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AFS Weekend

Monday, October 15, 2012

So I should probably make a post about my first few weeks here, but that would be pretty boring for me to write. Instead I'll summarize it by saying it mostly was made up of riding around Surabaya going to the police station and immigration, visiting my new school and getting my new uniform, visiting Malang (a town a couple hours away from Surabaya), having a welcome party for me (which I will write a separate post about), and starting my school year here. Things are going very well, including my language acquisition. I can now say more than 'saya suka' ('I like it')! Also my Indonesian class is amazing and I like school a lot; for one I can bring my laptop and take random pictures in class...

Anyway this weekend Bina Antarbudaya Surabaya (the equivalent of our AFS chapter) took Avery and I up to a traditional village named Nganjuk a few hours away so we could experience that side of Indonesian life and get in a few post-arrival orientations too.

The drive up was long and tiring, probably because we set out at around 8 and got there at midnight-ish. But I realized that I like long car rides in Indonesia better than America because on the Indonesian equivalent of the Interstate, there's never really a break in the long line of houses and shops lining the road. So there's always something interesting to look at while you're in the car. It's much better than getting into a trance staring out at the endless desert like I usually do while on trips in America... although I do love and miss the scrubby Idaho landscape.

During this orientation we stayed with a volunteer's family, whose kindness was incredible and very Indonesian. Basically they never stopped offering food - I was told that "when you go to an Indonesian's house, you'll leave with a full belly." It's so true, and so great. We couldn't have asked for kinder hosts.

The first day, we had a short language session and then went off to visit a local vocational school. There, village kids learn about agriculture, auto repair, cooking, and I'm assuming much more. We walked around the school, were stared at (slowly getting used to this), visited the school's livestock, learned how to use a mortar and pestle, and had a short English-speaking panel in front of a class. It was interesting to see another kind of Indonesian school since I go to one that more resembles a traditional high school.

Anak ayam - baby chickens!

Domba-domba :) - sheep

Ibu domba dan anaknya - A mamma sheep and her baby

When we got back Avery and I promptly passed out, then we walked out of our room expecting to have another session. Instead we all just watched MasterChef Indonesia and a show called Asing Star - or, Foreign Star. Asing Star was hilarious because the entire premise is bringing on bule (foreigners, mostly white people) to sing songs in Indonesian. None of them were very good singers but purely by being bule they were TV material. Crazy, right?

After we had our fill of Indonesian TV we all got ready and went out for dinner and to see a kind of carneval happening that night. Dinner was sate gambing - basically mini goat kebabs - and gule-gule, yellow soup flavored with coconut... not my favorite dish but still good to try. The carneval was low-key when compared to American carnevals: the rides were mostly just little mechanical cars, the kind that go up and down a little and are for little kids. But it was loud, in a good way, and the night was warm and the village lit up at night was a lovely sight for an exchange student like me to see. (Excuse the rhyming)

When we got back: another session. So much laughter with AFS, and I got a few important questions answered which is always good. And then sleep, lots of it!

The last (also second) day we spent in Nganjuk started with a trip to the traditional Indonesian market. Can't remember what it's called but basically lots of stalls selling everything from bras printed with Angry Birds to rice spoons all crowded into one building. We tried two new foods - they're not very pretty but they were both delicious.

Bubur ayam - chicken porridge. With sambal and kechap of course!

No idea what this was called or even really what was in it aside from sticky rice and things made out of jelly. 
One of the most memorable experiences I had in Nganjuk was just walking around the village with Ines, Sinta and Avery, seeing how the people there lived and of course spending quality time with their livestock. One woman shared her house with her two cows and chickens (one of which almost attacked me because I touched its baby, oops). The people there have a completely different lifestyle from that in Surabaya: the pace of life in the village is slow and people might not seem to have much, but they still smiled and welcomed us into their homes and backyards without hesitation.

Halfway through the drive home we also stopped at a town called Trowulan to see a couple of ancient temples, ruins left over from when Indonesia was the center of Majapahit, a huge and insanely wealthy kingdom. We saw the Bajang Ratu gate first, and then Candi Tikus which was a queen's private swimming pool. At Bajang Ratu there was a photoshoot going on and Avery had the fabulous idea of getting a picture with the male model...

Bajang Ratu

Candi Tikus

The sign says 'don't climb'. Oops. Silly bule!

And then finally we drove the rest of the way home and got dropped off at our houses. A very very awesome weekend filled with bonding time and getting to know more about the people who are taking care of us this year in Bina Antarbudaya. Seeing the village just a few hours away from my home smack in the middle of bustling Surabaya made me even more excited (if that's possible) to see the rest of Indonesia.

Getting There

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Hey look, it's me, posting a new blog finally! I could have updated before this but I've been kind of laaaazy. Maaf!

Anyway, yes I am safely inbound and even somewhat settled down here in Indonesia. The past couple of weeks have been krazy with a capital K. I'll start at the beginning...

Packing. The dreaded time in every exchange student's life. This was a Herculean task because I had so much stuff and only one suitcase, one carry-on and one personal item. My entire family got in on the process and I finally got everything down to a small suitcase, my big suitcase, and my backpack. But even with all of our efforts to lighten my load, it was still super heavy when I had to lug it through airports and hotels.

This was taken when I thought I was done, but in fact I had another two hours of re-packing left. 

Saying goodbye to my family, when the time came, was harder than I thought. I told myself I wouldn't cry but of course I did anyway. Even though there's Skype and email and Facebook, when you realize you won't hug or eat dinner or just sit around with your family for a whole year, it's pretty tough. But, we all got through it okay. I think. I hope?

On the morning of September 21st I woke up at the ripe hour of 3:30 AM (again, also coincidentally just one hour before I have to wake up for school here in Surabaya) to go to the airport with my family. The flights to NYC were super short, it felt like, and I practiced making conversation with complete strangers on them. Albeit in English... but I still count it.

When I finally landed in JFK it was time for gateway orientation! It was a laid-back night at a New York City hotel with just the Indonesia outbounds, our flight chaperones and Allen Evans, the director of YES Abroad who gave us our orientation. A returnee from Indonesia 09-10 was also there to give us last-minute advice and answer our questions. For this orientation, mostly we just sat in a conference room and went over tips on making our year successful but we also discussed things like our expectations and the different stages of culture shock and adjustment.

It was probably the most fun orientation that I've been to, because all of us over-excited Indonesia outbounds got to know each other better and it didn't drag on for what felt like forever.

Morgan and I at JFK. JFK is not the funnest airport to drag 100  combined pounds of luggage through. I can now say that from experience. 

Then came the big day... the one where we would board our 14-hour flight to Hong Kong and officially begin our international journey! We were all slightly nervous about the flight (with Cathay Pacific which is an amazing airline) but still raring to go. When I got to my seat in coach and looked around I was very, very happy to find that my seat had a power outlet and a TV with an extremely long list of movies, games, and TV shows to play. That, and the food that they seemed to serve every few minutes, kept me occupied the whole time. I barely slept.

Which caught up with me in the Hong Kong airport. I promptly crashed from my energy high on the airplane and felt groggy and cranky the entire five hours we were in China. To fill the time we (David and I) Skyped Hannah who is in Malaysia. We also played cards, ate legit Chinese food, and walked around the surprisingly not-crowded airport. I wanted to get some Hong Kong money because it is so pretty but when I bought water, I got American dollars back in change... I'm just a little disappointed. Good thing Indonesian money is just as pretty.

Right over the North Pole!

David, me, and Hamza in-flight

Coming in over Hong Kong

In the HK airport waiting for our food

I slept the entire flight from Hong Kong to Jakarta, so when we landed in Indonesia I was ready to go. AFS greeted us and we piled in to a bus to head to the site of our arrival orientation, Taman Mini Indonesia. Taman Mini is like an Indonesia theme park where you can see traditional houses, museums, and gardens. Unfortunately we only got to see the area around our hostel, and not the rest of the park, but we were so busy that it didn't really matter. Also the hostel area was really, really beautiful.

Sangat indah, ya?

When we got to Taman Mini, we unloaded the bus and made ourselves at home in our hostel. Which was made up of one room for boys, and one for girls. There were bunk beds and traditional Indonesian bathrooms and everything! It was quite an experience. I think I will always remember my first encounter with a squat toilet. It was terrifying at the time but now it's no big deal.

The girl's room!

The next morning we got up and had breakfast, which was only our second taste of real Indonesian food. Then we got to know our fellow AFS Indonesia 2012-2013 inbounds, who were all Europeans except for two Japanese girls. We had orientation workshops in which we discussed Indonesian lifestyle and culture, our expectations for the year, and of course the language. There was an activity where we had to use our very limited Indonesian and ask the various natives also staying at the hostel/hotel about their lives, and if they knew anything about our host cities. It was intimidating, to say the least, and definitely made me wish I'd been more diligent when studying Indonesian at home.

And as a surprise to us, we also put on a talent show! There was a welcome party for AFS in Jakarta so we split up by country and came up with mini acts to represent our cultures for everyone who attended the party. The Belgian girls did a folk dance, the Japanese girls did a tea ceremony, and the Americans... we did the Cotton-Eye Joe. And the macarena. And of course, the Cha-Cha Slide. It was lots of fun even if we kind of fell apart at the end because we couldn't hear the music.

The European boys Bjorn, Fabian and Simon looking fabulous after the party

The last day of orientation (and my first night in Surabaya), we packed up our bags, loaded up a big bus and drove for an hour into Jakarta to have our last workshop at the AFS office. When the workshop was over we left the people who were staying in Jakarta and Bandung behind. So David, Morgan, and Hamza went off to their host families while the rest of us drove for an hour more the the airport. We all stared out the bus windows the entire drive, fascinated by the Jakarta landscape passing us by. We only drove on the freeway so we had no idea of what the real Indonesia looks like, but it was still shockingly different. Here's a couple of my own shots:

And then finally we got to the airport, where we would all go our separate ways, to places like Yogyakarta and Kalimantan and Surabaya, to be picked up at the airport by AFS and our host families. I'll make a separate post about that because this one is getting long and boring enough.

Sorry again for the long wait. I wrote this because I'm bored in school and I don't really have anything else to distract me. :) Until next time guys!

About me

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I'm Sara, the freckled bule, one out of eight of the coolest people in the world. I spent a year in Indonesia as a KL/YES Abroad student but now I live in Boise, Idaho. Welcome to my bloggity blog.


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