Homestay in the Mountains

Amy, her dad, and I left Kiluan with heavy hearts and headed into the mountains nearby for a homestay experience and hike to a waterfall. It was great. The house that were supposed to stay in was locked up and the owners were in the city to celebrate Idul Fitri, so we were invited into another home for the night. As warm as everyone is in Indonesia, it can still be challenging to let our guards down and accept people’s hospitality. It is so contrary to everything that we learned as children growing up in western culture. The people in the village were stayed in were fabulous. They get very little foreign traffic and were very excited to have us and show us around. That being said, our night was another Sleepless in Sumatra moment come dawn. Not only was the call to prayer and the roosters extremely loud, but music was blasting through a megaphone through the town and into our house. At first we were angry, but eventually all we could do was laugh. We later asked what the music was all about, and our host told us that the people thought that we would like to wake up to music. At 5:30am. Suddenly, we were less angry about our early morning wake up.

We went into the mountains both for the homestay and to hike to a waterfall which also involved hiking through coffee, clove, and cocoa plantations.

Traditional coffee grinder

Drying cloves

It was a beautiful hike to a beautiful waterfall and we happily spent the afternoon swimming in cold fresh water and picnicking.

Me, delighted to be hiking, and Kiluan Bay in the background


Can you see the woman’s face?

Leaving, I got the biggest hugs that I’ve gotten in Indonesia so far. People here both greet and say good bye with a very casual hand shake and shy away from hugs.  Any one who knows me knows that I’m a big fan of the hug. I really miss giving and receiving hugs and it was great to get some.

Our hosts

our guide and cook



Ecotourism and Making a Difference in Kiluan Bay

Kiluan Island… great free diving, massages, and seashells

Last week was the Leberan holiday in Indonesia, which meant a much needed week off of school. Amy’s dad was visiting from Australia, which was also great fun. We decided to check out what was happening in Kiluan Bay, as we had heard so much about how special of a place it was.

Sunset view from our cabin

My neighbor, Rico, went to Kiluan Bay in 2003 and was taken aback by both the natural beauty of the area, but also the poor treatment of the environment and the poverty of the people there. Wanting to do something to make a difference in that community, he bought a large chunk waterfront property, but didn’t know what to do with it. Finally, he had a lightbulb moment and set up an ecotourism NGO. His efforts have led to a stopping dynamite fishing in the Kilian Bay and therefore rapid restoration of the coral reefs and dolphin populations. His program has also given jobs to local people and brought money into the village to improve schools and roads.

Rico’s organization, as well as tourism in Kiluan Bay, is still in the beginning stages, but enormous progress has been made. Rico’s story with Kiluan Bay is truly a testament of what an individual can do with passion and a vision. He used to be embarrassed, but now he proudly tells people that he dropped out of school in junior high and ran away from from home. This continuously shocks people as he is often invited to universities to give lectures about ecotourism and environmental NGOs. I’ve joined his organization as a volunteer and am going to run an environment education day camp program for the kids in the village. Our hope is that we can cut back on the pollution problem in Kiluan Bay and help people learn early on the importance of preserving the environment as a natural resource.

Anpan, Amy, and I at the town meeting establishing rules for ecotourism in Kiluan Bay

Daily Dine: Roti Bakan

This Daily Dine is also a shout out to my awesome mom!  As the top commentator on my blog, I’m confident that she’ll see it.

When I was a kid, my mom would would put together some pretty stellar lunches for my brother and I. That being said, there was one in particular that I dreaded. The butter and sugar sandwich. My brother liked it, but I just couldn’t understand why Mike and Mom’s taste buds got so excited about white bread with butter and sugar between it.

On Sunday night, I went out with some friends and this was put in front of me:

That is a grilled butter and sugar sandwich with cheese sprinkled on top of it. Grilling it and putting cheese on it definitely added some pizazz to the butter and sugar sandwich, but the main reason why I enjoyed it was because it made me think of my mom, whom I love and miss.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Growth

Apart from my blog’s subtitle and the ‘About Me’ page, I’ve really downplayed the fact that I’m in Indonesia teaching English. Teaching ESL abroad offers so many opportunities for growth for everyone involved. Below is a picture of the classroom rules that my students and I made together. At the first meeting of every new class, I like to go over classroom guidelines and let the students play a role in deciding what should and shouldn’t be done in the classroom. Then, we talk about how following each of these rules will help us all learn better and after everyone agrees, we all, including me, we all sign the bottom of the page. I love this class’ rule sheet because of the awesome pictures that the students drew to accompany each rule.

Working together in following these rules, I hope that my students’ English skills will grow. I hope that I will grow as a teacher. And  I hope that we all grow as global citizens.

Word of the Day: Pelan Pelan

Indonesian traffic is really something to watch and be a part of. The streets are crowded with cars, motor bikes, food carts, and a pedestrian here and there. Stop signs, as well as traffic lights, are mere suggestions, and the hilly side streets are full of speed bumps and playing children. Cars and motorbikes honk their horn through every intersection and around every corner and people cross the streets with their hands outward telling all the vehicles to stop for them. And they do! I spent the first week awestruck that the streets weren’t full of multi-car pile ups and accident victims. I actually am yet to even see a fender bender or a car in seriously bad shape. Maybe miracles happen every day on the streets of Lampung, but being a serious realist, I can’t accept that theory. I think that the only reason that everyone doesn’t crash and burn in Indonesia is because they all move pelan pelan, or ‘slowly’.

Below is a picture of the parking lot at the English school that I teach at. Notice how full it is.

In roughly five minutes everyone was out of the parking lot. One impatient person could have ruined the entire thing, but working together calmly and slowly meant that everyone got to go home quickly.

Yes, the chaos on the road happens slowly and therefore accidents never happen. It’s awesome and so different from the combis (mini busses) in Peru. Road rules in Peru are also suggestions and people exercised their ownership of the road quickly. I spent much of my time in the bus to and from the university (which was 45 min from my house if everything went smoothly) smooshed, car sick, arguing with the cobrador (the man collecting fare), and sitting still while two drivers decided how to deal with their collision. Even the cobrador worked shouted very quickly at the passengers to get on the bus, pay, and then off the bus. Let’s talk about a stressful commute. Fortunately, I only had class two days a week.

In Bandar Lampung, the entire process is much more pelan pelan and relaxing (except when the guy collecting money tried to take my designer sunglasses – “please let me have them! They look so good on me and the lenses are so good!” “Yeah, they are great. You absolutely cannot have them.” Weirdest bus conversation ever). We get on. Chat about where we’re heading. And then when we arrive the bus stops, and we get outside to sort through our wallets and pay in a comfortable, orderly fashion. Aaaah.

The word pelan pelan has another important meaning for me. There comes a magical moment in foreign language learning where your brain slows down what’s coming into it and the listener starts to distinguish words, inflections, and rhythms in spoken language. After only three weeks in Bandar Lampung, Indonesia, that’s starting to happen with me. That doesn’t mean I understand everything that I’m hearing, but it’s a big step towards being able to carry on a conversation. I’m two weeks into my classes and every day I learn new words and get more confident speaking with my friends. I’m also lucky to have made friends with who I’m convinced are the most patient Indonesians ever. I’m endlessly grateful their support as I’m trying to learn their language.

Beautiful Bandar Lampung

I spend so much time at work, that I need a little jalan jalan to remind myself sometimes that I’m lucky enough to live on a beautiful Indonesian island.

Click on the photos to enjoy them.

Daily Dine: Feasting with the Coconut Gang

Mira and Halluk invited us to their family’s house for dinner on Saturday, and, this is not an exaggeration, it was the best meal I’ve had in Indonesia thus far. I spent Friday night sitting at the coconut stand craving a hearty meal of meat and potatoes. My cravings must have been visible because on Saturday night, Amy and I sat down to a feast of beef, chicken, curried potatoes with green beans, sticky rice baskets, and honeydew. It was perfect and I was in heaven. After all of us were completely stuffed, the food was wrapped up and taken to the mosque for everyone to enjoy. I love this family and feel so lucky to have them nearby. Someday, I will write a book titled “Everything I need to Know I Learned at the Coconut Stand”.