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


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.


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.


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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.


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.


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. Read the rest of this page »

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. Read the rest of this page »