Tag Archives: Limboto

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.

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!

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.)

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!

Masi Cari/Still Searching

29 Apr

Today, I learned (at least the first steps of) how to pray like a Muslim. My student Tiara and I used my kitchen floor as a practice space and after 15 minutes, I had the steps down. It’s a lot less complicated than I thought. Throughout the whole lesson, I kept repeating what Tiara said (mostly “Allah hu akbar” in Arabic (forgive my spelling), or “God is great” in English) but then realized that when you pray in the mosque, you don’t speak aloud – you just listen to the imam (the guy who leads the prayer) and pray silently to yourself. I was totally ready to go to the school’s mosque today, Friday (the holiest day of the week – school ends early and prayer is longer on these afternoons), but Tiara wanted to wait until Monday. I get to borrow clothes from Ibu Fatma, my neighbor, and if I practice a few times, I should be good to go. I am nervous, but people assure me that it’s ok if I go, and I won’t be disrespecting anyone by participating. I even practiced by myself this afternoon and felt pretty confident!

I was inspired to ask how to pray from reading the book “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. This book has been captivating my attention a lot these days, when I’m not spending nearly every waking moment hanging out with my friends, “roommates” (Tiara and Yunus, especially, do almost everything except for sleep in my house) and newfound family. It tells the story of Greg, a mountaineer who stumbles upon a village in the mountains of Pakistan and decides to build a school for them, which leads him to do other wonderful humanitarian things for people in this region (that’s a pretty blasé summation, but I want to get to the point). On his first visit back to the village of Korphe, where he intends to build his school, in a gritty hotel in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Greg’s tailor, Manzoor, is preparing to pray. He simply asks if he will show him how, something I never thought of before. His justification for wanted to learn is that he respects Islam. As someone who has fallen in love with an Islamic community, I figured it was worth a shot. I had assumed that it was forbidden for a non-Muslim to learn to pray – my friends assumed I didn’t want to because I was “Christian”. I cannot believe it has taken me this long to participate in a daily routine that all of my friends participate in – if you pray 5 times per day, about an hour of that day is taken up by praying.

I realize that the juxtaposition of the subject of this next paragraph with the former may alarm some of you, but being in Indonesia has made me realize something fundamentally important to me – I am still refining my definition of God and looking for a set of beliefs (hand-picked by me or set down by someone else) that suits me. I know next to nothing about the religion I was raised under, nor do I know much about Islam (or Judaism for that matter). There have been times in Indonesia that I have struggled to present an argument clearly and effectively because I lack concrete information about the rules of the religion I am talking about. The most important rule that I have found to be true for myself is ‘do what makes you happy’. I’m not say I’m looking to add more rules to that incredibly short list – I just feel the need to inform myself about what I may be missing. I’m searching for an Al-Qur’an (I say that to distinguish the holy book from a “koran”, which is simply a newspaper in Bahasa Indonesia) that is in Arabic, Indonesian and English. I want to much to inform myself about the religion of the people in my second home. I also will be dusting off my copy of the Bible upon my return to the States (my name was engraved on one when I was 13 or something – I remember how meaningless the ceremony where they gave me the Bible was to me at the time) so I can compare and contrast. Someday I will also work my way through the Talmud. I believe knowledge of these texts, whether you are devoutly religious, an athiest, or somewhere in between (me), is crucial to my generation if we want to change the world. I cannot wait to begin my mini-course when I get home! I also am committed to learning Arabic, somehow.

Being here has changed me permanently, in ways I never expected. The more I learn about how different my beliefs are and my culture is from people here, the more I respect and love them. My mother knows this best about me, but when I argue with people, however benignly, I secretly (or not so secretly, Mom) try to win the argument. Perhaps because I know I can never win an argument here, or because I am wowed by the devotion to religion and somewhat strict code of conduct that surround me, I don’t care about winning. Every day I respectfully disagree with people, and am overjoyed when I find out we have something in common. I laughed until I almost cry every day at some misunderstanding or joke, usually at my expense  :).

The more I try to describe my experience here, the more I am at a loss for words. I know my first instinct, at least initially, when I get home will be to compartmentalize my life and keep my experience in Indonesia for me. This may be because I don’t want my view of my experienced to be changed by what other people think, or because I don’t think people will understand. I intend to fight this urge because I think my experience here will be somewhat of a waste if I don’t at least attempt to engage my friends and family with my experience.

My last few months here have been magical, in a lot of ways like a Broadway musical, or a Shakespeare comedy. The denoument has already happened, and we’re moving onto Act V/the final numbers, where everything gets resolved and we say our goodbyes. I’m even thinking of singing “For Good” from a certain musical to my school before I go, the lyrics of which I’m not going to post here for fear a certain person won’t be surprised :). I’m having a hard time convincing people here, including myself, that I will be gone in almost 3 weeks. The only way I am keeping sane is knowing that I will come back here. I plan on applying for several opportunities in Indonesia, Asiaand abroad, and know I will find my way back here someday. I am really looking forward to going home for the summer (4th of July, getting Jasmine sick of living in Boston, and seeing many friends and of course my family and dogs are just some of the reasons!) I feel like there is so much to do in the world though, and staying home will make me restless 🙂 We will see.

I will try to post pictures of what I’ve been up to recently soon (the internet cafe near my house is super slow right now, plus this Indonesian guy is getting a little too friendly). This may be my last post before leaving Indonesia– I’ll probably be writing a few reflection posts upon my return to the US, and definitely one about Australia!

I’ll be leaving my site on May 22nd, going to Singapore for the night, then leaving for Australia on the 23rd. I’ll be there from the 24th to the 7th of June, traveling to Melbourne, Uluru/Ayers Rock, and Sydney. I will be home the night of June 8th!

Looking forward to seeing you all, and goodbye for now.

The Togeans, and Life as Usual

10 Mar

Below are some pictures of the Togeans.  I only went for 24 hours on a whim because Jolie and her friends Brianne and Laurel were going, and every minutes was worth it! I will let them speak for themselves.


Some guys from Gorontalo who were really excited to be chatting with a bule 🙂

Laurel, Jolie, Brianne and I waiting to disembark!


more ahhhh...

These little guys serenaded us with some pretty cute voices while we ate coconut meat.


Jolie looking pleased as punch 🙂


If I was going to live in a village, this is where I'd want to live.


A boat, islands, blue water - what more does anyone need?


The beach near our bungalows on Malenge Island.


Goodbye to Wakai, the largest town in the Togeans.
On an unrelated note, I went to a jazz festival in Jakarta last weekend – these are Emily and Elena looking cute at one of the concerts 🙂

Life in Limboto has been great – I’ve been a little sad because I’ve been going on so many trips lately on the weekends and have had to turn down some great opportunities to hang out with teachers and students.  The fact that I am leaving in about 2.5 months is both awesome and really sad, and I am really looking forward to the five-week stretch of time after this weekend where I can really hang out with my kids and friends in Gorontalo and go to the beach or the pool or a party on the weekends (although rumor has it that my 1-week vacation in the middle of April is really 2 weeks…).

I have been saying yes a lot more to people who want me to visit their schools and their classes or help out at English camp or record listening sections of English exams, and as a result have made some new friends, including Pak Jasman, who runs English camps all over Sulawesi, and Carl, a Swede who has been living in Gorontalo for over 4 years teaching politics at Universitas Negeri Gorontalo (the public university in Gorontalo).  They’ve gotten me out of my school a little bit, which makes me feel more free and like my world is just a little bigger.

I’ve also been getting my kids ready for the WORDS competition, which has been exciting – my kids have some awesome ideas and are really good writers! So far four kids have shown me their work and I’m pretty impressed.  It’d be nice to get 10 students at least to compete, and I know that more students have some good ideas.  We have three weeks left until the competition at my school, which my , and I’m working hard to get their pronunciation of words like “prosperity” and “realize” down pat.

In addition, I did a presentation about some scholarships for 10th grade students to apply to study in the US, France, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan, and other countries. Ten students showed up, which was more than I expected, and I really hope they apply! They had some really surprising questions for me about the programs though, such as “Can we wear a veil to school? Do we have to wear bikinis if we go to the beach? Will our host families give us food? Are Americans nice?” It lead me to talking about how socially, America is a pretty free country, and the only thing that is unacceptable in terms of clothing is if you wear nothing at all.  I also told them that host families apply to host exchange students and aren’t just picked at random, like they thought! I have this book on Muslims in America, and I want to do a lesson on it ASAP because I’m pretty sure my kids think they would be the only one wearing a veil/praying five times a day in the whole country.

After the grant, I may have told you I’m going to Australia! I am so excited, especially after purchasing a Lonely Planet Discover Australia guide. Luca and I will do Melbourne for a few days, then rent a car to go to Uluru, which will take at least two days to get there. Then we’ll return to Melbourne, go to Sydney, and maybe even hit Tasmania! Luca’s friend from the US also might come.  We’re not excited about how outlandishly expensive it is compared to Indonesia, but that’s a bit of culture shock we’ll have to get used to 🙂

Grace, Abbey and I are currently debating going sightseeing in Surabaya in lounging around Emily’s apartment before her birthday party! (I came to Surabaya to add pages to my passport, which didn’t take as much time as I thought). Tonight Grace and I take a train to Genteng to see her friends and go to the beach.  Then I come back to Surabaya Sunday night to take a flight the next day back to Gorontalo!

I have fallen in love with where I live and the people who I live around. It will be incredibly hard to leave Limboto! I am looking forward to going home, but my heart breaks a little at having to leave my huge family here :/ I’m just going to enjoy the next 10 weeks as much as I can – I’m looking forward to the WORDS competition, to making a speech in Indonesian at the end of the year, to having an auction of the stuff I want to leave behind (the proceeds of which will go to the school), and to hanging out with my kids and friends.


A Long-Overdue Update: Vacation and Limboto Life

20 Dec

There are many reasons why I’ve neglected my blog for over a month.  I’ve been falling in love more with the people here and, with a few exceptions, prefer to spend my time with them when I have free time.  I’ve also been on some awesome vacations, where, again, I preferred people to computers.  Then, I had some pieces in a handbook to edit, which occupied my time for a while.  Now, one day before my next big adventure, I’ve decided to update you on what has happened since mid-November!

Side-note: I received 4 priority packages today from the US that were sent before November 5th, but it was amazing to actually get “Christmas presents” of a sort the day before I left for vacation! One of the packages was completely destroyed by Fluff that was lovingly sent to me (sorry Bridget, Paul and Jeremy!) but I was able to save the peanut butter and chai tea inside.  THANK YOU to Mom, Dad, Casey, Bridget, Paul and Jeremy for thinking of me!


On November 17th and 18th, I got to celebrate a really important Islamic holiday, both with Jolie’s school (the 17th) and my school (the 18th).  Idul Adha commemorates the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son, Ishmael, before Allah/God presented him with a ram to sacrifice instead. At Jolie’s school, we woke up early and had soto ayam (a sort of chicken soup with rice and lime) and cookies.  Then the sacrificing of the bulls began (there were eleven in total) – I was beginning to wonder what all the cows with numbers on them were doing hanging around Jolie’s school!

The elaborate ritual goes something like this.  Someone begins by roping the bull’s feet so it can’t run, and gradually they lay the bull down.  They then tie its front legs and back legs together so it can’t kick.  Then, an old Ibu along with an old man comes over to say a prayer over the bull and calm it down.  The old man slits its throat quietly and majestically, covering the bull’s neck with a huge leaf to prevent blood spattering the many people gathered around. You know how in the movies when someone gets their arm/leg/head cut off and then blood sprays everywhere, sometimes comically? Thy had to get that inspiration from somewhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was animal sacrificing.  After the bulls throat is cut, it does one of a few things.  I saw some try to walk again, which only made it worse for them because their head had no support.  I saw some kick a lot and snort and struggle. I saw some take death lying down.  I was asked to stop taking pictures and comfort one of the bulls as it passed onto heaven instead – this involved me talking to it and stroking it as it died.  After the bull  is completely dead (which can take up to 20 minutes) the carcass is dragged by students (male, of course) who are eager to dismember it and divide up its parts (which can be really interested to watch – the students get so excited!). If this process sounds horrible and you’re wondering why I would want to watch something like this, I don’t exactly blame you – just remember that all that beef Americans was once a cow/bull that was killed by someone.  Granted, it’s done in a completely impersonal environment, probably by machines, but does that make it any better/worse? Personally, I’d rather have someone say some soothing words and be with me to watch me die then get electrocuted.  Jolie’s mom Cathy was also there and it was so fun to be a part of her first Indonesian experience.  If I had pictures, I’m not sure I’d post some of them, but I hope you can imagine whatever part of this experience you’d like to!

On the 18th, I went to an Idul Adha party at Ibu Nurmiaty’s house (one of the vice-principals and a teacher at MAN Limboto).  I missed the potong sapih part (the killing of the bulls) but was able to enjoy delicious sate, more soto ayam, and take some pictures!


Ibu Warni, me and Ibu Aisa all dolled up.

So many curious ibus.

Me and Ibu Sumarni making sate!

Students and adorable children.

Two of my favorite MAN Limboto boys.


Many people have told me this already, but I didn’t believe it until I saw it – Gorontalo has some truly amazing diving! There is a sponge in Gorontalo that was discovered and named by Rantje, an American originally from the American and Canadian Northwest who runs Miguel’s Dive Shop in the city.  It’s called the Salvador Dali sponge because it looks like something weird and angular and out of place (it could belong in one of his paintings, for sure).  You can only find it here! Rantje has also discovered several new species in the area and often sends samples of wildlife to Australia for tracking and cataloging.

I’m getting a little ahead of myself here though – I went on 5 dives in 2 days with 5 Indonesian guys from Jakarta and Kalimantan.  It was hilarious hanging out with them and I learned a lot.  I went a little deeper than I’m supposed to (beyond 18-20 meters is what I’m certified to dive as an Open Water diver), and it was really awesome.  We dived some walls, went through a fish traffic jam, dived a wreck (!!!), saw many cuttlefish, one sting-ray and one lobster! I was hoping for a whale shark because on of the ETAs who went here before saw one (sometimes they come feed on the plankton nearby) but I’m determined to see one before I leave Gorontalo! I paid $200 for 5 dives, including equipment, and it was completely worth the price (which is pretty standard and even a little better than most places in Indonesia, and certainly cheaper than US prices).


Resting after my first dive!

Me and the dive team!

The view from the boat!


…was awesome! Even though I only had Thursday-Sunday for vacation, I definitely made the most of it. First, I met a bunch of other ETAs in Surabaya to go to a dinner at the Consulate, where we met other buleh doing really inspiring and interesting work – some of the English Language Fellows (ELFs) from orientation were there as well and it was nice to reconnect with them.  We were all so grateful to have real Thanksgiving food – turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, two kinds of stuffing, green bean casserole, brussel sprouts and herbs, SALAD (it’s sad that this was one of my favorite things on the table), WINE, fresh fruit juice, and three kinds of pie.  It was so nice to gather with Americans and to dress up a little nicer than normal.  After the dinner, we headed to the Majapahit Hotel, which was the site of a lot of Indonesian resistance to Dutch rule in the early 1900’s. It’s a beautiful hotel and we got to have a little tour, as well as enjoy some delicious iced tea and meet some foreign service officers (FSOs) who worked at the consulate in Surabaya.

The next day, a lot of us headed to Lombok, where we met with other ETAs to catch a boat to Gili Trawangan, a smaller island with amazing beaches, delicious food, great snorkeling, and nightlife! The next 24 hours of my life were spent bar hopping, dancing, eating a bagel and lox, swimming with a turtle, and being able to be on a beach in an actual bathing suit (as opposed to a t-shirt and long shorts, which is even a little racy for Gorontalo).  I had to head back to Lombok early because I had an early flight to catch the next day back to Gorontalo, and I had an adventure haggling for affordable transportation while trying to make sure no one made off with my bags, in the rain, by myself.  I stayed at Ben’s house and had some killer gado-gado (rice, vegetable and tofu with peanut sauce) and fresh pineapple for $2 at a hotel across the street from his house. The next day my flight from Mataram on Lombok to Surabaya was delayed for 4 hours, and because there are only 3 or 4 flights in and out of the Gorontalo airport per day, I ended up staying in Surabaya for a night and crashing with Lupi, a friend of Jack (an ETA) who is a member of Couch Surfing. I got to see several ETAs that day too and got my mall/consumerism fix in as well (and I saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for $2.50!). I’ve found that if I have more than 3 flights in one day and one of them is delayed, I end up with an extra day of vacation!


We all imitated our favorite Indonesian while posing for a picture in this photo. From left: Rachel, Luca, Jack, Rick, Leif, Grace.

Luca, me and Rick toasting to wonderful food.

Croquet at the consulate (Leif and Brett)

Hanging out on Gili T - another Indonesian impersonation.

The view from the boat back to tha mainland.


I had a random vacation between December 3rd and 7th (the 7th was Islamic New Year, so we had no school) and decided to go to Surabaya to visit Adam (an ETA working in Gresik) and Emily, an FSO working at the consulate.  On the way there, I met a really nice Indonesian man who ended up buying me a scarf and playing cards, which I didn’t know what to make of, and a woman who lived in Gorontalo and had a hair salon business there.  Adam and I were supposed to leave the night of the 2nd for Banyuwangi (where our friends Grace and Leif work as ETAs) but they didn’t have tickets until the morning, so we crashed with Emily (and saw another movie – they are so cheap).

The next day we took a 7-hour train to Southeast Java, which was really delightful – it was air-conditioned and had a ton of leg room.  We met a really interesting guy named Jimmy, an American who runs a small home-stay in Thailand and teaches English there on the side.  He was tripping around Indonesia, and I’m so glad we ran into him because he had some amazing stories.  He has worked in so many places, but his most riveting adventure he told us about was the time he spent in Yemen.  I think he said it was the early 1990’s (around the time of the Gulf War) and he was teaching English there and ended up getting put under house arrest and was in prison for a while because they thought he was an American spy.  He also was jailed in the US for a while for being a conscientious objector for non-religious reasons.  He made our trip really entertaining and now if I ever go to Thailand (which is looking increasingly likely), I will have a place to stay near Bangkok.

We arrived in Banyuwangi (we got off at the wrong stop because we were unprepared and they only stop for 45 seconds so we literally jumped off the train) and got some nasi pecel (like gado gado, but set up differently and with different veggies) and got to meet some of Grace’s neighbors and see where she lived, as well as meet Grace’s counterpart, Shinda, who lives with her. The next day, we went to a wedding with gorgeous flowers and delicious food, a rujak party (we cut up young mango, papaya, and other fruit I forget the names of while an ibu made some delicious sweet and spicy peanut sauce – you combine them and MMM), toured a salak farm (known to Americans more as snake-fruit for its brown scaly exterior) and then ate some delicious ikan bakar (grilled fish) with a tomato-like sauce and some cumi rica (squid with pepper sauce) at a little place near the beach.  Definitely one of the best days I’ve had in Indonesia so far, despite my HORRENDOUS allergies (I was sneezing so much I couldn’t talk). I also learned a tiny bit of Javanese, which amuses my Gorontalo friends to no end. The next day Grace, Adam and I ventured back to Surabaya, where we got some great pasta with Emily and pigged out on ice-cream and cookie fondue at Hagen Daas – I left the next day for Gorontalo, and Grace too a train to Yogyakarta (in Central Java).

I didn’t have time to post pictures from Banyuwangi before I left, but I will when I get back!


…is going great.  I’m really beginning to feel at home here, despite being away so much.  I’ve gotten to know the security and staff who work for the school more, been more accepted in the social circle of men who work at my school (I keep a lot of their secrets now, which helps) and generally feel like I actually live here now.  Just this Sunday I went on an outing with several teachers, staff and the 10th grade of my school.  First we went to the site where Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, first landed in Indonesia.  Then we hiked up a million stairs to a really nice view of the valley and I got to see the hilly part of my area, which made me overjoyed for some reason (mainly because I see all the hills and I never get to go up them!) Then we went to the beach and I had an amazing time laughing with the staff, walking and dancing with the students, and snorkeling. Each time I hang out with my students after school, I love them more and more – most of them are incredibly eager to learn and we really enjoy swapping languages.

Over the next 5 weeks, I will not be spending more than a few days in Gorontalo.  Tomorrow, I’m heading to Bali for a night, then the next day going to Labuanbajo, Flores, in hopes of chartering a boat with my friends Rachel, Luca and Nicole to the Komodo and Rinca islands.  Hopefully we will do some amazing hiking and snorkeling there, as well as seeing some Komodo dragons! (And maybe a Flores hobbit – they supposedly inhabited the island thousands of years ago and could have been the first example of human dwarfism, but maybe some of them are still around!) On the 28th of December, I head to Ubud for a night with Luca and Nicole, and then we head to our amazing villa that I scored north of Seminyak until the 2nd of January! After that I have until the 9th to get home, and don’t know where I’m going yet for that leg of the journey.  I teach for 4 days, then head to Surabaya for a fun two days with Emily on the 14th of January, then spend until the 18th at one section of the AMINEF mid-year conference whe all the ETAs will gather for more training and merriment.  On the 19th we all head to Lombok (Mataram) for additional training. Then, on the morning of the 21st, I will go MEET MY MOM IN BALI! We’ll be there until the 24th, when we’ll head back to Gorontalo.  She’ll stay and watch me teach/go see Saronde Island and other beautiful Gorontalo sites before leaving for the US on the 27th of January.  I cannot express how excited I am for the next month of my life, and especially for seeing my mom.  I don’t know when I’ll be able to update again, but I will try to find time between searching for Komodo dragons, learning to surf, diving with manta rays, eating chips and guacamole, bungee jumping, and any other crazy adventures I come across. Much love, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!

Almost Famous

21 Oct

Written on October 5th:

I step out of the car that takes me wherever I want to go with Ibu Nurmiaty and Ibu Sarkiah, my entourage.  People immediately begin taking pictures of me (including Yunus, with my camera) as I walk towards the school.  I meet Chandra, one of Yunus’ friends who asked me to come speak at his school, smiles and tells me how happy he is that I could come.  Teachers crowd around me to shake my hand, kiss my cheek, and touch me in random places (like my butt (women only) – for real), all while the cameras are snapping away. I walk through the hall and see children peeping out of windows and doors and giggling or running away or running towards me or shrieking.  I walk with my entourage towards a large room.  When I enter, the room roars and immediately comes to life – about 300 students are standing up and shouting and laughing and clapping.  I take a seat among other teachers (phew!) but them am immediately asked to speak about America.  I talk about who I am, where I am from, what America is like – all the while, the students are literally falling out of their chairs and giggling and seem to be unable to contain themselves in my presence. After I speak, I am asked to pick five rows where they will take pictures of me. First of all, I cannot choose from 200 students (all of which are gesturing for me to sit next to them) and secondly, when I do sit down, the students run away and giggle or get or shy that they scoot over and don’t want to be anywhere near me or are so excited they almost hit me in the face.  When I sit in the back among a group of boys, they almost injure me with how much they are squirming around either trying to get closer or farther away from me (boys here are particularly shy and giggly around me and I presume most older girls who are not from their culture).  When I leave the room, the students follow me and walk alongside me.  I don’t get very far because people want to take so many photos – I take two steps and there are more people lined up.  Some of the ibus even put their cameras right in my face, five inches from my nose.  I shake hands and get touched in comfortable and uncomfortable places and smile and thank people and say I am happy to meet them and to come to their school until I am escorted back to the car.  Sometimes, it is all I can do to keep thinking that the children at this school have never seen a bule before in person, and that is why I feel like a celebrity and an object but I know just by being there, I am doing both my school and the schools I visit a service that is very easy to offer. I also leave with about four times more food than I could eat in a week (mostly peanuts, bananas and cookies), half of which I later give to my friends and neighbors.  Another school sings “If you’re happy and you know it” to me and the people there are more low key.  I would love to see what happens when Obama (hopefully) visits a school in November in Indonesia, and compare experiences.  Perhaps the cameras will be bigger, there will be actual press there, more people, and he will speak faster in English than I did.  Sometimes I feel like the local celebrity, the status of which comes solely by virtue of me being white, American, and an English speaker.  I can’t say I am proud of my celebrity status, but if it makes people happy I think it’s worth the hassle. Here are some pictures!

My principal, the principal of the school I visited, and me getting to know each other.

Me speaking to a sea of wide-eyed students.

My favorite of all the pictues with the students - these boys nearly flipped my chair over before this was taken in an effort to be just close enough but not too close to me.

Me and all the teachers - some of them were nice, and some stuck cameras in my face!

Students at another school singing "If You're Happy and You Know It" for me.

Meeting and greeting students.

Limboto in Pictures

5 Oct

The view from my living room

Take a few steps back and…

My cute little living room! The jars are full of cookies that people keep giving me.

Turn around and go left and you’re in the…

Kitchen - often home to many friends such as lizards, cockroaches and ants!

Take another left and you’re in my

My bathroom - it looks moderately clean from here, and there's a showerhead I couldn't fit in the picture. I often wake up to mice leaving presents for me on the floor, so I clean my bathroom often!

Turn around and you’re facing…

The other side of my kitchen - so grateful for my fridge, rice cooker, and water dispenser! Are you seeing a color theme yet? 🙂

Go through that door on the right and you’re in…

This is one of my favorite rooms (the study) - there's now a keyboard to the right of the desk and this room looks the most lived in because it's now messy!

Go out the door of the study and take a left and you’re in…

My bedroom - there's a TV on the left with local channels, and my awesome bedspread and mosquito net! Makes me feel like a princess.

Hope you enjoyed the tour! Here are some pictures from around school and at Saronde Island this past weekend!

Me and some of the male students at MAN Limboto - they're hilarious.

The kids at Insan Cendekia (Jolie's school) eating Indian food that Jolie made for us!

Shifa, Jolie and a friend get ready to go to Saronde Island!

Us on the boat ride over form the mainland!


I want to live here...

Needless to say, I was pretty stoked.

Kucing (that's what Jolie calls him) and Jolie arguing about whether the thing in the sky we were looking at was the moon or Mercury...

Me and Yunus keeping it real.

Jolie and I trying to jump at the same time for an action shot...

The only downside on this adventure was the mob that followed us everywhere asking for our picture...

There were at least a hundred people surrounding us while we ate lunch (these are just a sampling) and also blocking our view of the ocean...a little creepy, huh?

Despite our rather large fan base, we all had an awesome day!

Next post: My trip to a local school, my favorite phrase in Indonesian, my classes, and maybe some religion talk too!