Village 2

I am starting to feel more comfortable here in my home. I strategize everyday how to eat a little less of the amazing food (I am overfull), sneak in a yoga practice, and explore more. I have been practicing yoga on our second story balcony in the early morning. It has an amazing view. I wonder what my host family will think if they see me out there in a headstand hanging out with the drying towels. They already think I’m so strange. I ate the avocado they gave me in my cute little lunch bag in my rice at school. My neighbor saw me and told my host family. They laughed and laughed. Avocado here is eaten like a fruit.  I should explain guacamole. They would get a good laugh.

I am becoming a little more competent in the language. I can at least communicate some basic things, but it is still hilarious and frustrating.

The more I explore the more I am amazed. The beauty here is astounding. People are growing vegetables and roses everywhere! Everything is in bloom. People harvest and carry huge loads on their motorbikes. I have fresh vegetables and fruit from town every meal, rice, and fried everything. My favorite dish so far is a local spicy peanut sauce dish called pecel. My host mom cooks well and all the time! Sooooo full…

The community is really looking out for us. They worry constantly when we go explore. Hati hati, be careful, literally heart heart, they say constantly. The culture is very family oriented. It is a beautiful thing, but it can be challenging for an independent girl like me.

During language class and training, the village children like to come walk into class and join us. It must be terribly boring, but they will sit and watch attentively for hours. If they can’t come in, they will hang in the open windows. One little girl must have been around three. She sat and watched for the whole hour and a half session! I was amazed.

Today, we included the boys in our lesson by interviewing them in Bahasa Indonesia. They are all adorable. On the breaks, we play badminton (really popular here??!!) with them in street. Other kids watch and crack their whips. Why do the boys all have whips? I may never know. 

I love how the children are allowed to just roam around as they please. They play in the streets, run in the fields, and follow us around. It is really refreshing to see children so spontaneous and free to explore. 

My village!

I have arrived in the region I will be living in for the next few months of training! It is full of lush green landscape and flowers. This region is where most of the roses in Indonesia are produced. Men carry hundreds of roses on their motorcycles. I saw families of five riding on a single motorbike. Women sometimes sit sidesaddle holding their babies. Impressive, but also scary!

We arrived in our little village, tucked in tall green mountains. We were dropped off at our host families individually. I was the last to be dropped off. I live with a Babak (father), Ibu (mother), and their two children a fourteen-year-old girl, Anggi, and a six year old, Faisal. The grandparents on both sides of the family live in the same compound as us. My Babak is a vegetable farmer. They are very sweet. They continually overfeed me, do my laundry, and refuse to let me clean. My sister is wonderful! She helps me with my almost nonexistent Bahasa Indonesia, and cooks for me sometimes. I’m amazed at the respect, kindness, and generosity of Indonesians. They are always smiling! My new home is comfortable, clean, and pretty.

Not speaking the language makes my day pretty hilarious. They say stuff at me and I smile and repeat the thing I heard Ya!!! Saya tidak mengerti. I don’t understand. It must be super frustrating for them, but they laugh. I’m pretty sure they are making fun of me half the time. I can’t help but laugh too.

They seem very concerned about me bathing. The first thing they tell me when I get home. Mandi? Mandi? Bathe? I thought they were just showing me the bathroom the first time. I took a nap instead. Then, when I woke up. Mandi? I bathed. My first bucket bath! So far, I like them.  I went out the street after, and a group of neighbors met me. They told me I am pretty, have a long nose, and looked like a doll. They all seemed to know I had napped, and thought it was very funny. They invited me into their home, at which point I wished I remembered how to say “I’m full”politely.

I have Bahasa Indonesia class with other volunteers in the mornings. It was fun to swap stories, and walk around, waving and talking to everyone with kids chasing after us saying “good morning, what is your name?” with heavy accents. I can’t explain how beautiful everything is here. The village people are extremely good hearted. I got lost on my way home. I managed to pull out a sentence explaining my predicament to a lady working at a little store. She left the store empty to walk me home. I ate with my hands, asked the head of the village when he bathed, danced, and laughed hard with someone who I can’t understand. It’s been a good day. 

Selamat Datang!

My last week has been a whirlwind of excitement, sleep deprivation, learning, and travel. I’ll try to break down some highlights of my last week as best I can.

I left Albuquerque early Sunday morning. It was still dark, and the city was lit up. As we flew over the mountain, I was overwhelmed with the thought of not seeing these mountains, my home, family and friends for two years. The sun began to rise in all its New Mexico glory, and I started to cry for the first time about leaving. Trying to keep my composure, I just made strange little noises, and stared intently out the window. It soon passed (probably to the relief of my neighbor).

Arriving in San Francisco, I began to slowly meet the 54 other volunteers that are now my friends and support. I felt reassured and thoroughly excited, and wanted to meet everyone at once! They are all amazing, talented people from all over the country.

Our trip to Japan, Singapore, and Surabaya was smooth, relatively comfortable, and completely disorienting. We got sushi and Japanese candy in Japan. Singapore had gardens with the most amazing orchids I’ve ever seen, showers, and coloring stations. The airplane had great entertainment and free beer. Can’t complain.

The country director and current volunteers greeted us in the Surabaya airport. At this point I was completely ecstatic to be in Indonesia, and meet the colorful, smiling current volunteers. As we drove from the airport, the land of my dreams and pondering for the last four months was suddenly reality. It was surreal.

It is so lush and beautiful here. The people are colorful. They move with a different feeling. The traffic is insane! Traffic is on the opposite side of the street here, and I could hardly find rhyme or reason to it. The motorbikes fill the streets by the thousands dancing and weaving in and out of the cars. I was ecstatic, and immediately felt attracted to the land, disorganized houses, carts, restaurants, and buildings shambled together, and the beautiful people. I’m so thrilled that I have chosen to do have this experience. I felt alive in the only the way travel can make me feel.

The sleep deprivation set in hard as we arrived at the hotel. We had orientation for the rest of the day. By the end, we were all zombies and seemed a little drunk. We traveled for 36 hours straight!

We have had training non-stop, eating delicious Indonesian food, making new friends, and learning Bahasa Indonesia. The staff (many locals) and other volunteers are all incredible. I feel very safe and supported. I led a yoga class this morning for many of the volunteers. I really enjoyed leading the class! I wake up to the call to prayer every morning around 4 am (if not earlier), and go to sleep around 8 pm. I move in with host family for training on Sunday. More updates soon! Sampai Jumpa di Indonesia!