Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Some catching up

You're probably wondering what on earth I'm actually doing here in Indonesia, since I haven't posted anything of substance since I got here. No PR (pekerjaan rumah = homework) tonight, so I'll take the opportunity to write a little more about what it's like and what I've done since I got here.

After that first night in the Hotel Santika, when Samantha and I slept through dinner, we had one day of orientation at Universitas Negeri Malang (UM). It started out with a big opening ceremony with traditional dances and a speech by the Rektor (dean?) of the University. He mentioned that we'd all be getting alma mater jackets from UM, and he wasn't kidding – the next day we all got measured by a tailor.

After being talked at for a few hours about classes and such, we were dropped off with our host families. I lucked out with mine – two parents, a 23-year-old daughter names Rani, a pembantu (live-in maid, pretty common for well-off families), hot water in the downstairs bathroom (more on that later), and fast internet. The dad, Pak Arif, speaks pretty decent English, which comes in handy now and again.

I meant to unpack a bit before dinner, but for the second night in a row I fell asleep and when I woke up they'd already eaten. I ate on the couch, spaghetti a la Indonesia. Chatted with Rani's boyfriend for a while – nice guy, very patient with a tired, disoriented American – and passed out around 8.

I set my alarm for 6am, but woke up a little before 5. Turns out that's actually a little on the late side around here – if the calls to prayer at 4am don't get you up, the roosters shortly thereafter will. Bedtime tends to be 9-ish though, so 5am isn't so bad. I usually read or check email til 6, then shower and breakfast – wonderbread, peanut butter, & jelly the first morning; Indonesian food after that – and meet my peer tutor, Yusinta, at 7:30 to walk to school. The walk there twists and turns through a kampung, a little neighborhood with streets too narrow for a car but plenty big for a sepeda motor, the motorbikes everyone around here rides. There's way more of them than cars, and neither they nor the cars give a damn about pedestrians or right of way, which makes crossing the street lots of fun.

8am is class – an hour forty minutes followed by a 20-minute coffee break (istiraha), another 50 minutes of class , 10-minute istiraha, 50 minutes of class, and an hour of lunch at 1pm. After lunch is peer tutor time, which is basically hanging out for an hour or two with the Indonesian students assigned to us. If there's homework we'll do that, otherwise we'll find a shady spot (yes, it's hot. No, there's no AC.) to sit and talk and run vocab, or walk around town. A few times now we've taken an angkot, little blue vans that function like city busses, into the alun-alun (city center) with a few of us to walk around and check out the Pasar Burung (bird market) and the Pasar Bunga (flower market). From there, Yusin usually walks me home, dinner around 6:30, then maybe watch some World Cup (Piala Dunia) til bed. Hopefully now that I'm settled in a bit I'll be able to go out more with friends to explore the city.

The food is pretty fantastic so far. The pembantu is an excellent cook, so after the initial spate of faux-American food I've eaten awfully well. Dinner can be a lot of things, always rice, then some sort of veggie, meat and/or fish, often tofu or tempeh. Tonight they had takeout from a Padang restaurant; I tried beef tendon (exact same texture as the bubbles in bubble tea, but meat flavored) and what I'm pretty sure was lung jerky – not a lot of flavor, but awfully crunchy. I think I'll stick to normal meat from now on. Breakfast is usually last night's dinner reworked, so fried rice, fried chicken (and what fried chicken! Sorry, Hunter, but the South's got nothing on this stuff.), fantastic tempeh, veggies, omelet, etc etc. Turns out I'm a big fan of spicy food for breakfast. Yesterday my host sister and I went for a jalan-jalan around town on her sepeda motor, and had some bakso (meatball soup) at a warung, kind of an outdoor cafe, a restaurant in a tent. As in most of Asia, avocado is a fruit here, so I drank avocado juice with condensed milk and chocolate syrup. Different, but surprisingly good. My only complaint is that I wish there were more fresh fruit. So far I've tried mangosteen (fantastic), snakefruit (less so), guava and tamarind juices (pretty good), and durian in a shake (fruit shouldn't taste like onions), but mostly there's just apples and pears around the house, which, while good, are kind of boring. I'm hoping for more mangosteens and maybe some dragon fruit. Rambutans are out of season. Boo.

Cukup – enough for tonight – more fun stories about the tea plantation this past weekend (climbed a volcano!) and cultural differences and bucket showers and such to follow. Pictures will be sparing because of the less-than-ideal internet situation, but I'll try to get a few up. Selamat malam, dan sampai jumpa! Oh, and go Portugal!


  1. Please, the closest you've come to "Southern" Fried chicken was driving past a Popeye's. Glad you're having fun, however.

  2. hahahaha!!! "fruit shouldn't taste like onions"

    i hope you've had some dragon fruit! mmm...