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The Two-Bedroom Suite

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Right now I'm sitting at a hotel near the Albuquerque airport, waiting to wake up at 4 AM to catch my flight back to Boise. It's been three sun-burnt days in New Mexico with my mom and grandma, spent riding in the affectionately named "kidnapper van", volunteering at a BBQ cookoff and wandering around the stucco streets of Santa Fe. I'll fill you guys in on everything later.

The crowning moment of this mini-vacation has been, by far, this hotel room. It's the biggest I've ever stayed in. Not surprising, considering most all the hotel rooms I've ever stayed in have been mostly State Department sponsored and I'm sure that in DC they're not too keen on putting up their teenagers in the most luxurious suites.

Anyway. Let me take you on the grand tour. No, there isn't much point to this blog post other than me geeking out about how EXCITED I am about this room.

The view from the door

The kitchenette...

With our own dishware and everything!

A toaster, too. But no bread or bagels or anything delicious to toast.

A very homey bathroom...

And two - count em! - bedrooms 

View from one of the bedroom doors. There's a pullout couch and TV and everything. I feel right at home.

Sudah setahun - so, it's been a year

Monday, September 23, 2013

Haaaaallo semua. Blog pos ini adalah yang pertama aku menulis pake bahasa Indonesia. Jelas ini, ya kan? Kalian semua pasti bisa lihat, bahasaku sudah hancur. Soalnya aku sudah mulai sekolah Amerika dan sudah tinggal di Amerika dua bulan! Aku nggak harus pake bahasa Indonesia lagi!

(Oke, yaaa waktu di Indonesia bahasaku juga kayak ini, aku terlalu malas pake bahasa Indonesia yang baik dan bener. Wkwkwk.)

Aku menulis ini di bahasa Indonesia karena aku belum buat blog pos yang mudah memahami untuk semua teman-teman dan keluargaku di Indonesia. Aku selalu suka pake bahasa Inggris, soalnya aku penulis bagus banget di bahasa Inggris tapi di bahasa Indonesia, yaaa... nggak. Waktu aku masuk sekolah Indonesia dan harus ikut ujian, aku malu bangetttt bahasaku. Semua teman kelasku bisa buat karangan yang enak sekaliii tapi kalo aku mau juga, yang dibuat aku pasti kayak 'HALLO. NAMA SAYA SARA DAN SAYA TIDAK BISA BAHASA INDONESIA. MAAF SEKALI.' Dll...

AHHH ANYWAYS. :') Sekarang, tanggal 23 September, setahun lalu aku barusan tiba di Soekarno-Hatta Bandara Jakarta. Seneng banget aku waktu datang ke Indonesia, lihat semua kakak di AFS untuk pertama kalinya...

Jadi pertukaran pelajar itu mimpiku dari kelas X SMA. Waktu duduk di kelas aku selalu pikir tentang exchangeku. 'Kemana? Gimana makananya di situ? Gimana aku bisa BAYAR semuanya...??'

Waktu aku barusan tau aku akan ke Indonesia sama AFS/YES Abroad, aku nangis sedikit. Emosi-emosi di dalam kepala terlalu banyak: seneng, takut, seneng lagi... Dan pertanyaanku cepet menukar dari 'kemana?' ke 'siapa akan jadi hostfamku? gimana aku sama makanan indonesia? makananya itu pasti pedes ya kan? dan bahasa indonesia, kata-katanya kayak apa? akan aku bisa bicara dengan lancar waktu pulang dari sana?'

Waktu barusan datang (sama Morgan)

Dan mau pulang! (sama Avery)

Di Indonesia hidupku sangat berbeda dan lebih susah. Semuanya dikit lebih susah karena aku nggak terlalu tahu budaya, bahasa dan sejarah Indonesia. Aku sering pusing dan bingung. Kalo ada orang yang cukup berani untuk ngobrol sama aku, aku selalu harus menjawab pertanyaan membosankan: 'dari mana mbak? kenapa di indonesia? kenapa INDONESIA?'

Se. La. Lu.

Tetapi... aku kangen sama hidupku di Indonesia. Mungkin ada hal-hal yang aku nggak akan kangen. "HELLO MISTERRR" yaitu yang pertama. Tapi di Indonesia, aku bebas, dan menarik untuk semua orang-orang. Di Amerika aku blend in aja. Hostfamku juga saaangat enak dan aku mau kembali dan jalan-jalan sekali lagi di Surabaya.

(For all my English-speaking readers: Sorry. I ain't translating this one. Lazy. If you run it through Google Translate it should give you a good idea of what's going on. ;) And sorry for my definitely awful Indonesia. Pasti aku nggak cukup jelas, maaf ya!)

Senior year???

Friday, September 20, 2013

Currently I, and everyone I know, am/are busy applying to college. It's like applying for YES Abroad all over again: I have a notebook full of information and a brain full to busting. It's crazy. It's scary. And the way my senior year is going now, even my state school will be loathe to take me in. Cue the sad tears now.

If anyone is curious, though, as of RIGHT NOW THIS VERY MOMENT (September 9th 2013, 4.43 PM MTN) I'm applying to Boise State, George Mason, American, Oregon State, University of Oregon, Western Washington, and quite possibly an American university in Bulgaria... This is all guaranteed to change, though. 

Wake me up when college app season is over. I'll be over there, enjoying my pirated shows and denying that I actually have responsibilities.  


Sunday, September 15, 2013

Surabaya isn't famous for much. Lonely Planet touts it as a city that "for most, is merely a place to change planes, trains or buses". It's dirty. Smelly, in parts. And severely lacking in typical amusements which an exchange student can get herself up to on a sun-baked Saturday afternoon.

So one of my stops on such a day was KBS, or the Surabaya zoo. It seemed like a dirty little secret among my circle of Indonesian friends and family; I had only heard about it through overly optimistic internet articles about tourist attractions in Surabaya. When I asked around, people generally had the reaction that the zoo was 'nice, but a little dirty'. Nothing short of a condemnation, coming from an Indonesian.

Morbidly famous for its high mortality rate, horrid living conditions, and to some for the death of a giraffe who was found to have about 44 pounds of undigested plastic in its stomach, Kebun Binatang Surabaya was both as bad and not as bad as I expected. 

For one, the friend that I went with bought peanuts to feed the animals before we even entered the zoo. To an American used to strict bans on feeding zoo animals any type of food, this was not the best first sign.

The monkeys seemed a little too eager to grab for peanuts. Not seeing a source of food anywhere other than some rotting bananas on the concrete floor of his enclosure, I was kind of sickened to realize that the monkeys were perhaps intentionally not given enough food so they would beg from zoo visitors.

... Or I may be way off base here and this might have been an exceptionally greedy monkey. Who knows.

Yep, that's a tiger in the corner. Poor baby, hip bones poking out and a nasty look in his eye, was pacing incessantly. His entire enclosure was made of hosed-down concrete.

The deer, warthog and other hooved animal exhibits were crowded and dirty. One even had an unexpected guest (stray cats really ARE everywhere in Indonesia). The actual animals were gorgeous, though, I loved the deer. They all came over and jostled for attention when I hesitantly stuck my hand through the wide space between their cage bars. Not something I would do in an American zoo, if that were even possible, but hey. When in Rome, right? 

 By far the saddest exhibit, though, were the elephants. In a huge contrast from Thailand and even the other zoo I visited in Indonesia, where they seemed to treat the animals with at least a decent level of respect, the elephants in KBS were chained at each foot and had to bounce back and forth in order to move at all.

There were two on display: a baby and its mama. I can imagine that the only exercise they really get is when they're saddled up to give rides to visitors, but since I never saw that actually happening I can't say for sure. The lack of fences in their exhibit and no apparent space for them to actually walk free leads one to believe that they must spend most of their time in chains, though. 

"Wildlife" on a mostly unused trash can.

The warthogs were undoubtedly my favorite. The babies were precious and one even came up to say hello! They seemed content to live eating peanuts and rolling in muck. 

The famed 100-or-so pelican exhibit. The entire habitat was about the size of a volleyball court, maybe a little smaller. The birds had no room to fly or even stretch their wings without running into another pelican or five. So most of them were just sitting there preening. 

The Komodo dragons had a surprisingly spacious and grassy exhibit. It was one of my goals to see a Komodo dragon in its natural habitat on Komodo Island sometime during my year, but sadly I never got out that far. Seeing one in its native country was close enough though!

 And last, but not least, this lion statue. I have an entire album full of pictures of weird-looking statues and mannequins I came across in Indonesia. No idea why but so many of them are terrifying or just plain weird-looking.

In all - KBS was dingy, dirty, and full of pitiful animals in pitiful exhibits. I had low expectations to begin with, and they were both met and exceeded. Some animals had really great habitats; the orangutans and komodo dragons come to mind. But some were kept in deplorable conditions; the tigers, elephants, and monkeys in particular.

I can't condemn Indonesia or Indonesians or even the keepers at KBS for any of this. There are lovely zoos in the country (Batu Secret Zoo was the other one I went to, and it was incredible). And obviously no Indonesian wakes up in the morning and says "I think I'm going to shove animals in tiny exhibits and allow them to nearly starve to death in front of an audience today!".

It's corruption that steals any and most all government-allotted funds to the zoo. It's the ignorance of a minority of keepers and those who know better but turn a blind eye anyway. It's the people who keep KBS open for the entertainment of the public even when the international community is condemning it.

Though not the worst zoo in the world (there's one in Egypt that paints donkeys to look like zebras!), KBS was an unforgettable and eye-opening experience. If you're interested in an actual journalistic article about it, you can find one from the Telegraph here.

Shoutout to the guy sitting next to me on JT-05927

Monday, September 2, 2013

Leaving Indonesia was infinitely not-as-bad as leaving Surabaya. When I departed for Jakarta that morning, 12 June 2013, I was leaving behind my exchange: my host family, my class, and my familiarity with the city.

I knew that going through the doors of Juanda (Surabaya's famously-named airport) would be tough. I had been dreading it since before I even left for Indonesia. The notion of an exchange student leaving is almost romantic, as Avery would put it. You build a life in a city, impact so many people, and then disappear like you were never there.

The disappearing is the hard part. A huge mass of people was gathered that morning, including both mine and Avery's entire class, our host families, all of AFS Surabaya, and probably a few random stragglers curious to see why an ocean of Indonesians was gathered around a couple of white girls crying and hugging people, like they didn't even know it's taboo to touch people in public.

Me and my class right before the waterworks began

We were originally told that we would go check in and then come back out, but of course we dawdled saying goodbye to everyone and ended up having to rush through check-in and sprint to our plane which was held on the runway just for us. I was trying to talk to my then-boyfriend on the phone while we ran out onto the tarmac, and he kept asking me why I couldn't come back out and telling me that they were all still there waiting for me.

Once seated, Avery and I discovered that not only were we not sitting together but we were both in middle seats, sandwiched between pairs of middle-aged men. Looking to each other with dread we realized we had no time to ask people to move so we just sat down, buckled up, and prepared to take off from our year-long home.

Taking off was the worst part of leaving. I kept having those futile thoughts: 'please turn around, please stop accelerating, please have an emergency landing, I don't want to leave!!' but of course, Lion Air chose that one time to have a flawless flight and an hour later we would land in Jakarta, cried out and exhausted.

In-flight though, I wept a ridiculous amount into my sleeve-covered hands, elbows resting on the broken fold-down table. Partly because I was reading the letter my boyfriend had written to me, but also out of frustration over the fact that he was too embarrassed to give me a proper goodbye hug, and knowing that I would never be seeing most of the people I had just said goodbye to ever again. We said 'until we see each other again' and 'I'll come back!' so much in the days leading up to my departure, but sometimes you just know in your heart that those things aren't true.

So the man next to me, in the aisle seat, got up a few minutes after the seatbelt signs were turned off, went into the bathroom and came back with a big wad of tissues for me. That felt like the single kindest thing that someone had ever done for me, and started me crying all over again.

After getting myself together, which quite a feat at that point in time, the man and I had a lovely conversation about what had happened during my exchange and why I was crying and what he was doing going to Jakarta. It was by far one of the nicest experiences I had conversing with a stranger on an airplane in Indonesia, especially when you count the flight returning from Bangkok when the Chinese man next to me informed me that Javanese people are 'dirty' and 'not to be trusted'.

When we got off the plane, I got the guy's business card and even his phone number 'in case I needed someone to talk to'. The card stayed folded up in my wallet up until a couple of days ago when I changed wallets. Seeing that reminded me to immortalize this memory in a blog post, so here it is.

Please don't harass him, but I guess if anybody needs a slightly awkward man
to give them advice, he's the one you should call.
This card is now hanging proudly on my line of other things containing crazy Indonesia memories. I never did call Pak Carl, but somehow I know he knew it'd be okay in the end anyway.

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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