Through the Eyes of Others

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Jen was lucky enough to go back to the States last August for 10 days. Which left me 10 unused days of travel. I didn’t want to leave the country so I decided to visit my fellow PCVs and enjoy a day in the life of them, visiting their schools and seeing where they live. I know we often get together to escape site and find ourselves at a beach or a big city to enjoy a drink and maybe a nice meal, But I was happy to go around East Java to visit the places other volunteers spend most of their time and to meet the people they see day to day.

Day 1-2 I started in Probolinggo with fellow volunteer Richard Murphy. He brought me around to his very naturistic school, lots of grass for pathways, on the edge of a Rice Field, no concrete anywhere which was a nice change from my school.

Richard Teaching

Richard Teaching

Richard is actually living with a family from a past volunteer who left last June, He is also in the same school. Its been hard for him in a way because everyone in his comuunity is comparing him to the volunteer before him, but knowing Richard and his strong personality and smashing good looks, He is definitly setting himself apart from his predeccessor (even though Dean was also smashingly good looking).

 

Indonesian Worms

Indonesian Worms, Click for a larger view

His family was nice enough to take us fishing as well, my first time fishing in Indonesia, I caught 2 fish, and we used the strangest earth worms I’ve ever seen.They had small little legs on them unlike the worms in the US which are typically circular and smooth all the way around.

 

 

 

Day 3-4 My next stop is a small island north east of Java called Madura. A short 30 minute ferry ride got me on the edge of an island whose people have many rumors where I live in Banyuwangi. “Madurese people are mean” “Watch out, they like to fight” “they are very loud.” I’ve heard people say, but of course from fellow volunteers on this island, I know the people are just as friendly as any other indonesians I’ve met. I’m not sure where these rumors come from, but all I know is that they are not true. I was asked multiple times during my stay if I felt at home, or if I felt happy here, and it goes to show me that the Madurese people are very concerned with my happiness and well being. They offered me bread out of the blue for free, they made sure I was well fed and made sure that I had company when and if I wanted it.

Me and Gavin in Class

Me and Gavin in Class

I stayed with another ID9 (same as Richard) named Gavin Lucky, a very tall, intelligent, and witty glass of water in which anyone should be happy to induldge in conversation, you will not be let down. He took me to THE Grilled Duck restaurant that people travel miles to go to, call Bebek Sinjay (Sinjay’s Ducks). Gavin lives in a small village called Kwanyar, where the downtown is hopping around 7pm and the early morning fish market is worth the visit.

 

Riding Tandum

Riding Tandum

Day 5 I then made my way to Blitar, in Southern central East Java. My friend and fellow volunteer Emily Werner said “there’s nothing here but the grave of Sukarno” one of Indonesia’s past presidents. And she was right (for the most part). Big city with no public transport, a big Alun Alun (a central city park) and thats about it. Emily and I rode tandum and was joined by ID9 Nicky Fish, they took me to their favorite coffee shop and restaurant where we enjoyed a beer and some delicious Chinese Indoesian fused food.

Favorite Coffee Shop

Favorite Coffee Shop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 6 Next I found myself with the only other married couple at the time in Tulungagung with Sushma and Vineet.

Soft serve at D'Java

Soft serve at D’Java

A wonderful curdious, friendly couple whose knowledge and wisdom far exceeds their age, I hope the other ID9s and ID10s take advantage of their life advice and courage as they all continue to embark on this journey together. They brought me in to their second story loft and treated me to a delicious dinner, and took me on a walk around their big city to the Alun Alun. During the night they took me to Djava coffee shop where I had the best soft serve ice cream to date here. Unlike other volunteers, They work in Schools that are right next to each other, Unlike Jen and my school where ours are 5 kilometers apart. I wish I could have spent more time with them but my journey was only half way done and I had much more traveling to do to the western mountains.

 

Day 7

Debate Practice

Debate Practice

I traveled into the mountains to an fellow ID8’s site, Russel Ferguson, called Trenggalek. I dropped in on his school day just in time to observe him in action with his debate team. They were very in tune with Russel’s presentation of how to express yourself during a debate with different tones of voice and body language. His site was one of my favorite sites. High in the mountains so its cool at night, just a few minutes walk from a plethera of hiking trails that lead to wonderous places like waterfalls,

huge rice paddy fields with mountain backdrops, and deep gorged rivers.

Mountain Hiking, At the top

Mountain Hiking, At the top

Russel took me to one of the highest peaks he knew of within reasonable walking distance. It was well into rainy season so we had to get scratched up a bit making our way through the lack of path and over grown brush, weeds, and vines. It felt like I was in the mountains camping. Russel also was currently living with three of the fluffiest cats I’ve seen since living in Indonesia so I was happy to have some well deserved cat therapy when hanging out at night.

I hope the future volunteers that are placed there will enjoy

Adorable Fluffy Cats

Adorable Fluffy Cats

it as much as he has and as much as I enjoyed visiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stalacs and Stalags in Pacitan

Stalacs and Stalags in Pacitan

Day 8 – 9

My second to last stop on my trip is in the very south west corner of East Java, Pacitan. Hidden away in a huge mountain valley and on the coast, this paradise includes huge waves for surfing, large and deep mountainous caves a mere hour from the city center filled with geological features such as stalactites and stalagmites, a big city with western restaurants as well delicious local Indonesian food, everything a foreign backpacker would want if traveling.

Pacitan Sunset on the beach

Pacitan Sunset on the beach

Which I happened to run into a lot of foreign backpackers there looking for big waves and big adventures. I was able to hang out with the only ID8 volunteer there Ben Steiner, he was unfortunately sick the day I arrived but the next day we were able to travel around to his favorite beach and to 2 caves. He also let me stop by his house to meet his host brother and to see his school (right across the street). If I were to go back to Pacitan I would want a few more days there to see all the beautiful beaches and explore all the hidden caves (over 1000 caves) in his area. But alas I was happy to be able to visit for the short time I had.

 

Day 10 My last stop was just a short 17 hour bus ride from Pacitan heading all the way back east to Lumajang, which is only 2 provinces away from my home of Banyuwangi. IMG_1155I visited an ID9 Nicole Chop, She lives in a small village with a Madurese family. She has two cats, one of them which has no eyes whatsoever, just two void goopy holes in her head, but she is just the happiest thing that could be. I notice she knows Nicole’s foot steps apart from anybody else’s, so she happily trots along behind Nicole meowing hoping for her to drop some food. And to be honest she gets around just fine, she knows the house, and can catch flies, yes FLIES! I was fortunate enough to join Nicole’s school the next morning for early morning Senam (its like jazzercise)  IMG_1177Exercise with music and certain moves being lead by one person. All the teachers were doing it while all the students watched and laughed. Of course laughed even more so because there was another foreigner, large and bearded showing off his dance moves. I then was able to join Nicole’s Story Telling Club, they were having practice for a competition in a few weeks so I was able to listen in to them tell the story of The Lion and the Snake (at least I think thats what it was called).

 

 

Over all my journey across this land so familiar yet unfamiliar was so enjoyable and I encourage any other PCVs to do the same if you have the time. I know traveling to big cities and far away beaches may sound more appealing but to see other volunteers in their world, is a chance we rarely get to see.

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For new Indo PCVs: How to arrive prepared and rock PST!

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If you’re reading this, you’re probably a new invitee to Peace Corps Indonesia, so CONGRATULATIONS! You’re about to make your Peace Corps service all your own and you don’t need us telling you what to do or how to act, but here are some notes anyway on things that, looking back, would have been useful to have or know when we arrived.

Stuff to do before you get here:
– Learn a little about Indonesian history (Suharto’s dictatorship, financial crisis) and previous conflicts in Indonesia (East Timor, Papua, Aceh)
– Watch “The Act of Killing” by Josh Oppenheimer (on Netflix) and “A Year of Living Dangerously” (starring baby Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver)
– Load up your Kindle with books like The Buru Quartet by Pramoedya Ananta Toer; In the Time of Madness: Indonesia on the edge of Chaos by Richard Lloyd Parry; Ring of Fire by Lawrence Blair with Lorne Blair; and Indonesia: Archipelago of Fear by Andre Vltchek
– Download some of your favorite podcasts for your long travel leg
– Enjoy your last few weeks with friends, family and dogs.

Packing List!
CLOTHES: *During PST you’re going to be in training 5 or 6 days a week, and on your day off you might not get a chance to do your laundry. You may wear your “professional” attire a couple of times before you wash it. Check your local thrift store for good finds! “Conservative”or “polite” attire for women generally means your elbows, knees, and collarbones are covered, and if you’re wearing fitted pants, your top extends down to cover your butt. For men, polite attire also generally means your knees are covered.

Women’s packing list:
4 sports bras
5 regular bras
20 pairs of underwear!
5 pairs of workout socks (the only time I ever wear socks is when I work out)
2-3 light cardigans and 2 pairs of leggings to make an outfit instantly modest
4 blouses or collared, button-down shirts
4 pairs of professional slacks or khakis
2 Skirts/dresses if you like wearing skirts and dresses.
3 casual tops
3-4 T-shirts
3 pairs of comfy shorts for sleeping/hanging out in your room.
3 sets of workout bottoms (yoga pants or 3/4 length workout leggings)
1 pair cute shorts for when you get out of the village
2-3 pairs neutral colored flats
1 pair flip flops
1 pair workout shoes
1 pair casual slip-ons or sandals
Tampons (Or you can also get a Diva cup from the PCMOs when you get here)
Makeup and Jewelry (if you’re into that): You may buy a lot of jewelry here- just bring 2 pairs of earrings and a statement necklace in addition to any subtle jewelry you wear every day. For makeup, don’t worry about foundation because your skin tone will change here. Maybe bring translucent powder and 1 set of the basics. You can generally get makeup here.

Men’s Packing List:
20 pairs of underwear! (Especially if you’re 6’ tall and 200 lbs, you might have trouble finding comfy underwears that fit)
6-8 undershirts (see note one undershirts below)
10 pairs of socks
4 Button-down, collared shirts. (not polo shirts- they’re considered sportswear here.)
4 pairs of professional slacks or khakis
4 T-shirts for just hanging around
5 pairs of athletic shorts
2 pairs of casual shorts
2-3 pairs dress/office shoes
1 pair flip flops
1 pair workout shoes
1 pair casual slip-ons or sandals
No need for ties or suit jackets. You will never wear these.

Men and Women:
A note on shoes: We have gotten away with wearing solid colored Toms as professional closed-toed shoes. There are Payless and other shoe stores here and it’s not hard to come by shoes as long as your feet are average sized (See note on clothes for large people, below)

Some volunteers have kept aside a few sets of nice clothes or new underwears so that as your other things get ripped to shreds from rough laundering and sun drying, you can periodically pull out something that feels new and clean. One of our site mates actually had a “Year 2 Bag”, she didn’t use anything out of it until she hit the 1 year at site mark, she said it was like getting a new wardrobe.

Notes on clothes from a 6’3” 210lb male with size 14 shoes:
Shoes: Bring enough to last you the next two years. I packed my bag with 7 pairs of shoes and it was completely worth using the space. I brought two quality “dress” shoes that I’ve worn to school and training this whole time and haven’t broken on me.  I brought 3 pairs of basic black Toms I’ve also worn for trainings and occasionally at school. I brought one pair of flip flops and 2 pairs of sneakers for exercise and camping/hiking trips.

Undershirts: Bring like 6 NEW undershirts. You will wear them all the time (if you don’t, expect a wet sweaty smelly shirt all the time) and they get worn down pretty quickly with laundry methods here. Spring for some white or grey dry-fit shirts (sleeve less, tank top, or regular tshirt all work) because you can use them for both working out, hanging around the house, and as undershirts, and they last much longer than cotton.

Other stuff to think about bringing:
Computer (definitely bring this)
External hard drive loaded up with your favorite movies/shows
Dental floss (the floss we get in our med kits is not great)
Favorite kind of toothpaste (you can find Colgate here but that’s it)
Airborne or Emergen-C, Probiotics or vitamins (bring a doctor’s note/”prescription”)
6 month supply of any special hair care products you need (Enough time for someone to mail you a package)
Small bottle of nail polish remover and a couple bottles of nice nail polish if you’re into that
Gold Bond powder (helps with sweat)
Natural bug spray (like Natrapel)
Your fav seasonings- Cholula, Italian or Creole seasoning, Mrs. Dash.
Cocoa butter or your fav lotion

And here are some Tips for Surviving Being Black in Indo from current PCV Keela:
1) You are a Queen and You are a King
2) You HAVE SUPPORT, don’t be shy to reach out!
3) People will say you’re from Papua (a place in Indonesia )
4) You might get people pointing at you, laughing and saying the word “hitam manis/ orang hitam” which means black is sweet.
5) Your skin will get dry, walk with lotion or like Cori (ID9) Cocoa Butter.
6) There’s lots of people that will celebrate your skin color
7) You are UNIQUE, so OWN it! People may ask “Asli mana” and you will say Amerika and they will say ” Afrika?/ no Asli Mana, Dari mana?” And you’ll say “Amerika” then they’ll say “ohhhh Amerika” use these as teachable moments to explain that America is diverse! Teach them how AWESOME you are.
8) You might be asked are you going to use a whitening cream to get lighter. Tell them ” aku tidak perlu, Dan kamu tidak perlu juga” which means no I don’t need it and neither do you. You can also add “aku cinta aku sekali” I love myself very much!
9)  You will get annoyed when you first get here, you have allies. Don’t suffer alone!
10) Don’t be afraid to give things a try!

Good luck guys, see you soon and hati-hati di jalan! 🙂

My students react to anti-Islamic rhetoric

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by jen
Back in December I heard about some of the things that Trump was saying about how Muslims hate Americans and immediately felt like I needed to ask my students, co-workers and neighbors about it. I hoped that Trump would have been totally shut down and that it wouldn’t still be relevant now, but apparently it’s still worth posting. Enjoy 🙂

2016 Is here

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We’ve been pretty busy the past couple of months and haven’t gotten around to maintaining our blog, but we’re back in a regular schedule at school for our last semester of service so we hope to be better at posting updates as part of our semi-regular routine! To make up for lost time, here’s kind of a boring update on what we’re up to these days. 🙂

Things are going well, we’re in our last semester, we’re teaching regularly, classes and clubs and extra free English lessons are happening, and we’re ready to finish our service with strength in the next few months. Our official COS (close of service) date is June 8th, so we’ll be back in the US just a couple of days after that.

That also means we have just over four months left to do everything we’ve been wanting to do but haven’t gotten a chance, like making resources and typing up lesson plans for things that have worked well with our counterparts so that we can leave them with some class activities to build on after we’ve left. Jen is training some students for an English Debate Competition in February and dreaming up another painting project to beautify her school. Craig is almost finished creating a lesson book based on his school curriculum, and his English club has developed a solid base of members and they’re doing fun stuff with English every Thursday after school. Craig has also been taking a lot of really long bus trips with his students and teachers. But we hope to tell you more about this stuff in upcoming posts, so check back again soon, and in the meantime, check out our previous post about our trip to Kalimantan and Sulawesi over the holidays! Thanks. Love, Craig and Jen

Travel post: Kalimantan and Sulawesi Dec 2015

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We had a great trip to Kalimantan and Sulawesi in December as part of our last efforts to to see as much of Indonesia as possible before we leave in a few months. Indonesia is such a huge country and each island has its own particular culture, so although we haven’t gotten to travel all over South East Asia like some of our friends, we’re happy that we’ve gotten to explore different parts of our host country while we’re here.

The first day of our trip, we stepped out on the unfamiliar Island of Borneo. We landed in the travel hub/transit town of Balikpapan, Kalimantan at 7:30 am where there were Sun Bears, Orangutans, and Alligators waiting for us. We found a driver to drive us around without ripping us off too bad and we headed to our homestay to drop our bags before we left to find our animal friends.

First we stopped at Teritip Crocodile Farm, where we surprisingly found two elephants in addition to the numerous crocodiles. One elephant came close enough for us to feed and pet! After hanging out for a few minutes with the elephants, we walked around to see the large holding pools of all different aged and sized crocodiles and alligators (they had both). The crocodiles are farmed for their meat and skin, so at the little souvenir stall they had crocodile wallets and penises in jars for sale. We decided against those purchases but asked why people buy crocodile penises. The salesperson told us that owning a crocodile penis in a jar gives a person power. Ok, but no thanks! There was also a food stall that served Crocodile Satay, which we skipped. It’s not like we’ve never had alligator before! 😉

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Craig communicating with the elephant in the field at Teritip Croc Farm

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Croc pen at Teritip

The next stop was supposed to be Samboja Lodge, an eco-lodge/orangutan sanctuary where if you stay at the lodge for a few days or longer, you can volunteer with the Orangutans by observing their behavior, cutting up fruit, or helping build new structures for their habitats. Although we weren’t able to volunteer since we were just on a day trip, we had still arranged for a tour of the habitat and facilities, but unfortunately it started pouring rain on our way there and by the time we got there, it was closed for the day as all the animals were also trying their best to get out of the rain. We were bummed, but our driver suggested we go get some lunch and then go check out the Sun Bear Sanctuary if the rain stopped, which turned out to be a great experience! Basically the sanctuary is made up of a log cabin next to a large fenced-in Sun Bear habitat. All around the grounds, there were dozens of cats up for adoption roaming around, keeping us company while we looked at the bear exhibit with tons of info about not only Sun Bears but all the bears all over the world. Then we waited patiently for the Sun Bear feedings (the caretakers basically smear fruit on trees on the outer rims of their habitat so the bears get exercise and we get a good chance to see them in their large habitat). After waiting a while, we were able to see three adorable, skin rolled, golden-chested Sun Bears. They were worth the wait.

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Such cute sun bears looking like they’re sagging their pants.

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Licking fruit smeared on the branches. You can just see his golden chest necklace!

We took off from Balikpapan the next day to go to the Derawan Archipelago off the coast of East Kalimantan. From the Berau airport, we took a 2.5 car ride and a 30 minute speedboat ride to Derawan Island, which looked like the most populated island in the area. As soon as our speedboat cut the engine in the shallow waters off of Derawan, our driver pointed to the water next to our boat and said, “Turtle.” Indeed, there was a huge green sea turtle right next to our boat, swimming slowly along in the super clear water!

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The main (and only) drag on Derawan Island

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Sunset view from Derawan

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Craig, Saaj and Ryan amongst the coconut trees on Derawan

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Derawan coast

Over the next three days we did a lot of snorkeling and hit four different islands: Derawan (where we slept); Maratua (where we snorkeled along the beach); Sangalaki (where we saw Manta Rays swimming under our boat and a Sea Turtle Sancuary); and Kakaban (where we swam in a brackish lake full of stingless jellyfish…the main reason why we decided to make the trek to these remote islands).

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Beautiful Maratua island…no development to be seen from the coast, but apparently there’s an airport inland

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Craig with baby turtle at Sangalaki Island Turtle Sanctuary

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Cute little tiny baby turtles!!!

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Kakaban Island pier

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Chillin’ on a random sandbar in the middle of the ocean before high tide

The lake on Kakaban mangrove island holds four different kinds of stingless jellyfish which have evolved to become stingless as there have been no other predators in this lake for, I guess, millions of years. So, the jellyfish are able to flourish. It was the strangest feeling swimming through the water (carefully) and touching the jellyfish which felt firm, but squishy, like a raw chicken breast. We could hold the jellies in our hand, touch every part of them, and move them around as we pleased as they pulsated around in their home. It was awesome!

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Craig captures a jellyfish in his hand

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Beautiful Kakaban jellyfish lake

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Jen’s jellyfish photo

After a few amazing days in Paradise, we headed back to the main land and said goodbye to our fellow PCV travel buddies before we flew to Makassar, Sulawesi, yet another new island for us. We went straight to the bus station after we got some dinner at the airport and hopped on an 8 hour night bus North to Toraja Land (Tanah Toraja). We arrived sleepily around 6am the next day, dropped our bags at a homestay and took off to see the area with a Torajan guide.

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Torajan tomb houses specially built for the dead

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Our guide Emmanuel at the door of a family’s tomb house

The Toraja people, established for centuries in Northern South Sulawesi, have a really interesting perspective on death, which was why this area is well-known for its many tombs and grave sites. Many wealthy Torajan families will build luxurious tomb houses for their deceased loved ones, but another common practice is to carve a tomb out of the face of a mountain and seal the grave with a stone. Wealthy families will also make a wooden likeness or effigy called a Tau-Tau for their loved ones. The older Tau-Taus all kind of look the same, but the modern ones look amazingly like the people they’re supposed to represent.

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The fellow in this photo has a Tau-Tau in progress, below….

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We thought the likeness was pretty good. (water buffalo house decorations in the background)

Most Torajan people are Christian these days due to the influence of European missionaries in the area, but a lot of their traditional attitudes toward death are ever-present. For example, when a person in the family dies, they are not treated as dead, but as “sick” until the family is able to hold an elaborate funeral called a “Death Party” (pesta kematian) for them. Sometimes it takes years and years for a family to save enough money to hold a death party for their loved one. So where does the dead person stay until their Death Party? Well, they are usually embalmed, covered in fabric, and then placed back in their family home until party time. So this means that between the time they die and the time their funeral ceremony happens, they are there in the house with the rest of the family, to be acknowledged as you would acknowledge a sick person. For instance, if a guest visits the home where a dead person still is, the guest is expected to say “hello” and “farewell” to the dead person, or the family members might still joke around with the dead person while they’re there. Jen really wanted to have tea with a dead person, but it didn’t happen…we weren’t invited inside.

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Traditional Torajan homes and rice storage units

But, we were able to attend a Death Party for Nenek (Grandma) Sarah, who died two years ago and was just getting around to the ceremony in her honor. Her body had already been placed in a cylindrical, ornately painted coffin, which was probably placed in a tomb house or mountain cave somewhere after the ceremony. Our guide invited us to the party and suggested we bring a donation of tea and sugar as a gift, which we were happy to do. We ended up meeting Grandma Sarah’s granddaughter, Sari, who told us that the Death Party would last for three days and they expected around 1000 guests every day! We counted at least 50 pigs and 20 water buffalo that had been gifted to the family for slaughter that day, and she told us that the day before had been about the same.

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Buffalo and pigs ready to be sacrificed in honor of Grandma Sarah

I had read on another blog that the gift exchange custom (giving pigs, water buffalo, etc) for families of the deceased could be used as an ultimate weapon of passive aggression, and this was confirmed by our guide. The custom works this way: Say you have two Torajan families, the Montagues and the Capulets. If a Montague dies, the Capulets are required by social custom to present the Montague family with a gift of equal or greater value than the Montagues gave to the Capulets the last time a Capulet died. So if the Capulets really don’t like the Montagues (Which of course they don’t,) the Capulets will give the Montagues like 20 water buffalo so that next time a Capulet dies, the Montagues are bound to give them a really extravagant gift that they might not really be able to afford. If the Montagues refuse to match the Capulets’ last gift, the rest of the community will look down on them and the Montagues’ reputation will be damaged.

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These “white” buffalo are the most expensive

Besides having to save up enough money to feed 3000 guests and pay for an elaborate resting place, another thing that takes preparation for the party is the construction of enough temporary structures for the guests so they have a place to eat and rest during the festivities. The temporary houses are not your typical pop-up tents; they look just like the other traditional Toraja houses made from wood, palm trunks, and bamboo. They are ornately carved and painted and we were told that one house takes up to 6 months to build.

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The houses in this photo are temporary and were specially built for the death party

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Selfie enjoying palm wine with Grandma Sarah’s family

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Lunch menu: rice and pork prepared two different ways

Another interesting custom besides the Death Parties is a custom called Manene, where the families of the deceased remove their loved one’s body from their tomb once every 5-10 years to clean them and give them a fresh new outfit. Depending on how long it takes a person to decompose (or how well they were preserved in the first place), Manene can happen to a person every several years for up to like 30 years, or as long as the body is still intact. A person’s TauTau will also be cleaned and have its clothes changed at this time. When a person becomes too decomposed to keep being re-dressed, their bones will be transferred to a shared coffin or cave tomb with the bones of other people from the community. Our guide mentioned that many non-Torajan people don’t believe that your hair and your fingernails continue to grow after you die- but it’s true. They know, because they’ve been checking in on their deceased loved ones. Here’s a link to a Daily Mail article about Manene with some cool photos of dead people standing up on their own…check it out.

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Coffins and Tau-Tau at Londa Cave Graves

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Super old coffins at Kete Kesu mountain gravesite

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Resting place of many people at Kete Kesu. We saw so many human bones in Toraja

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Baby Grave tree. Towards the top is a hole in the bark that has been naturally sealed

Interesting Toraja death tradition #3: the Baby Grave Trees. This tradition has been inactive for the last 50 years or so due to a decline in infant mortality and a rise in Christianity, but Torajan people used to believe that when a baby died, its soul was still alive. So they would carve a hole in a tree big enough for the baby’s body, place the baby inside, and cover the outside of the tree with palm leaf fibers so that the baby’s soul could continue to grow with the tree. The sap of this particular tree is white and thick, resembling breast milk, which the Torajan people believe also helps the baby to grow. After a while, the bark of the tree grows back together again, entombing the baby’s body forever.

 

From Toraja Land, we got on another super nice night bus that arrived back in Makassar about 24 hours before we had to fly back to Java. It was still pouring rain in Makassar, but we (and our public transportation drivers) braved the massive floods throughout the city to see one last thing on our vacation: Star Wars Episode VII. We arrived at the super fancy Trans Studio Mall, walked up and bought our tickets on opening day for 40,000 RP (about $2.80) apiece. By the time the movie was over, the rain had actually cleared up a bit and the day had turned into a nice one, so we were pleased that on our way back to our homestay by the airport, we happened to get on a bus that took us through the downtown port area and past the typical things to see in Makassar: Losari Beach, Fort Rotterdam, and the big signs in front of which people are always taking selfies. We had a big dinner back at our homestay and the next morning set out on an hour flight and a ten-hour bus ride back to site.

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Rain in Makassar turned parking lots into lakes

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens on opening day!!

There will always be places we wish we would have seen, but during this trip we got to see some unique things we had genuinely hoped to have a chance to experience ever since we arrived in Indonesia. It was obviously great and we traveled in great company with our friends to Kalimantan. We’re really happy we were able to go- you should too, if you can 🙂

Are We Not Afraid?

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Please check out this well-written post from a fellow Indo PCV about the bombing in Jakarta today. Thank goodness we PCVs and staff are OK, but of course it’s a senseless tragedy. News outlets say the attack has now been linked to Isis. Let’s please remember not to villainize Muslims here, as the victims were Muslims themselves.

Source: Are We Not Afraid?

World Map Mural at SMA1 Srono

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by jen

I started this World Map Mural at my school because I was tired of the kids asking me “Is America in Europe, miss?” or “Is America and Africa the same place?” Finally, after an embarrassingly long process,  and with a lot of help from Craig and the students, I’m happy to say that the world map mural at my school is finally finished!

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First, we used an LCD projector to project the border and rough design of the map up on the wall outside. We roughly traced the design, and after that it was just a matter of finding the time to set up when the school was unlocked and there were people around who wanted to help. We ended up writing all the country names in Indonesian because I think it’s more important that the kids learn their geography first, in their own languages. (Also, a lot of country names are the same, with the exception of places like Yunani [Greece!])

Then we got the graffiti kids to write “Dunia Kita” (Our World) underneath the map. It took a while to convince them to do it, maybe because they’re not used to being encouraged to write on walls. On the last day we were finishing up painting, a random student walked by and said, “Our world. Our world that we own ourselves.” I though that was pretty cool. Simple and to the point.

Below are some photos of the process 🙂 It was fun, but I’m happy it’s finally finished, thanks to everyone who helped!
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