Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mosquito repellent is not monkey repellent

At the monkey forest, a little monkey climbed up my leg, then my body, then sat on my head for awhile, then started digging in the exposed pocket on my backpack. We think he was going for the bug dope, which is orange scented.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Beware the monkeys

Yesterday, we went to the Uluwatu temple. It is built upon a cliff and surrounded by forest. There are also a lot of monkeys.

We had been there for about a minute when I saw a monkey jump on some old guy's back, grab the glasses off his face, and then run a couple of yards away where it sat down and started chewing on the frames. The man ran after the monkey, and it ran up into the tree with the glasses still in its mouth.

We are having a good vacation so far, and leave in about an hour for a trip inland to the town of Ubud.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lizards and leaving

This is one of our friendly house lizards. This one was hanging out in the kitchen. I call all of the lizards Gordon. As in Gordon Gekko. Ha!

***

We leave very soon. I will try to post from the islands, but if it isn't possible, you may not hear from me for a couple weeks.

Happy holidays! Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Developing country ups and downs, and down my throat

This morning I went to the kitchen for breakfast and found the top of the fridge covered in ants. Fortunately, there didn't appear to be any ants in the fridge. I grabbed the broom and dustpan and swept them away, a process I had to repeat two more times to get rid of them all.

Then I went to work, where a storm knocked out the power to the school for two hours. The upside to this was that one of my classes got canceled.

At her school, Rowan has a leak in the ceiling that drips just behind her desk. She has to avoid the bucket when she moves her desk chair. And one of her classrooms started to flood, causing one student to slip and fall on his ass during an activity.

At home our garage is leaking. And the drainage channel behind the house seems to be getting dangerously high. And we kept blowing a circuit the other day and it made terrifying noises when I reset it.

At least we have a lot of beer in the fridge. But it isn't so cold because the power was out for awhile and the fridge doesn't work so well even when it is fully electrified.

***

After class today, Rowan and I went to get some terang bulan, or folded-and-filled Indonesian pancakes. (These are, the Internet tells me, the sweet version of martabak, which I've seen elsewhere as a sort of omelet wrapped in a crepe.) My co-worker had said they could be savory, so while Rowan ordered the chocolate, I ordered the mixed cheese.

We took our boxes of food back to the house and found that the mixed cheese meant cheese mixed with peanuts, chocolate, and some other things.It was sweet and delicious. But not really dinner fare.

So I cooked up some grilled cheese, or roti bakar dengan keju (grilled bread with cheese) as they say in these parts.I had the ingredients because I felt like a little taste of home yesterday. And I did get quite nostalgic while I ate it.

Following the sandwich and pancake, I settled into a sort of carbohydrate stupor, which is still affecting me as I write this. And will affect me for a long time, since there are enough leftovers to feed me breakfast for two more days.

***

I apologize if the blog sometimes seems like a food blog, but eating--or more specifically the quest for food--is a big part of our lives here. Often, it is cheaper to buy food from local people than to cook it ourselves. I've mentioned the guys who go past our house, but sometimes the guy I want doesn't come, or I don't want what does come.

Getting food often requires going out and searching for stuff. Our pancakes, for example, required a ten-minute walk to the restaurant, though I thought it was well worth the trip. Also, such questing takes us out of our little bubble. We get to see our neighborhood and meet its people.

So when I talk about food, I'm really talking about the results of living, a return to a sort of hunter/gatherer mentality of life.

Or so I tell myself.

Party-party!

The company we work for had its annual Christmas party over the weekend. Since this is Indonesia, though, there wasn't anything particularly Christmas-y about it.

The theme was "All about Batik." So I donned some sort of traditional Indonesian garb and Rowan wore a batik-style dress.There were massive piles of Indonesian food. No Christmas cookies or ham or stuffing to be found. Only later would a single dish of au gratin potatoes appear.

No carols were sung; instead, some of the local teachers sang karaoke, some of it in Indonesian. And they ran out of beer, which would never (NEVER!) happen at one of my family's holiday gatherings.

In spite of the lack of actual Christmas flavor at the Christmas party, though, we had a good time.

And then we retired to our house for an after-party. Our theme was "mustaches and headwear," so it was not any more Christmas-y, but we did not run out of beer.(This is our friend Ian, one of the few people who actually brought a stupid hat. And by few people, I mean him and me. Also, me and my friend Dave were also the only ones to wear mustaches. So much for having a theme to the party.)

We partied until 4:30 in the morning. Upon waking, we headed to a nearby hotel for an all-you-can-eat buffet (no martinis this time), where I stuffed my face with ridiculous amounts of sushi.
***

This coming Saturday, we leave for Bali. We are getting there by mini-bus, which takes 17 hours and is hopefully not too unpleasant. Then we have almost two weeks in paradise.

Our plans could change at any time, but here is the current agenda:

Dec. 22 and 23: Kuta
Dec. 24, 25, and 26: Ubud at the Jati 3 Bungalows
Dec. 27 and 28: The Gili Islands at the Sunset Gecko
Dec. 29, 30, 31, and Jan. 1: Mangsit, Lombok, at the Santai Beach Inn

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ponderings of a more ponderous nature

For a somewhat lengthy, picture-free perspective on some of the sociocultural-economic things that I thought about on the trip to Yogyakarta, go here.

Yogyakarta and the safe hunger

This time we traveled west. Riding the train through cornfields and rice paddies, we arrived in Yogyakarta.

The trip was comfortable. Even though our roommate was told that no executive class seats were available, the tickets we were given were clearly labeled eksekutif, or executive. (Such is the nature of doing things in Indonesia. Eventually, you just stop asking, Why?) So we had food and air-conditioning and lots of leg room.

We left the train station and took a horse carriage to the hotel.The horse seemed beyond his better years and the carriage was not in good condition, so the trip took quite awhile, and we were quite sore by the time we arrived.

For lunch, we went to a restaurant where I had cobra "steak."I'm pretty sure it was cobra, but it definitely wasn't steak; it came in little fried bits. It tasted okay, but not great; it was a little too greasy and chewy.

That evening, we rode some becak, or bicycle cabs.We arrived at the Kraton area.In the central park area, there is a legend that if you are blindfolded and walk between the two magic trees, you will be granted a wish and receive good luck.

We positioned ourselves about sixty yards from the trees. Several of us tried several times and came very close, but we were all unsuccessful. Rowan said I was walking straight toward the trees once, but then inexplicably made a sharp right turn.

The next day, we woke early, at 4am, to go see the temples of Borobudur and Prambanan, one Buddhist and the other Hindu.

Borobudur was the first stop.The weather cloaked us in a light mist. It was not uncomfortable; the rain offered a coolness we can't find in Surabaya. And it perhaps lent an air of mysticism to the experience.

Or it would have, if it wasn't for the Indonesian tourists asking to take pictures of us, as if we were the actual attraction.

Prambanan was next, and the rain began to come down much harder.Here, we were unbothered by the other people, perhaps because of the rain.

That evening, we went for a walk and ended up near the Water Castle, a structure that features what used to be underwater escape tunnels and an underwater mosque, among other features.

We asked a local for directions, and he gave us quite a lengthy and informative tour.Along the way, we ended up at several shops, including his own, as well as the shop of the official doll maker of the king, or so we were told.However, we were not pressured to buy at any of the shops. (We had been warned about the high-pressure sell, and had left a gallery quickly the night before when it seemed we were going to receive such pressure.)

"Come back when luck provides you with better fortune," our guide said.

We walked back through the night. We visited the market area before taking another horse carriage to the hotel.

We awoke early again the next day to take the train ride home, back through the cornfields and rice paddies, to Surabaya and its stifling heat. And home.

***

For more photos from the trip, visit http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=66115&l=025f2&id=547792060.

***

Lastly:
I hope my hunger, and yours, is always safe.

Friday, December 5, 2008

It's almost the weekend!

Next week, we have Monday off. So we are using the slightly extended vacation to visit Borobudur, an enormous complex of temples near Yogyakarta.

To get there, we are going to take an un-airconditioned train for five hours. Should be fun.

***

In other news, Rowan and I were riding in a taxi yesterday when it smacked a guy on a motorcycle. Just crashed right into the motorcyclist, knocking him to the ground.

Rowan immediately said, "I am not staying in this cab." We got out and walked away as the police escorted the taxi driver from the scene. (This happened almost right in front of a little police watchpoint.)

The driver had been acting a little strange the entire trip. We think he might have been on something.

We then went to our school's main office, where I put my name on the waiting list to rent a motorbike. Hopefully this does not end up being a bad idea.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Two Pancake Day, and other stories

We stayed in Surabaya this past weekend. The girls decided to start Saturday off right with some homemade pancakes.
They were delicious. The girls then went back to sleep while I spent the next couple hours exploring the kampung, or neighborhood, near our house. I was looking for a large outdoor market, but I didn't find it. I did get quite a dose of pollution in my lungs, though. I don't think I'll do much more walking here in Surabaya.

That evening, we went to a party hosted by some new friends. The theme was to be inappropriate (for a Muslim country). Notice how two of the ladies don't have their shoulders covered. Scandalous!It was a fun event, and one of the hostesses made us more pancakes, which we consumed drunkenly at about 2 am. Any day featuring two different pancake meals is a good day. (As an aside, our roommate told us about something called Pancake Day, which they celebrate in England.)

We woke in the morning and headed to the restaurant at a nearby hotel for their all-you-can-eat Italian buffet with all-you-can-drink martini service.They had some very good Italian food, including wood-fired pizzas. I opted for a main course of squid ink risotto with grilled scallops. Rowan had the grilled sea bass on a bed of wilted spinach with garlic potatoes.

And the martinis actually were all-you-can-drink, even though they were a bit weak.The menu featured 26 flavors, one for each letter of the alphabet. I lost count of the number of martinis I had after awhile.

We then proceeded to a place for some karaoke. The karaoke isn't in a bar where you sing in front of strangers; instead, you rent out a private room with its own musical setup.
We rocked hard for a little while, went back to the original party house for some food, and called it a weekend.

***

Certain persons of a parental nature have requested some info about the teaching aspects of our lives here. While I've proclaimed some disillusionment before, the job is fun at times, depending on the particular group of students. These pictures are from one of my favorite classes, which has several older people in it, which balances perfectly with the kids.The students seem to learn best, and have more fun, when the class is interactive. Here, I am teaching the difference between adjectives and nouns (angry and anger, dangerous and danger, etc.) by laying words out on the floor. The students would then work to move the words into proper categories.Sometimes, though, the students in some classes don't listen. A lot of them actually are spoiled rich kids, and they don't behave. Today, I had an amusing situation where I was yelling at the students to stop yelling. At the time, however, I don't think anyone was amused.

But I do like teaching, and I'm starting to learn more tricks to deal with the problem kids.

***

As you may have noticed from the photo above, I got a haircut for the first time in nearly two years. I decided the career as a professional wrestler just wasn't going to work out.
So I plopped down my $4 at an Indonesian salon and got the hair chopped off.
The stylist gave me a trendy Indonesian-dude sort of haircut, which I decided within a day that I didn't like. So I had Rowan fix my hair with a tiny little pair of scissors. I am now quite happy with the results.

One of my favorite stories about the haircut takes place the day after I got it trimmed. I walked into one of my classes and started teaching. About five minutes later, one of the students raised her hand. "Are you Mr. Kevin?" she asked.

Apparently, she wasn't sure if I was the same person who had been teaching her before. And perhaps I wasn't, in some ways. I'm hoping that the loss of hair doesn't have any Samson-like consequences for me.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Song of the south

Again, we headed south, eventually arriving at a hotel in Trawas. The proprietor is Dr. John Sumarna, a man with a vision of cultural exchange and a better Indonesia. And a vision to PARTY!

When we entered the hotel, we saw the office to the right. To the left was a set-up for an entire band, a PA system, several microphones, and a video projector. Dr. John loves music.

My roommates and I arrived many hours ahead of our other friends, so Dr. John showed us some of the local sights, including a Buddha statue from 1200 A.D., supposedly the oldest remaining statue of the Majapahit Kingdom.The statue weighs 72 tons. The Indonesian government constructed the structure around it in 1992 to protect the statue from further weather damage.

We returned to the hotel and met our friends. We had a short jam session with Dr. John. Then, after dinner, it was time to karaoke.We ended up singing songs drunkenly until 3:00 in the morning (that was when we ran out of beer and whiskey). Dr. John partied with us most of the night. The music was mostly slow ballads from the 60s and 70s, and some bad 80s music, as well. Needless to say, we quite enjoyed ourselves, even after singing "Love Hurts" for the third time.

Some of us woke up at 10:00 that morning; others slept until nearly 1:00 in the afternoon. After everyone was awake, we went in search of food. We ate at a little restaurant near the hotel; the bill for nine people was $5. Rowan also found a new friend. Dr. John then drove us up the mountain to a waterfall. (He took us everywhere we wanted to go over the course of the weekend, and also drove around to pick up takeaway food orders for us. When we thanked him, he would say, "I am retired and a little bored. Not a problem.")

At the waterfall, we had to pay admission. It is partly maintained by the government and is regarded as a spiritual place.
video
Of note in the second video is the girl in the lower left-hand corner as the video starts. Some people use the waterfall to achieve a meditative state. The water was extremely cold, but she sat there for over fifteen minutes. She was shivering in a way that could best be described as violent.
video
I didn't stay under the water for nearly that long.

After the waterfall, we relaxed for awhile before saying goodbye to Dr. John. We thanked him for his kindness, and assured him that we would return. And we meant it.

One of our friend's birthday was the following day, so we went out for Thai food when we got to town.

We entered the restaurant and were immediately bombarded by horrible, and horribly loud, live music. After the night of karaoke, we wanted no part of such aural disturbances, but we fortunately were able to sit in a slightly quieter private room of the restaurant.

Part of the meal included this crispy-fried critter.
The meal was okay, but not fantastic. One of the things you learn soon here in Indonesia is not to really expect anything to go smoothly. So I was only mildly surprised when the Thai restaurant told us that they were out of noodles. Later, we found out that they were also out of chocolate ice cream. A friend told me that one of the McDonald's here once ran out of french fries.

The meal made me sort of homesick, since both Rowan and I thought that there is better Thai food back in Fairbanks, Alaska.

***

After work tonight, everyone was hungry. So when my roommate heard the metallic clang of one of the food guys, she ran out into the street and brought him back to our house.
He cooked us food on the road right outside our front gate. On his cart he had everything he needed to prepare one specific dish that is his specialty, in this case tahu tek.Here, he is grinding a peanut chili sauce together. On the left is a burner with a wok full of tofu and potatoes.

We gave him our plates and he dished us up, although he also has his own plates and utensils. You eat your food and then run the empty dishes back to him. It was delicious; far better than the much more expensive Thai meal.

***

After several weekends away from the city, we will be staying in Surabaya next weekend. Some friends are having a party, and we are also going to hit up a Sunday buffet that features all-you-can-eat Italian food and all-you-can-drink martinis.

This may be either the best idea ever or the worst idea ever. We will see.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Up the mountain and down

After one of the strangest nights of my life, we headed south again, this time to the PPLH Environmental Education Center.

We took an air-conditioned bus to the town of Pandaan, where we were dropped off on a corner near a bunch of bemo, or public transit vans. We commissioned one of them for a private trip through the town of Trawas and into the mountains.As we climbed up and up through the hills, we rode on winds of burning clutch. The driver's friend kept looking out the window to make sure the tires were still intact.

But we made it there.

And were immediately greeted by a horde of schoolchildren.
The area near PPLH also had several camping areas, filled with other groups of schoolchildren. Throughout the weekend, I probably had my picture taken about 30 times and with well over 100 people. Bule, or white foreigners, are apparently picture-worthy creatures here. At times, I felt like a zoo animal.

Although PPLH is an education center, it also caters to tourists looking to relax. It offers several nice bungalows for up to four people.
We visited a modern temple the first day. This included a walk up the road, which took us up the mountain.The scenery was beautiful, and we got a feel for the way of life in this part of the country. We passed farms growing a variety of things, including corn.On the second day we headed back into the hills, this time in search of older temple ruins that supposedly dot the hillside. We climbed for awhile, but only found another farm.Some of the people here live simply. Just a roof over their heads and a raised bed to sleep on. We passed one newer concrete house in the process of being built, but the only other large houses we saw were abandoned ruins. We wondered what had happened, why these hulking masses were empty while the smaller houses thrived around them.

We returned to the center to relax before heading home. The place has a pretty decent restaurant where I did my best to sample the local food and beverages. Sometimes when I ordered, the server would say, "That's a traditional drink," and stare at me wondering if I would change my mind.

I don't think a lot of foreigners like the local beverages. But I like to try new things. I tried the bir plethok, which isn't a beer at all. Instead, I think this blood-colored drink is sweetened brewed beet juice.
But it was delicious. Rowan liked mine enough that she later ordered her own.

I also got my first taste of the traditional style of Javanese coffee, which I had previously seen described in our guidebook as a "chewy concoction."They dump a pile of grounds in the cup, and then pour boiling water over it. It doesn't get strained before serving.

After the relaxing weekend, it was time to return to Surabaya.

While we were easily able to get to PPLH, getting away from it is much different since there aren't groups of people waiting to provide transportation. We left the grounds, turned left, and started asking everyone we saw about ojek, or motorcycle taxis. Everyone kept pointing us farther down the road.

Eventually, we waved down an SUV and asked if we could get a ride to Trawas. They offered us space. I kept asking, "Berapa harganya?" I wanted to know their price, but they offered nothing back that I could decipher as numbers.

We climbed in. They were a boisterous group, and seemed to be drunk and high, except for the driver, who seemed quite level-headed. We conversed in the tiniest bits of broken language. One of the men kept asking, "Do you like happy?" He danced in his seat.

They dropped us off in Trawas. We offered them 40,000 rupiah. They asked for 100,000. We said we had little money, gave them our initial offer, and walked off. They didn't seem to care and drove away laughing.

We ate a fantastic lunch and then walked down the street to check out a hotel we had noticed on the way in. We wanted to see if it was somewhere we could stay in the future.

There, we met Dr. John, who has a Ph.D. from an economics school in London. He showed us his hotel. We walked up the stairs and around a corner, and were greeted by an amazing view.I think we may go stay there next weekend. There are waterfalls in those hills, a two kilometer walk from the hotel.

We talked to Dr. John for awhile, and then he offered us a free ride to Pandaan, quite a ways down the road. "I am retired and I live here with just my wife and son. I get bored sometimes," he said.

He told us about attending school in London, about waking up at 4:30 to work for hours before attending classes and then working again at night. About how now he wants to help other people adopt good business practices, and how he wants more cultural exchange in the town.

He dropped us off at the Pandaan bus station. We said we would see each other soon.

He had told us to wait for the A/C bus, but the first two that rolled through were not air-conditioned. They were too full, anyway. But we wondered if an A/C bus would come anytime soon, and if it would have space when. We jumped on the next bus, not quite as crowded, and sweated our way home.

***

We got home at a reasonable hour, and went to the movie theater to see Quantum of Solace, the new James Bond film.

The theater is nice, with comfortable seats and plenty of leg room. Movies are about $1.50 during the week and $2.50 on the weekends.

I don't think I can give the movie a fair review. Since we are in an Islamic country, the movies are censored. Whenever they cut a scene, they show an "S" on each side of the screen. This happened about ten times. The result was a movie that didn't make a whole lot of sense.

Although we are surrounded by Islamic culture, it hasn't really affected our lives thus far. But it is there, and it is something we need to consider. We've landed on the other side of the rainbow and aren't in Kansas anymore.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Food and farming

One of the nice things about the neighborhoods here are the street vendors. People push carts of food through the streets and signal their presence with their own distinct call. I can hear the sound from the living room and run outside for some cheap grub.

So far, I've learned that the guy hitting a wood block sells nasi goreng (fried rice with chicken, eggs, and some cabbage) and the guy making the metal clanging sound sells tahu tek (tofu and potatoes with peanut soy sauce). Both meals are less than 60 cents.

I know there are coconuts and some other sweets, but I haven't figured out the sounds yet. I am compiling a list with descriptions to keep by the door for fast reference.

Eventually, I am sure I will start to salivate to certain sounds, sort of like Pavlov's dog.
(This is not Pavlov's dog, or even a dog, actually.)

***

This weekend, we are planning on heading south about 1.5 hours to visit an NGO that teaches organic agriculture to local farmers. They have an on-site organic restaurant and some bungalows to stay in, and they are scenically located at the base of a mountain. After our organic experiences in Italy, it should be an interesting excursion.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Just throwing this out there...

For Christmas we will be in Bali, Lombok, and the Gili Islands for two weeks, hopefully hanging out in some crazily affordable but nice-looking beachside bungalows. (If you aren't so good at exchange rates, those bungalows range from $7 to $23 a night. Meals are $1.50 to $3.)(This is from our tropical adventure last Christmas, though I assume one can expect a similar scene in Indonesia.)

It probably isn't too late for you to buy a plane ticket...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Selamat malam, Malang (Good night, Malang)

We got on the bus south to Malang and paid our approximately $1.50 fare. The road has been rerouted for the last two years because of the mud eruption (go here for a good video), but we made it to the city in less than three hours.

Despite our students' warnings about Malang being cold, we were greeted by very warm temperatures. (It would cool down some later in the day.)

From the bus station, we took a bemo into the town center. A bemo is a crowded little minibus (I think we had 13 people in there) that follows an erratic yet preplanned path through town.Malang has more greenery, parks, and sidewalks than Surabaya, so after we put our stuff in our hotel rooms ($14 for two single beds, and very clean) we went for a walk around the city.

The first day, we saw several parks, including this one with a lily pond.We also went to a small park that had some animals and birds in depressingly small and dirty confines. That's probably why this thing doesn't look so happy.That evening, we went to the one club in town and watched an Indonesian cover band. They played a wide range of music, covering everything from Indonesian pop songs to Shakira to that JT and Madonna song to "Killing in the name of..." by Rage Against the Machine.

We wandered back to the hotel at about 2:30 in the morning to find the gates locked. We ended up having to call some friends at another hotel to have them look up our hotel in the guidebook, and then we called the hotel to wake up the night security guard to let us in.

(As a side note, this experience has inspired us to attempt to acquire cellphones this week; we would have been completely screwed without one.)

In the morning we went to the animal market, where people were selling lots of birds, rabbits, cats, hamsters and guinea pigs, the occasional monkey, and all manner of accoutrements for the animals.We also went to a large plant market, which was also quite interesting.

We spent the afternoon at a nice local hotel.
We had one of the hotel staff give us a tour, and we also spent a lot of time drinking, eating, and relaxing. My sense of cost is getting a little skewed here. I felt like I spent a good chunk of money, but my total only came to about $8.50 for coffee, food, and a rocks glass of Myers's rum, and this was at the best restaurant in town.

Eventually we made our way back to the bus station, again by bemo. We had some difficulties with the driver when he insisted that we pay 500 rupiah (five cents) more than the Indonesians in the bemo (the total should have been 25 cents, but he wanted us to pay 30, probably because we are bule, meaning white foreigners). Some of us paid, some of us walked away.

We stepped into the bus to Surabaya, but then immediately got off because it appeared full. Then one of the bus guys insisted that we get back on. He had our three friends cram together with some other passengers on the long seat at the back of the bus, put Rowan in the seat right up by the driver, and put me on a plastic crate (like you'd put a pile of fruit in) on the floor until the first passenger got off.

The driver drove fast, and we made it home quickly. I can't say that I am that happy to be back, but coming weekends will offer more chances to get out of Surabaya.

Friday, November 7, 2008

More consumables

In the previous post, I mentioned eating a fruit that tasted like dirt. It may have been the worst thing I have ever tried to eat.

However, I did not then throw away the remaining pieces of the fruit, but (unwasteful guy that I am) put them back in the fridge in the hopes that they would taste better a week later. Here is the anticlimactic result of the second taste test.
video
Later, though, I did discover some fruit that was still unripe. Of course, Rowan demanded that I eat it while she videotaped.
video
After she shut off the camera, I immediately ran to the fridge and ate a pile of dried dates to sweeten up my palate. I will buy the fruit again, though, since I can now tell how soft it needs to be to be eaten.

The other day while we were leaving the supercheap and amazingly useful Indonesian grocery/department store around the corner from our house, I bought this thing from a street vendor.I thought he called it pika, but the only pika I could find on the internet was this. I hope it wasn't that.

The snack was radioactive green in color (somewhat similar to the mint granite we had in Italy), and its taste could best be described as a cross between jello and a pancake. It only cost 20 cents, so I may try it again. (I think there was a chocolate version, or at least a brown version; I think the flavor I tried might have been young coconut.)

***

This weekend, we have decided to go to Malang instead of Yogyakarta (the train and bus schedules were a little more favorable). We leave at about 9am and hope to be there shortly after noon.

Malang also has an EF school and is where we initially wanted to be instead of Surabaya. My students keep telling me it is cold there. I don't think they truly understand cold.

We are going down there with all of our roommates and some other friends from school. Hopefully a manageable amount of adventure awaits us.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I ate at Pizza Hut today

Yes, I admit it. I am not proud of this fact, but I was craving pizza, mostly for cheese. And what I got was pizza, sort of. But it had no sauce. I went for the veggie, and with my limited knowledge of Indonesian mistook fresh tomatoes on the menu for sauce. Other pizzas did have sauces, but they were sweet and sour, thousand island, mayo, or other such weirdness (the sweet and sour did look good, though).

Since we've been here, people back home have asked us about food. And aside from today's foray into American global consumeristic imperialism, we've eaten mostly Indonesian food. So here's a little bit about our eating habits.

We do have apples, pears, bananas, oranges, and mangoes, but I also like to try new things. A lot of the fruit here is weird-looking, sort of like weapons or torture devices.This is a sirsak, or soursop. It is like a lemony pineapple, and quite tasty.

I did eat something the other day that tasted exactly like dirt. More truthfully, I spit out something the other day that tasted like dirt.

One of my favorite fruits is dragonfruit, strangely beautiful but delicious.

As far as actual meals go, we've consumed a lot of peanut sauce, mostly in the form of pecel (this webpage might refer to the wonderful restaurant very near our house) and gado-gado. Each meal can be had for about 70 cents to a dollar. (My personal pan pizza only came in at $2, though, as a point of reference, and a small burger, fries, and soda at Wendy's comes in at $1.50. Some items of a western nature do cost more, such as a frozen blended coffee at $3-4.)

We've consumed large amounts of tempeh, as well, since we are good pseudo-hippies. Actually, we just sort of fear the meat, though I've had bakso a few times, and it's pretty good. (I was looking at the meatballs at the store the other day, and I couldn't find any that didn't list MSG disturbingly high on the menu. So I think I'll mostly avoid it from here on out, since I am a wimp and highly susceptible to MSG.)

We do cook at home a decent amount, but it's mostly noodles and vegetables and eggs, so it's pretty similar to what we can find in some of the smaller restaurants.

***

Our house is rapidly falling apart, it seems. They finally got our water fixed, but then the toilet was broken for a few days, and the fridge quit working, and I think our front-door handle may fall off the door any minute now.

Such is the way of life here, I guess. At least we've been able to keep the cockroaches and rats out of the house.

We now have a new maid, and she seems like she will be great. I must learn Indonesian so I can actually talk to her. She keeps saying stuff and all I can do is say, "Saya tidak mengerti," "I don't understand."

***

Sorry about the lack of pictures in the last couple of posts. We've been settling in to life and haven't been too shutter-happy. However, we will be more diligent about photographing things from here on out.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Jetters"

He was here last week. I observed one of his classes and taught one for him. He seemed like an excellent teacher and a good guy. He answered all of my questions and was helpful and friendly.

And then today when I arrived at school, he was gone. He and his wife, who also taught with our company, left the country over the weekend, leaving behind some friends and all of the classes they were teaching. The schools had no warning, nor did any of the people who worked with them.

"He made a jetter," I was told when I came in. "It happens sometimes."

Rowan and I are one week in, and we have no inclinations of leaving before our contracts are up. Yet.

This coming weekend, we will (temporarily) leave the dirty chaos of Surabaya for the city of Yogyakarta, to the southwest.

We believe that if we can escape the city on the weekends, we can survive the weeks. And then we won't have to make a "jetter" ourselves.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Surabaya livin'

We arrived at the airport in Singapore and got in line to check our baggage. When we got to the counter, we realized that Rowan had purchased the tickets for the wrong day, the previous day. We had to purchase another set of tickets, and then our luck with checked baggage ran out. We were hit with an S$100 overage charge.

The flight to Surabaya was quick and uneventful, as was our passage through customs.

We got off the plane and met our driver, Pandi. As he drove us to our house, one of the first things we noticed was how flat the landscape is.

The city itself is very reminiscent of some cities in Central America: the vegetation, the motorbikes, the pollution, the roadside stands.

We arrived at the house. It was not clean, and the water was turned off in two of the bathrooms. (It would take several days to get the water sorted out.)

Here, a lot of people employ maids, mostly because people do not have clothes washers and dryers, and the maids do the laundry by hand. This is cheaper than taking the laundry to a laundry facility, and much easier than doing the washing ourselves.

Our maid seemed to enjoy watching TV much more than cleaning, so we will be getting a new one on Monday.

Our house is not ideal, but we can live here for a year. Here is a video of a standard Indonesian "shower," known as a mandi.
video
We have running water, so I don't know why they installed the mandi instead of a shower head. Also, we talked to other teachers, and a lot of them climbed right into the basin when they used it for the first time. This is in poor form, but we were able to avoid such mistakes.

Here is the toilet area.
video
The Indonesians don't believe in using toilet paper (we do, if you were wondering), so they have the option of the high powered hose or the bucket of water for cleaning themselves after using the facilities.

Culturally, this cleaning is done with the left hand, so we need to be careful not to use our left hands for any sort of public interaction here: touching someone on the shoulder, using it to eat, etc.

Our roommates are fantastic.
Sinead is a friend from our course in Barcelona, and Kim has been wonderfully helpful in acclimating us to all situations. Her last name is Peters, so you know she's good people.

This is our kitchen. Our house is reasonably sized, though it is not nearly as nice in person as it looks in this picture.Tonight we are going to a school-sponsored musical event that features RAN (pronounced "Ron"), the Indonesian equivalent of the Backstreet Boys. The party is being held at the mall near our house in a place called the Foreplay Club. Exciting!