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Re-envisioning To-Do Lists

1 Dec

This post is a conglomeration of things I’ve observed these last few days:

1. As some of you know, I keep a scary-long to-do list on the right side of my computer screen. Mostly, this list is comforting to me – it helps me get stuff done and keeps me on track, but sometimes it gets overwhelming. Today, I was updating things and adding things to do before I leave, and right in between “later: peace corps and master’s programs in public health (3-4 years), double/triple MPP/MPH/MLIA?” and the “Money” section of my list, I found this, (don’t forget to comeback to indonesia ❤ yheyen), from my adik (literally “younger”, but here meaning “little sister”), Yheyen. She had used my computer before to check something online. It made me laugh, and tear up, all at the same time. And it makes me realize I have to come back! I’ll never think of my to-do list the same way.

2. Here’s what I’ve already done in Gorontalo:

–   saw Marjorie teach at MANIC and got to meet the new 10th graders
–   hung out with Tyara, one of my awesome former students
–   went karaoke-ing with my MANIC ladies (Trisna, Marjorie and Cica, this time joined by Ibu Nita, a visiting English teacher from Malang)
–   went to dinner with Trisna, Ibu Dewi, Marjorie and Ibu Nita by the sea
–   played cards with my Indonesian brother, Sultan, and my Indonesian sisters, Yheyen and Rya
–   discussed (in very simple words) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Pak Herson, by Indonesian father (who I am getting to know little by little – he’s a really serious guy)
–   gone go-carting with Yheyen and Sultan, to realize that after 10 minutes, it’s a little boring (at least on the tiny track in Gorontalo)
–   visited Yunus at his training camp and met some of his lecturers and friends who will go with him to Nusa Tenggara Timur
–   went to lunch with Marjorie, Lisa and Mickie, the latter of which is an English Language Fellow (ELF) working as a lecturer at Universitas Negeri Gorontalo (Gorontalo State University) in the city
–   making an apple crisp (of sorts) with Marjorie and eating it with Lisa and Mickie in honor of Thanksgiving
–   drank air zam-zam with Ibu Sarkiah. Air zam-zam is holy (dzam-dzam: Arabic) water (air: Indonesian/probably Arabic too) from the large mosque in Mecca, and it is supposed to make you healthy and live a long life. My Ibu brought it from Mecca when she came back from hajji. (NOTE: I thought my Ibu said “air jam-jam” (jam means hour/o’clock/clock), which made her laugh in her adorable way.
–   Visited the school of my Indonesian mother, Ibu Sarkiah, who teaches English there. Her students were super cute and gave me 9 drinks (3 cokes, 3 chocolate milks, and 3 vitamin c drinks), all of which they expected me to drink then and there.

3. These are things I have left to do:

–   visit my school (MAN Limboto) – tomorrow morning, and probably again with Yunus on Saturday
–  hang out with Yunus and help him get ready to leave for a year
–   learn how to make milu siram, or corn soup, a traditional food from Gorontalo (this may or may not happen, we will see!)
– Take my Indonesian family out to dinner (tonight!)
– Shop in Gorontalo for gifts

More things will pop up, I’m sure! My schedule changes by the hour here 🙂


This is the blessing we said before (and supposedly you’re supposed to do it after too) drinking air zam zam (in Arabic) (I got this from Rya and Ibu Sarkiah):
Bismillahirrahmanirrahim (Rya claims this is one word)
Allahumma innii As’aluka Ilman
nafian warizqan waasian
wasyifaa’an minkulli daa’in
wasaqamin yaa arhamarrahimiin

In Indonesian (just for curiosity’s sake, the blessing is spoken in Arabic):
Dengan menyebut nama Allah yang maha pengasih lagi maha penyayang
Ya Allah aku mohon padamu ilmu
pengetahuan yang bermanfaat, releki
yang luas dan sembuh dari segala
sakit dan penyakit dengan rahmatmu.
Ya Allah wahai tuhan yang maha
pengasih dari segala yang berhati kasih.

In English (this, unlike the others, is a combination of Google-translation from Indonesian and my limited knowledge of Indonesian):

In the name of Allah the merciful, the Most Merciful,
O God, I beg of you knowledge that is useful,
and thorough recovery from all
Illness and disease, with blessings.
O Allah, O God the Almighty
Loving-hearted of all love (this last line doesn’t really make sense but I left it that way because I like it).

5. Things I learned on the day I was sick (yesterday):

a. Don’t put your hair up when it’s wet after you wash it – it will break.
b. Don’t shower at night, you will get sick (this definitely has some truth to it, but I am hot here ALL THE TIME and I shower at night so I can sleep…)
c. If you keep hiccup-ing for long enough, you will die.
d. If someone rubs icy-hot on your back with a coin really hard, you will feel better (this is true, but I doubt the coin has anything to do with it (also, it was a 1 cent Dutch guilder from 1938 – crazy).

5. Since Ibu Sarkiah and Pak Herson have gone on hajj, they have different titles that they are addressed by now; they are now Ibu Hajjah Sarkiah and Bapak Hajji Herson (abbreviated in writing as Ibu Hj. and Pak H.).

6. SKYPE CONVERSATION: A few days ago, I had a conversation with my family at my grandparents’ house in Rhode Island. My mom, Casey and Casey’s boyfriend Ryan got to talk with Yheyen and Rya, but Yheyen and Rya were off-screen because they weren’t wearing jilbabs and felt too shy to appear in front of my family that way. Instead, they talked from off-camera and occasionally waved at my family with their hands only. They kept saying very frank things about my family (your sister’s boyfriend looks bored, your sister looks like your mom because their hair is short, your mom looks young, your dad is handsome) which was hilarious to all involved. I wish I could have conversations like this more often.

Caption for the featured photo: My Indonesian family – Yheyen (2nd from left), Sultan (the boy just to the right of me), Ibu Hj. Sarkiah, Rya, and Pak H. Herson.


Bali, Jakarta and Some News!

27 Nov

Time has been moving so quickly and I feel like I’ve been in so many places since my last post, so here’s my attempt at catching up (no photos this time either, internet is too slow):

PEDULI ANAK NEWS: Samsul is getting glasses! He’s about 9 (though this varies according to which report/who you ask) and has trouble counting and reading, but LOVES to sing. Hopefully the glasses, which are coming in about a week, will help him in class! I miss this place so much and am definitely coming back (I also still need to write my volunteer testimonial, oops!)

BALI: I saw a lot of fantastic temples and places: Tanah Lot, a temple by the water; Bedugul, a temple (featured on the Rp 50,000 bill) in the mountains on a beautiful lake; Ubud (mainly just the Monkey Forest because we didn’t have much time); Padang-Padang Beach (as featured in “Eat Pray Love” when Julia Roberts almost goes to bed with the Australian dude, I believe). There was a TON of traffic because the ASEAN conference was going on, which Obama attended (I also passed very close to Air Force One (or Two or Seven, no idea) when I took off for Jakarta!) I also got to hang out with my friends Emily and Max and met these British travelers (Sophie and Dan) who are coming to Boston after New Years! Hopefully I’ll get to show them around.

JAKARTA: I hung out my friend from Holland that I met at Peduli Anak and her boyfriend last week, and had a great time. Last weekend we went to hang out with the Baduy tribe (what I know of them is explained below) for two nights, and watched the semi-finals of the Junior football teams of Thailand and Indonesia play each other (Indonesia won, yay!) for the SEA Games (not at the Baduy tribe site, they don’t have TVs!) We ran around around eating amazing Western food and buying oleh-oleh (gifts you buy when you travel to remind the people at home you haven’t forgotten them) for Gorontalo people and checking out her neighborhood (and catching up on much-needed sleep). For my last night in town, we went to see Zee Avi (a Malaysian artist) concert.

SURABAYA: I ate an amazing Thanksgiving lunch with Emily, Colin (her family friend who was visiting), and some of her friends from Surabaya, then went to the Consulate General’s house for MORE food. I met some more of the new ETAs this year who are all really amazing and nice. I also got to see Rachel and Heather, who I am going to miss so much when I leave here. That night really made me realize how important the web of support and friendship that I have here has been to me – I’ll be really sad to leave that behind.

Which brings me to…MY NEWS: After lots of work and help and love and support and lack of sleep and 2 essays, 1 resume, 4 recommendations and an interview and about 10 late night phone conversations, I am officially going to be working at Jagori Grameen as a Shansi Fellow from August 2012-June 2014! I’ve been working on this endeavor since I got back from Indonesia, and I’m so happy and excited to be embarking on yet another amazing journey (after spending some much-needed quality time at home). As of now, it’s a little up in the air as to what exactly I’ll be doing at JG, but in the next few months I’ll be talking with JG and the Shansi staff to create a great project. It looks like my skills in health education could be useful in being a health counselor that works with doctors and patients to address the health needs of the community around JG, which sounds fantastic to me. I also have some other ideas up my sleeve. This means I will be in Oberlin for Winter Term for orientation (January 4th-January 29th or so) then heading to probably University of Wisconsin-Madison to take some Hindi classes in June, then heading to India from August 2012-June 2014. This also (hopefully) means I’ll be able to come back to Indonesia at least once during my time as a Shansi Fellow, as they give annual In-Asia Travel Grants to each Fellow once a year (this is my current understanding). So excited! Please come visit (I’m telling you all early so you’ll have time to plan/save money :))

BADUY INFO: The Baduy (pronounced “bah-doo-ee) number less than 10,000, and are the only indigenous tribe left on the island of Java that still maintain their lifestyle despite modernity closing in all around them. There is a division of the Baduy into two groups: the inner and outer Baduy. The inner Baduy have maintained their tribal lifestyle – they walk barefoot, wear very plain clothing (usually black and white, with the men wearing white cloth tied around their head), only travel by walking (including to Jakarta), and live off the land (for example, they don’t use soap – they make their own cleaning solution out of ground up leaves). Non-Indonesians are not allowed to enter the territory of the inner Baduy. The outer Baduy are larger in number and wear more colorful clothing, usually blue (especially the women). They often walk barefoot, but sometimes wear sandals or shoes. They do not own motorized vehicles, but they take public transportation over long distances. All of the Baduy have their own tribal religion, which is based on a belief in the power of nature and ancestors. There is one Muslim village in the outer Baduy, which the elders of the community permitted for the first and last time. The village we went to was so organized and clean – it made me think we’ve complicated our lives to the point where we’ve forgotten we don’t need as much as we have.

GORONTALO: I have about six days left here, and I have so much to do! Yesterday I went to MAN Insan Cendekia to see Trisna, Cica and Marjorie. I visited Yunus at his training center (he’s having orientation to go teach in Nusa Tenggara Timur in south-east Indonesia, so proud of him!) and then spent the night at Cendekia. I really want to go to the beach one last time, go to my school, hang out with students, and generally say goodbye to as many people as I can, until (hopefully) two years from now. I’ll miss my second home so much, but I know I’ll be back.

Wrapping Up at Peduli Anak

11 Nov

I have a day left to get everything done before I leave this wonderful place, and I don’t know how I’m going to do it! For lack of something more poetic, here’s my to-do list for tomorrow (again, not pictures because the modem just can’t take it):

1. PACK! (This will take some time – I have a whole bag of souvenirs I bought in Senggigi…)
2. Learning all the words to “Hero” by Mariah Carey for the post-wedding party of Ibu Tania, the 6th grade teacher at YPA
3. Record myself singing children’s song so the teachers at YPA can use them in the classroom
4. Giving copies of my lesson plans/songs/other teaching materials to teachers
5. Recording and editing more videos of children saying their name, their age and what they want to be (I’ve gotten mostly “doctor”, “pilot”, “teacher” and “football player”, as well as one “spa manager”).
6. Running 2 English clubs, where we’ll learn the Banana Song and make snowflakes (kids with scissors, what are you thinking Christina??)
7. Finishing my rough draft of a grant proposal to get a new shelter for the girls at YPA
8. Writing my last volunteer report!

Hopefully I’ll also get to go to Senggigi to buy some last minute items and for a last dinner with Sabrina and Laurens, and I might even go to the eye doctor with Sabrina and Samsul, a boy who has been through a lot but who might be finally getting some glasses!

As some of you know, I came here with some donation money. For the children of YPA, the funds purchased:

– 16 English-Indonesian/Indonesian-English dictionaries for SMP students
– a trip to the beach with snacks and transportation for 3 counselors and 30 kids
– about a dozen library books in Indonesian for beginners
– about 80 pairs of sandals for the kids (they lose them a lot, they’re little!)
– about 70 “rewards” (think moisturizer/perfume for the girls, and hair gel/cologne for the guys) for when the kids do good things to themselves and others
– 2 small drawing tables for the kids who don’t go to school yet (the 3 Musketeers, Dian, Kiki and Nurul)
– cooking utensils, namely a glass blender, a wok, 3 large pots and one huge cooking pot
– bed sheet materials for 10 sheets, and thread and sewing machine needles for 100+ bed sheets
– 5 emergency lights for when the power goes off (which is about every other night for at least 20 minutes)
– payment for the labor hours for making around 100 bed sheets
– (possibly) glasses for Samsul!

As you can see, a little in the US can do a long way here in Indonesia!

I’ve enjoyed my time here so much, and it will be hard for me to leave. Despite all the work I have to get done, I really want to spend my time tomorrow with all the people here, especially the kids! Although it’s not perfect and I’d like to think of a better way to do it, I’m trying to make my work sustainable by passing on lesson plans I did in class to teachers, recording songs I sang in class, and making photocopies of pertinent lesson plans from my books I brought. I’ve also been working with the teachers on pronouncing the text in their textbooks so that they’ll be more confident in speaking English in the classroom and will do it more often. I had such a great time the other day with the female teachers (Ibu Ratna (class 1), Ibu Uci (4), Ibu Sari (5) and Ibu Tania (6)) in teachers’ class- they’re such gossipers and I wish I could just hang with them all the time! Hopefully my lesson plans, pronunciation lessons and my English volunteer guide will help the program flourish and another native speaker will want to come volunteer at YPA!

Sunday, on the way to the airport, I’m going to the wedding after-party for the 6th grade teacher, Ibu Tania – I moved my travel plans a day later just for her! Later that day I’ll spend the night in Surabaya to drop off my two suitcases I won’t need for 3 weeks. Monday I’m off to Bali, on an adventure I have yet to plan! I forgot that Obama is coming to Bali on Thursday, so it’s possible I could leave before then, or I could be stuck there until he leaves! I’ll keep you all posted.

I’m going to leave you with some idioms that Indonesians sometimes use:

Nasi sudah menjadi bubur (literally: The rice has already become porridge): This means you can’t take back what you said or did, whatever that was!

Siapa menabur angin akan menuai badai (One who spreads the wind will get a storm): Someone who says something bad has it coming to them…

Mencari jarum di tumpukan jerami: Looking for a needle in a haystack (also, mendirikan benang basah (to make a wet thread stand up straight) – to be impossible!

Guru kencing berdiri, murid kencing berlari (If a teacher pees standing, his students will pee while running): I don’t quite get why the kids are running, but this means “to set a bad example”.

Air beriak tanda tak dalam (water that is not calm is shallow): to signify a shallow person (we have a similar one, “still waters run deep”, in English).

Karena nila setitik rusak susu sebelanga (one drop of poison ruins the whole bucket of milk): small mistakes ruin everything.

My personal favorite:
Gaja dipelupuk mata tidak kelihatan, kuman diseberang lautan terlihat (literally: You can’t see an elephant in front of you, but you can see a bacteria across the ocean): you can’t see the obvious.

I’ll write next from Bali!

A Busy Few Weeks at Peduli Anak

31 Oct

So many things have been happening at Peduli Anak since I got back! My first week back was so busy – every day I did something with the kids! In addition to teaching and the extracurricular stuff I planned for, the weekend had two important events that deserve their own post. I’m also going to make a very concerted effort to post once a week, so we’ll see how it goes!

Last Saturday, a group of dentists took over the auditorium and provided free dental checkups to all the kids at YPA, as well as anyone from the local village and anyone involved in the social services program that is connected to YPA (about 90 families are involved). Many teeth were pulled and tears were shed, but everyone was done in a few hours! I comforted many kids, younger and older, most of whom were just crying because they were scared or uncomfortable. Most of the problems the kids encountered were that they had gingivitis from not brushing enough, so their gums would bleed a little which scared them. The good news is gingivitis is totally preventable at their age! The dentists were very kind, amazingly kept everything sanitary, and were extremely thorough – they did everything from cleaning to teeth pulling 🙂 The group was from the Netherlands – one of the dentists lives in Senggigi (a touristy city north of Mataram, the capital) and organizes the whole group to come to YPA and other villages/areas once a year. This is their tenth year coming to YPA! The founder of YPA, Chaim (also from the Netherlands) also got a free check-up 🙂

On Sunday, part of my donated funds paid for 40 kids and myself, Marjolein and Pak Muklis (one of the YPA counselors) to go to the beach for the day (the total cost was all of $24…not bad!) Little did I know how hard it would be to keep everyone both happy and safe! Luckily around 20 of the kids could swim by themselves and some others were not so into going into the water, but most of the time I had five kids begging me to swim with them and clinging to me. I joked with them that “pulau Christina ramai” which means “Christina Island is crowded”. I felt like an island with so many kids attached to me! I would usually have two on the back, one under each arm, and one in the front with their arms around my neck. Nana, a 4th grader, got mad at me because I wasn’t paying enough attention to her, but then later she got tired of being mad and came back and cuddled with me. Hanging out with all of them made me realize how much I myself want kids someday! Seeing how happy they are almost every day, it’s hard to imagine what they felt like before they came to live at YPA.

This week progressed as normal. I taught my kids a little about Halloween – we talked about ghosts, witches, zombies and vampires, I learned about some Indonesian ghosts, and after they asked the question “Trick or treat! May I have some candy?” I gave them a piece of candy! On Monday, my fellowship application for the Shansi is due, which will be awesome to have out of the way 🙂

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This weekend has also been fun – Friday night, Martina, Marjolein and I went to a great coffee shop and ate dinner and had a work party/talking about love and life. Saturday in the morning, Marjolein and I decided to go to Gili Air, which is a small island in a trio of islands (the others being Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan, which is the biggest/most famous). We dived together once and say some amazing fish, and then today, Sunday, I dived and saw 4 sharks, 2 sting rays, and 2 turtles! I forgot how much I loved diving, and how much I want to buy an underwater case for my camera and a dive computer! We came back from Gili Air this afternoon (it takes around 3 hours round trip to get there if you time it right). Tomorrow night we’re hoping to get together with Jen and/or Jess, the two ETAs teaching in Mataram, to watch Hocus Pocus in honor of Halloween! Now I’m just preparing for the week (which will include editing the current English curriculum, making a guide for future English teaching volunteers, researching potential grants for YPA, and making a video of the kids sharing their dreams) and putting the finishing touches on the Shansi application – wish me luck!

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):

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More updates later about Yayasan Peduli Anak!

Peduli Anak Updates

20 Oct

Sorry I’ve been so bad at updating! I have no excuse – with the exception of 5 days on the road in various places, I have had excellent internet access. People have just been so awesome and wonderful, yet again.

In the past few weeks I’ve been figuring out my role at Peduli Anak, and I’ve already established a few activities that I’ll be doing every week. First, I am teaching English to all six elementary school grades, but this only takes up 6 hours of my time. I’ve also been organizing 3 English clubs (which may become 2), helping kids who go to the junior high school at night do their homework, training Syafaat and Agus on how to give tours (they gave one without me the other day and I was so proud!), and giving a teacher training class once a week on Saturdays to all the elementary school teachers with Pak Ali. It’s been going well so far, but it’s a lot different than last year. I’m speaking more Indonesian in class this year because my students speak less English because they’re younger, and most of the teachers I teach with don’t speak English because they teach all classes at the elementary level. This means I have to improvise a lot in Indonesian, which is making my language acquisition a little better everyday. I also sing A LOT more – it keeps the little kids from getting bored. I’m excited too because the teachers are learning more fun ways to teach English, and I can already see the English of some of the teachers improving. It also means each class is an adventure! I’ve been teaching anything from learning how to say “Good morning, good afternoon and goodnight” through song to the 1st graders to describing celebrities (are they tall, thin, athletic, etc.) with 6th graders.

The entrance to the Foundation - it's a really nice place.

A view from the school, where I teach.

Emily and her assistant Esmi came to visit! Nurul (on the left), Dian and Kiki hung out with us for a while 🙂

English Club is also interesting – last year the only disruptions I had were students talking, but this year I have to keep them really interested otherwise they get out of their seats! I end up with six or seven kids who really want to be there (out of about 10-15) which is totally fine – right now we’re playing games and dancing and occasionally drawing (the younger kids tend to want to do that) so I’ll be working more in the framework of having fun rather than doggedly pursuing skills learning. I am also going to be setting up a volunteer position specifically for English teaching at Peduli Anak so hopefully they’ll have someone there most of the year who’s had experience and is a native speaker :).

In Narmada, where Emily, Jess and Jen (the two ETAs on Lombok this year), Ibu Grace (a lecturer and researcher at the University of Indonesia and also one of the teachers at ETA Orientation) and I went one afternoon.

All the kids lined up for a school photo 🙂

One of my 4th grade students, Nana, took pictures during English Club - this is me, Elma (center) and Isnul having a conversation.

Me with Nana on my back!

I’m really enjoying my time there in other ways too. I’ve become good friends with Ibu Dian, Eni and Ina who all work in the office, and have worked a lot with Pak Ali (who is one of the school coordinators, and also a local volunteer!) and am getting to know him better. It’s been nice having Martina here this week to bounce ideas off of, get feedback and clarity on my goals, and hang out! The teachers and I also get along really well – it’s nice because most of them are still under 30 and are not married yet so we have a lot in common :). They tease me about finding a boyfriend in Lombok and have invited me to hang out with them when I get back, so I’m very excited for that. Marjolein and I are very good roommates – she’s so sweet and reminds me a little of Casey because she’s a little quiet but so thoughtful and caring 🙂 The volunteer who is here during the day, Sabrina from Germany, is really great too and we usually get ote-ote (flour and veggies fried together that form a lump, a traditional food generally from the Lombok/East Java area) and Nutri Sari (what I imagine Tang tastes like)/coffee at our morning break together. I’m quite happy here, and plan to do around 3 more weeks of work at the Foundation.

The following photos, including my featured photo above, are courtesy of Martina Natratilova Fetter.

Me teaching 1st graders how to say "Hi my name is _______."

High five, you got it dude!

Me and the kids in 1st grade reviewing a song about good morning, good afternoon and good night - we're singing about night time now, in case you couldn't tell 🙂

I’ll be leaving around November 8th – 10th, depending on what’s going on in Gorontalo and when my visa renewal gets processed. Two people (Mr. Zay, a security guard/general office guy at MAN Limboto, and Mr. Oi, the school driver) are planning on getting married around the 10th of November, the Bahasa Indonesia teacher at MAN Limboto and my former neighbor Ibu Fatma’s daughter is having a mandi lemon (lemon-water bath) ceremony, which I think has something to do with coming of age in Islam, on the 12th, and Ibu Sarkiah and Pak Herson are coming back from haji (pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five pillars of Islam) on the 14th, so I have a lot of invitations to go back to Limboto and Gorontalo around that time! Unless I pay to expedite it, my visa renewal could take up to 5 days, and once I renew it I have 30 days until I have to renew it again (at which point, if all goes as planned I will be on a plane to Israel). My visa expires around the 7th of November, so I’ll have to extend it before then and before I go to Gorontalo – I have a lot still to figure out with my supervisors at Peduli Anak. I realize now that Gorontalo is a huge priority for me now and I want to spend a lot of time there because after December 5th, I don’t know when I’ll visit Indonesia again – sometime in the next 5 years is all I can say for sure.

Next post: my adventures on my 10 days of vacation! The featured picture above is of me teaching 1st graders how to count to six 🙂

My Second Home, Gorontalo

27 Sep

Greetings from Lombok,

Now that I’ve had a few days apart from Gorontalo, I can tell you all about it.

In so many ways, it felt like coming home, and while I was there, it seemed as though being in America felt like an extended vacation. I swear if I strike it rich someday, I’ll build a house there so I can visit whenever I want. I lived with my Indonesian mother, Ibu Sarkiah, and my sisters, Rya and Yheyen, and my little brother Sultan (bad-ass name, huh?). I saw so many people I loved. I met the new ETAs, Lisa and Marjorie, who are so much more prepared and adaptable than I was when I first came to Gorontalo and Limboto. I went to my school and saw all my old students, teachers, and friends who work there. I hung out with my friend/former student Tyara and went to the house of Mr. Marwan, the guy who cleaned my house, to drink coconut water and give his family baby clothes. I went to MAN Insan Cendekia to see Trisna and Chicha, two of the funniest ladies I know. I had my 25th birthday party at Ibu Sarkiah’s house, and everyone I loved, including the principal of Insan Cendekia, Pak Suwardi and his family, came. I sang karaoke with some amazing Indonesians. I went to a village where few people spoke Bahasa Indonesia and rode horses, snorkeled, and went to the most beautiful beach in Gorontalo province. I got to eat amazing food like milu siram/corn soup, ikan bakar/grilled fish, gurita sate/octopus satay and gohu/(banana “heart”, coconut, lime, and chili). And, perhaps best of all, I got to see my best friend Yunus and talk every day about things I rarely talk about with my American friends – religion, peace, and the wonders and horrors of the world. It was extremely hard to leave, and I cried on the plane rides to Lombok. People from there say that they will miss me, but they don’t have to, because I’ll always come back. While I was there, I also did some work on some essays for the Shansi Fellowship (two-year fellowship to do outreach and mobilization in northern India for women and other minorities, funded through Oberlin) – Gorontalo turned out to be a really inspirational place for writing about cultural exchange. I’ve learned that though I would like to spend my time in between both Gorontalo and Boston, there’s almost no way to make that happen in the way I want to. So I must be insane for trying, right? 😉

It’s hard to get specific about being in Gorontalo – not to get sappy, but when I’m there, it’s like I have everything I want. But there’s no way for me to be fully made an insider, and I will always be given special treatment, which, while it’s very nice, is an indicator that I will always be a princess, and will never quite fit in. I went into the ETA experience expecting 9 months to be the perfect amount of time to be at home in a place, and I thought that feeling would disappear little by little once I went home. Now I know that if I let it, it could stay with me forever. Unless I get off the fence, I’ll never been truly happy about where I am at the moment. I am a person that, despite my love of traveling, needs a place to put down roots. I’m not there yet, but I will be someday soon. I’m afraid that if I keep up all this traveling, I’ll be constantly torn between what I know/what I’m comfortable with, and a world that can only exist short term. Then again, I have been told that traveling an exploring the world is exactly what an adventurous 25-year-old should be doing. But people say that as if this is a phase of my life I should be getting out of my system, before I have things that tie me down, like marriage and a job and kids, that prevent me from traveling. What if I don’t want to be tied down, and what if I never get to the point where I’m happy staying in one place?

Here are some pictures of Gorontalo:

Rici and Yunus at my friend Ibu Yuni's house.

Rici, Ibu Yuni, Syifa (her 3 month old baby) and I

In Boalemo, Yunus' second home - all these bananas are going to be fried!

Yunus 1 and Yunus 2 - everyone says the little one could be his brother.

Milu (corn) and gohu (heart of banana, coconut, chili, deliciousness) - I LOVE Gorontalo so much for its food.

They caught this while Yunus and I snorkeled...gurita (octopus) sate later! I should send this photo to the Patriots - I guarantee you their logo has never made it to a place this remote.

Me and half the village 🙂 I love these guys!

I look happy, but there is so much fear of falling under that smile...

This beach is the most beautiful one in Gorontalo province - I just thought the height progression in this photo was hilarious 🙂

Pak Suwardi, the principal of MAN Insan Cendekia, and Yunus decide who's going to karaoke for me first 🙂

Sorry this is from so far away, but I needed to show you how tall the tree is and how that man is climbing it like it's no thing.

Princess Tyara and me 🙂

At Mr. Marwans house again - babies!

Karaokeing with some of Yunus' friends - they are so cute and great singers!

Enough. I’m in Lombok now, at a wonderful foundation called Peduli Anak. I’m going to be teaching here for a few weeks, for an as yet undetermined amount of time. I have about 10 weeks left in Indonesia, and I want to spend about half of that time here at the foundation, and the other half traveling, diving and in Gorontalo. I’ll be teaching 1st through 6th grade English speaking class, running English club, organizing activities for the girls shelter, tutoring and helping with homework, and training Agus and Syafa’at, two 15-year old boys, to be tour guides for the Foundation. I’ll also be training the teachers in how to incorporate more speaking and fun activities into their teaching and probably doing some grant research. It’s nice to have my priorities so clearly mapped out, and to be able to design my own program. I feel really needed here, and it’s been great getting to know the kids, from 3 year olds to 17 year olds. I also have been hanging out with Jess and Jen, two ETAs teaching at high schools in the area, and Marjolein and Sabrina, two volunteers working at PA from Holland and Germany, respectively. Marjolein has a background in anthropology and is thinking about doing research here, and she’s also my lovely roomate! Sabrina just arrived yesterday and she’s going to be working during the day with the kids in the shelters doing various activities – her background is in child therapy. All of us are 25 and get along really well. Everyone here is so nice and my Indonesian is rapidly improving, to the point where I am exhausted just from speaking it all day! I just got an invite from one of the ladies who works at the canteen and the kitchen to come see her family at her house tomorrow, which should be a great time, since I don’t speak a word of Sasak, the local language! In my experience so far, the more you talk to the people around you, the more comfortable everyone feels. I think I’ll start waking up at 6am to get to morning tea with the teachers by 7am, because we all have a lot of work to do together and making friends will get me a lot farther and make me seem less foreign to them.

More later when I get settled! (That’s a picture of my birthday cake up top, by the way.)

San Francisco, San Diego and Mexico!

11 Sep

The past two weeks have been magical. I LOVE California and the Rosarito Beach area of Baja California and will need to live close to these places at some point in my life. Hanging out with Jasmine Mote, Cynthia Guggenheim, Emmy Brockman, Lindsay Sutton, and Jolie Colby have been amazing and therapeutic, and digging in deep with Jolie’s clan and family made me feel like I can find home anywhere I go.

I had a teeny bit of a rough start to my journey west – Hurricane Irene caused Manchester, NH to pre-emptively cancel ALL their flights. After much stressing and me staying on the phone with a woman named Monica for 2 hours, I got one of the last flights out of Boston (to Philly, then Cleveland, then San Fran…). If not for Monica, I may have been holed up on Boston until the following Tuesday! In San Francisco, I was surprised by both the cold wind and temperature, and the beauty of the area! It doesn’t surprise me that so many people I love live there and few intend on coming back. Any time I tell people I’m going to California (the Bay Area in particular), they say “Don’t go! You’ll never come back!” I can definitely see why. There is so much to do around the Bay Area and the hills give the City so much character. The University of Berkeley (or “Cal” as the locals call it) is so beautiful and in such a great area. One of the quirky things about the Bay Area is the amount of transient people/homeless in the area and how aggressive (in a friendly way) they are! In Harvard Square, I am used to seeing a few homeless and occasionally give money to a few, but in the Bay Area they completely overwhelm you and you feel weird giving money to one because it would almost be unfair to favor one over the hundreds around you! Some of the highlights of my time in the Bay Area:
– riding an old-school trolley up and over and down the hills of San Francisco
– watching the seals roll around on the docks near the bay
– hiking up Panoramic Hill and seeing most of the Bay Area (and using leggings for the first time haha)
– eating brunch and having a potluck with Jasmine, Cyn and Emmy (and meeting Alex, Emmy’s boyfriend) AND seeing their fab apartment
– seeing a series of short films celebrating contemporary Bay Area animation
– eating breakfast at a place called Sconehenge…enough said.
– getting a $2.00 custom made fresh ice-cream cookie sandwich
– eating pizza on a street median with some ladies in Jasmine’s clinical science cohort
– making a spicy Indonesian chicken dish with Jasmine
– catching up with my cousin Lindsay and getting some fantastic soup and salad

I may have forgotten some things, but it was definitely a blast – some pictures:

Jasmine on the trolley.

Apparently Mr. Bogart himself was there...

Alcatraz Island

So much seal love!

Cyn, Me, Jas and Emmy at our potluck.

My life's worth for the next three months!

San Diego, from what Jolie told me about it, was a lot like I had pictured it. Small-ish with surfers everywhere and the chillest people you’ll ever meet, and GREAT Mexican food. It was really nice to spend some time with Seth, her fiancee, meet her amazing and diverse housemates, acro-yoga buddies, and of course her sister and mommy. I had met her mother, Cathy in Gorontalo and she was so warm and hilarious as ever 🙂 It was so nice to see all the different facets of Jolie reflected in all the people in her life. We went to Mexico for Jolie’s engagement party, and crossing the border was an experience in and of itself – she lives about 30 minutes from the border. Mexico was also lovely – we stayed in Las Gaviotas, a gated community village near Rosarito Beach, with its own beach, pool and hot-tub. Highlights included:

– meeting Jamie, Jolie’s childhood best friend, and being “single” buddies with her
– laying out on the beach in a tiny bikini and feeling super self-conscious
– swimming at Blacks, a beach and prime surfing spot and reading tarot cards
– driving across the border to Mexico
– playing volleyball with Tori (Jolie’s sister), Michael (Seth’s friend), Seth and Jolie
– eating amazing tacos and tres leches cake for Jolie’s engagement party
– playing “Extreme Charades” and “About Time” with new friends and family
– eating amazing Mexican brunch (with free margaritas!)
– surfing for the first time
– eating burritos on the way to the airport


Gone surfing.

I want to live here for this.

Lovely beach.

They hook you up - instantly!

You can even bike to Mexico!

Crossing the border.

Trying out tacos for Holie's engagement dinner and drinking Tecate with the girls!

The view from the window of the house in Las Gaviotas.

Volleyball kids.


The engagees getting the royal treatment from Elijah and Willow 🙂

Kameron, Mama Cathy, Roxanne and Uncle John

Jamie, Tori and Holly

Jolie and Seth do acro-yoga.

Getting to Indonesia was surprising painless. I sat next to a Chinese nun, an amazing Indonesian woman from Kalimantan named Cindy, and met a girl named Putri who lives in the US but her parents are from Jakarta who said my Indonesian and my accent was really good (I think I have a ways to go). I did wake up in the middle of my Hong Kong flight and wonder what I was doing flying all the way to Indonesia, but I got over that quickly by watching some Diamonds are Forever and Goodfellows. When I landed in Jakarta, I was met with the chaos of the airport that I had expected – I felt I had the insider knowledge that only come from having lived in Indonesia before. The crowds didn’t stress me out and I had a nice talk with my taxi driver. Mia and Ab have been so accommodating and sweet to me – I’m still recovering from jet-lag and they don’t laugh too hard at me sleeping all the time. I can’t go to Gorontalo until Wednesday because ticket prices are so expensive after Idul Fitri, the celebration of the end of Ramadhan, but I’m having fun seeing friends and former ETAs that live in Jakarta.

I’ll report next from Gorontalo to tell you what I find there – yay for second homes!

A Crazy Idea

26 Aug

My first thoughts as I boarded the plane to Jakarta from Gorontalo, and then again from Singapore to Japan were: I can’t not go back to Indonesia. Part of me will cease to exist if I don’t. I have to go back. These dramatic/”lebay” (Indonesian for overly exaggerated) thoughts stuck with me through my flight and into my first weeks of being home. Don’t get me wrong – I was and still am happy to be home, especially with the people I love, my bed and hot water. Still, there are a lot of things pulling me back there. I also have not done well with culture shock in some ways, and have felt like my time at home has been more of a long vacation than a homecoming. I am not done with Indonesia quite yet. In Indonesia, there are still friendships to develop, places to explore, and thankfully for my resume something to do that is related to my career. So yes, I am returning to Indonesia for a few months, which is definitely a little crazy but also the thing that is going to make the most sense and bring the most joy to me at this point in my life!

For the majority of my time in Indonesia, I will be volunteering with Peduli Anak, an organization that provides former street children education and job-training, as well as a wonderful place to live and a huge family to belong to. I will be teaching English for two months, and I’m thinking of framing the classes in a way that brings in health education and/or theater, depending on interest and ability. I’m pumped to be working with such a renowned NGO (they now have an office in Jakarta and have been visited by the Minister of Education himself)! I think it’ll be great to get experience working with an international NGO and will give me an idea of what I’m up against in pursuing a career in international relations/development. I’ll also be spending time before volunteering at PA in Gorontalo visiting friends, and then after Peduli Anak, traveling, visiting other friends/former and current ETAs and returning to Gorontalo. Before I even get to Indonesia, however, I’m making a 10 day trip to San Francisco to visit Jasmine (my long-time Boston/Oberlin buddy) and Lindsay (my cousin who just moved there), and then to San Diego/Mexico (where I have never been!) to celebrate Jolie’s (my soul-girl from Indonesia) engagement party. After Indonesia, I’ll be going to Israel for 2 weeks to visit the Reshefs, family friends of ours. Then I’ll be home in time for Christmas! Don’t even try to stop me 🙂 Here’s the itinerary:

Saturday August 27th: fly to San Francisco
Thursday September 1st: fly to San Diego
Friday September 2nd: drive to Mexico with Jolie and Co. for engagement party
Wednesday September 7th: fly to Jakarta
Sunday September 11th: fly to Gorontalo
Tuesday September 20th: fly to Mataram, Lombok (where Peduli Anak is located)
Monday November 14th – Sunday December 4th: travel and return to Gorontalo
Monday December 5th: fly to Israel
Tuesday December 20th: fly to Boston

After this trip, I will have traveled to 4 different countries on 3 different continents in 4 months. I will also have circumvented the globe, which is exciting because the furthest east I have flown is Israel and the furthest West in Indonesia. I know it’s crazy, but it’s what my heart wants.

I’ll use this blog to document this journey, and I think I’ll use it to chronicle any other independent travel I do from now on.

Above is a picture of my family (in Bermuda in June 2010), who will collectively always be the place I come back to, no matter where they or I end up.

I’ve got packing to do and hugs and kisses to give – expect an update from San Francisco 🙂

FYI: Two of the best goodbye messages I have gotten: a painting from my 3-year-old neighbor Cole that is green and glittering with the words “Bon Voyage” on them, and my friend Adam’s literal translation of “hati-hati di jalan” – heart heart on the road 🙂

Hard Goodbyes: Leaving Indonesia and Australia

24 Aug

Picture: my Indonesian siblings and I at my going away party.

So it’s been a long while – oops! I could make excuses left and right, but in the time since my last post (around 3 months), I’ve been doing one of three things: enjoying the last few weeks in Gorontalo, going to Australia with my friend Luca, or hanging out with my friends and family that I so dearly missed. I’ll elaborate on those things below (complete with pictures, of course) and tell you what I’m up to next.

My last few weeks in Gorontalo were some of the best of my life. I spent them hanging out with amazing people, developing new friendships, realizing how much I loved and was loved, and eating amazing, fresh, flavorful food. My friends Mary and Melina came to visit me and got to see my crazy Gorontalo world, I said goodbye to some of my favorite places and embarked on new adventures (climbed to Lombongo waterfall, hung out near the sea at Tangga Dua Ribu eating grilled corn, going to a beautiful beach on the northern shore with most of my students, and going karaoke-ing, of course!). I tried local alcohol called casgaram and another one made from distilled fruit that I forget the name of (but it tastes like kombucha). For a break in April I went with Jolie, Heather (who taught in Bandung) and Polly (who taught in Amurang) to the Togean Islands for some RandR for a week, and met up with some other ETAs there. I took my WORDS competition finalists (minus Yheyen who was sick) to Saronde Island, which has one of my favorite beaches in the world). I traveled with Yheyen, Jolie and Mutiah (Jolie’s WORDS competition winner) to Jakarta to compete with 41 other students, and acted like a crazy person trying to look after Yheyen (who is super responsible and laughed at me for worrying so much) and helping to organize the whole competition. I taught my kids Michael Jackson’s “Heal the World” and after discussions on building peaceful relationships, we were all in tears. Some of my students threw me a going away party, which ended with me covered in baby powder (we played a game where you have to pop balloons and do whatever the message inside says, and mine just had baby powder in it!) and full of delicious food they cooked me. I had an awesome going away party with tons of gifts, including a watch from my 12th graders that I wear every day and a tea mug from Yunus that I drink out of whenever I have tea. I realized that my friendships and relationships I discovered here ran deeper than I possibly could have imagined.

I bawled my eyes out, quite unexpectedly, when I finally dragged my suitcases out to the car which would take me to the airport. I felt like I was leaving home, forever, not returning home. I was afraid everything would change when I came back, and vowed, for many reasons, that day to come back as soon as I could. I’ve left part of my heart there and I don’t really feel like I’m done with Indonesia, or the people who live there, quite yet.

Australia was so great – Luca and I felt so independent and in charge, being away from loving yet over-protective Indonesians. We holed up in Luca’s friend-from-college’s mom’s house in Melbourne for a few days to get over the culture shock, including food shock (dairy and berries and kangaroo, oh my!), COLD SHOCK (it was freezing there because it was winter) and jet lag. We went everywhere wearing at least 4 layers of clothing when most people had on a sweater. We went out for a day in the city and to buy some food, but mostly we just relaxed. Then our trip to Uluru, the mystical Aboriginal rock in the middle of Australia, came and was amazing – such beautiful views and walks. We also learned a lot about aboriginal culture, such as the fact that in the 1960’s you could shoot an Aboriginal person because they were technically considered fauna. One woman who married an Aboriginal man and was accepted into the community said there are still Aboriginal people who remember white people coming to their village and taking it by force. Racism, gentrification, and rejection of white society and culture is alive and well in Australia – going to some parts of Australia and seeing the racial segregation is what I imagine the Jim Crow south to be like pre-Civil Rights movement. That being said, the area is extremely beautiful and we got to visit a Waldorf school (which they call a Steiner school). Sydney was really great and I definitely toured the opera house. We stayed with Couch Surfers the whole time, met some wonderful people, and became addicted to Emirates Air (they have stars that come out on the ceiling at night…) Coming home to see my family was so awesome, and not immediately strange, like I had expected.

Here are some pictures from the last few weeks (narrowed down to under 10, hard to do!) and some Australia pics:

Yheyen and me at the WORDS Competition!

Winners of the WORDS Competition

Yheyen doing a bowling "spare" pose (we taught them all a spare and strike dance).

My student Soli teaches me how to draw.Soli, one of my 10th grade students, teaching me how to draw (in English, of course).

Me and the family of Mr. Marwan, the guy who cleaned my house - he is one of my favorite people.

Best friends forever: Chicha, Jolie, Trisna and YunusBest friends forever: Chicha, Jolie, Trisna and Yunus in cute glasses.

My kids jumping for joy at the beach!

Look, over there - America!

My 10A class getting teary and huggy.

My students threw me a going away party. I love them so much!

Friends for life!

We were really excited for sponge cake.

Kangaroos everywhere! We totally ate a few of these guys eventually.

 Jules, me and Luca in front of Uluru at sunrise.

Jules, me, Luca and Uluru at sunrise.

The Sydney Opera House by day...

...and by night!

Next post: my plans for what’s next – return to Indonesia!