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 rob all of the host nutrition feed on the host while without remorse destroying it bit by bit take and and take and take until the host disintegrate distorted and unrecognized 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 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 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!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Wonderfully Unwholesome Climes

Two expired on the Edward Bonaventure before she had even crossed the equator whilst others soon 'tooke their sicknesse in those hote climates, for they be so wonderful unwholesome'. Worse, the weather was on the turn. No sooner had the ships entered the southern hemisphere than 'we had tornados, with such thunder, lightening and raine that we could not keep our men drie three hours together which was an occasion of the infection among them.

Intrepid explorer Minda and I had our own weather challenges yesterday while exploring one of Bali's many monkey temples/tourist fleecing zones- Alas Kedaton. Rain here is not an entirely unpleasant experience nor does it seem to last very long. Lazy dark clouds disappear as quickly as they arrive leaving the unprepared tourist, already stewing in his or her own sweat lined clothes, tasting a salty blend of sweat and rainfall. Luckily our trusty "guide" had run off to fetch us both umbrellas which proved to be of dubious use given that by the time we actually had them opened the rain would let up and we would once would be sweating under a sunny, cloudless sky.

Elections are in full swing here in Bali and there are no less than 36 political parties vying for political office. Flying everywhere are the huge brightly printed banners and stern images of each party's candidates, Partik Demokrat and the Bull party being two of particular note given their prevalence around the Ubud area. Atop houses, signposts, intersections and warrungs, each banner has a prominently displayed number which I'm told is the only way that voters are able to actually make heads or tails of the incredible number of candidates. As it is, you only need 500 people to form a political party and once you do, your then allotted monies from the government to both run your campaign and to pay for the endless number of effigy-like pictures that line the roads leading out of the city-centers. One banner of particular note is that of a gentleman dressed in full make-up, hands clasped in namaste and eyes vacantly staring upwards as in prayer. As it is, I suppose I'll leave Bali forever wondering about the political platform of my new favorite candidate for Balinese office.

n a few hours we will be on our way to the second part of this adventure in Yogyakarta but there are still tales to tell from Bali that will need further elucidation and reflection. Some embarrassing , others very nearly violent but ultimately still interesting and enlightening just the same. Until we can catch up again, Selemat Pagi from Ubud, Bali.


Departure Day

Bags are packed, it's time to leave.

At this point everyone keeps asking me, "are you ready?" or "are you excited?" To be honest, I'm not quite sure how to define my readiness. Yes, I've bought toothpaste and deoderant; yes, I've made copies of my visa; yes, I've paid my rent; and the list goes on. My hesitancy to say I'm "ready" then comes from my awareness of the unknown laying before me. Besides doing a ridiculous amount of reading over Christmas break, I know very little about Indonesia, and know absolutely NO Indonesian language. I'm assuming that getting around Bali with English won't be a problem considering the number of tourists that pass through there, but I'm definitely looking forward to some formal language training as soon as possible.

For me, this trip is twofold: I will be completing an internship at a local museum in Ambon by helping to manage the collections gathered on the Banda Islands; but additionally, I'll be conducting my own ethnographic research in order to have some original data for use in my Master's thesis. At UW I am currently in my first year of a museum studies masters. My goal in attaining this professional degree is to gain both a better practical and theoretical understanding of museums that I can use in a later degree in archaeology. On this trip I'm really looking forward to checking out the museum in Ambon and seeing the degree of interest locals take in the archaeological activities we'll be conducting at Banda.

That being said, fieldwork is tough. It takes a certain degree of mental preparation to remove yourself from the standards you're used to and maintain an open mind. I love fieldwork because of these challenges, but I'm never really "ready" to shed myself of everything familiar. I've come to appreciate through my travels that you can only remove yourself from your identity so far--at the end of the day I'll still be an American woman with blue eyes and pale skin who loves mac n cheese. So rather than avoid these intrinsic truths about myself, I prefer to accept them and work around them as I try to understand the different ways of life I'm being introduced to.

Unlike the other students on this trip, I'm actually fulfilling regular classes while in Indonesia. Which means, that ten weeks of Collections Management reading I didn't finish over break is in my backpack...ugh. Learning collections management through a hands on approach in a foreign place will be great, just my style, although attempting to conform it to the standards of my program is a bit nerve-racking... I'm confident it will work out though.

Excitement for the trip will come when my feet hit the ground Bali, and I have my first foreign meal. Until then, I'm still in grey Seattle trying to eat all the leftovers out of my fridge = NOT EXCITING. Really though, eating is one of my all time favorite activities. I cannot wait to learn about the cuisine of Indonesia, I'll try anything once.

See you on the other side! (especially you, Kathryn)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Heading Out

Many sides of my impending adventure excite me. I've been to Canada a few times, but this feels as though it will be a more 'real' international experience.
As a sailor, I am excited to be surrounded by water, especially in a warmer climate. I've gone sailing a few times in Seattle's December chill, and the snow melt has definitely cooled Lake Washington. I am excited to see how the boats of Indonesia compare to the highly uniform racing dinghies I am used to.
As an anthropologist, I await putting to use techniques and knowledge that have been bound to paper to this point.
As a vegetarian, I am excited to go to the birthplace of tempeh. This fermented soy product is and ingredient I have experimented with, but have found minimal success. My interest in nutrition guides me to explore the intertwined culture and cuisine of the area with as open a mind as possible, even if this requires abandoning my meat-free ways at times.
As a biologist, Alfred Russel Wallace's account of his journey through the Malay Archipelago one hundred and fifty years ago has inspired my imagination of what I will see. Wallace independently discovered the theories of evolution popularized by Darwin, and his immense knowledge of the area moved me to purchase a field guide to the mammals of the region. I look forward to seeing the world through the eyes of a naturalist, and will be looking for a field guide for local plants when I arrive. I have studied rhododendron genetics at UW, and anticipate seeing some of the species I have heard about and seen in gardens in their native habitat.
I'm looking forward to keeping my eyes open and soaking in as much as possible from this adventure!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Awaiting a new experience

I depart from San Francisco International Airport tomorrow night at 11:30 pm. After a layover in Taipei for two hours I'll fly into Bali around 1:00 in the afternoon. After spending my Christmas vacation at home in the dry, sunny climate of Northern California, I'm a little leery of the incredibly high level of humidity that I'm sure will hit me as soon as I step off the plane in Indonesia.
Out of all the participants of this trip, I am sure that I am least qualified/experienced regarding the archaeological aspect, however I am still extremely excited. I am most looking forward to being introduced to a new domain without any prior exposure. The newness of it all will allow me to embrace the entire experience for what it is.
Apart from two weeks in Spain with my family, I have never spent time outside of North America. I am ready and eager for the introduction to a completely different culture, and to see all that I can learn. I am fully confident that this field school will be unique and can't wait to see the impact it has on myself and everyone else involved.

Embarking on an New Adventure

My adventure is set to begin in exactly four hours when my plane departs from Phoenix airport. From there, I fly to LAX, South Korea, and Bali. In total, it is 36 hours of travel time, including an 11-hour layover in Seoul. Over the past few weeks, I’ve scoured the Internet looking at how feasible it would be to escape the airport during these hours and wander around the city. I’ve devised the perfect itinerary of what to do (market and temple visiting) and how to get around, leaving more than enough bumper time to safely return to the airport.

I arrive in Bali at 11:25 pm and I am hoping a shuttle from the hotel I am staying at in Kuta will come collect me that late. Three days shall be an ideal respite to develop some color in my skin, sample a variety of the cuisine, and practice the Indonesian language skills I gained during fall quarter in my introductory language class. I fear much I what I learned has leeched out of my brain over Christmas vacation, but whatever remains should be a decent foundation upon which to effectively communicate.

I’ve prepared myself for this trip in multiple ways. I’ve created list after list of what I should pack, what medicines I need, and what songs should be on my various iPod playlists. One of my fears is that I have overpacked. But most of what I have in my small duffle bag and carry-on suitcase is not too dear to my heart. Thus, if I do feel as though I packed more than necessary, I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash over getting rid of it. Also, I began to physically prepare my body for the strenuous hikes and grueling heat. My mother, who is involved in an exercise program called Bikram Yoga, invited me along for three of the sessions. Basically, it is a series of vigorous yoga poses done in a humid room heated to 105 degrees over 90 minutes. I’m not too sure what the benefits are of the workout, but I have never sweated so much in my life. I drank over a liter of water during each session. I’ve come away feeling more flexible, rejuvenated, and prepared for heat and humidity.

For now, farewell to my laptop, Law and Order (the show ☺), Mac & Cheese, Mexican food, my boyfriend Bjorn, my family, and my dog Zeke. I look forward to returning to all these items come March 28th.