What we’ve all been waiting for…

Let me first tease you all by saying: I KNOW WHERE MY PERMANENT SITE WILL BE!

Our lovely class on our final day!

Our lovely class on our final day!

And now I will treat you as I was treated and force you to wait until I’m done filling you in on the previous goings-ons to tell you where that place is.

Last week was fairly uneventful, thus the lack of blog. Although, I have to say, reconstructing the week in my brain took more effort than it should have. Last Friday we had our last language class (unless we failed our test). It was bittersweet to say goodbye to our super sweet language guru, Didit. They gave us the rest of the day to study for our LPI (Language Proficiency …Interesting? Intermediate? Inmate? Itchy? I have no idea.) test on Saturday. We, of course, used it to it’s full extend… to go see a movie in Malang. Hey, the way I look at it, if I didn’t know the language by Friday I certainly wasn’t going to learn it overnight. The time was better spent relaxing. So, in true klassy American style, we snuck in beer to Fast & Furious 6. The beer was warm and the movie was bad and I loved every minute of it all. We topped off our study session with the very epitome of American gluttony and ate at McDonald’s. Let me make it very clear that I would never frequent such an establishment in America. News flash: This is NOT America. So I enjoyed every bite of my American chicken sandwich and fries. We got lost on the way home, which seems pretty normal at this point, and managed to walk through the door at a whopping 9p. 9p in Indonesian standards may as well be the middle of the night. You have to understand, people get up here at 4/430a every day. (Thank you call to prayer.)

I went back to visit my BFF with Norin and Agis.

I went back to visit my BFF with Norin and Agis.

Saturday I suffered through the stupid LPI as gracefully as I knew how, which is to say, not very. I can speak the darn language well enough if you speak to me like a normal human. If you mumble at a pace that rivals the speed of sound, I will rip out your jugular and feed it to your mumbling remains. Ok, maybe that’s a little visceral, but now you understand my frustration. Hopefully I was able to show enough proficiency to avoid remedial classes. If not you’ll get a substantial rant at a later date.

Sunday was my hari libur (free day). I invited some folks over for Nasi Pecel at my house. Nasi Pecel is this delicious Eastern Java meal of rice (of course) covered in veggies and topped with a spicy peanut sauce. Ah-mazing. My Ibu made that and Mie Goreng (fried noodles that are roughly akin to chow mein) for the non-pecel lovers. After that deliciousness we had to get our fill of cute, so we walked over to the odd little stables near my house. Ah-dorable. I was able to feed my small horse friend and Courtney fed a baby deer. That’s right, we died a little on the inside from the amount of adorable.

Courtney feeding a baby deer. WHAT?!?!

Courtney feeding a baby deer. WHAT?!?!

Monday through Thursday was our site visit. All the new trainees get to visit current volunteers at their sites. It’s a way for us to learn how to travel on our own, ask questions of a current volunteer, and see how they live and work. There were six of us girls headed to the same general location, so we were able to travel together for a ways. 3 Angkots and 2 busses later, Katherine and I arrived in Melanie’s village. Her village is a relatively large one about 6 hours east of Malang. It was a beautiful ride, if somewhat longer than I would’ve liked.

We arrived and took a minute to warm up to one another over some delicious food from a local eatery. It quickly evolved into a fast friendship and an epic media share. I now have about 30 more movies (THANK GOODNESS!!) and, that’s right, every single new Doctor Who episode for this season. I managed to watch them all in two days. We got to visit Melanie’s school and help to play some review games. It was really a lovely time filled with fun slumber parties, girl talk, and relaxation.

I wasn’t until after I got back to my site that I realized how much I had missed it. It is amazing how quickly you learn to cling to the things that become familiar in a situation of such consistent unfamiliarity. I was so happy to see my bright green room and my familiar Mandi (even if the water here is FREEZING) and the people I have grown to appreciate.

It was the perfect build up to… dun dun DUN! Site announcements!!!!

So, we spent the day in various training sessions, none of which we paid any attention to. Finally they let us out for lunch, if only because we were like a pack of ravenous wolves waiting for the gimpy buffalo to fall from the pack. We consistently accosted those in charge during lunch to make sure we didn’t have to wait a moment longer than necessary. Finally, at 2:15p, Sultan led us to a vast chalk drawing of the island of Java. We sat impatiently and our regional managers began to read our names aloud. One by one we collected our placements. Each name called built the suspense a little more. Each name not my own made my stomach turn and my face contort. Finally, Sugi called me! It was everything I could do not to run up and snatch the paper from his outstretched hand.

This would be approximately where I'm living. Can't show you more deets, something about security. But I'm close to the beach!!!

This would be approximately where I’m living. Can’t show you more deets, something about security. But I’m close to the beach!!!

I’m not sure how much I can reveal in such a public forum so all I will say here is that I will be located on the island of Java (as we mostly are at this time) on the western side of the island in a region called Gerut. I should have a mailing address in a couple weeks for family and friends so feel free to shoot me and email and I’ll let you know how to find me. I will be 7 hours away from the closest main city (Bandung) and I am about 1.5 km away from the beach. The. Beach. I’m probably about 30 minutes away from the closest volunteer (which is basically in each other’s laps!), Alan. We are also close to a series of about 3 other volunteers ranging from 1.5 hours away to 4 hours away by car. That would probably work out to much longer by Indonesian bus.

I’m really happy with my placement. I will be on a beach surrounded by a community that seems to be really excited about my coming. I’ll be teaching at an SMA, which is a High School, and I’ll be teaching 10th and 11th graders. I will be learning Bahasa Sunda for a week which will grossly under-prepare me for the language challenges I’ll face but I hear they speak mostly Bahasa Indonesia over there anyway. I’ve grown fairly good at that language. I’m really just so happy the anticipation is over! Wish me luck, folks.

Do that thing you do.

Little miss adorable herself.

Little miss adorable herself.

Let me start this entry by saying, I really don’t have much to say. Most of my pictures this week are courtesy of my small human friend, Noreen. I did not go to a waterfall, I did not climb a mountain. I switched my malaria meds this week so you can expect lots of sunburned pictures in the future.

I mentioned this briefly on the book of face but I think it’s worth reiterating here. We had a training session last week that featured a current PCV (as many do) and she said something that really stuck with me. When asked what made her happiest at site, she responded “When I feel like it’s been a normal day. When I feel like I’m just living my life.” It may not seem like much at first when you read it. You may think, “But, Margaux, you live your life every day.” Well, yes. Yes, I do. To a very full extent. But here in Indonesia everything is under a microscope. Everything about me. I had a margaux-moment a few days ago when it was raining (as it is wont to do in the “dry” season…). Bu Yanik called to me and when I turned around to respond I fell straight on my rear. Of course. I scraped up my hand but I didn’t really get hurt. No, not even my pride; I’ve fallen far too much in my life to get a bruised ego over something so small. My friends’ families already know. They don’t even live close and they know. I have nigh strangers coming up to me to make sure I’m ok days after the fact. I laugh it off and show them my hand and tell them I’m fine, but at the end of the day everyone knows. All I did was slip and fall. Some days it feels like everything is a song and dance. It’s nice when I have moments, they don’t even have to be full days, but moments of normalcy. Moments of home. Moments of familiar. My step-dad made fun of me for bringing three Eeyores. In your face, Kevin. Those guys are with me every night and thank goodness for it. It’s the little things that seem to matter the most to me here. (Anyone who’s known me longer than 5 minutes can tell you I am a huge fan of little things, being one myself…) I walked to class with my headphones in and the music cranked up to ten. It. Was. Amazing. We were in a group so I didn’t have to worry about saying hello to everyone or getting hit by a motorcycle; I knew my fellow trainees would look out for me. So, I just walked. Not only that, all the buzzing little thoughts that never seem to stop floating about in my head ceased. Just for a brief 20 minute walk, but stop they did. Not only did the buzzing stop but it meant that I really just enjoyed myself. I was walking down a nearly deserted road over rivers and rice patties in Indonesia. It was stunning. That’s all I need. Some people need drunken debauchery in town. Some need a massage. Some need a crazy vacation. I just need a moment of calm. I need a moment I control to do with what I please in exactly the way I please and just like that; batteries fully recharged.

Otherwise life is as normal as normal gets for PST. I’ll be headed to the post office soon to try and send out some post cards. I go to weddings pretty regularly around here. I have no idea how so many people can get married in such rapid succession. I’m making friends with small humans and having odd conversations about my nose. All in all it would seem things are getting to a norm. I can wash my clothes on my own; I can eat almost everything that’s handed to me; I can get to and from my house and school; I can converse in the local language with relative ease.

We find out next week where our permanent sites will be. I’m hoping for West Java and proximity to other volunteers. I’ll be sure to let everyone know as soon as I’m able. I don’t think I’m allowed to really post the exact village so you’ll have to hit me up in the private sector to get the mailing address. Until then, my friends, Gaux out.

Duck, Duck, …What?

We weren't ready to leave!

We weren’t ready to leave!

Well, my friends, I have survived another week. This has not been just any week, either. This was a week of a week if ever a week there was. I had two more days of teaching on Monday and Tuesday (one of which was observed and critiqued. My favorite.) I gave a short speech in Bahasa Indonesia (like a BOSS) in which I was kinder than I have ever been in English. I think the Indonesian lifestyle is rubbing off on me.

We had Wednesday to prepare for English Camp on Thursday which we, of course, used to its full extent. At Iron Man 3. And getting supplies! Don’t give me those judgey eyes!

Thursday was inundated with approximately 60 kindergarteners. Let me say that one again. We had SIXTY children between the ages of 5 and 8 to entertain. We set up our camp in three stations of 20 kids, two indoors and one outdoors. Of the six of us, one was positioned at each station and then one of us stayed with each group to herd them like cats. I was supposed to be stationed with the blue group which, after we realized how much Indonesian was required to teach, quickly devolved into me staying with the outside session. I then spent the day outside. In the sun. In Indonesia. Which is, by the way, 7* above the equator. In case you were curious.

I started each session by teaching them how to play hopscotch. We claimed the educational value of which was to ensure they could count in English. The majority of the information I delivered, however, was in Indonesian as their vocabulary in English is still quite limited. Not too difficult, one would think, yes? They are but wee humans, they only know about 40 more words than me in Indonesian, right? Wrong. I quickly discovered the error of my ways when, for “Duck, Duck, Goose”, I attempted to request they sit in a circle only to realize I didn’t know the word for circle. Or Goose. So. That proved an interesting lesson for everyone involved.

Atop the mountain en route to the waterfall.

Atop the mountain en route to the waterfall.

We took a few days to recover from our exhausting endeavor and decided to award ourselves with a wonderful day at the a new waterfall. Coban Talun was the waterfall we were attempting to find last weekend on our excursion to Coban Rondo. Not the same. Not at all. I do not know if Coban Talun has an awesome story like Coban Rondo (cue my mother googling the answer) but I think it may have been more beautiful than the latter. To begin with, it is much more remote. We had to hike about 30 minutes to get there. We arrived after a long walk to find about 80 children on a field trip from Surabaya at the falls. Much to our chagrin. They had a bule with them, so we nominated Courtney to go ask her how much longer they would be around. They promised they would leave shortly and so we decided to wait it out. We made some adorable middle school aged friends and asked questions about the falls while we waited for them to leave. It really was beautiful. Some of us braved the water and took a swim. I was not one of these brave souls. I’ve watched too many episodes of River Monsters to choose to go neck-deep in murky water. I did, however, go knee deep. I was very proud.

Last night I saw the stars for the first time since my arrival. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a glimmer here or there, but when we first arrived it was the tail end of the rainy season. I had a snowball’s chance in Hell of seeing more than a twinkle. Last night, after a rewarding day of waterfall activity, I saw the stars. For those of you who know me well, you know this is no small event. I stopped mid-stride and gazed. I saw the Southern Cross. Now I’m in Indo-freaking-nesia. I SAW NEW STARS. For all of you non Astronomy Nerds out there, this is huge. I have been looking at the same stars in the same sky my whole life. I know almost every story. I can recite the summer sky to you almost exactly. Stories, locations, major stars, even some major celestial bodies (nebulae, star clusters, galaxies, specific binary systems, etc). And now I have half a sky I have never seen before. I feel like a little kid at Christmas. Like I was just handed a candy bar after giving up chocolate for Lent. Like I found a $100 bill in my pants pocket after I’d forgotten about it.

I tried to tell some stories to my host family and ask them about new stories but my language skills aren’t quite there yet. Sadly, that will have to wait until I have a larger vocabulary. I am, however, going to need to brush up on all of the constellations I’ve ignored my whole life due to their position below the horizon. I’m really regretting packing up all of my star books right now…

Otters, Monkeys, and Snakes. Oh my!

We felt like children being sent off to kindergarten all over again.

We felt like children being sent off to kindergarten all over again.

I seem to have found myself in a classroom this week, pretending to be a teacher. Go figure. After weeks of language and TEFL training, they finally threw us in the ring. I spent the first three days in class observing my fellow PCVs in the field. Then came Thursday. I successfully survived class. I wouldn’t say it went off without a hitch since I ran out of material 30 minutes early, but with the quick witted help of Miss Courtney James I managed to recover and finish out the class with nary a hiccup. I do believe I may have managed to make passive sentences fun. In your face grammar skeptics. I continue to teach next week on Monday and Tuesday. I’m going to continue to teach far too advanced a lesson to an underwhelmed class and try to make it fun. But hey, at least my worksheets are adorable. Years of Stage Management paid off, it would seem.

Other than that, it’s been a relatively calm week as far as PST goes. I haven’t broken anything or made too may cultural faux pas. We went to Alun-Alun in Batos (Batu town square) last weekend and that was lovely. It’s an odd little gathering of giant fruit-shaped markets with a ferris wheel at the center. Don’t ask me, I have no idea.

Our time is laid out and scheduled to the smallest detail, it’s exhausting. But I’m finding time to hang out with my host family quite a bit. I have no other option, really. I came home for a break the other day to a blissfully empty house. Not 20 minutes later it was full of people. There comes a point where a girl just wants some alone time, you know? Especially this one. But that’s what they made going to bed early for.

They even have sambal (a traditional spice akin to the red rooster stuff) at Pizza Hut...

They even have sambal (a traditional spice akin to the red rooster stuff) at Pizza Hut…

After a rather tame week and previous weekend it was obviously time to get into some trouble. We began with a deliciously gluttonous American meal at Pizza Hut. I can’t fully express to you the heaven experienced in one piece of pizza. It’s damn near sinfully amazing. This was followed by Stand Up Comedy. In Indonesian. That’s right, this gal went to a show where every word counts as it was performed in a language she didn’t know. Luckily for Alan and me, Ary (our CL) got up and did a short bit in English, after which a few comedians did speak English. We got a lot of stares and were definitely made fun of more than once in ways we didn’t understand. It was fabulous.

Saturday promised to be a jumble of ridiculous as well. We started with our language midterm (eek!) after which we needed some well-earned free time. The original plan was to head to Matos (Malang town square) and watch Iron Man 3 before heading over for some sober karaoke. Iron Man was, woefully but expectedly, sold out. (Fear not, my friends, I fully expect to go back and try again later. I will see Iron Man 3, by god!) We killed time in the mall for a while waiting for the rest of the gang to arrive; it’s a blissful little American oasis to wander through. And then there was karaoke. Oh yes. Loud, obnoxious, ridiculous, awful, fun karaoke.

Sunday held rich new promise of snuggling with wild animals and hikes into nature. Alex, Andorra, Courtney, Aubrey, and I headed to this small, local, quasi-zoo for the morning. We had SO much fun. I got to hold a snake, a monkey, three birds, an otter, and this odd mink-like creature I can’t identify but want to keep. I definitely need a pet monkey now. And maybe a pet otter. And definitely a pet mink-like-thing. After we had had our fill of insanely adorable, we made a play for my house to eat noodles and rice before venturing out into the wilderness on our own. Yes, this could turn into a scary movie very shortly.

So, we head to the main street to catch an Angkot to what we expect to be a very close waterfall our friends found. We hop on and he delivers us to Selecta, a local water park of sorts. Which is nice, but not where we’re going. We politely inform him we wish to go elsewhere and he gets a little exasperated at our lack of Indonesian but promises to take us. We turn around and head into Batu. Which is exactly the wrong direction. This is when we begin to worry. I clarify on multiple occasions that we want to go to Coban Rondo and he continues to insist he is assisting us. So we sit complacently in the angkot as it whisks us further and further the wrong way. We get to the terminal and he tells us to catch another angkot to Coban Rondo. We, of course, comply. We tell the driver where we want to go and we eventually get on the road. And we drive. And drive. And drive. I begin to get a little worried that we’re getting steadily into the middle of absolutely nowhere and none of us know how we’re going to get home. It brings back memories of a ride to Batos in which Courtney voluntold us to dance in a parade without knowing how we would get home. I smiled at the memory and we decided to press on. This definitely wasn’t going to be the same waterfall our friends went to, but it had to be well worth it.

I can't even handle the awesome of this place.

I can’t even handle the awesome of this place.

After steadily climbing a mountain for 30 – 45 minutes we are deposited onto the side of a road with a lone sign as our guide and the promise of another angkot driver that we’re close. What else to do but walk? And walk we did. And walk. And walk. Up a mountain. We finally reached Coban Rondo, expecting a little park and a waterfall. Foolishness. We get there, pay the entry fee ($1USD, a hefty price), and walk some more. We don’t have a map or a guide but there’s only one road so we can’t get too lost. The whole time the sun is getting steadily lower in the sky. After a little over 30 minutes of walking (and 30 minutes closer to sunset in a village we don’t know surrounded by people we’ve never met miles from the closest angkot stop) we stumble upon what, at first, appears to be a small village. We nearly fell over ourselves racing toward the sound of water after all the rapt anticipation. It was everything we had hoped for and more. I have seen few waterfalls to rival it’s size and intensity. I would be interested to find the story behind the superstition that follows this particular falls. It would seem that Rondo means “Divorce” and it’s said that if you go to this particular falls with your significant other your relationship will be doomed to failure.

We weren’t able to spend a lot of time at the falls considering we were well past our intended departure time. Just in case you thought we couldn’t get any more ridiculous, here you go: As we’re walking back I pull Courtney aside and say “Girl, if anyone can get us a ride down this mountain, it’s you.” Court, in all her precocious glory, accepts the request dutifully. She proceeds to find space on a bus headed to Batu (one of the places from which we can get home) with a High School English Camp. You read that right, folks, we hitched a ride back to Batu with a gaggle of excited High School kids and their teachers. For free.

Our lovely hosts took us half way home on a bus for free.

Our lovely hosts took us half way home on a bus for free.

From there we hopped off the bus in all our bule glory with much affection and adoration for our lovely hosts to get onto our final angkot of the night. An orange angkot (the one we want) pulls over to grab us without being haled and proceeds to take us…in the wrong direction. After explicit instructions on where we wanted to go. At this point I’m almost too tired to fight. Eventually he turns around and we’re headed in the right direction for the first time since we left on our little journey. What better way to travel home than with a bumpin’ angkot. Yesirree, he turned up some tunes and we had a blast. We danced and sang along in the back of the angkot. (Much to everyone’s amazement and amusement. I mean, everyone. We stopped people in their tracks on the street. As we are wont to do.)

So. Who’s coming to visit!