Tag Archives: Mountain Climbing

Sampai Jumpa Indonesia, Shalom Israel!

18 Dec

Leaving Indonesia was almost (with one amazing exception) anti-climactic. I hugged a lot of people (mostly women) goodbye, shook a lot of hands, and promised I would return many more times than I said goodbye. Because this was my second time back, after only 3 months of being away, it felt natural to quietly slip out the back door and let everyone realize I was kind of gone later. Right now I still feel like I’m on vacation from Indonesia, and I’m not sure when that will change. It’s not an unpleasant feeling; it’s nice to feel completely content with where I am and where I am going.

Now for that amazing exception! I stopped in Jakarta (and Surabaya to get the rest of my things and say goodbye to Emily, TJ and Max over a delicious breakfast) because I thought a lot of my friends would be there as well (most of them had just finished a regional conference in Makassar and were on their way to Southeast Asia and beyond for winter break via Jakarta). We had planned to meet there for one last night, but in the last few days I hadn’t heard from anyone except Marjolein (who I stayed with) and Heather (a former ETA who is teaching in Surabaya). I assumed everyone was busy or hadn’t been able to make it (Heather also seemed confused as to why no one was responding to her SMSs), and was perfectly happy to have a last great Indonesian meal and go to a bar with Heather to complete my time in Indonesia. When Heather said we had to try this amazing resturant in Kemang, I thought nothing of it. When I walked in and saw my three friends Melina, Rachel and Jess sitting at a table, my first thought was “Oh wow, this is awkward, we just walked in on them having this private dinner, this is why they’ve been avoiding me all day, etc.” It took me 10 minutes of sitting and talking to them (keep in mind, I am running on ~3 hours of sleep) that they planned this surprise dinner for me to celebrate me leaving Indonesia and for getting the Shansi fellowship! Another current ETA, Chris (from the Malukku Islands) and an ELF, Michael, came as well. We ate amazing Italian food, laughed and loved, and I thought that was the end of the surprises. We then got in cabs to go somewhere they wouldn’t tell me about (I figured it out on the way because I recognized the streets after a while). We ended up at our friend Mia’s house, where we met Elena (another former ETA) and had carrot cake. I was so amazed that my friend planned this wonderful night for all of us and realized that I was sad to leave the community that we had all made together so far away from home (I even made a speech to that effect). It gave me so much confidence that I could again create that kind of community in India next year, at home in Boston, and wherever else I might go.

Israel has been relaxing, freezing at night, and full of warm people I love. I’m here mostly visiting the Reshef family, who my family met when they lived in the US and went to the same school as me and my sister for two years. I’ve been to Israel once before (with my Mom and Casey in 1999) but we never made it to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. It’s been amazing being here, very different than I remember and expected, and most of all, it’s been wonderful seeing my friends and Israeli family. This is what I’ve done so far (I have one more full day here, so there’s not a lot left to do):

– asking questions about EVERYTHING about Israel, Palestine, Arab/Israeli relations, how Christians/Jews/Muslims/everyone else gets along, etc.
– driven through the Golan Heights and seen some Druid ruins (as well as driven by a coffee shop called Kofi Annan, which means “cloud coffee” in Hebrew, and happens to be near a UN base as well – clever!)
– learn some new Hebrew words like “mud” (bots), “fruit” (perot), and “what’s up” (manishma)
– seen Jordan, Syria and Lebanon across the border fences (which happen to be electric fences, ouch)
– listened to a news report in English (very rare in Israel) about Indonesia on a Jordanian radio channel while driving to the Dead Sea
– felt the water of the Dead Sea (which is so salty it feels oily, and you can’t put your head under water because the salt will find a way to get into your eyes – also you can practically sit up straight in the water because it makes you super buoyant). The shore is mostly salt, which has accumulated over time, and the water is an amazing shade of green blue. It is a very strange and beautiful place. The water is rapidly disappearing though – around 40 years ago it was about 25 meters higher than it is today. This is happening for 2 reasons: 1) factories on the sea shore are using water from the sea to process the extraction of Dead Sea minerals; and 2) rainfall is not keeping up with the water that is evaporating/being used by the factories. Most efforts to get more water into the Sea (either by piping it from the Mediterranean or the Sea of Galilee) would disrupt the Sea’s ecosystem, and other conservation efforts would cost billions of dollars. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not looking so good for the Dead Sea. Get here while you can! It’s also the lowest point on dry land at 418m/1,371ft below sea level.
– brought Gorontalo kerawang cookies and fabric to give as presents to my family here – Gorontalo meets Alon HaGalil (which means “the Galilee Oak Tree” by the way)
– went to Nazareth to see the Church of the Annunciation where Mary supposedly recieved the news that she would give birth to Jesus. My favorite part was the art of Mary and (sometimes) Jesus that came from countries all over the world and ranged from quite traditional to very modern.
– went to Haifa to see the exquisite terraces of the Baha’i Gardens and learned about the religion a little
– went to Akko (known as Acre in English) just north of Haifa to see the old city built by the Romans and go to the fabulous market there
– ate AMAZING food (most of it involving tahini, or trina in Hebrew, which is in lots of things sweet and savory). Highlights have included chalva (tahini mixed with sugar and sometimes nuts or coffee or other tasty things), hummus (of course), “Turkey” salad (tomatoes and hot peppers and other delicious things mixed up together), Michal’s famous cooking of soups, rice dishes, quinoa, etc. The most amazing dairy on earth is also found here – I will never think of cottage cheese the same way now that I’ve had it here!
– went to see Masada, a group of ruins of ancient palaces and forts on top of a pleateau near the Dead Sea. Allegedly, when the Romans tried to retake the city from the rebels living there, they all killed themselves rather than be taken hostage.
– hung around Tel Aviv University, which is really beautiful!
– went to Jerusalem to see the Western Wall, the City of David and just walk around the old city. I couldn’t go into some places, like the mosque, Al-Aqsa (Jews apparently aren’t allowed and it wouldn’t have been safe for me to go by myself). We went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls (pieces of the text that became the Bible and were preserved for centuries in caves near the Dead Sea) at the Jerusalem Museum as well.
– got to hang out with some amazing people. Hemyah and Meitar are now 13 and 9, and I last saw them when they were 10 and 6 respectively. Both were really shy and didn’t want to talk to me. Now Hemyah plays with my hair and we talk as best we can about American music, and Meitar wishes me good night and good morning in English every day. The whole family has been amazing to me and I can’t wait to come back and visit again!

I can’t believe that in less than 48 hours I will be home. Once again, I am mostly excited and somewhat nervous. I’ll miss all the places and people I love, always, but it’ll be nice to take off my coat and stay for a few months.


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!