uncomfortable with some things. Now I don’t want to leave!

Sunday I went to Farlan’s house on Tyara’s motor bike and met some students, including Irwan (a 12th grader from last year) who moved back home from Manado because he missed his friends J. I love him so much – he told me I was like a sister to him, and I almost cried. I told my students that if I win the lottery, I’ll build a house in Gorontalo. They told me they would all come live with me there, and I told them I’d throw a party every Saturday night for everyone I knew. A nice dream for another life. I’m trying to think of something I could do, like start an NGO, in Gorontalo – let me know if you have any ideas. I was thinking something having to do with the environment or women. I’ll refine that idea and get back to you all – just a dream for now!

Now (Monday) I’m waiting for my flight to Mataram in Surabaya, which is delayed, as usual. I bought a sweet political thriller about Indonesian politics and the Suharto regime (which should give me a fictionalized version of what actually happened) and The Space Between Us, which sounds a lot like The Kite Runner, but with women, and in India.

Here’s a slide-show of some pictures from the trip (a few are courtesy of Iris Laurencio):

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

More updates later about Yayasan Peduli Anak!

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One Response to “More East Java Adventures + A Quick Jaunt to Gorontalo”

  1. Tammela October 22, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    The Space Between Us is really good; I read it a few years ago and really enjoyed it.

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