lots of rats in my house

Selasa, 5 Juli 2011

Call me crazy but I think I may be getting used to things here…however on occasion when people call me bule or foreigner, a small part of me is having a hissy fit. I remember one of my last days living in Tlekung, a child in my village yelled out “londo!” which is Javanese slang for what they would call the Dutch during colonial rule. Indonesia has been independent from foreign rule since the 1950s, and kids that were born 5 years ago are still calling foreigners they see “Dutch!”…

Why do I think I’m getting used to living here? Remember how eager I kept saying I was to get out to Surabaya where there’s banyak aktivitas? Well I couldn’t wait to come back to the village after spending the day there. I had a great time meeting up with the other volunteers, there wasn’t much to do in Surabaya except go to the zoo (hate hate hate seeing captive animals for human enjoyment) go to the mall, and hang out at the Peace Corps office. The mall was MASSIVE, Asian malls in general are like American malls on drugs x1000, I can’t really explain it, but it was really overwhelming after living in a rural village—too much fluorescent lighting, deafening music, too many escalators, and overall too sterile. I did end up spending 15,000 Rp which is close to $2 on Japanese gelato, yes you read that right, Japanese gelato in Indonesia—it was one of the best things I have consumed since arriving here (FYI it was green tea and oreo flavored, plus I tried a hazelnut, mmmmm)…and even though I’m only making about $2/day with my teacher’s salary, I would happily spend that much again for some good ole Japanese gelato. And speaking of spending too much money on sweets, I bought a new jar of Nutella, no regrets.  You can tell you’ve been living in a village for too long when you see other foreigners and your jaw drops (it happened to me). Meeting up with volunteers in the group who started last year was great, they have been through everything we’re going through, and even though we all didn’t know each other that well, it was like meeting up with old friends, swapping entertaining stories about host families, schools, what it’s like to be the only bule in a desa kecil, or small village. Taking the train back was a bit of a nightmare—the train looked like it had survived several wars. The train ticket was 2,000 Rp or about ~$0.24, which gives the phrase “you get what you pay for” a new meaning. The floor was completely covered in peanut shells, all sorts of disgusting food wrappers, and other filth, and I feel horrible for the people who have to clean up this preventable mess every day; it could easily be solved if people used the plastic bags they receive anytime they make simple purchases. The filth of the train wasn’t even the thing that bothered me the most, maybe it was the heat, the claustrophobia, the constant flux of beggars and musicians, and the number of lonnnnnng stops at each station. It took over 2 hours for us to get back to Mojokerto, when it should barely take an hour. My counterpart picked me up from the stasiun kereta and I told her how torturous the train was—she said usually only really poor people take the train, which was obvious, but usually people ride their motorbikes or drive. Even though Surabaya isn’t that far, and I’m trying to rough it, I think I will try to find a different way to get there next time—yesterday I was so wiped out, I slept in until::record-breaking:: 8:30a (!!!), and could have kept sleeping easily until the afternoon. While doing some research for future traveling in Indonesia, I asked my host mother if she’s ever been outside of Java—she hasn’t. She said traveling outside of Dawar gives her pusing (headache, in case you forgot!). Now I can’t blame her, traveling within Indonesia requires a high tolerance for a lot of stressful shit.

Bu (Mrs.)Yke, my counterpart, who speaks nearly perfect English, has become like my mother, aside from the fact that she is essential to have when buying fruit because she’s a master at menawar or bargaining, I can easily and honestly express myself to her, we can have intellectually stimulating conversations and talk about how different our cultures are, and she’s very accepting and understanding. A few weeks ago she told me that a week before my arrival in Dawar, she had an 8 month old son who suddenly died a day after falling ill (he had diarrhea). My heart bleeds for her, but she’s coping very well, she told me that even though it’s tragic and she’s going to feel heartbroken for a while, that Allah must have a better plan for her son. I also found out my host sister, Mbak Nur, has fertility issues and desperately wants a baby. She was recently pregnant and when she found out Bu Yke’s son had died, she was so shocked and ended up having a miscarriage. This all happened a month ago…

On a different note, today my Principal, Bu Titiek, told me as I was leaving her office that I looked fat in what I was wearing. I understood what she was saying but she still made Bu Yke translate and it was really awkward. They told me I looked skinny yesterday and today I looked fat, then proceeded to ask if I had weighed myself lately and if my weight has been stable…talk about first insulting me and then asking invasive questions. I sarcastically/kindofpissedoff-idly asked Bu Yke if Bu Titiek wanted me to lose weight, and then it turned out that calling me fat meant that I looked a lot “happier and healthier” since arriving here—yeeeahh, I’ve just gone through a lot of adjusting! I sure question Indonesian culture sometimes… why be absolutely frank when talking about appearance at the risk of hurting someone’s feelings, but take any kind of detour possible when criticizing something intangible?

Yesterday was the 4th of July. There was no beer drinking or hot dog eating, but there were plenty of fireworks, there’s actually always children playing with fireworks though… I still pretended they were setting them off to celebrate Amuuurika’s independence!

I think I mentioned my host mother making serious demonic sounds in her sleep in previous entries. Today while I was enjoying sitting on my floor in my bedroom indulging in popsicles, Nutella, and TED talks, I started hearing them again. This time coming from the living room…sometimes she falls asleep out there, so I tip-toed from my room to take a peek around the corner (and the thought ran through my mind to grab my camera record it [in HD!] just so you all could understand it and be as terrified), and she actually wasn’t sleeping. She was sitting upright and looked as startled as I was when she saw me and immediately stopped. I told her that the sound was scaring me from my room and that I was worried about her and she pointed to her stomach and said sakit or sick and that there’s no obat or medicine to take to make it better. Still don’t understand if it’s voluntary or not, or if there really is a Javanese demon trapped within, or maybe it’s just old-fashioned gas? Again, I texted my cultural facilitator from training, Heru, to explain that she called it sakit angin, but he still couldn’t explain it and replied “…need to see it by my own eyes, so I can be sure what it is. Is the same as when you drinks lot of beer and your ‘barb’?” Don’t worry, I clarified that her conditions surely weren’t similar to the results of drinking beer and ‘barfing’. After consulting another CF, we came to the conclusion that the demonic sounds are common. Speaking of common, I can’t remember if I mentioned this, but a good portion of Javanese people sleep with the lights on to keep the ghosts/spirits away.

I have been meaning to get out to exercise, but I have been treasuring sleep too much to actually get out of bed when the ‘call to prayer’ starts, and by mid-day, it’s too hot. One of my good friends here has been going to aerobics classes with her families since we were in training, and I’ve been envious of her hilarious stories where women actually take off their jilbabs and voluntarily get sweaty to some energizing music (on one occasion, it was ‘happy birthday to you’ rEmIxxxx)! I discovered that there is indeed an aerobics class here every Selasa and Jum’at (Tues/Fri) at 3p, and a teacher has invited me to go with her!

Because I am close to Surabaya, it also means that I’ve started a mini-library (read: a messy stack of books accumulating on my floor) in my room as a result of visiting the PC office too many times. I’m a little bit malu or embarrassed to say but I’m still only on my 2nd book since coming here (a combination of me being… a/busy b/slow reader c/not wanting my book to end) but I think I will finish it this evening and move onto Paul Theroux’s “The Elephant Suite”, about traveling through India. To end on another keju-bola or cheese ball-note, I found a great quote in the book I’m finishing by Terziano Terzani called “Earthbound Travels in the Far East: A Fortune Teller Told Me” (speaking of which, I forgot, do book titles go in quotes or are they italicized? 11th grade English, help?)…

 

“It seemed to me the point of traveling is in the journey itself, not in the arrival; and similarly in the occult what counts is the search, the asking of questions, not the answers found in the cracks of a bone or the lines in your palm—in the end, it is always we ourselves who give the answer”

I can also Skype from home now and it’s awesome! Would love to see me some bule friends in America, if anyone wants to see me in my home aka nice view of my couch (well for now, confined to the living room, until/if we get wifi)…!

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