Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Just Some Thoughts

 Hey all! So, I know it has been a while again, but, for the first time, I’m not sorry about it.

These  pictures aren't relevant, but I am going to put a few of them in here anyways. They are from the beautiful waterfall near my house.

Right now is around the time last year that I found out I would be going to Indonesia. Seeing all of the excitement from future YES Abroad-ers on facebook (why, yes, I did shamelessly add myself into the 2014-2015 group to stalk the future Indonesia kids) induced a sort of strange flashback to where I was a year ago. It was crazy to think of just how much my views, fears, goals, hopes, and spirituality have changed. Especially in terms of exchange. I thought that exchange was something that worked simply – a major event or two occurred in my daily life, I would wait until I had enough time, and then I would blog about it and share my experiences with those at home. Unfortunately for my brain which likes to think it is in control and has everything all figured out and tied up with a neat bow, exchange is nothing like that. Most of my experiences here are intertwined with other things that have affected me emotionally or mentally and are often too complicated or sometimes personal for me to comprehend and then share with others. I often find myself sitting with ample free time and an open diary but nothing to write. Not because nothing has happened, but, because so much has happened. The amount of time to process and let things sink in has been significantly longer than I anticipated, and I feel like I am nowhere near fathoming what sort of amazing effect this journey will have on my life. It might not be until I am at home and finally over the jet lag and excitement that I will really begin to understand the full effects of this year. That being said, blogging about significant events here has proven more difficult than I initially thought. But, like I said, I am not sorry. The core reason that I am here is as an exchange student -not a blogger or online-exchange-promoter constantly posting pictures and what not on Facebook –but, a student. And, the job of a student is to learn. I have been devoting most of my time to learning from every experience and person that I come across here. Honestly, if I spent all of my time focusing on sharing every amazing encounter as it happened, it would detract from my exchange. If I were to constantly be online promoting myself, it would get to the point where I would be doing things for the sole purpose of showing people at home how cool Indonesia is, and I would lose the purpose of this program and my exchange. It’s all about balance.
So, although some of my close friends and family back at home may feel like they have no idea what is going on in my daily life, don’t feel left out, because I don’t either. When I return home and my life isn’t running a thousand miles a minute, there will be plenty of time for me to either verbally tell the stories, or even write more blog posts. The important thing is I have pictures and my diary to jog my memory in the rare occasion I would ever forget all that has happened, which I highly doubt.
Ok, typical Breanna rant aside, I do actually have a topic that I think is kinda cool that I wanted to talk about today. I think this is something that every white/visibly foreign person who has ever set foot into Indonesia can relate to. Most countries in the world have a unique way they treat their foreigners, and Indonesia is no different. However, the Indonesian way of dealing with us bule is more often than not overwhelming. Unfortunately, after almost eight months of living here and becoming proficient in the language, my skin is still white, I still have what Indonesians call a “pointy nose” and for that reason, I will never be a local, but ALWAYS a bule.
Every time I go out, (and I mean literally every time I leave my house) people ALWAYS want to talk to me and ask me questions because it is not common for Indonesians to meet a foreigner. Which, I guess has its ups and downs. I am not really a fan of being treated differently just because of the way I look, and from time to time, I feel objectified, because I know that people are only talking to me because of my facial features, hair color and complexion. Oh, and the cat calls from men of all ages, and the constant taking pictures with strangers doesn’t help either. But, as hard as it might be at times, I realize that it is harmless and just Indonesian culture to treat people from the west like celebrities. Also, I am here as a representative of my country with YES Abroad, so I basically signed up to answer questions about my home country and daily life and the Indonesian culture just makes my job a little bit easier.
Look! A waterfall!
So, for all of you bule considering coming to Indo, here are the top ten questions I GUARANTEE you will be asked by locals:

1. Asli dari mana? (Which country do you come from?)
As a bule in Indonesia, your days of a friendly hello and “what is your name?” are over. Typically (at least for me) before a stranger will even ask you your name, they will want to know what country you come from. For me, every time I answer with “America” almost every person I meet becomes really excited and starts talking about either Hollywood, or Obama. Oh, that’s another thing. Indonesians loooooove Obama. When Obama was a child, he lived in Jakarta, and I cannot count the amount of times I have been told that I will become president one day because I lived and went to school in Indonesia just like Obama.

2. Bisa bicara bahasa Indonesia? (Can you speak Indonesian?)
So, as I had said before, since I look like a bule, it is assumed I am a tourist. Whenever there is a bule who can speak even the tiniest bit of Indonesian, Indonesians are very happy that you took the time to learn their language, and for that reason, they will ALWAYS tell you that your Indonesian is very good, even if it is horrible.

3.  Mau kemana? (Where are you going?)
So, at first, I thought that this was a rather nosy question, especially considering the fact that it would most often come from complete strangers. After a while, I realized that this is a culture thing. When people ask “mau kemana?” most of the time they are not genuinely interested in where you are going. It’s more of a sort of greeting and way to be polite. Typically, I answer by smiling and saying “jalan-jalan”, which means just going out.

4. Sudah kemana aja? (Where have you been in Indonesia?)
Once you have told someone that you are not a tourist and do in fact live in Indonesia, they are curious to know where you have visited, and more importantly, what you liked about it. Indonesians are quite aware that they live in the most beautiful country on earth, and basically they just want to share it with you.  Most Indonesians are shocked that I haven’t been to the bule capital of Southeast Asia: Bali. But, I have the greatest host parents in the world, that I will be heading there next month!

5. Suka makanan dari Indonesia? (Do you like Indonesian food?)
This goes along with the” where have you been” question. Indonesians are really proud of their beautiful country and culture and what it has to offer. So, naturally, they are curious to know what Indonesian foods you like.

6. Tinggal dimana? (Where do you live?)
Again, this one confused me for a little bit. Coming from Western culture, I thought it was strange that sometimes a complete stranger would be asking me where I live. But, it’s an Indonesian thing. They don’t want your address; they just want to know the general neighborhood. Bandung has many neighborhoods, and often where you live can be a conversation starter. I live in the Dago neighborhood, and because it is near many factory outlets, people usually ask me about shopping.

7. Tinggal sama siapa? (Who do you live with?)
Most of the time, Indonesians get confused when they find out that I am still in high school, but my natural parents are living in the US. This usually leads to a conversation about student exchange and what I am doing here and why.

8. Punya pacar? (Do you have a boyfriend?)
Ahhhh the shameless question Indonesians young and old like to ask white people. If you say yes, it is followed by all of the people in the conversation saying “aduuuuuuuuuuuh” (Indonesian version of “aww” ) in unison and then request for pictures, and then comments about how the two of you are “so sweet”. But, if you say no, then don’t worry. Indonesians aren’t going to think you are “jomblo” (single because no one wants to date you) if you just tell them that you are “single and happy”.

9. Senang tinggal di Indonesia? (Are you happy living in Indonesia?)
As I said before, Indonesians are proud of their country, and typically don’t see many westerners here. When they do meet a foreigner, they once again are genuinely curious to know how we feel about living here, and what we may possibly like or not like about it.

10. Punya nomor hp/facebook/twitter/ect..? (Do you have any type of social media and can I add you/ follow you?)
Indonesians. Love. Social. Media. Enough said. Everyone that I have met at school has Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, and EVERYONE wants to add the bule. However, they are often disappointed to find that I still live in the Stone Age and only have a facebook. (I attempted to make a Twitter and Instagram, but, I just couldn’t get into it. I know. I’m weird.)
It's gorgeous, right?
Well, now I am on a roll and actually really enjoying this post. So, I guess I am going to continue with a few more questions. These are questions people who I know kind of well (generally classmates) will ask me.

1. Ada “bully” di Amerika? (Are there bullies in America?)
 I find this question really interesting. I am frequently asked this question due to something I like to call the Hollywood Syndrome. In Indonesia, children teens and even some adults watch some western TV shows and movies. For that reason, they think that what they see on the screen is the reality for all Americans. Most of my classmates have asked me if really bad bullying occurs all the time and at every high school in America. I have to explain to them that what they see on TV isn’t necessarily true. Sure, there is a lot of bullying in America, but all students aren’t either bullies or being bullied. I think it is important for us to keep in mind that what we show in our movies or TV shows might be all another country really knows or sees about America, and it has been the cause of some negative stereotypes.

2. Bagimana hantu di Amerika? (Literally, what are the ghosts like in America?)
So, I think this is my favorite question that I have ever been asked. Mostly, because of how freaking confused I was after hearing it. In Indonesia, because everyone is required to have a religion, everyone believes in God, and therefore an afterlife. So, it comes as no surprise that almost everyone here openly believes in ghosts, and a staggering number have claimed to have paranormal encounters. The first time I heard this question, I assumed that my Indonesian friends assumed that Americans have the same views about ghosts and spirits, and I, or someone I know has seen one before. My answer was something like, “ummmmm they look like bule.” But then, as I was asked more frequently, I figured something out. Sometimes in the question, there was the word “cerita”, which means story in Indonesian. In Indonesia, there is also a large amount of folklore, myths and ghost stories, like the infamous “pocong”, the unfortunate soul who was not buried properly and roams through Indonesia. They weren’t asking me about specific ghosts, but, rather the folklore and ghost stories common in America.
3. Sudah ketemu artis siapa? (Which celebrities have you already met?)
Again, the Hollywood Syndrome. Because the only thing that Indonesians really see or hear about America comes from Hollywood, they assume that America is crawling with celebrities, and it is really easy to meet them. I have disappointed many a classmate by saying, no, I have not met Justin Bieber….. or Taylor Swift…… or Katie Perry…….or any of the members of One Direction.

4. Boston dekat NewYork/LA/Las Vegas?  (Is Boston close to New York or LA or Las Vegas?)
And, the Hollywood Syndrome strikes again. Indonesians for the most part only remember the American cities that are constantly being mentioned in movies or TV shows or celebrity news. But, surprisingly enough, there are some people here who know Boston because they are fans of American basketball. I have no idea why, but, in Bandung at least, the Celtics are basically the most popular team in basketball. I have had some of the guys at school know a lot more about the players and whatnot than I do.

Well, looking back, this turned out to be A LOT longer than anticipated. Thanks for sticking with me!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

What Learning a New Language has Really Taught Me

So, well, this isn’t something I do very often. Or, ever really. Maybe I have been eating too much Indomie and it has gone to my head and made me crazy, but, here we are. Things are going to get slightly political on Bree’s Blog. But, for good reason. I had a revelation that I felt I should share.
So, a few days ago, as I was surfing the net, one wrong click lead to a website and a subsequent article followed by quite a nasty comment.  A person seemed to be very upset because he had overheard someone speaking a language other than English in America. He went on to say something we have all heard countless number of times: “This is America, speak English.”
Although everyone is entitled to their opinion, I feel this person may have been mislead and might not hold his same opinion if he had some critical information. This individual seems to be the type of person who has lived in the same country –and possibly town - all of his life. I however, have not. Seeing as I came to Indonesia with virtually no experience in the country’s language or culture, I guess you could say I am now somewhat of an expert on this topic.
First of all, the most important thing to remember is that America is a country of immigrants. Although many of our families arrived in the US a few generations ago, there are still hard-working, determined people who want to come to our country and prosper in the way our ancestors did. English may be considered a “universal language,” yet there are still immigrants coming to America who have never spoken it a day in their lives. And, that is where my personal experience comes in. Let me give you a little insight into how it feels to suddenly move to and live in a foreign country where you hardly speak a word of the national language.
 No matter how much I had tried to prepare at home, the beginning of my exchange was overwhelming chaos. I naturally experienced some home sickness and culture shock. On top of that, I was confused about, well, everything. The twenty or so words of Indonesian that I initially knew proved to be useless. When I listened to a native speaker, those familiar words were immediately lost in the speaker’s accent and rapid pace. The first month, I was lucky if I was able to recognize a few of those key words when people were speaking, and tried to learn as many new vocabulary words as possible. I went to bed every night overwhelmed, exhausted and somewhat confused.
By the time I reached the second month, I had memorized enough basic words to begin incorporating the important ones into phrases that would help me get though the day. Where is the toilet? Can we eat now? I want this. I need that. What time will we leave? I began to interchange nouns and verb phrases and attempted to make new sentences. However, my attempts were in vain, seeing as my sentences were still choppy and nine times out of ten grammatically incorrect. Never mind my awful accent. Many a time I would speak Indonesian only to receive a blank stare from the person I was speaking to. Then came the task of functioning in public on my own. Many times I would be somewhat self-conscious about my choppy, ill-spoken Indonesian, and even after I explained what I wanted to a waiter or a clerk, I would end up pantomiming my way through half the conversation. Prices would be spoken too quickly and I would have to ask for them to be repeated then pray I was not being ripped off. The conversations of others on public transportation still sounded like gibberish to me, and I could only hope that eventually it would make at least some sense.
Between the third and fourth month, my wish was granted. I finally got a grasp on the accent, and even though I didn’t know the words, I could guess the general topic of conversations based on intonation. I became braver and tried to form more complex sentences. I still tried to learn as many vocabulary words as possible, but was glad to see that I was at least making some progress. And yet, at this time, I would still speak English with native speakers if I got the chance. It was not because I needed to in order to get by, but, rather that I wanted to for the sole fact that I could speak without having to think extremely hard and exhaust myself.
During my fifth month, I had gotten a lot faster at speaking and mastered conversations by sheer practice and repetition of commonly used words. I began to focus on more complex words, formal grammar, and slang. I began to realize which words were formal, informal, polite and rude. But, some days were hard. I would just easily tire because I was putting so much effort into speaking, and speaking a lot more than I previously had because I finally felt that I could. Furthermore, I was thrown a curveball with the fact that many people in Bandung speak a mix of Indonesian and the local language of Sundanese. I was going to have to learn Sunda too if I wanted to effectively communicate.
 By the beginning of the sixth month, people were mistakenly telling me I was fluent. I wasn’t. I had just learned how to cheat and use the context of the conversation and the words I did know to make up for the ones I didn’t. I could sometimes speak as fast as native speakers in conversation although my accent was nowhere near perfect. Learning new words was extremely easy because I had heard most of them before and just not yet learned the meaning.
After nearly seven months of struggle, I finally feel that I have a decent grip on the language.
But, I am not fluent. Although I can understand Indonesian in conversation and the classroom, I still easily get lost when watching TV talk shows or reading formal writing. If I had to take the Indonesian equivalent of the English TOFEL test, I know I would fail. Given my progress thus far, I would assume it would take a year and a half to two years in order for me to become completely fluent.
But, an immigrant will have a harder time than I did when it comes to learning the language. Immigrants will not have the resources and safety nets that I have been given this year. They may not have a program like AFS to support them with any problem and provide them with a volunteer to help them speak the language. There may not be people living in their new home country who can speak bits and pieces of their native language. They might not have a network of friends going through the same experience to lean on for support involving culture shock. They probably don’t have the financial safety net that I have which involves me relying on my monthly stipend, host family and natural family for costs of living. I think it would be fair to assume they don’t have the option as I do to return to their homeland if the culture shock and homesickness becomes too much. And, I can guarantee most immigrants will not have nearly as much time as I do to dedicate to language learning. Part of my reason for being here is to learn the language. An immigrant will have to focus on working a probably low-wage job due to the language barrier in order to make enough money to support himself and possibly a family. That, coupled with continuing homesickness and culture shock is enough to make everyday a struggle.
What we as American citizens need to remember is empathy. Although you may not agree with a person speaking a language other than English in America or think of it as “un-American” try to keep an open mind. Remember that most of the time you are not going to know this person personally and will just be making a blind judgment. Maybe this person arrived only a few short months ago, or he can speak English, but chooses to speak his native language whenever possible to ease homesickness. Who knows? Maybe he is only a tourist visiting for a time too short to even consider learning English. Or, he could   in fact be the “lazy foreigner” that you so readily label and stereotype him as. The point is, you don’t know. And, whoever this individual happens to be, he is a human being just like you, who deserves respect regardless of the language he may speak.
The point of this post is not to get you to change your opinion about immigration in the US and the many complicated problems surrounding it, but rather to personalize the immigrant so easily stereotyped and ostracized due to rash opinions. What I am asking with this post is for you to think before you blindly judge. The next time you come across a person speaking his native tongue, don’t clench your jaw in anger and roll your eyes. Rather, look to him with respect and curiosity about his culture. Remember the little white girl living in Indonesia and try to become stronger than the stereotype already bouncing around in your head. By withholding prejudice and judgment, you will be making the life of another a whole lot easier. I can promise you that.  

The picture is unrelated, but I know there are some of you who only read the blog for the pictures, and I felt guilty. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ten Pounds Happier

            …..So, I think I have gained ten pounds. Ah, yes, it is the question everyone wanted to ask. You go abroad for a year, and chances are you are going to gain weight. There are many that say AFS stands for “another fat student”. But, notice how I only say "I think". Scales aren’t exactly my style. For me, they’ve always been extremely inaccurate. Since muscle weighs more than fat, when I was at my most fit, apparently I was also at my heaviest. My weight naturally fluctuates depending on what time of the day it is, what I have eaten that day, if I have worked out or not, and the weather. Basically, I could go up or down about five pounds in a week without changing my lifestyle. To me, scales are like those mean popular girls in school : they tells you lies to try to make you feel bad about yourself.
                Anyways, over the past few weeks, I have noticed my body begin to change. I have been slowly but surely loosing the muscle tone that I had worked so hard to build up- especially around my stomach and thighs. At first I would look down and frown. It bothered me that for the first time in my life, I was out of shape, and there were parts of me that were becoming flabby. But, then I looked in the mirror and noticed little to no difference. Sure, my pants were tight, but I was the only one who knew that. And besides, the clothes that I wear here would cover it up anyway. But, then I did begin to notice my body did look different slightly. And, at first that bothered me. Then I realized that I too had fallen victim to the western standard of beauty. Here I was in the country with the highest Muslim population on earth, and yet I was not able to learn their simple concept about a woman’s beauty. In Islam, all women are special, no matter what shape or size. God has given them the gift of outer beauty, but they can choose to cover themselves so people will know them for their inner beauty and personality. Was I a good person? Was I happy with myself? That’s all that matters. .....And, well, Beyonce is curvy, and she is an international symbol of beauty. So, yeah. Maybe I can be like her.

               But, I should also mention that I am ten pounds happier. If I was ever going to gain weight, I am glad that I gained it in this fashion. Here are some of my favorite reasons for packing on the pounds. 

Outside the house:
Baso (Indonesian meatball) and mie (noodles). A typical lunch at school.

Spicy snacks at school that make my eyes water EVERY time I eat them. 

Menu of drinks at school. There are a lot. All sugary, fruity and delicious.

My favorite street food meal: sate (meat on a stick with peanut sauce) and white rice.

Little Indonesian candies. 

.....more drinks and snacks at school. It should come as no surprise I spend most of my time at school in the cafeteria.

More delicious, somewhat spicy street food noodles and vegetables. 

A cute, fruity tea drink from a trendy little cafe.  Indonesia has a lot of intricate, delicious non-alcoholic drinks.

Zoupa soup: A pastry-covered creamy soup that is a great example of how sometimes the East meets the West in Indonesian food. 

And when I go home:

So, this is what my kitchen table looks like between meals. Basically you can eat whenever you like, buffet style.
Every meal starts here, with white rice. This rice never runs out. It's magic.
The tea and coffee are infinite here too. So is the sugar. 

...and so are these crunchy spicy things. In Indo they are called "krupuk" and a staple in an Indonesian diet. 

Indomie. (aka Indonesian ramen noodles) If you don't like Indomie, you aren't human.
Chicken (In Indonesian, "ayam") is very popular here and prepared in many different ways, all delicious.

Those are only some of my favorites that I have had the patience to take a picture of. Indonesia is a great place to be if you like to eat, because the food here is AMAZING. And, don't worry friends and family back home, I am learning how to cook here, so in a few short months, you will have the privilege of tasting all of this.


Monday, February 10, 2014

An Indonesian History Lesson

Wow, so it’s February. I realize that back home everyone must be looking forward to spring, which is hopefully right around the corner. But, it hasn’t been too warm here either, and I am looking forward to the end of this rainy season. It’s coooooold. I have been sleeping with socks and two blankets every night, and wearing a sweater over my long-sleeved shirt on the way to school. The rain comes down cold and hard, and I am not a fan. So, I bet you are all wondering what my definition of cold here is? Well, I recently converted it from Celsius, and apparently what has been chilling my bones is between fifty-five and sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit. The other day I was wearing jeans and a sweater when it was almost eighty degrees outside. Either I’m crazy, or I have become Indonesian and adapted to the humid heat. Score one for Breanna.
Anyway, I was just backing up some of my pictures when I came across a few from an adventure I took a little while ago. Back in December, Erwin told me he wanted to take me to "Goa Japang" and "Goa Belanda" or, in English, the Japanese and Dutch caves. I thought that those were weird names for caves, but I love exploring in the rain forest, so, why not?
Turns out, these were not caves at all. We trekked though the forest to man-made holes carved right into the rock of the mountains. Apparently there were two of them made and spaced close - but not too close - to each other in the forest. I was confused, yet intrigued. Man-made holes carved into mountains? This had history dork written all over it.
The first "cave" we approached was the Japanese cave. Erwin looked at me and said, "silahkan," or, “please enter”. Even though we had flashlights, I was still intimidated - it was pitch black in there. But, once inside, I loved it. There was a network of tunnels that lead to dead ends, and I loved just walking around in the maze. There were bats everywhere, but, they were small and adorable, so it was ok. Eventually the light beams from the flashlight gave me a headache and I figured it would be easier to walk around in the dark. My eyes adjusted, and we continued exploring with no light source whatsoever. That was the coolest part for me. I felt like an adventure-explorer for National Geographic or something.
After the first cave, we entered the forest again in search of the Dutch Cave. Despite almost having a bad run in with some angry monkeys that were watching us carefully from the trees, we arrived at the Dutch cave. This one was a little more finished and included rails on the ground for carts or something similar. There were also old fixtures for light bulbs overhead.  The way this one was built, it was even brighter (there were entrances from two different sides) and it was not a network of tunnels, but an easy to follow grid.
From reading the signs placed outside of these "caves" I was able to gather that the Japanese cave wad used in WWII as a place to keep supplies and men. The Dutch cave had been there before WWII, but served a similar purpose in its time. The Dutch had controlled Indonesian for hundreds of years, so it would come as no surprise that they had areas for housing military supplies. I don't know if there were any major WWII battles on Java or near my home in Bandung, but, I know that the Japanese did gain control of Indonesia during the war, and then when they lost, the Dutch did not gain control again, and Indonesia became independent on August 17th,  1945. 
So, I just thought that you might enjoy my little Indonesian history story and some of my pictures of the caves and the surrounding area. Unfortunately, with the pictures, I only have some of the Japanese Cave and the landscape on the way to the Dutch Cave. My camera died before I got there, but there was a cool river and stunning views along the way. Oh, and the Japanese Cave had a few different entrances, which explains why there are multiple pictures of the entrances that look different. 
After my visit, I was told that both of these caves were rumored to be haunted. And, come to think of it, it DID feel like someone was watching me and following me when I didn't have a flashlight. *Insert creepy music here*

Friday, January 31, 2014

The Australian and .....Half Way There?

So, wow. I just past the half way point in my exchange a few days ago. I wouldn’t have even realized that it had passed, if not for Mallory telling me. Wooooooooah. Half. Way. That was by far the fastest five and a half months of my life. I can’t believe I am already at this point. It feels like just yesterday I found the YES application online and begged my parents to let me apply.
                I guess I am so taken aback by this because of how much time is actually left. For the greater part of the last two years, the main focus of my life was the YES Abroad program. First it was applying, then IPSE, then being accepted, then preparing for Indonesia, then navigating my way through these first crazy months. And now, in another five and a half months, this immensely important chapter of my life will draw to a close. I think it would be entirely accurate to say that this adventure has been a turning point in my life. I feel so lucky to have experienced and learned everything I have thus far, and also have another five and a half months to continue my endeavors. I still have a lot of time to learn more of the Indonesian language, enjoy cultural activities and hang out with my friends.
                But, at the same time, knowing that I am already half way though this year has made me start to think about going home. After being away for five months, another five months is not a long time. I realized that before I know it, I am going to be back in Massachusetts, and then going to….college? Yikes. Where did my childhood go? Knowing that after this I will be working extremely hard for four years has given me even more initiative to make the most of my time left, and enjoy it.
                And now, on a completely unrelated note, let me tell you a little bit about my Australian friend. Going back to the last few months were I didn’t blog, I think I would be leaving out a lot if I didn’t mention William. So, as I had said before, when I first moved to my new school they were in the middle of finals. However, after finals, there were a few days of talents shows and football competitions for fun at school, and I was invited. I was also informed that there was going to be another bule attending school for the next six weeks. His name was William and he was on an exchange from Australia. I was told that I would be introduced as soon as I got to school.
                At first, I was not really happy that there was going to be another white person at school. My thought process went a little like this: Oh great, just what I need, another bule. I really don’t want to have to share all of the attention and be expected to hang out with whoever this William kid is. He just got here, and I bet that he is going to be confused. I’m sure I am going to have to speak English with him, and it’s going to detract from my time at school.
                Boy, was I wrong. I met Will at school the following day, and it was nothing like the scene I had dreaded in my mind. It turns out that in Australia high school students can choose to take Indonesian as a language and William had been studying it for four years. He did the exchange to work on his conversational speaking. He knew more Indonesian than I did. We immediately started talking about what happened in our first few days here and about all of the cultural things we had experienced in Indonesia.
                Somehow the conversation switched to other things and just kept going. Eventually school was over, and we continued talking at a nearby mall. It turned out that we had a lot in common as far as hobbies, political views, goals and aspirations. You know how sometimes you meet a person, and you just hit it off right away? That’s how it was with William and I. Because we weren’t going to have school for another two weeks, (vacation for Christmas and New Years) I decided to show William around Bandung. After all, he was going to be here for only six weeks, and we were white. Why not act like tourists? Enjoy some photos from our adventures.
First day meeting each other at school. (p.s. our shirts are batik!)
Impromptu photo shoot in front of Gadung Sate, the most important government building in Bandung:

Trip to the nearby town of Garut:

Oh, and speaking of Garut, it was beautiful. Here are some more pictures of Garut:

Around Bandung:

You never know what you are going to find at an Indonesian mall...

One of the many times we went out to eat. Thanks to Will, I gained five pounds.

We took so many selfies. No shame. 


     But it wasn’t all just fun and games. By spending time with William, I was still learning a lot. For one thing, his Indonesian vocabulary was a lot larger than mine. He taught me his formal words, and in return, I explained the Indonesian slang that was confusing him. But, even if we weren’t speaking Indonesian, sometimes it felt like he was still speaking a foreign language. Although they speak English in Australia, there are a lot of differences in words and phrases, and half the time I had no idea what he was talking about. I soon learned that sneakers are “runners”, sweaters are “jumpers” candies are “lollies” and sweatpants are “trackies”. Good job became “goodonya”, French fries were now “chips” McDonalds became “Maccas” and there was no such thing as napkins - only “serviettes”.  Oh, and don’t even get me started on his accent.
We talked a lot about the cultures of each of our countries and noticed subtle differences there too.  It seemed that Australian teenagers were a little bit more sarcastic than American teenagers (I didn’t think that was possible…) and  Australians were generally more outdoors oriented because they have nice weather and mainly live on the coast and have easy access to beaches. I listened to all of William’s stories, and came to the conclusion that I really like Australia. Actually, now it is next on my places to visit.

Unfortunately, William had to go home a few weeks back, but I am so glad to have met him. We are keeping in touch and hopefully, we will see each other again soon. Over the short amount of time that we spent together, we got into shenanigans and made memories that will last a lifetime. From getting caught in the rain and proceeding to sing Whitney Houston, to our many philosophical conversations at McDonalds, I am glad to have shared those all those moments with the sassy boy from down under.  

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Hi! So, since I started blogging again, I really want to keep up with it. However, this post is going to be a little short with a lot of pictures because I have been pretty busy lately. I joined a theater group at school, and we have an upcoming show. But, not just any show. A competition. Needless to say, rehearsals have been getting intense. Wish us luck!
Anyway, judging from my title, I am sure you have already figured out that I want to talk about the fabulous trip I took to Yogyakarta or, Jogja for short. After seven hours on a train winding through stunningly beautiful rice fields, or “sawas” of Indonesia, we arrived in the city. And, it was HOT. Living in the mountains of Bandung, I often forget how hot and humid the rest of the island of Java is. Jogja was a sweaty and sticky reminder.
Although my stay in Jogja was only four days, I totally fell in love with the city because of two of my favorite things: history and shopping.
The first places I visited in Jogja were Jalan Maliboro (Maliboro Street) and the nearby town of Solo. Both were FULL of traditional, open-air markets (otherwise known as “pasars”) where I spent countless hours exploring and talking with the locals. The markets were filled with one thing – batik, batik and more batik! For those of you who don’t know, batik is traditional clothing from Indonesia, and I have a growing obsession with it. My time shopping in Jogja helped me discover that I happen to be very good at bargaining with Indonesian merchants in these pasars. When I found an item I was interested in, I would bargain down to around half of the starting price, and nine times out of ten, I would get my way. Not bad for a Bule, huh? I’m sure both of my grandmothers - who are avid bargain hunters - would be proud. Unfortunately, I could not get any pictures of these markets because they were so crowded, but I can show you some of the batik I bought. Believe me, I bought enough to clothe a whole Indonesian village, or “kampung.”

But, I think my favorite thing about Jogja would have to be the Hindu and Buddist temples. Half of my time in Jogja was spent exploring these temples, and just taking it all in. These were ancient temples, and I honestly could not believe that I was actually seeing them. It was the type of place that you read about in National Geographic, not where you visit in real life. I know I am going to sound like a total dork here, but, I felt like Indiana Jones or something. I was lucky enough to visit three temples: the lesser known Hindu temple Putri Boko , the Hindu Prambanan, and the most famous Buddhist temple in the world, Borobudur.
I really don’t think I should try to describe these temples, because words won’t do them justice. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves. Unfortunately, I do not have any pictures of Prambanan because of an incident at Borobudur. I was traveling to both Borobudur and Prambanan in one day, and I went a little crazy with taking pictures of Buddha at Borobudur. Then there was an unfortunate incident where I was surrounded by Indonesians at the top of the temple for about two hours because they all wanted to take pictures with the Bule. Normally, I would enjoy this because it lets me live my childhood dream of being a celebrity, however, this day was very sunny, and I didn’t wear sunscreen. I’m still peeling the sunburn three weeks later. Anyways, long story short, the battery in my camera died, and when I went to Prambanan, I couldn’t take pictures. Ok, enough babbling. Here are some of the pictures I did get to take. Enjoy! 
Putri Boko and the surrounding areas:


Sampi jumpa! (Until we meet again!)