Alaina- Outbound to Indonesia
October 15, 2012
First of all I would like to thank Rotary for sending me on this great
adventure. I would never been able to have this opportunity without the
Rotary foreign exchange program and all of the volunteers hard work.
When I in district interviews for 6970, I was asked to perform in one of the
rooms. At the time I felt that it was a completely worthless exercise and I
refused to do anything more than sing head, shoulders, knees and toes. Since
I have been in Indonesia I have been asked to sing, dance, tell stories,
play music and just about everything else. I am not a shy person but in
America I prefer to stand at the back of parties. I can now proudly say that
I have performed Karaoke in front of an entire restaurant, joined a music
club at my school and sung to my classmates on countless occasions. Music is
part of life here and I am glad that I have been able to change so that I
can 'fit in' Indonesian culture.
One thing that I have learned here is that nothing is truly universal. You
might think that a legal sheet of paper would be the same size around the
world- you would be wrong. You might think that McDonald's is the same all
over the world- here McDonald's sells rice and chicken with the bone in it.
You might think of all things the sun is universal- you would be wrong. Here
the sun comes up at 5:30 every morning and goes down at 6:00 (I live very
close to the equator so this time almost never changes). I am lucky that I
got up early in America because everyone wakes up very early here; my school
starts at 6:30. I have school 6 days a week, I wear a uniform and I go to a
vocational school for Multi-Media. Out of all the differences between
America and Indonesia school has to have the most different things.
Every morning at school we start off the day with a 30 minute ceremony that
requires us to stand in attention while a teacher talks. On some Mondays
this ceremony is even longer and I on one occasion I had to be walked to the
back of the courtyard because I almost passed-out. Every day of the week I
have a different schedule and different classes. My classes range from an
hour and a half long to five hours long. Sometimes the teacher doesn't show
up or if they do show up they do not teach a lesson. Teachers are also
allowed to smoke on campus.
Smoking is very popular here. I can barely walk down the street without
being enveloped in a cloud of smoke. Even now, as I am writing this, my host
father and his work friends are filling up the house with smoke. People here
often ask me if I smoke to which I reply almost too enthusiastically that I
do not smoke. There are almost no restrictions on smoking. People can smoke
in restaurants, in other people's houses and everywhere else in between. I
think that this is the hardest thing to get used to. I can pretend to like
to sing and I can go to school for long boring hours but the suffocating
smell of smoke never fails to make me feel sick.
My body has taken the transition to Indonesia very hard. As soon as I got
here I coughed for two straight weeks. Now I go though phases of being too
tired to move, and being nauseous. It is not easy but despite the challenges
I still love it here.
My love with Indonesia was not a "love at first sight" thing but, it has
grown with each day I stay here. I find new things everyday that make me
love this country even more.
When I first arrived in Indonesia it was Ramadan. If you didn't know
Indonesia is the country with the largest Muslim population (about 88% of
the total population). During Ramadan, Muslims do not eat from sun up to sun
down for thirty days. On my third day in Indonesia I was told that the local
Interact club was going to pass out food to the needed. I signed up- excited
to do some kind of service for my new country. What I didn't know when I
signed up is that we were going to wake up at 1am to pass out food because
people could not eat during the day. I still went despite the time and I am
so glad I did. It has become one of my favorite memories in Indonesia so
far. We spent several hours driving around the city, finding people to help.
Sometimes we would see someone on the other side of the street so we would
run across, screaming at them to stop and take the food we were trying to
give them. This experience is why I decided to do exchange through Rotary. I
want t o be able to help people and many Indonesians are in dire need of
One day in English class, my teacher asked everyone in the class to say one
think they know about America. I thought it was very funny so I wrote down
the whole list here it is:
America has four seasons
Liberty Statue (this is how they phrased it)
Washington (it is unclear if they were talking about D.C or the state)
LA Galaxy (I looked it up, it is a soccer team- I didn't even know about
Donovan (football player)
Golden Gate (bridge)
So, as Americans we should ask ourselves if we are proud of this list. Are
we proud that all a 10th grade class of Indonesian students knows about
America is this list. I am not. I try to teach my Indonesian friends
everyday about the real America and how we are more than Hollywood and New
York. One boy told me that he wanted to move to America because he likes
Justin Beiber and if he moves to America, he will be able to meet him. I had
to tell him that I have lived in America my whole life and I have not met
anyone famous. I have been told by several people here that I am the first
foreigner that they have ever talked to, I only hope I am a good example.
Thank you again Rotary for this once in a lifetime opportunity. I do want to
say that I have a blog that I update almost every day. I put more funny
stories and day-to-day activities on that blog. If you want to read more
please visit me at
December 9, 2012
I have now lived in Bandung, Indonesia for almost 4 months. I cannot say
that I have loved every minute of it but I am learning tons. I really have
no idea how to write about the last 2 months of my life in one little blog.
I have grown so much.
My Indonesian is getting much better and I can have full conversations in
Indonesian and explain things in Indonesian, I have made more friends and I
continue to learn about the culture.
I attended one of my friend's father's funeral. It was very sad but it was
an interesting view into the culture that I do not see every day. In
Indonesia the family must prepare the body for burial. The body was also
buried wrapped in a white sheet, not in a coffin. My entire class went to
support our friend during the funeral.
I have accepted that I will not learn anything at school. My teacher do not
show up very often and when they do, they do not teach a lesson. At least I
get to talk to my friends. I am concerned for my friends' education. I am
not really worried about learning anything, I am an exchange student after
all but, my friends are not being taught and this is their education. I
actually miss the American Education system, and I wish that my friends
could have real classes and learn as much as I have been able.
Most of the food is standard now. I eat rice and fried soybeans almost every
day. Sometimes it is very hard to swallow and I wish I could have American
food but, most days I am fine.
I experienced a little bit of depression in November. I was not very busy
and I had to do college applications so, I was not happy. Since then I have
learned to be more active and try to do something even if it is not very
I decided to make a list of some of the biggest cultural differences, of
course there are much more but, these are some of them. Enjoy!
1. Wet is clean
2. Old people grasp your elbow not hold your hand
3. "Belum makan nasi, belum makan" - If you haven't eaten rice, you haven't
4. 2 showers a day
5. Food is not made per meal it is made for the day and then left on the
table under a cover. Whenever you are hungry you can just go eat. Rice stays
fresh all day in the rice cooker.
6. Time is not well defined and structured like it is in America.
7. Condiments go with EVERYTHING. (and not just a little)
8. Having a maid and/or a driver is perfectly normal
9. Smoking is very popular and it is legal/normal to smoke everywhere
10. If you are sick it is because you have not eaten (or you are cold)
11. People love wearing jackets (90 degree weather year round)
12. Littering is totally acceptable
13. Most people are Muslim (this causes MANY differences)
14. People believe in ghosts
15. People are very upfront about looks. It is not unusual for someone you
don't know to come up to you and say "I am the prettiest person in the
class, do you think I am pretty?"
16. Most places including peoples' houses and some classrooms require you to
take off your shoes.
17. Burping and making other noises with your mouth is acceptable.
18. Almost everything is paid for in cash, credit cards are a pain and they
are not accepted at most stores (only very nice malls let you use credit
19. Shaking hands is very different: Before you shake someone's hand their
gender, age, respectability, religion and a hundred other contributing
factors must run through your head. If someone does shake your hand
(American style) the handshake is very weak and floppy, not strong and
aggressive like we do in America. Many people will extend both hands and you
slide yours in-between theirs (kind of like playing slide) and then you
bring your hands to your chest. If someone is Muslim, you might be accepted
to do a traditional Muslim greeting. The younger person takes the other's
hand and raises it to their head and bows at the same time. Finally, some
people chose to do the kisses (2 kisses one on each cheek) but, you will
never kiss a man. I know it is complicated, just imagine doing it every day.
20. Squat potties exist and just for everyone's information I am pretty good
at using them now.
21. People like touching other people for seemingly no reason.
22. School is fun and people like being at school. Teachers also don't show
23. People like to ask very personal/weird questions. The word for this is "Kepo"
it is used to describe a nosey person who asks too many questions.
24. Tea is served all the time.
25. They have local languages and most people know their traditional
language as well as Indonesian.
I want to thank Rotary for sending me somewhere that I never thought I would
go so that I could learn. I also want to remind everyone that I do a blog
that I update much more often at myindonesianyear.blogspot.com If you are
interested in my daily activities and enlightenment that is the place to
Here are some recent stories:
On the way home a group of about 7 elementary school kids stopped me. I
don't stop for anything while I am walking home and I really have no idea
how they got my attention but, they did. They were all super cute and when I
turned around they looked very nervous. I asked them what they wanted and
they asked (very politely) if they could take a picture with them. I said
that they could and we sat down to take a picture. Most of the children we
very nervous and did not want to be in the photo I called them over and told
them to sit next to me. After the picture, they thanked me and said goodbye.
I love little kids and these were very nice and cute.
Everyone who knows me knows that I have terrible Hand-eye coordination. I am
a swimmer but that does not mean that I am athletic in anything other than
swimming. My brother, Jesse, finds opportunities to tease me about my
complete lack of skill and so do many other people. So, I was at school and
some of the guys in my class had a football, an American football, and they
were passing it around. I was surprised that they had a real football,
because American football is not very popular here, most people like Soccer.
The boys were really bad. It was funny watching them. A lot of the time
their passes would go short and they would just bounced the ball off the
ground (not exactly allowed in the official rules of American football). I
watched them play for a while and latter when I was tired of pretending to
do school work I borrowed the ball and played catch with one of my friends.
I was awesome. I am a celebrity at school and it isn't like anyone actually
has class they n eed to go to so about 50 people just sat watching me throw
the football. None of my passes were bad and I was able to catch almost
everything. I guess everyone has to have one shining moment and this was
mine. I was a pro using the official Peyton Manning style ( 1. Elbow your
brother 2. wipe the windshield 3. flick the booger). So proud of myself,
when my friends told me that I was good I was like "Well of course I am
awesome it is AMERICAN FOOTBALL". I just wanted to record this moment
because it will never happen again.
Let is my friend from Brazil and this happened at her school. She also told
me about a game that she had played in one of her classes. The teacher drew
two lines on the floor and said "If your answer to the question is Yes,
stand on this line, if it is no, stand on this line." Simple rules, simple
game. It started with the usual, easy question "Do you like this class" etc
and then it moved into more fun questions. "Have you had a
boyfriend/Girlfriend ?" Almost everyone said yes. "Have you dated one person
for a year or more?", again the majority of the class said yes. "Have you
kissed on the lips?", this time Leti was the only one who said yes. So
funny! No one in the USA would date someone for a year and not kiss. Also if
someone has sex before marriage they will be "exiled from the community"
(Direct quote from one of Bridget's classmates). It is nice to be in a
country with such innocence and I think that the y would be really shocked
if they went to High School in America.
Sometimes all I want to do is fit in but, there are defiantly perks that
come with being the most popular girl in school. I have never been part of
the in-crowd and being a foreign exchange student is the best way to do it!
February 13, 2013
Indonesian food is good and I like it more every day. Every meal basically
consists of rice and something that has been fried. Indonesians do not think
that eating food while it is warm is very important and I still hate eating
cold rice. I regularly eat from Warungs, which are small food stands on the
side of the road. I recently started craving specific Indonesian food. I
think that this means that my body has finally accepted the food. I still
avoid spicy food because I never know how spicy something is and I normally
only have a little water. But, I eat almost everything else. Eating fish
that still have their heads and tails no longer phases me. I have eaten a
ridiculous amount of 'bizarre ' food and I discovered that cow tongue is
actually good. The food situation gets better every day.
"I am always healthy in America and I am always sick in Indonesian" This is
one of the phrases in Indonesian that I say all of the time. Since my last
blog, I had to stay at the hospital for 2 nights because I had dehydration,
diarrhea and a very high fever. A month later I ended up bedridden for 2
days because I was sick again. Every week, I fight diarrhea, constipation
and other super fun things. I am being able to handle it better as time goes
on but, I am going to be honest, it is not fun. Everyone tells you that your
head will hurt from the new things but no one tells you that your body will
literally shut down and it will not work properly even though you have lived
in your new country for 6 months. Luckily, now I only have an ear infection
and I am feeling much better. I would say that bad health is the hardest
thing I have had to deal with. Not culture shock or the language just the
depressing nature of being sick all of the time.
I love Indonesians. They are so nice and friendly and they always want to
talk with me. The only problem is trying to get them to talk to me in
Indonesian. I have lots of people to talk to at school even though it is
really hard to hang out afterwards. Even when my Indonesian is imperfect
people help me and try to figure out what I am trying to say. I cannot
imagine that any other country has people this nice and I am so happy to be
in Indonesia because of the people. They have weird fears (dark, dogs, etc)
and they have very different health beliefs (rain hitting your head will
make you dizzy and stomach aches are caused by wind coming into your
stomach.) They are very honest and I get called a huge slew of names that
would be considered rude in America but, I think it is funny. Sometimes I
think I am in a little elfin world where everyone is short, happy and they
love to sing. I love the people here!
What people think of me
Aunt Melly (councilor) thinks I am crazy. My friends treat me like a
celebrity. People on the street scream at me and jeer like I am an alien.
Lots of people are scared of me. I think I am doing well at representing
Rotary and America. When people start talking to me they are always
surprised that I can speak the language and that I am not scary. People
already have ideas about Americans and America but when I show them pictures
of my family and friends and my life back home they are always impressed. I
also make funny faces at people randomly, which makes them laugh a lot and
helps break the ice. I think I am making progress.
I am learning more every day. I can talk for hours in Indonesian with only a
couple of words in English. I have not have a dream in Indonesian but, I can
speak Indonesian before I am fully awake if my family wakes me up and wants
to talk. I prefer talking in Indonesian. Of course there are topics that I
am not very good at talking about but, I am getting better. I really think I
will be fluent by the end of the year. My friends want me to also learn
Sudanese, the local language. I have picked up a couple of words but, mostly
I stick with Indonesian. Sudanese is a completely different language, the
words have nothing in common and the grammar structure is very different so,
it is very hard to learn. Fun fact: In Indonesian the adjectives come after
the noun so you would say "I saw a car red." which is easy until you want to
say something more complicated like "My friend's home" which is "home friend
me". I mix this up often but I am getting much better. I can speak faster
and clearer now, I can't wait until I am fluent.
This exchange has given me 5 months of anecdotal evidence that if you have
expectations you will be wrong or disappointed.
The following is the translated version of a conversation I had with my
Friend : Hey Alaina, How are you?
Me: I'm good.
Friends: You look (obviously cannot think of the word in English and they
don't want to say it in Indonesian - Waved their arms in a 'skinny' way)
Friends: No not skinny... less fat
Me: I am sexy and I know it
Friends: No not sexy
Me: Well, thank you...
Friends: By the end of the year you will be skinny and look like Taylor
Swift and you will be able to go home and get a boyfriend and live happily
Me: OK, sure
Friends: *Smiling at their super sincere compliment*
Me: *a little confused
I love my friends, the best part is that they don't understand that they
would be considered rude in America. Maybe we need more honest people in
America. I feel super great when I receive super rude comments from random
strangers (or friends).
You have a terrible singing voice
You could never be a model, you are too big
You must be heartbroken because you don't have a boyfriend
Being called "Mr." all the time (translation error I hope)
Calling me really boring
I was on a Rotary trip and we were on the road in a bus for 7 hours At some
point on the trip we stopped at a gas station and some people bought Pop Mie
(Instant noodles in a cup). When the finished they didn't want to drink all
of broth and there was no way to prevent it from spilling so they asked me
to dump the broth out of the window. I was standing in front of a door and I
opened the little window above it to pour out the soup. I poured out one
girl's and then I went for the second girl's. I don't know why I did it,
possibly because I hadn't slept well and I had been standing for about 5
hours but, I did it. I poured out the broth and then put my head out of the
window to wave to the car behind us. The lock on the door was broken and the
door opened with my head still inside the window. Luckily my feet didn't
move and I was able to swing the door shut. I sat down after that.
The following was my account of a Rotary trip to Pangandaran and the famous
We ate breakfast at the hotel and then got on the bus. We were told that we
going to drive 20 minutes up the river and go "body rafting" in Green
Canyon. I have never heard of body rafting before and I assumed that it
meant we were floating down the river. This exchange has given me 5 months
of anecdotal evidence that if you have expectations you will be wrong or
disappointed. We were on the bus for more than an hour and we got to a
building with supplies to go body rafting. We put on lifejackets, boots,
shin guards and helmets. I thought this was a tad bit excessive for floating
down a river but I went with it. We took smiling pictures in all our gear
and then we got 'instruction'. They told us that we were going to ride in
the backs of trucks for about an hour before we would get to the location
and then we prayed. Praying is not unusual in Indonesia and we thought it
was like praying at school - tradition. What we didn't know was that they
were be ing serious. We got in the trucks in all of our gear. It was not
comfortable and it was really hot but it only took about 40 minutes. We had
to walk down a steep area to get to the river. The boots were not very good
and it hurt to walk because the bottoms were as thin as socks. I also don't
enjoy hiking, I like walking on flat surfaces. We got to the water and I was
already tired. I was looking forward to calmly floating down the river. I
was one of the first people to start down the river. One of the guides was
in front of me and he kept telling me to go to the left, under the trees and
stuff. I have always been taught to stay in the middle, snakes and dangerous
animals live on the sides and the trees are dangerous if you get stuck in
them. I followed the guide but I was not happy about it. We had been in the
water for a grand total of 1 minute when I was about to go under a branch
and one of the guides behind me told me there was a snake on the tree. I
panicked it wa s not graceful and I am not proud of it but I didn't
understand why I was under the trees in the first place. Shortly after the
snake incident the guides told us to stop and I went to stand by the edge. I
went to stand up but there was water in my boots. When I stepped on the rock
the water in my boot moved and bubbled and it felt like I had just tried to
stand up on an Alligator. In Florida, you never, never ever swim in rivers
or lakes or marshes because there are huge alligators that will eat you. I
screamed. One of the guides had to stop me farther down the river. We got
out of the river and had to walk on the very steep bank (we crossed the
river so now we were on the opposite side from where we started). I could
barely walk I was shaking so bad. My legs and arms and everything was
shaking. I was so mad and I was still recovering from the snake and the fake
alligator. I shall only give you some of the highlights of our 4 hour death
We stopped and crossed the river countless times
The green water that Green Canyon is famous for was brown because it had
rained the day before
At some points the rapids were so bad the guides had ropes that we had to
hang on to (remember that my arms and hands were already tired from the day
I let go of a rope and had to *pardon my language* haul ass to get to the
We climbed around a class 5 rapid (might have been impassible)
If we fell into the water at some points we would have died and there
would be nothing anyone could do but watch.
We jumped off a 3 meter rock into the raging river below
I got out of jumping off another 2 meter rock by going through the rapids.
We were forced to dive into the water from the side several time
We were constantly being beaten with rocks
The 'extra protection' just weighted us down, made it harder to swim and
harder to climb
We had to climb up and down a cliff face (straight up a wall) with no
ropes, only Indonesian guides.
We had to climb backwards down the cliff face and had to trust the guide
to place our feet (I hugged my guide when I got down safely)
Climb slippery rocks while we were soaking wet with no grip on our shoes.
Several people came close to being lost
The guides learned several choice swear words in at least 5 different
We took smiling pictures and pretended nothing was wrong
The view was beautiful
I was in fear of my life the entire time- Not in a "If I fail this test my
mom is going to kill me" in a " There is no chance of survival if I fall"
I would never ever in a thousand years do that again
No one died and no one was seriously injured. We all had cuts and bruises
but we were alive.
I consider this a miracle.
At no point did I sign or see a waiver. I am defiantly not in America
(Just thought Rotary Florida would love to know that I am being taken care
I went kayaking with my family in near a small town.
I could not paddle straight. It was nearly impossible. I was already tired
of trying to control the stupid boat. And I was literally spinning in
circles. This wouldn't be super embarrassing if it was just in front of my
family but all the locals were also watching me. When I go to small towns
many people have never seen a white person before and they all look and
stare and yell at me even more that what happens at school and in the city.
We were in a small fishing village and I know that even the youngest could
steer a little boat and they were probably laughing at the 'white girl who
can't do anything'.
My school is under construction and all my classes have been moved. No one
can tell me where they have gone or what time class is so, I spend a lot of
time in the library. My school is much better than some other exchange
students in Indonesia and I am happy but, I am also very confused. Most days
I spent a couple hours in school sitting in the library talking to random
people or typing for my blog. I don't love my school but, there is not
really anything worth complaining about.
Most of the time I use my driver to get from place to place or I get a ride
with my councilor. The public transportation system is very disorganized and
hard to use. I keep asking my families to teach me how to use it but they
always say "later" which is Indonesian for no. I do take public
transportation with friends or if I am not going very far and I can guess
which car to get in.
Most people here are Muslim. My second family was the most religious and I
learned a lot from them. I say Islamic catchphrases at school and we pray
before beginning the day (not a typical Muslim prayer just a moment of
silence). Islam has added to culture shock but now everything is normal. I
tell time with the prayer calls and I like watching Islamic traditions. My
1st and 3rd host families are less religious. I am able to go to Christian
church some weekends if my family is not busy, which is very nice of them.
I am now living in my 3rd host family. My Mom and Dad both work two jobs.
They are doctors at a hospital and the run a clinic / daycare for mentally
handicap children. Almost every weekend we do something together. So far I
have been hiking and kayaking. My family is not like all other Indonesian
families because they spend time together when they can and I enjoy the time
we spend together. We even eat dinner together. Everyone of my families have
been so different and I am glad that I didn't just live at one house.
It is the rainy season! It has been raining almost every day since November
but, it doesn't both me. My 2nd host families house did flood while I was
there and we had to de-flood the house but other than that the rain has not
been too bad. It is cooler in Bandung because we are in the mountains and
everyone always says "It is SO cold in Bandung". News Flash it is 75-80
degrees and it isn't exactly freezing. People were jackets all the time and
if you took a picture you would think that it was 40 degrees outside by the
way they dress. People don't like to have dark skin so they wear jackets to
hide from the sun or because they think jackets are cool. I am loving the
fact that it isn't cold. One of my friend asked if Bandung or Florida was
colder, for the first time in my life I had to say that the winter in
Florida was colder than somewhere else. I love the weather here.
I love Indonesian food. I am going to have to collect recipes and learn how
to cook some of my favorites. My favorite thing is the fruit. I really
cannot express how good the fruit is here and it is infuriating that we do
not have some of the same fruit in America. I try to explain what Mangis is
or what Durian is or Rambutan is or any other of my favorite new fruits and
no one in America can understand. It is also depressing that the fruit
seasons are ending and changing and I might never taste Mangis again. I
guess I will just have to make up for that by trying even more fruit.
I traveled to a nearby city to visit one of my exchange friends her host
family owns 2 hotels and a school that teaches cooking and hotel management
so we decided to cook American food for them.
The menu we were making consisted of the fallowing items: Mashed potatoes,
white gravy, biscuits, deviled eggs and Apple Pie (we also asked Kiki to
make fried chicken since Indonesians now how to do that really well and none
of us were comfortable cooking the meat.). We started with the pie crust. I
have never made a homemade pie crust before and this was the part that I was
the most nervous about. Bridget's YouTube videos came in handy by telling us
that we had to use really cold butter or the recipe wouldn't work. We mixed
the ingredients and then put it in the fridge to thicken. Then we skinned
the Granny Smith apples, cut them, mixed them with tons of sugar and then
put them in the fridge too. Then we moved to the biscuits. It was a simple
drop biscuit recipe and I knew that we would be able to make them without a
problem. The problem turned out to be in the oven with was a huge oven
(probably for pizzas) and it had an upper and lower flame temperature
setting, which was in Celsius. We guessed and then put the biscuits in the
oven. Bridget checked them every few seconds and we were able to get them
the perfect light-golden-brown color. The pie crust had been in the fridge
for an hour so we pulled it out. I spread flour on the table and the rolling
pin and then I rolled the crust out. When it was the right size Bridget
helped me get it into the pan and we patched up the holes. I convinced
Bridget to bake the crust for a few minutes before we put the filling in so
that it could set and she agreed (somewhat reluctantly). After five minutes
in the oven we pulled it out and we shocked to see that it had shrunk in the
oven and left the edges of the pie pan uncovered. We patched up the holes
and then poured in the filling. We then rolled out the other half of the
dough for the crust and made a top for the pie. I was given the honor of
cutting the little slices in the top of the pie. We improvised a tin-foil
edge cover then put it in the oven and hoped for the best. After 25 minutes
we took the tin-foil off and put the pie back in. While the pie was in the
oven we realized that we needed to do the other food items at the school too
if we wanted everything to be done at the same time. Kiki and Leti ran home
picked up the other ingredients we needed and then we got back to work.
Bridget and I made the white gravy. I have made gravy with my dad before and
I know that it really isn't too hard. The recipe warned that we shouldn't
use whole milk, unfortunately Indonesia only sells whole milk so we used
what we had and hoped for the best. My arm hurt after stirring the gravy
until it was ready. When it was done we put it to the side. We then skinned
the potatoes and cut them into cubes and then put them in the boiling water.
The eggs got boiled in a separate pan. As we watched some of the eggs leaked
into the water, we poured a little vinegar into the pot (which apparently
helps keep the eggs from leaki ng). I never know when eggs are done and
there was a lot of guessing involved. We took them out of the water and let
them sit in a 5 minute ice bath. The eggs we perfect and we quickly pealed
them and cut them in half. There was a little scare half way through when
Bridget picked up an eggs that had a small black think poking out of the top
of the egg, it looked like a beak and the egg was heavier than the others.
Bridget and Leti wanted nothing to do with the egg so I cut it open. It was
completely normal, there was no baby chicken inside. I put the yoke in a
bowl and mixed them with mayo, mustard, salt and pepper and then spooned the
mix back into the eggs. The potatoes we done so we mashed them and added
milk, butter, salt and pepper. The Pie was done. We ran over to the oven an
opened it. It was perfect. A 50's housewife would be proud to but that on
her windowsill. Then we carefully took everything to the car and got all the
food safely home. By the time we got hom e the gravy looked terrible. It had
congealed and looked like boogers. Bridget and I put it on the stove heated
it up again and added more milk, we saved it and it turned out perfect. When
the chicken had been fried and placed on the table we all dug in. It took a
lot to explain what the gravy was for but after people got the hang of it
they loved it. Even Bridget, Mrs. Vegetarian, who had never tried gravy
before, liked it. Everything was a success but nothing stood out like the
perfect Apple Pie. I served it to everyone and no one waited to dig in.
Things taste better when they are homemade. Immediately everyone was asking
when we would be making another pie, even though the one we had just made
wasn't gone yet. Nothing feels as good as accomplishing something.
I have almost stopped getting crazy cravings, except I really want Mexican
food. Other than that I am really enjoying Indonesian food.
I thought I was going to make it the entire year without throwing up. I was
wrong. Unfortunately, my record was broken at the beginning of March while I
was on vacation in Jakarta. Other than that my health has finally started
improving. I don't get terribly sick when I travel and my body is adapting
more. The other day I ate at a mall with my host family my chicken was still
red and I never got sick after eating it. The misery does end! (Although
leave it to me to get sick after I have declared that I am no longer sick).
In terms of mental health I was becoming very depressed because I had
nothing to do but, since I have started traveling much more I feel much
better. I am hoping to get through the rest of my exchange with fewer and
fewer health incidents.
The best part of exchange and the most frustrating part. I love Indonesians.
I know when I go home I will have panic attacks being around so many tall
white people. Whenever I see another white person I kind of freak out. This
sounds silly but it is a learned reaction when you are surrounded by small
Asians all the time. I know that I always feel better at the end of the day
if I have talked to people. Even if it is just some random person at a
restaurant or at my school I love talking to people. I also know that I have
learned a ton about dealing with different types of people. In America I was
always able to select the people that I was with and I was already adjusted
to my family. Now, I know that I have the patience to work with people that
are very different from me. Exchange students are the best we talk about the
coolest things and I am learning a tiny bit of Portuguese from my Brazilian
friends. I will miss the people and the attitude of life here when I go
What people think of me
Some days I have no idea what people think of me. I hope it is good. I hope
people think I am a good representative of the United States but I really
don't know. My host families seem to like me and they always want to talk to
me, which is a good sign. My councilor thinks I am crazy and she often talks
down to me. My friends at school think I am lazy and don't know why I am
never at school. They also refuse to tell me what time class starts and when
I should come to school (it changes every day). My teachers are afraid of
me, I am a big scary white girl, even though I speak Indonesian and I don't
interrupt the lessons. Most Indonesians are very blunt and tell me that I am
fat and other not so nice things. No matter, I haven't had any serious
confrontations with anyone and that in itself is a huge deal. Some people
think because I am American I know every artist that has every come out of
America and all of their work. I do not have that all-encompassing knowledge
and that disappoints people but, there is nothing I can do about that. I
hope that I am doing a good job.
I can comfortably say that I am conversationally fluent. I defiantly do not
know everything, not even close but I can get my point across effectively.
People understand me when I talk to them and I understand people when they
talk to me. Unless I am talking about something beyond my abilities such as
discussing American gun laws with my host parents, I am able to communicate
completely in Indonesian. It has been a long road and I am glad that I have
made so much progress. I haven't had a dream in Indonesian yet but I am
still holding out hope. I hate speaking English now. When I am with
Indonesian people I get offended if they speak English to me even though I
am trying to communicate in Indonesian. I love this language and I want to
continue to get better.
I have not had a good experience with kayaks but I was willing to try again.
One of my Dad's friends came to our house with his wife and their 14 month
old son. We all had to wait for a while until my sister came home from a
friend's house and we left around 10. It took 2 hours to get there. When we
were almost there we stopped at a dam. It was pretty cool and I even saw a
big lizard. My family claims that it is "exactly like an Alligator" but,
this thing was only about 3 feet long, which is a very tiny Alligator. We
got to the lake at about noon and unloaded the kayaks. It was really hot
outside and I was wondering why we weren't getting in the water. My dad said
that we were waiting for the sun. This only caused more questions, why would
we wait for the sun? My dad said that we were waiting for it to be cooler.
Whatever. We finally did get in the water. The wife of my dad's friend was
complaining about the heat while wearing a jacket because s he didn't want
her skin to be black and she was very nervous about going out on the lake.
This caused the baby (who was also wearing way too much clothes) to cry and
cry. The other family ended up sitting out and not being able to get on the
water because the baby wouldn't calm down. I could not paddle straight. It
was nearly impossible. We ate lunch on some rocks on the other side of the
lake. The tuna sandwiches were really good. On the way back, I was already
tired of trying to control the stupid boat. And I was literally spinning in
circles. This wouldn't be super embarrassing if it was just in front of my
family but all the locals were also watching me. When I go to small towns
many people have never seen a white person before and they all look and
stare and yell at me even more that what happens at school and in the city.
We were in a small fishing village and I know that even the youngest could
steer a little boat and they were probably laughing at the 'white girl who
can't do anything'. When we finally got back, I never wanted to try kayaking
again. The ride home was long and wet because I could not change my clothes.
I was traveling in Jogjakarta and I wanted to go to Prambanan with two of my
exchange friends, Sid and Daisy. We went for sunrise. My alarm went off at
2:50am. Sid and I were up and dressed in 5 minutes and brought our stuff
down stairs Daisy got out of her bed after we were completely ready and took
her time getting ready. Sid and I sat downstairs waiting for the driver. He
did not come until 4 (he should have been there at 3). We loaded the car and
we were off. At this point we were all to awake to fall asleep again.
Because it was so early there was almost no one on the road and we made
great time getting to the temple just after 5am. We walked onto the property
and looked for a way in. The gates were all locked and we settled on finding
a great spot to watch the sunrise behind the mountains. It was gorgeous. We
watched for an hour until the pack opened then we bought our tickets and
went in. At Prambanan and many other Indonesian places tourist (BOLE) are
forced to pay mo re money for tickets. We each have a Kitas , which is a
pass saying that we are allowed to live in Indonesia for a year and it gives
us the right to Indonesian prices. When we were admitted into the park we
headed straight for the temples. It had started raining and we saw a man
renting umbrellas. There was a bole couple getting an umbrella when we went
up to him. He told us that each umbrella was 20,000 Rupiah (2 dollars) we
responded in Indonesian saying that we would pay 10,000 Rupiah (1 dollar).
The man said that all the umbrellas were the same price and he would not
except our offer. We went to walk away, deciding that we would just spend
the morning in the rain. Then the bole couple walked out of ear shot and the
man called us back saying that he would take our offer. There is something
very funny about knowing that someone else paid twice as much as they should
have. We each bought an umbrella and continued on the path. Words cannot
really do the sight justice (or at least not my words, I am sure some poet
somewhere could). It was magnificent. The sun was still coming up behind the
mountains and there was almost no one at the temple yet. Most of the people
there were other white people and we were spared from the annoying
Indonesian people always asking for pictures. I took a ton of pictures and
posted them all on Facebook (my name is Alaina Roberts friend me if you want
to look at the photos). Amazing. Everything was perfect in a very, "I am
really in Indonesia" sort of way. Sometimes exchange doesn't feel real, much
like an out of body experience. It is like you are watching someone else do
things and that you are just dreaming but then there are moments of absolute
clarity, those are the best moments on exchange. Amazing, everything I hoped
it would be and much more. Even Daisy seemed content with the scene. We
stayed and walked around the temple until we believed that we had seen
everything that we could. We then walk ed out of the park just as 5 buses of
school children arrived. We hurried out, glad that we weren't stopped by the
I haven't been to school in 3 weeks and I am about to leave on a 2 week trip
to Bali, Lombok and Komodo Islands so I will not be returning for some time.
As far as I am concerned school is a complete waste of time. My friends
can't hang out with me after school and we don't learn anything in school. I
just sit in the library for hours talking to random people and then I go
home. No one will tell me when class is and when I should come (changes
every day). I am not on any of the attendance records and I don't think the
school notices when I chose not to show up. I think the worst thing about
SMK (Vocation school) is that the kids in it have no way to escape to a
better life. Students have to pay for SMA (regular high school) and most
poor people just don't have the money to send their kids to SMA so their
kids go to SMK and learn nothing and are corralled into manual labor jobs
and then the cycle continues. Coming from a country with the American Dream
is a real thing this is very hard to watch. I feel terrible for my fellow
students. At the same time education does not seem to be a big deal to them
and they do not take advantage of the lessons they are given. One day a
teacher actually came to class and he taught us how to use Photoshop to make
a picture of a person look like an Avatar. I thought the lesson was great
and followed the whole thing (which was in Indonesian by the way). When I
turned around to check on my friends they were playing around on their
computers and watching cartoon while complaining that they couldn't follow
the lesson. I want to help these children but I don't know if they want help
or if they care at all about their future. Some of the girls in my class
have told me their life plan it is: Get married, have children, stay at
home, the end. To me this is a very sad story and I believe they should be
aiming for more.
Getting around is very frustrating. The driver does not live at the house
and is often very busy. Most days I am left in the house with no way of
getting out. I can walk to the local convenience store but that doesn't do
me much good. I ask people to teach me how to use the Angkot system but no
one will. I would teach myself but there is no map, no routes, just jump in
a van and know where it is going. I don't know my way around the huge city
well enough to do this by myself. I am glad that I can't drive because
driving is crazy and I would still sit in the house out of fear. I wish I
could transport to places easier but I guess I enjoy going places more
because I can't always do what I want, when I want to do it.
I tell time by the Prayer Calls, I love hearing them every day. Everything
has basically stayed the same since the last time I wrote except I had an
interesting conversation with some people I met at school
Girl: What languages do you know?
Me: English and Indonesian
Girl: Do you know Sudanese (local language)?
Me: No, Sudanese is very hard.
Girl: do you speak Islam?
Me: I know some phrases. (We say Islamic greetings everyday at school and I
have picked some catch phrases up)
Girl: Oh, You say [Islamic catch phrases] in America too!
Me: No, I learned them in Indonesia
Girl: But you Salam right? (Salam is when a younger/lesser person greats an
older/higher ranking person but holding the "better" person's hand to their
Me: Of course we do not do that in America.
Girl: But, how do you greet older people?
Me: We just shake hands, everyone is equal.
Girl: *Confused silence*
Me: And there are not many Mosques in America so you can't hear the prayer
Me: Most people in America are Christian.
The girl had to leave but I hope she thought a little about religion and how
it influences her culture without her even noticing it.
I travel with my host family (3rd) often. I went on a 3 day Kayaking trip
with my host dad and I have been on many other adventures with them. They
are super nice and I feel like I am really part of the family. At
restaurants we share each other's food and drinks. I feel very comfortable
with my family with means that it is time to change families again. I have 4
families and I will be moving as soon as I get home from Bali in mid April.
The rainy season is almost over and I don't want it to end. I know that may
people want it to be done but I like rain and I don't want it to get any
hotter. I still live without AC, I have been without since December and I
will finish my exchange without it. I think it is pretty impressive to say
that I lived in a tropical country with no AC for 7 months. No one in their
right minds in America goes without AC, maybe we should rethink some things.
Just to remind everyone this is my blog that I update more often:
http://myindonesianyear.blogspot.com/ if you want to read more.
And friend me on Facebook my name is Alaina Roberts