The Snake Mystery

Pusing is my absolute favorite word in Bahasa Indonesia. It means “dizzy from confusion”. I find myself often dizzy with confusion here. When I first arrived, I asked a ton of questions and was trying to figure it all out. The answer I most often got was “because this is Indonesia”, which is not a satisfying answer at all and would send me into a deeper state of pusing and so now I’ve learned to just roll with things and I’ve been able to recognize some patterns and come up with rules for how things are run here.

So, I bet you asking why I titled this post The Snake Mystery. A few days ago, while I was just hanging out at home with Monters drinking coffee and trying to motivate myself to go to work, I noticed this”

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A snake skin hanging over the door to the laundry room/ Monty’s bathroom. Pusing. I stared at it for a little bit in utter confusion wondering if it had been there the entire time we’ve lived in that house and I’ve just never noticed; or if someone hung it there for whatever reason because “this is Indonesia”; or if a snake had just shed its skin on my door frame perfectly balanced and therefore his skin was left to hang. There were a few ants walking towards it and it was soft to touch, so I’m thinking that it’s fresh and hasn’t been there the entire time.

I left for work and forgot about it. I hadn’t seen much of Amy for a couple days (maybe she hung it there?) and I forgot to ask her about it work. Then, the morning after I discovered it, we were eating breakfast and I just casually asked “hey, do you know anything about the snake skin hanging on the door frame?” She gave me the same speechless look that we give our Indonesian friends when the catch us off guard with a question about the ghosts that apparently live in our durian tree. So I pointed to the dangling snake skin and she was just as shocked and surprised and confused as me.

So apparently we have a snake living in our house somewhere. We haven’t moved the snake skin because we are so fascinated by its placement and the mystery surrounding it. We’ve also decided that we’re not going to make our resident snake leave and we are happy to share our home with him. That being said, we’d like him to show himself, because for now, he’s just a little phantom snake, and we’re always on the lookout.

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Is a fancy Ivy League degree worth it? Some considerations…

I had pretty much decided 100% that I would be going to Goldsmiths, University of London next year to study Applied Anthropology and Community Development. Then on Sunday night, after spending all weekend drinking cocktails and riding jet skis, I came home to find out that I was accepted at Columbia University in New York to study International Social Welfare and Services to Immigrants and Refugees in their School of Social Work! That send me from feeling great, to feeling like the world was my oyster. I am beaming with pride in myself and I don’t feel like that’s un-called for. I’ve been accepted to study at an Ivy League school – one of the top universities in the world with a 7% acceptance rate, so I’m going to go ahead and pat myself on the back for this one. I worked crazy hard during my undergraduate and have tried to make the past two years out of school time on as opposed to time off and Columbia University has recognized that. I’m feeling pretty darn good. And torn as to what I should do.

Here are some considerations I have.

New York vs London

They are both awesome. I love New York, and I haven’t been to London yet, which makes them both super appealing.

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

Concrete jungle where dreams are made of

They are both ideal places to study and work with immigrants and refugees. Both cities have a heavy pulse filled with culture, night life, and driven people. But in London, I could have all of Europe at my fingertips. Hello weekend trips to Spain, France, and Italy. Hello an international education that will allow me to work within a different framework of academia, which could help me stand out as I try to find work in an international arena. This is giving you major points, London. MAJOR points indeed.

This doesn’t look so bad…

Then there are these guys…

This how Dad knows that we love him.

This how we show our love for Dad.

As far as families go, I’m pretty sure that mine is the tops. I miss them and wish that I spent more time with them. New York isn’t exactly close to home, but it’s definitely closer than London. After spending a year about as far away as I could possibly be, being able to hop on a plane and hang out at home for a weekend is almost as tempting as hopping on a train and going to Paris. I’ve only talked to Mom and Dad once since I found out that I was admitted into Columbia. They are ecstatic and love the idea of my being stateside and at an Ivy League school, but they keep telling me that this is my education, not theirs, and so the decision is completely up to me, not them. I love them for that, but it would also be easier if they still told me what I had to do, as if I were a child. But we all know that’s not the case, so they’ve taken the route of being one hundred percent behind me and happy for me in whatever direction I take. And that means that I have to choose a direction to take.

Money Talks

Any one know where these grow?

Higher education isn’t cheap – especially at the post graduate level. Both options are expensive, but Columbia is REALLY expensive. That brings me to the question of whether or not a fancy Ivy League degree is really worth it. Goldsmiths is a one year program, which automatically makes it more affordable whereas Columbia is a two year program. In addition to the time frame thing, tuition costs are much lower in the UK, even with all the international expenses and visa fees. If money was truly doing all the talking here, Goldsmiths is the better value bar none. That being said, would a degree from Columbia nearly guarantee that I’ll get my dream job when I graduate? Is that worth the debt that I will build up while I study there? Is that worth turning down the opportunity to spend a year in Europe? I don’t know and I’m really glad that I cut off most of my hair last week, so I don’t have that to pull out.

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So, I’ve spent this week distracted at work, having trouble sleeping, and when I fall asleep, I’ve been having really weird stressful dreams that leave me exhausted when I wake up to start the day. If you asked me right now, my heart says that I should go to Goldsmiths, but my mind tells me that I’m crazy for turning down the opportunity to study at Columbia.  My heart and my mind are working on deadlines, so they better come to an agreement soon.

That great feeling after leaving the salon

I love going to get my hair done at Makeover in Bandar Lampung. Full stop. Let me tell you why.

In the United States, I consider a $30.00 hair cut that looks good a deal. I am usually in and out of the salon in 30-40 minutes after being shampooed, sheered, and styled. I leave feeling beautiful and happy and then am usually slightly angry the next day when I realize that I don’t have the tools or know how to make my hair look as good as my stylist did the day before. This results in having to play with it for a while on my own to figure out I can make it look good.

When I go to Makeover for a haircut, I’m there for two heavenly hours. This is because I ask for a hair spa along with a cut. The hair spa is a shampoo and leave in conditioner treatment that includes an hour an half head, shoulder and hand massage. It’s awesome. During that time, me and whoever is massaging me, look through hair books together weighing the pros and cons of each cut, compare them to the shape of my face, and then talk about my daily routine to work out if I realistically could manage it. It’s so helpful.

After my massage, I’m passed over to my stylist, who I’ve been going to for nearly six months now and knows me and my hair as if it were his own. We then discuss my chosen cut and talk about any modifications he can make.

In the United States, people tend to play it safe with their hair. Big changes are seldom and the celebrities that we imitate usually have pretty normal haircuts. In Asia, people are much more risky with their hair and I could see the disappointment in my stylist’s face every time I went in to get my hair done and said “just a trim today! I want it to look exactly the same only cleaner.” He would then proceed to try and convince me to add some more layers, angle it a bit, or go shorter, which would send me into a panic and he would ultimately then do exactly as I requested. And phenomenally might I add.

This time around, I mentioned to my masseuse that I was thinking about going shorter and he spent an hour and half convincing me that that was an excellent choice. “You will look so trendy!” “You will feel so fresh!” “A short cut will you look beautiful with your face and bring out your eyes!” Thank you, sir. That was the push I needed to be bold and go short.

The look on my stylists face when I pointed to a funky short do in a Korean style book was priceless. “Are you sure?” he said again and again. “You always just want a trim! Why don’t we just do that? I know you will be happy.” “Take it all” I said “I need a change.” And he went to town like a wizard cutting, razor-ing, and texturing my fine blonde hair. He moved so fast, that I couldn’t even register what was happening to my hair or establish any sure feelings of fear, excitement, or otherwise. I’ve never seen an artist give such astute attention to detail, using so many tools, at such speed.

This is the end product and color me delighted!

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The service that just described – hair spa, cut, and style – cost me a whopping USD $7.00. Yup.

The Java Jive

For as frequently as I travel to Java, it rarely ends end up in blog, so I’m changing that now and am going to combine months of visits to the island of Java into one post.

Situated in Bandar Lampung, I’m pretty close to Java. The bus/ferry option takes about 12 hours, but by flight, I am only 30 minutes to Jakarta.

This is awesome because I have some family who live there and the night life in Jakarta is amazing. Unfortunately the city itself is famously congested and spread out. Jakarta is largest city in Southeast Asia and the entire metropolitan area makes it the second largest metropolitan area in the world. Getting anywhere means sitting in a cab for roughly an hour – often times more – which can be infuriating if you don’t possess the virtue patience. Macet, the Indonesian word for traffic jam, is one you learn instantly on arrival, and there are three types: Macet Normal, Macet Besar (big traffic jam) and Macet Total. It varies on time of day and destination. One Friday, I spent two hours getting from the airport to a hotel in central Jakarta, but then on Monday morning, it only took me 30 minutes to get back to the airport. Who knew.

view of Jakarta from a hotel room in the city center

view of Jakarta from a hotel room in the city center

Not quite the charm of colonial plazas in Latin America, but I love the tandem bikes with matching hats!

Not quite the charm of colonial plazas in Latin America, but I love the tandem bikes with matching hats!

Shanghai Blue, a 1920s Cantonese restaurant. Very cool. Very yummy. One of my favorite restaurants in the world.

Shanghai Blue, a 1920s Cantonese restaurant. Very cool. Very yummy. One of my favorite restaurants in the world.

 

Fortunately, escaping the city is fairly easy. One hour (and 90 cents) will land you in Bogor. Bogor, while the city itself isn’t too much to look at, has a stunning botanical garden. Besides being tropical and beautiful, this is really special because local parks, green spaces, and plazas didn’t really catch on here like they did in Europe, the USA, and Latin America, so once we found this place, it was very easy to spend all day leisurely strolling about and leaving was very difficult.

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Lots of Indonesians head to West Java to relax for the weekend and it’s very easy to see why. That being said, without a car getting around can be challenging. Wanting to completely escape the city for a few days, a friend and I took off for Situ Gunung National Park to take refuge by a lake and hike to a waterfall. It looks very close on the map

In Cisaat, West Java trying to get to Situ Gunung. We didn't want to be separated because it was night, we were in a strange place, and only one of us spoke Bahasa, so the police looked the other way as both of us got on one motorbike (illegal). The sign in the background reads "Do you want to die?"

In Cisaat, West Java trying to get to Situ Gunung. We didn’t want to be separated because it was night, we were in a strange place, and only one of us spoke Bahasa, so the police looked the other way as both of us got on one motorbike (illegal). The sign in the background reads “Do you want to die?”

Getting there was an adventure that we did not anticipate and no one seemed to be able to give us reliable information on how to get there or how long it would take. From Jakarta, someone said the total journey would take four hours. When we were on a small local bus, almost at the drop off city to transfer to a motor bike, we were told that it would be an additional four hours and that we would be lucky to arrive before the early morning. Fortunately, that person was wrong and, while it was dark when we arrived, it wasn’t early morning, or even late at night.

The second we settled into our little cabin by the lake, though, we knew the journey was worth it even just for a night and leisurely morning and afternoon. Besides the birds, frogs, and insects, it was dead silent and while walking around, our only light was from the moon. We found a group of campers on a company camping trip, which was very fortunate because they had food and we had none and we got to enjoy a proper camp fire jam session.

We slept through the sunrise, which was unfortunate because that’s when the lake is supposed to be at most beautiful and set off to find the waterfall. It was beautiful, refreshing, worth the trouble, and very difficult to leave.
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The journey back wasn’t nearly as stressful – until we got to Bogor and no one wanted to tell us how to get back to the train station. One daring taxi driver even tried to tell us that the station was closed – liar – and that he would be happy to drive us back to Jakarta. I’m sure he would have been happy, because that would have cost us a fortune. Arriving in Jakarta a two hours later, by train, was very satisfying since we had just done what at least five people told us would be impossible. We were tempted to go back and find the taxi driver who said that the train station was closed and say “see!”, but we chose cocktails instead.

Java is a really intriguing island, home to the Borobudur archaeological zone, lava rivers, the highest concentration of Indonesian people, and most of the Dutch leftovers from the colonial period. I haven’t been able to explore the island enough and I probably won’t, which is a frustrating reality of living and working in such a large and fascinating country and mostly only having the weekends to travel. It’s been an important island in my experience here thus far though and I’m sure that I will continue to get to know Java better in the coming months.