Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Day 18: This brings me JOY

Over the last week, I've been meeting teachers and learners here in Indonesia. They are fantastic - enthusiastic, energetic, focused, and with great sense of humor. It is a good beginning to any place when every person you meet puts a smile on your face, and this has been particularly true this week. I am in the honeymoon discovery phase here and I am completely enchanted.

Here are a couple of pictures to help you understand how much I've been enjoying my work. There have been more encounters, but I just didn't take pictures... I'm not even sure these really do justice to my exuberance.

An Access Program classroom visit finishing with a goofy song (and picture)

A few teachers and I posing after today's national conference at LIA in Jakarta

Monday, September 29, 2014

Day 17: You gotta get up pretty early...

The rhythms of Indonesian life come alive at the break of dawn - literally. Normally, I set my alarm for 6:00 a.m., and I still have the distinct feeling that I am a bit behind. This morning, I got up earlier to fit in a work out before heading to the office, and I felt like I might have finally struck the same beat as my coworkers and the streets of Jakarta. At 5 a.m.

In my youth, my dad attempted to impress upon us that the day was wasted by sleeping in. He always insisted that he was "up with the birds," and often this was the case when I was a kid. Having grown up on a farm, the important chores had to be done in the coolness of the morning and before heading to school or dedicating time to other projects. Summers spent on that farm with my grandparents involved the banging of pots, pans, and doors starting at the break of light. I suspect the Uhler side of my family would be right at home here in Indonesia!

The mosques in my neighborhood resound with reverberations of the call to prayer right around 4:30 a.m. The streets begin to buzz and those who are faithful (and who have long commutes) are up to begin their day before the heat and traffic jams develop. Many here in Jakarta travel 2-3 hours before arriving at work, so an early start is critical. In light of what they face daily to get in and out of this city, I regret any complaints I've ever uttered about commuting a measly hour to work.

Me? I am adapting. Thanks to the hangover of jet lag, I awake early to get a start on my day. The office is in full swing by 7:30 so I, too, am up with the birds and ready for what Indonesia may bring my day. It's refreshing to meet the day at its beginning and to wane not long after darkness settles in. It feels unsettling to have nearly 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night in contrast to the changing of seasons in more northern latitudes. However, I kind of like the feeling of building a routine around the daylight. After all, with a cup of coffee, mornings can be the very best thinking and creative hours.So, I am with the Indonesians - early to bed, early to rise...with the birds.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Day 16: Kaki Lima (Five Legs)

Kaki Lima, literally meaning "five legs," are the local name for street food vendors. I guess, in case you are counting, there are two wheels, the stand, and the two legs of the vendor.

In my neighborhood and others around Jakarta, these stands abound selling everything from durian pancakes to bakso (meatballs) and soup. I have not been brave enough to subject my digestive track to street food yet, but I do like the atmosphere they give the street, making the public streets a common dining room for the community.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Day 15: Ice Cream Sandwich

If I were having a conversation with my husband, we could be talking about an operating system (see how techy I can be?), but today I am talking about a delectable treat to be found on the streets of Jakarta. A friend and I went out shopping today, and I saw two ladies pass by with what looked like ice cream on white bread. Walking further, we spotted an ice cream sandwich stand and had one made right up to test out.

Yes, that is a slab of strawberry ice cream on the Indonesian equivalent of Wonderbread. After a few giggles about the literal interpretation of ice cream sandwich, we dove in to the strange culinary experience. I'm not sure that I'll be a regular consumer, but I now have an entirely new frame of reference for ice cream sandwich.

(For those in the unknowing, an American ice cream sandwich is usually a much more caloric treat, traditionally vanilla ice cream between two chocolate cookies.)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Day 14: An Improbable Nation

Yesterday, I went to the fancy American space here in Jakarta called @America to hear Elizabeth Pisani speak about her travels, outlooks on Indonesia, and her new book. Two alumni of a teaching program that places teachers from Jakarta in remote, rural places called  "Indonesia Mengajar" (similar to the Teach for America program, as far as I can tell) and a former Fulbright English Teaching Assistant joined her on stage to talk about life outside of the bustling capital.  I went because I devoured her book and was eager to hear her speak in person.

The discussion was fascinating. On the glitzy studio-like stage of this space, Elizabeth taped up a tattered map of Indonesia with a hand drawn line of her two-year journey. She was animated and extremely likeable, engaging her interlocutors with questions and her audience with stories. One of the fascinating things about her talk that I enjoyed (and that simultaneously made the event less accessible to me) was that she seamlessly code switched between English and Indonesian throughout the talk. For me, it was enjoyable to see a foreigner so comfortable and so accepted as she went into one language and out of another. It was equally interesting to observe her on-stage counterparts attempt to emulate the same "cool," nonchalant linguistic behavior. 

I was charmed -- and pulled back into the intrigue of this country that she calls "a miracle." I bought a book to be signed and I think that I'll set my electronic copy aside for a second reading after I have a bit more Indonesian experience under my belt.

Want to know more?

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Day 13: Seven Ways to Say Please

This post may be a bit of a linguistic abstraction, but I think that the "please" phenomenon must also be a reflection of Indonesian culture. So, bear with me.

Today, I had my first Indonesian class in Jakarta. Funnily, almost everything I learned in the course I took in the U.S. seems to have fallen out of my head while flying over the Pacific. Not everything, but it felt like it.

My teacher chose to focus our lesson on giving polite commands. Good choice - who doesn't like to order people around and be polite at the same time? Sounds basic enough. Please, thank you, you're welcome. But, alas, English is such a simplistic language. What the Indonesian language may lack in grammatical complexity it must make up for in the subtleties of its pragmatics. Let's try some examples. I've highlighted the "please" word for you.

1) Tolong dengarkan radio! = Please listen to the radio. (Tolong indicates that I want you to do something.)

2) Silakan masuk. = Please enter. (Silakan indicates that the direction is an invitation and you have a choice to do it if you wish.)

3) Coba buka mulut. = Please open your mouth. (Coba is a please used by positions of authority such as doctors or elders when giving a direct instruction.)

4) Jangan merokok di kamar saya. = Please do not smoke in my room. (Jangan is used with negative imperatives to indicate something that I do not wish you to do.)

5) Dilarang merokok di sini. = Please do not smoke here. (Dilarang is used with rules and regulations. I think it must be equivalent to the German "verboten.")

6) Mohon maaf lahir batin. = Please I apologize from the inside and outside. (Mohon is used with a specific phrase Muslims use on Idul Fitri when asking for forgiveness.)

7) Harap tenang. Ada ujian. = Please be quiet. There are exams. (Harap is used with formal commands.)

You could argue that semantically not all seven of these words are exactly equivalent to please. However, my Indonesian tutor represented them in that way. And, based on my first thirteen days here, I can imagine the kind, gentle Indonesians I have met so far prefacing every command with a softening device such as please. It's a good reminder to mind one's Ps and Qs (and a host of other letters)!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Day 12: Nasi Tumpeng

Last night I went to a wonderful event hosted by the Indonesian Heritage Society. The speaker was the current minister of tourism,  Dr. Mari Elka Pangestu, and she was an articulate and fascinating speaker. She highlighted the culture and creativity - highly diverse - here in Indonesia and spoke about the development of tourism. The talk was compelling in and of itself, but there also was good swag from the tourism board on eco-tourism and off-the-beaten-track spots to visit. Check out the Wonderful Indonesia website to get a taste of what you can experience, should you come visit.

So what in the world is Nasi Tumpeng, you ask? It is a traditional rice dish shaped like a mountain, and the very top of the rice is a cap, which is ceremoniously served to the guest of honor. (Unfortunately I only snapped a picture after the top had been cut off). At the reception preceding her lecture, Dr. Mari had the honor of cutting and receiving the top of the dish. What a festive, beautiful, and delicious way to commemorate an evening!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Day 11: The President's School

I glanced up from my walk to the grocery long enough to see a plaque and picture.

Upon further inspection, it turns out this was the school President Obama attended.

And there is a small statue of a boy just inside the gate... of a boy who just happened to become the 44th president of the United States and win a Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, that sure is something, isn't it?

Monday, September 22, 2014

Day 10: And Violins Began to Play

Tucked away in our neighborhood is the quiet, green park Taman Suropati filled with musicians. Each time we've stumbled upon it, there are all kinds of people practicing the violin -- small group lessons and individuals or duos playing together. In the middle of such a crowded, busy city, it seems especially remarkable. I enjoyed stopping to sit a while to listen and watch.

A group lesson?

Three or four different groupings were playing on this central square

Here is a smaller group lesson on the left and a two-person lesson a bit further on the right

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Day 9: Indonesia in Miniature

Yesterday, we visited TMII - Taman Mini Indonesia Indah. A replica of the islands in a colossal park in Southern Jakarta was built by First Lady Suharto in the early 1970s. The theme park celebrates the national slogan "unity in diversity" and is complete with a lake dotted with islands in the shape of the archipelago, museums and samples of architecture and ways of life from the various provinces and tribes of Indonesia. There is a aviarium with birds from all over the country, a komodo dragon and snakes, an orchid garden, museums, the first IMAX theatre in Indonesia, and other wonders.

TMII is a bit dated but still a good way to to get a survey of Indonesia without leaving Jakarta. We wandered a bit through the museum, took the cable car, and watched an IMAX presentation about Lemurs in Madagascar in bahasa Indonesia. We could have spent days to see everything, but we wilted after a few hours. Better to get out and see the real thing!

The Museum of Indonesia

Pretty garden behind the museum

Our cable car

Water park

Lake with islands shaped like Indonesia

You are looking at Sulawesi here

School children biking around the park