Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sampai Jumpa, Indonesia!

I'm currently sitting in Singapore at a friend's house, enjoying the air conditioned room, fast internet, and hot showers. It's the little things... I flew out from Surabaya yesterday, with roughly two more weeks of travel before I head home. First, a wrap-up of my last week in Malang.

You've already heard about my cobra-eating adventures on Tuesday night, so I'll skip that. Classes ended on Wednesday, which for my class meant a few hours of review and then a field trip to Cafe Ria Djenaka for melon juice and chatting with the teachers. Tari gave us all wooden shadow-boxes with models of masks & spears from her home town in Kalimantan (Borneo) as kenang-kenangan (parting gifts). Thursday was somewhat hellish; four hours of final presentations followed by a final exam. I love all my fellow-CLSers, really, but after four hours of powerpoints I was about ready to shoot myself. Mine went smoothly, and I now know the words for 'endangered language' and 'extinct', which should come in handy. And the final exam... well, lets just say that my 150-word essay was closer to 50 or 60 words; by that point I just wanted to be done and outta there. The university gave us all custom-tailored alma mater jackets – basically suit jackets with an Universitas Negeri Malang patch on the lapel – so everybody was looking sharp. That night was the closing ceremonies, with performances from the traditional dance and gamelan classes. We'd been told to dress up (my peer tutor: “Emily, you need to wear makeup tonight.” Me: “I'm wearing makeup now.” Her: “Oh... well wear more!”), so I put on a batik skirt from Bali and put on some lip gloss, my typical informal dressy look. The Indonesians, on the other hand, were stunning. Salon appointments for hair and makeup, traditional costumes from around the archipelago for everyone in gamelan class, which was almost everyone, seriously fancier outfits than I'd seen at the wedding a few weeks ago. I didn't recognize a few people on first glance. A sharp contrast to the few unlucky Americans who'd been assigned “traditional” Papuan dress for gamelan, which ended up being a shiny yellow poncho and skirt with rainbow-colored feather trim and feathered headbands, sort of Big Bird meets Pocahontas. And Mas Wyatt, who git drafted as an MC, in a bright-red sequined outfit and cap that made him look like a Chinese re-interpretation of a Christmas elf, but six feet tall. Ingrid was suckered into MCing as well, she dealt with it by filling a water bottle with Pocari Sweat and vodka and taking swigs before the show. It was a fun night.

Friday was a near-unbearable mandatory re-entry workshop (yes, I know what reverse culture shock is...) and oral feedback session. Listening is obviously not the administration's strongest suit; when Jenny complained that the intermediate class was hard because of a wide range of student abilities, but that having so much homework made it hard for them to find time to go out and talk to real Indonesians, Dinny wrote on the form “many different levels in class – maybe give more homework next time”. Um... no? Afterwards a few of us went out to Cafe Und for the evening. Mbak Nissa ordered her first-ever plate of pancakes, with chocolate sauce and sprinkles – very East Javanese.

On Saturday I made up for any ecological sins I may have committed with the cobra blood by going out to Batu with Samantha, Kyle, and Jake and planting trees with schoolkids. There's a conservation area up in the mountains there, around the source of the Brantas river, which is a major water source for East and Central Java. There used to be over 200 springs feeding the river, but since the area has been deforested for agriculture in the last ten years that number has gone down to about thirty. So now there's an arboretum, environmental education for local kids, and a reforestation program going on, where any time a diplomat or major group visits the region they donate a tree to be planted near the river source. Samantha, who studies that sort of thing, found out about the project an raised Rp. 600,000, roughly $60, from people in our program, which was enough to buy about 100 trees. So on Saturday we went out there, met up with a group of ten local middle-schoolers, and planted them. It wasn't nearly as back-breaking as it sounds; the trees were small and the holes had already been dug, so all we had to do was plop them in the ground and cover them over with dirt again. A 5-minute walk up to a spring that feeds the river, where we washed the mud off our hands. There were speeches about the importance of conservation, and afterwards we bought them ice cream as a little positive reinforcement.

Sunday I discovered cream baths, which I wish I had known about two months ago. You go to a salon and they smear your hair with some intense conditioner, followed by a 45-minute head, neck, and shoulder massage, all for about $3. Things I wish we had in the States... After the creambath about 20 of us went out to karaoke. You haven't lived until you've watched a sweet girl in a pink jilbab and braces do an impeccable performance of Timbaland's 'The Way I Are'. Seriously, word-perfect. Mas Wyatt followed it up with 'I Want It That Way' – old school late-'90s Backstreet Boys – and it ended with the whole room singing 'My Heart Will Go On' from Titanic. (No, mom, the microphone never came anywhere near me. That would take far more alcohol than is socially acceptable in Indonesia.)

Yesterday I finished packing and left the house at 9:30 in the morning to catch the bus out to Surabaya. A pile of tutors and teachers came with us, so the bus was packed. Yusinta gave me a pair of wayang earrings that I'd seen in the store and admired (terima kasih, Yus!) and a photo collage; I gave her a framed picture of the two of us in silly hats at Blitar and a shirt my host family had bought. 11am the bus headed out; 2:30 we got to the airport. Lots of teary goodbyes. Our flight was delayed, of course, and took of at 6pm rather than 5, but that's to be expected. My bag was 2 ½ kilos overweight, but the guy at the counter let me get by without paying. Our flight out of Jakarta was half an hour late too, so I got into Singapore a little before midnight local time. Luckily my bag showed up; since I was still booked on continuing flights to the US – United couldn't cancel the rest of my ticket without changing me to a different fare class, which was Verboten – I wasn't sure it would. But it was Garuda to Singapore and United the rest of the way, and luckily for me they don't have a baggage agreement, so all our bags had to be re-checked in Singapore. I just took mine and left. I was picked up at the airport by friends from Yale, so now I'm at E-Ching's parent's house waiting for the day to start (I'm still on Javanese time, which means waking up several hours earlier than any sane person in the rest of the world). I'll write more about Singapore later, but it's quite a change from Indonesia.

And lastly, a change of plans for the rest of my travels. On Thursday I'm flying back to Jakarta for a meeting with some linguists at the Max Planck Institute field station there, who do pretty much exactly the same research I want to start on next summer. From there I fly into Singapore again and take an overnight train to Kuala Lumpur. Most of a day there, then more trains up through the jungle to the northern part of the country, where I'm stopping (appropriately) at the Perhentian Islands ('perhentian' means 'a stopping place') for some R&R and what's supposed to be excellent scuba diving. Then across the Thai border, 20 hours on another train, and four days in Bangkok. Fly back to Singapore on the 25th, get my luggage back from E-Ching, then back to America just after midnight that night. I'd thought about taking that tour, but decided for $500 I could do it myself and have money to spare, since it wasn't going to be a complicated itinerary. I'll meet my friend Jenny in Jakarta and Fatima in Bangkok. So that's my jungle adventure, and here's hoping the trains run roughly on time and I get where I want to go. Ramadhan in Malaysia should be an interesting experience too. I'll write when I can, but who knows what the internet situation will be. Sampai nanti...

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