First I would like to apologize for my absence during December. Due to hit-and-miss Internet connections throughout my adventures in Java and Bali, I decided the blog would have to wait until my return to Riau. That being said, it’s business as usual here in Sumatra so posting will be back on track!
In my classes my students are learning about celebrations and their meanings which is poignant since over the last three weeks I experienced Christmas, New Years and my birthday for the first time without my family and friends. It reminded me of the importance of family but also how “family” can have many meanings. Even though I was quite lonely for everyone back in the States during this holiday season, I was lucky to have acquired a lovely little band of people who became my travel “family” during the 20 days I was exploring this archipelago.
In Jakarta, Java there was Rudi. He used to be the Physical Education teacher at the school where I currently am employed but he now drives a cab in Jakarta. After a mutual friend contacted him about my arrival, Rudi picked me up from the airport and took me to my first port of call. I’ll never forget him singing 1950’s American Country and rock and roll standards as we traversed the streets of Jakarta and chatting about school over coffee and doughnuts at Gambir Station.
In Yogyakarta I took advantage of the burgeoning Couchsurfing community and stayed with Sumatran transplant Tiarma. During the four days I spent in Jogja Tiarma and I shared dinners, Bintang, boy stories, work woes and practiced our second languages. Some of my best times with Tiarma were getting lost on her motorbike and circling the city while dying of laughter as we realized we were passing the same signs for the second-third-and even fourth time.
Two lovely Czech scientists, Yitka and Dusan, and I decided to travel Prambanan Temple together after the three of us were turned away at the gates at 9 a.m. because the park was closed for a special event until 12 p.m. We ended up exploring neighboring temples, having lunch and eventually seeing Prambanan together. I don’t think they’ll ever know how nice of a change it was to experience something like those temples and be able to turn and have someone to say “WOW” to.
In Bali I had the awesome pleasure of acquiring a bumbling crew of buddies from all over the world while staying at Villa Serenity in Canggu. First there was Sasha from Moscow, the worst Russian you’ll ever meet! He hates the cold, loves beaches and dreams of living in a sunny place. We met the day after I arrived at my hostel and with the help of Google Translate and his iPhone 4, our friendship was quickly cemented. He even joined me on Christmas for dinner.
It was only a few days later that a trio of kids from Holland (though they were not traveling together, crazy) joined our club—Esther, Sandra and Maarten. The girls and I enjoyed a “girls night out” and Esther and I quickly discovered that we were clearly cut from the same cloth. This resulted in us sharing stories about our travels and laughing at jokes that we thought were funny even if everyone else found us to be ridiculous.
There was also Bernadette from Germany, a lovely girl traveling alone through Southeast Asia with an infectious giggle and a big heart. And around the same time Winny, the sweetheart from North Sumatra, joined the club. Shortly after her arrival, our group successfully helped along a little love connection between Winny and Sasha and I’m happy to report that they are still enjoying Bali together as this is being written!
Just before New Year’s Eve we added a couple jokesters from the U.K-and-Ireland*-but-now-living-in-Australia to our team. Best friends Marc and Rob were the resident party boys, a never-ending wealth of terrible jokes and in spite of what they might try to have you think, the ever-reluctant gentlemen.
Our patchwork of personalities made for an incredible 10 days of movie nights, dinners at Echo Beach, adventures on motorbikes, yoga classes and club dancing shenanigans. However, as it goes with holidays, with the coming of the New Year so came the disbanding of the Villa Serenity crew.
I finished out my time in Bali at a homestay in Canggu, just meters from the beach so that I could pursue learning how to surf. Baki, a California kid that I met on Christmas Eve, introduced me to the homestay and became my hangout buddy for the last few days of my trip. I spent my mornings trying to surf, thanks to the help of Suta and Danny, my patient (did I mention hot!) surf gurus, and I spent my afternoons bouncing about Canggu/Seminyak with Baki on his motorbike. We spent our evenings enjoying happy hour and sunsets with an American expat, Leo and his lovely girlfriend Yeni. We met them at the cafe in front of the beach where I was learning to surf. Making this world just a bit smaller, Yeni used to work at the school where I am currently employed!
In the end, thanks to these people, what could have been a very lonely Christmas and New Years, was instead a reminder that we are all brothers and sisters and that we are all connected, and for that, I will be forever grateful.
*Sorry Marc, how dare I mistakenly leave out your Irishness…thanks for pointing out my blunder. x