Archive for January, 2012

January 28, 2012

Indonesian Grand Tour Part 1: Scuba Diving and Fine Dining in Gili Trawangan

by Tabitha Kidwell

I am very lucky to have an extended mid-semester break from January 12, when I finished giving speaking exams, to February 27, when classes start up again. I should be planning classes for the upcoming semester, but I figured I could do that even if I wasn’t in Salatiga, so I’m using the time to see a lot of the Archipeligo! I started with the trip with my mom that I described in the last post, then took a 4-hour “speed boat” to Gili Trawangan, an island off of Lombok, the island just east of Bali. Lombok is often touted as “the next Bali” thanks to it’s comparable beauty and relatively undeveloped status. The Gili Islands, three little specks of land off the northwest corner, are long-established tourist destinations, though the absence of cars and motorbikes makes them seem quiet and peaceful compared to the bustle of Bali.

I met up with my friend Megan Lennon, who is also an English Language Fellow here, and who is an avid scuba diver. As in, she has done, like, 275 dives in the last 16 months. I hadn’t ever really thought about scuba diving before, but she talked it up so much that I thought it was worth a try. I signed up for the open-water class, which takes three full days. The first morning, we suited up and practiced skills like clearing our mask and finding our regulator, and, you know, breathing underwater. That afternoon was our first dive. Trying to stay as a group with 12 inexperienced divers was a little hectic, but otherwise, it was amazing! I was mesmerized by everything there was to see underwater! Fish, coral, plants, rocks, trash, whatever, everything is cooler underwater! I loved it and couldn’t wait to come back for the second day.

We spent the second morning in the pool again getting familiar with the equipment and procedures. That afternoon, we headed out in a much nicer group of 4 to practice in the real ocean. I felt a lot more comfortable this time, and was able to just enjoy being underwater, though I still had some trouble clearing my ears and staying at the right buoyancy. There’s just a lot to get used to. By the third day, I felt pretty confident and really enjoyed our morning and afternoon dives that day. And then I was declared an officially certified open water scuba diver, meaning I can go diving to a depth of 18 meters if accompanied. So, the next day, that is exactly what I did – Megan and I went out in a “buddy” team for my first dives! We had a great time, and I did a fairly good job of avoiding “newbie” mistakes like using up my air too fast, kicking sand up all over the place, or bumping into coral.

So now that I am a “scuba diver,” I’m starting to look at traveling totally differently! There are so many incredible places to dive in indonesia, and I’m starting to make plans to get there. I can’t wait to explore the 71.1% of the earth’s surface that I have been missing!

When above water, Megan and I also had a great time! Of the three Gili Islands, Trawangan is known as the “party island.” While we didn’t exactly relive college spring break, we did have some delicious food and beverages on our evening strolls – there were good restaurants serving every kind of ethnic cuisine!

Megan was happy because there was diet coke:

I was happy because there were tapas:

And we were both happy to see the sunset on our last evening.

All in all, a great 6 days on Gili Trawangan – and in the surrounding ocean! A great kick-off to my mid-semester travels!

January 24, 2012

Ibu visit

by Tabitha Kidwell

Back in November, my mom lost her job – which was great! It was just a job to her, and leaving it freed her up to develop her spiritual direction practice, which is her passion. Also, it meant that she could take off one and a half weeks to come visit me! She was here for about 8 days, and it was wonderful!  She was a real trooper, having new and unfamiliar experiences and just rolling with the punches.  Whole fish with their heads on?  No problem.  Squat toilets?  How interesting! Fried rice and chicken wings for breakfast?  Better than American breakfast anyways!  She was great!

First, we headed up to Ubud, the “cultural capital” of Bali. As a “mature” hippie, my mom fit right in. We got to learn a lot about Balinese culture and life.

We learned how to make offerings:

We took a bike tour, which began with drinking Coffee Luwak The coffee beans are eaten by the sifat cat, processed by their digestion, and collected from their droppings to grind and make coffee.  Sounds gross, but it’s actually quite nice – and it has a price tag to prove it!

Then, we learned about how rice is grown, and mom almost fell in a rice paddy.  Luckily she was saved by the cute Dutch guy in the coffee photo.

This was before the fall, which is why she is still smiling.

We also got to visit an ancient banyan tree.

To round out our 4 days in Bali, we also learned to play the Gamelan, got spa treatments, and ate delicious organic food.  Then we headed to Java, where we went directly to Borobudur temple.  We stayed at the Manohara hotel, directly inside the temple complex, so we could just stroll over there in the morning.  The evening we arrived, we went and snuck into the smaller Mendut temple after it was closed for the evening.  I did the same thing back in October, and it is one of my favorite places on earth – so beautiful and peaceful in there.  Then we headed over to the Mendut Buddhist Monastery to pray evening prayer with the monks – very cool.

The next morning, we visited the temple early, before it was besieged by student groups trying to practice their English and take pictures with foreigners.  It was still quiet when we walked the huge, labrynth-like temple.

We got picked up from Borobudur and went to Salatiga, where my university had an action-packed 2 days for us.  First, we had a welcoming ceremony with five different dances prepared by my students (SO AWESOME!).

Including a dance where the girls brought out a gift for my mom.

Much to her surprise and embarrasment.

The next day, I feel like mom really got the full Indonesian experience, when my counterpart took us to see an objek wisata (tourist “object”) and we didn’t really understand what we were looking at.  A closed, off-season amusement park overlooking a lake full of grass?  It was unclear.  Then we ate fish and didn’t understand why we were there either.  But it was fun.

The full Indonesian experience continued when we got back to our hotel totally exhausted but still had to go have dinner at the house of the president of the university – which was a VERY kind and generous invitation.  I feel lucky to be at such a welcoming and thoughtful institution.  They were great to show us all over town and invite us to lunch and dinner and everything… but it might had been nice to sit by the hotel pool.  That sentiment somehow got lost in translation.

But no fear, after 2 jam-packed days in Salatiga, we headed back to Bali.  We stayed at a resort in Sanur, a quiet beach town on the west side of the island.  It was a splurge (okay, at $130, only a splurge compared to the even cheaper hotels we had been staying at) and it was awesome.  We had all our meals on the beach, saw the sunset from a floating gazebo, and generally unwound from a busy trip.

And then the trip was over and I was saying good-bye to Mom at the airport.   It was so sad to say good-bye and know that I won’t see her until July.  It was incredible to spend time with her here, and to show her my life here.  It was really the mother-daughter trip of a lifetime – unless she wants to do it again!  What do you think, Mom?

January 6, 2012

RIP MacBook

by Tabitha Kidwell

One of my greatest pleasures in life is using things up. For example, I relish the moment when I get to cut up open a tube of toothpaste or sunscreen to scrape out the last little bit. You can seriously get like a week’s worth of toothpaste out of there – try it!

So it was that way of thinking that prompted me to try to make my 2006 MacBook last through the year in Indonesia. It’s amazing the lengths I went to to keep using it, actually. It was doing okay when I came here, maybe a little slow, but no big problems.

Then, the wireless stopped picking up wifi, so I bought an ehternet cord and started plugging it in.

Then, the battery wouldn’t last longer than an hour, so I always kept it plugged in.

Then, the DVD drive started making funny noises, but it stopped so I ignored it.

Then, the right arrow key and right shift key stopped working, to I learned to type using only the left shift key, and used the mouse whenever I wanted to key forward.

Then, all my music disappeared from iTunes one morning, even though the files were still on my computer. I just reinstalled iTunes.

Then it started sometimes freezing, so I would restart it.

Then, it started making a noise like a spaceship taking off. This is the moment (you would have thought it would have been earlier, wouldn’t you?) that I thought “maybe something is wrong with my computer.”

And then it started doing CRAZY things: starting in safe mode, not accepting my password, arbitrarily choosing CAPS lock or lowercase, turning itself off whenever it felt like it, highlighting entire documents, making those spaceship noises.

I was still a little hopeful that something could be done to save it, so I took it to Australia to the Apple Store. A really nice employee who was the equivalent of a triage nurse intercepted me before I even got to the genius bar. He sat me down and explained quietly that after 5 years, Mac laptops are considered ‘vintage’ and they don’t even stock or make parts anymore, and that 5 years is about the life expectancy for a hard drive. He suggested I make peace, back up my files, and say my good-byes. He actually said the words “There’s nothing more we can do.”

So I said good-bye to my first laptop. I got it right after the Peace Corps, and may have initially been more excited about the free iPod that came with it. I lugged to wi-fi cafes all over Clermont-Ferrand in France. I let middle schoolers use it to practice French and Spanish and to doodle on the smart board for four years. I wrote all my grad school papers on it and carried it in a backpack when I biked to campus. I dropped it at least 3 times. The edges were scotch taped together. Ants may have been living in there. It served me really well, and it’s actually amazing that it made it as long as it did. I think bringing it to Indonesia and hoping it would last another year is basically the equivalent of cutting it open and squeezing the last little bit out.

Luckily, STAIN Salatiga (my university) has a laptop I can borrow for awhile. Even more luckily, I have enough savings to buy a new computer. And even MORE luckily, my mom is coming to visit in a week, so she can bring me a new MacBook Air from America! (No Apple stores in Indonesia!) I can’t wait! I wonder where this laptop will go and what adventures we will have together in the next 5 years (or more…)!

January 5, 2012

Holidays in Australia

by Tabitha Kidwell

I just got back from what had to be one of the best vacations ever, visiting my friend Laura B. Vary in Australia. I started by flying into Gold Coast Airport, near Brisbane, on Christmas eve. Laura picked me up and we walked around Brisbane a little bit, then went to her cousin’s family’s house for Christmas. Her cousin is American, his wife’s parents and brothers are all from New Zealand, and the brothers are married to Australians, so it was a very multi-cultural Christmas. Her cousin’s kids were just about the cutest, most thoughtful and polite children I have ever met:

Tatum, 16 months (who was mesmerized by her Elmo toy)

Mackenzie, 7 years old, who later that day painted my fingernails with her new beauty kit

And Hunter (9 years old) and Kingston (4 years old)

I bought little toys from Indonesia for each kid, and they all (well, the ones who could talk) seemed to make special, unprompted efforts to say thank you and play with it in my presence. This was the first Christmas I had spent with kids, you know, since I was a kid, and it was really special with kids like this. Are all kids like this?

Well, on the morning of the 26th, we packed up Laura’s rental car and headed south towards Sydney. We broke the trip into four days of 2-4 hours driving each, and stayed at some great beach towns along the way. First was Byron Bay, where we stayed in what can only be described as a hippie commune, had a relaxing afternoon at the beach, and ate incredible tapas while watching the sunset (a little tricky since this is the east coast)

This is also where I conducted a short-lived experiment with the “Australian Surfer Girl” Hairdo:

The next day, we moved on to Coffs Harbor, a town that mystified us.  People had told us that is was a really nice, touristy town, but after Byron Bay, it just felt sleepy and run down.  We redeemed it, though, by having delicious fish and chips on the harbor pier.

Then we walked past the pier, on a breakwater to Muttonbird Island, where thousands of Muttonbirds come to nest underground. After the walk, I understand why they have to nest underground – it was windy like I have never seen wind before. If there had been children with me I literally would have worried about them blowing away.  Laura wished she had worn a skirt with fewer of the properties of a kite.

Then we moved on to Port Macquarie, where I got to see my first Koala up close and personal at a Koala Hospital. Laura had described them to me as “walking stuffed animals,” and they totally lived up. So darn cute!

We had a beautiful beachside picnic in Port Macquarie, then spent the afternoon at the beach (again, very windy).

That night, we walked around town, and had drinks/tapas at several nice places, most with views like this one behind Laura.

The next day, we moved on to Newcastle, the second-largest town (behind Sydney) in the state of New South Wales. It was pretty empty this week, though, with everyone off work and out of town. We took another breakwater promenade to the end of another (former) island.

Then we walked all over town trying to decide on the best place to eat. We decided on the Customs House, and we both had amazing burgers. Then, Laura made the mistake of sending me inside to order one dessert for us to share. Oops, looks like two desserts came out. Darn.

On our way out of Newcastle, we decided to get one last wildlife fix before heading to Sydney. We went to a wildlife reserve, where we felt a little threatened by the peacocks walking around the place like they owned it.

And saw more adorable koalas. I dare you not to love them.

And I got to see my first kangaroo!

Then, we headed to Sydney, and decided to start it out right by going for drinks at the Sydney Tower, in their 360 degree-rotating bar.

There’s the tower the next day! (We picked the right day to go, I think)

We ended up at the Sydney waterfront that night (maybe on a little champagne high) and decided to get the “Chocolate Indulgence” platter at Guerlain’s restaurant. I believe that was the last time we ate dessert for the trip. Probably enough dessert had been eaten for a year over the previous 48 hours.

The next day, we walked all around Surrey Hills, King’s Cross, Darlinghurst, and the Harbour area, and decided to reward ourselves with one of Harry’s Cafe de Wheel’s famous “tiger” pies. in Australia, pies are always savory, with vegetables or meat inside, rather than sweet. The “Tiger” came with mashed peas, potatoes, and gravy on top. It was amazing!

The next night was New Years. We had Indian for dinner, then walked around the neighborhood we were staying (which was a little removed from downtown Sydney, but still on the water) to find a good spot to watch the fireworks. We saw a couple of parks that were full of teenagers trying to drink illegally, which would have been fine, but then Laura came across a little alleyway. The alleyway led to a set of stairs that basically dead ended into the harbor. It was a public access point for an underwater cable, about 6 feet across, and Laura and I sat right there, our feet dangling over the water. We were joined later by a group of friendly Australians who had come across the same spot 7 years ago and had come back ever since. They said that every year, a few tourists managed to find it, and they were happy to share their spot and their snacks with us. I knew the fireworks were going to be good, but that was the understatement of the year (of 2011, that is. 2012’s understatement remains to be made). There were 6 barges in the harbor, and each let loose an identical fireworks display. One alone was way better than any fireworks I have ever seen in my life before. In fact, they made me feel like the fireworks I had seen in the past weren’t even fireworks. Plus, they had fireworks coming out of the Sydney Harbor Bridge! It was amaaaaaaazing and these photos can’t begin to do it justice.

Here’s us at our spot. You can’t really see, but that’s the harbor right behind us.

And then it was basically time to go home, after an amazing trip. A friend asked what the favorite part of the trip was, and (with the obvious exception of the fireworks) I couldn’t begin to choose only one. Everything was amazing. But it was especially nice to be more or less back in my own culture. I was nice being able to blend in and not always attract hoards of cell-phone-toting adolescents who want their picture with me. It was nice to just be able to speak English. It was nice to escape from the many things that make daily life in Indonesia really fun and exciting but also really exhausting. I needed a break, but now I am ready for 2012 in Indonesia! There are so many good things ahead of me this year!

January 1, 2012

Uberlist 2012

by Tabitha Kidwell

Here it is: Uberlist 2012! Wish me luck! (I think this year is way easier and more fun than last year!)

1. Change passwords to be more secure
2. Add addresses to e-mail contact list
3. Join Google +

4. Do a little work on Violet Blanket while home

5. Figure out retirement savings plan
6. Run credit report 3 times annually

7. Finish Course in Miracles
8. Begin ‘Bible in 3 years’ plan
9. Spend 2 weeks at Taize
10. Do weekend meditation course at Mendut Buddhist Temple

11. Improve signature
12. Respond to e-mails within 48 hours
13. Take Scoopy in for required maintenance
14. Adjust mirrors on Scoopy every time I ride
15. Stop doing that thing on my motorcycle where I don’t look both ways on purpose because I think if I don’t look, nothing will be there.

16. Teach Speaking 2 spring semester
17. Teach Media in Language Teaching sp. Semester
18. Do 1 lecture per month for students at STAIN
19. Do 1 lecture per month for teachers at STAIN
20. Do 1 program every 2 months at American corner IAIN Semarang
21. Do 1 program every 2 months at American corner UGM Yogya
22. Do 1 program every 2 months at American corner UMY Yogya
23. Read all issues of Forum
24. Finish article on Student-Centered teaching
25. Write article on common mistakes
26. Write article on interventions to common mistakes
27. Get an article published somewhere besides Register
28. Present at a conference besides TEFLIN
29. Renew in Indonesia
30. Figure out a job for fall 2013

31. Go to 2 concerts of bands I have never seen live before.
32. Learn one (easy) song on the guitar

33. Learn US Presidents in order
34. (Re)Learn World Capitals
35. Learn US state capitals
36. Learn names, main characters & plot summaries of Shakespere’s plays
37. Learn English monarchs
38. Learn periodic table of the elements
39. Take Jeopardy online test

40. Read 20 books
41. Read The Language Instinct
42. Read Madame Bovary in French
43. Re-read Le Petit Prince in French
44. Re-read l’étranger in French
45. Read La Casa de los Espiritus in Spanish
46. Re-read Cien años de Soledad in Spanish
47. Read Maria in Spanish
48. Finish Bahasa Indonesia level 3 at UKSW
49. Begin Bahasa Indonesia level 4 at UKSW
50. Finish Basic Indonesian book with Pak H.
51. Begin to study Arabic
52. Memorize 4 poems

53. Chew food longer
54. Avoid overeating to the point of discomfort
55. Visit Dr. Miely (dentist) once
56. Visit Dr. Ansel (dermatologist) once
57. Visit Dr. Benjamin (general) once
58. Visit Dr. Lawyer (chiropractor) once
59. Get massage from Jayne Wilson

60. Do 18 mile marathon training run
61. Do 19 mile marathon training run
62. Do 20 mile marathon training run
63. Run Marathon
64. Run 5K
65. Hike Mt. Merbabu
66. Hike Mt. Merapi

67. Chop off hair
69. Write two blog posts per month
70. Turn 30 without complaining out loud

71. Record Grandmother’s life story
72. Visit Katie
73. Go somewhere fun with college friends
74. Meet Baby Gohr
75. Meet Baby Zaranac
76. Meet Baby Kiefer
77. Meet Ella Walker
78. Meet KMS students for Bastille Day Reunion

79. Take a picture in Indonesia with the Columbus Dispatch & send it in
80. Get open water diving certification
81. Go to Gednung Songo
82. Go to Dieng Plateau
83. Go to Bromo
84. Go to Pacitan
85. Go to Jamu Jago tour in Semarang
86. Do Jamu tour in Yogya
87. Go to Affandi museum in Yogya
88. Go to Sulawesi
89. Go to Kalimantan
90. Go to Sumatra
91. Go to Lombok
92. Go to Singapore

93. Go to Red, White, and Boom
94. Go to a Clippers game
95. Go to Ohio State Fair
96. Go to UA 4th parade
97. Go to Doo Dah Parade
98. Go to Zoombeezi Bay
99. Go to Gallery Hop
100. Visit Camp Akita
101. Watch all the films nominated for best oscar
102. Go on road trip with no pre-determined destination
103. Eat brown rice at Chipotle
104. Eat at La Casita
105. Eat all 5 daily specials at Press Grill
106. Eat at North Star Café
107. Eat at Figlio
108. Eat at Dirty Frank’s
109. Eat at Taste of Bali
110. Eat beef jerkey & drink a Stella Artois at Char Bar
111. Finish a Thursday NYT crossword without looking at the answers.
112. Write Uberlist 2013