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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 ☺

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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)

Catch Cambodia...

...until next time "you say goodbye, and I say hello"

semi-overcast 26 °C

First of all, apologies on my slackness on writing my blog the past week. I have had a few queries about when my next blog entry is going to be, but with last week being my last week at school, in Siem Reap and even in Cambodia, it was very busy with ‘lasts’. Literally we had a schedule for where we were going to eat every night so we had time to say goodbye to everyone…or more to the point say ‘catch’ until next year - hopefully ☺

Secondly, it is with extremely mixed feelings that I tell you I am writing the first blog entry of this trip not from Cambodia. Currently I am in my comparatively luxurious and cleanly hotel room in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, formally known as Saigon. It’s funny because when I left home I was so excited about this part of my trip having never been to Vietnam before, but now having to leave school and all the amazing friends I have made, not to mention just the awesome lifestyle that there is in Siem Reap, it’s devastating. I feel bad for Mum (she is here now as well in case you missed that memo) – I think she feels a bit like bad cop, as if she’s coming and dragging me away from it all. But I guess the best thing about feeling like this about leaving everything behind is that I have had more fun over the past two months than I ever thought was possible, particularly with where I was at when I left home, so that’s pretty awesome ☺ And besides, it’s just catch until next time right?!

Anyway, let me think, what has been happening since last time I wrote my blog…there’s been so much I don’t even know where to start or where to end so things are going to be a bit all over the place…

Well last weekend Courtnay and I went to Battambang for the weekend as there was a music festival called the Friendship Festival on there, which is half Khmer acts and half Western DJs, one of whom was a guy we know from when we went to Sihanoukville. It was a pretty interesting weekend to say the least! It started off with Courtnay walking into our room at home from being out, just as the 6am alarm was going off to remind us that for some reason we booked the 7am bus! That turned out to be a joyous ride filled with ice-cold air conditioning and blaring Khmer karaoke music that I could still hear when I had my iPod up full blast. Seriously, the Khmer people were not singing along and I definitely didn’t know the words – was it completely necessary?!

So I went to Battambang the last time I was here and did the whole boat trip and everything so I knew what to expect, but Battambang is definitely no Siem Reap. We literally could not find a bucket in sight all weekend, not even at the festival! It’s definitely not your party town kind of place, it’s like walking in a ghost town at night, there isn’t even that many restaurants to choose from and they all close at 10 or 11! However, the ‘sightseeing’ as you would call it around Battambang is really cool. There’s the Bamboo Train, which I’m still not entirely sure if it is called that because it is made from bamboo or because they used to use it to transport bamboo, but anyway it’s on this single railway line that you ride along through the rice fields, and then when you meet a train coming in the opposite direction, one of the trains gets dismantled so the other can continue on it’s way. Anyway, they take you up to the first ‘stop’, which is where there’s an old lady selling drinks and a bunch of kids very eager to show you around the brick making factory, for want of a better word, which was actually really cool.

After the Bamboo Train we went to a Cambodian winery, which compared to what we know as a winery, was hilarious, seeing there are four rows of grapes in someone’s backyard. There was actually only one kind of wine to taste though, but there was a horrifically strong brandy. Neither of us could drink ours so we gave it to the tuk tuk driver and even he struggled! He did finish it though – not one to turn down a free drink I suspect! Luckily for him we had to cut through this back road to get to our next destination, which was actually one of the coolest parts of the day. In Battambang especially, they are not shy on commenting on how much they love your white skin, and along this road I don’t think they’ve seen some barangs for a while, as the kids were running out of their houses and people were taking a break from their work at the rice fields just to get a look of us!

Our next destination was the Killing Cave, which as it’s name suggests, was used by the Khmer Rouge for many of the atrocities that occurred during that time. Similar to the Khmer Rouge stuff you see in Phnom Penh, there are monuments filled with the victims’ skulls and bones and whatever else they have found at the sight. Again, unfortunately I am not sure whether this came about before or after the war, but it is also a holy site up there so there is lots of blessings and Buddahs going on up there as well.

Anyway as for the festival, the main reason why we went to Battambang, it was pretty funny. The Khmer part in particular was packed. There was this guy there who must have been Cambodia’s answer to Michael Buble, as whenever his name was mentioned the crowd just went nuts. It was a pity they didn’t speak a bit more English though, as the MCs kept pointing to the moon and stuff all night and we were just like “why are they so obsessed with this moon?” But it turns out it was because there was a lunar eclipse that night we found out the next day – a tad awkward that we didn’t spot that one…

So once we got back to Siem Reap we were thrilled to hear that on the Saturday night we were away, pretty much none of our friends were out – that’s right, we are the high season! However, it did leave some pretty big expectations for our last week, which means that between the emotions of leaving school and everyone in Siem Reap, and going out, and packing and doing whatever jobs you have to do when you’re leaving somewhere after being there for two months, right now my eyes are practically hanging out of my head I am so tired! Totally worth it though, every single minute of it ☺

So my last week at school was thrown out of whack a little bit, as a group of ten new volunteers rocked up on Tuesday morning. They are on a 10-day tour kind of thing of Siem Reap, which includes going to school at ABCs and Rice because Jenny and Gary who organized the trip, have volunteered at ABCs before. Because it went from there being one volunteer at school (me!) to 10, we had a different schedule all week where each of the new volunteers ran different activities. It culminated on Friday, which was kind of cool seeing it was my last day, when they brought all this fruit to school as well as bottled water and even fairy bread (the kids had never had fairy bread before, it was so funny to watch them eat it and not be able to deal with the sprinkles!). Courtnay came into school as well on Friday to surprise her kids, which was so cool, and also good for me because I had someone to help me initiate our regular Friday dance party!

It was a fantastic, yet very hard day. I got bombarded with the usual mass of cards that all the classes make for volunteers when they leave, and some of the kids even bought me presents, which I feel so bad about, but it’s also so special. One of the teachers had asked me the day before what my favourite number was, and I said seven, so she gave me a jar of these tiny little stars they fold out of paper here and call ‘lucky stars’, and she said she made 70 for me because I said seven was my lucky number – so cute! At the end of the day for each class they all lined up and we sang ‘Hello, Goodbye’ by the Beatles, basically ABCs theme song, and they were also incredibly keen to sing three little monkeys, which I taught my class in music about two weeks ago and they just can’t get enough of it! Literally we sing it about 15 times a day – very fitting though seeing I was in the monkey class!

Luckily having the youngest class, only a couple of the kids understood what was going on and cried, which made it easier for me – at least I could hold on until they left! One of my kids kept saying “goodbye Teacher, see you on Monday!” (the really cool one I think I mentioned once before, who likes to play Uno and was hit on her foot by her mum) so I hope she doesn’t get too much of a shock next week. Also there’s a kid we’ve had to take to the doctor everyday, as she had to have an operation last week but she still needed to get her wound cleaned everyday, and when we went on Friday they said she didn’t have to go back anymore, that it could be cleaned at school as it was much better, which made me feel very happy that I know she will be looked after ok ☺ Everyday when we ride home from school we go the same was as a few of the older kids and they like to ride with us, but on Friday we had an entourage, as half the kids wanted to ride up to the main road to us. One of the girls kept saying “ride slow Teacher, you leave at the end of the road and I am sad.”

Anyway, I have so many more stories about school and Pub Street and just life and how great it has been that I want to write about, but one blog can only be so long before losing one’s interest. Besides, I need to save up some cool stories for when I come home, otherwise I’ll just be boring! But from the bottom of my heart I just want to thank everyone I met during my time in Cambodia for making it pretty much the best two months of my life. Whether you were mentioned in the blog or not, you know who you are, and my time there wouldn’t have been the same without you. I know I’ll be back, as I can’t possibly say goodbye to ABCs and the kids and the town forever, so I hope that we will all meet again one day and continue the party, whether at home, back in the Reap, or somewhere else out there in the world. And to everyone who’s reading this and doesn’t understand what I’m talking about, sorry for the after school special, but I hope that I at least had a story or two to entertain you…if not look me up when I get home, there are plenty more where that came from ;)

Posted by ljmac2 06:52 Archived in Cambodia Tagged children parties bus cambodia phnom_penh siem_reap teacher bars winery sihanoukville volunteers pub_street battambang khmer_rouge bamboo_train killing_cave Comments (0)

An epic weekend on Pub Street...

...just a little insight into my other life in Siem Reap :)

semi-overcast 25 °C

So basically in Siem Reap I have two lives – my school life and my other life, which lets face it, I may as well call my Pub Street life – and it’s amazing how much the two coincide! I feel like I’ve told a lot of random stories about school, which is really the main reason I’m here, but I feel that seeing Pub Street has also played such a big part in my life over the past couple of months, you really deserve to be introduced to that as well…

This past weekend was epic, not just your average, run-of-the-mill Pub Street night out. For starters, Friday was Courtnay’s last day at school, which was so weird for me, let alone her, seeing she literally started at ABCs the day before me and since Amelia left, we have been the only two there…now I have to spend two hours a day by myself in my rides to and from school! Anyway, as Courtnay taught the oldest class there, her kids actually got what it meant for her to be leaving, and they were devastated, literally sobbing uncontrollably, which of course made leaving even harder for her…it was so heart breaking, it made me want to cry. And it’s so hard as how can you stay in contact with the kids themselves; write letters? I doubt they would even be able to afford the postage. Anyway, needless to say, Friday was quite depressing, which meant at lunch, as well as our regular one mango shake, one mixed fruit shake, one vegetable fried rice with cashew nuts and one fresh spring rolls with chicken, we also had two iced coffees with Baileys ☺ And after school, laden with sweat and dust in our finest school clothes, we went to the ever so classy FCC (Foreign Correspondents’ Club) for sangria happy hour…even if we’d dressed up to go there I doubt we would have had enough class!

The first weekend in December also happens to be the weekend that Siem Reap is inundated with extremely keen fit people who decide they want to ride a bike or run out around all the temples. Random, of all the reasons to come to Siem Reap, and there are many, but to exercise does not rate highly among them for me. However, that meant that Friday night was a pretty quiet one by Pub Street standards, which was awesome seeing Saturday night was Courtnay’s massive white out party for her birthday (and for the 1000th time, no it was not a racist party, it was a white out party seeing Ankgor What?!, the bar we had it at, is pretty much built from UV lights, so seeing the public would still be there of course, then we could see who was there for the party.) Anyway, we went out briefly on Friday and were talking to this expat, who amazingly in this small town we hadn’t met before, and he was like “hey, I heard there’s this massive white party here tomorrow night”…amazing the power of Facebook in a small town!

On Saturday morning we awoke to many grumpy people in our house, as there was a wedding on next door all weekend, which started with monks chanting and 4am apparently, and that or horrendous, tinny Cambodian pop music continued until about 12am this morning. However, luckily for Courtnay and I, both of our rooms (although we only really use one of them, the other just has stuff in it) are on the opposite side of the building to the noise…all that woke us up was the crappy quality Cambodian curtains, that seem to be a staple on every window in this country (we were good citizens and cleaned out all our spare beds for lodgers the following night.) However, despite the lack of sleep on universal sleep-in day, everyone was in fine form for Saturday night.

We had dinner first at Ankgor Famous, this little restaurant that we always go to as they have free popcorn, free fruit salad, 50 cent beer and buy one, get one free cocktails. It’s entirely Khmer run, and the girls there love us, as whenever we go we sit out the front and convince people to come in, so they don’t have to stand there spruking about their free popcorn, etc, etc. I also bought a cake, which was good, except the fans there are so intense that the candles just didn’t light, but it was the first real dessert I think I’ve had since I left home. Really I think I bought it more for myself than for Courtnay!

Then we went to Ankgor What?! and it was awesome coz so many people came out, not just our usual crew of younger volunteers. Tammy and Matt who run ABCs came, Sherry and Gemma who work for Globalteer (the agency we volunteer through), random travellers we had met earlier in the week and invited, friends we know just from generally hanging out on Pub Street too much, our own personal tuk tuk driver, Bruce Lee, bartenders from possibly the only other place in town we frequent enough to call them friends, plus a whole lot of volunteers who have been here for like a month and I don’t think I’ve ever seen them out before. And not only were they out, they were dancing on the tables! (Really, that is the only place to be seen in Ankgor What!? Although technically you can’t actually dance on the tables, you can dance on the benches or on the back of the benches…if you dance on the tables the security guards come along with sticks and hit your legs until you get off. It’s actually quite a fun challenge to see how long you can get away with being on there until they see you.) Kate and Julie, two other Globalteer volunteers, did the bike race that morning and they were in fine form. Julie even got a medal for being the oldest woman to compete in the race, and she backed that up by dancing on the tables and Ankgor What?! Although she did admit the next day that she had had a couple of cosmos earlier, and that they may have knocked her around a bit! At 12 Charlie, the owner, turned the music off and the whole bar sang Happy Birthday. And Courtnay could get all the buckets she wanted for free, so pretty much everyone we knew got free drinks all night as we just passed them all around – mmmm, so hygienic! So Court had what she said was the birthday ever, and I think we both agree that that was definitely the best night we’ve had on Pub Street ever…and there’s been a lot to choose from so that’s a pretty big call! There was a minor incident of mine where I was dancing on the top of the benches and fell off backwards into the crowd on the dance floor and pulled someone else I don’t know very well down with me…they were quite angry at the time, but I’ve only got a grazed elbow so it could have been worse!

Sunday was Courtnay’s actual birthday, so me, her, Estelle, another volunteer here from Tassie, and Will, who’s from Armidale, had a bit of a splurge day. We had brunch at Blue Pumpkin, which was about $6 a meal – expensive! Then we went to some posh hotel’s pool (again, a little too classy), had a massage, had Bailey’s milkshakes and then that night me, Court and Estelle went out again (everyone else said they couldn’t sleep the night before because of the wedding so they needed to get an early night – why stay at home then when the wedding’s still on, it’s the perfect excuse to go out!). Court had steak for dinner, which apparently was a massive deal for her - don’t see the appeal myself – and then we went to Temple Club for buckets, as we felt a bit bad we hadn’t been there the night before, as we usually start off there always, before heading over to Ankgor What. There are really cool Khmer staff there, Sally, Sally’s sister (they’re not actually sisters but they look similar and we don’t know the other one’s name) and Charlie, and this awesome security guard, who shakes my hand every time he sees me. He is also awesome as every time you buy a bucket, which for us is fairly regularly, you get a free t-shirt. You could clothe the whole of Cambodia with these t-shirts, except for the fact that they are bar t-shirts so that’s not entirely appropriate. Anyway, the reason the security guard is awesome is because we got bored of having so many t-shirts, so we invented a game where you tie them in a knot, throw them at the fan and see what table they land at. Then the security guard goes and gets it and brings it back to us! Hilarious! Except for this one time when Amelia did it and blew a light bulb…imagine if we were responsible for a black out on Pub Street…what would we do?! Anyway, there were no such immature shenanigans going on last night, but Estelle and I did manage to get them to play Happy Birthday at Temple as well and make the whole bar sing to Court, which was an achievement.

Oh and how could I forget – I totally made Courtnay’s birthday by having a fish spa! (Those things where you sit on the edge and dangle your feet in and the fish are meant to eat the dead skin off them? They are everywhere in Siem Reap.) Court and I set each other challenges from time to time, and I failed one and that was my punishment…I can’t believe I agreed to it! In case you didn’t know, I hate fish in all forms – alive or dead – and I had to sit with my feet in there for five minutes, but everyone got so bored of me sitting on the edge of the tank having a panic attack, that in the end I only had to put one foot in…I think I may have killed a few fish in the process as well with all of my violent thrashing. We are friends with one of the fish spa men, James, so we went to his one, but I really think we may have done him more of a disservice by frightening all his customers away and killing half his fish! Needless to say, it was a horrendous experience and every time I think about it my foot feels violated! But yes it is on video, so I can prove that I have done it and will never have to do it again.

So yes that was this weekend just gone, which unbelievably was my last full weekend in Siem Reap seeing we are going to go to Battambang this weekend for a music festival. I can’t believe how fast this time has flown…it sounds cliché but I cannot even begin to contemplate the thought of leaving Siem Reap yet! I thought I came back here to get it out of my system, but now I don’t know if I ever will. All I know is that I will definitely be back – I thought two weeks wasn’t long enough, well neither is two months!

Posted by ljmac2 03:41 Archived in Cambodia Tagged people parties cambodia siem_reap birthday volunteers pub_street ankgor_what?! Comments (2)

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