Wednesday, October 28, 2009

My House-in the middle of the str....

I've meant to put of pictures of my house for a while. So here you go.
Its not all that exciting but it has some interesting features such as the washing machine with separate wash and spin cycles, the mirror on top of the faucet in the kitchen,the wonder of ant chalk, the rooms i'm not suppose to go in that are unlocked, roof top veranda, and close proximity to mosque. Enjoy.

I live in the left, much smaller portion of this house.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Yogya Weekend!

I spent this last weekend in Yogyakarta (Joke-jakarta) with a bunch of other Fulbrighters. The weekend was a whirlwind story telling/ compare-contrast session complete with never have I ever in a treehouse/bungalow thing 20 feet from the ocean at krakow beach. We ate a ton of amazing food including Lotek from Lollie's school's canteen, Chicken tikka at an Indian place, a tempe burger (with real cheese!) at a baller veggie spot called Milas, and fresh fresh fresh fish at a warang at Krakow beach.

Here are rad some pictures followed by a funny (at least I think it's funny) anecdote. Enjoy.

(Funny Story)

On my way home, a roughly three and half or four hour bus ride, I had to pee badly with an hour or so to go. I wait and I wait and I wait and I squirm and I squirm. I luckily manage to make it to my destination without peeing myself. Unfortunately my home is another 20 minutes by taxi, and i'm definitely not capable of holding it that long. Because its Sunday night, pretty much everything is closed sans a hair salon. I run inside praying to Allah that they have a bathroom and that I'm not going to pee myself. Once inside i'm greeted by two rather boyish indonesian guys one with a bleached blond feux-hawk and another with a gelled ducktail sorta deal. Thankfully they take pitty on the dirty dirty bule that stood before them and showed me the bathroom. After peeing for a solid couple minutes, I washed up walked back into the salon.
As I head back into the room of styling chairs and mirrors Im greeted with a solitary English word.
Asked the feux-hawked boy-man.
His word cut through the self-neglect I had compiled over the week.
I looked at myself in the mirror. My salt watered hair was matted and piled on the side of my head like a mound of unwanted mash potatoes.
I breathe deep."Berapa Hargana?"(How much) I ask. "35,000 ($3.50). I get stuck in economic indecision momentarily. In Indo this expensive, I should pay no more than a 15,000, In the states super-cuts would laugh at you for this price. I look around. This place would be expensive in the states.I'm talking $30 or $40. I reach into my pocket and blindly count my rupiah with the tip of my thumb. Do I need it? No. Should I get it? Probably.
I eventually give-in.
The duck billed boy takes me to a sink where my head is massaged with shampoo for an extraneous amount of time, my thoughts kneeded into wonderment. An abrupt phone call from my counterpart ruins my calm. I lift my head from the sink and hold the phone away from my soapy head.
"Thoms. Where are you!?"
"I'm getting my hair cut"
"I'm getting my hair cut"
"I'm worried about you because of your position"
"I'm fine Pak."
"Call me when you are at your home"
"okay, no problem"
"Yes, its okay, there is no problem.
"Bye, pak".

The boy-man takes me into another room to cut my hair. I try to explain to him that I want
"this much off the sides, and a little bit off the top".
"Yes, yes, ok".
The boy man, unsheaths his scissors and comb, and chops at my unwieldy mop at a speed unknown to man. A blizzard of curly jewish hair is unleashed upon the floor below me, a sight i'm certain its never seen. 15 minutes roll by, and the boy-man keeps cutting and cutting. My desired proportions have long been forgotten, there is perhaps a quarter inch of hair on the side and less than an inch on top except in the front. While cutting my hair I notice that the boy-man is looking up every once and a while to check himself out in the mirror. What I thought was perhaps a dose of vanity on the hairdressers part was actually an architect checking his blueprints. He was giving me his own haircut.

After a moment of sheer terror partnered with low level lamaze breathing. I realized that having a little ducktail in the front was actually not that bad. I had dreaded my whole life looking like a preppy who-haw, and now i realize that its sort of becoming.

Today at school, lots of teachers told me that I was handsome, A far cry from last week's, "Are you sick?" and "You must iron your clothes".
I was all smiles.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Yoygakarta: Street Art City

I spent the day before going to Bali in Yogyakarta, the cultural capital of Java, and the former home of the king of Java. Yogya, as its called here, is a college town chock full of talented artists and musicians. Everywhere you go their is amazing graffiti and murals sprawling liberal youth political ideology and imagination.

The pictures posted below are of some street art I saw near a market, the kings water palace (yes it was full of water), and some pictures from the bird market.

Bali: Beaches, Blokes, and Bintang.

I spent last weekend visiting the Island of Bali, about an hour flight west of Java. On my first day, I took a surf lesson at Puta Beach with a local surfer who's name I regretfully forget. During my two hour lesson, I spent maybe a total of maybe 1.5 minutes riding waves (I caught 6 ), and the rest falling, paddeling, lurching,and fucking my shit up while my instructor yelled/laughed at me. All in all the excitement and sensation of catching a wave made up for the 118 minutes worth of sunburn, beaten legs, and bruised ego.

Puta beach is perhaps the worst place to stay in Bali. Although it has a beautiful beach and a bounty of bars and restaurants, the drunken Austrailian and European tourists dressed proudly in their newly purchased Bintang Beer tank tops make you think twice about why you would ever want to visit. Luckily on our second day we caught a travel car provided by a friend of a friend and visited Ubid, a cool, quit(er), town in the interior of Bali. While their we visited a beautiful hindu water temple, ate delicious burritos (this is a big deal, try going two months without a burrito. That's really hard), and visited a local market. If Ubid had a beach it would be heaven on earth. Even without one it was pretty damn close.

Life, School, and Violent Handwashing

I know I said in my last post (like a month ago) that I was sorry for the lack of updates and that I would do a better job of posting things. This time i'm actually sorry, and promise to post things more frequently.

In the past month a lot of things have happened. I moved into my big empty apartment in Semarang, I began teaching at MAN 1 Semarang, I turned 23 years old, and I visited Bali amongst many other things.

My first day of school at MAN 1 Semarang (Madrasah Aliyah Negeri 1) just happened to coincide with the end of Ramadan. After Ramadan, it is custom to go to all of your friends, family, and neighbors to ask for their forgiveness (regardless of whether you've done them wrong). To celebrate this tradition at my school all of the students line up (all 1,300 of them) and shake each teachers hand. I'm personally no germiphobe, those of you that know me well would probably agree, but in this case the idea of shaking so many kids hands they day after they arrived back from their villages seemed like the best way to spread/create a megavirus if I had ever heard of one. Standing in the hot sun shaking students dressed in identical uniforms was quite nauseating- waves of white blue swirling before my bule (term for foreigner) eyes. After the ceremony I ran and washed my hands as though they were fire. I've never scrubbed so hard. This is not hyperbole.

Other than the violent hand washing on the first day, school has been pretty good. Most of the teachers are very excited about learning English, and often come to visit me throughout the day to practice conversation or to bring me some sort of Indonesian snack. I get alot of Cassava chips, fried tempe (fried everything really),little fish things, mangos, pears, uber sweet juices and soups, and gado gado (spinich, onion, tofu, with chili peanut sauce served at room temp)- by far my favorite.

In between classes I have taken to playing ping-pong with some of the other teachers. I'm learning to put spin on the ball, forehand, backhand, and SMASH! as they love to yell at me. Sometimes i'm good and can keep up, but most of the time my performance is inconsistent with a few flashes of brilliance. I hope to be good by the time I leave.

Things in the classroom have been a little slow. I spent the first week observing the different English teachers and the second sitting around while students took exams. This week I am finally in the classroom teaching, trying to gauge the various speaking levels of my students and put together a plan for how I want to approach each level. Teachers and older students at the school seem to have a good understanding of grammar and comprehension. The major issue at stake is that neither the students nor the majority of the teachers speak English well. A lot this has to do with the shy nature of the culture, and the limitations placed on schools by rigorous state exams, which only test students on grammar and comprehension (not speaking). My role is to make brave English speakers out of both the students and the teachers. A tall task if i've ever heard one. I must say though, that I have high hopes for the school. So far, teachers and students alike have shown a great interest in improving their speaking skills, hopefully I can deliver.