Saturday, January 30, 2010

an epic december

it is almost february, and i assure you, i am not sure how that happened. two days ago was my five month anniversary here in medan. WOW. SNAP. CRACKLE. POP. SPICY. NASI GORENG. THAT. IS. A. LONG. TIME. rewind?

december was an epic month. i had six weeks of vacation starting december 4th-january 11th. i utilized this travel time to its full potential. i started off by visiting tana toraja in sulawesi where death seems to be a larger celebration than life. i then went to yogyakarta--"the heart of java." borobudur (the largest buddhist temple in the world) was a hop, skip away so we went and saw that too. one day we caught a sunset at a beach an hour south of yogya which was incredible. jimmy, akin to a five-year old child, was playing with sticks and stones and floated away in the ocean current for a while. good thing hes twice the size of the ocean. after lots of medicinal laughs and prawn jokes, i continued on my journey to flores. i met up with seb, ashley, and aaron in bali and we were off for our "remote" adventure. in flores, the beauty was dramatic and magnificent. the people were friendly but not overbearing. i learned that in the flores dialect of indonesian, i am considered "manis" but not "cantik." i will never be "cantik." in indonesian, "cantik" means pretty and "manis" also means pretty but i am yet to figure out the different connotations. in flores however, "manis" is only reserved for women who are darker. "cantik" is only for the whiter, pure, angel-skinned women. interesting. i saw many black sand beaches, indescribable sunsets, and serpentine switchbacks. in flores, like much of indonesia, nature commanded the people to obey to its whims and ways. in indonesia it seems nature refuses to be manicured.

after my trip to flores, i spent two days in jakarta (aka sebs house where i took over) where i met up with raj (pre usa departure for his 2 weeks) and hung out with angie and kerry. kerry met me up in jakarta before our two weeks in thailand and vietnam. on the night of raj's flight, we all went out to some fancy club and the doorman made raj change because he was wearing khaki shorts and BOAT shoes. pants were necessary to enter. CONVENIENTLY, a pant-rental place was just downstairs. raj, exalted by his new style, showed up five minutes later in black adidas sweatpants splattered with white paint stains. peeking out from under his sweatpants were his tan boat shoes. now he was dressed well enough to enter the pulsing halls of club X2. oh indonesia, how i adore thee. we laughed and danced the night away to bad house music.

the next morning kerry and i departed for vietnam. as the plane was descending into HoChiMinhCity, i realized i was going to vietnam. 5 minutes later i realized i was in vietnam. I WAS IN VIETNAM. saigon (or HCMC) is a throbbing, compact city filled with enough motorbikes to pollute the entire universe. i thought traffic in medan or jakarta was bad. stoplights in saigon literally had 7 rows of motorbikes impatiently waiting to step on the accelerator. french baguettes lined the sidewalks next to stands of dried squid fluttering in the breeze. the vietnamese (generalization coming up) are vociferous when angry and are not shy to invade your personal space; they gave a hearty smack on the leg when they felt wronged. after living in a country where outbursts of emotion is hardly ever seen--even when someone is furious--vietnam was quite a shock. we visited a few sites in saigon, among them the vietnam war remnants war museum (which used to be named the us war crimes museum). after overhearing a british couple snickering about the war in afghanistan, kerry and i couldnt help feeling that there would be a similarly named museum in afghanistan one day. to say the museum was depressing would be a gross understatement. we also met up with a friend of a friend, trang, who took us out at night and introduced us to all her friends. she was one of the nicest people i have ever met. from saigon we flew to bangkok and saw many temples, floating markets, and buddhas. we spent five days in a swanky hotel (for free courtesy of kerrys moms friend) and our last night ended with a spectacular new years. we were caught in the middle of an asian times square where we were in the midst of an asian mosh pit. after we escaped the moshing folks, we found our way back to our hotel and watched the fireworks burst over bangkok from the 32nd floor. being a place where temples spotted the landscape more often than churches left me feeling more spiritual than i had felt in a while. from bangkok we headed to hanoi, the capital city of vietnam. from hanoi we tookoff to ha long bay. (i remember randomly sending wyatt an email about wanting to go there one afternoon when i was looking up interesting places in the world while procrastinating writing my thesis senior year) i couldnt believe i was actually there. jagged rock formations with lush green life jut out from the placid water. the vietnamese call the bay "descending dragon." it was cloudy and grey when we arrived there but the beauty refused to be cloaked by the clouds. it was stunning.

i arrived back in medan on january third with a renewed appreciation for indonesia. medan is starting to feel like my own; its not just some foreign city i am living in. four more months left...time is running faster than me. i should probably start sprinting...

cheers to an incredible beginning of a new year. as my penpal jonthon coined, "twenty-ten, so damn zen."
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