Let’s Pack!

Saturday night, some of my closest friends and I gathered for a very decdent barbeque for my farewell. Let’s talk about bittersweet. We had a great party, I just wish that we would have been celebrating something besides me leaving. There has been a lot about living in Bandar Lampung that I have really hated, but a lot that I have loved too. I have been crying a lot lately.

But I am leaving on Friday, so pack I must.

Anyone who has spent any time with me days before a big trip knows that I really hate packing. That is why before I go anywhere, someone has to sit on my bed and keep an eye on me. They don’t have to help me pack, in fact, I would prefer it if they didn’t, I just ask that they make sure I actually pack instead of mess around on Facebook or watch an episode — ok, an entire season — of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Today is only Monday, but in the spirit of planning ahead, and so that instead of packing on Thursday, I can go to the beach, I woke up early and got almost all my packing done.

I feel crazy accomplished and am treating myself to an hour and a half foot massage while I am writing this post.

Packing after being here for a year was pretty challenging. I shed a lot of stuff, mainly clothes and toiletries, and have replaced them with treasures, such as batik, jewelry, tapestries, and Kamoro wood carvings that did not fit in my bag as easily as I thought they would. I did it though. Unfortunately, this giant clam shell that I love didn’t make the cut.

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Pretty sad to be leaving it behind, but you have no idea how heavy it is.

Everything worth carting accross the world is in a backpack and a suitcase. As for my carry-on, I’m gunna go with a very small backpack, and then for the last leg of the trip, I will have Monty flying in-cabin with me, which I’m sure will be fun for no one. American Airlines passengers flying from Chicago to Detroit on Saturday, my apologies.

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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.

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.

After years of expensive education, a car full of books, and anticipation…

If you haven’t heard it, check out Jamie Cullum’s song “Twentysomething”  If you are a twenty-something, like me, it will probably resonate well with you. If you’re a grown up, give it a listen and remember your twenty-something, hopefully fondly. If you’re younger, look forward to making a similar list to the song, and one that has a striking resemblance to George Constanza’s reality check after quitting his job.

“I like sports. Maybe I could be a sports announcer. You know how I’m always making those witty comments during the games?”
“I think they tend to give those jobs to ex-ball players or people with a degree in broadcasting.”
“That’s really not fair.”

You will undoubtedly freak out your parents when you don’t choose to this option: move back home, pay off my loans working nine to five answering phones. Sorry, Mom and Dad.

It’s been exactly one year out of college for me, and when I avoid looking at my monthly bank statements so as to not face the music of my poverty, I question many a choice that I’ve made. But when I think back on all why my bank account is low and what I’ve done with my year, I have different feelings. Not feelings of accomplishment, per say, but definitely satisfaction. Living in the Florida Keys was far from awful and I took some pretty fun vacations: the Caribbean coast of Colombia, California, and the East Coast of the USA.  Sure, one can argue that I’m putting off adulthood, but I’m a twentysomething in a rough economy with a degree in Anthropology, Folklore, and Latin American & Caribbean Studies, so what am I to do?

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That brings me to the point of this post. What do you do with an Anthropology and Folklore degree? People asked me that all through undergrad and I consistently gave the answers my advisors gave me: work in a museum, do contract archaeology, go to graduate school. Sure, graduate school is on my to-do list, but I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on what anthropology and folklore programs train students to do and then how to put those skills to practice. Essentially, I learned how to both participate in and observe cultures #participantobservation, ask insightful questions, dig square holes, turn on my “artifact eyes”, and appreciate both the differences and similarities that people have throughout time and space.

So what do you do with a degree in Anthropology and Folklore? How do you put the skills listed above into practice? I argue that you should move somewhere interesting and make it work. Sure, you may just be scraping by, but you will be doing all the things your expensive education and car full of books have trained you to do.

Scraping by is much more enjoyable with a view.

Last year, that interesting place was South Florida (Key Largo and Miami) and soon, I’ll be completely out of my element in Bandar Lampung, Sumatra, Indonesia. Not using the Latin American and Caribbean Studies component of my degree as much as I did this past year, but I couldn’t be more excited to mix things up a bit!

That’s where English as a Second Language comes in. People have asked me why I’ve decided to branch away from my degree and teach ESL, but I disagree. I don’t know if there’s any other way I could use my degree and be as satisfied with life as I am. With ESL, I can live and work as a community member pretty much anywhere in the world, am given daily opportunities to talk with people and combine teaching them English with me learning about their culture (more on this in a later post. Lessons where students give presentations about their cultures are my favorite and I have some fun stories to share), and place myself in situation to learn another language myself.

So Sumatra, here I come! Well, in about five weeks when I get my work visa…