Wednesday, September 30, 2009

the second wind: first night in medan

the silver rain came down in torrents, wounding the ground as it bled its dirty blood. i stared out my window from my one-room home in disbelief. the doors were rattling from the weather's anger and the constant thunder seemed to numb my senses. i opened the door and sat on my tiny makeshift stoop to watch the rain of medan. my counterpart (ibu zulfah) and her husband had just dropped me off after spending my first evening in medan with her family. at her house, i met much of her extended family and played with her four children. my favorite was irfahn, the stubborn nine year old who kept poking me and laughing at his own ingeniousness. his chubby belly was too tempting to not tickle. i spoke to people in broken indonesian as they tried to reply in broken english. the former english teacher that was here before did not speak any indonesian at all, so they were very happy that i could speak any. i felt like a four year old, pointing to things and racking my brain to label them in indonesian. they humored me and were delighted when i was right. i was asked to sing a michael jackson song and when i started singing black or white, irfahn started to grab his pant crotch and squealed "yeeaaa." i had been up since 5 am and wanted to get to my house to sleep the first real night's rest i would have gotten in 4 days. so we left for my house and i said bye to everyone, promising to see them again soon.

ibu zulfah asked if i was sure i wanted to stay the night by myself. she said i could spend the night with her family if i wanted to. i said "no thanks, i would be alright alone"--i was really looking forward to just passing out. the second they left the driveway, the rain came and my tears came. it was like god teasing me.

god: so you think you can be on your own , like for real? without any of your american friends (like you had at the novotel) or family for 8 months?

me: yes.

god: good. heres a mindblowingly ridiculous downpour mixed with some thunder just in case you werent anxious enough already.

so there i am, on this mini-stoop in my new city; a city that was a mere dot on an abstract map just a few weeks ago. the feeling of being completely on my own in a new country settled in, and it was invigorating. it seems to be an essential element of life--mastering the art of independence. with independence, fresh innocence resurfaces. watching the rain reminded me i have to take in the new culture through fresh eyes...uncolored by western ideologies and my american upbringing. we all have a lens through which we see the world...i hoped to clean my lenses from american debris as much as possible before taking in the new culture i was about to immerse myself into.

its funny how quickly we begin to call the places we occupy our home, even though those who help make it our home are scattered throughout that place and oftentimes even across the world.

i am one lucky bastard.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

getting lost is not a waste of time

tonight we met out counterparts (the teacher that we will be mainly working in collaboration with at our school). we were all so ridiculously nervous. our relationship with our counterpart seems to determine a huge amount of the freedom we have at our site and ultimately our experience here. we all wanted to make a good impression.

tonight we performed skits in indonesian for our counterparts and some of the AMINEF board. Our skit was Indonesian Idol. We also had one about Durian Attacking Novotel and Jeopardy.

tonight we are going to celebrate me and grahams birthday, and i am so excited to be around amazing people that can have a good time :)

Friday, September 18, 2009

past two weeks in bandung

disclaimer: if i have not already mentioned, the views on this blogsite are those of my own and my only. they do not represent Fulbright nor AMINEF. :)
i am going to break up this entry into multiple parts because a lot has happened in the past few weeks.

first will be orientation stuff, then some cultural insight revealed through the indonesian language, then angklung show, local flea market visit, eid al-fitr then the dutch and japanese bunkers /waterfall.


the past two weeks we have had a continuation of orientation in bandung. each morning we have breakfast from 7am to 8am and then class starts at 8am. 8am to 10am is spent diligently studying bahasa (bahasa means language in indonesian. it means language in hindi, too. cool) indonesia. by diligently studying, i mean writing ridiculous stories in indonesian, singing songs, and feeling as if we were all in fifth grade again.

10am to noon is spent learning about various teaching methods, styles, teaching english as a second language theory, and practicing playing the role of teacher.

noon to 1 is lunch.

1pm to 2 pm is more bahasa indonesia. this part tends to have more of a cultural focus. 2pm to 4:30 pm is more teaching methods.

our bahasa indonesia teachers try to be dynamic and are very good at creating an energetic learning atmosphere. i have really enjoyed trying to learn the language and really try to use indonesian as often as i can. our english teaching teachers are a little less dynami
c and the class tends to drag on at times. for example, today, our table (kerry, raj, jimmy, and paul) drew pictures of prawns from district 9, informed me i was a prawn, and quarantined my desk with paper.

by the time class is done around 4:30, everyone is slap-happy and slightly drunk from the artificial indoor lighting we have been absorbing throughout the day. sometimes we go out to explore markets or the many malls that are in this city. sometimes we just kick it at the novotel.

bahasa indonesia:
indonesian became the official language of indonesia after the archipelago achieved independence in 1945; however, it has been spoken in this area for centuries. it has malay origin but i have been finding borrowings from portugese, sanskrit, and arabic--which is really cool.

indonesian is agglutinating like many of the bantu languages spoken in africa. this means that it the language puts many morphemes together to form words. an example of a morpheme in
english is -s. a morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a language. so for instance, the morpheme -s in english means plural when you add it to the end of a noun.

verbs in indonesian are not marked for tense (which is one reason why it is so easy to pick up indonesian) nor are they inflected for person or number. indonesian marks tense by using adverbs such as 'kemarin' which = 'yesterday.'

indonesian did not have a word for privacy until it was recently borrowed from english; they use the word 'pribadi'. this one finding offers very interesting cultural insight. indonesians are very community orientated; independence does not seem to be a cultural value, but more a western
phenomenon. the whole concept of needing "a room of one's own" doesnt really translate here.

there is also a different word for love when it comes to a significant other-- and it can only be used for a lover.

'cinta' is the verb that is used for a lover.
'sayang' is the verb that is used to indicate love for parents, things, or any other person.

i wonder if that means that the kind of love you have with a lover can never be synonymous to the kind of love you can have for icecream. maybe, but i have tasted some amazing icecream in my life.

angklung show!:

two saturdays ago, the 12th of september, around twenty of us boarded a bus to a center that was dedicated to the teaching of angklung. the center was surrounded by bamboo, reeds, and other sprightly plants. an angklung is an indonesian instrument made of two bamboo tubes attached to a bamboo frame. it is held by one hand and shaken with another to create a resonant pitch.

so we all went into the seating area and got ready for the show to begin
. michael and i went to sit in the front row. at the back of the stage was a gamelan, a traditional indonesian ensemble that consisted of drums and gongs and xylophones. in front of the gamelan was a puppet show stage where good fought evil. the puppets moved to the music created by the gamelan.

after the initial puppet show, children stated filing in the center stage and started to dance. each had his or her own anklung. two older kids came out with a throne held high above them. on the throne, a boy of seven or eight waved to us and smiled shyly.

we then saw a traditional dance from two ten year old beauties. here is one of them.

at the end, some children ran out and a particularly bubbly girl grabbed my fingers. her name was lia. i was in heaven. we danced to the music that the gamelan played and she taught me a few steps. she asked if i was 'orang indian' (a person from india) and i said i told her 'tidak, orang american.' she giggled infectiously, as if i was trying to trick her and asked again where i was from. we then danced around in a train formation and i got to tickle her back. hearing her laugh made me feel like i was the luckiest person in the world.

local flea market/ explorations in the city on sunday:

on sunday the thirteenth, a few of us went on an expedition of sorts to check out a local flea market that we had seen. we were also on a mission to find manggis, a delicious delectable exotic fruit with the texture of peace and the taste of fabulous.

the flea market appeared to be a controlled form of chaos. there were bright colors of shirts, hats, underwear, and various plastic items strewn across the makeshift stalls. it seemed to be a sunday market targeted towards the locals. trash littered the grass and the hum of bargaining and negotiating in indonesian buzzed around us. i wasnt as much of an excitement to people as john, katie, or aaron were (since they are white and i am not). i still did get stared at, but the looks i received werent quite as quizzical.

after a while of walking through the stalls, we ventured off to find a fruit and vegetable market. after a twenty minute walk in the afternoon sun, we found the market on the kiri (left) side of the road. we crossed the street in typical indonesian fashion. how does this occur?

1) you put your palm facing the car coming towards you
2)you try to stare the driver down and then move on towards the next motorbikes or cars
3)shuffle across the road frogger style while continuously holding your palm out
4)run to safety when youre almost to the other side

anyways, so this next market was a little overwhelming.

not only were there fresh vegetables and fruits, but there were fresh whole fish swimming in buckets that you could choose to kill, fresh cow thighs hanging from the ceilings, and a variety of chicken legs and fish eggs on display. if the visual itself wasnt harsh enough, the acrid smell of rotting meat was heavy in the air. raj and i couldnt make it all the way through and had to run out half way. it was a cultural experience since many people here don't buy meat in prepackaged containers, but it was definitely hard to come face to face with death dangling from the ceiling.

we then went to super giant, a huge supermarket to look for manggis since we couldnt find any at the outdoor market. here, they were chopping the heads off of living fish and then scaling them. katie was astonished and equally horrified that this is the way fish are killed. i told her it was probably one of the most humane ways to do it. it always surprises me when people that eat meat remove death and killing from their construction of how their food exists. we then spent a good twenty minutes in the coffee section looking for kopi luwar, the coveted fancy shamancy coffee that one must buy whilst here. its supposed to be like $100 u.s. dollars a pound and grown on java and sumatra. we found some stuff that said luwar on it that was two u.s. bucks...but we couldnt translate the indonesian on the package to see whether it was legit or not. we bought it anyway, figuring, why not?
we got back to the hotel in an ankot, which is the indonesian version of a mini bus, where we happily tried our kopi luar and snake fruit.

eid al fitri:
saturday night, the 19th of september was the night before eid al-fitri. graham, kerry, and i decided to spend the saturday afternoon walking around by chiwalk. this road has bigger than life statues of rambo, alladin, and other superheros looming from the stores. i also had a coffee from starbucks that i guiltily enjoyed and bought a baller hat.

international starbucks.

we found a cute hut-like restaurant to eat in and ricky met up with us. when we got back to the hotel, it was about seven p.m. and already fireworks had started flashing in the sky. we walked into the circle k, which is located directly across from our hotel and were thrilled to find that the glass encasing the beer section was no longer covered up with brown paper. we grabbed a few bintangs and headed to out hangout on the second floor balcony. at around eight o clock, the takbir started.the moon lit up the city as the prayer of praising allah was echoed throughout the city on loudspeakers. bursts of red, green, and yellow instantaneously decorated the sky and instantaneously faded throughout the night. the energy in the city was palpable, and it felt sacred simply to be alive.

we headed to bed around 1 am or so but the takbir continued until the first azan of eid at four a.m.

the next morning in the hotel at breakfast, there were SO many more people there..haha. everyone was dressed in their finest celebrating with their families.

Dutch and Japanese bunkers from WWII:

besides outlet shopping in bandung, there are dutch and japanese bunkers from world war II that were just dying to be explored. so, after breakfast on eid, some of us headed towards the hills.

goa belanda (dutch cave) and goa jepang (japanese cave) are hidden in the hills of bandung. left over from world war II, these caves are living testaments of history. the japanese cave was used as a defense shelter from the attacks of the allied forces during the war. it was built using forced indonesian labor; hundreds of indonesians died digging into the hills to construct the caves.

walking around in the caves with a flashlight was intense. touching the walls, smelling the musty rocks, and climbing around in the bunkers briefly arrested my thoughts. i couldnt believe actual soldiers were seeking protection within the walls of this very enclave less than a hundred years ago.

we then hiked from the mysterious caves to a waterfall where local food was being sold. here, i had the best corn on the cob of my life. i sprawled out on the grass and stared up at the sky while the sound of the waterfall overtook my senses.

we found a praying mantis and had fun with him for a while and then on the way back down, kerry and i rented a motorcycle and got a ride down the hill. it was beautiful to ride down the hills on the back of a motorcycle watching the rices paddies fly by. i hope i have many more of those trips.

air terjun. (waterfall)

clearly pondering the meaning of rice paddies.

in the japanese cave.

come visit me.

sayang dan senang. (love and happiness)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

wanderlusting and bandung life

lets see...

so my last post was about the earthquake...even though i've only been here about two weeks, it feels like ages.

we left jakarta on friday and arrived in bandung around noon at the novotel hotel. we were greeted by cold guava juice, fulbright backpacks, and smiling indonesian faces.

the view from my 6th floor hotel room is amazing. the blue shade of the mountains that surround the city can be seen from my huge window facing east. bandung is the fourth largest city in indonesia and is WAY better than jakarta in my unimportant opinion.

the air is cooler here and the blue mountains remind you how majestic life can be.

on sunday (our day off) we rented a car and drove about an hour out of the city to see Tangkuban Parahu--an active volcano about 30 km outside of bandung which last erupted in '83. kudos to kerry for organizing the cars.

the four girls were squeezed in the front seat as raj, michael, and ricky chilled out in the back of the van in their aviators. the car ride up to the site was scattered with bunnies trapped in cages in stands (yes to be killed), fruits stands, and strawberry farms. when we arrived, there was a huge caldera in front of us where, unfortunately, we could not hike down into because of the poisonous gas it emits. so we stared in awe on the rim as the locals stared at us.

we hired a guide after some haggling and bargaining and hiked down to kawah domas (domas crater). the smell of sulfur permeated the air as bubbling mud, boliling hot water, and gas wafting from the broken ground very clearly confirmed to us that we were on a volcano.

yes. on a volcano.

sulfer gas. and excitement.

boiling eggs in the water.


after hiking and sweating and picturing and all that jazz, we went to a hotsprings resort and grabbed some lunch.

ab and i decided to get some icecream for dessert. turns out, by vanilla they mean durian flavor.
expecting vanilla and tasting durian is a bit like a slap in the face when one is expecting a warm smile. takes you back a few steps.
durian icecream is disgusting.
but the hotsprings were relaxing :)

i did try durian with a few others the other night for the first time and found it not bad. cheers for exotic fruit that smells like rotting skin.

i have more to share:
bahasa and teaching training
school visits
erlas mexican cafe
iftar (breaking puasa--fast)
baller muslim fellow "superwoman"

more later.

hope you all are flippin some pages

cheers to dinners, new friends that can make you smile when you need it, and the beauty of sacrifice.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

ever been in an earthquake? ::CHECK::


so in the past 24 hours i have....

1) partied in an ex-pat bar in the basement of the very posh shangri-la hotel surrounded by indonesian prostitues, an elite twenty-something indonesian crowd, and older sketchy white men

2) been on the 8th floor of a hotel as it swayed in the quake of a 7.3 earthquake that hit tasikmalaya, java

3) tasted sundanese food under a thatched roof while watching john, aaron, michael, ashley, graham, emma, and kerry literally try every single part of animal and/or fish including intestines, eggs, kidney, hearts, and lungs

4) drank (minum) carbonated tea

5) had a nightmare that graham was shot and covered in shards of glass

i feel the need to expound on number 2)

i was groggy from the night before (due to the extensive dancing and getting low that occured to 'sweet home alabama' at the shagri-la) and decided to take a nap after orientation and lunch. i was curled up in bed under the covers (the a.c. is freezing and i cant figure out how to change it) in my underwear watching spanglish when i heard a sickening crack. it was unlike anything i had ever heard before, like thunder coming from the tons and tons of concrete above and below me.
as i sprang out of bed, my entire room (which is located on the 8th floor) began to sway to the right side. it was like i was on a giant surf-board trying to keep my balance on the tile floor which was teetering to and fro. i threw on my sweatshirt and pants and opened the door to the hallway. michael, who's room is across the hall from mine, was standing outside in his sarong, hair dishelved--blue eyes blazed and wide-eyed with fear.

"is that really mismanaged construction that just happened or is this an earthquake?" i asked.
"uhh its definitely an earthquake," he stammered.


more and more voices were heard in the hallway and the building finally stopped swaying. everyone was shaking unawares as to if this was the first of many aftershocks or the last. we stumbled down the stairs and found our way out to the parking lot where the whole hotel was evacuating in throngs.

we sat on the curb in our gated hotel parking lot in disbelief. selamat datang di indonesia (welcome to indonesia). we were trying to figure out if there would be a tsunami and if so, what we should do since jakarta is right on the java sea. we joked about how this was a definite way to break the ice and were all comforted by the fact that we had all just experienced the same insane feeling of "shit. we might die." it was also comforting to know that the indonesians around us looked just as dumbstruck and scared. their faces confirmed and assured that we were not just easily frightened americans. there have fortunately only been 7 or 8 casualties.


today we went to the immigration office and received our kitas cards. i convinced people to go to indian for dinner ( i am missing moms food so much, most food here is scantily clad in fruits of the sea).

tomorrow we leave for bandung. i have not been able to sleep well and keep having bizarre nightmares. the best part is that i am not on any medication which would lead to such odd dreams. hmm, who knows. we are going to an icebar tonight after dinner to celebrate our last night in jakarta and the sheer fact that we are alive.

the city is choked by smog and the setting of the sun has been obscured. too bad, because sunset has to be my favorite time of day. however, there will be many more sunsets to come, and i am excited shower time and an indian dinner :)

cheers to the indonesian way of always smiling and laughing.

love and happy songs.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

unaccustomed breaths: first impression

after a long few days of traveling (and a night out in singapore), we made it to jakarta!

my head is still catching up to my physical body which is on java, one of indonesia's 17,000 islands. i am not genetically predisposed to living around the equator...every second i step outside my clothes drink up the humid air and start to stick to my skin...two minutes later, i am a walking sweat rag. yummy. the streets are constantly singing belligerent songs and the local people seem to enjoy their melodies as they go about the day. i find myself wanting to blend in quickly.

the past few days we have had orientation with the fulbright comission and finally met Nellie (our fulbright senior program advisor) and Mike McCoy (the executive director of the AMINEF). we have gone through health issues, safety issues, random issues, issue issues...we also get coffee breaks, which is super exciting.

it struck me today, as i was listening to mr. mccoy try to inconspicuously make up the lecture on the spot, what fundamental part of this program could really use some adjustment. after he gave us the melody for the walla ice cream bike song (haha pete), he began to explain how the the students at our school will most likely be awful at speaking english. apparently, most english teachers in indonesia do not speak english either. thus, the students proficiency levels are abysmal as well.

i am excited about teaching and bringing in new teaching methodologies to the classroom but
my question to mr.mccoy was why are we starting to assist and teach at the high school level?

in psychology and biology, the existence of a critical period is an accepted and documented phenomenon (e.g. imprinting in birds and rats). this notion has led to some significant research in the area of language acquistion, where the theory of a critical period in language acquisiton has been presented. linguist eric lennenberg proposed and populaized the critical period hyphothesis in area of language acquisition.

laymans summary of hypo: language emerges between the ages of 2-4 (many theories as to HOW this occurs--is language innate and learned? because of the research done at IU and the studies ive come across, i say innate but i digress...)...between 3 and puberty language acquistion of primary language/languages continue to flourish and solidify. the tools of language--syntax, phonology, semantics, prgamatics, morphology--have been mastered. if this mastery does not occur with atleast ONE language prior to puberty, language cannot be learned.

obviously there are only a few case-studies where this type of scenario has occured and was used for research, such as Genie. Genie was found at the age of about 14-- she had been neglected and locked in a closet for the vast majority of her life. after she was found, she tried to learn language and was able to learn vocabulary very well but only put together basic two or three word sentences. her grammar and morphology never fully reached that of a fluent speaker. oen possible arugument that could be made against this claim is that Genie's brain and neurological processes had atrophied due to physical and psychological abuse which led to slower language learning...i dont know enough about the Genie case to comment on it--but along with Genie's case, there are a myriad of other research studies suggesting the validity of such a period.

and then there is expereiene...because we all know if we "grew up" speaking two or three languages at home, we automatically can speak these languages much easier as adults.

implications for the program and point of ramble? --> english teaching assistants should target elementary schools. english as a second language would be absorbed much more efficiently if children learned it at an earlier age--especially since the grant is for a significant amount of the indonesian school year.

mr. mccoy said that this type of restructure was simply not possible at this time due to bureaucratic hurdles. he did mention, however, that the ETA program to korea targets elementary schools. maybe in a few years an adjustment could be made and some ETAs could be sent to elementary schools. who knows?

i mean, doctors like to practice medicine based off of research...speech-pathologists prefer evidence-based practice...english teachers in foreign countries should not limit their scope of research to just teaching methods but to first and second language research findings as well.

on another note,
i am in my own hotel room with a kitchen and internet with a view of jakarta sprawled out under me. the balcony door is open and the the smell of stagnant sewage water is wafting through.
everyone here is honestly so chill and awesome. ive had belly laughs everyday...mixed in with random serious intense conversation every couple hours. we are here in jakarta until friday and then we go to bandung for bahasa indonesia lessons for a few weeks :) hopefully we all wont fall asleep tonight at 9p.m. so we can check out the jakarta ex-pat scene.

today after morning orientation we went to menteng where there is an antique bazaar.

i miss my parents n brosef. and my ladoo. but i am so happy! and feel so lucky to be here.

"the world outside your window"

cold showers during balmy nights,
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