(Reblogged from copenhannah)

This post is long overdue, I apologize. I am currently sitting in the Copenhagen airport writing this since my less than a week back in Portland was pretty hectic with trying to see everyone and get everything ready. I’ve been putting off writing this last Indonesia post makes saying good-bye feel so much more final

Last weekend, my fellow interns were hiking Mt. Merbabu. It’s supposed to be even more challenging than the previous mountain we climbed and I still didn’t have the proper equipment so I decided not to join them to not hold them back from reaching the top. It was a tough decision since I really wanted to spend my final weekend with my bi-co family but instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to visit Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, with my friend Tiwi. We took the train to East Java bright and early on Thursday. Our adventures began by taking an angkot-essentially a hollowed out van replaced with seats facing each other. Throughout our trip to Surabaya we used these as our main transportation since they let you out at any stop and are significantly cheaper than taxis. They were quite the experience though with the lack of air conditioning, metal bars jutting into your back, and the very close contact with the other passengers. There was woman who brought two large heavy boxes and two long wooden sticks with her which made it hilarious to try and get out since all of her things took up any space that wasn’t occupied by people’s knees. 

The first day we got there, I was so exhausted from waking up early as well as the extreme heat (since Surabaya is a larger city and closer to the equator so its about 10 degrees hotter than Jogja) that I passed out on Tiwi’s bed in her boarding house for a few hours. Every night we were there I went to bed super early because the heat completely sucked all the energy out of me. Unfortunately, to stay cool during the night I took showers right before bed which stupidly washed all my bug spray meaning I got more bites than I ever have in my life. I gave up counting after 50. I looked like a leper or something; I even had bug bites on my eyelids!


While in Surabaya we went to all of the “tourist attractions.” My guidebook described Surabaya as not really a place to visit, only as a place in transit which I found to be quite true. We walked around a lot and rode becaks to see a temple in Chinatown, the famous red bridge, and saw the crumbling remaining Dutch architecture left in the neighborhoods. The most renowned tourist attraction was the House of Sampoerna, a clove cigarette museum. It free and had incredibly modern facilities, a testimony to how much money the tobacco companies has. It portrayed the “hardworking rags-to-riches story” of the founder and showed us all the “great things the company is doing for Indonesia” even including an up and close look at the “happy workers hand-rolling the cigarettes.” The amount of propaganda disgusted me especially since not once were the implications of health risks discussed. The same cigarette company also sponsored free tours around Surabaya where we got to see City Hall and a former fun center exclusively for the Dutch now used as the tourist center for Suabaya. 

We also went to four different malls (out of the 12 malls in Surabaya.) The malls also disturbed me, reminiscent of the extreme consumerism found in the end of the Suharto regime. These malls were absolutely ridiculous. They were a striking contrast from the rampant poverty found throughout the rest of the city with their expensive Western brands, 10 floors, carousels, indoor snow areas, and mini-golf. It was an interesting experience getting to observe middle to upper class Indonesian culture however and how the more money a woman has, the less conservative she tends to dress.

On our last day, we got to have dinner at Tiwi’s NGO, focused on supporting sexually diverse groups in Surabaya, in celebration of their 25th birthday! It was cool getting to see an organization that does such cool work but again I was limited in actually getting to talk to anyone since everyone was speaking Indonesian so aside from attempting a few simple conversations, I was able to get past level four on Bounce, a game on my mobile phone (only Elizabeth would appreciate this haha.) Afterwards we saw a warria show that went on just a little bit too long…All of the singers were singing in the old Javanese language (so even Tiwi’s Indonesian friend Andreas couldn’t understand!) especially with the gamelan music as the background music which is beautiful…but sounds the same every single song.


Once we returned home to Jogja, we finished our thank you cards and wrapping presents for everyone in our host family and our friends at our NGO. I took a taxi over to Alia’s home to grab my bag I lent her for mountaineering so that I would be able to pack all my stuff up the next day. I ended up sleeping over since most taxis stop running around 11am and she doesn’t live close to any major streets after we had spent so much time talking and catching up. Staying in Tiwi’s boarding house and Alia’s house made me appreciate how quiet my house was since we never get any of the zooming motorbikes and roosters crowing: the authentic Indonesian experience. 

The next day we said goodbye to Mas Ignas and the people who worked in his home to move back into the wisma. At first we had been told that we would have to take a taxi there which was a little frustrating considering all of our luggage but luckily our program coordinator was able to pick us up. We had been informed a day earlier that we had to write a 10 page paper by Wednesday in addition to our ten minute presentation (just one example of the frustrating lack of communication and poor coordination resulting in many things being thrown at us last minute) so Tiwi and I spent the next two days working to try and get our paper done in time.

On Wednesday, we had our final presentations on our research for our NGOs. Our’s was on the impacts of social environment on children’s behavior, Alex and Laksmi’s on the media campaign of a youth clinic for reproductive health, Alia and Jessica’s on air pollution and public transportation in Jogja, Jacob and Britto’s on conflicts over mining and water resources in villages on Mt. Merapi, Colin and Raisa’s on religious tolerance in public high schools, and Elizabeth and Tere’s on Tionghoa (Chinese-Indonesian) culture in relation to the 1965 massacre. It was great to see so many different people from everyone’s NGOs come out to support all of us. We all celebrated together with a farewell dinner after our presentations.

The next day was our last full day in Indonesia. We grabbed soto and gule at one of our favorite warungs for lunch followed by one last trip to the spa. I got a creambath, an Indonesian specialty where they massage a deep moisturizer into your hair and massage your neck, shoulders, back, and arms with lotion. I liked it much better than my previous massage—much less invasive. Elizabeth and Alia surprised me by graciously paying for both my spa treatment and my dinner as an early birthday present since I’ll be in Denmark on my actual birthday. Our final dinner was at our favorite restaurant: Milas! I finished with Indonesia’s national dish: nasi goreng! We had many tearful good-byes as we departed. Elizabeth, Tiwi, and I stayed up late talking until 3:30 in the morning even though Elizabeth and I had to wake up at 5:30 in the morning to catch our flight back to Jakarta. And in that small moment, it meant so much. The sheer act of sacrificing any amount of sleep just to spend one more moment with them: this is when you know someone has truly made an impact on your life.

Being home for such a short time didn’t give me much time to process this summer and I don’t think it’s really going to become apparent how much I’ve changed and grown until I’m back at Bryn Mawr. Overall, while this summer had its fare share of challenges and frustrations everything has helped me to learn and grow. I think every person should have the experience if they have the opportunity of being in an unfamiliar place where they don’t speak the language and feel what it’s like to be a minority. You realize a lot of things about yourself and it makes you understand what some people go through every single day in the U.S. I have seen so many beautiful places, done so many things I never imagined I would have tried (mountain climbing? cave tubing? durian???), and most importantly, met people who have changed my life. The best part of this program was definitely the collaborative aspect with the Indonesian participants. I learned things about Indonesia from our lectures and readings but nothing compares to the conversations we had comparing and contrasting American and Indonesian culture. I’ve had so many great conversations with Tiwi about religion, politics, sexuality, beauty, but also about our childhoods, our dreams, our fears. On the first day we met, we had a conversation about what makes Indonesians and America different and while we do come from different histories and cultures, this summer has shown me all of the universal connections we share from our passion for social justice to watching The Dark Knight altogether. I’m going to miss all of our Indonesian friends so much. I have decided that I absolutely have to come back to Indonesia again so we can see each other some how, some way. There is so much left to see: I want to go to Sumatra, Mt. Bromo, Kalimantan, Bali, Papua, Lombok, Sulawesi; improve my Indonesian and see the true diversity of everything Indonesia has to offer.

And of course, this summer wouldn’t have been the same without my bi-co family. I went in expecting to become friendly with everyone, maybe say hi to them around campus yet our group passed my every expectation. I specifically chose the Indonesia program not only because it was pre-designed and I was lazy, but because I wanted to share this experience with other individuals who love to critically think about social issues in the way that liberal arts college love to do and to process everything together. I couldn’t imagine this summer without Jacob’s es jeruks, Alex’s stories, Colin’s recappings of New York Times articles, Elizabeth’s “tidak pedas”, and Alia’s ability look like a supermodel even after climbing a mountain. I am most of all grateful for my two new friends Elizabeth and Alia: for being the people I could always be comfortable around and trust to be my true self around, for staying up late with talking, for always being up for random adventures, for always sharing our food and music and laughter, for putting up with my cheesy sentimentality ;) 

So comes the end of my Indonesian journey, follow me on this blog (and my new official Bryn Mawr blog) to hear about my travels in a country that could possibly be any more different than Indonesia: DENMARK! Thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog thus far; I hope you’ve enjoyed hearing about my experiences! 


Good-bye: Selamat tinggal (Indonesian) //  farvel (Danish)

Contemporary Art, Cigarettes, Children, Cave Tubing, and Cookies

This post is going on the official Indonesia Research Program so enjoy: Hi everyone! I am one of the mysterious interns who doesn’t write for this blog, as I’ve been writing my own personal blog, which can be found here: indodenmark.tumblr.com. My fellow interns were kind enough to let me share my thoughts with all of you. You’ve probably seen my name throughout this blog a couple of times but I’d thought I start off by introducing myself. My name is Amanda Beardall. I am originally from Portland, Oregon (my heart breaks a little every time I have to describe my hometown as “it’s above California” since Portland is exactly well-known here in Indonesia) and a rising junior at Bryn Mawr College, majoring in psychology with a double minor in environmental studies and child and family studies.

This summer, I am working with Perkampungan Sosial Pingit or PSP for short, an NGO that provides informal schooling and community development for youth in areas of urban poverty in Jogjakarta. The school portion of our program isn’t actually running while we are here due to it being the Ramadan season so instead we are doing research for them on how children’s behavior is impacted by their environment . We are talking to families, students, volunteers, teachers, and friends as well as observing the children in their family, school, and PSP settings to see how their behavior changes in each environment. We are specifically looking at the issue of discipline and how it changes behavior so that we can give recommendations to the Pingit volunteers on how to improve the way they discipline and reward the kids.

Last week, we interviewed nine families to see what they thought of their children’s behavior and what they do to change it. We discovered something much deeper than just the answers to our interview questions however. One of the families we spoke with makes four-piece puzzles out of foam to sell. As Tiwi interviewed the parents in Indonesian, they invited me to try putting the pieces together to make a “T.” Although I just had seen their first grade son do this exact task, it still took me a good couple of minutes to complete it as they chuckled at my struggles. At the end of our interview, the family gave me one of the puzzles complete with a key of all the different shapes I could make with my pieces. I was taken aback by this ultimate act of kindness. This family lives in a one room house with only the absolute basic necessities yet they gave me this puzzle which they could have sold instead. I can’t express my gratitude for the hospitality the families we talked to showed us: always offering us snacks and drinks when we came. Everything we received may have seemed insignificant by American standards yet these powerful moments of kindness are the experiences I will carry with my throughout the rest of my life.

Since our schedule is pretty flexible, my partner Tiwi and I took the day off to see JOG12: a display of contemporary art pieces of Western and Eastern artists examining perceptions of the East, organized by Jacob’s original NGO: IVAA. I was ecstatic to have the chance to see how Indonesian artists are interpreting current events through various mediums. Most of the art we have seen so far has been traditional art so it was refreshing to see pieces in a more modern gallery setting. The pieces ranged from video installation pieces to tattoos on pig skins to more traditional paintings. One of my favorite pieces was a large sculpture in front of the museum featuring an elephant on top of a large pile of coconuts, symbolizing the vast amount of resources Indonesia possesses yet the people are unable to access them due to exploitation by their government. It made me uneasy to see that one of the sponsors of the event was a cigarette company and added a twisted irony to the entire gallery.

The tobacco companies here have incredible amounts of power. Everyone here smokes and there are no regulations as to where you can and can’t smoke. It’s very common to see people smoking indoors and even when we were climbing the slopes of Mt. Lawu, we watched people puff their way up while carrying heavy loads on their back. Most people here smoke clove cigarettes, which are illegal in the U.S. Usually the smell of cigarettes bothers me but the cloves makes them almost pleasing to smell. Indonesia is the second largest exporter of tobacco in the world so Indonesians are encouraged at a young age to start smoking as a sort of nationalist way of supporting their country’s economy.  Yesterday we saw three young boys, looking to be about ten, gleefully smoking cigarettes on the side of the road. Cigarettes are also insanely cheap here, each pack only costing about a dollar. If you need money for school, you don’t apply from the government, instead you must send in an application to the cigarette company foundation. It’s intensely disturbing to see how these corporations have so much influence over people here and people seem so unaware of the health risks that go along with smoking.

On Saturday, we visited the biggest tourist attraction in Jogja: the kraton or sultan’s palace. We had been told time and time again that we must go here before we leave or else we wouldn’t have really seen Jogja. We had agreed to meet at 11AM but this soon turned into 12PM as some of us struggled to find taxis from our host families or had to maneuver our ways through the crowds of Malioboro to walk there.  After all of us finally arrived, we entered the kraton to great disappointment. I think we were all a little deceived by the name: palace in this case just refers to a really nice, big house museum. All of the descriptions were written in Indonesian, rightfully so, but it seemed as though they had just shoved every thing somehow related to the sultan into a singular place making the whole experience feel pretty meaningless without any sort of background information. We decided to grab lunch which began our painstaking journey of walking in the unbearable heat and direct sunlight. After what seemed like forever, we figured out there was a café on the top of the batik store that we were planning to go to anyways. After going “ham on some batik” (as Jacob would put it), we made our way back to the art museum for our fellow interns who had yet to see it. Tiwi and I then walked back along Malioboro to return to our home. This whole experience gave me a whole newfound of respect for Muslims practicing Ramadan. I had eaten both breakfast and lunch but had worn long layers and had left my water bottle at home to avoid offending anyone. As we walked back to our house with the time for fast breaking near, I couldn’t help but stare at every stand beginning to prepare food and drinks for the azan to sound, signally the end of fasting. The intense thirst overwhelming my every thought led me to fantasize about chugging the gigantic jars of unidentified traditional Javanese drinks sitting atop the numerous food carts lining the street. I didn’t even fast and I couldn’t imagine going through that every single day for over a month.

 I’m pretty lucky in that my host family is Catholic so we can eat at home during the day (though I always feel bad for eating in front of the Muslim housekeepers who work in the house), but stepping outside means no drinking or eating to avoid offending people. I truly admire the determination and self-control that Muslims have during Ramadan. It’s pretty incredible how Indonesia works around Ramadan though. Last Friday, we went to a café for drinks after going to our favorite restaurant Milas. We had only been there for about an hour when the waitress apologetically shooed us out since it was 11 o’clock. While trying to catch taxis home, we watched as store after store closed their doors for the police to avoid attacks by the FPI since Muslims need to wake up at 3 in the morning for Ramadan to eat before sunrise so they must sleep early. It was eerie to watch the normally bustling streets become completely empty in a matter of minutes. For us non-Muslims, it unfortunately means Jogja is lacking in any sort of nightlife, not that it was exactly bustling before. Ramadan has certainly encouraged us to become creative when planning activities so that we are able to fulfill our needs for food and water while respecting our Muslim friends.

After Tiwi and I spent most of Friday frantically trying to make plans for this weekend (planning things becomes extremely difficult when you have no internet access and must use texting instead), everything finally came together on Sunday. Our program coordinators Nissa and Triana helped us to rent a car which picked us all up bright and early to go cave tubing and to the beach. When we reached the tubing place, we slipped into lifejackets and water shoes to walk a short distance to plop into the water on our intertubes. We were led through a dark cave by a guide who pointed out different cave structures such as the phallic shaped “manly rock” said to bring strength to any man who touches it. Although it was a short trip, we had the opportunity to climb a few different rock structures to jump into water. After getting our fill of bats and stalagmites, we loaded back into the car to travel the windy roads to Indrayanti Beach. We were greeted by crystal blue water lapping at the shores of a white sand beach dotted with rainbow umbrellas. The rest of the day was spent exploring cliff sides to discover a spectacular view of the beach from above, graciously taking pictures with random beach-goers eager to forever document the time they saw a group of bules at the beach, and eating an overpriced but nevertheless delicious lunch of seafood.

                This past week we have been visiting the formal schools to compare the behavior of our students from PSP to how they act while with their families. We have visited several elementary and junior high schools to interview our students’ teachers and to observe them in class. It’s been pretty incredible to see the differences in regulations as to how we got in the school. In the U.S, you are required to get clearances, a criminal background, and fingerprinted before you can even step foot into a school yet here we just showed up with our supervisor and a letter and we were allowed to interview our students’ teachers and observe them in their classrooms. Talking with the teachers provided a lot of insight. Many of our students are loud and aggressive at PSP yet at formal school they are reserved and rarely speak. It shows how the presence of an authority figure and conformity can influence behavior. Talking to students themselves was also really interesting because children who their parents describe as “naughty”, don’t consider themselves bad and feel like their parents don’t give them enough attention.

Observation in the classroom proved to be challenging. I feel like I wasn’t able to observe anything substantial while visiting the classrooms because my very presence is a complete distraction since most of the children have never seen a bule, especially not a place like their schools. Kids from other classes will run over to peek through the windows to call out the only English most of them know: “Hello mister, what is your name?” (because the pronoun Dia in Indonesian is gender neutral, people tend to use she and he interchangeably which can make conversations very confusing.) All of the students would steal glances I think this exemplifies the greatest challenge of being a foreigner while doing social science research in another country: who you are as a researcher shapes how people respond to you and therefore the data you collect. If I were here for longer, I could build more rapport with my informants so that the felt more comfortable talking about such sensitive topics of how they raise and discipline their children but I am limited by working with a time frame of only a few weeks. The one classroom where the teacher actually led class was lots of fun to watch though. The first grade students were learning how to count to ten which I was really excited about since numbers are one of the few things I have down in Indonesian. Whenever the students got distracted and started playing around, the teacher would come by and redirect them without stopping the whole class which I thought was really effective. The students even included me and Tiwi when they had students stand in front of the class to help them learn to count.

We have also been holding three informal classes at PSP at night on Mondays and Thursdays. I spent all of last semester studying culture and child-rearing practices so it has made me notice a lot about the way the youth we work with behave and their role within their families. I saw many similarities from when I was when in Ghana. I’ve seen many older kids walking around with their younger siblings slung around their backs. In many serious meetings that we have had, the children of the people we have talked with have been playing and running around without the parents batting an eye. At the informal classes we have held, the kids run around setting fireworks off while hitting and pushing each other but as Alex pointed out, this is how kids would act at recess in any country. It’s really valuable to let children play and just be kids. The students who tended to behave most similarly in all of their environments were the ones whose parents recognized that kids are kids and their “naughty” behavior is  a result of their age. Once we were able to rally the kids together for an activity, they were great so I think with the right amount of structure, you can really cut down on the amount of chaos.

The collaborative aspect of our partnership with our Indonesian counterparts has proved to be challenging these past few weeks. Nearly every interview we have conducted so far has been in Indonesian so I’ve been mainly zoning out as my Indonesian is limited to basic conversational skills. People are very confused by us. When we walk down the street together or catch a taxi, we don’t fit into people’s schema of bule and native Indonesian who would normally not be friends. My Indonesian skills have actually gone down since everyone just asks questions to Tiwi instead of attempting to talk with me since people assume she is my guide. No one seems to believe that an American and an Indonesian could have an equal collaboration. Even our supervisor assumed that Tiwi was just there to conduct the research in Indonesian while I did all of the “real work”, bringing to mind images of the corruption of early anthropologists. Tiwi and I do everything together. We both bring different skills and experiences into our research with equal value.

My host dad Mas Ignas took me and my partner Tiwi to the zoo on Friday after our conversation about how much we loved animals. I volunteered at the Oregon Zoo for three years so whenever I go to a new city, I like to go to their zoo to see the different designs and compare it to my zoo. Mas Ignas is a professional wildlife photographer, even taking a photo of a tiger that the Jogja zoo now uses in all of their promotional ads, so he knew many of the commands the trainers use with the animals so that I was able to take some really cool shots. We saw many native Indonesian species: everything from komodo dragons to albino peacocks. It was upsetting to see many of the animals in such small cages, especially the birds. Most zoos in the U.S have several inches of thick glass between you and the animal but the most protection we had was a moat and a chain link fence separating us from many of the animals. This allowed for some close encounters with many of the animals, like when I got to pet an elephant’s trunk and when we saw one of the monkey who had escaped his cage. The zoo had no evidence of supporting any kind conservation and education programs. The focus on making money was highlighted by the numerous types of boats you could pay to ride in a lake that the entire zoo is built around. It’s interesting how something as seemingly trivial as a zoo can reveal so much about geographic and cultural differences: the way the keepers would clean the animals’ exhibits while a crocodile may be sitting only a few feet next to them, the way that construction was happening everywhere around the zoo without any sort of notice so visitors are expected to just navigate around them, and of course the numerous warungs everywhere that surprisingly weren’t overpriced like food at zoos usually is.

On Saturday, Mas Ignas graciously took Tiwi, Laksmi, Alia, Colin, Alex, Elizabeth, and me to the foot of Merapi Mountain to visit a Javanese cultural museum. Before heading to the museum we stopped to take a brief walk up part of the mountain to take some photos and see the remains of the damage done by the eruption in 2010. The Javanese museum was beautiful architecturally with underground caves and buildings dispersed throughout a garden but similar to the kraton, it was somewhat of a disappointment to us bi-co students. A large part of it is our ignorance of Javanese history. We learned some modern Indonesian history but anything before Indonesia’s independence is a complete mystery so we didn’t understand the significance of most of what we saw in the museum. After the museum and a trip to our favorite souvenir shop Mirota Batik, we visited Mas Ignas’s futsal restaurant where we chowed down on nasi goreng and Colin showed off his soccer skills. On Sunday, Elizabeth and I showed Tiwi and fellow PSP intern Glorya the American cultural skill of baking cookies. The oven in our house didn’t actually work so we got creative and used the microwave and a tiny pan to fry the cookies. It made me miss actual cookie dough since we had to improvise from two different recipes and the ingredients tasted differently but the kids certainly appreciated having something sweet to eat.

This past Friday was the marker of two weeks left for us. As I write this, it becomes so easy to lose all sense of place and time as a computer screen creates a space that transcends international borders but then the call to prayer goes off, the motorbikes zoom by, and the becak drivers ding their bells, and suddenly I am back in Indonesia. While I am eagerly looking forward to hunks of cheddar cheese, Indian food, gyros, fresh vegetables, burritos, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, bacon cheeseburgers, and sandwiches (and I guess my friends and family too…), I am desperately clinging on to each moment here as if to make two weeks last a lifetime. As painful as it is, I’ve had to start thinking about getting thank you gifts, writing final letters, and how to say good-bye. I’ve come to love this country, this city, this place, and while it may never truly be home for me, it will always hold a special place in my heart.

Expectations: harapan (Indonesian) // forventninger (Danish)

After spending all of last week finishing our presentations, Brito and I finally presented our research on Educational Experiences for Papuans in Jogjakarta. We described the different issues of access to education and the experiences of discrimination that Papuans face while studying in Jogja as a result of cross-cultural differences (example: Papuans tend to express their emotions openly and are straightforward so many Javanese stereotype them as being impolite.) We talked about the need for curriculum based on the current sociocultural situation of Papua and for Papuans to utilize their education to develop their communities and education based on Papuan needs. I also got to see everyone else’s topics which were really interesting. There were topics on everything from waria (Indonesian transwomen) families to urban waste to history education and its relationship to the upcoming election. Later that evening, we went over to the GMU grad students’ wisma for a farewell dinner to eat delicious food and say goodbye to everyone who was leaving the next day.

Friday, we recovered from a long week of working on our presentations. I, along with my NGO research partner and future roommate Tiwi, went to visit our new home stay that we would be moving into the next day. We definitely lucked out. We are staying with Mas Ignas, the son of the man who owned Kompas, the largest newspaper in Indonesia. He works as a professional photographer and owns a futsol restaurant. The house is absolutely beautiful with two floors, hot water, eloquent furniture, collections of ceramic figurines, and air conditioning. Our room has bright turquoise walls and my bed is plush with a comforter so my nights are certainly going to be comfortable. Our house is right near Malioboro street, the center tourist attraction of Jogja lined with batik stores and becak drivers, making it easy to find anything we might need but it also means we are surrounded by other bules so we get called over for becak rides every five steps and all the stores tend to be on the expensive side. My host dad loves animals so he has a lot of pets: two dogs, a snake, and endless amounts of turtles. Their house is part of a family compound so all of his cousins and aunts’ houses are interconnected with his house. His cousins own a bakery so my mouth is always watering since I can always smell the sweet aroma of freshly baked pastries from the living room. Later on Friday, we celebrated by going out to the pizza place near our wisma and packed to be ready for the next morning.

The next day, we woke up early (though Elizabeth and I accidentally slept in a little too late since I had set my alarm for the wrong time oops…) and packed our stuff into the car to drop each person off in their new home. Alex and Alia will be staying in an artist community, Elizabeth in a room at her NGO, Jacob with a Muslim family with two children, and Colin in a boarding house owned by a Balinese family. We all had lunch together before being dropped off at our respective places. It was very bittersweet in a way. All of us we’ll be meeting up often throughout the rest of our time here but after spending every waking moment with all of us together for the past six weeks, it’s certainly different since we can’t just walk over to each other’s rooms. Luckily for me, I am rooming with my partner Tiwi so I’m never lonely! After we settled into our new room, Tiwi and I walked over to the Malioboro Mall to buy groceries and later met up with Glorya, a volunteer for our NGO, for dinner.

The following morning, Tiwi and I woke up at 4 in the morning to go to a traditional Javanese wedding for Ignas’s employee. It was about a four hour drive as we made our way west to a village outside of Jogja. We arrived at the bride’s house just as the ceremony was ending. There actually wasn’t much emphasis on the official ceremony itself because most people couldn’t even fit into the room where it was taking place. After enjoying a meal of rice with tempeh and vegetables, the party guest crowded back into their cars and motorbikes to drive 45 minutes up and down steep windy roads to the groom’s house. There, the bride and groom were made up in traditional Javanese wedding attire to take photos with each other and their guests. After picture taking, we all enjoyed a lunch of soto (soup with noodles and rice) and Tiwi and I and two other girls explored the village. We discovered a path down to the rice fields, which were utterly breathtaking to see the terracing landscapes. It was a lot of fun getting to compare different wedding traditions between the U.S and Indonesia and to practice my Indonesian with some of the people in the village, though being away from the comfort of my fellow interns in a student part of the city has made me realize just how limited my language skills are and how frustrating it can be to communicate. It’s been so great being with Tiwi since she can translate and help me understand what’s going on but it also poses challenges because people just ask questions about me to her rather than attempting to talk to me. It’s frustrating because I can understand more than I can speak so it’s really hard to actually have a conversation. We played with a group of young boys who were fascinated with me and started following me around everywhere we went in the village. Every time I would say something in Indonesia they would squeal with laughter and start repeating my Indonesian phrase, thinking it was hilarious that a bule was trying to speak in their language. It’s interesting that being in both a rural village and a crowded tourist site, my whiteness is still a spectacle but manifested in different ways. People often take pictures of me without asking me first which makes me really uncomfortable but in a way I guess it’s only fair. I am fascinated with the newness and differences of Indonesian culture so I have been taking lots of pictures as well. Many of my photos include people in the background whose permission I didn’t ask for so I guess we mutually have a sort of curiosity and need to document one another.

On Monday, we started our first day “working with our NGO.” Sadly our NGO, Perkampungan Sosial Pingit (or PSP for short) who provides an informal school and community development for youth in areas of urban poverty, doesn’t have class until the last day of my internship. When I found out about this, I got really freaked out since working with a NGO was a large part of why I had decided to apply to this program in the first place. We met with the head of the program, Father Koko, and our friend Glorya to talk about what we would be doing for the next few weeks. We have to give a research presentation at the end of our time so we will be helping PSP research how social environment impacts youth behavior, specifically looking how discipline is handled in the family and at both informal and formal schools. We will be interviewing families, teachers, students, and volunteers about their children’s behavior and what they think that behavior is a result of. At first I was a little apprehensive about our topic because we were told the children are “very naughty” and that are research is supposed to help figure out how to make the children “good.” As an American, I don’t know exactly what makes a “good” child but I believe that no child is inherently good or bad and that certain “bad” behaviors are a result of multiple factors, often a cry for attention or a manifestation of a mental illness. Talking with Tiwi made me more interested in our topic however as we talked about what it means to be “well-behaved” and how discipline is dealt with in Indonesia as compared to the States. Children here are most often punished physically. While Indonesia has many laws against child abuse, nobody does anything to change anything and it remains a huge problem. It’s such a stark contrast from the U.S where we have mandatory reporting and the police are required to follow up on any reports of child abuse. It made me think about my debate over corporal punishment with my friend from Malaysia. She showed me a film from Singapore called “I Not Stupid” about a teenager who cheats on a test, is beaten and kicked out of school, and then drops out and joins a gang because he is unable to live up to the intense pressure that his family puts on him. I hope our research will lead to many new insights about cross-cultural differences in discipline and hopefully can be a step to social change to protect children by shifting from punishment for bad behavior to rewarding good behavior instead. We start interviewing families today so I’m looking forward to hearing from them!

Later on Monday, five of the Haverford/Bryn Mawr interns plus Tiwi met up for dinner at Milas, our favorite restaurant. Unfortunately it’s closed on Mondays so we walked over to a touristy street and grabbed food from an overpriced restaurant. I was able to have a ham and cheese omelet which was pretty bizarre since pork is hardly sold anywhere due to the majority Muslim population. Although it had only been a few days since we had all seen each other and I had been texting everyone non-stop since we were separated, I was really grateful to reunite with everyone. Most of us don’t have easy access to the internet and are living on our own so being able to catch up with everyone about their first day at their NGOs (I was relieved to hear that most people were in the same boat as me and Tiwi in that their NGOs don’t really know what to do with them) and process everything that had happened in the past few days. Although sometimes this program has felt disorganized and I question how much I’ve gotten out of it academically, the connections and experiences I have had with the people I’ve met here, both Indonesian and American (and Filipina of course ;)), are what have really made my time here worthwhile and meaningful.

Collaboration: kolaborasi (Indonesian) // samarbejde (Danish) 

It’s hard to believe that five weeks ago, I was stepping off a plane, after 30 hours of travelling, into a foreign land not really knowing anyone. Now we’re halfway done with our program. These past several days have been a fitting way to celebrate this milestone in our journey. We’ll be moving out of the wisma and into our host families’ homes on Friday. From there we’ll be learning to navigate getting from where we are staying to our internships since we start working at our NGOs on Monday.

This past Wednesday, we had a group interview with Louis, a former participant of this program, and his friends at a Papuan boarding house near our wisma. They were all incredibly warm and sweet and we got a whole Papuan history lesson. We learned about how Papua has large amounts of resources but the people cannot access any of them because they are exploited by the Indonesian government. We were told how the lack of transportation and inadequate facilities makes it impossible for many children/teachers to go to school. He also talked about the Papuan seperationist movement and how basically everyone in Papua supports independence (except from the wealthy elite who benefit) since Papuans have completely different racial and historical identities but Indonesia makes too much money off of them to let it go. Learning about all of this has really put issues of discrimination and education into perspective as a bigger whole of the overall marginalization of Papua.

Last Thursday, we had our last research class and reflective practice class. That night, we went to Phucket, a Thai restaurant fairly close to our Wisma. We ran into Izzy, a fellow Bryn Mawr alum (green lantern of ‘07) who had previously attended the Iwan Fals concert with us. She studied with our professor Leslie back in school and studied abroad in Indonesia during her junior year. She continued her studies in Indonesia through a Fulbright Scholarship and now coordinates the Indonesian chapter of a program called Volunteers in Action (VIA) for people interested in doing work with NGOs. I love meeting Bryn Mawr alum and hearing about all the cool stuff they do in their post-grad lives.

All the while we were chatting, I faced another difficult language experience when ordering my food. To order food in Indonesia, you most often receive a pen and paper on which you write your orders. My friend Elizabeth and I both ordered seafood pad thai so we wrote a “2” next to our order. About 20 minutes later, Elizabeth’s food come out but I still don’t see mine. This is pretty much the norm in Indonesia. Drinks tend to come first while everyone’s food comes staggered throughout the meal so no one waits for each other so that your food doesn’t get cold. We waited over an hour and my food still hadn’t arrived. I went over to the waiter and asked where my food was in broken bahasa. They had only wrote down on our receipt that we had ordered one pad thai meaning I had to wait even longer for my food. It was all rather frustrating but I didn’t want to reinforce any stereotypes of being a rude, entitled American so I waited nearly an hour after my friends had finished to get my pad thai to go. We grabbed a taxi and headed over the Gamelan Festival at NGO. It was really cool getting to hear traditional Indonesian music (even if we didn’t actually get to hear any gamelans.) 

Friday, we woke up early for our last bahasa Indonesia class. I made a card that our whole group signed to thank our four teachers Aci, Ade, Deni, and Ayu. We were sad we didn’t have an official farewell ceremony with our teachers but also relieved that we didn’t have to take a test. We didn’t have long for good-byes however as we returned to the wisma to pack our bags and catch taxis to the train station to go to our coordinator Sari’s village in East Java.

On Saturday, we all woke up 4 in the morning to drive an hour to climb Mt. Lawu. It’s known for being a very spiritual mountain. Right near the top there is a well where it is said that if you pour the water on yourself you will become very high status. It is also described as being a “beginner’s” mountain for those climbing their first mountain. It stands about 10,000 feet but we started climbing at about 3,000 feet. Before climbing, I was already really nervous. I didn’t have adequate gear for mountain climbing because I didn’t think I’d be doing any intensive outdoor activities since we are living in a city for the summer so I ended up wearing Tevas and a very uncomfortably large backpack. As soon as we started ascending the mountain, it became painfully obvious that I was not going to be able to keep up with everyone. I started to have really bad cramps and felt sick so I had to sit down. Since we were only about 10 minutes in and I knew I would slow everyone down, I told everyone I would just wait for them there so that they would still be able to make it the top and back down before it got dark. My friend Elizabeth generously stayed with me as I caught my breath and encouraged me to continue up the mountain at a slower pace. Climbing the slopes was pretty brutal as we made our way up nearly vertical rocky slopes but we were rewarded with breathtaking views and jalak birds, little birds with golden beaks who only live on the mountain and supposedly guide your way. About halfway up, I told her to go on without me since I was reaching my physical limits and I was worried about conserving enough energy to make it down. I took a nap on a rock until I was startled by “bule tidur" (white person sleeping) and I practiced my Indonesian with several friendly backpackers taking a break. I waited at one of the posts for about two hours until I enthusiastically caught sight of the rest of my group who was returning from the top. Even though I didn’t make it all the way, I was still proud of myself for pushing myself to go halfway and recognizing my limits. I am also insanely proud of my friends and loved seeing their photos from the summit. I was extremely grateful to have my friend Elizabeth keep me company throughout our journey and for her patience when I would stop every five minutes and when I stupidly twisted my ankle running down the path at the very end. It was definitely an experience to cross off my bucket list but I think I’ve gotten my fill of mountains so I don’t plan on joining the rest of my group in their adventure up Merapi Mountain next weekend.

On Sunday, we all slept in (except Alia who went and saw the beginning of the harvest ceremony) and woke up extremely sore. We lounged about for several hours, enjoying the delicious catfish, tofu, tempe, papaya, and organic rice for lunch. After playing with a group of kids from the village that Sari and Bram teach, we all headed over to see the rice fields. It was absolutely beautiful as we walked around since the sun was just about to set. We saw the difference between the organically farmed and chemically farmed rice which were very distinct in both color and size. We all went out for dinner later that night and woke up early the next morning to catch the train back to Jogja. The rest of the week will be spent finishing up our research for our presentation on Thursday.

Mountain: gunung (Indonesian) // bjerg (Danish)

Random Cultural Observation #1

Indonesians will frequently use “…” in their texts. In the U.S, an ellipsis in a text message usually implies a tone of confusion or passive aggressiveness like “Is it okay if I borrow your new dress?” “I guess it’s fine…” However, in my experience thus far in Jogja, an ellipsis is just a casual way of ending a text.  I am so used to sending exclamation points in all of messages so that whenever others don’t include them as well I assume they’re in a bad mood or mad at me. I was so worried that I had done something to upset my Indonesian friends after I kept receiving texts like “Okay…” but I’ve come to learn that it really doesn’t mean anything. It’s good life lesson actually: you can’t overanalyze things all the time or take things too personally.

There hasn’t been too much to update everyone with these past few weeks since we’ve all finally settled into a routine here in Indonesia. My bahasa Indonesia journal tells all:

Saya bangun pada tujuh pagi. Saya mandi. Lalu, saya makan roti bakar dengan selai dan cereal dengan susu. Kami jalan kaki ke kelas. Di kelas, kami belajar bahasa Indonesia. Setelah, kami istiruhat. Sesudah, kami punya kelas. Lalu, kami makan siang. Lalu, kami pergi ke kelas lagi. Kami makan malam ke restoran. Saya mengerjakan PR. Saya tidur.

I wake up at 7 in the morning. I shower. Then, I eat toast with jam and cereal with milk. We walk to class. In class, we study Indonesian. After, we take a break. After, we have class. Then we eat lunch. Then we go to class again. We eat dinner at a restaurant.  I do my homework. I sleep.

Having a familiar schedule has definitely helped Jogja start to feel more like home but I’m starting to feel an itch to begin working with my NGO as well. I’m starting to feel the pressure as the clock is ticking for the deadline of our research. We’ve been having issues finding people to interview about Papuan education since we can’t just interview people off of the street. I’ve been sending out lots of e-mails to different people recommended by our coordinator and professor so hopefully I will be getting responses in the near future. Tomorrow, my partner Brito and I will be going to a Papuan student boarding house where we will get a chance to do some participant observation (seeing what a day in the life is like for a Papuan student in Jogja) and conducting some interviews. The more research I do, the more fascinated I become and the more frustrated I become that there are so many aspects of Indonesia made completely invisible in the States (expect a blog post on that topic a little later.)

This past weekend was lots of fun! Friday, we kicked back and watched Pan’s Labyrinth (a first for several people in our group!) at home in the Wisma since we had an early wake-up the next day. On Saturday, we had a mural tour of Jogjakarta. We got to learn more about the art on our own campus, followed by seeing a series of political murals, and ending with a look at the making of the traditional wayang shadow puppets. Indonesian art reminds me a lot of the Mexican muralist art in that it was created as a form of political commentary and to promote messages of social change. I am so happy we have finally started to learn and see some of the art since Jogja is known for being the “heart and soul of Indonesia”: the center of culture and arts.

That night, we went to the “Heterosexual Queer Drag Show” with our guest lecturer, the most recognized LGBT scholar and activist in Southeast Asia, Dede Oetomo,  located on top of a touristy batik shop. I was excited to see my first drag show, amazing that I haven’t previously considering I go to Bryn Mawr. My friend Maria should be proud of me for queering up gender performativity! We had dinner at traditional Indonesian tables (aka sitting on the floor) while watching the performance. At first I was a little uncomfortable because the way people were laughing and viewing the act of a man dressed as a woman as a spectacle seemed to be mocking. More on issues of sexuality and gender in Indonesia in a later post but I ended up enjoying myself. The slow songs weren’t quite as exciting since the performers lip-sync so they were just standing there but it fun to see the dances to fast-paced Western and Indonesian songs. The females of the group particularly enjoyed the Enrique Inglesias numbers featuring shirtless non-drag men.

Sunday, we slept in and lounged around. I had an interview with a Papuan student who we met at the university. It was an interesting experience since he only spoke Indonesian so I mainly sat and watched while Brito interviewed. He was very friendly however and they had a very engaging conversation. Right after our interview, I ran back to the wisma to catch a taxi with Alia and Elizabeth to the spa. At the Jogja House of Beauty, I ordered an aromatherapy body massage since there’s no way I would be able to afford one in the U.S. It was an…interesting experience to say the least. Let’s just say it was a full body massage… This moment definitely highlighted the conflict of language barriers because I accidentally consented to certain things being massaged that I never would have normally because I didn’t fully understand the questions being asked. I guess I could have squealed “tidak" (no) but I was already feeling so uncomfortable that I just decided to go through with it to have the cultural experience of it and for the story. The hot bath at the end was my favorite part since all of our showers have been cold bucket showers thus far. I smelled really good afterwards too! It was a good life experience to have but next time I think I’ll try a facial or something though…

Continuing our exploration of the arts in Indonesia, today we met one of the most influential artists in Indonesia: Joko Pekik. He was a political prisoner from 1966 until the early 70’s for being a Communist during a time of genocide for Leftists under the Suharto regime. His paintings feature critiques of the government and political commentary depicting many scenes from the 1965 genocide and the corruption of the Suharto regime. He continues to paint even today and has become extremely successful. His property contains everything that I imagine a rich person would want as status symbols from a pet eagle and peacock to pristine preserved forest on grounds next to a river. He opens his large house to the community to visit and host artistic events. I felt honored to be in the presence of such a distinguished artist and I’m looking forward to learning even more about the arts in Jogja throughout the rest of our trip.

Art:kesenian (Indonesian) //kunst (Danish) 

Self Reflection and Identity

I’m going to get meta here and talk about myself as an individual and my process of self-growth here in Indonesia (haha this isn’t turning into the stereotypical travel blog you were all expecting right?) Being in a completely new setting has allowed me to observe myself in new ways. Until I got to college, I took aspects of my personality and behavior for granted since I acted in a way that fit the expectations created by everyone I knew in Portland. Coming to Bryn Mawr allowed me to reform a new sense of self by being in an environment. For the most part, I was the same person since I liked the person I was but I finally started getting involved with whatever activities interested me and taking initiative because for the first time in my life, I was completely surrounded by people who supported and cared about me. Bryn Mawr has given me the opportunity to be leader and work towards positive social change on both a local and global scale. Even my friends in high school tended to discourage me from trying new things and there was always a sense of competition rather than collaboration. There’s no way my high school self would have ever imagined that college me would be sitting here writing this while in Indonesia thanks to a competitive grant that paid for my entire travels in addition to a stipend.

In a lot of ways, you can argue that being here has revealed a more “true” self because I didn’t know any one that well so I didn’t have to behave in a way that fit a certain set of expectations. To an extent, I now have to follow a new set of expectations based on cultural norms of what a woman should act like, what a bule should act like, what a student should act like, etc. My identity and narrative will continue to be shaped throughout this experience and afterwards. I think most of my self-growth will become more apparent once I return to a familiar environment and I can process everything with family and old friends while re-evaluating everything that I used to know.

It’s been interesting realizing what I act like when I have to “start all over again” in a sense. I’m much more shy than I’d like to think of myself. When I was in Ghana, one of our guides asked me why I never talked which was weird for me since if you know me well, you know I never stop talking. I just came back from an interview and the person I was interviewing told me I was too serious and needed to relax which is funny since I don’t consider myself a serious person at all. I still consider myself an extrovert because spending time with people helps me process experiences but once I find people I’m really comfortable with, I tend to lose motivation to attempt to make lots of new friends. I’ve noticed I tend to fall back on trying to be as nice, agreeable, and helpful as possible. I think all three characteristics are definitely a foundation of my personality but I’m beginning to question why I overexaggerate these aspects. I think part of it stems from the fear that people won’t like me if I’m not always putting others before me. This has created a lot of issues with people once I’ve become closer to them since a lot of people have taken advantage of me and expect me to put all the effort into maintaining our friendship. This past year, I’ve got sick of it and started standing up for myself by cutting out the people in my life who weren’t paying me the respect I deserved.

Something I’m really proud of myself for in regards to this experience has been that I am doing this for me. It would have been a completely ridiculous decision but part of me wanted to stay in Portland/Philly for the summer and not go abroad because I was so scared of losing friendships and missing out. I’m so happy I made the right decision to have my own journey and adventure. All I’ve wanted all my life is to see the world and find a sense of purpose so this is exactly everything I’ve wanted and needed in my life. I feel like this experience will also make graduating easier since I’ve already had to say good-bye so many times and start over in a new place. It’s time to start doing things for me by following my passions.


Identity: kepribadian (Indonesian) // identitet (Danish)