Sunday, September 18, 2011

Post Card Moments

What do red carpets, secret service, beautiful kebayas, crowns and really big hair have in common? You guessed it, they were all part of the wedding I attended this weekend. A teacher and good friend of mine from work, mba Elisa, invited me to be her date since her husband couldn't join her. I had some idea that this would be a pretty fancy occasion since the groom was the son of the former Chief of Metro Jaya Police (I'm not entirely sure what this means, but I knew it meant he was important). This is the scene the greeted us when we walked into the massive reception hall.
Elisa explained to me that the groom is from Lampung, South Sumatra, so all the decorations and outfits were representative of that region. This meant that all the members of the wedding party wore gold and black in various styles.
Elisa and I enjoyed ourselves thoroughly by commenting on the various kebaya styles. These gorgeous garments include a long, tightly-wrapped, skirt (hardlyabletowalk tight) matched with a corset and an embroidered, often see-through cover that buttons down the front. It was like prom; so many beautiful variations. I've added having one of these made to my goals list. The men also looked sharp with high-collared jackets with gold batik wrapped around their hips (over black pants) and matching hats. Of course, there were also police men and women there wearing their dress uniforms complete with white gloves and sabers.

The reception began with these uniformed officers making a pathway for the bride and groom. They put on a show of precision marching and arms presentation. They lined both sides of the red carpet and slowly raised their sabers into an archway for the bride and groom to pass under. The whole ceremony gave me goosebumps.

Once the young couple made it to the front, the officers surrounded them in a circle. Then, the bride was presented with a bouquet and the uniform of the Police Wives Association.
Elisa hurried me into a queue that was forming in front of the stage. After the procession, the bride, groom and parents stood on a stage as the guests pass through and shook hands (well, everyone holds their hands together as if they are praying and then they bow and touch the tips of their hands together). We waited in line as the happy couple went to change into the traditional wedding garb from Lampung. These are the outfits you see on post cards from Indonesia. They were absolutely stunning with their massive gold head dresses and white outfits. We waited a little longer as the couple took pictures with the officers and with the Chief of the Indonesian National Police (think of this as if the Secretary of Defense came to your wedding).

After we passed quickly through and expressed our congratulations, we were at last allowed to enjoy the abundant and tasty food. I enjoyed green rice for the first time. Enak (delicious)!

When we had our fill of food and navigating though the room of well over 500 guests, we left the reception and the lovely couple to continue their evening less one bule.

I still couldn't tell you what the groom or brides' names are, but I'll never forget the experience of this glimpse into one of the hundreds of Indonesian cultures. I feel like I could live here for the rest of my life and still not experience all of the cultures that this country has to offer. Over the next nine months, though, I hope I can see many more post-card moments.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The New Digs

Has it really already been almost one month? Wow. The orientation portion of the fellowship is over, and now everyone is off to their sites to get down to the business of teaching English. For me, this means back to Jakarta to move into my apartment before classes begin on Monday. This year, I decided to pass on the Bellagio - hand flurish - for something a little closer to Indonesia. I'm still living in a high-rise, and I'm still on the 26th floor, but this time there are actual Indonesians living in the same building. One of these Indonesians happens to be one of my running pals, Miranda. But wait, the perks don't end there. First off all, I have a balcony from which I can see this view of the city:
I live in a tower that looks identical to the ones shown in the picture. The apartment complex is enormous...over twelve towers. There are two rockin' shopping plazas in walking distance (the blue roof in the distance is my favorite). One contains a used book store from which I purchased copies of Woody Woodpecker and Bugs Bunny comics in Indonesian to practice language. This is the view at night:
One more pic looking straight down at the awesome walk way that connects all of the towers. You can see one of the two pools, the fitness center at the top of the picture, and the oval b-ball court. This place is bustling every night with kids playing soccer on the concrete.
Alright, let's move inside. From the balcony looking in you can see the living room and kitchen. Burnt orange couch! I'm in love.

Close up of the kitchen. I have a gas stove, aaaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnd an oven. Oh the brownies that will be made.
I don't even know how this happened (referring to shoes).
Spare bedroom just for you. Come visit!
 Master bedroom wardrobes. That's right, I have two. Don't judge.
My soft-pink bed. I had a small 'ugly American' moment when I made a face at the Saved-By-the-Bell-Opening-Credits-Patterned bedspread that was originally on the bed. I didn't mean to; it just came out like a knee-jerk reaction, and my poor landlady had her son go get a new cover right then and there. Sigh. I'm not proud.
 Washing machine with a separate spin section. I had so much fun trying to figure that thing out today.

The bathroom. Just kidding, it's the servant's bathroom. Kidding again! I don't have a servant, but this really is meant for a housekeeper.
Maybe my favorite building in all of Jakarta is now just outside my front door. How did they do that?

That's the end of the tour; just a taste of what you, too, can experience when you come visit me. ;)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bule Photo Interlude

Saturday, a day for lacing up and hitting a long trail run. I was particularly looking forward to last Saturday because some of my cohorts in Bandung had discovered a large park a short distance from our hotel. The hotel contained two caves with munition storages created by the Japanese and Dutch during their occupations of Indonesia. Another five kilometers beyond the caves promised a large waterfall and monkeys...tons of monkeys. I had explored the cave portion of the park with a friend the week before and decided to return on the weekend for a long run to see this waterfall:
I wasn't the only one wanting to see the waterfall. I was, however, the only bule among bus loads of camera-wielding Indonesians on vacation for Idul Fitri. Crap. My run instantly turned into a obstacle course, dodging ojeks, hikers, and sometimes horses. I was determined to see the falls since I knew it would be my last chance to before leaving the city, so I pulled my visor low and tried to blend in. This was pretty much a futile exercise being that the path was only wide enough for three across, and I was at least a head taller than most of my park-going friends...with white skin...and running attire...and a wake of 'Bule' chants following close behind. Selah.

Ok, so this was not going to be the head-clearing run that I was hoping for, but I was there, so I went on. I only began to get a complex after the fifth group of children burst into spontaneous giggles after I passed on the left and several Ibu-Ibus breathed an 'Aduuuuh' after making eye contact. My bruised ego was healed a little by the group of 30-somethings who stopped me on an uphill to practice English and exchange Facebook accounts. I did, finally, make it to the falls, where I stood in admiration and in several family photos.

I took my time on the way back with determination to smile though and make the most of this run turned ridiculous. The smiling helped. It helped me to remember how fun it is to be here and to interact in a new culture. It also seemed to trigger people to ask politely, 'May we photo, Mister?' and for me to gently correct the widespread misunderstanding of gender titles: 'Iya, tapi saya MISS, bukan MISTER.'  I was struck by how my forced smile eventually changed my whole outlook on the madness to a genuine affection for the country and its inhabitants.

Later in the week, I more than made up for lost workout by joining a hash run with Jess, another English teacher. We climbed, undisturbed, up through kampungs (villages), through valleys of children flying kites, and over bamboo bridges (I was praying for someone to stop me for a photo on those never-ending uphills!). I copied this from the hash newsletter about the run.

We were made to drink for, among other things, being American.

I hope running, whether it be interrupted by giggles, photos, or beer, continues to introduce me to new parts of Indonesia. Cheers.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Saung Angklung Udjo

Each island in Indonesia boasts it's own culture and identity. Sometimes even that identity shifts dramatically from one end of an island to another. That is certainly true of the large island of Java. During our three week orientation and language training, we had the opportunity to explore the Sudanese culture of West Java. The Sudanese people are known, among other things, as being the most beautiful people in Indonesia, having the best food, and for playing the Angklung (see picture -->), an instrument made out of bamboo. Players rattle the bamboo reeds of different lengths to produce a variety of sounds.

Last week, about 30 of us piled into angkots to go hear an Angklung performance. The place we went to, Saung Angklung Udjo, is a cooperative where all of the players - mostly young kids - live, learn, and work together. The goal of the cooperative is to keep the traditional arts of West Java alive. We were entertained beyond our expectations by a variety show of Wayang Golek - a wooden puppet show, beautiful dances, the Angklung, and down right cuteness. I think pictures and video will do better justice at this point:

These young ladies danced a 'Peacock Dance' of West Java
Wayang Golek - The Good Guys
Wayang Golek - You guessed it, the Bad Guys
Here's a glimpse of the Wayang Golek. You can see the head of the evil guys doing a little dance. The players in the background are playing the Gamelan, very traditional instruments from Java.

These little guys can dance - and ham it up for the cameras!

If that doesn't make you smile, you're dead inside.

And for the moment you've all been waiting for....drum rooooooooollllllll....the Angklung. See if you can guess that tune.

And this is just the first month back...