Thursday, March 31, 2011

Party in Kudus!

Well there's just positiveness all around today!

1. Yesterday I had no school so I did all the work I was putting off. Productive day, which makes for a less stressful following day.

2. Last night I was able to finally access my Kindle online, which means the fact that my Kindle disappeared does not mean I will not be able to finish Stieg Larsen's The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest. I have loved his trilogy and am slightly obsessed at this point. He's dead now, so the fact that there is no more where this came from makes it even more consuming.

3. Got an email from my mum this morning, replied, and got a reply back. I love it when that happens. It's almost like we're talking.

4. Finally drug over all 60 books to the campus (all of which I signed yesterday... in case you donated them and are wondering, I wrote "To UMK students from Juliana's church, friends, and family in the US. With Love." The department head, Bu Fitri, was ecstatic.). Handed them over, and now I have a desk again!

5. Joel got his long awaited packages from the US today!

6. I had a for real laugh in one of my classes. I don't really, really, laugh a lot these days. Indonesian humor is not like US humor and I find it hard to understand at times. And it's frustrating when I make jokes and find I'm the only one laughing.

I walked into my class late cause I had some trouble dragging the books to my desk. OK that's not true, I was late cause I woke up almost late and then decided to make coffee (TOTALLY worth it, by the way) but then it was too hot to drink so I had to wait for it to cool and then I spilled some down my shirt and then I had to change my shirt. Seven thirty classes are real buggers.

I walk into class and the kids are all sitting on the floor. There are four students up front and one of them has a bundled up jacket they are protecting and this is what I hear: "No this is my hen!" "Then why was it in my house?!" "It went walking, walking!" (In Indonesian "jalan jalan" means traveling and literally translated it is "walking walking"). The teacher corrects him- "No, it took a walk." "Oh yeah it took a walk!" "No, I can recognize it! It mine!" "I know my rooster. Look into it's eyes!" "The cock is mine. Fine we will cut it up." "OK you can have the head and feet, I will have the body." "No that's not fair." "OK I will chain it up next time and it will not travel to your house." "Fine lets cut the chicken in the half." "I'm confused!" "Same with me!"
All the while I notice these 70's glasses someone is wearing (those ones that are kind of in style now but still are ridiculously huge and hideous and should have been left in the 70's) begin to travel from person to person. I have no idea what is going on or whose glasses they are but they look ridiculous and SO out of place, especially on these conservatively dressed veiled girls! It was pretty hilarious and I couldn't help but
Finally the chicken/cock/rooster/hen issue was resolved and they shook hands on it. That was after the girl kicked the guy in the shins. Pretty awesome drama. I explained to them the difference between cock/hen/chicken/rooster/chick. The stuff they come up with to get by using limited vocab is pretty funny sometimes. Yesterday someone was trying to get his group to say "doll" and described it as a "toy for a woman child."

And positive happening number 7.... I am about to nap and then I'm going into town to pick up money and my newly repaired phone.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

:) We're definitely related...

Like brother, like sister. Love you Stephen!

"Give us days to be filled with small rebellions, Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all" -JoC

It's Wednesday, and because the English Student Association meeting that was supposed to be today was postponed (I would be talking about Business English. If you have any suggestions for the presentation let me know) I am working on other stuff that I've committed to but have been putting off. Specifically, worship for the MCC retreat in Bali at the end of next month. I'll post my final worship plan on here in case you want to join in our worship from far away. I've gotten most of the songs together that I think would be appropriate but I'm still working out the transitions, prayers, liturgies, and scripture readings.

When she was young my sister wanted to be a pastor but because I come from a conservative Baptist background she was instead encouraged to develop her personal knowledge of the Bible and God and share it only in informal settings. She has since been taken from us to live wherever God is (I'm actually not bothered much with the fact that I don't know exactly where she is, because we have been promised that those who love God will be with God when they leave this world, so wherever it is she that she is now, it is very, very good. Because the face of God is there. Time will fly till I see her face, and God's face, and I rest in that.). I've never wanted to preach because I really am not interested in Greek or Hebrew and I don't believe that a knowledge of these languages is necessary to know the truth of God since he is just as present here with us (and additionally we have the Holy Spirit) as he has ever been and I doubt that my translation of the original writings of the Bible would be terribly different than any of the hundreds of versions of the Bible that are available now in English. In the past 5 years (since I have left my small bubble of Portugal and been exposed to other small bubbles in the US) I have come to see that it doesn't take an academic to be qualified to effectively share with other people truths and insights from the Bible. The Bible is alive and the words are very living in the sense that there are so many lessons to be learned from the simplest stories about the nature of God. The Bible to me is a book that says- Look how God has worked in the past and better see how God is working where you are now. It is a testament to God's continual involvement in the human story and God's promise that God will always be involved in our breaking, redeeming struggle.
Preaching is therefore not ripping apart individual verses and scraping the barrel for truths from a dead language (A word about that- what message do you give your congregation about knowing God through the Bible when all your sermons revolve around your knowledge of dead languages that took you 5 years to learn? Perhaps, "Wow, I will not be doing that at home. My daily devotions are simple and dumb compared to this academic stuff!"), it is, in my opinion, leading people in the simple Big Picture of the Bible and the stories of God's making good of our bad, and our love for that Redemption moving us to imitate and worship him. I'm not against quoting individual verses but when taken too literally, individual verses without a grounded knowledge of the big picture can be very misleading.

With this perspective, I've started to love the Big Picture and being able to share with others my discoveries. I'm not looking at a career in the ministry in the traditional sense but I'm excited to take opportunities to share those discoveries and lead people in worship again in the future.

(My family has since slowly but surely converted from Baptist fundamentalism to a religion founded on grace and simple Truth and therefore I know I would have their support if I did go into the ministry full time. :-)   )

While I looked up music for retreat I came across this song by Jars of Clay- my all time favorite "Christian" band- called Small Rebellions. It struck SUCH a chord with me because since I was small I have been looking for something to fight and trying to channel my passion and aggressive spirit. I have found plenty wrong in the world to rebel against, and this song talks about one of them.

You tube video with music and lyrics:

Small Rebellions lyrics

Jars of Clay

God of the break and shatter

Hearts in every form still matter

In our weakness help us see

That alone we'll never be

Lifting any burdens off our shoulders

If our days could be filled with small rebellions

Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all

If we stand between the fear and firm foundation

Push against the current and the fall

The current and the fall

God of the warn and tattered

All of Your people matter

Give us more than words to speak

Cause we are hearts and arms that reach

And love climbs up and down the human ladder

Give us days to be filled with small rebellions

Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all

If we stand between the fear and firm foundation

[ From: ]

Push against the current and the fall

The current and the fall

The fall

We will never walk alone again

No, we will never walk alone again

No, we will never walk alone again

Give us days to be filled with small rebellions

Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all

If we stand between the fear and firm foundation

Push against the current and the fall

Give us days to be filled with small rebellions

Senseless, brutal acts of kindness from us all

If we stand between the fear and firm foundation

Push against the current and the fall

The current and the fall

The fall...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Beach weekend, Jepara, four months left.

About a month ago Leanne suggested we have a Jepara beach trip and we decided on this weekend. Joel and Tyler decided to bike there, and Leanne and I decided that we would like to actually enjoy the weekend and take the bus. Looking back I kind of wish I had biked and I think next time I will bike. It didn't take the boys as long as I thought it would and there wasn't a hassle for them to get from the beach to the hotel.

Apparently people don't go to the beach regularly enough in Jepara for it to be profitable to have public transportation from the city to the beach.

Last time we went we ended up hitch hiking both ways from the terminal to the beach. One way with these 15 year-old girls who we later paid in the form of tolerating harassment at the beach and then just giving in and letting them interview us -each of the girls interviewing each of us for some school project. It may sound harsh that we were so resistant to be interviewed by them but you have to understand that each of us Java SALTers work in a school so everyday of the week we're surrounded by students asking questions. We take a beach weekend to get away from that. The other way (beach to the bus terminal) we went in the back of a truck. Fun times, but always risky cause who knows what they are going to demand once you get to your destination, and plus this time it was just us chicks so Leanne and I decided to not do that.

My host dad was actually going into Jepara (it's about an hour away from Kudus) so he took Leanne and I into town but couldn't take us all the way to the beach. He dropped us by an anggota (public trans van) and we chartered it to the beach for 30,000 RP (appx $3.50US ). Pretty hassle-free getting there, thank goodness. We proceeded to strip down to our t-shirt and swim suit and get pretty fried before the boys got there at 11:30. Perfect timing- ten minutes earlier and I would have lost a bet to Leanne which won me a drink. The day was perfect, really. Plenty of sun but a nice strong breeze coming from the ocean. I forgot my camera but I've taken pics at that beach before.

We had reserved a room at the beach front hotel, Sunset Village, but as Indo luck would have it they gave our room away. Awesome. We were mad about it for a little while but then the day was so beautiful and the pancakes and juice we ordered on the beach were so delish that we were forced to forget about the fact that we were stuck on the beach and would have to find a way back into the city again. Makes telling the story more interesting but sometimes you don’t want interesting, you want predictable and simple. You want your reservation to stick. You want there to exist efficient public transportation. You want to be able to order from more than just 15% of the options on the menu. You don't want public trans to cost you seven times what they charge the local people. You don't want to be harassed with questions and stares every where you go. You want the tv to actually work in the hotel room. You want the sun to shine one or two days a week so your clothes can dry and not smell disgusting all the time. You just want the simplest things that you never had to think about or guess about before you came to this country.

I mean, you get used to it. But it's a resist-ful getting-used-to. "I don't WANT this to be how it is!" Suck it up, focus on the positive. A whole country is not going to change because a whitey moved in for a year.

Luckily, getting back was not so hard. I called some friends from school and one of my students who lived in Jepara was able to pick me up and Leanne and I only had to wait for two hours.

I am FRIED. Very red. It's weird how you can honestly not see any red when you're out there in the sun, and then you go to the restroom for something and you realize that the boys weren't just being jerks when they said they could tell who was who (Leanne is a sun block pusher) at the table from a kilometer away. Hurts pretty bad now. The rest of the weekend was filled with Juliana-being-red jokes.

So hilarious.

The hotel we got in Jepara (which the boys kindly searched out and reserved for us on their way to the beach) was great. AC, CNN and HBO on the telly, legit shower with a bath, a sit-down toilet, comfy bed, and a door between our bedrooms which made going back and forth nice. Like for when the boys kept coming in to use our outlets. And when I made coffee from my amazing REI french press with my REI plug in boiler and my starbucks grounds and shared with the boys. And when Leanne destroyed our bathroom and I used the boys' for a while till ours could sufficiently vent.

Overall a relaxing weekend. It started Friday when Tyler and Leanne came to Kudus and we had Mexican night at my house. Joel had fajitas and salsa and we bought meat, cheese, and veggies. So good.

Rest is so from God. Seriously been thinking about the holiness of rest. Started reading the Bible beginning to end and honestly ok I'm only at Genesis 2 (hey I started last Thursday, ok?!) but even just Genesis one has lessons to learn from! And the most important, I think, is the holiness of rest. I really think that Indonesians don’t rest enough. I know my host parents don't. And they pay for it with various health problems they have. Vertigo, stress seizures... To take a day and sleep, to take a trip, to get a babysitter and just go have dinner together, to read a book and refresh your mind, to play a game, to make art, to do SOMETHING that is restful. It's so clear that those who work not only DESERVE to, but NEED to and are, hello, COMMANDED by God to REST. If imitating God is a form of worship, which I believe it is, then to rest after hard work is to worship him and I'm really disturbed with the attitude that there is something noble in working, working, working, and never resting. Especially those who work in the ministry and think their lack of rest testifies to their dedication to God.

Half the people who get burned out from the ministry burn themselves out because they are too prideful to rest. That's my opinion.

I was so thoughtful on my way back from the beach.. Leanne took a bus to Semarang, I took a bus to Kudus and the boys headed off on their bikes. I got a small bus instead of a bigger one with AC and it took longer but I didn't care too much. It was a bit cheaper. I've perfected my "do NOT mess with me" look and used it on the little bus man who tried to make me pay more than the normal fare. He left me alone fast. I don't like having to look like a smug westerner but if they wouldn't try to steal my money I would totally give them a smile and "Thanks!". Today I was confirmed in my ignoring of bothering people by a lady on the anggota when I was coming from the bus station into Kudus. She gave me a "keep silent" sign with her finger to her lips when the anggota men were saying stuff and being stupid with me as I sat in the anggota. It made me feel good to know that the kind of harassment I get from some men here is not acceptable here either. Also I saw this other Indonesian girl jerk a guys hand off of her as she was getting into our anggota and he was "herding" her in. It's not accepted. Why don’t people speak out about it? Why would no one be like, "Shut up and leave her alone!" when they were being stupid with me in the station? I wish more people would verbally resist those things that are wrong here.

The sun was out today and the ride home was really beautiful in some places.

I've been having reality moments lately where it hits me that I've been here 7 months and only have 4 months left. In four months from this day I will be on a plane from Akron PA to Phoenix AZ. It really motivates me to put those irritating things out of my mind and look at the big picture. To see how unique this opportunity is, and be really thankful for this crazy, challenging, full year. So many new experiences, new observations on life service development work, myself. New ideas about human nature, culture, walls, differences, similarities, strengths, weaknesses, vulnerabilities, community, beauty, tragedy, boredom, overwhelmingness, boundaries of mind and will and ability and love, family, entertainment.

Oh. my.goodness. The LOUDEST thunderclap I have ever heard in my LIFE just rattled my room and scared the soul out of me. I thought it was an explosion at first.

Add "rainy season" to that list above. Holy cow. Oh yeah, and we haven't had electricity for the past 15 minutes. Every night it rains. Usually starts about 6 or 7 and goes until late.

Anyhow, I am glad that when I think about the next four months I don't feel panicky or anxious about the time taking forever to pass, because it won’t take forever to pass. It will go quickly. There are moments that feel like an eternity (like this Friday when I was required to sit through a 2 hour seminar on menopause where a schizophrenic man asked a ten minute long question before anyone pried his hands off the microphone) but in general I have no long days. And weeks... weeks go by so fast. I think it is because I take any opportunity I can to go do something with someone even if it sounds boring. Rarely turn down requests to hang out or go get noodles or go to a circumcision party for a thirteen year old boy (which I mistakenly told someone in the States was a castration party. Oops ) or take a bike ride or whatever. Because honestly it's when I have nothing to do that my mind wanders to those I've left in the States and in Portugal and everything I am missing there. Bad news bears. But if I have a full day, I have no time to think about what I am missing.

My life here is so National Geographic sometimes. Some of the stuff I see and experience... So NG. Rice fields… they get me every time. I love them, and they amaze me like the first time I saw them. Especially when there are workers in them, knee high in mudd and bending over so all you can see is their pointy rice hats and bright colored shirts. Joel regularly reminds me that rice fields are anything but natural beauty as they are not the original vegetation scheme of the island but I'm not hugely into environmental preservation and consider the tree tattoo on my ankle as my contribution to nature preservation. I like paper, and I like toilet paper, and I like rice fields. I'm trying to imagine my grandchildren pointing out my tattoo- grandma what is that? - because Asians have taken over the world and made all our forests into rice fields. I don't think it will happen. And if it does, I hope by then they have figured out a way to make rice taste like a bacon cheeseburger because I am so craving one right now... Oh the food I will eat when I go home....

Brightly colored houses, minarets everywhere, intricate metal work on most of the fences and doors, crazy rubber trees that all gorw at an odd angle against the earth, deep green brush, wild banana trees and coconut trees, bright and strange flowers, fruit of every shape and taste, white sand beaches, torrential rains, millions of rice recipes... I'm living a colorful life, when I see it the right way.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

John Steinbeck- Jack of all trades, master of words.

I was bored yesterday so I asked Joel to borrow a book in his collection. I ended up taking Steinbeck's "Cannery Row", which I disgracefully referred to as "Canary Now" because I only glanced at the book title, the font was weird, and I had never touched a Steinbeck book before much less paid attention to the titles. Save "Grapes of Wrath", his most famous work. I had heard of that one before. Since I have so much down time here I've decided to get through some of those classics that I never paid much attention to before. Not only because people refer to them and having a knowledge about classic literature can be avoid embarrassing moments but also because they aren't classics for naught. They're classic pieces because they had something unique to give the world of words. And I'm finding that uniqueness a refreshing change from the modern literature I'm used to reading.

A word about reading classics....

Every generation appreciates different things, and by reading works from beyond our own generation will be enriched in ways not possible in the modern era in which we are overwhelmingly surrounded by the loud voices of today's generations' cares. Classics from a different time remind us that there was a time when another reality existed, other issues were top on the days agenda, other words were the slang of the day, other values were the moral discussions that lead to heated debates and scandals, other events made people faint hearted and fatalistically decide that it was the beginning of the absolute end of the world. Perhaps if understood correctly it will help us take today's worries and heavy issues a little lighter, because time never stops, and today's pressing issues will be forgotten tomorrow, and perhaps that are not worth all of our fussing. And, people were people back then were very much the same in nature as they are today. We may dress differently, sing different songs, gossip about different people, but in our hearts, our worries and cares and joys are the same. The world may change but the nature of a person does not. If it did, why would anyone ever read a book from another time? We would feel no connection to the author's words and what he was trying to convey. Because human nature is the same, lessons can be learned from the past, because there is the possibility of repeating mistakes. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) it's not only music and gossip and clothing that changes with time, but language as well. I think the main drawback of reading classics is the use of words uncommon in this day's vocabulary, and therefore getting lost in a book without getting caught up in difficult words is hard. Don't be a lazy ass, that is an awful excuse. Grab a dictionary. Maybe that's why well read people seem to be the smartest, the least lazy, people who succeed. Because they are people who look up words they don't understand, and are able to push through difficult passages because they can recognize the worth of the reward at the end- the bigger picture of finishing and conquering a classic piece of literature that will enrich their knowledge of a past generation and the wisdom it can share, of human nature, and improve their creative thought.

Back to Steinbeck.

I loved the honest short bio of Steinbeck in the beginning of this book.

"The Many Lives of John Steinbeck

Before the reception given The Grapes of Wrath made Steinbeck a world-famed literary figure, he was many things. Always a non-conformist, he was discharged from a New York newspaper for writing opinions instead of facts. He was an apprentice hod-carrier, an apprentice painter, a working chemist, caretaker of a Lake Tahoe estate, a surveyor in the Big Sur country, and an itinerant fruit picker.

He studied science at Stanford University and was a
qualified marine biologist like the "Doc" in Cannery Row.

In early, poor, and light-hearted days, Steinbeck made his home at Monterrey, where he
fished and sailed, and was boon companion to the beguiling characters
he has now immortalized in Cannery Row."

It pays to unapologetically be who you are as long as you know who you are and be it the best you can. Tap into all your potential and press on till the world can appreciate those things some individuals probably called "impossible to work with" or "difficult" or "too random", a "jack of all trades, master of none". Despite his many apprenticeships that didn't turn into something mastered, he found one thing that he did master- his creative thoughts and his ability to put them into words. And now the world thanks him.

Sometimes it takes time to find that thing that you can master with joy. Especially when you are gifted, or just interested, in many areas. Some people find that master-able area very fast and become famous at a young age. For some people it takes longer to find, or to develop, those things which they can master and then give to the world as a legacy. I say develop, because from his biography it sounds like his creative ability was built upon all he had done in his life. Experience enriches writing, and he wrote about what he knew, his life and that which he encountered in life... He took the ordinary and recognized it's ability to capture minds when written about correctly. He meddled in a lot of diverse areas and I'm sure his writing is richer for it.

Just an encouragement to those who are feeling heavy hearted because you are a jack-of-all-trades and your interests seem too random to form any one significant thing to give the world and be your legacy. Let Steinbeck prove your worries wrong.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

How sweet is this job?

I regularly get emails from and they send me lists of new job openings. I'm still here in Indonesia for 4 more months but I still like seeing what's out there and getting inspired for my next job post.

I found this one today that I wanted to share, because it is SO COOL.

Instructor - Restorative Justice

Posted on: March 14, 2011
Posted by: Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, is a unique joint venture between the City of Philadelphia and the Mural Arts Advocates, a 501(c)(3) non-profit is the nation’s largest public art initiatives of its kind and has led Philadelphia to be recognized internationally as the “Mural Capital of the World.” The mission is to engage in art education and community public art collaborations, and to increase public access to art. Since the Mural Arts Program began in 1984 as the Anti-Graffiti Network, over 3,000 murals have been created and over 20,000 under served youth in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia have received free art education.

The Restorative Justice Department provides comprehensive services for adjudicated youth and formerly incarcerated adults, as we believe the most crucial element in addressing our rising crime rates, crowded prisons, and incidences of recidivism is to act preventatively and provide real opportunities for all individuals to participate in society in meaningful ways. We believe in the capacity of mural-making and skill-building programs led by practicing professionals to increase opportunity, reduce stigma against individuals involved in the criminal justice system, prevent recidivism, and break cycles of crime and violence. Our programs provide community members involved in the criminal justice system with constructive skill building opportunities and creative alternatives for self-expression to deter engagement in crime and provide avenues to a richer and more fulfilling quality of life.

General Description

The Instructor for the Restorative Justice Program will work at a minimum security prison for 5 – 10 hours per week providing instruction to inmates. Instructor will help inmates design short books (6 – 8 pages) using the Book-builder software provided by IBM. The ideal candidate should have graphic design and advanced computer experience.

This is a part time position.

Reports to: Director of Restorative Justice Program.

Knowledge & Skills
Ideal candidate possesses strong organizational, written, and communication skills.

Strong teaching skills and ability to work with high risk populations are required.

Candidate will work collaboratively and individually and must be able to resolve conflicts, exhibit flexibility and creativity, and pay attention to detail.
Pay - $28/hour for up to 10 hours a week.
For further information on the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, please visit

Teaching art to inmates?! Helping them write books?! How awesome is that. I LOVE the creativity some people/organizations have to work with the broken places in society.



Broken zipper pants finally at the seamstress, naan in the kitchen rising, looking up English games for class tomorrow, dressed for my night run, and the rest of The Giver to read before bed.

Night time is my favorite.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Six Traveling Tips

A few things I've learned from traveling that make the trip more enjoyable and memorable...:
1) Hire drivers if you can afford it. Really, it's better than trying to take taxis all the time, especially when going for day trips!
2) Indulge a little in hotels. A bad night's sleep can wreck the whole next day, plus being able to look forward to a hot shower, comfy bed, and AC makes the rougher, hotter, stuffier parts of the day much more bearable.
3) Have a designated picture taker and take an extra camera battery. (My dad's camera battery died half way through the day in Jakarta and while we didn't miss much it would have been nice to have more pictures of Monas.)
4) Save the last day to be a little indulgent in food and things of comfort. Like a massage. Because the next day is intense travel home and not getting pooped out the day before, or making up for it in good food and pampering, is a good idea.
5) In the week after you get home, designate a whole day to print out all your pictures and put them in an album. Let every other picture slot be a note that describes a story in the trip. Do it the first week or you'll forget.
6) Take a travel journal that you jot stuff down in through out the day. Just simple sentences even. You'll probably be too tired at the end of the day to try to write out everything you did and the moments you had that you want to remember. Doing it at the time makes sure you wont forget it. Then you can write those things on the papers you stick in the slots designated for stories in your photo album.

Parents Visit- Semarang, Kudus, Jepara, Jogja, Jakarta.

My parents left almost two weeks ago. They were here in Indonesia for a week and we decided to stay on Java and not try to visit any other island. For one, it's another $100 bucks (give or take) a person to get to another island (by plane. There wouldn't be time to take a boat) and plus my everyday life is lived on Java, and I could better show them around and plan a good trip for them.

Lombok was pretty nice (I went with my sister in December) and I hear Bali is fantastic, but Java has it's beauty as well. Plus it is, in my opinion, a bit more authentically Indonesian than Bali would be. Bali is a western vacation attraction and therefore filled with all things make-westerners-feel-comfortable. I feel like it would cater to the foreigner and not to the native population. Anyways, for these reasons and more, we decided to stay on Java.

The capital of Java Island and Indonesia is Jakarta. It is a huge, huge city full of malls, slums, museums, old buildings, new buildings, and ports. I find it hard to know when one city ends and another city begins here. There aren't huge tracks of land between the cities. There are shacks and houses and occasional rice fields but every city to me looks the same. To know when I have traveled into the next city I have to read store signs with addresses on them. Sometimes there are big arches above the road that say "Selamat Datang Kota ____" (literally Happy arrive city ___) and that lets you know where you are but not where the city begins. The towns just keep growing out past their welcome signs. I'm tempted to say there are too many people here, but as long as people have roofs over their heads and are happy, who am I to say they should stop procreating. Plus unemployment is at 8% which is a -3.5% change from last year and a huge improvement since 2007 when unemployment was at 12.5% (According to

So when I was bussing it to Jakarta last year I didn't really know when we had arrived there, I just noticed the houses getting less village-like and things become more congested. Then the malls started popping up and then I knew.

I actually met my parents in Semarang where they flew into after 24 hours of madness from Phoenix to LA to Hong Kong to Jakarta to Semarang. All their bags got their safe and I was happy as ever to realize they hadn't gotten lost in any of the craziness that is traveling in Asia.

We spent the night at the Dafam hotel, about 20 minutes by taxi from the airport and very close to Semarang's newest mall- the Paragon (complete with a Mac store and Starbucks!). It's a really great hotel. I had stayed there once before and the second time was just as good. Good service, good English, a great room with hot water, toilets, AC, carpeted floors and cable TV. The breakfast is an amazing assortment of juices, breads and jams, egg omelets made to order, savory Indonesian food, cereal, fruit, yogurt, and tea and coffee. We paid about $40 a night, and stayed two nights. My parents, who are used to pretty nice hotels in the US, were very impressed.

In Semarang we went to a batik workshop called Semarang Batik 16 in an outlying village, still in Semarang but about 40 minutes away from where we stayed. I only had a web site with a picture or two and an address and I was nervous there wasn't going to be anything there, but we weren't disappointed when we finally go there. We made our own batik at $5 a square, and then they dyed it for us and we picked it up the next day. In the bottom floor of the workshop there's a store and fabric cutting area, and on the top of the building is the interesting stuff- the actual waxing of the cloth both with stamps and by hand. It has a unique smell that wasn't unpleasant. It smelled hot and waxy. Some men were stamping with stamps about a hand span wide and tall in one room, and women were in the next sitting on low stools, dipping out liquid wax with small tools and tracing lines or filling in shapes on large pieces of cloth. So many colors and so many girls working, the walls were a raw, red brick, the window was open and there was a breeze... A really neat experience that my mom especially loved.

Also in Semarang we went to a big Chinese temple, Sam Po Kong, that actually I wouldn't have minded not going to. It gave my mom nightmares that night and it wasn't the most interesting temple I had seen. It was also 40,000 rupias a person, which while that's only a little over $4, it's a bit considering that's what we paid for each of our dinners that night.

We went to a place called Kampung Laut for dinner. I'm mad that I have no picture here to post to give you an idea of this place... My dad took pictures non stop while he was there and I figured there would be no need to take them as well. The camera and therefore the pictures went back with him though.. Hopefully he will load them on facebook and I'll be able to put them up here. Anyhow, Kampung Laut in Semarang (actually I learned today the city's name means "rare tamarind")... It's a restaurant on the ocean and it's best all lit up at night. There are small bungalows that you can sit in with your party and it gives you a private atmosphere but your still part of the action of the lights and live music.. The lights, unlike most of Java I have seen, are not those fluorescent harsh bluish lights but soft yellow lights that make things feel cozy.. There is a bridge you cross to get to the eating area and it's all lit up with lights and they reflect on the water. The food has been excellent both times I've eaten there. I especially like the Zupa soup and gurami bakar (baked fried fish). And their gelato ice cream is pretty amazing as well. I recommend the mint. You can also actually rent fishing rods and fish there and have them cook your fish for you. Pretty cool. We picked up Tyler on our way and met Leanne there. I was glad for them to get to meet my parents and to be able to see them. We live an hour away from each other so it's not like we never see each other but they are my closest community from my own culture other than Joel so it's definitely a treat whenever I get to see them.
So Kampung Laut- go there.

After Semarang we went to Kudus where we stayed at the Kenari Asri hotel. It's no Dafam, but it works. There's AC and a bathtub which I indulged in. Their breakfast is decent and they are the only place in Kudus that serves beer, that I've seen. So funny.. When my parents and I came back from dinner one night we passed through the dinning room (kind of weird lay out for the third floor.. To get to your room you have walk straight through the restaurant) and there were about 15 men all slumped at a couple tables together with open Bintang beer bottles in front of them singing karaoke semi-drunkenly. It was pretty funny, the singing was horrendous and the men were all the kind of drinkers that get puckered out with alcohol so I wasn't sure if they were having a good time or if some of them were even awake. It didn't go on for too long and my dad thought it was pretty funny, so it was no bother. Man, if you are a lover of all things karaoke come to Indonesia. There's one on every corner and while in Kudus it's said that it's kind of a prostitute hangout place, in every other city I've been to in Indo, everyone does it and it's one of the few activities available to go out and do. If it weren't for church and church activities and teaching my life might be really pretty boring here. Although, we rarely eat at home at least in my host family so we're always going out for dinner which is nice.
While in Kudus I took my parents to Omah Mode which I would say if Joel's and my main hangout spot. It's a bit expensive for Indonesians so I've only been a couple times with non-western people. And they just jacked the prices up a good 24% so I might also be there less often then I have been going. I love it at night.. Like Kampung Laut, the lights aren't harsh and the pool which is right near the eating area has a fountain and is all lit up as well. I love it. Their menu is Indo-Thai, and they have great Phuket pad thai noodles. Their juice is also pretty good.. I recommend the guava, strawberry, or passion-fruit (markisa). The sirsat juice feels like it has shredded paper towel in it.
We also hit up KFC and it was nice for their tummies to get something familiar in them. For 15.000, RP ($1.75) you can get rice, chicken, and a fountain drink. I only discovered their amazing wraps last week. Was quite impressed. Peppery and all wrapped up in tortilla love. I miss my AZ for sure, and I think my dislike for Mexican food is gone. Rejoice.

We eat in Colo (pronounced "cho-low") as well, up on a mountain and it wasn't awesome. There was no view (the view is great during the day. For some reason you couldn't see anything at night. Oh come on, you know what I mean... There are usually city lights that are cool to look at at night when you're above a town...)  and my dad got a little freaked out by the chicken head and feet sticking out of the meat plate.

We got chocolate milk at the Muria Milk place.... It's a dairy with the cows right next to it, and the milk is freshly squeezed and pasteurized. Right there next to you. So you can stare at the cows and thank them personally as you drink the delights of their udder. If I thought about that long enough I might gross myself into a lactose-free diet. But then there's my beloved cheese so... Thank you udders.

We took a day and went to Jepara and saw the old Portuguese fort area (there's not actually a fort there... It's just a short board-walk thing next to the sea) and wood making. I bought a couple of door stops. Love when souvenirs can have a functional purposes. The ride was rough on my dad's back and took forever so if I went back and did it again I might have only gone to the wood place and not the Portuguese fort. We saw so many teak trees and got to see the process of making some of the furniture and carvings which was neat. I love wandering in this country.. It's when you go to the back of the shop or take a wandering bike ride that you see the stuff that sticks with you.

We toured around the hospital where I teach and the University and I loved getting to show them my life. That's what sucks about being far away from people you love.. You can't relate experiences if they've never been where you are. They can only imagine and when they've never been to the country.. nay, continent!.. that you live on, how are they going to imagine anything close to what it is? So three cheers of Muria chocolate milk for planes and the efficiency of travel these days. I appreciate you bringing my loved ones to me. I don't appreciate you taking them home.

Jogja and Jakarta were our last stops before they left. At Jogja we stayed in the Ibiz hotel off of Malioboro road, the main shopping center. It was a great hotel perfectly located. Great buffet breakfast with an awesome machine that grinds the coffee beans right before they are brewed. My dad and I were impressed. We shopped a bit on Marlioboro... Prices are great. There are legit stores but it's the market atmosphere of the stalls that line the street that people are after. Batik galore, t-shirts, souvenirs, jewelry, henna, bags.. That doesn't begin to list everything they have for sale down that street. The light posts were all decorated when were were there for some parade they had just had. It is the capital of Javanese culture and if we had had more than 20 hours there we would have hit up some museums and possibly seen a traditional Prambayan play. Instead we found a little travelers cafe and eat pesto bruschetta and tuna and shopped in their environmental safe-the-world shop that I loved. We then went and checked into the airport and then went and saw the Prambanan temple for a way too short 30 minutes. It is gorgeous and I like it more than Borobudur. I hope to make it out there again before I leave in July.

In Jakarta we stayed at the FM7 hotel near the airport. An ok hotel with a good restaurant, a great work out room complete with a pool, sauna, and hot tub, and free shuttle to the airport. The internet wasn't free and the bathroom was open in the room which made going to the restroom a bit awkward in a room for three.. We went on the sweetest tour of the old fish market and a local fishing village with an associate of a man named Brahm. I would recommend Brahm himself and not the guy we went with, but he was ok. It was where he took us and not he himself that made it awesome. We had lunch at the Batavian Cafe located in the main old Dutch square, and it was the best food and atmosphere I've had so far here in Indonesia. However, it was not Indonesian at all. It was like 1940's decor, a complete bar.. I felt like I was at a manor in some plantation. Big windows, big chairs, crisp white linen table cloth, jazz playing in the background... Oh and loads and loads of pictures filling the walls. Most of them from the 1940's. Famous people and famous photographers. Even the bathroom stalls had framed pictures in them. I really loved it. Got a mint cappuccino frap that was to die for and munched on an assortment of cheese and home made bread for lunch. Split a salad with my mom... What a vacation from Indonesian reality. It's good to find those atmospheres that allow you to get away from it all for a few moments. After a long lunch we faced the heat again and walked around till we decided to get an anggota (small van bus) to Monas, the national monument. Good thing we did because we would have been walking forever. The Monas is a huge torch, about the size of the Statue of Liberty I would say.

They left the next day for Hong Kong and I left about the same they did but headed to Semarang. It was a little tough the first day they were gone but I had activities lined up with the community and teaching started the next day so it was really ok. I'm doing much better now that I was before they visited. Just, mentally, culturally... More focused, more in perspective.

My parents were TROOPERS here. I drug them everywhere, and, while now that they are back in the States they're sick, they weren't sick once here and never complained. Blessed people they are.

Hopefully these give someone out there ideas about what to do when visiting Indo. There are a couple of things I would change but mostly, it went so well.

Thanks mum and dad. Love.