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:
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!