How to Relax in Bandar Lampung in Five Simple Steps

As work, traffic, power outages, and the umpteen steps and forms required to do anything in Indonesia continue to inconvenience me, I have a top-notch escape. I’m not going to give up the name of my go-to hide away, and in all honesty, I surprise myself every time I am able to find it again. There are many naysayers who like to say that the beaches in Bandar Lampung are dirty and crowded, but I am here to tell you that that paradise isn’t as far away from the traffic in Tanjung Karang as you think it is. I keep going back here because I know it’s a sure thing, but I’m sure that in doing some exploring, there are places just as good.

So here is how to truly relax in Bandar Lampung in five simple steps:

1. Fill a cooler with beer, water, and sandwiches. The Indomarets in town are more likely to have cold beer than the ones just outside of town, so keep that in mind.

2. Hire a boat

3. Go some where that looks like this

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4. Snorkel, sun bathe, and swim (in any order)

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5. Repeat as necessary

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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

“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 was walking with a ghost

The paranormal activity in Indonesia is unlike anything that I’ve ever experienced. There’s no escaping the presence of religion, ghosts, and psychics and my black-and-white, science driven logic is really struggling to get a good grasp on what exactly is going on here. I’m not going to touch religion, but here’s what I’ve worked out so far with the ghosts and the psychics.

Ghosts

Ghosts are not spirits of dead people, but separate beings. Certain ghosts are recognizable, but you really don’t want to see any. People who can see them can see them everywhere (I cannot) and apparently, our old house was riddled with them. Ghosts especially like to spend time in the trees. One student told me that after seeing a ghost in his grandmother’s tree, she immediately cut it down. Another student expressed that they struggle with the tree issue because ghosts live in the trees and that’s bad for people, but if you cut down the trees, it’s bad for the environment.

This picture is mostly up to show off last night's sunset, but do you see anything hanging out in our trees?

This picture is mostly up to show off last night’s sunset, but do you see anything hanging out in our trees?

Psychics

The police system here is pretty inefficient. Thank you, corruption. That being said, when you need to get to the bottom of something, you take it to your trusted paranormal specialist. This became especially relevant to me a couple of weeks ago when $200.00 USD went missing. Two different psychics said that that it was a female who is close to me. Amy is not a suspect. But who knows. Maybe he had a clear vision. Maybe it was made up. But either way, I’m out $200.00 and there’s nothing that can really be done about it.

The ghosts and the psychics really remind me that I’m operating in culture extremely different from the United States. It’s easy to forget that sometimes. You see a lot of traditional Indonesian clothing, but you see a lot of jeans and t-shirts too. I work in an English school, so I often hear these accounts from English speakers. I definitely have never heard someone speak so definitely about paranormal activity in English before I came here. Other moments that remind me how far away I am from home, geographically and culturally, are riding past the traditional markets being set up in the wee hours of the morning when I’m driving home from a night club and the frequent call to prayers. I also can’t forget the fact that I’m an outsider since people constantly remind me by shouting “bule!” (foreigner) as I pass. Yes, the bule shouts are getting old. Now that I’m over my culture shock hump, am settled into a routine, and can get around really well with my bahasa, the little intricacies of Indonesian culture are starting to show themselves. Who knows, maybe I’ll even see a ghost.

Happy Holidays from Bandar Lampung!

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We went to a Christmas party on Thursday and got a very healthy dose of Holiday Cheer! Yes, that is fake snow in Amy’s hair. It’s true that there’s no place like home for the holidays, but it really is nice to be far away from Christmas chaos. For actual Christmas day, I’ll probably be sitting on a beach somewhere in Myanmar… or on a very long bus ride…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Renewal

This is an exciting time for everyone and every plant because the rainy season is in full force! YAY! My yard, that used to be dry patches of grass here and there and lots of dusty dirt is now thick with grass. The weather is also a lot (well, relatively) cooler now that we have daily showers. I am also loving watching the lightning shows over the mountains and the ocean from our balcony.

Dry Season

Rainy season. Much more life than before…

You could say that all people are feeling fresh and renewed and the land could not be happier! Finally, our fruit trees are starting to produce fruit and soon we will have fresh durian, starfruit, and papaya. YUM!

Our durian is getting bigger and bigger! A rain cloud rolls in… 

There are few things that I relish more than laying in bed and listening to rain pour down and thunder boom and I love walking outside right after a downpour and smelling the freshness that comes right after it rains. Yes, I am feeling renewed in body and spirit… and much less sweaty.