Bring it On Home...

So since I wrote last in January, much has happened. In March, for my birthday, Rijo and I went to Thailand for two weeks, and spent time in Chiang Mai and Koh Lanta. It was one of the best vacations I've ever been on, and definitely rejuventating. It was so wonderful to see him, and I can't begin to explain how great that vacation was for our relationship. We ate about four meals a day, drank tons of amazing coffee, saw crazy, weird, and awesome people, and just enjoyed every single minute of every day we were there. The temples were beautiful, the beaches were soft and soothing, and our activities were adventurous and entertaining. For more details, you'll hear it from me in person, because I can't keep my mouth shut when you ask how was Thailand. So beware.

Then once I got back to site, I've just been going to school, smiling a lot, and prepping all my projects for my exit. My school activities fizzled out on their own because school pretty much has fizzled out at this point. Most kids don't come to school, and those who do aren't really prepared to learn. Most teachers are just here for some semblance of discipline, and I'm just here to be a pretty face for all their pictures. Smile Miss Pallavee. Okay. But only 10 pictures today, okay.

Last weekend was the 12th grade graduation. It was the day I had decided to give a speech to the entire school (and the student's parents and all the head officials in Magetan). I had been practicing my speech for about two weeks, and was excited. It was funny, sad, nostalgic, and grateful. I thought it was perfect. Spoiler alert: It was awesome. By the middle of my speech, not one person was speaking in the entire tent. And anyone that has been to Indonesia knows, they never stop talking. No matter if the president is giving a speech, everyone will be talking to their neighbors in their outside voices. To have a silent audience staring at me was scary, but empowering. I had their attention! They loved it. They loved every word, and I had the loudest applause of any of the performers that went on stage. It was really cool. Almost cooler than last year's dance performance. Who am I kidding, that was really badass. This was definitely a far second.

So now there isn't much left. Just counting the days till I head back home :) In less than 25 days I'll be sitting on the tarmac of JFK pushing people aside so I can get to the head of line getting off the plane and into New York City. Home. So soon, I can taste it. The gross warm, humid air that's going to hit me as I get off the plane. 

Get your kitchens ready. My stomach will be home soon.


"Permanent Vacation"?

So here is a description of my two week trip to India, landing in New Delhi a few days before Christmas, and flying back to Indonesia a few days after New Year’s Day.
Landing in Delhi International Airport, I immediately realized how nice the airport was. I was rushing to get the hell out of there after a horrific 3 hour flight to KL, stunned understanding of being at the wrong airport, frantic rush to exchange money, catch a cab, get to the other airport and check in, and then another 6 hour flight to get to this beautiful airport, of which I had little time to appreciate.
Walking out into the bitingly chilly Delhi night, I immediately understood my mother’s advice: bring warm clothes. Warm clothes for India, psh, mom, you’ve got to be KIDDING me. I’m from New York, it’s not that cold. I’m an idiot.
Not only was I immediately chilled, but that chill ran through me the entire two weeks I remained in India. From Delhi to Gurgaon to Jaipur, I was cold. Yes, cold. Let me put it into perspective for you. So in India the houses are made of stone. Not wood, not concrete, stone. So they retain the cold, and stepping one foot instantly chills to the bone. Second of all, space heaters heat the space around them. Only the space around them, hence the name. Thirdly, Indian people like keeping doors and windows open. Be it for fresh air, appreciation of the nature of their surroundings, or just showing off on their lack of catching a cold abilities, all windows and doors were left open to leave a numbingly cold wind constantly flowing through the house. Lastly I was ill prepared and brought few clothes, and even fewer warm clothes. I ended up wearing my sister’s and mom’s clothes the entire time, and therefore even on vacation looked like I do in my village—like a total dork.
Furthermore, I realized I LOVED India like this. Granted I could have done with it being about 34 degrees (Fahrenheit! I know!), so maybe coming in October would have been better, but the weather was not too hot or rainy or smoggy or muggy or just downright gross. I loved it.
I also immediately began to appreciate India in ways I never had before. On a side note, I’ve been to India every 2-3 years since I was born. However, this means mostly Delhi and Jaipur, and that means the houses of my family members. I have travelled some, but still very little. Regardless, I always had complaints about the food getting me sick, or the weather being too hot, or the people being too loud, or there being too many beggars, or it being too crowded or too dirty or lacking any common sense. This time however, I was coming short on critiques. I still got sick (not from the food, but from the cold!), the people were still loud, there were still too many beggars, it was way too crowded and dirty and so many people lacked common sense, but all of this didn’t bother me as it had in the past. What changed?
I think living in Indonesia and experiencing life as a villager and the pains, hardships, poverty, education system, government hiccups, and difficulties of a developing country firsthand have given me such a good understanding of the average woman and man. It felt so similar to being in Indonesia. The crossing of streets was a battle for life each time, but I barely batted an eye. Ooh street food—I want it, think of the stomach problems later. It’s $25 WHAT? I can get that made for $2. Everything seemed to make sense. Organized chaos is the name of the game, and I was a voluntary player. I loved it, and most of it made so much sense. I knew why the drivers screeched into each inch of space they found on the road. It was all an unwritten code, and I had the passkey. It felt great. I was finally allowed in this world. I not only understood India on this trip, I appreciated it. I loved the people, the personal connections, the culture spilling everywhere, and most of all—the food.
I could spend days describing in detail each item I ingested in India, and I promise it would be entertaining. Wait, I’ll save that for my food blog:http://thevolunteergourmet.wordpress.com/
I also realized just how much I love knowing Hindi. Not only is it a beautiful language, it was wonderful being able to have conversations with people as one of them. Granted they knew immediately I wasn’t from there, but I understood every word they said, and when I didn’t want them to understand me, I started speaking in fast, fluent, New York style English. It was quite a cross-cultural trip.
Along with visiting both sides of my amazing family, I had the great opportunity, with my family, to visit three beautiful historical places in Jaipur (where my family is originally from). We visited Albert Hall, which was a museum installed in 1876 in honor of the Prince of Wales. There were remarkable artifacts beginning from the Indus Valley Civilization. My favorite room was the weapons room. The most beautiful swords, sheaths, and terrifying maces adorned the walls. We also visited the Sasodia Gardens, which are beautiful gardens outside of the main city, which are terraced gardens. There was a queen who used to live there, but now the grounds are used for weddings and as viewing gardens. Lastly, we went to Nahargarh Fort, which lies on top of the Aravalli Hills and overlooks all of Jaipur. It was used as a fort and lookout post. It was built in 1734 by the founder of Jaipur (Maharaja Jai Singh II). It was incredibly beautiful. We ate a snack (which was on its own fantastic), and monkeys chased us away. All in all a successful trip.
Overall, I learned a lot about India, ate way more than is healthy for a grown killer whale, and learned a LOT about myself. Significantly momentous doesn’t cover the description of this trip.


This must be the place...

Each day I wake up realizing I'm a day closer to home. Then I really think what that means, and confuse myself. I am here one day less. In this place I call home. I don't say, "I am going back to the place I am currently residing," when I'm on a trip in Surabaya. I say, "I'm going home." Definitely. Absolutely. Home.
There are people here I have discounted. People that love me as those who have known me for countless years. People that know things about me I cannot possibly express to people in America. People that would defend me no matter what I did in their country. People I would call my Indonesian family.

The mountain I see every morning and promised never to take for granted. That majestic miracle, unmoving, unyielding, just baring itself naked to rain, wind, storms, day, night. That mountain that moves me to tears, when I didn't know I had any. The mountain that makes me question the importance of my own existence.

The river behind my house. The powerful, fluid movement of it's dance intrigues me each and every time. No matter how many times I stare at it's shallowness and it's depths I cannot comprehend it's nature. It washes away the sins, but bags of trash litter it's sides.

So in this big, beautiful country, I am but one small speck, and having lost sight of how much I'll miss of the people and the land, I humbly return to my stage of understanding and integration. I love Indonesia. I love Bu Dyah, I love Gilang, I love Mbak Apriliana, I love Pak Mislani, I love Bu Anna, I love Fajar, I love Dian, I love Plaosan, I love Gunung Lawu, I love Gunung Rinjani, I love my front yard, I love every LES girl, I love nasi pecel, I love soto ayam, I love gado-gado, I love sate tahu, I love indomie, I love mangos, I love sawo, I love manggis, I love salak, and I love Javanese dance.

That's a very condensed list of the things I'll miss about this astounding country and my experience.

To six months of learning, enjoying, exploring, and eating!


I want to be there.

With 27 days and 18 hours till I am on a plane to India to visit my family (more so to eat amazing food), I can't help but wonder, why is it so hard to get through the last seven months living here. I have a great house, running water, my own room, internet, greenery everywhere. Then why am I itching to get home? Here are the things I miss most about home. In no particular order.

1. Thanksgiving with my family, eating more than my stomach can handle and running it off with some post turkey football.
2. Cuddling with Rijo while watching a Knicks game and then me jumping off the couch and yelling at refs and opposing teams, with Rijo yelling at me, "you don't even know their names!!!"
3. Being anywhere with Puja and making fun of everyone around us because they're stupid and we're not. Let us continue believing it. Thanks.
4. Wine night with Cait, just sipping (okay more like chugging) wine and eating pop corners.
5. Going to a vegan restaurant with Mariana and Mario for the first time and hating it, but making a yummm face anyway. 
6. Laughing at dad's corny jokes at dinner, and then legitimately laughing because he makes those funny faces.
7. Doing mom's makeover for every party and she still looks as beautiful as before the makeup.
8. Sitting with uncle and listen to him tell lies that end up being funnier than any truth could ever be.
9. Yelling at Ashish for being annoying and then making him buy me pizza from two boots
10. Getting Rijo to think he's the best potato peeler in the world just so I would never have to do it for Thanksgiving again. I'm a genius.
11. Taking funny pictures after getting ridiculously drunk with Divs and almost falling out of a Santa hat. Yes. Out of.
12. Playing video games all night after opening Christmas gifts with the cousins. 
13. Dad flipping out on Rijo because I was the idiot that took medicine, forgot, drank vodka, and then passed out and couldn't answer my phone. Haha, good times...
14. Mom and dad shopping for us and then saying, "these girls are so spoiled." I blame you guys. But thanks.
15. All my friends from Goldman that took me to new foods and way too many bars. I love Vietnamese sandwiches, and the udon from the Bangladeshi guy is the best. Ever.
16. Backyard barbeques...especially the time I made like 3 quiches, and everyone ate them. Or at least that's what I remember because I want to. I hope they ate them. They were good! 
17. Central Park with Rijo, where we took serious pictures, and silly pictures, and happy pictures, and captain morgan pictures. That was awesome. 
18. Century 21 with mom. Because shopping with mom is the best. Dad says everything looks good. 
19. Puja's ginger snaps. Definitely, hands down, the best ginger snaps I've EVER had.
20. Hot chocolate on a cold day with a warm sweater and a crumbs cupcake.


Wonder What's Next

So I decided to get off my butt and accomplish everything I've been putting off because I'm too lazy, the tasks were just not imminent, or I had just lost my lack of organization (Eek!)

I checked off everything on my list. Rewrote all my personal statements for the 18th time. Finished all my lesson plans for all my extra curricular activities for the entire semester. Answered all the emails I was putting off. Cleaned my room--even though I cleaned it last week, but it's already been too long.

And now I sit here, three hours later, trying to figure out what to do with myself. With a horrible stomachache and nowhere to go, I'm bound to either my bed or the couch. So I sit on couch and stare out the window. I'll just read a book I guess.

I've never had the problem of having nothing on my To-Do list. Ever. I should feel useless and without meaning. But I don't. I feel relieved! Now I can read with no excuses. I can watch Lost and figure out what the hell is behind that stupid door (yes I'm on season one).

I'm content for now. :)


The Rain Song

Before rainy season this here in Indonesia started, I repeatedly told myself that I would hate everything about it. Last year, after a pleasant month of daily rain, I understood the drawbacks of what rain really means. There was molding EVERYWHERE. Everything I owned had traces of mold, and it took me the whole six months of dry season fighting back the mold that crept up on my walls, floors, drawers, closet, bed, windows, and all my clothes, food, and random paraphernalia. The smell suffocated me to the point where I felt my long lost asthma coming back. I would hack up gross yellow balls of phlegm which only pointed to one thing--clearly humans aren't supposed to breathe in that much mold and mustiness. The fan was on 24/7, the window open every time it was not raining (even though I'm in a tiny corner of the house where sunlight only comes  between 7:00am-7:30am), and I stayed out of my room as much as possible, but I would enter and a glum dark cloud would descend on my being, as though I had just entered Gotham sans Batman. 

I told myself, this year would be the same. I reminded myself of the hacking cough, the blackened eyes from lack of sleep, the hole in my pocket from purchasing "anti-mold/anti-fungal" devices, and the severe seasonal depression that hit like a ton of bricks in my face. But I couldn't hate it. That first rain hit the ground and a smile crept on my face. I slapped it off my face. Obedience face! 

I don't know what it is. I love the rain in this country. It's absolving, cleansing, purity releases something I never knew in "my previous life." The sounds of rumbling thunder, crackling lightning, and millions of drops hitting the steaming pavement excited my ears more than most man-made melodies. Nature's own sforzando.

The feel of that cool, fresh air as it breaks on my face, screaming life into the parched atmosphere takes my breath away. The touch of an errant drop on my warm, sun-kissed cheek melts, soaked into me as though it had never fallen from the heavens...

Why do I love the rain?

It makes me feel tiny. Like there more than just my feeding, bathing, and putting to sleep. The universe is accomplishing a billion tasks in the time that one tiny drop of rain changes my entire day.


!BAM! One Year Down!

You’re asking, what’s been up? I haven’t posted in forever and a day! I know! I’m lazy. Peace Corps makes you LAZY. Do I have time? Of course. I sit in my room or on the porch, read my book, work out, eat food, drink water, and start that cycle again. Oh and play with the kids—a lot. Day after day after day…

BUT that’s about to change. I’m heading off to Mid-Service Conference soon. What does that mean? That means I’ve been here over a year, more than half my service is done, and before you realize it, I WILL BE BACK IN A WORLD FULL OF BURRITOS!!! 

So I know I whine and moan a lot about how hard it is, but honestly I have the good life. I don’t know how I will adjust to a job that requires me to get off my butt for 40 hours or more a week and be productive. I whine about my 16 hours of teaching. You should envy me! I play with kids as part of my job. I get to hang out at the special ed school with the most awesome kids you’ll ever meet. I get to meet new people, eat new foods, download movies, cd’s, workout videos, plan my meals, plan my future, travel around the country. All in the name of peace. My life here is awesome. Be jealous. I live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I have ZERO complaints. Getting sick a lot? I got sick a lot in America. Being hot all the time? I have a fan, and live on a mountain. Don’t like the food? I learned a skill that I now not only LOVE, but will stick with me for the rest of my life, I can cook! Boredom? I have books! Movies! Magazine! Pinterest! Missing family? We have skype, facetime, imessage! Missing Rijo? SAME thing! Missing friends? SAME thing! Burritos? I tried my hand at a pretty decent burrito a few weeks ago—no chipotle burrito, but I cannot complain. Maybe I’ll post that recipe too!

So in conclusion, life is awesome. One year mark notched on my pole (I should have been doing that—it would have been a cool souvenir to take back), and I’m ready for my Mid-Service Conference, then vacation with the awesome John Jijaji and Sharmila to Kalimantan, Bali, Flores, Jakarta, and then back home! That’s right, this is home now! 

Oh and packages are still welcome. Please love me and send me things that I won’t get here. Like organic stuff—ironic isn’t it. Super difficult to find anything organic in the village! Everything has pesticides! Oh and Women’s health magazines would be FANTASTIC. Thanks :)