Monotony and Bowel Movements

My Weekend

Friday, 12:00 pm: Return from school, read Harry Potter…

Friday, 10:00 pm: Go to sleep

Saturday, 8:00 am: Wake up, make breakfast, read Harry Potter…

Saturday, 12:00pm: Take public transportation into town for Internet; talk to friends on Facebook, attempt job search

Saturday, 3:00pm: Go home, read Harry Potter (had plans with Bu, cancelled last minute), make dinner

Saturday, 7:00 pm: Accidentally shit pants (actually, Curtis’s pants, sorry :/); wash pants, read Harry Potter

Saturday, 9:00 pm: Go to bed

Sunday, 7:00 am: Wake up, read Harry Potter… … ……. .. . ….. …..

Sunday, 8:00 pm: Go to bed

Life in Indonesia is monotonous. I spend most of my days lying on my bed, reading, lighting incense out of boredom, and walking to and from the bathroom. I’ve finished nineteen books in the last four months. I’ve learned to eat rice for 2/3 meals a day and not be constipated. I’ve even taken a liking to the lizards that scale my walls because, hey, company is company. I have perfected being alone for 72 hours at a time while only tip toeing the line of insanity, and I’ve only gotten completely trashed by myself once. Honestly, all the alone time has done me some good, and I’ve grown pretty accustomed to entertaining myself.

It wasn’t until I returned from a month’s holiday spoiled with friends, family and the boyfriend that I experienced my first mental breakdown from loneliness. Okay, that’s an exaggeration. I cried for like ten minutes and then popped some Tylenol pm and passed out for twelve hours. I was sad and wanted my mom and thought this shit is for the birds. BUT the next day I got a motorbike (which means freedom with a capital F!) and I found ingredients to make my grandma’s sauce, and WHAT DO YOU KNOW, life was good again. So, yeah, for those who wanted an update, that’s where I’m at. Riding 20mph on a motorbike and eating cold pasta (because my stove ran out of gas).

You’d think with all of this spare time on my hands I’d written more blogs, gotten in shape, found a job… but…Harry Potter. No, actually I did write some blogs. But then never posted them. Most of them were rants about that bloke Trump (a real wart, isn’t he?) and how my angel-faced Muslim students are way cooler than him. Or about how I wanted to punt my students into the Indian Ocean when they raised their hands to say men were more important than women. Most of my would-be posts are things that I write in the heat of the moment and need some grooming before releasing to the public. So for now, I shall stick to monotony and bowel movements (not monotonous bowel movements).

As for this weekend, I will be attending a midyear conference with the other ETAs. I’m hoping this little get together will make my purpose in Indonesia clearer and boost my motivation to come back and do some work in the remaining six months. I’ll admit that these six months are looking quite intimidating, but I’ve got some things to look forward to and, if anything, I can knock some good books off my list. Let’s cross our fingers and hope 2016 has fewer bouts of food poisoning than 2015.

Also, I want to give a shout out to all of the people who have messaged me with love and support. You guys are simply lovely and I thank you.

Happy 2016 everyone! Lez go forth and kick ass.



~Crash into Me~ and Other Metaphors

Beep beep honk beep beep beep, move it or lose it, buddy!!!!!!! This is the sound of Indonesia entering my life and wrecking any and all preconceived notions I had about its culture and about myself. I used to think I cared about plucking my eyebrows, it seems that I do not. As a naïve idealist I imagined Indonesia having clean, fresh air and the humidity of a tropical wonderland. It doesn’t. Indonesia has road rage, I tell you, and it does not slow down before T-boning the shit out of your priorities and forcing you to attend physical and mental therapy (in my case, reading comedic memoirs) until you get your shit straight. I’m learning a lot.

You know when you’re thirteen years old and you’re counting down the days until the weekend because that means no school and late-night sleep overs with your friends (or in my case, cousins) where you make up dances and perform séances and cook garlic pasta?? No, just me? Okay. Well, I thought I’d outgrown these shenanigans. Having developed a serious relationship with my own bed, I have come to loathe sharing a couch with a friend where their feet are by your head and vice versa just so we end up smelling each other’s dirty gym socks all night. Don’t get me wrong, I still kind of like all the story telling, bedroom painting, who-would-you-rather playing, but when it comes to the actual sleeping over part, eh, not for me.

Everyone always asks me if I am scared to live alone in a four-bedroom house, by myself, in another hemisphere, with essentially no relations to my neighbors. The answer is YES I SLEEP WITH A KNIFE UNDER MY PILLOW (thanks, Aunt Rosie). I’m just kidding. It’s quite the opposite, actually. I never have to speak to anyone before noon on the weekends if I don’t want to. No one is bossing me around telling me to clean my room. I know that no one else is peeing in my shower. It’s nice. I come home from school every day and know that I have the rest of the evening to myself, and if I don’t want to do jack shit for the next five hours except lay in my bed and watch episodes of Girls, no one can judge me for it.

What I didn’t know about Indonesia, though, is that the women here love sleepovers. Like, forty-five year old women. Like, the headmaster of my school and my counterpart. They love sleepovers. And sharing beds. And guess who is their favorite guest? J

For the past several weeks I have been telling both of my counterparts that I want to learn to cook traditional Indonesian dishes. I don’t have many options for food near my neighborhood, so I make dinner for myself almost every night, and having the ability to utilize ingredients from the local market would be handy. Last Wednesday they decided that this would be the night they teach me to cook. The problem with this is I spent the first half of the week in a sort of culture-shock coma. If culture shock is not something you have ever experienced, let me give you a little run-down of what was happening inside my head.

Culture Shock State of Mind:

Bu Lis: “MMMARRRRRRIIIIAAAAAA, COME COME COME!” (while pulling my arm towards her)

Maria: (If I were on Cartoon Network steam would be coming out of my ears and fire out of my mouth. I hate when she does all the bossy/pulling/poking stuff. Not gonna fly. Also, she makes me hate my name. It doesn’t matter how far away we are from each other physically, she calls my name until I give her my undivided attention. I could be sleeping or reading a book. It does not matter. I pull my arm away.)

Bus Lis: (Looks at me all like, “Who do you think you are, bule?”)

Maria: “I’m coming.” (very straight-faced)

Bu Lis: “HAHAHAH. (slaps me really hard on the shoulder) “as;dfljas;dfja;dfja;sfj;sfja;lsfj;sfjalsfjklajfaj!!! HAHAHA ajfa;lsdfjas;fjka;dfjas;fjs;djf!!!!” (this is a ten second rant in Indonesian where I have no idea what she is saying and she knows that I don’t but continues to yell and rant anyway)…. (She pulls my arm again) “COME!! NOW!!!”

……(meanwhile we go to an Indonesian funeral in the scorching heat where I am sweating profusely and flies are pooping on my face and I don’t even know the man who died or what they are saying because its in Indonesian)…. (Bu Lis is sitting next to me)…..

Bu Lis: (Begins ranting to me in Indonesian. Again, I have no idea what she is saying and she is making no attempt to whisper so I feel uncomfortable because people are staring more than they usually do.)

Maria: (I am staring at her with a look of mild irritation.)

Bu Lis: “HAHAHAHA.” (she slaps me again and then lays her head on my shoulder and puts her hands on both of my knees.)

Maria: (Alright, what the actual shit is going on? Get off me, Bu. It is 100 degrees outside and I have no idea what the hell these people are saying and the last thing I want you to do is smother me with your limbs. I feel a freak out coming.)

(Note: Bu Lis is a co-teacher. We are friends, yes, but at times, we all get need a break from our friends, right?)

Later this evening, after the funeral, I go home, take a shower, and read a funny book until I fall asleep. The next morning when Bu Lis comes up to me ranting in Indonesian again, I am still frustrated even though she really hasn’t done anything wrong and is probably just asking me if I showered that morning. This sort of mind-consuming frustration and out-of-whackness with the world around you because the culture is essentially quite different than your own….is a little case of culture shock. It comes and goes, but earlier this week it was full force.

I digress. So, Bu Yulia (headmaster/counterpart 1) invites me over for a sleep over with her and Bu Erny (my other counterpart). Because they already bought all of the ingredients to whip up a masterpiece that evening, I feel I need to say yes.   So I do, and I ride thirty-five minutes on the back of a motorbike until my ass is sore and my tailbone is throbbing all the way to Bu Yulia’s house. When I get there, she advises me to shower. (For Indonesians, it is normal to shower 2-3 times a day. I only shower once a day and they think I’m disgusting. I tell them I am lazy and I am not going to change so they need to accept me for who I am. They think this is funny for a second, then they insist, again, that I shower both morning and night.)

To my dismay, I head to the bathroom. When I turn on the shower, OH MY GOD, hot water comes at my face in a steady stream!!!!! My spirits begin to tingle. I hear music. Is that The Beatles? Magic is in the air. I am elated and outstay my welcome in the shower by more than twenty minutes. Mind you, I hadn’t had a hot shower in a month so this gift was all too precious not to take advantage. Afterwards, both of my Bu’s tell me I am looking fresh and we begin making some Gado-Gado, which is actually easy peasy to make AND it has peanut sauce (my soulmate) so I am once again filled with joy and eat three full plates. Next, while the three of us are tackling dishes as a team, Bu Yulia opens the fridge to offer me some dessert. When I turn, I see a row of shiny green bottles that immediately catch my attention. “Do you drink beer?” she says. Holy shit. First of all, my Bu is Muslim so this was totally unexpected. Secondly, it is so hard to find beer in my village (like impossible) that I want to kiss her hard on the mouth. I tell her that yes, most definitely, I drink beer.

“Wait a minute, do you drink beer?” I say. She laughs.

“Yes! Tonight, we can celebrate and drink beer together.” This is the best night of my whole life and I am feeling fantastic. She pours me a glass, and another glass, and another glass. She tells me a bunch of stories about her travels and about the school and Bu Erny is working on her laptop quietly and giving her two cents every now and again. It is nine at night and I am so, so tired. It is an hour past my bedtime.

“You look tired. Are you tired?” says Bu Erny.

“No,” I say while yawning. “Just a little.” They both laugh.

“We know when you say, ‘little bit’ you mean, ‘yes.’ Go to bed!” she says. Alright, alright Bu, if you insist. I do as I am told and go to lie down on the bed. They do not sleep with blankets so I’m just lying on a mattress trying to get comfortable. I can’t seem to fall asleep. An hour later, both of the Bu’s come in and I pretend like I am asleep like I used to when Mom would check on me in my bedroom and then ten minutes later Dad would bring me Rice Krispies and tell me not to tell Mom. Good times.

Within minutes, the Bu’s are asleep. I know this because they are snoring. And making weird gurgling noises. And doing that thing where they move their mouths and it sounds like they are cows sloshing around grass in a bunch of saliva (Yes, Nina, like you). Nooooo. This was such a perfect night, please PLEASE have mercy on me!!! Bu Erny is directly next to me and I want to push her so that she wakes up and maybe I’ll have enough time to fall asleep before she does. I bump her a little bit but she doesn’t budge. I put a pillow over my head. It helps, but it doesn’t totally block the noise from driving me almost insane. I’m not sure exactly, I may have dozed off for a little bit, but I definitely did not get a good night’s sleep. Not the kind of rest I need to endure a long day at school in Indonesia, anyway.

The next morning I am sitting at my desk with my head in my arms and everyone is asking me if I am tired. Yes, I am obviously tired, I’m trying to sleep in the middle of the day, in 100 degree heat, please leave me alone, what do you want from me!!!!?? I don’t have class until 11:15 so I’m just wasting space and time until then. Bu Yulia eventually comes in to the teacher’s room.

“You look so tired! Did you not sleep well?” I give her a close-mouthed smile.

“Not really, Bu Erny was snoring all night, but it’s okay.” I say this with a laugh so she knows I am not mad. She thinks this is hysterical, and so do the other teachers in the room. She tells me I am always so tired, though, and she thinks that I am ill and need a day to refresh. She tells my co-teacher that I will not be going to class and that I am coming with her….to get a two-hour long Japanese massage. Oh hell yeah! Afterwards, she takes me to get coffee and French fries. Real coffee, not instant coffee. And I am so happy to have French fries.   Afterwards, without asking, she takes me to her house, tells me to shower (2 HOT SHOWERS!) and when I get out her and Bu Erny tell me to lay on the bed, face-down. I have no idea what is going on but they lift up my t-shirt and begin pouring this warm oil on my back. All of a sudden I feel sharp pain.

“Ow! What are you doing!?”

“AHH! It is so red! You must lay still. I will show you when I’m finished.”

They show me a coin that Bu Erny is using to scratch down my back. I put my head back down. After ten minutes of wailing and cursing under my breath, they take a picture of my back and show me.

“Oh my God! It looks like you beat me!” I say to them. They laugh.

“Are you shocked?” Bu Yulia says. Yes I am shocked, lady. It looks like you whipped me with a leather switch. (If you don’t believe me, I will upload pictures to Facebook. You will be scarred.)

They explain to me that Indonesians believe that the redder you get, the sicker you are. I tell them I don’t understand that logic and they do not know how to prove it to me scientifically. But, they said it will warm my body and get rid of my “cold” or “illness” and that tomorrow I will wake up feeling much better and refreshed. So I go with it.

Eventually, crazy Bu Lis joins and the four of us eat dinner together (they made me soup because I am sick?). It was delicious and I was tired by 7pm and ready for bed. They tell me to go to sleep and so I go to lay on the couch because no way in hell am I sleeping in a bed with THREE snoring Bu’s this time (by the way, this bed is the size of a queen bed).

“No, go to the bedroom.” Bu Erny says.

“I want to sleep here,” I say.

“Get up! You will get sick if you sleep here.” This does not make sense to me. Bu Yulia comes over and also insists that I get up.

“No! I want to sleep here! I’m not moving!” They both tell me to get up on more time and I begin to kick my feet like my six-year-old sister throwing a temper tantrum. Bu Yulia fetches me a blanket and tells me that I am stubborn. I win J I pop a few Advil p.m. (that they don’t know that I have) and fall asleep very easily. The next morning in the car on the way to school, the three of them are laughing at some story that Bu Lis is telling. They are speaking too quickly in Indonesian and I don’t know what is going on so I mind my own business and stare out the window. Bu Yulia then informs me that Bu Lis is saying that she didn’t sleep the night before because she slept in between Bu Erny and Bu Yulia and they snored and made weird noises all night. We bonded over this and Bu Erny hit me a few times when I made fun of her. Ah, my girls.

So, it turns out, even though I thought alone time was my medicine for a heavy heart and exhausted mind, sleepovers turned out to be a rather nice way to heal my spirit. I went into the weekend with a fresh perspective and I even missed my Bu’s a little bit. The culture shock subsided for now, and I will get to see some American friends this weekend which is thrilling because that also hopefully means ~beer. So while I’m sitting on the beach of a tiny island in the EAP with new friends and a cold Bintang, I can happily say home will not feel so far away.

Love yas.

The Good, the Bad and the Mundane

Friends. I write to you this evening with tired eyes, sweaty fingers (sweaty everything) and a whole lot of frustration.

I shall start from the beginning. This morning, I am teaching my 10th grade students the simple past tense—they are happy to have me; I am delighted to be there. All felt right and wonderful until my headmaster (my counterpart), Bu Yulia, interrupts the class. She informs there is an emergency: I must go to the immigration office today in Semarang or else I will be deported very soon. I try to calm her down and explain to her that I will not be deported “very soon,” rather I have a few more weeks until the circumstances grow that extreme. I ask her to please let me finish this class and then we can go to the immigration office in Semarang. This will not do. She pulls me from class despite my argument and puts me in a van with three people I do not know.

I recognize the woman from school, but the two men I have never seen in my life. I have no idea what is going on, and it turns out that none of my three new friends can speak English. Fabulous. I assume these are the people taking me to the immigration office, so I get settled into my seat and start playing on my phone when we pull up in front of a house. They shoo me out of the van. I look around to see if the neighborhood is familiar. It is not. I am guided into the living room of another strange woman. They leave me here alone with this chick without explaining, or at least attempting to explain, what the hell is happening. Thus, I sit. I sit for two hours with a woman that I do not know in a house that I have never been to. We do not speak the same language. We do not communicate at all. We sit. We sit and we stare.

After two lovely hours with nameless woman, one of the men from the van comes back to get me. “We shall go now?” he says, as if I have the option. Yeah dude, let’s go.

This man, the woman from earlier (from what I gathered towards the end of the trip, her name is Endang), and I drive to Semarang. It’s about an hour trip without traffic and we arrive at the immigration office in a timely fashion. These people fill out all of my paperwork for me (which is confusing because they do not know me?). The immigration office says that they will call me to tell me what day I need to return for my visa. Great.

Afterwards, in the van, I am thinking about how smoothly the process went and how I can’t wait to get home and take a nap and maybe finish off the jar of Nutella that I’ve eaten for dinner twice in the past week.   Unfortunately, my day dream comes to an end when we pull into a warung (street side food vendor) and we eat lunch. The lunch part is fine, I’m happy about the lunch part, but it is during lunch that these peeps inform me (through lots of gestures and my looking up words in an Indonesian dictionary) of their plan to stay in Semarang driving aimlessly until 5:00 pm when the woman’s daughter will be finished with her class at the university. It is only 2:00 pm at this time, which means three hours of aimless driving. Three hours. Now let me paint this picture for you. The van has no air conditioning. Every orifice of my body is seeping with sweat. The warung food is doing something funky to my small intestines and I’m about to throw up, shit my pants, or die. The man who is driving the van is the worst driver in all of Indonesia I swear you. He taps on the break like he’s playing a song and I am moments away from amputating is right foot. The two of them are talking in Indonesian for the entire three hours, whilst playing angsty Indonesian music, whilst answering their phones and texting and carrying on separate conversations. They are burping. They are saying, “Miss Marie, you tired? Hahahahahahaha.” My elbows are on my knees, and my head is in my hands. Is God punishing me? I begin to promise the unidentified Indonesian hygiene god that I will wash myself two times a day (I’ve been scolded many, many times for this), that I will live as one with the cockroaches, that I will eat rice for breakfast, lunch, dinner and even for snacks if he/she will just PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!!!!!!! let me out of this damn van. I determine I am being punished. We sit in stand- still traffic for two hours. Two hours in stand-still traffic of talking and burping and braking and singing. I try to tell myself to breathe. To calm down. It. Will. Be. Okay. I take a deep breath….of pollution and burning trash and exhaust and burps. I imagine rolling out of the van and into oncoming motorbikes.

Eventually we pull in front of my house and I practically kick the door open and give them a closed-mouth smile and a “thank you” and I run for my bedroom. I collapse face first onto my mattress.

So here I am. Yes, I am over-dramatic and definitely acting like a five-year-old brat. I know these kind people took time out of their day to help me, a stranger, a bule, and I couldn’t have made it to/through immigration without them. However, this experience was nonetheless frustrating and challenging, and a nice little anecdote to narrate what my life can be like on a Wednesday in Indonesia. They usually aren’t so pessimistic. In fact, last week I hopped on the back of a co-teacher’s motorbike (she is in her mid-fifties and she is my girl). She speaks no English, but I thought she just wanted to give me a ride home. Turns out, she wanted to take me to the market, to her house and to yoga. Her friends threw me in the air and made me do some tricks and then afterwards she chased me around her living room trying to get me to eat fish soup while I screamed “Tidak!! Tidak soto!!!!” But we laughed a lot and she tried to get me to spend the night. I call her my Indonesian mother and she tells me she wants to play with me like a baby doll. We get each other (despite the language barrier) and she is in the running for my top three favorite people in Indonesia so far.

Consistency in my life is narrowed down to morning and night. (Warning: these are the mundane details that people like my mother enjoy. Feel free to skip.) Every morning I wake up, brew a cup of coffee, watch the sunrise on my upstairs balcony, try to breathe and make myself sane, put on some clothes, maybe brush my hair, and go to school. When I come home (my ETA varies each day), I sweep my floors of all the bug carcasses and dust that have accumulated in my absence, I sit outside on my balcony long enough to make me sweat (it prevents my cold showers from shocking me to the core), I shower, I cook dinner (or eat Nutella), I do some meditation/yoga, I make some ginger tea, and I read (or obsess over funny YouTube videos or binge on episodes of Girls). I am asleep by 9 pm, guaranteed.

Days are a lot different here, definitely. My friends range from age 14 to 60. I spend upwards of 6 hours alone every day, and I have the morning routine of a middle-aged woman…. But I have never felt more at peace when I wake up in the morning, or more satisfied when I fall asleep at night. I don’t know that I’ve quite settled into my life here yet (except my bed….I’ve definitely settled into my bed), and each day comes with its challenges, but I’m stoked to be here—to be teaching and to be making new friends—and I’m even more stoked for the stories I get to tell.

Love yas.

Ok Indo…Let the Games Begin

This morning I woke up and checked my phone. 9:03…ahhhh, bless you Saturday morning and bless you Tylenol pm for letting me sleep through the 4 am call to prayer. I turn on the light, slip on my Birkenstocks, and go to open my bedroom door. I am reluctant, as always, for the critters that occupy my home to flood my bedroom as soon as they are granted access. To my surprise, I see two dead cockroaches outside my door. Is this a dream? I do a little shimmy, followed by a heel click, and let out a squeal. I grab my lap top, turn on “Train in Vain” by the Clash, moon walk my way into the kitchen and throw myself a little celebration while making some cinnamon oatmeal and a cup of coffee. I look around my home in glory. I have won. Me vs. the roaches and I have come out on top, and damn does it feel good.

Today marks my one-week anniversary of life in Indonesia, yet life in America feels many many moons away. First, let me begin by explaining my role to those who are unsure or do not know my purpose of being in Indonesia. I am here for nine months on a Fulbright scholarship as an English Teaching Assistant. I will work in high school classrooms to help Indonesian students learn English as a second language, all while immersing myself into their culture, becoming both an ambassador for America as well as a student and observer of the Indonesian lifestyle. I have been asked several times why I chose Indonesia, and to be honest, I don’t know that I have a clear answer for that. I want to travel Southeast Asia as well as experience a culture vastly different than my own (and Indonesia is about as far away from home as I can get), but also, Indonesia is a ginormous country that I knew (know?) nothing about. Thus, I am here. To learn. To grow. To teach. And to most likely get explosive diarrhea.

Now, as of last Sunday, I did not know anything about my living situation. They told me I’d be in Semarang, a hot and crowded city on the north coast of Central Java. I mentally prepared for this city life over the summer, weighing the pros and cons of having access to Western restaurants while missing out on a small community life. I’d even communicated with two of the ETAs who lived in the city last year, asking various questions about their life in Semarang (i.e. Should I bring sheets? Do they sell tampons?). To my dismay, AMINEF decided I’d be living an hour and a half outside the city, in a small village called Bringin. “It’s a…village…but developing…like…like a suburb,” I was told. Ohhhhh, I think. I am assuming there will be restaurants and supermarkets. No, no.

When I fly to Semarang Monday afternoon I am greeted at the airport by two enthusiastic women by the names of Bu Yulia and Bu Eyrne. They are dressed to the nines in their scouting uniform and I am intimidated. “Much more beautiful than in picture,” Bu Ernye says as she stares at my sweaty face. We walk to a van where a man they call “Papa” is sitting in the driver’s seat.

Bu Yulia yaps my ear off until we arrive at a restaurant that is on the water. Beautiful, but hot. Very very hot. We walk up to a small hut and they take off their shoes, I do the same, and we sit around a table on our knees. “We eat lunch now, then we go to Bringin.” Okay, works for me. When they ask if I am hungry I tell them I am starving even though I am not (?). They order lunch in Indonesian, and when it arrives, my eyes and my stomach are very overwhelmed. Bu Eyrne explains to me in very broken English that her and Papa usually fight over the fish head, but today they will give it to me. Joy. She rips the head from the rest of the body and tosses it onto my plate. I want to throw up in my lap. Then, she piles ox bone, white rice, pecel (vegetables), beef, shrimp and squid—all fried. (I forgot to mention that before the food came out, they walked me over to an ice cream stand…I am lactose intolerant…because I told them I was starving and they didn’t want me to be hungry while waiting.) I pick up my fork prepared to dig in and not look back when Bu Eyrne shouts “No, no, no! Like this.” She demonstrates by cupping her hands and scooping up a handful of food into her mouth. “Ohhhhh,” I laugh a little. “The only thing I usually eat with my hands in America is a cheeseburger,” I laugh again. They stare. Tough crowd. I eat with my hands. When I make it halfway through my plate they throw on more. I try to explain that I am full. They do not care.

Finally we are on our way to Bringin. The van is very hot and the ride is ridiculously bumpy. I am carsick three minutes into the drive. Not to mention the traffic is awful in Semarang and Bu Yulia informs me that it may take up to three hours to get home. “You look tired,” she says, “Sleep. It’s okay. No worries.” Alright, lady I am in a molester van with three strangers on the opposite side of the world I am not about to “sleep, no worries,” capiche?

After about forty-five minutes it feels as though we are finally on our way when Papa decides to park the van on the side of the road. Bu Eyrne needed to pick up some pots for her plants. Okay. Fifteen minutes later and we are on our way again. Then we stop in front of a bakery. “We want to get you some things!” Bu Yulia informs me. “Everything here is very del-ee-cee-ious.” I love the way she says delicious. I tell her this a few days later.

We go inside and I pick out some things. “That is all?” Bu Eyrne says. She then goes around the bakery and selects a few more items that she thinks I need to try. I do not have a choice in this matter. She pays, we leave, and two hours later we arrive at the school. They show me around very quickly and then they take me to my home. It is big. Four bedrooms, only one of which is occupied (by me). The walls are a lime green color, and every light in the building is fluorescent. I feel as though I am about to be subjected into an asylum. “Sit, sit, sit.” Bu Eyrne says. I sit in the kitchen chair. She begins sweeping and mopping my floors. I try to explain that I can do that and she does not have to clean everything for me. She does not respond; she continues to sweep. Eventually they leave and I have the house to myself.

I am exhausted and sweaty and not in the mood to do anything but lay so I lock myself into my bedroom, turn on the television, and listen to an Indonesian reality show (in Bahasa) as a I fall fast asleep. At this point in time, I have no Internet and no working cell phone.

It turns out that these three clowns, Bu Yulia, Bu Eyrne and Papa, whom I have grown to love over the last week, have become my go-to crew. They have paid for all of my meals, they constantly ask if I am hungry (and even when I am not they feed me), and they have shown me around every nook and cranny of the village. On Wednesday they take me to a town two hours away to buy Batik (Indonesian formal wear), kitchenware, a blanket, some groceries, towels, bug spray (for the relentless cock roaches and various bug populations), plastic bins, etc.—all of which they paid for despite my resistance. They are always asking if I need rest, they introduce me to all of their friends, and they invite me to all of their future gatherings (including sleep overs at their house). They are incredible. Yesterday, when sitting in Bu Yulia’s home, she opened up to me about a lot of personal things that have occurred over the last year. At our pre-departure orientation over the summer, the ETAs were warned that it might be difficult to form close friendships with people because of the language barrier. Bu Yulia speaks great English (and is the only one who speaks fluently) and I think that despite the age difference (she is 45) we will become good friends. She’s a progressive Muslim and an independent woman who is the principal of my school. She’s a huge advocate for women’s rights and higher education, and she has whole-heartedly accepted me, a bule, into her life and her community. Unfortunately, she is moving to Myanmar in January to be a principal at an Indonesian high school (she won an award…the only woman out of five candidates, woo!), and I know that when the time comes for her departure, my remaining time in Indonesia will be much different. But as she says, “I must follow my dream. It is my dream to go there to Myanmar,” and I’m right there with her. Do your thing, girl. I got your back.

Now for the school. Every morning I am picked up by a man named Mastri. He speaks no English, rides a motorbike, and exudes a musky cigarette scent. We make the journey in silence (it’s about a fifteen minute ride) and I am happy. For once, I am not forced to decipher someone’s broken English and I can tell neither of us want to make any effort so early in the morning. It is peaceful. I look at the scenery, which consists of extreme poverty surrounded by rice fields and mountains. I see all of the passer-bys staring at the white girl on the back of a motorbike and I wave. This is one of the best parts of my day.

At school, I have my own desk. I am surrounded by the rest of the teachers, all of whom have been welcoming and warm. They offer me snacks, they ask me questions, they smile at me when I am not looking (and then we make eye contact). Many of them have invited me to their homes, to swim, to cook, etc. They are great.

In terms of the students I am Miss Maria. I am a selfie opportunity. I am the girl with the pointy nose. I am “so, so beautiful” because I am white. They laugh when I try to speak Indonesian and they constantly shout “I love you, Miss!” in the middle of class. When I walk around the school they are shouting my name from every direction, and I wave, saying “Hello” and they giggle and laugh and run away. They take pictures of me from afar. They message me on Fakebook asking if they can come to my house. They request that I sing in front of the class (I’ve sang twice now…Let it Go and the Birthday song). They want to know if I “have husband or boyfriend,”; they ask me my religion. “Why do you come to Indonesia, Miss?” “Do you like Nasi Goreng?” “Will you come to my house, Miss?” I love them. I know that they will be the highlight of my year here, and I want to be the best that I can be as a teacher because of them. They make me so, so excited for what is to come.

As the week has come to an end I feel a little relieved. I have gotten my roach problem under control (I use spray, I cover all the holes in my walls/in the floor, and I have left corpses of my victims lying around the house as a warning to the others…I am the king of this castle and if you enter without permission you will die), I have very few mosquito bites, I have gained a few friends, and I figured out how to make my shower head work. I am spoiled.

Tomorrow I head to Bandung for a two-week orientation with my fellow ETAs. I am excited to be reunited and share stories of roaches and diarrhea, but I am also a little sad that I’m leaving so quickly. I will most likely not post until I am home again…so until then, Selamat Jalan!

Things I have noticed my first week here:

  • Many of my co-workers burp out loud in the middle of conversations and it is not a problem.
  • You must eat rice with your meal or you are a disgrace.
  • I am much cleaner when bug infestation is at risk.
  • Indonesian men often have long fingernails with hands bejeweled in gemstone rings.
  • I have a very strong stomach.