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 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).
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.
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.
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.
Day 6 Next I found myself with the only other married couple at the time in Tulungagung with Sushma and Vineet.
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.
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.
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
it as much as he has and as much as I enjoyed visiting.
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.
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. I 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) Exercise 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.