Archive for ‘Travel in Indonesia’

January 30, 2014

A Charmed Life

by Tabitha Kidwell

In a previous blog, I mentioned how much I had loved camp growing up, and how much it influenced me. What I didn’t mention was that, my first week away at camp, I spent the first afternoon huddled in my bunk crying. I was paralyzed by homesickness until some cabinmates came in and invited me to play go fish.

It’s so lovely how life works, that you grow and change after every experience, becoming completely unlike what you were before, while still holding that former self within. 8-year-old Tabitha was afraid even to venture to the craft cabin alone; 31-year-old Tabitha doesn’t think twice about jetting off to the other side of the world or plunging to the bottom of the ocean. My life has been a series of experiences that have helped me build this independence, though it wasn’t always pleasant. When I left to study abroad in France my sophomore year of college, I sobbed as I went through security and turned back to wave goodbye to my mom. In Madagascar as a peace corps volunteer, I spent my 23rd birthday sulking alone in my concrete house while all my college friends were tailgating at the OSU-Miami football game back home. But now, I feel comfortable wherever I end up, and I go with the confidence that, even if something more exciting is happening at home, I’m exactly where I need to be. I’m so grateful that I have been able to build skills that help me feel as comfortable in the jungle of Indonesia or on the streets of Paris as in the hills of southeast Ohio or on High street. Actually, I probably feel more comfortable when traveling – every person you meet gives you the chance to reinvent yourself, and every new situation brings the promise of adventure.

This trip to Indonesia has certainly delivered on that promise – I saw things on this trip I had never seen before, and that I didn’t know if I would ever see in this lifetime. It began on the plane, when the stewardess looked out the window, shrieked with joy, and called me over to see what she had seen: the Aurora Borealis, visible as we flew over the north pole. She rushed down the aisle, showing everyone, visibly beaming. I asked her later if it was the first time she had seen the northern lights, and she looked at me perplexed and answered “No, almost every week.” Maybe seeing them just never gets old, but I think she loved being able to share the experience with her passengers, for many of whom this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was as delighted by her reaction as by the Aurora itself!

Then, the camps took me all the way to Papua, the Malukus, and Northern Sulawesi. Papua, the eastern-most province in Indonesia, shares an island with Papua New Guinea, which is no longer even part of Asia. The Malukus perch between the waters of the Pacific and the Indian Oceans. I felt like I had been carried to a land that was “in no one continent and in no one sea,”* but truly on the edge of the world. Had I gone any farther away from home, I would have gotten closer. After a day spent scuba diving with my friend Jessica in Ambon, just as we were getting back to the resort, maybe 100 dolphins swam alongside our boat, jumping and twirling out of the water. They played and swam within 100 yards of the boat for a good 15 minutes before continuing on their way. The boat captain and dive guides were as thrilled as us; despite taking tourists out weekly, they said they had only seen so many dolphins a handful of times.

Then, I traveled to Bunaken, one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, with mountains rising from the sea and coral walls sinking to the bottom fo the sea. To complete my trilogy of stunning sights, and to balance out the vast, atmospheric phenomena and Disney-esque animal migration, I got to see my first seahorse while scuba diving here. He was a tiny little guy no bigger than my pinky fingernail, and pure white. I would have swum right by if my guide hadn’t pointed him out as he clung to the coral.

All of this has helped me to feel that I lead a really charmed life. I’ve had so many incredible opportunities, but I don’t feel like I have gone out and chased them – I feel like they have just come to me at the right time. This trip to Indonesia kind of fell right into my lap, in fact. Through all the years, though, the most important thing that I have learned is that who you are with is more important than who you are. When I think back to this trip to Indonesia, I’ll probably remember the aurora, the dolphins, and the seahorse, but I’ll also remember the people I shared those sights with. The charming students at the camps and my talented fellow counselors will loom even larger in my memory. Those girls at camp so many years ago taught me a lesson I still am learning today: there is always a new friend to be made and a new relationship to be built, if you just accept the invitation.

*Laurence Blair, Ring of Fire

July 13, 2013

Lessons Learned: Travels with Debbie in Bali and Vietnam

by Tabitha Kidwell

On our month-long journey through southeast Asia, Debbie and I met one young backpacker who said that he had dropped out of college and used the money he would have spent on tuition to travel around the world. He said he could learn more traveling than he ever could in a classroom. While I’m not about to pawn my diplomas for bus fare, the kid is on to something. My varied experiences in countries around the globe have helped me grow as a person and gain incredible lessons about compassion, justice, and human nature. Also, it’s helped me get really good at trivia.

In any case, Debbie and I definitely learned a lot on our adventures. Here are some of the lessons we will take home:

Be decisive.
Ho Chi Minh City is known for its crazy traffic. There are apparently more motorbikes than residents! With minimal traffic regulations, this means you need to be daring if you want to cross the street. What seemed to work best was to start walking when you saw any tiny break in the traffic and to continue at a steady pace. Hesitation can lead to catastrophe – the vehicle darting around you will end up careening directly into you.




Take a rest.
This a phrase that Indonesian people say all the time. (It’s a close translation of a common Indonesian verb). I had assimilated it into English without realizing that it was awkward English, until Debbie pointed it out to me. Nevertheless, after spending way too many days on this trip walking around in blinding sun and 100 degree heat, we came to see the brilliance of this advice. We would walk a bit, then have some fruit…


…then walk some more, have some beer and donuts…


…walk a little more, have some more beer…


You get the idea. Days we didn’t follow this advice and tried to have more ambitious plans, we typically ended up like this:



Pay Attention.
Walking was a difficult task in Vietnam – what sidewalks do exist are encroached upon from one side by shopkeeepers plying their wares, and on the other side by motorcycles looking for parking spots. So we spent a lot of time looking down. We had to remind ourselves to take the time and make the effort to look up and notice the many wonderful things going on all around us.  If we weren’t noticing it in exotic Vietnam, we realized we must just walk by magical sights at home all the time.

Like these sweet motobikes…



… this sidewalk barber shop…



… and this street-side hang out.



Also this transcendental advice…



…these cats sleeping in a basin…



… and these bird cages hanging at the park.



This ambitious motorbike…





… and this guy.


Don’t be afraid.
Growing up, I was kinda a weenie. I mean, I was in the marching band and national honor society. I didn’t exactly live on the edge. I was never one to look before I leapt. But we did lots of scary things on the vacation, and the more we did, the easier they seemed to be!

Like riding a motorbike on terrible Vietnamese roads…



and drinking whatever is in this plastic bag.




Holding this snake…



… and crossing this bridge.



Jumping off this boat…



… and playing with this alligator.


Be attractive
Debbie and I kicked off out travels by meeting up with 9 other ladies from the English Language Fellow program. For our last hoorah in Bali, we were ready for full-on-sleepover-girl-talk-style-fun. The best day of vacation may have been when Debbie shared her American junk food and People magazines and we caught up on all the celebrity gossip and high fructose corn syrup we had been missing. Poolside.


And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, I pulled out the “Angel romance cards” my mom had sent me for Christmas. They were like tarot cards – they were supposed to give you messages from the angels about your love life. I don’t remember most of the advice we got, except for Deirdre’s card that told her to “just be attractive.” This was memorable for its apparent absurdity: “Oh, the reason I don’t have a boyfriend is because I’m not attractive. Let me just change that real quick.” As the advice sunk in, though, we realized its brilliance. We spent the rest of the trip trying to be attractive, and look how well we did:





Okay, this was mostly just a shameless excuse to put up of pictures of us looking hot, but it did become our catchphrase. “Just be attractive!” We attracted lots of vacationing fun, at least!

As you can see, the Bali/Vietnam trip was a blast!  Most important lesson learned:  Tabitha and Debbie are great travel partners!



June 16, 2013

Good-byes and Travel Plans

by Tabitha Kidwell

Last Wednesday, I went to Singapore to meet my friend Debbie, who will be traveling with me until I fly home on July 11. I can’t believe she has only been here a week – it seems like we have done so much already!

She got a makeover as a Javanese princess for my going away party…




…we went to church…

We attended my students’ English drama…

…and my going away lunch…


…and rode around town on my scoopy.

We even visited the Gedung Songo temples and got asked for our picture bunches of times!


And yesterday we flew to Bali, where we visited Ulu Watu, this beautiful Cliffside temple…


And picked up our marathon packets…

We also took a quick run with our friend Ryan Hall and some elite Kenyans!

We also took a quick run with our friend Ryan Hall and some elite Kenyans!

And drove to meet my friends in Ubud.


We’ll run the marathon on Sunday, and will be here in Ubud until Tuesday. Then we go to Nusa Lembongan, an island off of Bali, for 4 days. Then we will go watch my friends compete in the Bali triathlon before flying to Vietman on June 23.

In Vietnam, we’ll spend a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, then do a bike tour of the Mekong Delta. We’ll spend a few days on the island of Phu Quoc before going to Hanoi and doing a boat cruise through Halong Bay. On June 9, we’ll fly back to Singapore where my bike is in storage. Debbie will fly home on the night of June 10, and I will follow on the morning of July 11, but we will both arrive home around 5 PM on the 11th. It should be a great month!

May 4, 2013

On vacation… again…

by Tabitha Kidwell

Haven’t written for awhile… I was traveling during the mid-term exam period. First I was in Jakarta to give a presentation at the Police Language School, then Jackie, JEss, and I went to Bangka Island, off of Sumatra, to compete in a traithlon and relax on the beach. Then, I spent a week at beautiful Lake Toba before presenting at Medan State University. Then I was back in Salatiga for a quick week of class. And now I am back again in Ubud, Bali, with my sister Katie and her fiancé Chris, who will be spending the month doing research at a hospital in Bandung. That’s right – I’m on vacation AGAIN!

And it’s not going to stop anytime soon. I’ll be in Salatiga to teach every week until the end of the semester in June, but I’ll be away every weekend in May, either meeting KAtie and Chris somewhere, or at the end-of-year fellow conference in Makassar. Then I’ll be in Salatiga for just over a week before I go to Singapore to meet my friend Debbie, who will come back for my going away extravaganza week before we travel to Bali and Vietnam!

So, as you can see, being an English Language Fellow in Indonesia is a pretty sweet gig. I can manage to teach all my required classes and present at extra conferences and still travel to amazing places, like when I got to travel to ACCESS camps during January an dFebruary. I was only able to get all the way to Lake Toba, in North Sumatra, because I was presenting in Medan. It’s going to be rough when I go back to America and have to just work at one job in one place all the time. But that is in the future…

At this point, I’m something of a professional vacationer, and I have learned a lot about what kind of vacation I enjoy. I like to be active – to be able to run, bike, swim, scuba dive, do yoga, kayak, whatever. Even better if I am active for a reason, like a race, a bike tour, or climbing a mountain. I like to eat healthy food with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I like time to read and relax on a comfortable chair with a beautiful view. I like to have internet access. I like eating gelato. I like getting spa treatments. I like cold drinks.

More importantly, I have learned what I do NOT like on vacations I don’t like to walk around when it it hot. I don’t like to be sweaty. I don’t ike insects or rodents. I don’t liek for people on the street to pressure me into taking a tour, eating at a restaurant, or buying a csouvenir. I don’t like hills (I do like mountains.). I don’t like feeling compelled to visit obscure toutist attractions just because they are “famous.” I don’t like to be thursty or hungry. I don’t like too many choices on menus. I don’t like carrying heavy things. I don’t like stray dogs. I don;t like unreliable public transportation.

So, I think that sums it all up for me. I’m glad I figured it all out so I don’t have to waste my precious vacation time in the future carrying heavy things in hot places and being pressured to take unreliable transport to an obscure tourist attraction while being pursued uphill by stray dogs. No, if you will excuse me, I need to go eat some gelato.

March 2, 2013

Planes, Trains, Automobiles, and…

by Tabitha Kidwell

Yesterday, I traveled from Malang, in East Java, to Salatiga, in Central Java. I started my journey by being driven to the train station by my friend Iris on her motorbike:


Then I took the train:


I was so impressed - the chairs could rotate around so you could face a group of 4 or face forward.  Brilliant!

I was so impressed – the chairs could rotate around so you could face a group of 4 or face forward. Brilliant!

Then I took a beck (a bicycle rickshaw):


Then I took a bus:


Then I took an angkot (a city-wide mini-bus):


Then I walked the last three blocks to my house!

In addition to all that, in the last month, I have used the following modes of transportation: airplane, taxi, private car, motorcycle taxi, ferry, speedboat, carpool, bicycle, and horse cart. Indonesia is great because they seem to embrace every new option without losing the previous ones. I regularly see motorcycles zipping around SUVs trying to pass horse carts that are held up by bicycle rickshaws. This apparently necessitates these signs at the highway on-ramp:

1, no walking, 2, no motorcycles...

1, no walking, 2, no motorcycles…

...3, no rickshaws, 4, no push carts, 5, no pull carts...

…3, no rickshaws, 4, no push carts, 5, no pull carts, 6, no bicycles, 7, no bicycle rickshaws…

... 6, no... um... covered wagons?

… 8, no… um… covered wagons?

So it looks like horse carts are totally allowed! Or maybe they need a few more signs…

February 8, 2013

6 Reasons Erica Carlson is awesome!

by Tabitha Kidwell

Erica and I had an amazing trip through Bali and Central Java – we had some kind of fun adventure everyday! I can’t even begin to relate everything amazing that we did, so I will just list some of the many ways that Erica Carlson is amazing!

1. She wanted to work!

Erica quit her job teaching secondary English last year, and now makes way more money working as a children’s entertainer! She makes balloon animals, does story-times, and even does magic tricks! Because of this, she has a flexible schedule and was able to come for almost three weeks. That meant I had a couple of work commitments while I was here, but it wasn’t a problem at all – Erica was totally willing to help! Plus, her M.Ed. and children’s entertainment know-how made her a great asset! As a counselor at an Access Microscholarship English Camp in far flung Kupang, she knocked the kids’ socks off with a ballooning workshop.


She also helped lead a workshop for elementary school English teachers in Salatiga about maximizing their English use in class. Her presence helped so much – and made me enjoy “working” a lot more!


2. She’s like the Pied Piper

As if working on her vacation wasn’t enough, Erica also did free-lance children’s entertainment walking down the street. When we rented a television on the sidewalk for an hour of karaoke, the kids came out of the woodwork and Erica charmed them!



She also gave an impromptu English lesson in the middle of a market to some middle school girls.


3. She wasn’t afraid to try new things

I’m pretty adapted to life here, and not much grosses me out or scares me anymore, but I will acknowledge that there are many aspects of life here that are distressing or anxiety-inducing, like fish with the heads (and eyeballs) still intact, squat toilets, and motor-biking in traffic.


Erica was up to any challenge we came accross, even daring to eat gado-gado, mixed-vegetable and peanut sauce dish, at my favorite (but somewhat dirty) roadside stand. I guess she felt like she had to get her money’s worth from that Typhoid vaccine!


4. She made me try new things

Again, since I’m pretty at home here, sometimes I skip the “touristy” things, but I think I often miss out on fun things because of my “cooler than a tourist” mentality. Having Erica here gave me a great excuse to do touristy things I wouldn’t do
otherwise, like a Balinese cooking class…


…and a Batik painting class…


…and making a wish while walking blindfolded through the Banyan trees in the Yogya town square…


… and getting a fish pedicure!


She also gave me a great excuse to do adventurous activities that I might not have made time for otherwise, like climbing Mt. Agung in time for sunrise…



…and scuba diving off the east coast of Bali.


But, perhaps most importantly, we used our many evenings together to get through the first two seasons of Downton Abbey. Is it sad if that was my favorite part of her trip here? Maybe, but it was amazing! Matthew and Mary! Mr. Bates and Anna! Sybil and the driver! Edith and the weird-face-bandage soldier!

5. She kept her cool in the heat of the moment

Like when there was a cockroach in her suitcase, or when a giant bee was buzzing around us. Or when there was a baby cockroach on her iPhone. Or when the giant toke lizard was in our hotel room in Ubud. Or when a giant spider was hiding on the scoop she was using to pour water over herself to take a shower. Or when there was no water to even take a shower. NBD. She’s tough! Plus, she took care of me when I felt sick and only wanted to do this:


6. She noticed things I have started to ignore

Erica brought a fresh perspective and reminded me of all the things that make life charmingly wonderful here, like the wildlife…



…and the funny statues…


… and the “traditional Balinese Starbucks.”


… and the amazing sunrises and sunsets.


All in all, it was am amazing trip! I miss having her here, but I’m comforted that we’ll get to see each other again when I go home in just a few months. Especially since then we can watch Downton Abbey season 3!

Cheers to a great trip!

Cheers to a great trip!


January 12, 2013

Finals Week

by Tabitha Kidwell

My 12 years of public schooling, 4 years of university, and 9 years of teaching add up to 25 years that my life has been set by the academic calendar – my silver anniversary! Over all those years, a few patterns have come to hold true, for teachers and students alike. For one, the first week back from a holiday is always miserable – given a taste of freedom, it is just painful to return to the shackles of the daily grind. The last week of a semester, when everyone just wants to be finished, is equally miserable, but with the promise of freedom lying just beyond that last exam.

So last week was notable because it was both the first week back from vacation and the last week of the semester. A freedom-misery sandwich, if you will. This strange occurrence happened because those two weeks I was galavanting around Bali and the Gilis were actually only my vacation – since I’m at a Muslim university, they don’t take the week of Christmas off. The Monday and Tuesday of each week were national holidays, though, and I hear not much got done Wednesday-Saturday anyways. After those 2 weeks off, I was dreading returning to work on Monday, especially given the two sessions of Speaking 3 final exam presentations and the pile of Evaluation of Language Teaching assignments that had been shoved under my office door. That first day, I ended up listening to almost 8 hours of presentations, leaving me way too wiped to work my way out from under this pile of papers:


Unfortunately, out of foolish devotion to assessment for learning, I had promised my students that I would turn their assignments around in time for them to revise them and submit them in their final portfolio, so I graded all morning on Tuesday, only to be rewarded with this on Wednesday:


… and again on Thursday…

Ok, I know this is the same pic as before, but  I forgot to take a new one.  Just imagine lots more folders and envelopes that look exactly like these!

Ok, I know this is the same pic as before, but I forgot to take a new one. Just imagine lots more folders and envelopes that look exactly like these!

… and a few more stragglers on Friday and Saturday.

But now, the magical moment – I am FREE! No more classes to teach, no more papers to grade. The grade book is filled out, percentages are calculated, grades are assigned. Time to breathe a sigh of relief and relax until the next semester starts in March!

Well, actually, not really. Since this is only a 10-month fellowship, we aren’t really given any vacation time. I mean, no one is really keeping track – I clearly find enough time to relax on tropical beaches. But I am encouraged to plan some kind of worthy pursuit to occupy my time during school vacations. So from now until March, I’ll be traveling all over the place. Tomorrow, I’ll go to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to help train the 75 Fulbright English Teaching Assistants who will be placed in schools around Malaysia. After that, I’ll spend most weekends in far-flung spots helping run English camps for Access Micro-scholarship students, who are part of a US State Department program that gives extra-curricular English lessons to talented but underprivileged youth. Work-related projects will take me away from Salatiga for the remainder of January and most of February. But don’t worry – I’m sure I’ll find plenty of time to chill on the beach!

January 6, 2013

Christmas & New Year Holiday 2012

by Tabitha Kidwell

Despite the fact that I teach at a Muslim school that doesn’t, for obvious reasons, have Christmas vacation, I took the weeks of Christmas and New Years off and headed to Seminyak, Bali. I started out by meeting up with my friends Jackie, Jon, Holly, Kate, and Ron. We stayed in an awesome little bungalow that had it’s own pool and lots of space to stretch out and feel at home.


We could even decorate for Christmas!

We could even decorate for Christmas!

You could access the beach by either a 10 minute walk on the roads, or a 3 minute walk through a trash-strewn and muddy path along a construction site. We couldn’t waste 7 minutes of beach time (14 roundtrip!), so we took our chances with the path, at least in the daytime. We spent most of our time relaxing on the beach. Kate, Jackie, and I went on morning runs. Jon, Jackie, and Holly tried surfing. We ate at the same awesome restaurant everyday. It was the perfect start to vacation!




We pulled ourselves away from the beach one day, to head to the southernmost point of Bali, where a tiny temple called Ulu Watu is perched on a cliff overlooking the South Sea. It was breathtakingly beautiful (if you could ignore the monkeys, that is. A guide with a slingshot offered his services, but we opted out, with the only loss being my bottle of water.)


We also celebrated Christmas in Seminyak, by singing carols in our taxi…


…and having an elegant Christmas Eve cocktail on the beach.


The day after Christmas, Holly and Ron headed on their way, and the other 4 of us headed up to Ubud, the (touristy) center of Balinese culture, whose most famous resident of recent years was Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. We were just there a couple of days, but it was long enough to eat lots of detoxifying food, visit the spa, and meet up with my friend Roxy from Peace Corps Madagascar, who was there for a month doing a yoga teacher training.


Roxy was nice enough to bring a little bit of home with her: Christmas gifts from my mom and sister!


After a couple of days in Ubud, Jon, Jackie, and I returned to the coast to meet up with our friend Jen and take the fast boat over to Gili Air, a speck of an island off of Lombok, Bali’s neighbor to the east. Our friends Liz, Adam, Josh, and Jess joined us there. I spent a week last year in Gili Trawangan, another nearby island, and the Gilis are some of my favorite places in Indonesia. No motorbikes are allowed, so they are super quiet. In fact, the roads are basically just sandy paths – by the third day there, I think we all had given up on shoes! There isn’t much to do except relax and snorkel or scuba dive. I went diving a few times, did yoga, went for runs and swims, and still had lots of time to nap, read, and watch the sun set. It was the perfect way to end 2012 and ring in 2013.




November 21, 2012

Planetary Pileup

by Tabitha Kidwell

My November horoscope from Glamour tells me:

A planetary pileup in your communication and community houses predicts a busy month. You’ve got people to see and places to go! Carry a couple of headbands, one with cute details, one chic. Use as needed.

I’m not totally sure which planet governs headbands, but this horoscope was spot-on. It has been a crazy month. First, on November 2nd, I gave a presentation on “Integrated Skills Lessons: A Pathway to Character Building” with my friend and colleague Bu Dewi, who works both at STAIN (my university) and the university where we gave the presentation.

That afternoon, my friend Jon arrived in town to present at my elementary teacher development group the next morning.

While he was here, we visited Gedung Songo, a complex of hill-top temples…

… and we climbed Mt. Merbabu, the mountain looming over Salatiga that I have wanted to climb for the past year.

On Monday, we traveled to Surabaya to join the 18 other English Language Fellows and English teachers from across Indonesia for the Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Indonesia (TEFLIN) conference. I presented on web-quests in the first slot after the keynote speech – prime time! Unfortunately, I was still virtually unable to use my quad muscles after Sunday’s climb and had to present sitting down. I had a nice sunburn going on, too!

The fellows skipped out on Wednesday’s conference sessions so we could go to the Consulate General to watch the election results roll in. They had a result party and broadcasted CNN. It was a tense few hours, but we left happy, if a little disoriented by learning the election results in the middle of the day. It was a little anti-climactic. Over the next few days, many Indonesians congratulated me and expressed their relief that he had won. They love Obama here since, you know, he is Indonesian. I’m pretty sure that if he had lost he could have won the next presidential election here.

No cameras allowed, so these are from the consulate’s website

I spent most of the morning standing where Jess is, with my head on Barack Obama’s shoulder

We also did a little of this:

And a little of this:

Which led to this:

After the TEFLIN conference ended on, we split up to go to various sites and give presentations on Friday. I did my TEFLIN presentation again for the local high school teacher group. Then, Saturday, we did a workshop for the Fulbright English Teacching Assistants to troubleshoot some of the problems they’ve been having in the classroom. I headed back to Salatiga on Sunday, only to spend two long days giving speaking exams and head back to Jakarta on Wednesday for the Access camp (see my previous post for more info on that).

We returned to Jakarta on Sunday the 19th, and had a day of pampering. We ate Dunkin Donuts, had cocktails at a swanky restaurant, and got pedicures and deep conditioning treatments. Too bad right after we got our hair blown out, we had to walk home in the rain with no umbrellas. Luckily, we are an ingenious bunch:

The next morning, we went to the Police Language School, where our friends Jackie and Jess teach, and participated in Native Speaker Day. It was set up as a murder mystery, and the police officers had to question us (in English) to get information to solve the crime. I played Angelina Smart, the victim’s beautiful young assistant.

My best “It wasn’t me” face

In the end, each group presented their theory and the “real” murderers were put in handcuffs, to everyone’s surprise (especially my two friends playing the murderers!)

And that afternoon, I came back to Salatiga after two and a half very busy weeks. How did I do it? I think the headbands helped.

October 26, 2012

Living the Dream

by Tabitha Kidwell

The 3 days I spent in South Kalimantan last weekend were the kind of adventure that I will look back on 10 years from now and wonder if it really happened, or if it was a dream. It may be because I was sick with some kind of dizzying illness most of the weekend, but looking back, it seems like a strange string of fantastic experiences that would make more sense if preceded by “I had this crazy dream last night that…”

There were 7 ELFs from around Indonesia staying at our friend Jon’s house in Banjarmasin, South Kalimantan. We woke up before dawn on Friday morning to go the river and get on a boat to go eat breakfast. While sailing down the river, we interrupted lots of people taking their morning baths, but they didn’t seem to mind. Once we got to a bigger river, boats full of food pulled up to us and we took what we wanted using a pointy stick.

Then, we went back to Jon’s house, got in cars, picked up 2 more friends at the airport, and drove like 6 hours to a wooden cabin in the tiny town of Loksado. There was a complex across the way that was described as a “hot springs” but when we all went over, it was more like a “dirty pool” that we swam in nonetheless.

The next morning, we took motorcycles over some rough terrain and some precarious bridges to get to a waterfall in the middle of the forest. We swam in our clothes because there was a spirit there that would be angry otherwise. I had my brand-new underwater camera with me, but it wouldn’t really take pictures underwater even though it seemed to work well otherwise.

That afternoon, we climbed two-by-two onto rafts made of bamboo logs tied together, and floated down the river. It wasn’t more than a foot deep at most places. The guides kept having to move rocks to find a pathway for us, but it was still a lovely ride. It got especially exciting when Jen (who was also in Madagascar with me) piloted our raft.

That evening, we gathered around a fire and sang American songs. We passed around an empty water bottle as a drum and a bottle of ciprofloxicin as a shaker.

The next morning, we piled into the cars again and drove back to Banjarmasin. But we got there too early, so we tried to go to our friend Matt’s house, but he wasn’t home, so we went and drank cold drinks, then Iris and I got a massage, then Matt was home, so we went there, then I filled out my Absentee Ballot and gave it to Jackie to mail for me, then we went to the airport and flew home…

And then I woke up. No, clearly it happened since I have the photos to prove it. But it was a crazy, unreal adventure. Indonesia – where dreams become a reality and reality is like a dream.