Monday, September 27, 2010

Establishing rhythm, experiencing new things.

I passed the one month mark about 6 days ago. One month in Indonesia down, 10 more to go. I actually have been pretty good at not counting months. For one, 10 months sounds like a long, long time, and for another it makes me not be present in my life here. Makes me rush ahead to July in my mind which will make the time here c r a w l by.
Idul Fitri was at the beginning of this month and it was nice to have a few days off. Going back to school after breaks is always tough and we all drug our feet a little. I definitely was way over jet lag at that point and dragging my body out of bed at 7am became the hardest part of the day. I decided after the first week back from Idul Fitri break to start getting up a bit earlier to give myself time to wake up and prepare my mind and spirit for the day. I now get up at around 6:30 and listen to some music and some BBC as I go through the slow motions of getting dressed, packing my bag for the day, check email, and go over some bahasa Indo notes. I also find that my journal entries are much more hopeful and positive when I write in the morning. There's something about the night that gives me a more somber view on life here and while that can be good for reflection, it's good to record my lighter, morning thoughts. My home-missings have happened all at night, when they happen at all. I am happy here and I can say I'm pretty content and present.

So yes. Establishing rhythm is essential for my feeling at home and it's been a good exercise for me.

The weekend of the 19th we went to a beach called Suing near Yogyakarta. Yogya is on the south border of the middle of Java. Salatiga is where I'm staying now and is an hour south away from Samarang- the capital of central Java. Some photos of the trip can be found here on Rae's blog :
One photo is of the shack on the beach that we stayed at the first night we were there. The second night we got kicked out (we hadn't reserved it and someone else had. oups. ) and ended up staying on the floor of the warung (an outside restaurant) next door. I go to hike up a little mountain with Rae where she took the beach pic, but unfortunately due to the runs couldn't go much farther. Happily, my health is all better now. With the help of MCC worker Dan and his ameba-killing drugs, the flora in my stomach (I did not know that I had flora in my body before this sickness getting) is now stable.
We were there for a weekend and other than changing our living quarters, sleeping on super hard floors and having the runs, the weekend was quite enjoyable. Loitering on the beach, finding sea life, getting wet in the shallow water, reading, laughing, eating awesome fish, and frolicking on rocks.

This past week was adventurous. On Wednesday we got to plant rice in a "sawa" together. The mud went up to our knees and the process of plunging little bunches of rice plant into the mud garden was a pretty unique experience. We guessed it wouldn't be long after we left that someone would come back along and correct what we destroyed of the rice paddy but hey, we tried.

On Thursday I went to a house warming service. I actually really enjoyed that because there was a man who translated the service for us and the man preaching had really good insights into God. He's a wise man and it was encouraging to hear his thoughts. I also got make pretty good conversation in Bahasa Indonesia. Score. My knowledge is growing and every night less words are falling out of my head.

On Friday we went to play traditional Javanese music and learn a little about Wayang Kulit. The puppets are pretty scary, not going to lie... But, it was good to learn about the history of them and to get to know their characters. Banging on symbols was pretty fun too. We were pretty bad at it and it gave me a head ache by the end but hey. It's about the experience. I'll put up pictures soon.

Saturday we had planned to go to a tree-top climbing place but unfortunately it rained like crazy all day. Ended up being a pretty fun day though. Had a great late breakfast at home consisting of home made granola and banana bread. Then Leanne and I met up with Tyler (I live near him and Leanne was staying with me the weekend). Thats when the heavens opened and we became the victims of the oh-so-stinking-often rains of Indonesia. Drenched. Luckly I had brought an umbrella and Tye and Lea bought themselves one and we leisurely walked to Este Soto, # 1 Soto place in Salatiga. So, so good. Soto is a stew of rice, chicken, bean sprouts, garlic, lemon weed, lime leaves, turmeric, and fried onions. There we met up with the rest of the gang and watched the rain get harder and harder at which point we decided that tree swinging would not be wise. So we walked down the main shopping area slowly and ended up at the Cozy cafe, a westernish but still Indo restaurant where we eat and drank some (juice and tea of course. :) I had an amazing blueberry yogurt smoothie that is definitely worthy of a blog mention.) and played the card game President till late. Dinner and laughter at my family's house and then convincing Tyler to come with Leanne and I to Yogyakarta for a wedding and shopping the next day.

Sunday was a full, full day but very fun and distracting (in a good way). The wedding in the morning was extravagant and the food was the best I've tasted in Indonesia (minus the fermented rice ice cream). Beautiful people, beautiful colors, wonderful food, and a few stares. Next we went shopping and I was able to get traditional Batik (printed cloth) oleh-oleh (awesome word to say, it means souvenirs) for myself and family members. I got a pink skirt (gasp) that will be great for teaching in Kudus and this is blog-mention-worthy because of it's implication for my growing up. I have begun to accept pink as an acceptable and respectable color to wear. Mother, be proud. After that we had dinner at McDonalds and it tasted JUST like the real thing and lead to some deep thoughts and conversation about western culture in the world. More thoughts on that later. Maybe. :)

Overall a very relaxing and funny week with new experiences and sights, sounds, and glimpses at what makes Indonesia what it is. Also some good deep thinking about this place, about God, and about what it means to be white here. I am growing and there are good thoughts being thought. Change is happening and I like it.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

life in general and Idul Fitri!

Idul Fitri is upon us!! And I have no idea what we're celebrating, but we're celebrating! Actually, I know it's the end of Ramadan but other then that I'm not sure exactly what happened this day 1451 years ago. I should check up on that.
It's holiday so we don't have class today or tomorrow. Today has been AWE.some. Just so relaxing... I've had a rough past few days and I'm not really sure why, I think just people gettin' on my nerves and myself getting on my own nerves lol and just getting up early and going places in groups and workin' my brain to learn this language.... It just wears on a person a bit plus HELLO I'm far away from family and home and knowing those around me fully and being in the company of those who fully know me and being independent and aware of everything that is going on....... Mhm.
Takes some humility to attempt to fully integrate into a new culture and that's really what I'm trying to do. I like being outside of my comfort zone, to challenge myself to new thoughts and perspectives and a new language and a new schedule. It's so good for me and it's pretty life giving at times. And sometimes it sucks. But you go with it and let yourself feel poopy for a little bit and then you pull yourself up. And I guess this break is me pulling myself back up.

Last night I went with my host family and Tyler's host family who is actually my mom's family to a chinese restaurant in a hotel and oh my goodness the food was RIDIC!!! It was seriously the best food I have had since being here and while I feel a little bad saying that since it was a Chinese restaurant, it really wasn't all that Chinese- it was pretty Indonesian. Chinesian maybe. Anyways, we had several chicken dishes that were spiced up, fried up, and sauced up, and then fried rice with a kick to it, and a couple types of noodles, and then saucy vegetables and of course white rice.. It was great. We went for my host grandma's birthday- she treated us, which apparently is what they do here. The birthday person gets to treat everyone to dinner. :) I like it!
Also here for meals people rarely get water but usually order juice ("es jus") or this soupy ice jello fruit coconut concoction served in a bowl with a spoon. You can order juice from syrup (concentrate) or fresh, and I usually get something fresh. It is soooo good. Like half smoothy half jus and it's great everytime. Last night I had melon jus and today I had "nanas"- pineapple. The best I've had is guava, and then a strawberry/pineapple jus. They also eat tomatoes in drinks like they would a fruit. I've seen a tomato float on a menu before. In Singapore I heard about a beer float available but never actually saw it on a menu. Also here they use avocado as a fruit. So, avocado in the ice fruit soup, and avocado shakes with chocolate. I tried it in the soup and it really is not bad.
Things are not expensive here in US$ but I have been trying not to think in terms of US dollars but have tried to live like the locals and be as conservative spending-wise as possible. Juices are usually 5,000-7,500 rupias, which translates into 55-80 cents (US$) about. Food is about 6,000 to 15,000 rupias, usually around 8,000. Traditional meals always include rice and can be "soto"- a spicey stew with rice and a meat in it. LOVE soto. Also gado-gado, my personal favorite so far, is rice in the form of a sliced up log with veggies and peanut sauce. Also "sate" is good. It's meat on a skewer, often covered in peanut sauce. Fried chicken is another popular dish but I've found the chicken to be tough a few times. In Kudus (I'm in Salatiga for language training for a few weeks now but my placement is in Kudus) I've had barbecued fish and chicken before and it is VERY good. Especially the fish. I eat with my hands more often in Kudus, but we usually have silerwear available.
Coffee comes in the form of a "3-in-1" packet of super sweet instant coffee. It's really not bad, but I usually mix it with milk if its available or have regular coffee if I can. At school I sometimes make coffee with the coffee they have there and it is good if made right. You put like 3 tablespoons of ground coffee into a mug with sugar and then pour hot water and mix. Then you let it sit and settle then drink the liquid and leave the grains on the bottom. It's strong and usually cleans me out pretty fast. :)

School is at 8am every morning. We have 2 hours of class with all 8 of us SALTers, then we divide up into 2 groups and each have 2 hour classes at different times. I think in an earlier post I said we study for 6hours a day but that was wrong- we have 4 hours a day. I like it and our teacher is really really good. Laid back and has a sense of humor and can make normal convo a learning time.

So back to Idul Fitri, last night we had my grandma's birthday and Tye and I ate like piggies, not going to lie. :) It was great. And then I read till all hours of the night and this morning slept late and went with Tye to the market where his family (my grandparents) has a store. It was ridic crowded as everyone is getting ingredients to make their feasts for the weekend. Idul Fitri is officially on the 10th and 11th (I think) but it's basically a week-long party. It feels like Christmas. Special cookies, special drinks, it's raining and a bit cold out, no one has work or school, families are getting together and exchanging good foods, people are traveling a lot and buying a lot and visiting a lot. I love love love togetherness and intentional celebration.
Tye and I helped at the store in the market a bit then we walked around and watched people stack ridic amounts of stuff onto their scooters including live chickens, tofu, veggies, spices, nuts, children, boxes, crackers.. Crazy place. And smelly.
After that we went to the local hotel and swam. Today is colder than usual so it was a chilly swim but they have hot hot showers so I think I showered longer than I swam lol. My house actually has warm water but I feel bad using it all up and it's downstairs far from my room, so I usually use the "shower" upstairs closer to me. Traditional showers are taken with dippers and buckets and cold water. It's so hot here usually that I dont mind and actually like the cold water. But today with the cold it was nice to have the hot shower. It started raining as we were swimming so we bought an umbrella and walked home. I usually bike everywhere here but with Idul Fitri the traffic is ridic so I just walked today. Now I'm sipping tea and will soon be finishing reading my current book- Dress Your Family in Coduroy and Denim. Tomorrow will be a day of "jalan-jalan"- travel- to distant family.

I wish you could hear what I'm hearing right now. The call to prayer is going on, and it's raining and both sounds combined.... it's beautiful.

My exposure to Islam in the past has been in religiously conservative areas and being able to experience it here has been awesome in challenging and changing my view of the religion and challenging my thoughts on religion in general. I've never seen a church and mosque side by side wishing each other a "Merry Christmas" and "Selamat Idul Fitri". We are all seeking God and while I do believe Jesus is the only path to the Father, I respect the search for him, and I pray that Muslims, Hindus, Jews, AND Christians find the true God we are all searching for. Searches can look different but a search is a search and I pray God comes to meet us where we seek him.

Selamat Idul Fitri! Keep seeking to know God. You will never know him fully but the more you know him the more you are known by him and the more you will want to know him. He is never far from each of us.