As many of you know, I came to Indonesia without much of an idea on what would happen, so I thought I was prepared for the “unexpected”. “Known unknowns,” if you will. My trip still manages to defy what few expectations I might have had at the beginning. This weekend added another layer of unpredictability, but also understanding, to my time here. It was random and absurd, but also unforgettably entertaining, and a major step in the right direction for my attitude towards the next three months.
To start, a summary of last week: I was sick from Sunday-Thursday with fevers and the fun that comes with such illness. Being at half-power did not affect me too much, however, because we only had one lesson besides dance for the whole week. It was Bahasa Indonesian, which I loved, despite only learning numbers. Hopefully we can really pick up the language classes with time so I have something to show the embassy when I return to DC, sometime in the future.
Besides the Bahasa class, we went to see the largest four-faced Buddha statue in Indonesia, which was pretty cool, but in the back of what seems like a haphazardly constructed and then semi-abandoned amusement park. It gave me the impression of the abandoned amusement park near Chernobyl, Ukraine. It was a weird place. Sadly, I didn’t have my camera because I thought we were going to a class, which was an unfortunate miscommunication, so I don’t have any pictures of it. If you follow this link, though, you’ll see how I felt about it.
Since the program did not get better, morale sank pretty low as the week progressed.Word spread quickly to the participants in the other cities, as well as The Committee who, as it turns out, also reads this (hi, guys!). As a result, things started to turn around on Friday.
Pak Azis from Ministry of Foreign Affairs flew out here with Grandy, also on The Committee, to talk to us about our concerns, and then worked out a potential deal with Tydif. I talked one-on-one with Mr. Azis about the outcome and, if everybody sticks to their word, things will get much better very quickly. However, I’m very cautiously optimistic, because we’ve received plenty of talk about help without receiving it.
Following our long negotiation, Pak Azis took us to a delicious street dinner (my first full meal all week!) and we hung out in a very pleasant park with a lovely mix of characters, from families to college students. It was a beautiful night and we finally found a place to have fun, meet people and laugh. After my original impression of Surabaya, it turns out there are some nice places to find around here; we just really have to look for them.
|Being a very amateur photographer, I couldn’t get the right lighting|
|Befriended some musicians and started a singing circle ( I didn’t join)|
The plans for this weekend were to go Malang, a city that’s supposed to be a three hour drive south of Surabaya. Of course, this is in the impossible scenario of “no traffic”. Instead, it took us seven hours to drive down to the house that the arts center had rented for the night. It turned out that we weren’t quite in Malang, but up in a mountain overlooking the city. And we weren’t really going to go to the city. But the alternative for Saturday night was beautiful.
We went to an amusement park.
It was just like my childhood summers in Ocean City, New Jersey. All thirty of us, as a slightly dysfunctional family (12 participants, and Tydif crew), convoyed to the fair and the younger ones (in our 20s though) sprinted for the questionably safe rides while elder members hung back and guarded our bags. There was even a version of the Scrambler, one of the favorites from the OCNJ boardwalk. I hadn’t been on rides like these in years; a wave of nostalgia came with the adrenaline as “The Orbiter” (the Scrambler) whipped us back and forth.
|Rode the swings|
|As seen from the swings ride|
After the park closed, we relocated to a bamboo restaurant, built off the side of the mountain along the main road. There I tried warm milk with ginger mixed in. It’s strange, but is very relaxing and soothing, perfect for a midnight drink. Then I tried warm chocolate milk with ginger. This was tasty, but did not pair well with the mie goreng (fried noodles) that I bought.
When everybody had begun to fall asleep, we went to the house, which was painted a solid, intense green, inside and out. Also, we used this house in Indonesian style, where the entire thirty person group shared the four bedrooms. The nine guys all slept in a row on the living room floor while the females sorted themselves upstairs. Again I thought back to my summers in Ocean City when all of the cousins packed into the living room while the adults shared the few beds in the rest of the house.
Early in the morning we woke up and, after some disjointed exercises to get us moving, piled into the convoy and visited a beautiful waterfall. This was the only thing I expected from the weekend, and it did not disappoint.
|The Back Yard|
From the waterfall, we spent the afternoon in another theme park, the design of which was baffling. You, the readers, are probably imagining, where one can move freely among different clusters of rides. Instead of that, this park was set up in a linear fashion. One could only find different sets of rides by following a predetermined path. Of course, in each section you could move freely among the rides, but god forbid you tried to go back to the previous set. It doesn’t happen. I cannot find the logic in this. Regardless, my favorite part was eating three orders of sate(sah-tay: grilled, skewered meat, covered in peanut sauce and, of course, spice) outside the park before leaving. Sate is definite proof that a benevolent higher power exists.
In the end, all of this made me look back fondly on all of my family adventures, and I’m incredibly thankful to have such a close family at home. Everybody has done so much for me to be able to do ridiculous stuff, like live in Indonesia for three months. In turn, it’s making me better appreciate the family that we’re working on forming out here in Surabaya with our participants and the Tydif studio. Because, when you spend all day every day together, you become a family, with the ups and downs that come with it. Despite a huge language barrier, after this weekend I feel much closer to our Indonesian hosts and can see the effort most of them are putting into parts of cultivating this relationship with us. Embracing this family mentality is the best way to adapt to the difficulties that come along with being in this setting. More importantly, it will help me get a true sense and appreciation of Indonesian culture, fulfilling at least one reason for being on this scholarship.
While everything thus far is in another realm from what I expected, and still very frustrating in certain aspects, the weekend helped me collect myself and reset my thoughts to see things differently. While there’s still a very strong desire to study the traditional arts that I came here for, I had originally overlooked the perfect opportunity right in front of me with the people that host us. Getting close with them will infinitely improve the experience. Even if the arts aspect doesn’t work out, I will receive a profound education through the Tydif crew. With this new outlook, the rest of the program seems much more promising.