Here she goes again.

I swear in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer in under 10 days. I leave for my permanent site in about as many. I leave my soft, sweet little bubble of friends and rambunctious bule (white folks).

All the folks at Coban Rondo

All the folks at Coban Rondo

Preparing to come to the Peace Corps is vaguely akin to a sick joke, full of dramatic irony. Everyone watching from the other side knows that no matter how much you try, you’ll never prepare enough or in the right way. You’ll never be able to pack the right things or spend enough time with the right people or say goodbye in the right way. You’ll never be prepared for a new climate and new people and a new language. You’ll try because, well, what other choice do you really have. You have to try. Try I did. I prepared myself for the heat as best I knew how. I packed what I thought would be appropriate. I spent as much time as I could with the people I love. I said goodbye in the only way I knew how. I mentally and emotionally amped up my steely resolve to be completely alone for a long time. Maybe not two years, but at least until I learned the language and made friends in my excessively slow fashion. And then PST happened.

Let’s all just take a moment to chuckle at me about this one. I had prepared myself to be alone for an undetermined amount of time and then I was thrown into the mix with 49 other like-minded, insane individuals. You know that person in your group of friends, that one person who’s a little off in some way? Maybe a little kooky or idealistic. Maybe they are brilliant in a way you don’t expect or awkward in a way that’s endearing. It’s just one person you can’t quite place in one box and you love them all the more for it. Imagine being that kind of person your whole life; now imagine being thrown into a room full of 49 other people just like that. It’s freaking magical.

Eat the cracker with no hands!!

Eat the cracker with no hands!!

Next week we say goodbye. Again. We try to get ready for the unknown again. There’s not even anyone on the other side to giggle at our futile efforts. Our sites are all individual and new. Those 20 of us going to West Java are in for a whole new level of what-the-hell. There are only three Peace Corps Volunteers that have been there before us, all of whom moved there after living in East Java for two years. So, we prepare again. We put all of our belongings back into bags and firm up for a teary goodbye and get on a train.

Until then we are spending as much time together as possible. My host family is in a perpetual state of dismay and concern over my whereabouts. Both because I come home at ungodly hours (7pm and 8pm!) and because I can’t seem to stop falling. I blame the rain, mainly, but we all know it’s also just a trait I possess. We have been back to Coban Rondo for a fun picnic with the entire trainee population which was promptly rained out after playing traditional Indonesian Independence Day games. We head to McDonald’s and Pizza Hut while we still can, we grab a beer on the roof when we’re feeling overwhelmed and have a dance party. I’ve already booked my plane ticket to Bali for late September when we are allowed travel. I’ll be vacationing with a large group of fellow volunteers and we plan to recline on beautiful sandy white beaches with crystal clear water and adorable bungalows. I can get through absolutely anything with that picture in my mind.

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!