Posts Tagged ‘Semarang’

Step right up!

My Advanced Speaking students have been working in groups all semester to research and present information on places of interest in our city.  Their midterm is to give me tours of their sites.  One group of students chose Wonderia, the local amusement park.  After they finished the formal tour we all went on rides together (best midterm ever, right?).  Like any carnival, this one offered games of skill in which the winner could choose from a variety of prizes, including, yes, a bag of rice.  There’s just no avoiding that all-important staple. 


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It’s time for another installment of “a day in Stephanie’s Indonesian life.”

7:00 am. I get up.  I don’t teach any classes on Tuesdays and could sleep in, but my body is just used to getting up about this time.  It rained last night, so I know there will be puddles of water on my porch due to a roof drainage problem.  I mop up the porch.  I also turn on the pump in my outdoor pond so the water drains out.  I don’t like to keep standing water around because I’m afraid mosquitoes might lay eggs.  I have also discovered that if I keep water in my pond, frogs sometimes lay eggs as well.  It’s true.  I have seen the tadpoles.  I go back inside and clean up.

7:20 am. I make some tea and start grading a stack of essays.

7:45 am. I make instant oatmeal and check my email and facebook.

8:15 am. More essay grading.

9:15 am. I need a break from grading, so I walk to the main office in my housing complex to pay my services bill.  This is for water, trash, and security.  It is about $11 per month.  I think it’s due on the first of the month, but as far as I can tell that is just a suggestion.  I’m about two weeks late paying it and no one says anything.  They’re pretty relaxed in the housing office.

9:30 am. More grading.  Ugh.

10:15 am. I need another break, so I make some carrot sticks.  Yes, I have to wash, peel and cut the carrots as they don’t have pre-packaged baby carrots here.   Living in a developing country can be rough!

10:30 am. More grading.  My favorite line: “Life without doing anything we like is like vegetables without salt.”

11:45 am. The good news is I’ve finished grading my first stack of essays.  The bad news is tomorrow I will get another stack of 28 essays from my second writing section.  I realize I am missing one student’s final essay, although she did give me her rough draft, which is weird.  I send a text message to the class leader (each class has a chairperson who assists the teachers) asking for the missing student’s cell number.  I then text the missing student asking her why I don’t have her final essay.  Everyone texts in Indonesia.

12:00 noon. I heat up leftovers for lunch.  While I eat I watch an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” on my computer.  Then I upload some photos to facebook.

1:00 pm. I get ready to go to my Javanese dance lesson.

1:20 pm. My coworker texts me to say our dance lesson is canceled this week.  That means I don’t really have to go to campus today, but it’s too late to cancel my ride.  I decide I’ll make an appearance in the office, drop off my stack of essays, then ask the driver to take me to my gym.

Did I mention I pass a goat market going to and from my house?

1:25 pm. The school driver picks me up, takes me to campus for a few minutes, then takes me to my gym.

2:15 pm. I work out, then wait 30 minutes for a towel because they are out and the laundry service hasn’t delivered new ones yet.

4:00 pm. I call for a taxi to take me home.  It costs about $2.  And yes we drive past the goat market again.

4:15 pm. At home, I do some work on the ol’ job hunt, snack on those carrot sticks I made earlier, finalize some transportation details for a workshop I’m giving outside of Jakarta this weekend, and finish uploading photos to facebook.

5:30 pm. Feeling lazy and a little overwhelmed with the job hunt, I decide to watch a movie.  I just bought some DVDs from my local pirate stand at the mall yesterday.  They cost about $1 each.  I choose “Avatar.”

5:45 pm. I can’t get “Avatar” to play in my computer (I know, I know, you get what you pay for), so I watch “New in Town” instead.

7:30 pm. I fix a quick dinner and then do more research and networking for jobs for next year.

9:45 pm. I get ready for bed and read a little bit to unwind.

10:30 pm. Good night!

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One of the secretaries in the English Department (Lestari) invited me to go to a spa/salon with her last Sunday for a cream bath, which I had been dying to try.  This mis-named extravagance is basically a head and neck treatment in which your hair is loaded with conditioner/cream and then massaged for 30-60 minutes.

First, they shampooed our ha044ir.  Then, I selected a scented cream (candle nut), which was applied to sections of my hair and massaged into my scalp.  They then piled my hair on top of my head, and proceeded to give me a neck and shoulder massage.  Next came an arm and hand massage.  Then I was placed under one of those helmet-style hair dryers, except this one steamed my head instead of drying it.  Finally, they washed the cream out and blow dried and styled my hair.  The whole process lasted about an hour.  The grand total for all this luxury?  About $2.60.  I’m so doing this on a regular basis!  But in the future I’ll change a couple things:
1)      Try to go without my coworker’s 4-year-old girl.  I’m guessing it might make for a more relaxing atmosphere without having a kiddo running around the salon chattering and climbing on things.
2)      Choose a different cream fragrance.  Turns out “candle nut” is kind of a masculine scent.

After Lestari and I were finished with our cream baths, she and her husband wanted to stop by his parents’ place to wish his sister a happy birthday, and they asked if I wanted to go along.  Sure.  So they took me to his family’s house where his siblings and parents were completely welcoming and gracious and made me drink tea and eat cookies and visit.  They also wanted me to attend the birthday party later that afternoon.  Okay!

After the family visit, Lestari, hubby, the 4-year-old and I went for lunch.  Because I said I like gado-gado (an Indonesian vegetable salad covered with peanut sauce), they took me to the place that made the best gado-gado in Semarang.  It was delicious.066

After lunch, we toured Lawang Sewu, or the “house of a thousand doors.”  This historical landmark in Semarang was originally a train station built by the Dutch.  Now it’s an old empty building that’s supposedly haunted (Indonesians are big believers in ghosts and attribute a lot of problems to spirits).  It was interesting to visit although I didn’t understand much of the tour.  Took some nice architectural photos though.

After the haunted building, it was time to get ready for the birthday party, which, it turns out, was not actually IN Semarang.  Instead, we were going to Bandungan, a town about an hour away.  Okay.  We stopped at a bank for money, at their house for the gift, at a convenience store for water, and a gas station for gas.  THEN we were ready to go to the birthday party.  By this point I was ready to take a nap, and did just that during our drive to the hilltop restaurant.

After arriving in Bandungan, I enjoyed a lovely evening with the same family members I had met earlier in the day.  They were all so welcoming and friendly.  Most of them spoke English, some being very eager to practice with me and learn more about my background.  The matriarch of the bunch didn’t speak any English (and kept apologizing for it!) but she still really wanted to include me – luckily she spoke simple enough Indonesian to accomplish that.  The family even had the two grandchildren calling me auntie, and everyone wants me to join in future family gatherings.  I’m bummed when I miss out on my own family events by living so far away from home, so I’m particularly thankful to be included in others’ celebrations.  It’s not quite the same, but it certainly helps.  So what began as a trip to a salon ended as a full-day excursion and the beginnings of a cross-cultural adoption of sorts. 081

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We’ve had a heavy down pour the last two evenings, and I have now discovered a few things:

  1. I’ve got one small leak in my living room, and what looks like another one developing in the bedroom.  I live in a nice complex, definitely a development for people of a higher socio-economic status.  But it just so happens that my specific unit has had a lot of problems.  The water was off.  The stove didn’t work.  One of the toilets (still) leaks.  And now ceiling issues.  Maybe it was poorly built.  Maybe the past few residents didn’t take care of it.  Maybe wear and tear from the elements takes its toll.  Whatever it is, I’ll be happy when everything is fixed.
  2. I need to get a heavy duty flashlight and some candles.  The electricity went out a couple times, thankfully only for a few minutes at a time.  But it gets DARK when that happens, and I am not well-equipped for that situation!  At least my new Indonesian cell phone has a built-in flashlight!

On a happier note, last night I was surprised by a knock on my door.  It was a neighbor kid (late teens?) from across the street, bringing me a dessert his mom made.  I’m not sure if I’ve met his mother yet (I did meet one neighbor lady my first day, but I don’t know if they’re related).  I’m guessing his mom told him “go bring the foreigner some food and practice your English.”  It was really cute.  Here’s a photo of what he brought me.


Now I guess he’s my new neighbor friend.  Tonight he knocked on my door and said he was going to the grocery store and wondered if I needed anything.  Isn’t that nice?!  They’re looking out for me.

Finally, the school gardener came by today to check out the dilapidated pond in my front patio area.  He cleaned it and confirmed that the pump for the waterfall DOES work.  Exciting!  He told me a lot of things in Indonesian, most of which went over my head, but I’m pretty sure he said he’ll come back after the big holiday to clean the pond again and repaint it, then he’ll fill it with water so I can run the waterfall (which will help keep mosquitoes from laying eggs).  I think it will be nice when it’s in working order, much like the rest of my apartment!

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