Archive for June, 2012

June 17, 2012

On the Way Home Part One: Greek Isle

by Tabitha Kidwell

In The Odyssey, Odysseus’ last stop on his voyage home was the island of Corfu. It was the first stop on my journey, but I could see pretty easily how the island could earn a cameo in a Greek epic. I met up with my friend Libby and her friend Natalie, both of whom teach at an International School in Rabat, Morrocco, and we basically spent a whole week in Agios Gordios, a tiny little tourist stop on the Ionian Sea.

It was BEAUTIFUL. We didn’t do all that much – basically just ate delicious food…

…and hung out on the beach…

… and one day, we took a hike.

But the real adventures involved a guy named Mikael. The sign outside his restaurant enticed us:

What was so special about the Greek dancing? We would soon find out, and also learn that not only the dancing was special! We walked in, sat down, and Mikael greeted us and invited us to the kitchen to see the specials. He showed us dish after mouthwatering dish, explaining that almost all the ingredients came from his farm. He even invited us to come milk the goats! I assume this a a schtick he does with all the tourists, and it worked – we were charmed. Most people, though, probably don’t agree to actually come milk the goats. But first, the dancing:

Then, the farm:

It was an amazing week in Greece! Next, I spent a couple days with my friend Suzi and her family in Dijon, France. This included my first ever one-on-one babysitting of a toddler. As you can see from this photo, he is still alive:

And next I spent two weeks in the Taizé community in Burgandy… for more on that, see the next post!

June 9, 2012

Western Civ 101

by Tabitha Kidwell

Maybe the best part of traveling is coming home again. Thinks you took for granted before are like miracles now! Currently in the middle of a 10 hour layover in Berlin, I am completely overwhelmed by the wonders of western civilization. For example:

When I was a kid, I used to dream of a water fountain that distributed chocolate milkshake. Now, I am amazed that they dispense potable water. My dreams have gotten so small…

The breakfast served to me on the Air Berlin flight blew me away. No wonder Indonesian people don’t understand why westerners like bread so much… it’s because they have never tasted bread like this! It was warm and crusty and delicious, and it came with real butter and cheese! And the coffee! After a year in a country of sugary sweet instant coffee (ironically, coffee in Java is terrible – the good stuff is all exported), I am now a black coffee drinker. Why would you put anything in there? It’s so amazing already! Of course, then I took a bite of the melon and promtly spat it out. Tasteless! Why bother! I could find better melons than that sitting on the side of the road in Indonesia. So, to tally up: Indonesia, 1; Western civilization, 2.

There are tall, attractive men everywhere. Just walking around. In the wild. It used to be, I would get excited to see just one at the Semarang airport. I’m really trying hard not to leer or look like I’m about to eat a steak around all these European hotties, but it’s really hard.

The air is different here. I left the terminal and am sitting in a patch of grass by the car park. It’s 8:15 AM, and the air has a cool crispness to it. It feels like spring. I guess it still is spring here. Seasons! Brilliant!

In Indonesia, I developed an unhealthy obsession with the red Wall’s ice cream coolers. And what did I find in the Berlin airport but…

And the internet is so fast! I love it here! The only thing that could make me leave the Berlin airport is a dream vacation on a Greek Isle… 😉

June 8, 2012

Sampai Nanti, Salatiga…

by Tabitha Kidwell

I’m here in the Jakarta Airport at Starbucks (or, as I like to think of it, the American Embassy) waiting to leave Indonesia! I can’t believe this day is here already! It seems like just yesterday I was packing and trying to learn Indonesian from my iPod. I’m so excited to be going home, but I’m also excited to be coming back in August. My students and colleagues had a bunch of end-of-year celebrations for me, and I couldn’t imagine having my final goodbye celebrations! The last few weeks since the triathlon were crazy with grading and good-byes (or see-you-laters, I kept saying). I’m totally exhausted, but I better sleep on the plane, because I have an exciting few weeks ahead of me. I’m en route now to Corfu, Greece (via Abu Dhabi and Berlin on a brutal 36-hour itinerary) to meet my lovely and vivacious friend Libby Cox. Libby and I were in the Peace Corps together, and now she is teaching English at an International school in Morocco. The original plan was for me to come visit Lib in Rabat, but she decided she needed a vacation, too, so we’re meeting on a Greek isle for 5 days! Libby and I traveled together on the way home from Madagascar, too – 2 weeks of mayhem in Italy. Now that we’re older and wiser… I predict we will cause the same amount of mayhem but now be able to afford more drinks! I see this going very well…

After Corfu, I will fly to France to meet my friend Suzi (also from the Peace Corps and also privy to the mayhem in Italy) who now lives in Dijon, France with her husband and son. After the Peace Corps, Suzi and I lived in France for a year, so we will reenact the wine-drinking and cheese-eating of that year! And then I will go to Taizé, an ecumenical monastery in Dijon that invites young people to come and sing, pray, and connect to God through silence. I’ll be there two weeks – the second week totally in silence! I think it’ll be a great way to process and cap off this incredible year!

So I have some incredible adventures ahead of me. But the truth is, these travels aren’t the most exciting thing coming up. I’ve traveled so much this year, and have been to so many amazing places, that now exciting and exotic is the new normal. My friends often say things like “I envy you, your life is so exciting.” I do appreciate the sentiment and their support, and I do feel really blessed. I’m certainly not complaining. But in truth, right now I’m envying them! What am I excited about? Getting home to Columbus, Ohio on July 2! Eating hot dogs at baseball games, having Stella Artois at happy hour, going to Panera with my grandma, going on runs with my friends. I can’t wait to have normal, boring life again. Enough adventure for me… at least until next August!

June 5, 2012

Keeping up Appearances

by Tabitha Kidwell

I’ve never been an especially glamorous person. The fanciest look I can pull off successfully is “off-duty ballerina” (think scarves and buns). But I used to at least blow-dry my hair and wear make-up in America. That has all gone out the window here. I already attract a lot of attention as a tall white person here, so it just didn’t seem necessary anymore. Plus, I’m the only woman on campus without her head covered, so I don’t want to freak out everyone by unleashing my beautiful shampoo-commercial hair (ok, by that I mean my too-frizzy-in-this-humidity hair, but still). So I usually pull my hair back and wear long pants and tunic-y shirts. I usually look like this:

Nevertheless, people are pretty easy to please. I wear a ribbon in my hair and people say “Miss Tabitha, you are so beautiful.” If they only knew what they are missing out on!

But I’m worried about my upcoming return to the US of A and civilization as I know it. To fit in again, I’m going to have to really step up my game. I think I may have forgotten how. To help, I’m trying to ease back in. I blow dried my hair the other day and couldn’t stop running my fingers through it. And when I put make-up on to go to the airport for the Triathlon, I caught myself stealing glances in any reflective surface I could find: Hey, good-looking! It’s amazing what changing your outside appearance can do for your mood and your self-image. I had forgotten what it was like to feel good about your appearance. For some reason, wearing make-up or having pretty hair really did put an extra spring in my step. Let’s hope it’ll put enough spring in to let me compete in America. If worse comes to worse, I’ll just pretend I’m an off-duty ballerina. From somewhere where they wear tunics.

June 1, 2012

Race Report: Bintan Triathlon

by Tabitha Kidwell

Well, it’s been a week since the triathlon, and I think I am fully recovered! (Actually, I went for my first post-race run this morning, and now my foot hurts! What gives? I guess it’s okay, I can chill out for the next few weeks and not run, but I wanted to get back into more frequent running to start marathon training in July. Maybe this is a sign that I need to chill out. I’ll try.)

How was the race? In a word – HARD! I wasn’t prepared for how hard it would be. I knew I could do each event individually without too many problems, but doing them one right after another proved to be really difficult! I probably should have expected as much, huh? I was surprised at how hard the transitions were – I thought “Hey, no problem, just changing your shoes and putting on a helmet… I could do that when I was, like, 4 years old.” I didn’t know how hard it would be after swimming half a mile, or how tricky it would be to hop off the bike and run into the transition area – my legs felt like jelly, like I was just learning to walk.

Well, to start from the beginning, the swim was pretty rough at first, with the tangle of humanity all charging into the water at the same time. I had never done a running start to a swim, so starting a little out of breath was a challenge right from the beginning, not to mention the 200 other competitors kicking me in the face. It took until I got around the halfway buoy and started heading back that I found a good rhythm, though trying to find myself a spot among the other competitors caused me some trouble with swimming straight. I would try to move a little to the right to get some space, then would look up and see that I was headed almost parallel to the shore rather than perpendicular. Oops. That probably wasted some energy. Direction just isn’t an issue when you’re swimming alone in a pool. So some more open water swimming is definitely called for.

But after only 19:11, the swim was over and I raced out of the water to the transition area. I had a pretty slow transition (2:31), because I forgot to eat my energy gel until the end, and then wasted some time drinking water to choke it down. I should have been doing that while putting on my shoes, helmet, gloves, etc., but I got caught up in the moment and forgot. So, still a bit out of breath, I ran my bike out of the transition area, hopped on, and pedaled up the hill that marked the beginning of the bike course (yes, pretty annoying to start with a hill, but if you are swimming in the ocean, the only way to go is up.). There were rolling hills throughout the 12.4 miles. When I biked part of the course the day before, I thought the hills would be no problem, but I definitely noticed them during the race! All-in-all, though, the bike course was pretty nice. I did the 20k in 51:51, then headed back into the transition area to drop off my bike and get ready for the run.

I haven’t started using clips, so I was already wearing my running shoes, meaning this transition was basically just a matter of dropping the bike and heading out. I think I had drunk too much water on the bike – I was a little sloshy in the tummy to start out. It was an odd sensation, too, to start a run out of breath and tired, so the run that I thought would just be autopilot was much more difficult than your usual Sunday morning 5K. Those rolling hills were back, too, and I have to admit that I walked up the first couple. At least I wasn’t the only one – I was passed while walking by a woman whose race bib listed her name as “Flash,” then she started walking and I passed her, then she passed me, then I passed her, etc., for the first 2K or so. We also passed a bunch of dudes in fancy matching biking jerseys – since the men had started 15 minutes earlier, that meant they were really the back of the pack, and that maybe buying that fancy jersey was maybe the most race prep they had done. But, hey, I still passed them! After a hilly first half, we were headed back to the beach, and it got a little easier as I got into a good rhythm. It felt like I was running really absurdly slow, but my chip says I ran the 5K in 30:11, which is basically just about the speed I run most days. So not too slow at all, especially counting those walking spells.

When the finish line was in sight, I was ready to make a break for it – unfortunately, that meant I accidently ran into the Elephant-riding-area in a delirious attempt to head straight for the finish when the course actually curved around. Oops. So I had to double back to avoid the elephant, but then I headed down the chute to finish at 1:44:51! I was really happy with that time! Actually, upon finishing, I was just happy I didn’t have to move anymore, but once I ate a banana and regained my mental facilities, I was pretty psyched! For a first triathlon, my goal was really just to get through it, but I thought my time might have been closer to 2 hours. I was pretty psyched that nothing had gone wrong with my bike or transitions, and that everything had just gone smoothly. Right afterwards, I told myself I wouldn’t torture myself like that again, but then 3 hours later I was already googling races for this summer. I guess another tri is in my future. It seems that to become a successful triathlete, you have to have selective amnesia and be able to block out the parts of the race where you were thinking things like “This is terrible! Why am I doing this? I hate myself.” If that’s the case, I guess you can consider me a triathlete! Bring it on, swim, bike, run!

Ready to go! (Or I thought so at least!)

After the race

At the end of an amazing day – check out that sky!