Well, getting closer and closer to grad school starting at the end of March (scary!). Even scarier to know that my main job will end then, as well. I’m working on getting set-up to tutor and babysit as my schedule allows, so to that end, I’ve signed up for Thumbtack.com to get my name out there. It looks like a great way to advertise my services and tailor my posting to get the sorts of clients I can take at the moment. Take a look at my page, and if you know anyone in the Seattle area looking for tutoring (all ages!), point them toward me!
Looking back on old posts brought up so much emotion about all the aspects of my life in Indonesia, the work, the travel, the friends and family. It made me miss that life terribly, and stirred up wanderlust I’ve been attempting to suppress the past year and change. Having neither money nor time tends to put a damper on travel plans. And there will certainly not be any extravagant trips in the next year or so, as I’ll be busy completing my Master’s Degree in Teaching, and learning how to be a high school science teacher. This has been my greatest accomplishment of the past year, slowly ticking off all the steps to apply for the program, getting (and apparently acing!) an interview, and finally, being notified that I will start grad school in March.
With that new horizon in sight, I think I will return to posting, not about exotic travels, but about my new adventure in higher education. Rereading old posts, especially about my teaching experiences helped me to reflect deeply on my two years of being in front of classes, and i find it even more valuable looking back than I did writing at the time. I especially enjoy reading and remembering some of the many challenges I faced and (mostly!) conquered. It gives me so much energy and enthusiasm for my next challenge, one I really can’t wait to start.
My last real installment was written more than a year and a half ago, which I really can’t believe. It seems like just yesterday I lived half a world away, and yet so much has happened in that time. I’ve come home, and reconnected with friends and family here. I’ve enjoyed over a year of the holidays and gatherings I missed so much while I was away (I’ve had 2 real Thanksgivings! And two Christmases!). There are weddings coming up in the next year that I’ll actually be able to attend! I’ve worked for nearly a year as a Nanny to first one, then two families. One of the children was 10 days old when I started, and I’ve had the chance to watch his development over the past 9 months, from sleeping all the time to laughing, rolling over, crawling, and now, nearly walking. It’s strange to think that, as big of a role as I play in his life now, he will likely not remember me as he continues to grow.
But enough sap. I’ll be back, probably infrequently, but as long as people are interested, I’ll keep posting!
This recipe comes from my Great-Great-Grandmother, Harriet Ann Buck Baird (My mother insists her name be attached to it!). The recipe is my mother’s translation of her measurements to modern day amounts, as she wrote it using spoons and other non-standard containers from her kitchen.
1 c sugar
1 c milk
1 c dark molasses
3 ½ c flour
1 c butter
2 tsp soda
1 tsp cinnamon
6 tsp powdered ginger
Cream (room temperature) butter and sugar together. Add beaten (room temperature) eggs a little at a time. Add flour and milk alternately. Sift spices and soda with the flour mixture. After flour and milk have been added, add molasses. This can be mixed and used when wanted if kept in a cool place. Preheat oven to 325º. Butter a 7”x11” pyrex pan (also works well in a greased bundt pan, and looks really beautiful!). Bake for 40-45 minutes and try a toothpick to test doneness.
I realize it’s been awhile since I’ve written. As I’ve mentioned before, this spring has been extraordinarily and joyously busy for me. I’ve had the privilege to be a part of a close-knit groups of friends which tends to get together several times a week in various iterations, which has left little time to write. I’ve excused myself from my duties, as I see them because my time here with these special people is so short, and now, even more rapidly drawing to a close. Because of the fact, however, my thoughts turn to the sentimental, and I’d like to write a bit about how much the past two years have meant to me.
This country can be maddeningly inefficient, with graft at every turn, environmental missteps, and human rights abuses. As many faults and frustrating aspects as Indonesia has, it is nonetheless an incredible place to live. I’ve been fortunate enough to explore many corners of this vast country, with Sumatra as the one major island I’ve yet to visit (someday, I will return!). From komodo dragons and diving in Komodo, orangutans in Borneo, fantastic funerals in Sulawesi, glorious food and culture in Bali, awe-inspiring landscapes and beaches in Flores, underappreciated hospitality (not to mention the best fried duck in the WORLD) in Madura and the many, many wonders of Java, I feel like I’ve seen it all, and yet, so little. It is a country of staggering beauty, friendly and welcoming people, and a reminder of the wildness that still exists in our world, as hard as we seem to try to snuff it out.
As the first line of the Lonely Planet guide entry for Surabaya reads, “Surabaya is a difficult place to love.” Perhaps true, but it’s worth the difficulty. Yes, it’s a massive, traffic-clogged city, and it often takes an hour to go from one side to the other, more at peak traffic times. True, at times it can seem like nothing but malls and smog and heat. To a tourist, I would advise to avoid the city, but to a resident, the parts that are loveable reveal themselves. There are wonderful restaurants and cafes that we’d find after much trial and error, including our group’s favorite, Kuche und Kaffee, a delightful German oasis run by my dear friend Nadia. We found incredible Szechuan cuisine at our favorite hole-in-the-wall Chinese place, where the menus don’t even have Indonesian, much less English. We enjoyed fine French dining at Citrus Lee, where I first solidified the friendships that would define my time here. Even just sitting around at friend’s homes, or when they would come to dinner at my aunt and uncle’s house, our lives seem to revolve around food and togetherness.
I maintain that it is the people who make a city, and if so, Surabaya is the most beautiful city on Earth. It may not be as cool and lovely as Malang, or as fashionable as Bandung, or as lively as Kuta, but the people I’ve met here, both Indonesian and foreign have made this place a home. Foremost in that respect, I have to mention my family here. My aunt and uncle, and two cousins who have welcomed me into their home more times than I can count, who have been a safe haven and a refuge when loneliness or stress or sadness threatened to swallow me whole. And there have been those bad times. Before I had friends here, this city was incredibly lonely and isolating, and I’ve said before, I don’t know how I would have managed without my family here. When I received the devastating news that my childhood dog had to be put to sleep, I had a place to go and grieve with people who would understand my loss. The few times I’ve been very sick here, I had a home and a mom, even if not my own, to make me feel better.
It has meant more than just help in the hard times, though. I’ve stayed with them plenty when everything was just fine, and I value the bonding experience of living so close to them immensely. My uncle moved to Taiwan the year I was born, so out of my mother’s side of the family, he has always been the one I’ve known least. As a kid, I was intimidated by this stranger I only saw every few years. Later, I knew his family better, but we still only saw him and my aunt, and then the kids every 2-3 years. When a kid is 1 when you see him, then 3, then 6, then 9, so much has happened in the intervening years, and so much is missed. I’ve been here to celebrate two birthdays for each cousin, two Christmases, two birthdays shared by my uncle and me (I fairly certain we had never been together on our shared day before!), and two New Year’s. I’ve stayed with the kids while their parents are out of town, the infinitesimal bit I can give back for all they’ve given me. I’ve had l the same moments you get when someone is visiting, but also all the mundane moments in between that I would never have had if not for living here. I’ve gotten to know each member of my family here so much better.
I’ve connected with the younger (boy) cousin by being silly and goofy and playing games, and helping him study and do homework. I’ve connected with the teenaged girl but relating my memories of that awkward time and trying to help her see her own worth and beauty and intelligence, too easily forgotten in the drama of middle school life. I’ve connected with my aunt over her worries and fears for her kids, trying to reassure her that they are, in fact, quite normal, and that many of the distressing behaviors will alleviate with time, love, and a whole crapload of patience. And I’ve connected with my uncle by talking to him about his life and travels and experiences, and taking everything I can to learn from him.
And my friends. I met most of them just 6 months ago, at an epic New Year’s bash that started with the aforementioned gourmet French meal, and ended with us at McDonald’s, trying to get the other patrons to start a chant with us. Emily, Heather, TJ, Rem, Winda, Sari, Nadia, Michelle, Leo, Lizeth, Rachael, and later, Iris, and Ali, and Beth, and Tara are the people who have enlivened my time here and made the last six months one of the most special times of my life. I love these people like they are my family. After the next few months, most of our little family will be scattered across the globe. I can’t but think that we will see each other again, so we’ll never say goodbye, only sampai nanti, or until later.
I started to pack today. I went to my room and pulled everything I owned out of cupboards and drawers and off shelves and tables, and laid it out in rough piles. Stuff to leave or throw away, stuff to pack for Seattle, stuff to take with me on my next adventure, two months in mainland South East Asia. As I made my piles, I was flooded with memories from the last two years. Ticket stubs from my first flight here, souvenirs from various trips, old receipts that recall memorable meals or crazy weekends. When I had pretty much everything strewn around me, on the bed and the floor, it all got to be too much. I sank down onto the floor and just stared at everything. My heart raced, my vision darkened, my limbs were weak, and I felt prickling behind my eyes. I felt so silly to react in such a way, but all of a sudden, I realized that it was not just laziness that made me procrastinate my packing until my last week. It was the subconscious knowledge that packing up was the concrete evidence that my time is done here.
As excited as I am to go home (and I am incredibly excited to live in Seattle again, and to live with my entire family, including my sister, whom I haven’t seen in two years!!), and as excited as I am to visit friends and have adventures for the next two months, I am extraordinarily sad to close out this chapter of my life. Indonesia has left an indelible mark on my heart, in more ways than I can count. I never thought I would have to leave my home to return to it.
Ok, here’s where I write the usual spiel, I’ve been busy, I should have written more, etc, etc.
Now, on to more interesting topics:
I’ve finally made a decision about what I’m going to do at the end of this school year. I’ve told a few people already, but for everyone else who hasn’t heard, I will be coming home to Seattle at the end of August. My school year ends June 29, and the next day I will be on a plane to Cambodia. For all of July and August I’ll be traveling around Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam visiting friends who also live abroad, and just unwinding. Near the end of August, I’ll be heading back to Seattle where I’ll hopefully find a job and a home (hahahahahahahaha!). In any case, I look forward to seeing everyone back home. Additionally, if anyone is looking for exciting summer plans, come join me in SE Asia!
Other than figuring out my future, I have been quite busy. Work 7:30-4, or 5, or 6 (blerg), and social life all the rest of the time. So really, just as life gets really good here, I decide to quit and go home. Just kidding. Sort of.
But work is still interesting and challenging. Pretty much every day my kids say something new and hilarious. Some examples:
From my Grade 2 students playing an animal guessing game:
“Do you live in the water?” “No.”
“Do you eat people?” “No.”
“Are you a panda?” “YES!”
I guess they’re just on the same wavelength…
“Miss how old are you?”
“How old do you think I am?”
“FORTY?!?! You get an F! I’m 25!” (I was just kidding…)
“But Miss just looks so much older…”
Just keep digging deeper, kid…
Then, just today in math class, I told the kids to write word problems about volume and capacity (our current unit). One student finished quickly and brought his notebook up to show a story about him and another 3rd grader drinking different volumes of “whine”. Wine? Are you kidding me? And when I laughed and joked about how he was kidding about the wine, he claimed he wasn’t joking! I’m still not sure what to believe there.
In far superior news, unlike last semester, we have national holidays and long weekends this semester! Our first long weekend was last weekend, and a coworker and I decided to go to Kuala Lumpur. I’ve posted all sorts of photos on facebook, so hopefully you can seem them here. I also finally posted the photos from the Chinese New Year Break when Mom and Dad visited, which you can see here.
Following our time in the jungle, we headed back to Manado in order to head to Bunaken for diving. We found a great place to stay and dive, Daniel’s Homestay and Immanuel Divers, which had reasonably priced bungalows and the dive master invited the snorkelers in our group (my mom and cousins) to come on the dive boat every afternoon for free. If you haven’t done this sort of thing before, that is kind of unheard of. Most places will take snorkelers out for a fairly steep fee (5-10 Euros), but this was totally free! They even had one of the helpers on the boat go out with the snorkelers to show them parts of the reef and keep them safe, while the rest of us were under the sea (cue sea life band here).
The dives were absolutely incredible. We did six dives over three days, some better than others, but all pretty darn great. On one dive in particular, we saw six or seven turtles, one right after another, and close enough to touch (but I didn’t, because I am a good steward of my environment…). Bunaken is such an incredible experience in terms of the health of the coral, and the abundance of life, and of course, the intensity of the drop off of walls that just go down and down forever.
We stayed for about 4 days, and I can’t speak for the rest of us, but I felt the usual relaxation that I generally feel as I’m on the diving/beach segments of my travels. It was fun to dive with my dad and my uncle again, if a little challenging because neither of them can conserve air worth a damn! They needed to come up when I had enough air to stay down for another 15-20 minutes! Fortunately, on at least one dive, I was able to hook up with another trio of divers after my dad and uncle and our guide surfaced, and was able to see a ton more animals, including a moray eel, and a couple more turtles.
It rained quite a bit, and I think we all (but especially my mom and dad) could have done with some more sun, but luckily most of our activities could happen with or without it. After a week, we sadly said goodbye to our island paradise and headed back to Surabaya. My uncle had to leave for Las Vegas for the next day, and unfortunately couldn’t spend any more time with my parents for the next two-thirds of their trip. Fortunately, however, my aunt (who had been in Taiwan while we were in Sulawesi) had returned to Surabaya and we got to spend time with her and the cousins for the rest of the trip.
Back in Surabaya, my aunt was kind enough to invite all my friends over for a “simple” dinner, consisting of about 10 dishes. It was hard to know where the time went that evening, as everyone had such a great time talking and eating and getting to one another. I was so happy for my parents to finally put faces to names that they’ve heard for a year+ now. My friends also enjoyed the home-cooked Chinese food from my aunt, and have all been angling to come over again soon!
After my uncle left, we had a few days to relax and unwind in Surabaya. This is where it gets hard for me to account for the days. Of the next two weeks, we spent one day on a brief trip down to Malang and back, and 4 days with just my parents and me in Madura. The other 9 days must have just been us spending time together in Surabaya, but it doesn’t feel like that many days! In any case, a few days later, my mom had read about a bunch of Hindu temples on the way south to Malang, so we all got in a car and spent a day driving down and back to see the remains. The temples were discovered fairly recently, and have been determined to be the ruins of the capital of the Hindu Majapahit Empire which once ruled all of Indonesia and the Malay peninsula. The remnants of this culture can be found in Bali, where they fled after the Muslim invasion in the 15th century.
The temples were mostly small, none so grand as Prambanan or Borobudur in Central Java, but beautiful none the less, and the trip made for a fun, if long day. It rained again at times, but mom and I still dashed out to get pictures at each stop.
TO BE CONTINUED…
I’ve been remiss in writing about the various adventures I had during my Winter Break, when my parents were visiting, as well as the beginning of our new semester, which has been both fun and challenging.
First, my time with my parents. They were here for a full 3 weeks, from mid-January to just after school started February 9. It felt like we were busy the whole time, but looking back it’s hard for me to account for all the days. We began our trip with the three of us, plus my uncle and two cousins traveling to Sulawesi for a week. We spent the first two days at Tangkoko National Park about 2 hours outside of Manado. Our first evening there we took a guided hike into the jungle to see rare primates known as tarsiers. They’re nocturnal and live inside hollow trees, so we arrived at their tree around dusk to watch them as they woke up. We had to shine lights into the tree to find them, and Mom got a few really good pictures. They are incredibly adorable with huge, round eyes, and extremely long thin fingers and toes. The guides caught crickets to coax them out of the tree, and put one on a sapling a meter or so away from the tree to show how they can jump.
The next day, my uncle and I went on a long jungle hike, about 5 miles total. Our first goal was to see another endangered ape, black-crested macaques, which are found only in this tiny corner of the world. They were all around us, swinging in trees, chasing each other, and squabbling. Some females even had the cutest little baby macaques clinging to their bellies. We saw our first troop early on in the hike, near the beach, and then proceeded to travel deeper into the real jungle until we were completely immersed into a green, luscious, tropical vegetation, with the scent of damp earth, and the incredibly loud buzz and whir of cicadas filling the air.
We hiked past impressive fig trees with high, buttressed roots, and strangler figs which grow around other trees until they have enough structure to stand on their own, and the tree in the middle dies, leaving a lacy network instead of a trunk. Interlaced between all the trees were massive twisty vines, palm frond, and surprisingly spiny rattan canes. The jungle floor was actually quite open, which makes sense upon reflection that most of the light is blocked by the tall canopy above. Anywhere a tree had fallen, however, the abundance of undergrowth flourished in a furious race for the top.
As we hiked, we actually heard a tree crash to the ground (insert tree falling in the forest with SOMEONE to hear it joke here…), and a little later on, I almost died when a giant branch plummet to earth IN FRONT OF MY FACE. If I had been literally another step forward, I’m sure I would have died. It scared the crap out of me, truly. But with everything, it was a really wonderful experience, and the first time I had truly been deep in the jungle.
TO BE CONTINUED…