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Bali and Gilis...

...my final week in Indonesia...and in south-east Asia...at least until next time!

Bali. A word or destination that many people hear these days and grimace about skeptically. After they say “don’t take drugs” of course… Nevertheless, I was looking forward to a week of relaxing and party before coming to grips with the reality that it was almost time for me to return to the real world.

I met Lena in Bali and we stayed in Kuta. It was actually a good spot though as the place was really nice, right near the beach and the cheap shopping and where you go out and what not, but wasn’t right in the middle of the trashy going out district. Which lets face it was trashy, but that can be fun from time to time. And to be fair, it was not much different to places such as Chewang Beach in Koh Samui.

The people in Bali were really just as lovely as everywhere else we’d been in Indonesia, if not more lovely as they are used to drunk Aussie bogans hurling abuse at them unfortunately. We would speak Bahasa and they would say “oh, you’re so polite!” even if it was just “ma kasih” (the shortened version of thankyou). Definitely didn’t have the problem of being accosted and held for photos and autographs in Bali that seems to be the case in the rest of Indonesia, although one Indonesian lady, who seemed quite out of place in Bali (which is predominantly Hindu – literally it’s like going to another country compared to Java) did accost me in front of the memorial and practically hold me down until she got her photo.

I expected to see the memorial, but it haunted me quite a bit to see it, which I didn’t expect. Mainly because there are groups of people posing for photos in front of it, as they drunkenly stumble on their way to a big night out, similar to how the victims of the bombings would have been. As you drive past the places that have been built from both the 2002 and 2005 bombings (only the Sari Club hasn’t been rebuilt – can’t say I’d want to go to it though, or any of the places that they have redone for that matter) the taxi drives point them out and say “Bali bomb 1” or “Bali bomb 2”. Also security in that place is crazy, but it’s good. There are boom gates across every driveway, and security guards check under the cars with mirrors, and check the boot and doors for trip wires before a car can drive in anywhere. Also all bags are scanned or searched before entering anywhere, and guys are patted down when going into clubs (although bribery is still rife, and I heard of one guy who managed to pay a security guard off to avoid a strip search as apparently they suspected him for carrying drugs). Still sometimes I wonder – one security guard inspected one of the girls’ boxes of tampons for an unusually long amount of time!

I guess the threat is always there, but unfortunately for the victims of the bombings I fear it was just a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And I guess it’s up to the individual to decide how much the threat of extremists is going to stop them from going places that they want to go and doing things they want to do. But as for all of the stories that make the front page of Australian newspapers claiming that Aussie tourists have been bashed and assaulted by Indonesians, I can guarantee the Indonesians wouldn’t have started it. They want us there! I was in a taxi with Jenee and Talia (the Kiwis) one night, and he asked where we were from. They said “Selandia Baru” and I said “Australie”. As soon as I said that he said “Bagus! Australia means good money for me!”

We barely spent any time at Kuta during the day, unless it was at our infinity pool on the top level of our hotel that looked out over the sea (so how could you blame us?!) There was a mini-ACICIS crew heading to Bali from Jakarta, so we all got to hang out with each other and our respective friends who had come over from home to meet us, and it was a lot of fun. During the day we went to places like Ulu Watu, Padang-Padang beach, Dreamland beach (apparently not so dreamy as Lena got stung by a jellyfish there…although it was stunning), Ubud and it’s surrounding rice paddies, Candi Dasa, where I went snorkeling…I will write that again for effect/in case you though you misread it – where I went snorkeling! Yes that’s right people. There are photos on my Facebook to prove it. And there’s more where that came from.

Everyone knows Bali can be done very cheaply, and this isn’t just if you stay in a dive, don’t eat and do nothing but lie on the beach and get sunburnt. No joke, going out every place has promotions like ‘buy one, get one free’ and ‘free welcome drink’, but my favourite was Sky Garden, where shamefully I admit I went every night whilst staying in Kuta, purely because of the free drinks on offer every night for an hour for guys and an hour-and-a-half for girls. The place we went all the time had three levels – the Asian level, the old men level, and the free drinks level where all the ‘normal’ people (a.k.a. Aussies) hung. If you are smart, you wont buy any drinks at all. Most nights we were smart. But if you are not smart you are in big trip, seeing as most of the drinks you buy are about $6 with 3 shots each in them!

A couple of nights we decided to exude a little bit of class at a posh bar in Seminyak before heading out. One of them was Talia’s birthday, which ironically was also Valentine’s Day. Best night out in Bali for sheezy. We started off at Potato Head, a renowned bar in Seminyak that everybody had told us we ‘had’ to go to. And OMG it’s amazing! For those of you who has seen episode 1, season 2 of Gossip Girl (and yes I am exercising my GG knowledge and writing skills at the same time here) picture the white party! There’s an infinity pool with a swim up bar that is right on the beach and then a big lawn area and a DJ and tables by the pool and then a restaurant. And to top it all off, it was the most amazing sunset I think I have ever seen! Being Talia’s birthday and all, we splurged and ate dinner there, but it was quite funny having this long table and a loud group of Aussies (and Kiwis) when everyone else was sitting around in tables of two, talking quietly by hushed candle light. What made it equally as funny was that it was me, Talia, Jenee, Ella, Kate Raous (all from ACICIS), Ella’s two friends, Ellie and Kaitlin, and then Ben. The only boy at the table, happily sipping away on cocktails with the rest of us, completely comfortable with his sexuality. Then as we were leaving some middle-aged man commented something along the lines of “he must be having a good Valentine’s Day”, so we decided to propose in an appropriately cheesy, ‘The Batchelor’-style Valentine’s Day-special, type photo. I don’t have it, but I wish I did…stay tuned…hilarious…

Being the pov people that we are (may I point out that we weren’t aware of the free-drinks scenario at this stage) we went back to where Kate was staying with her mum and her sister (as they had their own private pool!) to have beers and birthday cake. We got a bit too carried away with the pres, so much so that we missed the free drinks! Meaning that we HAD to resort to the three-shot drink option. I didn’t take any photos that night but I feel like other peoples on Facebook will say what else needs to be said. However, it was a very fun night. I’m jealous, I want my birthday to be on Valentine’s Day!

Towards the end of the week, everyone was either heading home or to the Gili Islands, off Lombok. After much deliberation and a flood of messages telling us how amazing the Gilis were, Lena and I decided to make an impromptu trip there for two nights. And thank God we did, as it is literally paradise! There are several Gili Islands. We went to Gili Trawangan, which is meant to be the ‘party Gili’, which don’t get me wrong, it is, but it’s no Bali or Koh Samui or Koh Phangan (at least not yet), which is awesome. The only form of transport on the island are pushies and these little horse and cart things, so in a way, it really is quite remote. Talia and I rode around the island one day and it took us about an hour, which included stopping to take copious amounts of photos, as it truly was so beautiful.

Unless you’re really into diving, there’s not a whole lot to do on the island besides lying on the beach and going out, which is awesome! Although be proud – I did do more snorkeling, and one day we possibly think we saw a shark (which Talia was very excited about because she loves sharks, me however, no so much…) There are also copious amounts of beachside bars around the island, where you can go and have a Bintang and watch the sunset over the volcanoes of Bali. Another easy way to pass time. Although riding home can be somewhat of an adventure…

I really wish I could just explain how amazing Gilis was, but unfortunately my writing (and photographic) talents cannot do them justice…so you’ll just have to go there! And take me – I want to go back!

And then just like that, four months came to an end. And I’ve never wanted to go home less. Similar to how I was upset about leaving home back in October, because I was scared everything would change while I was gone (even though I should know by now that it never does!) I had tears in my eyes in the cab on the way to Denpasar airport. (I know that you should never trust emotional writers, but this is true!) Sure I’m excited to sleep in my own bed, and see my Mum and my friends and eat rice crackers and cheese, but it would be nice if I could just go home and do that for a week, repack my bag so I have a new batch of five t-shirts to wear for the next few months, and head back out into the world again. But unfortunately tidak funds and the fact that I would like to finish uni in under the six-year time-frame, are preventing me from this at the moment, so I will just have to take comfort in the fact that the reason I’m so sad at the prospect of going home is because I had more fun than I ever thought was possible. So without being too sentimental and soppy, thanks to each and every person I encountered on my journey – I will never forget our crazy antics and the amazing experiences that we shared, and wherever you all live in the world, I aim to re-enact them again with you all, STAT! So until then, look me up if you’re in Melbourne (as as much as I don’t want to go home, it truly is the best city in the world!). And if you ever need a travel buddy (and I haven’t annoyed you to death just yet), I’m there!

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” – Cahill.

xoxo

Posted by ljmac2 04:00 Archived in Indonesia Tagged beaches melbourne snorkelling taxi sunset bali beach volcanoes memorial security english bars scuba_diving lombok kuta dreamland ubud seminyak gilis gili_trawangan gili_islands bahasa_indonesia bali_bombings pedang-pedang candi_dasa acicis infinity_pool potato_head Comments (0)

A guide to making the most of prayer time...

...it's pretty indie...

semi-overcast 27 °C

So have totally worked out how to combat 4.30am prayer time – don’t come home until after they start…then you’re already awake! Ok so I feel the stage that I reached in Siem Reap when I can start using names in my blog… Talia, one of the NZ girls on this trip (apparently New Zealanders flock to me over here!) who stays at my kos and also works at the Post, is a very light sleeper and constantly woken up by the prayers at 4.30 every morning. No joke, she can tell whether it’s Jim or Bob rostered on for the 4.30 shift each day by the tone of their warbling. Sometimes they even work in a bit of a harmony/competition with their neighbouring mosque to see who can be the loudest. Anyway, we got home at around said prayer time Saturday morning and were banging on the gate of our kos saying “malam, malam!” (“good evening” – It sounds weird in English, but that is the appropriate evening greeting), before we realized that possibly we world get a better response if we said “pagi, pagi!” (good morning), and then the prayers started up and Talia yells “haha I beat you, I’m already awake!” Hilarious.

As a side note, we read an article when we first here about an American man here in Ramadan last year, when the prayers are super loud, who unplugged one of the mosques loud speakers and got jailed for five months. Talia was very glad she read that early on…

Anyway, this weekend is a long weekend in Jakarta because of Chinese New Year, which I find very interesting that it’s a public holiday here and not at home, when we are supposed to be more accepting of other cultures and religions and what not. However similar to at home, being a long weekend it is quite expensive to go away, and also being a ‘journalist’, you do not have regular working hours, so a bunch of us spent the weekend hanging in Jaks.

On Saturday I went to the Monas, which is the national monument and also Jakarta’s main (and pretty much only) tourist attraction. However, unfortunately for Jakarta, it is nicknamed by the locals “Suharto’s last erection”. Awesome. Pretty much it’s just a big statue/tower thing in the middle of this park which is quite nice (the park I mean). You can go up the tower and view the metropolis that is Jakarta, but somehow I think that Jakarta is not really worth the three-hour wait in the queue. However, I think the Monas might be known as a ‘tourist attraction’ as locals just go there to hang out and get photos taken with us whiteys. No joke, we have so many photos taken of us…what do they do with them, put them on Facebook? Even just wandering down the street our kos is on, all the locals say “hello” as they are following us with their camera phones. I mean seriously? We’ve been here for three weeks now, surely they’re over it! Anyway, at the Monas people just yell out at you “Mister, Mister” (everyone is ‘Mister’ here apparently) and ask to take your photos. Ella who I was with (she’s from Tassie, but it’s ok, she’s still pretty cool…) would say to them “No…Mrs…”, and they would look back at her oddly and say “No…Mister…photo?” Haha.

So Saturday night we went to I guess what you would call a club, Red Square, and it was first time we’d actually been clubbing in Jakarta. By Jakartan standards I’d say it was quite small and relatively tame, but it was the closest I’ve seen anywhere I’ve been so far to Pub Street…there was like this runway thing to dance on, and they played the classics such as “We No Speak Americano” and like all of Rihanna’s back catalogue. Although no buckets…poor form.

One minor glitch from Saturday night was that my camera got stolen. No biggie really though, as it turns out getting a police report in Jakarta is even easier than in Siem Reap! Not that it was hard in Siem Reap, but it shocked me at how easy it was here! Maybe just because I could only speak “sedikit sedikit” Bahasa Indonesia (very little!) so they couldn’t be bothered to question me about it. Although apparently my religion is vital fact required when filing a police report. I said Christian. Apparently ‘Atheist’ (or ever ‘Jew’) doesn’t go down that well here…not that I really look like a Jew…just thought that was an interesting fact.

It was nice not having to rush around and sightsee on the weekend as it meant we could have a lazy Sunday. No Gossip Girl, but we did manage to find real Western brunch. Unbelievable. It turns out that Jakarta is just a city of malls. Like at first you may think most of them are trashy ones with a few high-end one’s in between, but no, there are as many posh ones as there are un-posh. And obviously I belong in (and can afford – not) the posh ones! But the one we went to yesterday, Pacific Place, had a massive dragon for Chinese New Year that stretched from the top to the bottom floor (maybe 6 or 7 floors?), and then the level we were on had a lake with boats on it and a lighthouse…crazy! The place we had dinner was so cute too – like kitsch, Asian cute – but amazing! It was called ‘Nanny’s’ and made into what I assume was meant to be your Grandma’s home. So we ate in a shower, but there were sinks and what not scattered all around…very bizarre.

Last night we went to a gig at the Jaya Pub, which according to someone on Google is the “worst place in Jakarta” but actually it was so cool. Plus, calling it the worst place in Jakarta made me want to go there more! All these Indonesian bands played, but each one of them was a different genre…you know the usual…Indonesian Irish folk rock, Indonesian power ballads…and a band that were basically like the Indonesian version of The Presets, except cooler if that’s even possible (The Presets are pretty cool…) as they wore sunnies that lit up and made noise. No expenses spared.

So yes, that’s been the weekend…but I guess I should actually mention something as to the real reason why I’m here. I’m struggling a bit to remember I’m here for work experience and learning – so much fun to be had! But actually I am really lucky with my placement. I’m loving it at the sports desk and despite the fact that the team there is so small – two reporters and one editor – they look after me really well and give me cool stuff to work on.

On Tuesday, my first real day of work, I went to a amateur golf tournament which is run by six-time major winner Nick Faldo’s charity. It’s a tournament series run all throughout Asia and Europe with the aim of making it easier for up-and-coming golfers to make it onto the tour. So I got to interview of the CEO of Nick Faldo’s organization, and the head of the committee for the Indonesian event, who is this guy called Rudy Hartono, and apparently is an Indonesian sporting legend! He used to play badminton and won the All-England Championships (equivalent to World Championships back then apparently) and won it seven times, six consecutively. My editor who went with me that day didn’t know he was going to be there so he was so stoked! We had photos taken with him and everything.

Then on Wednesday I went to a press conference with another one of the other reporters, Niken, which was about the National Games, pretty much the Indonesian version of the Olympics. It’s held every four years and like Aussie kids grow up dreaming of winning the Olympics, Indonesian kids grow up dreaming of winning PON (the National Games). However, as with everything in Indonesia, it was running super late, so we all just sat in the foyer outside the lift. People were very amused that I was there, and were taking photos of me and interviewing me…I think I was also on Indonesian TV that night saying that I though Barca was going to beat Real Madrid 1-0 – they care a lot about the Spanish soccer here since they won the world cup apparently. That particular press conference was all in Bahasa so I only picked up a few words such as ‘teman’ (friend) and ‘teman-teman’ (friends)…but it was an interesting experience.

Oh and there was a letter from FIFA being passed around that day, to the Indonesian Football Association, as they are in all sorts of strife. Everyone was taking photos of it so they could take it home and make it into a story, which was pretty cool.

On Thursday night I went to a press conference about this Indonesian group that are climbing the Seven Summits, which I found fascinating seeing really, you don’t associate the words ‘Indonesian’ and ‘mountaineering’. But they were a full on professional outfit, with only one peak remaining – Everest. The press conference was all in Bahasa again, but I got to interview the chief climber afterwards, who spoke very good broken English. I got a good feature out of it though – it even made the caption for the sport section under the title on Saturday’s paper.

http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2012/01/21/mountain-climbing-next-stop-everest.html

Then on Friday I had the true journalistic experience of working from home – lucky I have a Mac now so I can compete the SATC cliché right?! I wrote up my mountaineering article in the morning, went for an interview with a guy at lunchtime, and then went back home to write up the article. The guy I spoke to was really cool. Greg Wilson was an elite Australian weightlifter, won bronze and silver medals at Worlds’ back in the 80s, then became a sporting academic, and now in between coaching Indonesian athletes in strength and conditioning, works with the Indonesian Olympic Committee. So we were talking all about the differences between sport in developing versus developed countries, using Indonesia and Australia as the case studies, and about why Indonesian athletes have little to no motivation to compete well on an international scale. Basically they get paid millions of rupiah when they win at a national or regional level, and at the Olympics they are not going to win anything, hence get no money, so why would they try harder? I know – unbelievable. Also, apparently they are incredibly good at blue ribbon events such as dragon-boat racing and wall running – both which are unfortunately yet to fit into the Olympic schedule.

So this Greg Wilson guy that I interviewed invited me to another press conference tomorrow about women in sport and so hopefully I will get an opportunity to get some more sources for my big feature that will compare sport in developing versus developed countries. Anyway, I better go – I’ve got an hour and ten minutes of interview material to transcribe, which I swear takes about three times the length of the actual interview. And also I am lagging a bit after the long weekend…it’s been a good month since my Siem Reap days now, I’m out of practice ☺

Posted by ljmac2 06:58 Archived in Indonesia Tagged people parties night jakarta indonesia siem_reap sport english bars islam pub_street jakarta_post nick_faldo rudy_hartono seven_summits Comments (0)

Saya fluent di Bahasa Indonesia

...I also play tennis...

sunny 27 °C

Day 1 at the Jakarta Post down. Although to be fair, I don’t think it was an accurate representation of your average day of work there. We started at 3 (yes, that’s 3pm!) and sat in on an editorial meeting, which I guess we normally wouldn’t, although it was quite amusing (and interesting) to hear them discuss the issue for the next day…I think there is going to be a big picture of George Clooney on the front tomorrow, as one of the female senior editors was very keen on that idea! After that we met with our editors (I’m on sport – yes!) but I didn’t really have to do much work today, just edit some article written about the local cricket league in Jakarta. It was written by some guy who just plays cricket, he’s not a journalist or anything, but the actual sport’s reporters at the Post can’t write it a they don’t understand the game, hence it is rarely in the paper here. For instance, today they asked me “what does ‘tea’ mean?” and “how do you know when the game is over?” Hilarious.

To be fair, I think it’s quite hard to be the sports editor at an English-language newspaper in Indonesia. The big Bahasa Indonesia papers cover all the local sports, so the English papers are left to the international sports that will supposedly interest expats. However with only two full-time reporters on the desk, plus one editor, they don’t have time to go out to do research for lots of stories to fill the sports section of the paper everyday, so a lot of the international stories come from the news wires. Tomorrow however I’m going with the sports editor to a press conference for an upcoming golf tournament, so I might get a local sports story out of that…

It all seems a bit surreal that the placement part of this trip started today. I just got back into the swing of study and now I have to be a ‘professional’ for really what is the first time in my life. Don’t really know how I feel about it…just putting on supposedly professional clothes was weird…that’s the best think about coaching – trackies!

Anyway, last week was just language class every morning, followed by an array of field trips and lectures in the afternoon. On Wednesday our ‘trip’ (which was actually a free lunch) got cancelled (or rescheduled to tomorrow, but I can’t go because of this press conference), but that was actually rather convenient seeing a bunch of us had tickets to the Foster the People gig that night! (Because of the traffic here, a field trip may be meant to be during the afternoon, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get home three hours later!) The gig was awesome though. It was held at an indoor tennis centre, I guess similar in a way to how it would be at home, except for the fact that they don’t sell anything inside the gates…no drinks, nothing! It was the most well-behaved gig I’ve ever attended. And actually, I was surprised at how many of the Indonesians knew all the words, especially seeing they’ve only got one album. They were all full-on into it…but when we tried to get on each other’s shoulders and stuff they got a bit angry…

Thursday’s trip for the journo’s was to a school at a tip. Apparently it’s quite famous and well-known in Jakarta because it is funded by several big NGOs but run according to the Indonesian state school system, and it is for the kids of scavengers and tip workers. Similar to ABCs and Rice in Siem Reap it is there so the kids’ don’t have to work at the tip all the time and can get a formal (and free) education, but unlike ABCs, this school has some serious money behind it. Not that ABCs isn’t amazing, as it is (and obviously I’m rather biased on this matter), but the school we saw on Thursday was a proper structure with windows and doors and electricity and a paved play area. There is no doubt that these kids live in poverty, as literally the school is perched like a castle on the top of the tip and the houses are all shacks presumably made from things found at the tip, but the road leaving up there is paved and lined with power lines and street lights…it was all just a very bizarre experience.

Also, I struggled a bit with the fact that we just did a ‘drop in’ on the school for less than an hour (especially when it took an hour to get there and three hours to get back). Again I guess I’m getting up on my high horse a bit, but I hated it when people did that in Siem Reap and would just come to school for a short period of time like it was a tourist attraction. And it wasn’t just like there were a couple of us going to this tip school, there was a whole group. Sure the kids all got an exercise book and a pencil from us, and the school library got some books too, but really it wasn’t like they gained anything from it, it was all meant to be for our own personal gain, disguised as a philanthropic exercise. I mean, I felt bad enough leaving ABCs after 2 months – what really what good is it to get to know a whole lot of kids and then just abandon them? Anyway, I guess that’s just my little soapbox moment. At the tip school we just all sang ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’, the ‘Hokey Pokey’ and ‘Five Little Ducks’ and I just wished I was back in Siem Reap ☹

Anyway, no need to stress…except for the fact that Friday was the day of our Bahasa Indonesia test! But really it was fine. I actually really enjoyed learning a language again. Even though the classes were four hours a day, they weren’t that bad, the only annoying part was having to do homework. But our teacher was really cool as well. Like during the test me and the guy next to each other were discussing the answers, and the teacher was just standing outside the class pointing at us and laughing – seriously, if she was standing outside the class what did she expect?! (Actually we were trying to remember the words for our hobbies – in the end I just played the safe card and said “saya bermain tenis”. I play tennis…duh).

Also one of the girls had an unfortunate incident in class where instead of saying “saya suka laki-laki ganteng” (“I like handsome boys”) she said “saya suka adik laki-laki ganteng” (“I like handsome little boys”). The teacher thought it was hilarious, so from then on whenever some exercise came up in class with “adik laki-laki” in it, the teacher would say “Gayertree, would you like to read number 14?!” LOL.

That afternoon we went to CIFOR (the Centre For International Forestry Research) which is in Bogor, technically an hour as the crow flies from Jakarta, but really, that means nothing. Anyway, it was actually really cool out there, and beautiful, except for the fact that it was raining so we we’re allowed to walk in the forest, so instead we had to walk around the outskirts of the forest and look at the fence and other people’s umbrellas. We were given speeches and presentations and the usual, but they were actually really engaging. A couple of the development studies people were staying out there to do their placement, which would be pretty cool.

That day was also one of the guy’s birthdays so a lot of people stayed in Bogor to celebrate it there rather than sit on a bus again for three hours. Bogor isn’t famed for having a whole lot to do (and it pretty much rains 24/7 as well, which led to some very nasty war wounds from falling over all the time…well at least on my part!) but it was heaps of fun. Then the next day some of us stayed on and went to the Bogor Botanic Gardens, which were beautiful – literally a breath of fresh air out of Jakarta. It was also where Suharto had one of his many lairs, so it seemed to be a pretty popular spot for school excursions – and boy had they hit the jackpot when not only were they on an excursion, but there was a bunch of white people wandering around! One of the guys, Jimmy, is tall and has dreads and stands out from the crowd a bit I guess you could say (Kevin Rudd definitely felt the need to comment on him!) and so all the kids were yelling at him “don’t touch my body, don’t touch my hand!” What well trained Muslim children! However probably the highlight of my day there was the cutest kitten ever that climbed up another guy’s leg and just stayed there as he walked around, and had a great time ☺

P1040483.JPG

We got the train back to Jakarta on Saturday night, as it was someone else’s birthday so we were all going out for dinner and then hitting the town. It turned out to be quite expensive really (well by Jakarta standards at least!) but I at least managed to have a grand time! It’s just rather difficult going out in a group of 20 people in Jakarta…you tend to stand out a bit from the crowd…

So yes. That is my life in Jakarta up until now. It’s going to be weird not seeing everyone everyday at uni now, although there’s always events here and there, so I guess if we finish work early enough will still be able to catch up during the week…sometimes I’m finding it a little hard to remember I’m here for work; so much fun to be had ☺

Posted by ljmac2 08:20 Archived in Indonesia Tagged people parties jakarta indonesia bus siem_reap raining sport work language english tip volunteers abcs_and_rice bogor botanic_gardens cifor jakarta_post Comments (1)

Jakarta

and now comes the serious stuff...

semi-overcast 26 °C

So here I am sitting in my kos (better known as boarding house) room, surrounded in air-conditioned comfort with hot water, HBO (among other cable TV channels), and Internet at my bedside – that’s what $500 can buy you for six weeks in Jakarta. Oh, and did I mention that they do your laundry and clean your room as well?! Anyway I guess I better tear myself away from all these activities for a bit to tell you what I’ve been doing since I got to Jakarta…

Well first of all, with everything we’ve been doing, it’s worlds away from the summer holiday mode and post-New Years’ hangover that I can imagine people are struggling through in the heat at home. The morning after I got here the program started with orientation, which we all thought would be those lame ice-breaker games you play all during week one of semester (even in Masters!) but in fact it was a lecture that convinced us that we are pretty much all going to get dengue fever and see some sort of terrorist activity while we’re here (don’t worry Mum, I’m totally kidding!) But I guess they did have to go through all that safety stuff, and with the dengue, it is apparently really common here – even the First Lady has it at the moment! Obviously it’s not ideal to have it, but they said diseases like dengue and typhoid are really common here, almost like a flu, and they know how to treat them properly here, unlike at home where people panic just at the mention of the word (after all, apparently the rich here make Australia’s rich look like beggars, and money talks!) So pretty much the deal is here if you get sick, go to the hospital – it’s cheap (well you can get it back on travel insurance), clean, air-conditioned…pretty much like a kos, except they feed you too!

After a morning of inspiring lectures, we had to go find a kos, which we thought we’d have done in an hour so we could spend the rest of the afternoon by the pool. The university hosting us, Atma Jaya, had some students, known as LOs (liaison officers), volunteering to help us around uni and with finding a kos. They are so cute! It’s seems like it’s a massive honour for them to help us, and they were so patient as we traipsed around for hours, as it turns out that we were quite picky! Apparently Jakartans don’t really do walking – well the footpaths or lack thereof demonstrate that – so they must have been buggered as we were all stuffed! (Also the paper where I’m doing my internship, the Jakarta Post, ran an article today entitled “Walking should be made something we don’t just do on a Sunday”…haha) We were lucky to have them though, as they all speak close to impeccable English, where as the guy who owns/runs our kos mainly speaks English via hand gestures. He has a daughter though who goes to Monash at Clayton, so it’s lucky that she’s on holidays at the moment and in Jakarta. It seems as far as English speaking goes here, people either learnt it all the way through school and uni, and so are fluent and don’t need to study it any more, or they speak little to none. Unfortunately for us, the latter are people like taxi drivers and waiters, so I had a very unfortunate nasi goreng incident the other night, where I asked for fried rice with no meat, and it came out and all that was on it was meat! Even fish!

So being persistent on the first day of kos-hunting paid off, as it meant that we had all of New Years’ Eve off. After a rather leisurely start, we went to the old Dutch part of town, called Kota, which is a big square surrounded by old colonial style buildings, that let’s face it have seen better days, and in the middle there are people selling all kinds of things on picnic rugs or off the back of their bikes (even ribbons like rhythmic ribbons!) Jakarta isn’t really a tourist town, so we were practically the only white people there, and the number of teenagers that came up to us to take photos with us on their mobile phones or interview us for their English assignments was crazy! It was a really cool vibe there though, especially with the building atmosphere for New Year’s Eve.

Our last night of 2011 kicked off would you believe it, at the 7/11 next door to our hotel. That may make us sound like dropkicks, but believe it or not it’s the place to be seen – when we got there, there wasn’t a spare table…perhaps we should have called ahead to reserve one? Anyway, 7/11 here pretty much doubles as a family restaurant and a bar. It’s like how you can buy beers and Smirnoffs at convenience stores in Thailand, except here it’s ‘cool’ to drink them at their point of purchase. And it’s cheap. And they don’t ID you.

Like at many hotels, the tariff is way more expensive on New Years’ Eve, but to make it worthwhile they put on some kind of dinner for you. We stuck pretty local, because obviously on New Years’ Eve it’s hard to get a taxi anywhere in the world, let alone in Jakarta! Actually it’s probably not really that hard to find a taxi, but to get one that will be able to move somewhere is a different battle altogether. So we went to a little bar near the hotel, then when it got close to midnight, we went out on the street as we were staying near the Monas, the main monument in Jakarta, where all of the fireworks were meant to be. However, with a million people meant to be going there, we didn’t get very close. We just walked as close as we could and stood in the middle of the street amongst all of the motos carrying families of four, who had stopped in a gridlock to do exactly the same thing that we were. It was an awesome atmosphere, seeing all of these people (and a lot of them in headscarves) sitting on their motos taking photos of the fireworks on their phones, or in some cases letting the fireworks off themselves. When it was all over, we stood back to see just how they were all going to get out of there…and really props to them, they had it figured! Fifteen minutes after the fireworks had finished the traffic was moving relatively well and people had even gone back to work on some construction sites – talk about making the most of night shift pay on a public holiday!

The night continued on in a similar fashion as to how it was before the fireworks, and before we knew it, it was 2012. However, New Years’ Day meant moving day, not sitting around at home doing nothing, unless perhaps it’s lifting the paper to see if Ponting’s going to be played in the New Years’ Test. Needless to say, pretty buggered again! Although New Years’ Day was one of the girl’s birthdays, so we went out for dinner (where the abovementioned nasi goreng incident took place…)

Today was down to business. Day one of four-hour Indonesian language classes, which are set to continue daily for the next two weeks. Luckily for me the Indonesian’s choose not to include things like past tense and irregular verbs in their language, which makes life a bit easier. Also lucky for me, I am in the beginners’ class! However, if there was a pre-beginners’ class I feel like I would be more suited to that, seeing at the end of class today one guy came up to me and said “Gee, I’m so glad your in my class”, as in “because you don’t make me look so bad.” And I thought I was doing well! But really it’s not that bad. The teachers are lovely – very fast paced, but lovely – and they do a good job at giving us breaks with free food and coffee. I wonder if that will continue, or if that was just a first day sweetener… Then this afternoon’s lecture was on Indonesian politics (we have a different topic about Indonesia every afternoon apparently), which was given by an Indonesian political guru and was very interesting, although rather complex, especially for the second day of the year.

So yes. That is life here so far. But actually I must say, it’s amazing how safe you feel on the streets and stuff here. I know the idea of Indonesia spooks a lot of people out, especially with the whole Islamic side of things, but really everyone on the street just wants to say hello to you and that’s it. Wandering the streets on New Years’ Eve I’ve never felt safer really, as no one drinks and it really is just a big family celebration. So no stress.

Anyway, I must hit the hay seeing as prayers start at 5am! We looked to see if there was a mosque near this kos actually and couldn’t see one, so they just must be hidden everywhere. Or maybe that’s just why they pray so loudly, so they don’t have to go to the mosque but people can still hear that they’re praying…who knows…maybe I’ll find out in the religion lecture later this week. But with that backed up with another four hours of Indonesian, it’s definitely time for bed…I would try and be smart and try to say goodnight in Indonesian, but I’ve only had four hours so far…give me another week!

Posted by ljmac2 07:48 Archived in Indonesia Tagged jakarta indonesia mosques teacher language english kos islam classes 2011 2012 atma_jaya lectures new_years'_day new_years'_evetourists Comments (0)

Nha Trang

...the unknown Russian state

overcast 26 °C

So I think I may have over-budgeted on the tan…

Seriously, Nha Trang was nice and all, but the weather was less than desirable…although from the ever informative CNN, I get the feeling it has been like that around a lot of South-East Asia.

So as for similarities between Ho Chi Min and Nha Trang, they include hating Americans and both being Vietnamese cities. (However, I will say that one thing the Vietnamese definitely get from the Yanks, even if they don’t like to admit it, is the whole flag patriotism thing. Seriously you can’t swing a cat without it being there! The same goes for the communism flag with the hammer and sickle on it – it’s everywhere!) The differences however are far more interesting. For starters, Nha Trang is on the coast, whilst Ho Chi Minh is not, and also Nha Trang is basically a state of Russia – there are Russian tourists everywhere! Seriously everything is written in Vietnamese, English…and Russian! And from my experience of walking into many places and being spoken to in a language I don’t understand (as apparently I look Russian, or at least European by the way…), I would say Russian is the preferred second language here…it’s so weird, probably the only place I haven’t travelled to where English isn’t the preferred second language. There are even flights direct from Russia to Nha Trang. Either it’s the whole communism thing, or some rich Russian bought a big bit of land down the Vietnam coast…

Anyway, besides from the lackluster weather, we had a fabulous time in Nha Trang. We stayed at a beautiful hotel, which made things just that little bit nicer, and in all honesty, the weather (or lack thereof) made us get out and see Nha Trang in ways that we probably wouldn’t have done otherwise.

One day we went to the local market, which compared to those in Ho Chi Minh, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh was really quite paltry, but we still managed to buy five pairs of shoes between us among other things! I swear, one day I will go on a trip where I don’t have to send anything home…so far I am onto box three!

Then another day we went to the hot springs and mudbaths, which was actually really cool, and I’m glad we went as it gave me the opportunity to swim somewhere that wasn’t absolutely freezing (seeing they don’t heat their pools over here as apparently it’s warm all the time!) However, we didn’t realize it was a whole day kind of thing, we thought it was you just go and have a dip and be on your way. But there were mud baths and mineral springs and mineral Jacuzzi and mineral pools and mineral waterfalls and all manner of things that took up the majority of the day. It would have been good to know that before we went. Not only is the mud meant to be amazing for your skin, but being in the pool where the water is 37.5-39 degrees Celsius is meant to be so good for you that you don’t even have to pretend to exercise by doing laps – awesome!

On probably the gloomiest day we had there, Christmas Eve, we went to Vinpearl, which is basically an amusement park on a neighbouring island. It was so cold that I had to wear leggings and a cardigan, clothes that I had only brought with me to wear to work in Jakarta, where I have to dress respectfully and what not. Anyway, to get over to Vinpearl you get a cable car, which is all included in the price of the ticket, which is very reasonable really seeing it is $18 including the cable car, the water park (pity it was so freezing, the waterslides looked awesome!), the underwater world (fancy word for aquarium), the food and shopping centre, and the indoor and outdoor theme parks. Given the poor weather (as otherwise I totally would have spent all my time on the waterslides!) we got to have a good look at everything. I even convinced Mum to go on the rollercoaster…apparently she likes the Scenic Rollercoaster at Luna Park, however after this particular outing she informed me that her rollercoaster days were over! At the indoor theme park there was one of those 4D virtual rides that we went on, where they show a movie in 3D and you sit on this platform that kind of moves with it so you feel like you’re in the movie. Anyway, Mum and I were the only anglos to be seen for a mile and man you should have heard everyone else’s reactions to all the twists and turns they took (virtually) on the movie screen…they were screaming and squealing, I swear they thought it was real – hilarious, the best part of it!

Anyway, I suppose this has been a rather short blog, but there is only so much you can write about sleeping in and having leisurely breakfasts and reading whilst you listen to the waves crash on the beach… But I hope you all had a fabulous Christmas wherever you happened to be in the world, and that you all managed to share it with good people who were good fun. Christmas is a bit of a non-event in our family now, but we are thinking of you always ☺ xoxo

Posted by ljmac2 05:07 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beach market shopping vietnam weather language english ho_chi_minh_city americans nha_trang vinpearl mud_baths russians Comments (0)

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