Krakatoa!

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I had never heard of Krakatoa before coming to Indonesia, but immediately upon arriving in Bandar Lampung, it’s been heavily on my mind. This monster of a volcano sits in the Sunda Straight right between Sumatra and Java and is technically part of the province of Lampung. In August of 1883, the thing erupted killing at least 36,400 people and completely destroying Bandar Lampung. It was the loudest sound in modern history and even as far away an England people noticed a change in the waves. It’s regarded as the deadliest volcano in history and Anak Krakatoa (Child of Krakatoa), while safe to visit, is constantly spewing out smoke and spitting rocks and lava.

Keen to visit? Ask around in Bandar Lampung and people will tell you that it costs over USD 1,000.00 to get a boat out there or you can go to Java. Neither option is particularly convenient. Last weekend, however, we got together fifteen people and a boat for USD 500.00 and booked it! We looked relaxing to a new level on the three hour boat ride — beers were out by 9am — and then spent the afternoon diving off the boat into the crystal clear waters around Anak Krakatoa. Another perfect day in paradise. And Tony Packo hot dogs were for lunch, making it a special kind of perfect for me — Thanks, Mom and Susan for getting that sauce out to me!

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yum!

yum!

From the plateau looking out over the Sunda Strait

From the plateau looking out over the Sunda Strait

spectacular sunset to close the day

spectacular sunset on the boat ride back to close the day

“No Forks in the Toilet” and Other Bathroom Guidelines

Going to the bathroom in Indonesia brings up endless questions. However the question that I most frequently ask myself is why people have to be told not to do the following:IMG_2346Does this sign imply that people need to be instructed that the toilet is for one life function only and not for others, eating and bathing?

I like to look at this from left to right and empathize with the person in the pictures. I guess if you were standing on the toilet while you were eating lunch, it would be much easier to throw all your cutlery, plates, and glasses in the toilet as opposed to carry it to a trash can. I mean, if you were holding onto all those things, you would probably drop it all in the toilet anyway while you were trying to keep your balance and step off the toilet seat. After that, let’s say some sauce dripped on your foot… how convenient to have a hose right there to wash off with!

Being that everything one does in the bathroom is behind closed doors, while I’ve never found myself with this urges I can’t speak for everyone. What you do in a bathroom stall is your business, but follow a few simple rules.

Surfing: I need more practice.

Last weekend, the bule crew (minus Leigh) took a trip to Krui. We were off to a shakey start as we had planned to leave Lampung at 4am Saturday morning to arrive in Krui at 9:am… Amy got up, but the rest of us were dead to the world until 6:45am. Red wine is to blame for my oversleeping, but I can’t speak for Yen and Laurent as to how they didn’t their   3am alarm. Anyway, we made it into Krui at 1pm ready for the beach!

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What a slice of paradise we found! The beach was pristine, the waves were fun, the few other tourists we met were awesome, and the fish was oh so fresh!

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So onto surfing. The waves are the main attraction to Krui and at Mandiri Beach, where we were staying, the waves were rough and the current was strong, but the sand was so soft and we could not argue with the convenience of walking out of our cabin and onto the beach, so while the learning conditions were subideal, this was our chosen beach for surfing.

I have always fantasized about being a surfer, and Amy said that when we first met, my hair was so blonde and I was so tan that she was convinced that I was a surfer… so I got the right look, which is step one.

We met some very cool Americans over a few beers at a surf camp and one of them accepted the challenge of teaching me how to surf. This was not my first lesson, but one lesson every three years since I was 18 hasn’t exactly made me a pro. Amy stayed on the beach taking pictures for a bit, and these are what she shot…

Dave in the background biting his finger nails while the ocean is treating me like clothes in the washing machine.

Dave in the background biting his finger nails while the ocean is treating me like clothes in the washing machine.

Those are my legs poking out the wave.

Those are my legs poking out the wave.

I stood up and rode in enough times to declare it a successful day surfing, but I don’t have any pictures to prove it. Plans to return to Krui are already in the works, which means that 2013 will be the year I break my pattern of standing on a surf board only once every three years. That also means that 2013 will probably the year that I realize my potential as a surfer and go pro.

I think I have my work cut out for me.

I definitely have my work cut out for me.

“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.

“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 4: Trekking to Inle Lake

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The three day trek to Inle Lake, as opposed to the hour and a half bus ride, was well worth the extra time and effort. Not only were we walking through beautiful scenery, but we were also able to get a taste of daily life in rural Myanmar as we were trekking through agricultural areas and staying in people’s homes. The trek was organized perfectly to give us a mix of nature and culture, the culture bits being the most interesting for me. It’s difficult to describe the experience with words, so enjoy the photos.

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The scenes that I loved the most were looking out over rolling hills and seeing a patchwork of green, amber, yellow, and red below the brightest blue sky. The red areas were where chili was being laid out to dry. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos that do it justice, but I do have a cool idea for a quilt that I can’t wait to discuss with Mom!

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I love visiting agriculture areas. One thing that I really don’t like about western culture is how separated we are from our food sources… I loved seeing chili farming in action, and being able to munch on fresh chilies while walking. To my surprise, they didn’t set my mouth on fire!

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We started our trek on Christmas Eve and really enjoyed thinking about what our families’ were probably doing back home, and of course getting a bit homesick. I missed spending the holidays with my family, but I will say that these three days were filled with uncountable unique and memorable moments that I’m very thankful to have had.

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Myanmar Holiday Part 3: Kalaw

From Yangon, we went traveled 12 hours by bus to Kalaw, Shan State in Northeastern Myanmar. Kalaw is a mountain town and serves as the starting off point for a three day/ two night trek to Inle Lake. While we only spent a day there, it was a very special part of our trip.

Kalaw Market

Kalaw Market

Before I had left Indonesia, Blake was giving me the rundown of our trip and tips for packing. About Kalaw, he said this: “Everyone says that it’s going to be really cold, but I think it will only be cold by Myanmar standards. It shouldn’t feel bad at all for you and you’ll be fine with whatever you bring.” I got off the bus cursing Blake between my shivers as we got off the bus at 4am and I could see my breath. Being that we arrived so late (early?), and were freezing, we were in no rush in the morning and took it good and slow. Being that we were in Shan State, we made it our first priority to find some good Shan noodles.

Five orders of Shan Noodles, please

Five orders of Shan Noodles, please

From there, we checked out the markets for much needed warm hats and scarves, and a camera, since I forgot mine at the guys’ house in Yangon, and I wasn’t about top go through Myanmar without taking photos. We also spent a while walking around looking for a 500 year-old bamboo Buddha plated in gold, which was much more difficult to find than we thought it’d be and we never did find the caves, that were said to be near by.

Bamboo Buddha: found!

Bamboo Buddha: found!

The evening in Kalaw was what made this stopover so memorable. At the market, we met a man who ran a community organization dedicated to rural development and providing safe housing and education to children and teenagers from high conflict areas. I asked him if we would be able to visit the home and he told us to meet at their shop at 5:30. We arrived and were greeted with all smiles by the children.

Our wonderful hosts for the evening

Our wonderful hosts for the evening

They showed us around their facilities, and then performed traditional dances, which we, of course, had to follow up with some Western music. The showstoppers were Sebastian and Eid. Sebastian played a drum while Eid performed a Thai dance. Everyone loved it!

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Blake was also a hit with his art. Here and everywhere visited.

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After the impromptu talent show was over, we had a beautiful dinner and finished with a dessert of Swiss chocolate fondue with tropical fruit. It was absolutely delicious, and the kids took the fun to a new level with chocolate fights and eating races.

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The evening was really special for many reasons. The kids were gorgeous and fun to hang out with for the evening and the man running the operation, an ex-political prisoner, was fascinating. He offered a lot of insight into the conflict happening throughout Myanmar and the civilian fight for human rights and social justice. I’ve commented before about the optimism and spirit of the Myanmar people in spite of the oppressive government and current violence. I was really able to see it here.

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After leaving the center, we hit the Kalaw night life scene. Being December 23, we found a group of Christmas carolers… Silent Night combined with the frigid air made me feel back at home. We stopped at a (closing) bar for some rum to warm us up and then continued our hunt for an open bar. We stumbled into Hi! Snack & Drink and it was one of the coolest nights in a bar I’ve had! The whole establishment was about the size of a generous walk-in closet, so we were crammed in there keeping warm with whiskey and hanging out with the guys there, who were musicians and English teachers in Kalaw.

Rockin' a National League for Democracy sticker on his guitar

Rockin’ a National League for Democracy sticker on his guitar

A tip box on the bar was overflowing and the bar tender explained that they will take the money to hospital to assist the poorest families there. Things close early in Myanmar, so when three tourists from Singapore showed up at 11pm, the bartender said “You’re so unlucky! We closed an hour and a half ago, but now we are closing for real. You’re so unlucky!”, which is probably the best way to tell someone that they can’t get a drink.

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We called it a night after the bar closed. We had to be up and ready to start our three day trek to Inle Lake in the morning.