“I’d like a large latte with an extra shot of motivation, please.”

My go-to answer for “What are you going to do when you contract finishes in Indonesia” has always been “go to grad school.” After finishing my applications, when people asked me what I was going to do, I would bury my face in my hands and say “I have no idea” because once my applications were submitted, my say in the matter was taken away and it was up to Goldsmiths University of London, University of Chicago, and Columbia University as to what I was going to do next year. I applied to University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration to study International Social Welfare and specialize in Services to Refugees and Immigrants, University of Columbia’s School of Social Work for the same thing, and Goldsmiths University of London to study Applied Anthropology and Community Development. So far, I’ve heard back from Goldsmiths and YAY I’ve been accepted! Now comes applying for funding…

IMG_2276This brings me to coffee shops. Applying for grad school, and now for funding, involves filling out a sizable amount of forms and doing lots of writing. There are few things that I hate more than paperwork, and there are few places where I am more productive than a coffee shop. The comfortable chairs. The soft indie music. The never failing wifi. The highly caffeinated drinks, which with a little bit of luck, are bottomless. And the patrons reading, writing, or doing other quiet activities. These things combined make for my most productive environment and I take full advantage of every moment in them, sometimes for a full working day. At this critical time of forms and essays, I need a coffee shop bad.

There are a few places here that call themselves coffee shops, but making my rounds (and trying to get work done there) I can say with one hundred percent certainty that they are not what I’m looking for. They are restaurants that also serve coffee. This is why I’m not particularly pleased:

Hours

I love coffee shops for their hours. When it’s 8 or 9 am and I am barely human, I can mosey into a local coffee shop and be given something magical that makes me come alive and gets me going. By the time lunch time comes around, there’s a soup and salad special or a bagel sandwich with my name on it packed with fuel to keep my brain working and fingers typing until my Goal List for the day is all crossed off. Coffee shops, save Starbucks, Bloomington’s Soma, and a hand full of others I’ve sat at, also close early. Like between 6 – 9pm early and on a rare occasion, 10 or 11. This is good because it forces me to get everything done in a limited time frame and then get out of there with my entire evening to enjoy.

Here’s the problem with Indonesian “coffee shop” hours. Waroeng Kopi (literally, Coffee Shop) is my obvious go to because it is less than a minute’s walk from my house. Unfortunately, it opens at noon and closes at 11pm, midnight on Saturdays. NOON? NO! In an ideal situation, I am OUT of the coffee shop, or almost ready to leave, by noon, not just getting in!

Food 

Dining at Waroeng Kopi, or the other options, such as The Coffee, is heavy. Literally. We’re talking greasy burgers, fried rice, huge french fries, creamy pastas, and special at Waroeng Kopi, weird bread dishes. The weird bread dishes are composed of white bread with fillings and toppings ranging from fruit and cream to bolognese sauce and then DEEP FRIED. Where is my seasonal salad? Where is my soup? Where are my bagels and muffins? A deep fried bolognese sandwich makes me want to do nothing except curl into the fetal position, sleep the rest of the day, and snap at Monty when he lays on my stomach, which I normally beg him to do, but now it’s sore. The polar opposite of taking care of business.

Music

I’ve been at Waroeng Kopi for an hour and half. So far, I have been forced to listen to Maroon 5 remixes, Christmas music, Carlie Rae Jepson, one Michael Buble song, and half of a Frank Sinatra tune. I don’t know the current artist is, but she is bumpin’ and bumpin’ is not what I need right now. Where are you Neko Case, Sufjan Stevens, Billie Holiday, and The Avett Brothers? I need you bad.

Other Patrons

Besides the music, Waroeng Kopi is quiet. Quiet because there are rarely other people there.

Other people are a key factor in my equation to being productive because if Mr. Wire Glasses and a Vest looks up from his book to see me laughing out loud at Tumblr, I’m sure that he’s thinking “why is she wasting that $6 latte on Tumblr when she could be writing a paper that will change the field of Anthropology forever?” I also am sure — because I do this — that when the person who has been at the coffee shop all day working’s computer is about to die, they are enraged if they see me hogging an electrical outlet to power my Facebook machine. Their disapproving glares keep me in line and I need them.

Outdoor seating at Waroeng Kopi

A typical afternoon at Waroeng Kopi

The other problem with the patrons at coffee shops here stems from the fact that coffee shops are restaurants, not coffee shops. How am I supposed to work next to a table of loud people who want to know where I’m from, why I’m in Lampung, what I’m doing, where I’m going after the coffee shop, where I was before coming to the coffee shop, and if they can take my picture? Or if I’m at The Coffee, there’s way too high of a chance that the table next to me has a tower of beer. That’s right, in a city where there are exactly 4 bars — none of which are popular hang out joints — you can find beer at “coffee shops”. NO NO NO! The last thing that I need distracting me is alcohol. I want to get my stuff done at the coffee shop, and then move somewhere else to reward myself with beer.

So that’s where we are. I’ve been Waroeng Kopi for nearly three hours, and now it’s storming, so I have even less motivation to walk home as I do to search for and complete scholarship applications. Fortunately, they just put on a acoustic song. Please be an entire album.

Pour House in Bloomington, Indiana, I miss you more than you know. I miss that your baristas knew if I needed an extra shot in my Cafe Miel by the look on my face when I walked through the door. I miss your chocolate chip cookies, made daily from scratch. I miss your chili and white bean soup. I your soft music, soft sofas, and soft lights. And I miss knowing that your profits and my tips always went to a good cause. Please consider opening up a location in Bandar Lampung, Indonesia. I promise that, if you do, I will personally keep you in business.

Word of the Day: Banjir

I can’t think of a single person who isn’t ready for the rainy season to be over. Amy and I rode out a doozy of a storm at Yen and Laurent’s house on Thursday and on the drive home, we passed down trees and power lines. When we arrived back at home, the main floor of our house was full of water and we spent the better part of the evening sweeping and mopping it out. That brings me to my word of the day: banjir (flood).

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We were fortunate, though. We are wet and there are little, dirty cat prints on all the tables and counters because Monty is trying to avoid walking on the floor, but we are safe and nothing was ruined. Leigh has a little geyser bubbling up from his floor, but he too is safe. Yen and Laurent are completely dry. Other people were less fortunate and had house flooding as high as a meter. I cannot imagine the amount of motorbikes, cars, and housewares that have been ruined, which will cause considerable economic hardship in order to replace for the people here. Yesterday at school, our power is being run by generator and our internet is down, making conducting classes challenging as our coursework is web based. Teluk Betung, an district in Bandar Lampung, was completely flooded on Thursday killing three. I have not heard any more numbers for injuries or fatalities in other areas, but I’m sure that there are more than three in Bandar Lampung. It really puts things in perspective and is heartbreaking to think that while we were snuggled up in Yen’s cozy bed watching How I Met Your Mother, people were dying.

Jakarta has experienced terrible flooding in the past week leaving at least 30 dead and roughly 100,000 forced to leave their homes.

I am sure that when the water clears out, the destruction left behind will seem irreparable and that all of Indonesia will be suffering consequences from the floods, considering the damage done to the capital. I will keep you posted on relief efforts.

It hasn’t started raining yet today. The pattern has been sunny mornings and then from mid-afternoon through the night nonstop rain. Hopefully, it lets up soon.

To follow news coverage on the flood in Jakarta and Bandar Lampung, check out these websites

Antara News

Jakarta Globe

IRIN Asia

To learn more about flooding as a result of rising sea levels and the effects it has, visit this website:Global Flood Map

 

Dorky Travelers in Myanmar….

This is the last of my Myanmar posts, but I realized that I was leaving my travel buddies out of my blog posts, which I’m going to fix right now.

“I’d like one order of Chevon’s Lesticles” … said no one ever.

Some signs and menus from Myanmar that cracked me up… Enjoy.

This is pronounced POOCHI, right? Wrong.

This is pronounced POOCHI, right? Wrong.

 

 

 

I'd like some Freedom Fries with my Liberty Sweets please

I’d like some Freedom Fries with my Liberty Sweets please

This entire menu is doozy from the Holiday Inn motif to the Texas BBQ, but scroll down past the Dove and Sparrow options to number 15...

This entire menu is doozy from the Holiday Inn motif to the Texas BBQ, but scroll down past the Dove and Sparrow options to number 15…

Unfortunately, you can only watch one bird

Unfortunately, you can only watch one bird

I would like the snake head soup, I mean potion,  please.

I would like the snake head soup, I mean potion, please.

What exactly are we rejecting?

What exactly are we rejecting?

Do you L<3ve fried rice? I'm pretty tired of it...

Do you L<3ve fried rice? I’m honestly pretty tired of it…

All you need is love. DER!

All you need is love. DER!

Myanmar Holiday Part 7: Mount Popa

From Bagan we took a day trip to Mount Popa before going back to Yangon for New Years, and it was seriously National Lampoon’s Burmese Vacation. Hiring a car for the day cost five of us $8 a head and we had a list of places we wanted to see. Sinister is the adjective we can best use to describe our driver, and I do not have any photos of this individual because honestly, he was kind of scary. Our day with him did make for a good story though.

Driving out of Bagan, he pulled over and yelled out his window to many a passerby “Come on! Mount Popa!” Not surprisingly at all, no one hopped into our van. We did, however, make a stop at another guesthouse where we were to pick someone up. We were told not to discuss money with the new guy because he was being charged $10, while the rest of us were being charged $8. This guy later told us that he thought he would be on a guided tour.

On our drive, we stopped at a local toddy distillery, that we were not interested in, and were told “Stop. Get out. Alcohol. Photos.” Confused, we asked to continue on to Mount Popa, which he begrudgingly did.

Our next stop was a vista looking out a Mount Popa where we were swarmed by children selling rocks – magical rocks that RATTLE – and petrified wood. Yes, I bought tons of rocks for my friends back in Indonesia, who, luckily, think they’re as awesome as I do.

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When we arrived at Mount Popa, music was blaring from a temple where woman, seemingly in a trance, was dancing, monkeys were running all around, and colorful egg shaped human figures were all over. The place was instantly captivating and worth the very awkward car trip.

popa

We climbed the steep steps up to the temple perched on top of Mount Popa, stopping for a quick lunch of noodles where we got a taste of the monkeys’ relationship with the people. It’s not good. After my trip to the Sacred Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali, I’m hesitant around our furry cousins, but they are still fun to watch. From a distance. A man walking around beating a stick gave us a nod and a thumbs up — like an trusty uncle who had our back—and made sure that we stayed a safe distance from the monkeys. The old ladies serving up our noodles also protected us… by sling-shotting the monkeys when they got too close.

When we reached the top, were rewarded with a stunning view of wide open space. Looking northeast, we were 300 miles from India, but the area between us and India is currently full of conflict, making it impossible to cross. We also saw an impressive crater that Lonely Planet says is a fun hike and were determined to do it. We descended to find our driver so that he would take us there, as well as the petrified forest.

Explaining the crater was challenging and thank goodness we had Blake to draw it. We were confident that he understood where we wanted to go and he told us to meet him back at the car at 1:15pm. We got some more food, and I was really enjoying an ear of sweet corn when a monkey snuck up behind me and ripped it out of my hands while I was gnawing on it. Where were my sling shot ladies when I needed them?

 

I hope that he enjoyed his corn...

I hope that he enjoyed his corn…

When we met back up with our driver, he was decorating the car with flowers and said with a big betel nut grin “my lady”, and a woman we had never seen got in the van. We drove for a while, stopped, and were sent up a hill for “45 minutes!” There was a reclining Buddha, and a nice view, but we were really confused as to where we were. Looking out, we were trying to work out if we were on the edge of the crater or not, but you can see in the picture that the trees look big and then there’s a cliff and they get really small, so we figured that maybe we were.

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are we on a crater?

are we on a crater?

Also on that stop, I lost my pretty sunglasses in a squat toilet, and the lady guarding the toilet kept telling me they were gone forever while I was in mourning.

Blake and Joe went back to car to find all the curtains drawn and our driver in the backseat with his lady. When we dropped her off at her house that was nearby, we realized that we had not been to the crater, and probably wouldn’t go there. Our driver and his lady just needed some alone time, and he knew how to distract six tourists for forty-five minutes.

We asked him to then take us to the petrified forest, which we settled on being “stone tree” and he took us a roadside tea shop that had petrified wood as a fence. Stone trees, sure, petrified forest… not quite. I don’t have any pictures from that special stop. We went back to Bagan after that, awkwardly laughing and with no words to describe the day trip. It was National Lampoon’s Burmese Vacation, and one of the weirder days that I’ve had traveling.

Myanmar Holiday Part 6: Bagan

Bagan, officially the Bagan Archaeological Zone is an area of 22 square miles of temples, constructed between the 11th and 13th century, that was the site of the first Burmese Kingdom. Google ‘Burma’ and you will undoubtedly find photos of misty hills with temples popping out, or you’ll recognize Bagan from the opening scene of The Lady, a biopic about Aung Sung Suu Kyi. Not only is it an iconic image of Burma, but the archaeologist in me was not about to miss it.

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We arrived to find that our reservation had been given away and as we walked down the street of Nuang Oo, we were told by each and every passerby that there were no rooms. This was a little unnerving because, like I said in my first post about Myanmar, only those holding a permit from the government are legally allowed to house foreigners. Being the high tourist season, we were starting to worry that we wouldn’t have a place to stay – or at least one that was within our budget. Fortunately, one of the guesthouses let us stay in the back which was the owners’ family home as well as a school house.

We woke up at 4:30am to see the sunrise. We were cold on our bicycles, the streets were dark, and we had no idea where we were going, so following a horse-drawn carriage with tourists in the back seemed like the right move. When we arrived, Blake was concerned that we were in the wrong spot since “we were supposed to be able to see thousands of temples” and we could only see two, but sure enough, as the sky lit up, more and more temples appeared.

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The hot air balloons were a nice touch.

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We spent the rest of the day riding around on our bikes going down to the Aeyerwaddy River and then in and out of as many temples as we could.

It was an interesting site because the land – and the temples – are still in use. They sit side by side restaurants, in farm fields, host hoards of Buddhism practitioners. What this means for the structures is that they can’t be left to crumble and demand preservation. Also, an earthquake in 1975 destroyed many of them and much of the site had to be rebuilt.

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While the accuracy of some of the reconstructions is debatable, they were, for the most part, beautiful. However, there were a few temples like this one though, where is looked like they put tape over the crumbly bits to try and save it that would make anyone say “Seriously, Myanmar Archaeological Society? This is the best ya got?”

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Few buildings remain impressive on account of their antiquity, but as a site of cultural continuity and preservation, Bagan is fascinating. Spending a day on bikes riding through an archaeological zone in the warm sun is my idea of heaven, and I loved every minute of it.

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Myanmar Holiday Part 5: Inle Lake

After spending three days walking to arrive at Inle Lake, we spent a day and a half doing the perfect thing to reward ourselves: sitting on a boat.

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When we first arrived, we hiked around a bit at Inthein, where small pagodas on top of peaks gave us a bird’s eye view of a concentrated area of pagodas seemingly out of nowhere. It was not as dramatic as we had anticipated it being, and when we were underwhelmed, we realized how spoiled we’ve become by our travels…

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After getting a good look at Inthein, we rode an hour and half up Inle Lake to Nuang Shwe, the small town we were staying in. The calm water, slow-moving boats, and mountainous background made Inle Lake one of the most peaceful places I had ever been. We woke up early the next morning excited to see the lake at dawn, when the fog was so thick, that it was difficult to where the horizon divided the sky and water.

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Aside from the early morning mist, we were very excited to visit where cats are trained to jump through hoops. We told our boat driver to take us to all the most beautiful and special places at Inle Lake, but that seeing these cats was our absolute top priority.

The tour was beautiful. Entire neighborhoods of stilted houses where people’s only option is to travel by boat.

The Inle Lake Post Office

The Inle Lake Post Office

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Floating vegetable gardens – who knew that tomato plants could float?!

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We stopped at a cigar factory as well as a textile workshop, both of which were very interesting.

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Making Lotus thread... that spool is the result of one month of work!

Making Lotus thread… that spool is the result of one month of work!

And no jaunt in Myanmar is complete without paying a visit to a very old, very beautiful pagoda.

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As expected, though, the jumping cats were the highlight. The monastery was very cool and full of cats and kittens. There wasn’t a monk there putting on a jumping cat show (there are a few different stories for why not), so we made hoops with our arms and those cats did indeed jump!

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Since coming back to Indonesia, I’ve been trying to train Monty to jump. We’re making baby steps.