13 from Camp IGLOW Pacet 2013

The raw numbers: 80 camp participants, ~10 counterparts, 8 Peace Corps Volunteers, from 6 different regencies, 5 NGO collaborations, 4 days, 3 nights, a waterfall and a particular kesurupan (spirit/possession) decided to join, and countless Rp spent on crunchy oleh-oleh. To celebrate the accomplishments and successes of the Mojo area’s 2nd Annual Camp IGLOW – Indonesian Girls Leading Our World, I’d like to share 13 photos from IGLOW Pacet 2013. Some words of appreciation dulu, please: Thank you to everyone who poured their hearts and souls into this, those who spent hours upon endless hours translating materials, those who bugged their CPs and principals endlessly, those schools and CPs who supported IGLOW, those who donated, and those who were dedicated, sincerely believing in this project– who saw it from start to finish–for making this past weekend’s event one of the most inspiring and successful yet. Oh meee, this is getting keju-y.

Lastly congrats to all PCVs who built upon the first camp’s successes in 2012 and made it blossom into FOUR this year! That’s amazing. And to Bu Sari & Natasha, if I haven’t said it enough, you’re both too great for words to describe.

In no particular order, scroll over for captions…

I Had An Experience

“I had an experience, I don’t know how to put it into words.” – Don Draper

My backyard where things get real rural.

My backyard, my calming escape, where things get real rural, a place where the dancing paddies remind me that nature is always effortlessly soothing and beautiful.

Elaine, Erin, Nis, and the kids do a happy jib as my two worlds collide. I'm hidden in there somewhere.

Elaine, Erin, Nis, and the kids do a happy jig as my two worlds collide. I’m hidden in there somewhere.

Astagafirullah! My sister was here. I blinked once. Loh! Suddenly I’m left staring April deep in the eyes as January, February, and March, respectively, pretend like I didn’t just neglect them. I’m back. I realize that it’s silly to be quoting a fictional character from Mad Man. Don Draper isn’t exactly a person whom I particularly idolize. On a recent evening, feeling at a loss on how to revive this blog, I had some Mad Men playing in the background when this line caught me. For once, I could empathize with Don as he alluded to a series of indescribable complexities happening around him. Succinctly summarized, and I realize not the most unique of phrases, it applies to my service in this moment, and very well might be how I respond when rando’s ask me: “So, how was the Peace Corps in Indonesia?”

lazy sunday

Roni and friends daydreams in the hammock on a lazy Sunday.

Rony and friends daydream in the hammock on a lazy Sunday.

Trying to digest each memory, attempting to dissect and repackage those memories into something comprehensible for my friends and family had once made me neurotic, like I was always falling behind in keeping them up to date, even if it didn’t mean much to them, it meant a lot to me. Ultimately, I saw it as an investment into my readjustment phase for when I return to the States. An enormous amount of change was happening on every level—I was maturing, I felt it, and it was scary (!)—remember Java Dreamin’? With time, that urge to always be repackaging gradually dissipated but now four months deep into 2013, I find myself at a loss for real words to delineate what’s been happening without poking fun at something or composing something that William Zinsser wouldn’t scoff at (maybe he would scoff at this). I couldn’t sneak back in with another vacation post when I’ve been busy working but had little visually to show for it.

The world map and motivational wall now graces the walls of the new computer lab at school.

World map (not pictured) and motivational wall that was once open space outside now graces the walls of the new computer lab at school. I begged my principle not to paint over it.

End of the semester sandwich making contest, 17 groups representing each class at SMANDA. The winner? A mixed tempeh patty with homemade peanut sauce.

End of the semester sandwich making contest, 17 groups representing each class at SMANDA. The winner? Class X6 who made a  mixed tempeh patty with homemade peanut sauce.

sammy

The winners, X6, who made my taste buds dance with their creative twist: a Javanese veggie patty.

Devi, part of the prep team, who made my taste buds dance with their creative twist on the veggie burger: a Javanese tempeh patty.

And would you really have wanted me to explain my recent thoughts on… how my brain often lags when speaking English at normal pace with friends because it doesn’t immediately register which language I should be processing? …what it feels like to be crammed into a tiny van originally made for eight but filled to capacity with TWENTY-THREE adults respectively (aduhhhh)…for two straight hours  (mind you, as I compromise my personal space under a tropical blanket of heat during fumerific traffic jams)? …personal space, what’s that (no, really, I’ve sincerely forgotten. Why would you want to sleep two in a double bed when you could cozily fit four? That’s a serious question)? …my random cravings for gorengan? …recent lesson plans? …how I plan to prevent Dawar from becoming a factory capital/suburb of Surabaya?…how my heart flutters a little bit when my kids excessively roll their r’s out of habit? …the small, yet humbling moments where I found myself in the neighborhood shop having conversations with several ibu’s about laundry detergents that won’t make my hands peel…how the other evening between tutoring, the kids and I got distracted and chased mosquitos in my living room with an electrical racket like the cold-blooded mosquito exterminators we were (there were so many mosquitos [read: zapping and sparks], it was like the 4th of July)? …why during vacation, my friends and I decided to fall asleep, bertiga, hip-to-hip, in the same bed when we had already paid for an extra room? …how I feel about another student getting pregnant? …tedious IGLOW planning? … how terrified and thrilled I am about leaving my Indonesia family five short weeks from now?

The word boss is thrown around frequently in Java, people like to say "yes, boss!" even though no one is really talking to their boss. Well, here I am with my boss and other teachers at the school posing for our annual calendar photo.

The word boss is thrown around frequently in Java, people like to say “yes, boss!” even though no one is really talking to their boss. Well, here I am with my boss and all of the female teachers at the school posing for our annual calendar photo.

Another lazy, hot Sunday, spent in my room with the kids. They like to play in my room because it "smells good", I have a spring bed (which isn't very common in the desa) anddddd because I have a FAN!

Another lazy, hot Sunday, spent in my room with the kids. They like to play in my room because it “smells good”, I have a spring bed (which isn’t very common in the desa) anddddd because I have a FAN!

My host niece, Kela. She's just turned one and is walking/wobbling around quickly. Points to me where you ask her where her "auntie" is.

My host niece, Kela. She’s just turned one and is walking/wobbling around quickly. Points to me when you ask her where her “auntie” is.

Peace Corps for me has gradually grown from being several hills, valleys, and peaks (with the occasional jungle) into an eloquent Everest of memories that I can’t wait to look back on and fully understand in the years to come. Sure, there’s been a few hiccups that I could have done without. Excluding those, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Every day is a blessing. Every day is full of surprises –big and small, meaningful and trivial– all essentially adding up to something. That something, I’m still trying to grasp. I had an experience. I don’t know how to put it into words.

Backyard paddies.

Backyard paddies.

I met my host grandmother for the first time last month.. she was on her way out to the fields. She gave off the loveliest of auras!

Last month while walking in the paddies with my host sister, Nis, I met my host grandmother for the first time .. she was on her way out to the fields. She gave off the loveliest of auras!

My host sister just started taking a photography class at university, on Sunday morning, we went out to practice. This a result of that. Sugar cane stalks on my head but also represents my constant balancing act.

My host sister just started taking a photography class at university, on a Sunday morning, we went out to practice. This a result of that. It may just look like sugar cane stalks on my head but it also represents my constant balancing act that I call Peace Corps.

Patience, Yeah?

I took about ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY FIVE photos in the past two weeks. I just got home. I’d forgotten how stifling the Indonesian humidity actually was. Resettling back into the village, cleaning up the rainy season’s holiday gift that just keeps on giving (mold), and trying to settle a treaty between the laundry lords and the sun lords but so far the uninvited cloud lords seem to be dominating the talks.

Last night I dreamt I was still roaming the back streets of Yangon with some people I’m missing very much. Eager to share what’s been going on, I’ll leave you with a preview.

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TWO sets of siblings (+ONE honorary sibling) coming together from THREE different countries to visit TWO more…

THOUSANDS of ancient temples, ONE gorgeous dreamlike lake, COUNTLESS adorable trash puppies, TWENTY PLUS hotel rejections, reoccurring confusion between FOUR different currency conversions during ONE big holiday reunion that was too much wonderfulness to actually quantify, REALLY

(and ONE jar of Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter confiscated by the Bangkok airport security, and that’s the closest I’ve come to really crying in a long time)

Stay tuned.

IMG_0194 IMG_0197 IMG_0211 IMG_0258 IMG_1349 IMG_0937

When You Give A Kid A Camera

I had my first formal photography lessons when I was nine. While using an old manual Nikon, under the artistic guidance of Jen Fariello, I learned to visualize ordinary settings and situations from alternative perspectives. In short, it was an unforgettable summer, laying down the foundations of a creative platform to abide by and one of the reasons why I love photography and am a very visual learner today. I wish shooting with film was as common today as it was then (there’s nothing like the high from both the exhilaration and the chemicals that you get developing your own rolls) but I haven’t found one place in Java that accepts film — I’ve looked! Alas embracing digital technology is unavoidable and unless one has the right tools to get those creative juices organically flowing, homogeneity ensues, especially in a culture like Java’s. Now that I’ve got quite a following of neighborhood children, just as impressionable and curious as I was at that age, I’ve taken this as an opportunity to get their sticky sugarcane paws on my camera and see what happens…

(throwback: the first time this happened resulted in one of my absolute favorites that without a doubt may define a huge portion of my service and give reason to why I have 4 new cavity fillings):

Let’s be real: teaching photography isn’t easy, especially in a foreign language. Even I’m still learning how to use my camera. I’m not perfect at all. The kids I work with are naturally bold so what I’ve focused on the most is getting the kids to hold the camera properly, reducing camera shake, framing shots, and cleansing all posed ‘peace/punk/cherrybelle-sign-y’ shots of their friends out of their little systems in order to capture something more intuitive. They see things that I don’t. They value beauty in things that I may not. Some naturally possess the eye and some don’t. Either way, giving encouragement and trusting that they won’t shatter one of my most expensive possessions is crucial to their creative learning….

For being elementary school children, I’m impressed. A few of my recent favorites:


That brings me to ask: Does anyone have any ideas how to start a sustainable photography project in the villages?

The Perks of Peaking

I’m going backwards a bit with this post. School is school. Grading is grading. Teenagers are… [hormonal/temperamental/heartbreaking] teenagers. Cute village tots are still cute village tots. And if you forgot, Indonesia is still really, really HOT. Every day has its fair share of bizarre moments, of up’s and down’s, of beauty, but nothing sticks out enough that I feel the urge to share. I’d rather share some photos from a recent hiking trip to Mount Lawu that I took back in August, with a bunch of bomb-diggity friends of mine. I needn’t explain much because two of them have already done that quite well… check it: DP‘s ‘Doing Lawu‘ & JAlf‘s ‘The Sky Is Open‘.

What isn’t depicted in these photos (thanks JAlf):

A group of 7 of us rode up to the trail head, driven by a slightly crazy and more than slightly awesome person, to begin at around 10 at night.  We made our leisurely way up through the posts along the trail, stopping at post 3 (of 5) to eat and sleep a bit.  We sat in the frigid night air consuming trail mix, cookies, and peanuts.  Unfortunately, the stop also lowered our body temperatures to the point that it felt my muscles were doing some sort of sadistic foxtrot under my skin.  We, again, relied on the Cuddle Puddle™ to save us.  We raked ourselves together into a leaf pile of people and attempted to get some fitful rest before going on toward the top.

All I have to say is, thank goodness for Cuddle Puddles™ or I’d have frozen to death.

***

(1) The initial ‘we peaked’ jig looked something like like this. note: I have about 25 more of these —


(2) The sarongs kept us warm and cozy and then the bromance kicked in…

(3) After the bromance wore-off [just a little], there was more dancing, pop-tart toasting (minus a real toaster, more like a cheersing), mini-naps in the sun, and overall happiness to have peaked Lawu together. 

(4) Perhaps hiking down wasn’t as smooth as it should have been. There were some wrong turns that led us to rock climb (it wasn’t enjoyable), we were hungry and tired, legs felt like jell-o, thighs were kiiiiiickin’ tight, and we all felt gross. The aftermath was nice though as we slept and were fed liiiiberally.

***

side note: Not a day goes by where I regret that I brought a down vest and wool socks to Indonesia. Even though Indonesia is HOT, mountains are COLD.

Merah, Putih, Selalu In My Hati

Did August 17th really just come and go like that? This year’s independence day was essentially the same as last years… it still overlapped with Ramadan, we still had a massive militaristic flag raising ceremony in a crunchy dry nearby field and there was lots of yelling of commands — this year was different in that the sun was less forgiving (translation: more students fainted), there was more sweating, there was less staring, I knew what to expect, and I had a keren fisheye lens to capture the ceremony.

Selamat menikmati foto-fotonya! (Scroll over for captions)

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(merahred, putihwhite, selalualways, hati heart)