Posts Tagged ‘batik’

A heavy sigh is probably not the best title for a blog entry, but that pretty much encapsulates my current mood.  I had a great birthday weekend in central Java with 3 other ELFs.  So great, in fact, that I saw myself staying in Indonesia a second year.  I had been leaning toward leaving when this contract ends, but enjoying fantastic tours in beautiful scenery made me think I could gain so much more from staying in Indonesia a second year.

Friday I visited a batik factory.   Indonesia’s most famous handicraft is a fascinating process and seeing it first-hand made me really appreciate the artistry and hard work behind it.  Then I had a girls’ night out at a delicious Italian restaurant, complete with wine (hard to come by in a predominantly Muslim country)!

Saturday I took a bicycle tour through scenic rice paddies …

visiting small villages where I could see local products like tempeh, rice crackers and gamelan instruments being made.

I also discovered a delectable treat special to the town of Solo: srabi.  These thin crispy crepes are filled with coconut milk and steamed until the center becomes a custardy puddle of sweetness.

Sunday I rode on the back of a motorbike for more than 3 hours through hills and hills of scenic tea fields and rice paddies to visit old Hindu temples.

Sometime during the motorbike ride it struck me that I am a very, very lucky girl to live on such an exotic and pretty island having these breathtaking experiences.  It was a good weekend.

But then…


I came back to my house to find my front porch sopping wet.  This is normal since the rainy season began because a design flaw in my roof means some of the rain flow always pours onto my porch instead of into my yard.

I also found my back door open from when my colleagues had attempted to fix some water pressure issues over the weekend, meaning any number of bugs, rodents, and other creepy crawlies could freely wander into my house while I was gone.  Luckily the only intruders seemed to be a few extra mosquitoes.

I also found that my water pressure was not fixed.  In fact, it had deteriorated to the point that I couldn’t take a shower.  I made arrangements with my coworker to have a repairman come in the morning.  Knowing that Indonesians start their days much earlier than I do, I requested that the guy come after 8 am.  My counterpart scheduled him to arrive at 7:30 am.  Okay, being the flexible and culturally-sensitive person I am, I accepted that I have to make some adaptation to the culture in which I live.  And besides, I want my faucets fixed, so 7:30 seemed like an acceptable compromise.

The next morning I was awoken by a knock at my door.  It was 6:15 am.  It was the repair guy, exercising that frustrating Indonesian concept known as “rubber time.”  Seriously?  6:15?  In the morning?

Then my laundry service came to pick up my laundry.  I asked them about my previously white but now black-and-blue-marked camisole.  I suspected the discoloration was from their drying racks.  They suggested it was from my colored clothes.  Huh.  Do they not wash whites and darks separately?  Shouldn’t a laundry service know to do that?

And then my mail was delivered.  In its normal place, which is on the floor of my porch.  My wet porch.  So it was with a great sense of frustration that I opened my soggy mail: some adorable birthday cards from my loving family and a save-the-date for my good friend’s May wedding, which I will miss because I will still be in Indonesia in May.

Admittedly, none of these issues are particularly bad – most days I can shrug them off.  But these sorts of challenges are a normal part of living here, and facing them on a daily basis does eventually grow wearisome.  This was a wearisome day.  So now you may understand the heavy-hearted sigh at the beginning of this post.  It’s heavy because it holds a lot:

  • my ache at being far from home and missing loved ones
  • the clash between my type-A personality and the realities of living in an early-bird culture with a relaxed view of time
  • my frustrations with continued home repair problems
  • my lack of understanding of how Indonesians think, and my decreasing confidence in their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities
  • my disappointment that, no matter how much I wanted to love living here, there are many things I don’t like about it
  • my fast-approaching deadline to decide about staying in Indonesia a second year
  • and my knowledge that staying in this sometimes gorgeous country also means another 10 months of rubber time, malfunctions, confusion, and misunderstandings.

I’m pretty sure I still want to live abroad, I’m just not sure that I want to stay in Indonesia.  Maybe 10 months here is enough.  My career gives me the luxury of being able to work in almost any country, so why, of all the places in the world, should I stay where things usually don’t work quite right and the views (even the most beautiful ones) are marred by litter?   I could live in a more developed country.  That won’t take away the difficulties of living far from home, and it will only replace cross-cultural misunderstandings with those of a different culture, but I could be living in more comfort while dealing with those issues.  And so my heavy sigh also carries with it sadness to think that I’m probably leaving Indonesia in June.  But at the same time, the prospects of a new place with new adventures seem to keep me moving.


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Bali highlights

Ramadan ends with a major holiday, called Eid el Fitri or Lebaran.  It’s kind of like Thanksgiving in the U.S. in that a lot of things close and most people travel to visit and feast with their families, except in Indonesia it lasts for at least a week instead of just 2 days.  All of us English Language Fellows here in Indonesia decided to spend our week off vacationing together in Bali.  It was an absolute blast and I could write a book about it, but instead I’ll just try to highlight some of the more memorable experiences.

  • Ubud, Bali. This is a very touristy town, but of the artsy cultural sort rather than the raging party or beach bum varieties.037 Definitely my kind of place, and the one city I really want to revisit.  The morning started with a stroll through the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, with Hindu temples and statues scattered through the tropical forest, full of long-tailed macaques.  I spent the afternoon shopping in markets full of beautiful handicrafts, particularly silverwork and batik, although I also bought some lovely glass mosaic pieces.  Evening brought a Kecak dance performance, which was thrilling.  091I want more Ubud!  (The only damper on this day came at the end of our one-hour taxi ride back to our villa, when the driver stopped on the side of a remote road in Canggu and demanded more money to actually take us to our hotel.  Like a random rice paddy was exactly what we had in mind when we asked him to drive us to Canggu!  We all sat in the car, in the dark, for a good 10-15 minutes before agreeing to pay the extra money to go to our villa.  The driver then had to get directions to figure out where that actually was.  When we arrived we argued some more, refused to pay the extra amount, and walked away.  Ridiculousness!  )
  • Clubbing in Legian. Three of us went hard core on our quest for some hip-hop, and finally found it at M Bar Go.  My friend Adam is probably the best dancer I’ve seen in person, and it was great fun to dance the night away and watch a developing gang of groupies follow him around the dance floor.  They grew increasingly enthralled.  I grew increasingly exhausted.  But it was a fun night out.
  • Snorkeling. Our whole group chartered a small skiff to take us out snorkeling/diving in Manjangan Bay.  Our first site was insane – rough waves, coral inches below us, and lots of bumps and scrapes.  Our second location was much calmer, resulting in a wonderful snorkeling experience.  The amount of colorful fish, coral, and sea creatures was breathtaking – better than any other place I’ve snorkeled.  For lunch we pulled up to dock alongside several other tour boats.  As we pulled in, Adam and Maura, the two ELFs who have already spent a year in Indonesia, sang a popular Indonesian movie song from beginning to end.  It was a huge hit with all the other boat operators.  I bet none of THEIR tour groups had ever serenaded the bay with Indonesian pop songs!
  • Rat in our room. My roomie throughout the trip, Amber, is a light sleeper.  During our first night in Pemuteran she awoke to some rustling in our gazebo, 165 and finally woke me up when she couldn’t stand it any longer.  After a few moments of listening, we both heard the distinctive pitter patter of little feet under our bed, which brought us closer together – literally!  Sitting huddled in our bed behind the protective mosquito netting, we finally worked up the courage to get out and check under the bed.  Amber saw a rat.  We got a security guard.  He scoured our gazebo but found nothing.  Our little visitor must have left while we were getting help.  For the remaining two nights we made a point to search the room and batten down the hatches before retiring.  Eeek.
  • Volcano hike. Five of us braved an early morning wake-up to travel 3 hours via van AND ferry to climb Gunung Ijen on Java.  236 It took about 2 hours to hike to the top, but the fresh air was wonderful and the scenes awaiting us at the finish were worth it.  Very different from the volcanoes I visited in Costa Rica – more barren and rugged and rocky.
  • Batik workshop. In Padang Bai 3 of us enrolled in a half-day batik workshop.  This was totally up my alley.  The teacher didn’t speak much English so we didn’t fully understand the process until we were in the middle of each step, but it was a great way to spend our last afternoon in Bali, and I have a fun handmade souvenir as a result.  315337

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