Saturday, February 14, 2009

Long Blog Post – Jacques in Jogia, Inaugural Ball, and North Sulawesi

Where do I begin? I know I left out a bunch of information since I posted last. I've recently been to North Sulawesi where I presented at a conference held by another ELF and her host institution and I managed a short weekend to Bunaken where I did some diving. It was fraught with adventure including giant centipedes but I also want to fill you in on the Jogjakarta adventure that happened a month ago and then I'm behind on explaining my professional adventures which also have been brewing madly... including a radio show that I'll be hosting beginning next week... but I'll wait blog this after out launch on the 21st, its the superstition in me I suppose.

... go there. Of course the most popular thing to see in Jogja is Boroburdur and all the other temples. I will need to go back as there's still a lot I haven't seen. Our most exciting story to tell is how we fell into the fun little Maliboro (big tourist shopping district) tourist traps. No matter how the guidebooks warn you, and how much you will swear to avoid it, tourist traps are tourist traps which tend sneak up on you when you aren't looking. It really started when I decided that wanted to find batik fabric that could later be taken to a tailor... not pre-made shirts and definitely not the wall hanging art (which is beautiful) but we were somehow shuttled through the alleys to one of those “you must buy the art now because we are going to Sumatra tomorrow” situations. (my eyes rolling at them, knowing it was a big scam) We actually did end up buying a piece for 60% less than their original asking price... and I'm sure it was still too high based on how quickly they handed it over to us. It was funny too, I had remarked on a piece I saw, that I thought was pretty but I didn't want it. They even chased after us down the alleyway trying to sell it to us me frustratingly yelling back at them “tidak mau! – I don't want it.” And then later, Jacques mentioned to the puppet makers he was interested in buying a kris. This led to us to being taken into someone's home who was selling antique Kris (the wavy ceremonial knives that have magical powers). These Kris were allegedly antique as they told us the family worked at the sultans palace. At this news, Jacques and I chatted outside alone and decided that if they weren't antique, then it was a big scam and if they were antique then likely it was not a legal situation. So we as best we could left the situation politely. Having lived here for a while, I have no problem balancing my smile and my direct no when it comes to giving my money. It is easy to be incensed that they would expect you would break down and buy something you don't want or be guilted into it as the bargaining begins with them pretty much once you set foot into the store. But if you don't want it, you don't want it, and if you do, you must advocate for yourself and your pocket book.

Probably the greatest highlight of Jogjakarta was actually not in Jogja. Near Solo (Surakarta) there are two temples, the Candi Sukuh and Candi Ceto. With Jonna (ELF) and her husband Peter we hiked between these temples in the cooler mountain air, enshrouded in fog, meandering through the terrace rice paddies and farms. It was beautiful and good exercise. The temples too were interesting, old with many interesting yoni and lingham symbols. I think the photos speak for themselves here.

But again, the departure was the worst. At the airport I had to go to Jakarta for a big mid year meeting and Jacques back to Bali to catch his international flight. I was reminded of saying good bye in San Francisco. The worst was, the first connecting leg of his flight was canceled and he had to stay in Denpassar one more night. Had we known, he could have come to Jakarta with me that night.

A modern city. Has Starbucks, Indian Food, halfway decent Mexican food, an amazing brunch at the Ritz Carleton and I went to the Inaugural Ball there. Barak Obama became president Jakarta time right at midnight, the same moment my birthday began. It was good timing.

North Sulawesi

I am waiting for the photos. I left without my camera but in retrospect with my accident prone self (at least that weekend) who knows what would have happened to it. Regardless, with our without a camera, North Sulawesi is beautiful. It has mountains and ocean, large coconut palm plantations dotting the landscape but the natural jungle is still pretty intact. Perhaps it's because it's not super easy to get there and transport the natural resources from the place. By plane its a good 4 hours from Jakarta and Sulawesi just isn't the most driver friendly based on it's topography.

The conference was fun. I presented on group work and pair work. I've done this topic about 3 times now and still find it's different each time. It seems to be useful for the participants, they walk away with a fair idea of how to make their classroom collaborative between students and better ideas on how to facilitate more English use.

After the conference a group of us.. that would have been six people and our bags, rode in hired car to Manado. Once again... looking at a map you'd think 3-4 hours tops, but I would in turn tell you to stop thinking in North American interstate terms... Now think windy two lane Indonesian road and add looking for a restroom, stopping for dinner and having a flat tire. This new equation equals 11 hours, getting us to Manado at 1 AM. I've made an executive decision: I'm done with long car rides.

From Manado, the next morning, we took a boat to the Island of Bunaken. The resort was a divers paradise fraught with hazards at every turn... at least from my vantage point. But really it was a great place, I loved it despite of my welcome fall down the steps towards the beach shortly after drinking my welcome drink (and half of my second beer). Despite of this obvious relationship it is a little odd to have the bar at the bottom of the uneven clifside stone steps that lead up to your bungalows. I was fine from the fall aside from a skinned up ankle that I am still bandaging up but my laptop took a spill and the LCD screen suffered spider vein like cracks. I am now blogging to you on a small new computer that I bought in Jakarta last week along with an external drive. Might take this opportunity to remind you to back up regularly. I still am finding that there are files on the other one that I don't have at my fingertips.

The Worst Pain I've Ever Felt
One evening at Bunaken, I walked over towards Maura and Rich's Bungalow, just before dinner. I stepped on a centipede who was lurking and waiting for me at the bottom of their steps. I don't think I've ever felt anything this painful in my life. It burned, felt like bones were broken and my foot swelled up like a balloon. The treatment for this is hot water. Just soak it. It actually relieves the pain contrary to what you might imagine. Without the hot water, it was a searing pain... even with 800mg or Ibuprofen. I couldn't sleep hardly that whole night. If it was soaking in the bucket, it was too awkward to lay down and once the water cooled off, the pain came roaring back. The next day, I actually dove. My food ached a little while kicking with the fins but there was no way I could pass up the day of diving because it was the last opportunity of this trip and it was a great day.

The first day of diving, it was overcast. It still was gorgeous but no where near the blue and turquoise potential the waters of the area have. I saw black tip fined sharks, sea turtles, fish, sting rays, coral and lots of sea water. On the boat we saw dolphins rhythmically breaching in their rest state. I did a night dive where I saw another shark, the glowing shrimp who just stop and stare into your light, crabs.... I think I decided, I'm not a big night dive fan. It's just so... dark.

So that second day of diving with the blue waters and the light and the drifting currents was amazing.

I'm back in Banjarmasin now. Although classes haven't started yet, I am happy to have this lull in teaching because I have plenty of other things to to. I still have 6 more lessons to finish for my radio show and I have to plan my next semester courses. Busy, busy.