Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Shall we do this again?

Our next field school will be in the Philippines. In April-May, 2010, another group of hardy souls will travel to beautiful Palawan Island to join Dr. Victor Paz (University of the Philippines) and me for excavations in the El Nido area. Check out our new website for more info (http://faculty.washington.edu/plape/palawan/), or follow our new blog (http://archaeology-philippines.blogspot.com/).

Meanwhile, we have been working away at analyzing our finds from the Banda Islands. I hope to have some results to post in the next few months. Emily Nancy, Josh and Emily P. have all spent time in the labs here in Seattle, and Nia and Daud have been busy in Yogya. My research assistants Andy and Mark have been helping with the collections and getting the section drawings ready for publication. I will finally have some time to work on this all now that the spring quarter is over. More news soon.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Still echo

Our trip was ended a couple weeks ago, Came back and prepare for a new(old) life here in Thailand. I felt like it was good to be home again as other person says. Plane landed into some place that i feel like I never know this place before but suddenly, it was my town "Chiang Mai". How could I forget about it, full of memories, mountains, people who speak the same language as me that i could just smile and shake my head, they will definitely understand what i mean. I felt like I'm fulfill with these memories. I was walking down to find a taxi to get to my apartment which i think it would be nice to be there and take some rest from the whole trip. I was wrong...

some people says it 's good to travel somewhere sometime, when you come back you will feel better and ready to face everything again. But it 's not happen to me... for a first couple days...I was addicted to some activities that i used to do before, woke up early 2 hours going to have breakfast that i never do that before, feeling like walking somewhere for 20 minutes and back to my place and then I feel like I need to do some exercise and many things like that.... sometimes I felt like some people talking to me about the field survey tomorrow...All of those activities make me happy and I never forget the moment from the place far far aways from me now ... It was great to be there and learned something that predictable and unpredictable and you 're still feel good to talk about it... i bet that is call great experiences...

Finally I have become someone who work hard and pay attention a lot of thing around me and promise myself that if I could have a chance to go back I will still enjoy it ... still echo echo....

I hope it's not too drama !!! hehehe!!!!


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A Long Haul Home

We are finished, and now in the midst of the long haul home. We left Banda Sunday night aboard the Kepal Taman Pelita, a small passenger ferry with accommodations reminiscent of a slave ship. 100 humans stacked in a 12 x 18 two layer cabin, spread out on mats and cardboard. A few of us found greater comfort in the bow of the ship laying upon stacks of green bananas or in the small kole-kole (canoe) nestled among the bananas. There we drank some mansion house whiskey, smoked cigarettes for warmth, and adjusted our posture every 3 minutes or so, hoping to find some kind of comfort. Following the moon westward across the Banda Sea we made our way to Ambon. Within several minutes after leaving Banda, the waves of the Banda Sea were doing there work on our crew. Most everyone sequestered among the slave quarters found themselves offering up their dinner, lunch and breakfast to the sea gods. One by one I could see them make their way to the rail, except for one student who awoke in shock at the rumbling of her innards and let the contents of her stomach fly into the lap of Laura, who somehow remained composed throughout. Amazingly by light of dawn, 14 hours into the journey, one hour from Ambon, all were smiles. Hell of a crew! 

Now we are departed, some of us in Bali, others back home in Jogjakarta, Peter and Emily working out the details of bureaucracy and exit visas in Jakarta, and Sarah back in the states, hopefully experiencing restored vision to her infected eye. 

The archaeology was a great success. The bonds we formed on the expedition are the sort that we'll carry through our lives. Many thanks to everyone for your help in the video and photographic efforts. Though there's no film completed, as was the original ambitious intention, the elements of a delightful journal of our experience on the beautiful Banda Islands is 'in the can' as they say. I look forward to stitching together our story and sharing it with you all in the months to come.

Sampai kita bertemu lagi, Selamat Hidup!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

I'm Coming Back Home

Just 40 mins ago, the group disperse. The students heading to Bali and the staffs headin 4 Jakarta. It's been a great months 4 me. Meeting a new friend, gain more experience, etc. I'm hoping that all of you also gain valuable experience from this field school, either experience bout archaeology or experience about cultural stuff here in Indonesia.

Well...Guess im comin back home now...back to my daily habituation...will be hard after havin so much fun and meetin great people in this field school...ah well....if there's a beginning, there's an end.

I will miss you all. Keep in touch guys. Hope I can see u all again. Thanks 4 everything, and i also apologize if I've done something wrong. Take care.

PS: for our fallen company, Sarah. We have our last group dinner last nite, we all surely miss you. Get Well Soon. A toast for Sarah!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Ambon Manise

Ambon, the capital of Maluku province, is the transportation gateway to the Banda Islands. It's tagline "Ambon Manise" means "beautiful Ambon." But years of conflict, rapid unplanned growth, pollution and traffic have made it less than beautiful. For those who make it to the truly beautiful Banda Islands, waiting in Ambon is the price you pay. And I am here now, paying once again.

Several days ago, Sarah, one of our students from the US, developed a serious eye infection that required treatment beyond the capabilities of Banda's tiny health clinic. So, she and I made our way from remote Pulau Ay to adaquate health care. We started in the early morning on Tuesday in a torrential downpour on a small motorboat for the 1 hour trip to Banda Naira, then onto the bi-weekly ferry overnight to Ambon. After checking in with a doctor in Ambon at 3 AM, we then caught a 7 AM flight to Jakarta, where we met another doctor who accompanied Sarah to a hospital in Singapore. She will be there for a week before heading home. Sarah was our resident expert in ID of human bone, a skill that came in handy when we unexpectedly uncovered a 19th century grave in the Lautaka site (we were able to leave the grave intact and continue with our excavations into the 1500 year old layers of that site). We will miss Sarah very much for the last two weeks of the field school, but we are all very glad she is in good hands.

I caught an early flight this morning from Jakarta back to Ambon so that I could rejoin the team for the last 2 weeks of the field school. But the last 120 kilometers back to Banda is always the hardest part of the trip. The weekly flight on Saturday has been cancelled (a common occurence), and the next ferry is too late for me. I spent the afternoon asking around the cargo docks of Ambon for any smaller cargo ships that might be making the trip, with no luck. My only hope at the moment is for Emily to send a boat from Banda to pick me up either here or in the next island over, Seram. We just talked via sat phone and she is now working on organizing some kind of transport for me. She reports that excavations on Ay are going well--we have three sites opened, two open village sites and one rockshelter, all dating to the Neolithic period (3400-2000 years ago). I have been given a shopping list: skippy peanut butter, ziplock bags, screen, bandaids and benadryl (that pretty much sums up our lives!).

So, I may make another post before I leave. Our dreams of using the sat phone to upload blog posts have not worked out--we get about 4-5 minutes of connectivity before getting cut off, not enough time to log in at 7500 baud (anyone remember when dialup modems were that slow??). So, like with postcards sent from the Banda post office, you may be reading about our experiences after we return!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Hello Mister!

By Josh Diles

It has been over forty days since I left snowy Seattle for the warm climes of Indonesia. My mind has been crammed with the history, language, and culture of Indonesia as well as a plethora of archaeological techniques and practices that will serve me well as I pursue a career in the field. We are entering the final stage of our journey, once again stepping down the technological ladder as we leave the 24 electricity, ice cream freezers, and phone stations that Banda Naira provides, and head to the island of Pulau Ay, where the generator only stays on for a few hours in the evening. I am going to have to get used to sleeping without a fan.

In addition to all I’ve learned, I will be taking much, much more home with me. This trip has truly been life changing. One of the fondest memories I will be taking back with me is that of the children of Indonesia. I have never met a happier bunch of kids in my life. They turn a stick and a rock into an afternoon of fun. They can whip me in badminton (which should NEVER be played in a sarong). They help me with my Indonesian and I help them with their English. A group of kids can always be found playing right outside our guest house when we return from a hard day in the field, and they are always very happy to see us. Shouts of “Hello Mister!” are still music to my ears after all these days. I have even been reading to the kids, from a book I found at the airport, written by my favorite author, and translated into Indonesian. Its entitled Stardust, by Neil Gaiman, and while I’ve read it in English a few times, I’m on about page 12 in the translation. I don’t have to understand it, however, to read it to the kids. They help me with the difficult words, and I know they’re understanding it, because they all seem to laugh and go “Awwwww” in unison at certain parts of the book while I’m reading. I’m hoping it’s due to the book’s content and not directed at me.

Well, in just over three weeks I will be back in Seattle, enjoying a Stacia’s pizza with triple cheese and anything made out of pork on it, while\ watching a movie with my much missed friends and family. I’m kind of regretting a return to toilet paper, but maybe I’ll do some plumbing when I get home and install a mandi. All my love to TB, Jana, Mom, Dad, Jeb, Jess, and PQ. I tried uploading some photos but it’s pretty impossible at 14.4k.

Under the Volcano

Under the Volcano

Laura Phillips

It wasn’t until after 8pm last night that the field crew finally made it back to the Flamboyan. Exhausted, but triumphant having finished excavations at BN1 (Banda Naira Site 1 near Lautaka, if you have a detailed map on hand), the hungry crew celebrated a final dinner. The lab crew worked until just before 8, too. We almost finished packing up all of Peter’s collections from his 1998-98 excavations. This morning, Kelsey and I will finish up the final boxes, so Wuri can courier the collection to Ambon next Tuesday on the cockroach-infested ferry-from-hell. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Bemoli boxes make it. Bemoli is the frying oil that everyone uses here to fry bananas, cassavas, and fritters. I am told these boxes are quite strong, but I’m worried the signs of dripping oil on the outside of the boxes will undermine our packing job. Nevermind what the bugs will do…

Right now, everyone is gathering o on the Flamboyan porch, bags in hand, ready to stow our gear on Ayub’s trusted boat. A small group will head over to Pulau Ay this morning; the rest of us will catch a larger boat (2 engines) after lunch. In the meantime, it’s Friday, our free day, and we’ll wander around the town that has become our home. Many of us are no longer known as “hello mister,” and instead, are called Ibu or by our first names (Selmat pagi Kelsey…or Wilson, Ari, Watana, Pippit…)

Today is also our last opportunity to use telecommunications. I’ve heard there are no public phones on Pulau Ay. It was great to hear Clara, Yari and Eric’s voices this morning. I’m looking forward to sharing all the amazing stories. In the meantime, I hope you are all well. XOXOX, laura (mommy)

Home (by Andy Lawless)


By now most of us are missing it in some way or another. Not that the food is bad, or we can’t get our clothes clean, or the various sundry comforts that come with home are not present here. The weather is warm and the air is clear. And dear Mom each night a roof hangs over our heads sheltering us from the rain. There is laughter and there is sweat. The beer is cold and the coffee hot and strong. The coral, when we swim among it, is resplendent with color and light. Fish I’ve never seen before. Scary deep blue sea that pulls us inside refreshes us too. Salty smiles as we make the big plunge.

The work is real. Deep, dark holes that take us back over a thousand years. History of the animists, history of the Hindus, history of the Muslims and Christians. Colonial coins make the eyes of skeletal remains in an unmarked grave. There they lie in the same earth as the sculpted ceramics of the cannibals and the jaw bones of a pig.

After numerous visits over the past decade, I’ve even got a familiar circle of friends who make their home here. Those who I’ve grown to trust, and those with whom I can’t seem to find trust. Social bearings that help me find familial comfort.

It feels a lot like home. The drunken laughter that erupts from the twisted words and minds of the orang nockals, the wild men, the orang gila, the crazy men. The friends whose trust I’ve gained. But it’s not for them that I write, or the fecund beauty these islands emit, a scent of sea and earth so sweet. I just wanted to write to say I’m missing you, and I wanted you to know I love you.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Field School In Banda Naira Indonesia 2009

By Piseth Kimsan

First of all I would like to introduce myself. I’m Piseth Kimsan, I’m a student of archaeology from Cambodia. I think I am the first archaeology student who has had the chance to participate in an excavation in Indonesia, so I’m very glad to join this program.

There are four steps in this program. First of all we had to study Indonesian language for two weeks in Yogyakarta and we had fieldtrips on the weekends to archaeological sites nearby.

Second, we moved from Yogyakarta to Ambon and from Ambon to Banda Naira island by ferry.

Third, we had to study about research methodology such as survey techniques, lab work, excavation, and mapping... etc.

Now we’ve been staying on Banda Island for the past three weeks and we started digging since 30 JAN 2009. We opened two units: 5 and 6. We have found a lot of pottery sherds, beads, charcoal, fish bone, and Chinese coins… in both units.

Now I’m working in the lab with Laura, Michelle, and Pau. We dry all the artifacts, write new labels, inventory the artifacts, sort artifacts from flotation samples…etc.

Soon we will finish excavating on Banda Naira, and will take a boat to Pulau Ay to start a new excavation.

The filthy Ciremai ship is fading from my mind, and I’ve been busily running the lab. The lab on Banda Naira is located in an old Dutch home with spacious rooms, minimal furniture and negligible lighting. It is blissful. Three students are typically assigned to the lab, and we all work outside on the covered porch in the 95degF tropical heat. Several people have brought Ipods, so we rock out to 70s and 80s bands, inventory the artifact bags and sort heavy fraction (2mm screens). Snacks are a must to keep the lab folks happy; and I walk down to the market every few days to pick up something new. Kofikos are the current favorite: coffee-flavored hard toffee candies.

Tropical environments make labwork a little tricky. It often takes three or four days to dry the heavy fraction because the air is so humid; the light fraction takes even longer. Since the heavy fraction is washed in the sea at the site, it has to get washed in fresh water at the lab to ensure that the metal artifacts don’t rust. Yesterday, as I scooped up water to put into the wash bucket, a gigantic cockroach floated to the top of the scoop. I managed to gracefully cast the scoop contents into the garden, but from now on, I’ll look first before I scoop.

As expected, tasks at the lab revolve around organizing the artifacts that come out of the site. But, in the late afternoon, we are also attempting to blog. This sometimes feels impossible. We have tried (yes, for hours) to use the Satellite phone, but can’t seem to connect to the ftp site. We have also tried to log on to the internet at the local hotel. Most of the time the power is out, so it’s not an option. Yesterday, however, Wilson, hunched over a two-foot high table for over two hours on a plastic child seat, managed to upload two of our blogs (at least I hope you’ve seen them!). The connection is extremely slow, and some of the documents haven’t been readable by the hotel computers. We are finally getting the gist of it now (I hope), and will try to send a few every other day or so.

I hope the Newts are enjoying the winter break. Are you up on San Juan? I miss you all and think of you often.

Love, Mommy/Laura

February 12, 2009

It is important to let the people of Banda Naira know why there is a large group of foreigners walking into the forest every morning. Those who see us at the site may create their own stories as to why we are digging large, nearly perfect square and rectangular holes. At the end of the day I wonder what the villagers think of me as I walk back to the guest house covered in dirt from head to toe. The opportunity to give them knowledge in order to crush any scandalous rumors came up with the help of a local high school.

The students came out to the site and watched the various archaeological tasks that we were all assigned to. We were either in the pits digging, screening the soil, recording artifacts or doing flotation on the beach. The Indonesian students from the Universitas Gadja Mada and from the university in Jakarta translated the questions from the students and the explanations from the English speakers. The high school kids were then given the opportunity to rotate through the jobs in order to get a hands-on experience at doing each archaeological task. They appeared to be very enthusiastic about each of the different jobs. They were able to dig up their past in order to get a closer look at what their ancestors may have once used.

The high school students then gave guided tours of our archaeological site to the surrounding local villages. By having the hands-on experience of doing all the jobs, the young students were able to explain what was being done as well as what was found. At the screening stations, the students would look in and often pull out a small artifact that one of us had missed. Having those extra set of eyes looking through all that dirt was very helpful. They leaned in to look at the small coin pieces and the small beads which we had found. They listened intently as they walked around to each station with the students explaining each process.

Being able to share this experience with a local high school as well as the surrounding villages has felt rewarding. We are giving them an opportunity to see their past through the artifacts that are being found. Hopefully, someday, museum exhibition will be set up on Banda Naira displaying the history of this island to the local villagers.


Honeymoon Lane

We made it to Banda. Hardly the harrowing trip ancient mariners might have made to get here, but still it was the kind of journey that leaves an indelible mark on the memory.

In Ambon we’d arrived at the harbor three hours after the original scheduled departure time, which was currently an hour before the expected boarding time. Not much to our surprise the 4 pm hour ended up being 5 hours before the actual departure, giving us plenty of time to contemplate the sea voyage ahead. In the closed off heat of the waiting room I’d anticipated our passage across the Banda Sea to be aboard the reliable Rinjani we’d sailed before between Ambon and Banda. But Pelni, the Amtrak of the seas, had recruited another ship in their fleet to transport the commonwealth of Indonesia to the eastern reaches of the archipelago. And for those with a keen eye, you might notice a bit of rust at the bow of the ship. Hardly the sort of scar that instills confidence in the passenger. In fact, as she pulled into the harbor, the first thought that crossed my mind was whether or not we’d make it to Banda first, or page 3 of the world section in the New York Times. Yet Another Indonesian Ferry Lost at Sea. Does anyone really care? Apparently Pelni could not give a damn. Besides the derelict nature of the ship, Banda one out, and The New York Times will have to wait, hopefully for a very long time.

The experience of boarding this beast of the sea is one of great contact with all of your fellow passengers. The press of bodies crammed into singular passage ways with large amounts of baggage gives a person the sense that they are in fact the sausage grinding through the mill.

We were fortunate enough to have been advised by Peter to bump ourselves up to first class and Daud for the sake of economy and ease told the officials at the info desk who hand out the keys that Laura and I were married. Which is true. And happily I might add. We’re just not married to one another. We each have beautiful spouses back home that we both miss very much.

Daud, Laura and myself hoped first class might provide us with a swanky moonlight ride to Banda and offer a quiet sanctuary from the hustle of the ship around us. But once we’d run the gauntlet of boarding and been shown our cabins, swanky quickly turned to skanky.

When the lights came on in what we were now amusingly referring to as our honeymoon suite, the cockroaches did not quickly scramble. Instead they went about their usual business of climbing walls, creeping up curtains and crawling over pillows without a care for us. So much for getting any rest through the midnight crossing.

We secured our bags and quickly abandoned the cabin for the upper deck of the ship that serves snacks and drinks, and plays music at what I like to refer to as shouting volume. There we snacked and shouted at one another as the moonlight glittered on the water around us and cockroaches climbed up our legs. We quickly adopted a new policy for the ship, which was do not touch anything that isn’t your own. The film of scum and rot was ancient and thick. In the wake of the ship the plastic and filth from the deck floated off behind us like tin cans tied loosely to the bumper of a newly married couple’s Oldsmobile.

Now that we were underway, our schedule could be precisely predicted and we hoped to be in Banda by 4am. Throughout the night we wandered the ship to keep from dozing off, and to keep ourselves from entering the twilight zone honeymoon suite. But once we found we did want to enter, we discovered we were locked out, and the first class passengers were locked in, which would have presented a huge problem had this tub started to sink. After about 20 minutes of searching all the decks, we finally came upon an open door and were able to visit our cabin with its luxury accommodations.

At 4am the final arrival horn sounded, echoing throughout Banda. Down on the dock we saw our friends, Peter, Sopian, Bowo, and Nia, anticipating our arrival. They’d been there two hours waiting to help us unload our mass of wears. As the stairway and exit ramps were rolled to the ship people started climbing over one another like clowns in a Fellini film, scrambling to get on board and help passengers with their luggage. Getting off the boat was another communion with our fellow passengers, like so much sausage pressing out of the bowels of the ship. Feeling the hands of a derelict reach inside her pants pocket, Laura grabbed for her passport and took the cash out of the hands of the derelict, shaming him, not for having tried to pick her pocket, but for having been caught doing it.

As exhausted as we were the reunion with our friends was a great relief. And the beauty of the journey is that after traveling half the world around in two weeks time, and landing back in Banda with its simple beauty and charm, I felt strangely at home again.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thursday, February 12th 2009

Assigned to work in the lab today and can’t think of a better day to be here. With the humidity, it’s probably over 100 degrees right now in Banda. Everything we touch is hot and sticky and the flies that love nothing more than to land and feast in our open wounds and cuts aren’t helping the situation. So luckily, four of us are in the lab today without a dress code that demands knee and shoulder coverage needed to set a good example for the school children of Banda Naira working with us at the site. We skipped out the daily 45-minute hike from our guest houses to the dig site and replaced it with a 100 meter walk down the road to our spacious lab that we are graciously allowed the use of by an older Indonesian Ibu that Peter has known for years.
While we are in the lab sorting through all the artifacts found in the last couple weeks, most of the rest of the group is at our site near the village of Lautaka which is right on the beach. We currently have two pits in progress, and with photography, flotation of soil samples, screening for artifacts, and using GPS and the Total Station to plot and map our points of location and findings, there is usually something to be done. A couple members of our group went to film the Banda Nutmeg harvests today and interviewed the farmers. Last night our members involved with the high school and community integration were able to get Banda radio air time and publicize our dig.
We’re possibly going to the island of Pulau Ai in a couple days and it might be hard to leave Banda Naira Island and the people we’ve met here, although a few of them might end up going with us. Tomorrow is the group’s day off and another day of snorkeling sounds great.

The intimidation of the ferry trip two weeks ago has faded in our collective minds. I have yet to see another cockroach since the sleeping cabin of the boat. In our short time on Banda Naira, we’ve experienced quite a lot, and the time has passed quickly. I no longer stop to admire the panoramic view of the ocean on our daily walk to the site at Lautaka, and instead sweat onwards for the ensuing 30 minutes of the hike. After climbing Gunung Api, the towering volcano within swimming distance of Banda Naira, I feel that any walk where there is a human-worn path presents little challenge. Our trip up the volcano lacked switchbacks, and the loose scree and nearly vertical path (actually the route rainwater exits the mountain) made for a difficult trip. The warm puffs of sulfurous gas at the top were eerie, as we knew we were close to the crater, but could not see into it because of the low cloud enveloping the mountaintop. Luckily, 16 people went up 660 meters, and 16 people came down, two wearing flip-flops. Our days pass rotating through positions in the field, and it is impressive just how much we have accomplished in almost two weeks of excavation. We spend our down-time in the water, going for boat trips to sublime beaches and pristine snorkeling locations; once even under the light of the full moon. It seems incredible that we are one-third of the way through our time in the Banda Islands, and I am sure that the coming month will bring even more adventure.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Banda Sejara

It would seem there are few harder places to get to in the world than the Banda Islands. Throughout history it has been this way. Henry Hudson was left to freeze in the arctic ice on his last expedition to discover an easier passage to the Spice Islands. Christopher Columbus was obstructed by America in his effort to find a direct root to these jewels in the Banda Sea. A Portuguese fleet in 1498 held a Malay pilot at knife point in order to discover the location of Banda, and for a hundred years they guarded the maps that directed their ships to Banda as state secrets to prevent others from finding the precious source of nutmeg that grew there. It was the only source for the spice in the world. And in that world of pre-refrigeration, and primitive medicine, nutmeg served many purposes under the sun. It was a natural curative, preventing meet from spoiling. It was known to cure dropsy. And if taken in abundance could produce hallucinations. The islands and the spice they produce were so rare that a sailor who'd survived the journey to Banda could retire on the value of a pocketful of nutmeg were he fool hardy enough to try stealing some away. And were he caught, he'd have his head put in the guillotine.

Though the value of the spice has been lost over the centuries, the difficulty in getting to Banda hasn't seemed to go away. On this, my fourth trip to this far corner of the world, I've found it harder than ever to reach Banda's shore. The arduous journey has made fast friends of Laura and me. We left Seattle on the 26th of January. Almost two weeks later we set out on the last leg of our journey aboard the Pelni ship Rinjani which will carry us for the next 8 hours to Banda. Though it's not the same six month journey the Dutch, Portuguese, and English sailors endured in the 16th century, it is still by modern travel standards quite a trek. It takes less time to get to the moon.

I first went to Banda in 1997 with Peter, who was conducting the first archaeological dig on the islands while pursuing his doctorate in archaeology through Brown University. He'd told me about the rich colonial history of the islands, and the parallels between the 16th century spice trade and the oil business of today attracted me as a film maker. So I loaded myself down with 4 cameras: 16mm, Mini-DV, Stereoscopic, and a 35mm Nikon, tons of film and tape, and a DAT recorder to make "Banda: Life of Ruins" a documentary on Peter's work, as well as the history and culture of the islands. Now 12 years later, after collecting nearly 100 hours of archival footage, and more than 16,000 photos, I join him and his colleagues again. My role this year is to continue documenting the work, and to teach the students in the field school the techniques of documentary film making. As we've discovered over the years, it's an invaluable tool for recording the destructive process of archaeology. In five weeks time we expect to have a 15 minute documentary completed for Mollucca TV, and if time permits a 30 minute piece on the making of a traditional dug out canoe, a Kole-kole we built in '97 and called Mimpi Gila, meaning crazy dream. It's rather ambitious, but that has been part of the mantra of this crazy dream we've pursued in Banda.

See you in Banda!

No photos of Ambon yet because we arrived late in the afternoon yesterday. We had a lovely dinner with Dr. Daud, Achmad (a local film producer) and Simon (Balai Arkeologi collections manager). We picked the individual fish out of the cooler out front, then the restaurant prepared it pan fried and smothered with delicious sambal (hot sauce). One of the accompanying vegetable dishes was cut up green tomatoes -- crunchy and not too sweet.  

I have yet to see anything of Ambon except the restaurant and the swanky hotel. We are just about to head off to the "mall" (whatever that means) to get rain ponchos and peanut butter. I'm told these are the only essentials. Ambon, so far, appears to be a bit like the Wild West. At dinner last night the power went out in our neighborhood several times. Since the sun goes down at 6pm, the restaurant was pitch dark.  They are used to it though, and have a generator. There is a tv in the hotel, but watching CNN with a delay is not really worth it.

The photos on this blog include the ubiquitous Balinese offerings that are set out twice a day in front of store fronts and houses, and a photo of Andy in front of some very typical contemporary Balinese "art."  We see this type of really bad art for sale everywhere, and can't figure out what the attraction is or who is buying it. 

Off to shop.  Eric, Clara and Yari: I have heard the phone is effectively ship-to-shore and very bad, so I may not be able to connect tonight.  I hope the talent show was a blast.  XO, Mommy.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Absolut Bensin

Bensin is gasoline, for those who want to know. I just liked this typical street scene, so I figured it worth a blog. What else is there to say, folks here know how to make do with what they've got.

Minyak Gosok--my saviour

Morning rituals include cold showers, sludgey coffee, and a full application of minyak gosok. Minyak gosok means 'rubbing oil' in Indonesian. After seeing my initial addition to the toxic DEET, Ambra was horrified and steered me towards the local treatment--specifically the one with the black fly on the label. It smells of camphor and citronella, and seems to keep most of the mosquitos away without outright causing cancer. Those of you who know me well know that mosquitos love me over anyone else. I still get a few bites everyday, but I did with the DEET, too.  There are local remedies everywhere in Ubud (called jamu, I think), and I'm sure there is a minyak gosok to keep away biting ants, but I haven't found that one yet.  Of the multitude of ants, the tiny red ants seem to be the worst, and I get ten bites or so daily. Fortunately, the hydrocortisone I packed helps with these minor annoyances. I also have some sort of itchy rash all over the back of my hands that Andy seems to think will be with me until I return to Seattle. Alas, this is the tropics, and such is life.

Today we procured the tickets to Ambon. Lest you think this is an easy task... it took four trips to the travel agent: first to make the reservation and pay a deposit, second to pick up the tickets that hadn't arrived yet, third to pay the full amount and get confirmation from the airline, and fourth, finally to obtain the tickets.  In between visits, we drank mango/banana lassi (Andy's new concoction), and took a long stroll through the rice paddies.  Off to Ambon tomorrow at 6am, and on to the next adventure.  

I love you Clara, Yari and Eric.  I'll bring home lots of stories.  --XOXO Mommy

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Chicks and Donuts

Andy's blog really says it all. This place called Bali is a wealth of contradictions.  Stores where you can buy authentic Gucci bags adjacent to tiny rice carts and rooster cages.  It rained buckets and buckets last night, yet no water made it to our cottage shower pipes this morning. And ancient temples are next to fancy restaurants that serve chicken cordon bleu.  

The internet, too, is filled with issues. We seem to be able to find cafes, but sometimes have problems logging on. Neither Andy nor I can figure out how to get any of our pictures loaded up in any sensical order.  So, if you wondering why these photos seem random, well...  

Ubud is too touristy for me, so Andy and Ambra and I have attempted to find the "other" Bali.  We had a lovely walk in the rice paddies two days ago, and found an incredibly tasty organic farm/cafe in the middle of the paddies (see photo of the view).  Along our walks we've seen some interesting things.  My favorites so far are the donut bikes (Clara and Yari - can you find the ones with the chocolate sprinkles?) and hand-colored chicks (my dear Trulucks -- what would Blue Sky think?), and some intriguing temple wiring (Eric -- it rains torrents here like Tokyo, and these wire jobs are all out in the open).

My final quick comment before Andy and I get kicked out of this fancy restaurant is that the coffee is great here.  Note the photo showing the sludge. (Heidi -- believe it or not, this was served in an Illy cup!) Bali kopi is served to us daily on our porch -- no milk, just huge sugar crystals.  ...and copious amounts of sludge at the bottom. It seems perfect for the tropics.  Oh, and one final note: thanks to all the folks who've been commenting.


The Dogs of Ubud

There are many myths about the island of Bali. One of the most ridiculous we heard at a warung in Ubud while enjoying dinner our first night here. A gentleman wired with a headset, cell phone, and a computer, sitting among what we assumed were friends, (though if they were friends, he made no consideration of them) was speaking with what we presumed was soon to be his ex-girlfriend, explaining to her that babies don't cry in Bali. He told her this several times, I'm guessing because her baby might have been crying on the other end of the line in Switzerland, or Sweden, or wherever his soon to be ex-girlfriend might live.

As I've walked the streets of Ubud these past few days, eyes fixed on the sidewalks at my feet to avoid falling in one of the many gaping holes ready to swallow up unaware pedestrians, I've noticed the special breed of dogs that wander the streets here. They are mongrel mutts, the mangiest I've seen. They roam freely unattached to the people of Ubud, living off the scraps, and garbage that fall to the way side. They own the streets, sometimes enforce a stop to traffic. There is no sense of ownership to these dogs, and with Rabies on the rise here in Bali, we often find ourselves crossing the road to avoid the mutts that occupy our path. And when we've come upon a gang of them harassing one bitch or another, or simply positioning for dominance, we've amused ourselves with the memory of the delusional traveller at the warung by attempting to create another myth about the island, "Dogs don't bark in Bali."

Fortunately for us, Ubud is not all about the dogs. These past few days we've managed to get our bearings and reach out beyond the tourist center with all of its stores, and hawkers offering transport, to find the serenity that is so attractive on this island. Walks through the rice paddies and leisurely lunches in the hills have made our enforced stay here pleasurable as we eagerly anticipate the next step in our journey.

The project in Banda seems to be well on its way without us for now. Peter has told us that he's opened up two units at BN1, a curious site we excavated in '97 and again in '98. Each unit is roughly 80cm in depth at this point, and based on our dig in '98, could easily get down to 3 meters. We found many of the similar faunal and ceramic remains that were found elsewhere on the island, but what was unique were a series of earthenware ceramics shaped like birds heads and pigs noses. A photo of our friend Kathy who joined the expedition in '98 can be seen holding one of the pigs noses up to her own.

As for Laura and me, we head off to Ambon on Friday, and catch the ferry to Banda on Saturday. It will be good to get down to the basics of Banda.

Friday, January 30, 2009

P.I.T.A and Islam

P.I.T.A. is a concept that was introduced to me by my wife about a year ago, shortly before my last trip to Banda. We were in Seattle, and attempting to track down an antique clock for a friend in Boise. As the day broke down it became apparent that retrieving the clock was going to be a real pain in the ass, P.I.T.A. We decided at that point that a measure of the quality of ones life could be through P.I.T.A. and that retrieving the clock was a factor on the larger P.I.T.A. index, about a nine for anyone who's counting.
After a recent failed attempt at Banda, we find ourselves measuring the P.I.T.A. factor of our experience. It should be said that this measurement is based upon ones expectations, and that if one expects too much, than one is likely to have many spikes on their P.I.T.A. index. Such as it is, we managed to to keep the spike low, by expecting little. Submitting to the ways of Indonesia, if you will. What you may wonder does this have to do with Islam? Well, the word itself means submit, and Indonesia being the largest Islamic culture in the world, finds adventurous ways to enforce its own submission. Some may call it going with the flow. Whatever it is, we're embracing it, and figuring out how to make the most out of the disparity between what we want (Banda) and what we get (Bali). For whatever it's worth, the P.I.T.A. yesterday spiked around a five, we only lost the value of a couple of plane tickets. That's nothing compared to Peter's spike in Ambon while trying to attain archaeology permits. 18 for those who are counting. But now that he's on Banda, despite the fact that the full team is not there, he assures us that the P.I.T.A. is hovering around a cool 1 or 2 at most. And as for the expedition, yesterday ceremonies were held in a field where digging will soon begin.

Banda--still just out of reach

Peter told me it would be hard to get to Banda, but I'm only now getting the full picture.  Given that the ferry from Ambon to Banda won't leave for over a week from now, we'd convinced ourselves it was worth trying to catch the rickety Merpati flight this Monday. Daud texted us that he was planning to catch that flight as well, so all was looking set.  Then, on Thursday night Daud found out that the Merpati flight had suddenly been rescheduled for Saturday. We all decided to try our luck at flying to Ambon on Friday morning to catch the Merpati flight.  Andy and I got up at 5:30am, took a rather pleasant 1-hour taxi ride from Ubud to the airport. We then attempted to change our tickets so we could leave immediately. Of course, for the price of a new ticket (kiss the cost of the previous tickets goodbye...), we could catch the two flights needed to get to Ambon. Just as we had handed over the cash (sorry no credit cards), Daud texted that he couldn't get a flight out of Jakarta, and that the Merpati flight was full.  With no need to go to Ambon for another week, we begged for our cash back. Surprisingly, we were able to get most of our money back. Then, Andy called his friend Ambra who lives in Bali, and she steered us to a place to stay in nearby Seminyak, where she lives.  Seminyak is basically an extension of Kuta, except with more expats and chic-chic shopping.  Where, pray tell, is the old Bali?  

Ambra has been a wonderful gift, and has helped us to laugh at our recent and futile attempt to get to Banda. Daud says that the ferry likely won't leave until Feb. 8, so we have decided to try to find some less touristy areas of Bali. Ambra took us to some great food warungs yesterday, and we spent the day walking on the beach and talking.  Relaxing for sure.  

Upon arriving back to our cottage, we found the lock to our door was broken, and we were locked out.  After many futile attempts at opening the door, we finally called for backup. The cottage staff tried unsuccessfully as well. Just when it looked like we might be sleeping on the porch instead, I managed to jiggle the lock free. The staff then arrived with a new lock set and installed it on the spot.  I can't think of a single hotel in the US that would have done that at 10:00 at night.  

Breakfast at the Golden Village where we are staying was amazing this morning.  Real butter and delicious coffee (Italian-style single brew over the stove).  (Note to Clara -- I've been eating soft-boiled eggs everyday -- yum! You would love it.) 

Today, as most days, we have spent about an hour looking for a suitable internet cafe. Obviously, we've found one!  Now we are off to meet up with Ambra for a day of "transport" around Ulu Watu, a less busy neighborhood east of the airport. Tomorrow, we may head back up to Ubud.  

Love, as always, to Yari, Clara and Eric.  I missed you tons!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Upside down in Ubud

After thirty six hours of travel from Seattle to Bali our feet are finally on solid ground. But time feels upside down. My internal clock tends to think tomorrow's sun shines tonight.

Laura and I have come to Ubud to pass the time while we wait for the next leg of our journey to Banda. In the decompression of our travels I scrape my memory for some bearings of familiarity with this village I cherished only a decade ago. But brilliant progress has stripped the bucolic veneer from the landscape and replaced it with shops, restaurants, busy streets, and sidewalks you share with the motor scooters I imagine there's no more personal measure for the pace of life on the planet than to induce ten year gaps between visitations to beautiful places, and see if they hold up to their beauty. Without a doubt Bali is beautiful, but you have to walk a little further outside of Ubud to see it.

So it goes from here at the internet cafe China Moon. Unheard of ten years ago. Brilliant progress! Can't wait to reach Banda where we'll be forced to leave some of it behind.

The Stragglers

After 20 hours of flying (note photo of sunset in Tokyo), 8 hours in the Singapore airport and an hour drive, Andy and I have finally arrived in Ubud--our restive way station. Ubud is ripe with tourists, mostly from Australia and Europe. Streets are relatively narrow, and motorists barely squeeze by each other nonchalantly. We are staying at a typical Balinese hotel (see photo entry). My room has a veranda that looks out over the pool and tropical, lush gardens. Porters brought my bags up to the room, and I'm sure they are still wondering why in the world I have two huge bags, one weighing 70lbs! They'd be doubly shocked to learn that the bag is filled entirely with plastic bags. The Customs folks two hours earlier had also found this interesting. The agriculture officials requested that I open the bag, and raised quite an eyebrow. Fortunately, my response that the bags were for an archaeological project was acceptable. I got a nice smile from the official, and he sent me on my way.

Corduroy pants and fleece top, while excellent for the snowy Seattle weather, and comfortable on an air-conditioned airplane, are not suitable for the typical 80 degrees and rainy weather of Bali. After a change of clothes at the hotel, Andy and I headed to the Monkey Forest. Here we encountered lots of energetic macaques looking for banana handouts from the throngs of tourists that flock to this sacred site. (see monkey photo)

Later, we had a papaya drink and watched a tiny parade of sorts (or was it a funeral procession? I'll probably never know). Participants were dressed in traditional clothes with bright colors. Some held drums; others flags or decorative umbrellas. After rehydrating, we tried to buy a SIMM card for my phone. This was somewhat difficult given the language barrier, and I ended up getting a card with astronomical rates. I will try to find a cheaper one tomorrow. In the meantime, we were able to contact Peter on Banda Naira. They sound very happy! Apparently, snorkeling has been a steady pastime for all the students. Unfortunately, Peter had some minor permitting difficulties and had to leave his colleague Daud behind on Ambon to finalize the process. As such, Andy and I will try to catch a flight to Ambon to meet up with Daud in the next two days, so we can all hed out to Banda together. In the meantime, we'll be eating well and drinking yummy fruit juices (right now I'm having a white mango juice with a lemongrass and lime garnis). Tomorrow we'll explore the world outside of Ubud.  

I miss you and love, Clara, Yari and Eric! XOXOXOX -- Love, Mommy

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chaos in Ambon

I'm ready to leave Ambon. This afternoon, I headed to the mall, as I needed some water and snacks for the impending boat ride. Once I got to the mall, I headed upstairs to look for a pair of flip-flops. As I stepped into the store, every store clerk and helper rushed to the front of the doors, jumping up to pull down the heavy metal corrugated doors that are typically used to keep people out when stores are closed. Some people in the store appeared scared, other were laughing and smiling, and I had no idea what to think, as the only words I could recognize were those for 'door' and 'police.' I spent fifteen or twenty minutes browsing while locked in the department store, after which I noticed people heading towards the door. They had opened one door, and people were rushing out. I cautiously walked out, and went with the crowd down the stairs and out into the street. The once crowded mall was abandoned, with people rushing out the front door. I headed down and entered the street, also now abandoned. I walked home rapidly, seeing police in the streets directing traffic, still unclear of the situation. After arriving back at the hotel, we learned that there had been fighting in the streets, but we all returned to the hotel safely.
Everybody is fine, and things seem to have calmed down. We are now waiting to head to the ferry. Our best sources believe that the ferry is delayed an hour or two, and I, for one, can't wait to arrive in Banda!

Ambon Musings

Ambon, once the provincial capital of the Malukus I believe, has the tired, despondent feel of an island city marooned on the fringes of civilization. A bit more "rough and tumble" than either Bali or Yogyakarta, there is an air of irascibility that seemed to pulse through Ambon's litter-strewn streets, crowded markets and stereo "bumping" bempos (or local buses). Not unlike Marseilles in France or Napoli in Italy, the city radiates a coarseness befitting a people whose lives are so closely tied to the sea- difficult perhaps but also honest and raw without the pretense or political-correctness so often found in larger cities.

The most apparent manifestation of Ambon's roughshod facade can be found in the men who line the streets and market stalls whistling cat-calls at our female team members and yelling "Mr." at the rest of us. These modern day scalliwags, while harmless, can tax the emotional patience of one such as myself and several times both yesterday as well as this morning have I had to remind myself that I am a guest here and as such subservient to the local customs and norms- regardless of my own personal thoughts on decorum and courtesies. Sweeping generalizations are dangerous and by no means do I claim to have the pulse of Ambon and its people firmly ascribed in but two short days. Still, such are my musings and general impressions of Ambon so far.

Very Best,


Breaking news! We have heard that a riot has occurred at the local market. We are attempting to account for all the students on our trip as we speak. The hotel seems safe enough for the time being and we are attempting to get everyone back here as I type this. I'm unsure if this is a regular occurance but our team leaders seem worried enough to gather everyone together. As I look outside the streets seem calm enough. Wilson, Watana Emily, Michelle, Josh, Pau and myself are all mulling around the hotel lobby. Will try to update you all more later.

Leaving Ambon

In Ambon, just a couple hours from leaving on an 8-hour ferry ride to Banda Islands. Actually starting the school now, the work begins. Up until now, it seems accurate to describe our time in Indonesia as vacation. Even though we had two weeks of 5-hour a day language training, the personalities of our "gurus", especially Harsono (or Han Solo), created a delightful atmosphere that didn't have the often-times stressful ora of class back at UW. From Bali to Yogya to Ambon and everywhere in between, the time spent here has been a sweaty and extremely enjoyable experience.
Eating delicious fish and crab here in Ambon has been a nice change from the fried rice I was eating daily for breakfast, dinner, and sometimes lunch back in Yogya. Apparently it's all fish from here on out which I hope won't destroy my appetite for "Ikan" by the end of the trip. My stomach has gotten more tolerant after having ice in most of my drinks and drinking the water for the first couple weeks here. The usual multiple daily trips to the bathroom have decreased considerably in number. We'll see how it goes on Banda. Without a true internet connection in the Bandas, there will hopefully be very little distraction which could result in seeing things like Archaeology in a new and interesting light. And having been in crowded and noisy cities for the last couple weeks, remoteness sounds pretty great right now.
Have to exit this very unusual internet cafe right and make sure and not be late for the ferry. More to come I'm sure.

Hotel Mutiara

At night, when all is relatively quiet except for the rumble of the nocturnal scooters and the buzzing of the glorious A.C., the lobby of the Hotel Mutiara seems like every other hotel in the busy port town of Ambon. However, Hotel Mutiara (which means "pearl" in bahasa Indonesia) plays seashell to a bunch of hermit archaeologists. Some are seasoned with time and field scars, both physical and emotional. Others are fresh buds plucked from the varied terrains of the United States of America (Continental). All of them colorful, all of them interesting.

While they and most of the city lay in peaceful slumber, some (like myself) are up and about tickling the lettered tiles of an ivory tray that will run out of battery very soon. Somehow, all of us arrived in Ambon in one piece AND with all our luggage. It's a miracle actually as we had several stops along the way. The head crab with elfin silver noggin and the golden haired T.A. runs the ship as best they could and we are all quite grateful. I could not begin to fathom the amount of patience one has to muster in order to command such a vessel. Only that I am very glad that I'm not either one of them. Apparently, there was some trouble with paperwork and such that I'm sure could be ironed out with a bit of a bribe on the right palms. Yet our journey has just begun and I'm sure that a lot more "trouble" will come out at us out of nowhere.

As the night crew gives me dark looks (the "When is this guest going away?!" kind of look), it gives me great pleasure to announce that Indonesia feels a lot like home. The narrow streets of the port town could be found just about anywhere in the Philippines. The becak and the angkotan kuta resemble our tricycles and jeeps. The spitting just about anywhere, the screaming, the haggling, the trees, the taste for durian, the uneven streets, the unmarked potholes, the videoke, the strange men with wads of cash, the calling every white person "mister" (in our case, it's "hey joe"), the humidity, the unrelenting sun, the showers in the afternoon, the church/mosque/(insert place of worship of choice), the cigarette kiosks, the eateries, the people... glorious.

I am a Filipina in Indonesia. I am a foreigner in a foreign land. But somehow, just above the bahasa Indonesia , just beyond the smell of spice, perhaps behind that becak driver patiently waiting for a passenger, or the blasting karaoke music from the bar next door, I feel like I've never left home.

Thank you Indonesia.

From Bali to Banda

We have successfully negotiated the middle part of our journey, and are sitting in what might be the last air-conditioned room for many weeks to come. Sipping a diet coke and visiting with some locals here in Ambon, I am reminded about what a small (kecil) planet we actually live on. As we move further away from the major populaion centers here, the signs of home are becomng more infrequent. No KFC or Pizza Hut in Ambon, (that I've seen), but tons of local flavor, aromas, and experiences await here for the adventurous explorer. I already miss my host family; the Rochmadi family was wonderful to me, and showed me how amazing Indonesian hospitality (keramahtamahan) can be. Bapak Rochmadi treated me to a wonderful meal of Kepala Ayam (chicken heads) and I've yet to find a cup of coffee as tasty as the maid made me every morning. My last day in Jogja was full of sad goodbyes and e-mail exchanges, and then it was off to take the three-plane trip to Ambon. While not quite as buleh (foreigner) friendly as Jogja was, I'm still feeling quite at home here in Ambon. Were finally appreciating the bahasa indonesia lessons now that they're not getting crammed into our head six hours a day; today we split up into teams to buy gear for the trip to Banda. We succesfully negotiated with local business people in the lingua franca and managed to get everything on our list and were back in time for Bintang at the bar. All in all, the past two weeks were very effective in preparing us for both the psychological and linguistic challenges that lay ahead. Tomorrow we head to Banda for the archaeological portion of the trip. I'm hoping the luck I've had so far will extend to the field as well. All my love to the folks back home. I'll be back before you know it, but maybe a little darker than you remember me.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Archaeology and Politics

I’ve been thinking recently about the many similarities between Indonesia and the USA (maybe driven by obsessive Obama TV watching). There are lots. But I don’t believe there has ever been a street demonstration about archaeology in the US. Last week in Yogyakarta, over 100 archaeology students and senior scholars marched down the main shopping street Jalan Malioboro to protest the destruction of part of the huge Majapahit site of Trowulan in East Java. The destruction was caused, ironically, by the construction of a government sponsored “Visitor Information Center” on the site. Leading archaeologists had reviewed the plans for the project before construction and objected to the location, but the project went ahead anyway. Many believe that it was rushed to be completed before next year’s election so that certain politicians could take credit for it.
Majapahit plays a central role in Indonesian post-colonial political identity and the situation has been widely covered in the Indonesian media (see the Jakarta Post for some English language reports). Our Field School co-director, Daud, has been widely quoted in the media (he opposed the construction plans) and has had to fly to Jakarta several times in the past few weeks to advise the government on what to do now. Interestingly, the case has spurred a new interest in archaeology of all kinds—one of the leading daily papers (Kompas) has had at least one archaeology article a day, not always just on Trowulan.
Although the damage to Trowulan can never be really repaired, at least the situation has raised the public’s awareness of the fragility of archaeological sites. Let’s hope we archaeologists can take advantage of this new attention and get the public more involved in site protection of all kinds.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


A huge and usually unspoken part of archaeological research is the process of asking permission to dig. Gone are the days when archaeologists excavated where and when they pleased without consulting local communities, government authorities or anyone else. Foreign researchers in Indonesia must start applying for permission 6 months before they arrive in the country. After arrival there are several more weeks of work to finalize permits. For the past two weeks I have been negotiating the complex Indonesian government bureaucracy to obtain our project’s federal permits. Still to come in the next week are permissions from provincial and local government authorities and communities and individuals in the Banda Islands. Every day Emily and I ride taxis to different offices scattered around Jakarta and Yogyakarta (Ministries of Research, Internal Affairs, Federal and District Police, and Immigration). Each office has to be visited at least twice: once to present a request letter, fill out lengthy forms, give copies of other documents and photos of different sizes. Then a return visit a few days later to give fingerprints, pay fees, and hopefully, pick up a new letter to take to the next office. I am still trying to understand the flow chart given to me on day one that supposedly clarified the process.

Since we arrived in Yogya a week ago, Daud has called in the apparatus of Universitas Gadjah Mada to help us, with great results. A helpful person from the university accompanies us to office visits and urges the process along. What normally takes several days is now done while we wait in an hour or two. My daughter Isabel has been spared most of the visits, but she had to be fingerprinted at immigration in Yogya. She quickly charmed the dour fingerprint man and loved putting her fingers on the red light electronic finger scanner. Although I live in fear that I have filled out some form incorrectly and we will all be kicked out of the country immediately, so far everything has gone smoothly and I now have a file full of documents and identity cards.

Our great students have arrived in Yogya and are studying Indonesian language and learning their own ways to get around and live here happily (and blog poetically). I go to Ambon on Tuesday ahead of the group to start on our provincial permits while Charlotte and Isabel go to Jakarta to attend the Obama inaugural ball (much to my envy!). Everyone else arrives in Ambon on Thursday. With luck, we will board the ferry to Banda on Saturday.

Friday, January 16, 2009

I suppose

I suppose most parasite would not appear by itself with no causes...
I suppose most parasite is somewhat a reaction from the accumulation of unrealized actions...
I suppose most parasite always absence the choice for its existence...
Must a parasite deny its nature?
Deny for what it meant to be?
Refuse to rob all of the nutrition
Reluctant to feast upon others flesh and blood
Feel the guilt to take and take and take
Owning the obligated sense to return the energy favor

I suppose...I don't think so
I think that is what a parasite meant to be
its the right place in nature
....to rob all of the host nutrition
....to feed on the host while without remorse destroying it bit by bit
....to take and and take and take until the host disintegrate distorted and unrecognized
....to grow strong by others energy, consuming mercilessly without giving anything back

I suppose...I think so
I suppose....
a host causing or attracting the appearing of parasites
a host accumulating actions for the flocking of parasites reaction
a host have full responsibility for their existence of their parasites
I suppose....
a host must serve its faith:
to give
to provide
to feed
to sacrifice
to submit
to expect to have not expect and to accept:
to disintegrate when its no longer have use
to dissolve when its no longer have form
to be sincere

I suppose....theoretically ...well...
Theoretically in my theory:
a parasite:
despise for being despised
deny for being denied
painful to give pain
suffering to cause suffers
have no choice to be chosen
Dieing to cause deaths
and mostly...
Accept for being accepted
pretending for being able to pretend

I suppose a parasite can be inanimate for certain period of time
Parasite's summer Hibernation caused relaxation for the host mind castration
a month of absence
a piece of peace
a recovery for lost energy in large abundance
well...at the lease...
I suppose...I may give my host an ease.

First time's a charm

So It's been a couple weeks now in Indonesia, my first time abroad, and I couldn't be happier. The first few days I spent in Ubud and saw some sights I will never forget. I've already taken over 500 photos, without a bad one in the bunch. Ubud treated me to monkeys, manggis, and massages, and whet my appetite for more. Jogja is absolutely amazing. The people are wonderfully friendly, and a smile and a couple words of Indonesian go a long way. Drop a 'matur nuwun' (the local dialect for thank you) and they get even friendlier.

Any intimidation or apprehensiveness I had have completely disappeared. Although I miss my friends and family, I know that the trip will be over all too soon, and I know that they will be there when I get back.

I've been going every day to this amazing little coffee shop called 'Parsley' every day after school. Wonderful coffee, burgers, and Bintang (Indo beer) wash away any cares six straight hours of Indonesian lessons might have put into my mind. Karaoke at the Happy Puppy with my wonderful new friends makes me feel like home is just a bus ride away. Even went to a surprisingly western mall today with a Starbucks (thank you Lord) and a quote-unquote Pizza Hut, who's idea of authentic pizza is bread with catsup and sliced hot dogs on it. Guess you can't win them all.

Bapak and Ibu Rochmadi and their three boys Ogi, Adi and Soni have been wonderful in their hospitality, and make sure I keep up with my Indonesian lessons. They also make sure I don't go hungry for a second. They have a wonderful maid who makes a wicked cup of Kopi (coffee) and makes my shirts smell wonderful.

I can't think of many negatives, except for the aforementioned slight case of homesickness and a lost hat. But hey... I couldn't imagine a better time. All my love to the folks back home.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

There are few things as humbling as being a foreigner in a stranger's home. Everything seems just beyond your grasp. Just outside the familiar. In this alternative world, items take on a shadow-like appearance feigning the familiar until just before you use them. From the mundane (socket adapters) to the complex (hand bailing water into the toilets), the anxious uneasiness of asking a stranger in broken Indonesian to re-toilet train you can give even the most confident traveler reason to pause. Likewise, (albeit on a diminished scale) for the thousands of other things we take for granted when in the familiar surrounds of home. Knowing where the nearest grocery store is, having a command of the local lingua-franca, coming and going as you please or even just being able to drink the tap water (granted, a dubious task at home as well) without the fear of getting sick or worst.

I suppose that this is where I should wax poetically about the breaking down of barriers (psychologically as well as physically, literally and figuratively) but here too I must pause. Admittedly, there are few places I would rather be right now than here- writing from my bed, sticky from another day of wonderful equatorial experiences and sick with a slight cause of "Bali Belly" that I acquired several days prior. Such is the emotional ebb and flow of travel- wild highs intermersed with bouts of homesickness, frustrations and self-pity. Yet, I want to believe that that the lasting memories from this trip, the OMG! mind-blowing ones that turn strangers into life-long friends, come not from the highs and lows but in the subtle navigations of the waves in-between. A simple picture, a secret told in confidence, toil shared and the eventual revealing of flaws over the 60 plus days we'll be together.

Truth be told...we are only two-weeks into our trip and I miss them already.

Salamat Malam from Yogyakarta!


(written 1/13/09 @10:08 pm local time)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jalan Bagus Internet

A joint blog from Emily and Alex...

Tuesday and our second day of class in Yogya. Today we learned directions, time and numbers...all things that we still need to master given their apparent little use in the living, breathing world of Yogya.

Case and point: Trying to locate viable Internet Cafe within walking distance of Indonesia's largest university. One might think that there would be a plethora of internet options given the stature and sheer size of the Gajha Mada campus. Unfortunately, by our best reckoning, there is but one lonely, smokey internet cage...um...cafe within walking distance from our host homes. (editors note: we have since located another. Bagus!) Connections are slow but on the plus side an hour will run you less than .50 U.S.- just about enough time to load one or two pages of facebook given the sluggish connection. But with Banda just over a week away, beggars can't be choosers.

The rain here is unbelievable. During our walk over to post this blog, we were overcome in a deluge not seen since Noah piled all those poor critters into his kapal and peaced-out. The rain poured down in a sideways arks rendering even the largest umbrella useless. In fact, there was so much rain that at times it threatened to limit our visibility as we attempted to navigate both puddles and swerving vehicles. At one point, it was so strong that Emily and I felt compelled to join a gang of locals assembled in foyer of a large supermarket to wait out the storm. I wish we had a picture of that.

As we continued on our journey, we inquired with 7 locals regarding the location of a by-then mythic internet connection. All directed us to just one location- BLANGKONET. Alex had visited this location prior with mixed results so we were hedging our bets on other viable options- in particular one mentioned by Minda as being bagus. After a fruitless search to the four corners of the earth, (ok, really just Jalan KFC as we have taken to calling it) we threw up our then very wet hands and hired a becak coach to get us over to Blangkonet. We could have walked over but if you had seen the size of the lakes forming in the streets leading towards the cafe you would understand our hesitation. Mind you, both of us were wearing sandals and, as such, were already a bit concerned about the nature of the water pooling up around our ankles- this given that even the cockroaches seemed to be scurrying away from the buckets of rain. (we noticed several of them climbing building walls to escape) Luckily, our friendly becak driver knew exactly where to go and after a few minutes of Emily and I squeezing into the bicycle cab, we were off. Normally, having metal around you tends to inspire confidence when moving through traffic...this is simply not the case with becaks as for the first time in recent memory moving slowly through traffic was a BAD thing. YIKES! Still, we were out of the rain and no longer ankle deep in murky water so no one was complaining. Plus the trip was only a dollar...and Emily was able to speak to her beau in Texas at Blagkonet so...hey, not a bad afternoon after all.

From Yogya with Love,

Emily and Alex

Monday, January 12, 2009

I thought my face was exploding, but it was just bedbugs.

Which...whatever. They're all healed up now, and apparently didn't follow me out of that first hotel (which was actually a rather nice place). So, let's see. I found out that Kuta Beach during rainy season is pretty gross. The river overflows and all the trash in it washes into the ocean. A lot makes it onto shore, where it's then cleaned up and carted away. Most of it, though just stays in the water. It's terrible, it looks like people are swimming in sewage. I cringed as I watched children play in the filth and come out of the water with bits of refuse stuck to their skin. I then promptly signed up to do some surfing.

Which was awesome, by the way. There are still plenty of clean, beautiful beaches right now, and now I might have to rent a surfboard when I get back in March and stay at one. I think the dirty water reacted with my wonderful new sunburn and gave me heat rash. There isn't really anything more attractive than red, itchy, patchiness spanning your shoulders and back. Anyway, our surf instructor said the pollution happens every year, it's always in the papers, and yet the government won't do anything more than rake up the trash on the beach in the mornings. I suppose I wouldn't be motivated to spend more money on cleaning up and/or prevention either if I knew a gazillion tourists would still come to Bali and swim in the muck.

I decided I would wait until my "prickly heat" healed before I got a wonderfully cheap full body massage and, instead settled for two sessions of wonderfully cheap hour long foot massages. Hour long, you ask? Yes. An hour of ecstasy and it's still not long enough. I did eventually get an hour and a half full body massage in Ubud for less than $10 ("Overpriced!" says Watana from Thailand) and I'll probably get a five hour treatment when I return in March. Don't hate.

Kuta was fun (even though I kept passing out at 6 pm), but I headed up to Ubud to meet up with Alex and later, Wilson and Josh. We saw aggressive monkeys, a beautiful waterfall, and more temples than I can remember. Luckily, I have two and a half gigs of photos to help with that part. Alex and I almost got into a physical fight with a "guardian" of the Besakih temple. For serious, people. I don't think he was actually legit and his hatred for Americans (or maybe just us) was palpable. If you've seen Alex, you know he could probably knock out two average-sized men with a half-hearted punch, so we probably weren't in any real danger (though the guy did take off his sandals! I guess that's the Buddhist equivalent of rolling up your sleeves or taking out your earrings). Our driver, Ketut, was awesome, though. He took us to all the good sights, and even a few off the beaten path.

Oh, but I'm here for some educational program. Right. We have our lessons in Bahasa Indonesia this week and next. I'll tell you how that goes. My host mother is super nice and is hosting five Indonesian students going to UGM. I plan on speaking terrible Indonesian to them all the time. Our time in Yogya is actually cut short because of transportation issues, so we get less time in Yogya but more time doing archaeology in the Banda Islands. I suppose I'll be able to deal with that.

The next post won't be so tl;dr, but if it is, suck it up!