"So if I am able to preserve this writing of mine…I would like you to give it the title 'House of Glass.'"

Life

One Month Remains

Tropical Landscapes

One month remains in my Peace Corps service. I’m just now allowing myself to start thinking about what these last two years mean as a whole and what it will be like going home. Until recently, I’ve refused to let myself acknowledge that Peace Corps service would come to a close. In fact, it was as late as October when I still thought my COS date was mid-July, not mid-June. I had made myself completely oblivious to the light at the end of the tunnel.

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In-Kind Rice Payments

Stacked riceThere are still so many things I haven’t shared with you about Indonesia. I hope I can give you enough small tastes of my community to show you what it is like.

Nothing says ‘Indonesia’ more than my teachers getting paid in-part in rice. As a part of their monthly salary, all teachers at my school receive 10kg of rice – packaged (and presumably) harvested locally. This amount of rice costs about Rp 80,000 and will feed a family of four for about two weeks. To show the value of this rice payment, cash salaries at my school range from around Rp 600,000 per month as non-civil servants, to around Rp 2,500,000 per month as civil servants, and as much as Rp 10,000,000 per month as a senior staff member.

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Autonomy: A Younger Break in Java

There are so many things I want to share with you about Java.

The teenage years in American culture are a mad search for autonomy. It comes in milestones: the driver’s license, a few opportunities and technical changes at 18, followed shortly by college. It is granted to children sparingly and comes in large, inevitable doses later.

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Jakarta — Not So Mangled After All

Gunung Lawu at sunset from the Gaya Baru between Surabaya and Jakarta.  (Lawu is nowhere near Jakarta and has nothing to do with Jakarta.  Most of this post is actually about the train ride to Jakarta).

A long train ride and a few days in Jakarta.

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2012 Ramadan Fun Facts & Trivia [Updated Aug 18 COMPLETE!]

In addition to the diaries I have been keeping throughout my Ramadan fasting experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I have also decided to publish a set of trivia questions.

~~~ RAMADAN FUN FACTS & TRIVIA ~~~

Every evening, after Maghrib, I have been sending out a “Ramadan Fun Fact” or “Ramadan Trivia Question” to the Peace Corps Volunteers. These fun facts are compiled from a variety of sources. Answers are provided in the respective footnote. The answer is written in a font color that matches the background of this page, so you wont accidentally see the answer to a RTQ you haven’t attempted yet. To read the answer, select the are between ‘Answer’ and ‘End.’ You can practice here:

Answer: Bagus!!!! Selamat ber-Trivia! End.

~~~THE DIARIES~~~

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Ramadan 2012 (East Java, Indonesia) [Updated August 14, Day 25]

This is the banner over the bridge entering my village. The best translation I can come up with is ‘Enjoy Investing Yourself in the Fasting Ritual. Please respect those who are fasting.’ The first sentence (top two lines) is pretty loose.  (Muhammadiyah is spelled wrong).

Note:  Ramadan began on:  the evening of Th 19 July 2012 for Indonesian Muhammadiyah Muslims.  And on the evening of Fr 20 July 2012 for Indonesian NU Muslims.  It is scheduled to end on Sa 18 August 2012.  ||  Catat:  Ramadan bermulai sore Kamis 19 Juli 2012 kalau Muhammadiyah.  Bermulai sore Juma’at 20 Juli 2012 kalau NU.  Rencana selesai Sabtu 18 August 2012.i

More accurately, this is Ramadan 1433H – since Ramadan is a month (the 9th month) in the Islamic calendar.

~~~ THE DIARIES ~~~

I’ll use this post to update you on the happenings of Ramadan.  I’m going to make a concerted effort to journal and catalog the daily activities this year (sorry Elle, I’m stealing your idea). The content is raw. There is some filtering and re-wording from my notebook to word processor, but it’s more or less how I wrote it from the initial experience. I plan to keep the entire month in this post.

~~~ RAMADAN FUN FACTS & TRIVIA ~~~

Other PCV Ramadan blogs:  Elle (diaries) (Tarawiih) |  Amy and Will  | Sarah (diaries) | Ryan Good |

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Why I’m Attracted to Surabaya – with ample prelude on rural versus urban, the nature of my site, and places I don’t like to go in Indonesia

Some neat people in front of the statue of Surabaya. As one volunteer explained, “that statue is the first cool thing I saw in Indonesia, so it will always have a fond place in my heart.” This statue and the city have an endearing place in my heart as well. (Picture from Erin F).

This is what happens when I don’t blog for a while, I write a lot.  Sections on:

1. “Growing Up and Moving On and Out” – The context of why I enjoy Surabaya – life from growing up in a big city to attending college in small towns.

2. “Moving to the edge of the world with the Peace Corps… (?)” – What romantic images do people have of Peace Corps sites? Why do they call them “villages” anyways?  What did I expect my site to be like?

3. “The welt of urbanization known as Genteng along the jalan raya” – What is my site like – I hope this gives people back home some idea of what it looks like.

4. “Let’s start talking about people for a second” – How people and their level of exposure play into the rural versus urban discussion?

5. “The wrong place for me to get away” (Bali and other tourist destinations) – Feeling uncomfortable in major tourist destinations and not getting much satisfaction out of places crawling with bule.

and 6. “The easiest way for me to return home half-way around the world” – Finally, why do I like Surabaya so much?

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See People Seeing the Transit of Venus

For the last time in 105 years, Venus crossed between the Earth and the Sun.  Two RPCVs who are employed by NASA sent each Peace Corps post (or at least the PC Indonesia post) a packet of information about astsronomy and Venus’s tiny eclipse.  The real prize of the packet was three eclipse glasses—cheap paper shades with polarized plastic lenses that allow you to stare directly at the sun.  Who isn’t attracted to a strange white guy wearing funny sun glasses staring up at the sky in front of a white board in the middle of a school basketball court?  Not my students.

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Saat April—Year One in Numbers

One of the other ID-5 Volunteers posted a Year One in Numbers post.  I’ve stolen his idea and added statistics for some of his categories and for some of my own.

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Nyepi—The Silent Balinese New Year

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Nyepi* is the Balinese-Hindu new year celebration rooted in the belief that the island must be ridded of and protected from evil spirits at the beginning of each year.  Spirits are scared away on the days leading up to Nyepi through prayer ceremonies and the procession of scary effigies called ogoh-ogoh.  The island then remains silent on the actual day of Nyepi so that returning spirits will think the island is deserted and pass over.

Like most things on Bali, Nyepi was attractive.  It was full of beautiful fabrics, burning incense, gamelan, great craftsmanship, and excitement.  Unlike most things on Bali, however, Nyepi was not meant for tourists.  Certain practices, such as the closing of Denpasar’s international airport and the police-enforced tradition of keeping locals and tourists inside their dwellings are anathema to the modern catering culture of Bali.

*sepi=quiet, still; menyepi=to become still, to become desolate (Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Bali)

(all photos courtesy of Nicole E.)

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The Journey to Raung, Part I—Expectations of Getting Things Done in the Peace Corps

Twelve months ago, I would have considered the prospect of driving nine hours from Houghton to Chicago just for a twenty minute meeting absurd.  This, howeve, is essentially what I did last week, and I was strangely okay with it. (more…)


Saat Maret—Dissected

Completing the adat dress code to enter a temple in Ubud Bali. (photo credit: Nicole E.)

Dissection of times and schedules and resultant spontaneity. (more…)


Witing Kelapa Katon Awe-Awe; The Coconut

What happens when a coconut tree smashes through your roof? (more…)


Saat Februari–Bandung, Bahasa, MAN Fair

The shortest month became the longest.  What happened? (more…)


False Start, Back to the Starting Boxes

Track and Cross Country were a large part of my college experience for four years, so competitive running often enters my mind as an analogous explanation for the world around me. Anyone who has seen a Gold Medal sprint during the Summer Olympics—even those who don’t follow track—can understand the tension that builds up as the athletes set themselves in their blocks before the race. The beginning of a sprint is everything. The race can be won or lost right there at the start. Each athlete explodes out of the box using his/her own self as the guide when to do so. This is necessary to a successful finish, but it can also lead to a false start—the quickest way to loose in track. In a false start, all of the energy builds up to the point that a fuse is blown—an athlete takes off early—and the whole event is shut down and re-set. The field decreases by one and the tension builds by ten.

False starts are devastating but decisive in a sprint. I was two meters away from the starting line of the 200m Division III National Indoor Championship when a female athlete got herself disqualified by false start. My brain immediately went to visualizing all of the alternate realities in which this woman won the race as if to make up for the fact that she no longer even had the chance in our own reality. It was cold to imagine all of those possibilities suddenly extinguished. I was struck by how calm the athlete was as she accepted her punishment and left the track. Perhaps she had already accepted—long before the race began—that she lived and died in one single moment.

Maybe I couldn’t understand this athlete’s collectedness because I was a distance runner.

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Saat Desember—Moments of December

I realize that I’m posting this update long after the end of December. Here’s a brief synopsis of what happened in December: students at my school were wrapped up in taking semester exams, activity increased dramatically at Ijen, and my family came to visit for the New Year’s holiday.

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Saat November–Moments of November

This post is going to be a little more casual. Hmm, what happened in November…

Clockwise from top-left: Wearing a traditional dhalang costume on stage after the first wayang performance; a grade X student holds her wayang kertas rendition of Krishna; sinden sing during a performance of wayang kulit; students have fun with real wayang puppets in Seni/Budaya class

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Saat September & October—Moments of September & October: What do I do every day?

This blog entry is a long and wandering account of what my day looks like on a week to week basis.  Parts of the text jump into a more reflective mood, but this post still paints a simple rendition of what my life has been like.  I wish I could write something more substantial right now, but I realize it’s been two months without updating my blog, and there are some people back home who might want to have even the slightest clue of what I’ve been up to.  One major reason this post simplifies service in the Peace Corps is that I’ve focused almost solely on successes and aspirations.  I’ve given no time to failures, frustrations, and reality checks that will come in the future.  I elaborate on this omission a little more at the end of the post, but for now I’ll continue onto the task of filling you in.

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Saat Augustus—Moments of August

Close up of Bromo, Batok, and Semeru; Acara 17 Augustus; Upacara Kasada

‘Twas a good month to start the Saat series because the Julian calendar month of August 2011 happened to include Ramadan, Indonesia’s Independence Day, and the Kasada festival at G. Bromo—possibly the three most important annual events to occur in East Java.  Independence Day follows the Julian calendar and is, therefore, celebrated every August 17, but Ramadan follows the Islamic calendar and Kasada follows the Javanese calendar.  As it can be seen, then, the combination of these three events into a single thirty day stretch is quite serendipitous.  For it to occur in just my second month at permanent site also makes for a great introduction to Indonesian culture.  Also of note during this month are concessions to jam karat and debates about cheating in Indonesia.

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Saat July—Moments of July (Part III): Who knows the difference between the U.S. and America? (And who knows the difference between the U.S., Mexico, and Australia?)

Instead of updating my blog with frequent posts about “I did this today/I did that today” and ending up with a thousand entries by the time things are done, I’m going to instead try to distill each month into one post full of tidbits from my journal, e-mail correspondences, or memory.  I think that this format will (1) be easier to parse through for you, (2) give me a chance to reflect on things before I share them publically, and (3) still provide a comprehensive idea of what my daily life is like in Indonesia.

That being said, I am not prepared to write a Saat July (Moments of July) that encompasses all of my daily habits or important notes.  There are three topics I still want to share with you:  (1) The Anniversary and purpose of Peace Corps, (2) a short and funny story about local food and media, and (3) a funny story about my failures to explain where exactly I’m from.

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Saat July—Moments of July (Part II): Bakso and the local media (Has President Obama been Redeemed?)

Instead of updating my blog with frequent posts about “I did this today/I did that today” and ending up with a thousand entries by the time things are done, I’m going to instead try to distill each month into one post full of tidbits from my journal, e-mail correspondences, or memory.  I think that this format will (1) be easier to parse through for you, (2) give me a chance to reflect on things before I share them publically, and (3) still provide a comprehensive idea of what my daily life is like in Indonesia.

That being said, I am not prepared to write a Saat July (Moments of July) that encompasses all of my daily habits or important notes.  There are three topics I still want to share with you:  (1) The Anniversary and purpose of Peace Corps, (2) a short and funny story about local food and media, and (3) a funny story about my failures to explain where exactly I’m from.

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Saat July—Moments of July (Part I): Reflecting on Peace Corps’s 50th Anniversary and the words of Sargent Shriver

Instead of updating my blog with frequent posts about “I did this today/I did that today” and ending up with a thousand entries by the time things are done, I’m going to instead try to distill each month into one post full of tidbits from my journal, e-mail correspondences, or memory.  I think that this format will (1) be easier to parse through for you, (2) give me a chance to reflect on things before I share them publically, and (3) still provide a comprehensive idea of what my daily life is like in Indonesia.

That being said, I am not prepared to write a Saat July (Moments of July) that encompasses all of my daily habits or important notes.  There are three topics I still want to share with you:  (1) The Anniversary and purpose of Peace Corps, (2) a short and funny story about local food and media, and (3) a funny story about my failures to explain where exactly I’m from.

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Do you want to go hear the Minister of Religion speak in Banyuwangi City?

 This was the question posed to me one Saturday morning.

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A Reflection on Pre-Service Training: Part 8, Other Fun Side Adventures

What sort of things do you do to occupy your time in Indonesia?  Can you see any volcanoes?  Have you been on any hikes? (more…)