January 8, 2016: Jalan-Jalan Naik Sepeda


I made sure that I was in school by 7am this morning, as I like being able to see my students for as much time as I can. And today, I was bringing some oleh-oleh specifically for certain students. I walked around with my backpack most of the day, trying to find the right time to give the gifts to those particular students. And I was only giving special gifts to students who had asked me to bring them something in particular and who had given me gifts beforehand. I spent the whole school day, from 7am until around noon, walking around and talking to students. I was really happy because I was able to talk to two students who actually wanted extra help with English and had questions related to English that they had wanted to ask, which is exactly what I am here to do. But I also had fun just hanging out with the other students, talking about music, movies, girlfriends/boyfriends, etc. I even watched the movie “Tomorrowland” with my X IPA-4 class on a projector in the classroom, which was fun. I feel bad that they are so bored in classes this week, but I kind of like being able to just walk into any classroom and talk to students at any time.

After school ended, I hitchhiked a ride home with one of my students, Cidik, who saw me walking back to PSBB. And then Fati picked me up, and we headed to a café for lunch with Aima and Yazid. It is always interesting to eat with people here, since Indonesians usually do not talk while they eat. To me, it feels awkward to be completely silent at a restaurant with other people. But to them, it is almost weird/annoying for me to ask them questions. So there was a lot of silence while we were at the café, which I was really hoping was normal for them and not just that way because I was there. I ended up having roti bakar keju susu, which is baked bread mixed with milk and sprinkled with cheese on top. I had no clue what that would taste like, but I was willing to give it a try. And it actually turned out to be pretty good!

About a half hour after Fati had brought me home, I was ready to meet my students in XI IPS-2, who wanted to rent bikes together. I opened the door to see three of the students who had hung out with me last time. I was hoping that there would be more students, but I knew that it would be fun no matter what. As we drove around the corner, I then saw about nine other students waiting for us at the front gate of PSBB. It was so cute! There were so many of them—like 12! That was enough to make me happy already, no matter what.

We rented bikes from a bike place, and it was only $8 for all of us to rent bikes. Of course, I treated. It is funny because I spend most of my money here on other people. But I want to buy things for my students; it makes me feel good. Although they often feel uncomfortable when I do it. We rode bikes for like ten minutes, and the entire time all of them were complaining about how hot they were because it was so sunny. I could not stop laughing at that. I was like, “You all live in this weather every day!” We kept going until we found a drink stand with shade, which was thoroughly enjoyed by all. And then we returned the bikes, after about a half hour. We then wanted to go get Es Kelapa (coconut juice) by the airport, where I was told we could take very good selfies lol. The Es Kelapa was delicious and very refreshing, as always. And then we sped down the airport rode, which is a very long and usually empty road on which many people often learn how to drive. We went sooooo fast, but it was so fun! It was just so refreshing to feel the wind brush against my face like that. This is why I love the motorbikes. But, unfortunately, right when we got off our motorbikes at the end of the road, I witnessed—right in front of my eyes—the wiping out of two young girls who were making a turn on their motorbikes. All of us ran to them, as the girls had completely fallen off their motorbikes. Both of them had many scrapes and cuts, but they were so embarrassed that they just got back on their motorbike and drove off. And then I felt very stupid for letting my students drive that fast literally just minutes beforehand.

On our way back to PSBB, we drove behind the airport on this beautiful little road. I loved it. There were many people pulled over to the side, waiting for the one plane to take off. Our airport here is so small that there are usually only four planes that arrive and take off each day. I told the student who was driving me, Siti, that I have been at this airport too many times, almost in a complaining manner. But I instantly regretted this, as I remembered that most people in Palangkaraya have not and may never be able to go on an airplane. Almost all of my students have never been out of Central and South Kalimantan, let alone taken a plane somewhere. So airplanes here are a luxury and are truly amazing for people to watch, which is why there were so many people pulled over along the fence watching with their loved ones and family. The sun was also starting to set, so it was just a beautiful scene all around. I wish that you all could have been there with me!

After the kids dropped me off, I then met Mackenzie a few minutes later. We haven’t seen each other since before the holidays, so it was about time that we met up. It is so much more convenient now that she has a motorbike, since she can just ride to my house. So, after chatting a bit at PSBB, I trusted her with my life and let her take me on her motorbike to you know what….. good ol’ Pizza Hut—for my third time this week! Lol. But honestly, I love pizza so much that I could probably eat it every day and be satisfied. But we must have been quite a sight, though: two bules driving on a motorbike into the Pizza Hut parking lot lol. I feel embarrassed just thinking about it.

After eating delicious pizza and being dropped off by Mackenzie, I then proceeded to pack for my upcoming three-day camping trip with a 12th grade class (XII IPA-4). Despite my consistent asking, I had received very minimal information on what we would be doing or what types of clothes or things I should pack. So, I just packed what I would expect to wear during three days of camping, and then I mentally prepared to wake up at 4am the next morning (aka, I went immediately to bed).


January 7, 2016: Bananagrams but not exactly lol

Week 18 in Indonesia

Today was my first real busy day back here in Palangkaraya. By my own personal definition, busy is when I have no time to go to the gym lol. The morning started out weird. It was raining like crazy when my alarm went off. And I mean crazy. I had never heard the rain hit the roof so loudly before. Strange enough, I was still quite tired. I think that this is the type of tiredness you feel when you get too much sleep though. It is like your body is getting used to laziness and likes it too much to give it up. Since, even in my dazed, half-conscious self, I knew that the school day would start at least an hour later due to the rain—since the kids have to drive in on their motorbikes—I allowed myself to push my alarm back several times until I eventually made myself get up.

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A flooded MAN Model…

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It was way more flooded in the morning..

The walk to school was not too enjoyable, as there were puddles everywhere from the heavy rain last night and I had to carry two, heavy bags of oleh-oleh (candy) for all 24 classes in the school. I have felt really terrible for the other classes who I do not teach, which includes all of 12th grade and almost all of 11th grade, as I have not given them any oleh-oleh yet. I had only been giving the classes who I teach, which is 10th grade and one 11th grade class, the candy and souvenirs I had brought back from the U.S. But this time, I wanted to make sure that I gave oleh-oleh to all of the students, to be fair. So, there was not much candy for the students, but at least every student would get one piece. Since my shoes had not fully dried from the day before, I was still walking in my damp flats. So I knew that today would be a day full of blisters. But I was even more astonished when I walked up to MAN Model and saw that the entire entrance had become a lake—completely flooded with rainwater. Then I suddenly feared that this would be a usual occurrence in the rainy season, which would make for many more blisters to come in the future..

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At the cafe with my students

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More selfies in a fish tank lol

It was so fun going around to each classroom and giving out my bags of candy. I felt like Santa Claus! 🙂 And the students were so grateful for it. My 10th graders showed more excitement than any other students because they know what they are getting. The 11th and 12th graders were more confused or shocked, as they have not received anything from me up until this point. But all were happy in the end, even if there was only a few candies/chocolate for them. By the end of it, my feet were literally being torn apart due to my soaking wet flats. It was so painful! Then I realized that almost all of the students and even the teachers were wearing flip-flops. So I need to buy flip-flops and save my poor feet, which now hate me.

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This wasn’t even all of them, trust me.

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The rest of the school day consisted of me walking around and talking to students, which is something that I love to do. I was also forced to eat a second breakfast, as my instant oatmeal did not qualify as a breakfast since there was no rice involved. During breakfast, I was told that I have gained weight, which is something that I am clearly aware of but then thought to myself that maybe it is because I am being forced to eat two meals instead of one. I also got pulled into a college recruiting meeting for 12th graders and was brought up to do a Q&A session on the spot, by Pak Idris of course. And then this meeting finished with several selfies, as usual lol.

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Taking pictures of their “I LOVE YOU”s lol

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My students with their Victoria’s Secret oleh-oleh lol. Is that appropriate?

After school, several of my 10th grade science students (X IPA-1) brought me back home on their motos. I was very thankful for this, as I could not walk much longer in those still wet shoes. But their motivation to bring me back was driven by me giving them $1 bills, which I had said that I had back in PSBB. After I gave them their money lol, we went to a store to look at bicycles, since I think that I may want to buy one soon. It would be much easier to go places I think, and the motorbike is just too expensive for me at this point. And I found a good one for about $110! So I may buy it, as soon as tomorrow. Then we went to a café, and I bought them lunch. After that, they came back to PSBB and managed to get even more oleh-oleh from me! I want to give them all so much, but I really do not have that many gifts here. And I have everyone else I know in Palangkaraya to give oleh-oleh to as well.. It is really stressful. They also looked at the Bananagrams game, which they did not bother to play but instead spelt “I LOVE YOU, __________” (insert boyfriend’s/crush’s name) with the letters and took pictures of it haha. Students really are so lovey dovey here! It is cute though, since it is all puppy love.

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The neighborhood boys

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Indo famous

After they left, my 11-year-old neighborhood boys were playing outside the house with Elpin. They wanted to talk to me, so they slowly worked their way over to my house. I showed them how to play Scrabble, but they did not seem too interested. Those are 11-year-old boys for ya lol. When the call to prayer starting playing from every nearby mosque, the boys then skedaddled back to their homes. And my night consisted of me falling pretty much right to sleep again after that.

January 6, 2016: Insidious and Online Games

Week 18 in Indonesia

Since I had no clue if there was libur (holiday) again for the students or if I was supposed to teach, I decided that it was better safe than sorry to go in at the time I would have gone in if I were teaching my 6:45am class. But, strangely to my surprise, there was still no class today. I decided to play detective and go around asking all of the students why they come to school even if they do not have class, since none of the teachers were giving me answers. With each class whom I asked, I received more and more information. It was almost like a mystery that I needed to solve! By the end of my investigation, I learned that the students came to school this week for three reasons, in the order of priority to the students: (1) they get money from their parents to go to school; (2) they are bored at home and want to hang out with their classmates; (3) they are still technically required to be in school, even though no teacher is taking attendance this week. I also learned that this “remedial week” is fully dependent on how fast the teachers grade the exams. Instead of grading the exams outside of class time, like after school or at home as do teachers in the US, teachers grade the exams during the school day instead of having class. Then, as they come across a student who has failed their exam, they give them a remedial. So, the students would not know if they have a remedial until the teacher has graded their exam, which could be on Monday or could be on Friday. When I told the students that there are no remedials in most schools in the US, they were shocked. In the US, if you fail an exam, you fail an exam. There are usually no second chances, or at least not in college. But in a way it makes sense that there are remedials offered here. The students have literally 17 exams for 17 subjects that they must know all at once. That is so much information to know at one period! I could see how many students would fail certain subjects, just because they do not have the time or even brain capacity to know that much information. Therefore, it is only fair that they are offered a second chance.

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Playing games on their phones

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And then they saw me trying to take a picture of them lol

Once I solved my mystery, I decided to embrace the free time that I have been given to just nongkronk (hang out) with my students. Ibu Halimah told me that classes would start up again on Monday, so I had a couple of days to get to know my students better. In almost all classes, students were watching movies, playing games, singing or dancing, etc. I hung out with some of my 10th grade students (X IPA-3). We played Uno and watched Insidious lol. It was so fun and nice to talk to the students on a more casual note than in class. I noticed that this made the students more comfortable, too, as some of the students who were always too shy to talk to me then began to ask me questions. It was great.

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All of us watching Insidious hahaa

After school ended, which was at 12pm like the day before, I went to the Swiss-Bel gym and decided to change things up a bit. I finally admitted to myself that I am not in any shape to be running at the same speed as before, and I may never be in that shape again. It may have just been during my competitive running years that I had that capability. And I am not talking 6 min/mile pace or anything; I am talking like 7:30-8 min/mile pace. But running is a hard activity, unless it is kept up every day. So on the treadmill today, I decided to run a bit slower today. I could run longer on the treadmill before dying, and it felt so much better. So, I was happy. 🙂

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To help the orangutans, you can purchase a “Save Dodo” t-shirt, with all of the profits going to the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. I bought four 🙂

I wanted to take advantage of the wifi at the hotel a bit longer, since at PSBB there is absolutely no Internet. And I still needed to work on a report for AMINEF, so I spent a couple more hours at the hotel eating a Western dinner (fish and chips—unhealthy but yum), calling my daddy, and doing that report. On the walk back home in the dark, it’s crazy but it actually felt natural. I mean, I was not scared at all. I felt more comfortable walking home in the dark after being home for two weeks than I had beforehand, which is weird. But hey, I am not complaining about that! In bed that night, around 8pm, I watched the mati lampu (blackout) happen in my house, with every light I had on turn off all at once. And while I was completely surrounded by darkness, I heard some loud banging on my roof. I was so scared! It was so loud and did not go away.. And then I realized what it was: monkeys! I had monkeys on my roof! I could not believe it. I wish that I could see them, but they always disappear to hiding during the day. But I was happy. This is the Indonesia, with monkeys, of which I have longed for!

January 5, 2016: Just plain confusion

Week 18 in Indonesia

I had set my alarm for 4am today because I wanted to go through my oleh-oleh, again. I realized from the day before that there were more people who I needed and wanted to give gifts to, so I needed to go through all of the gifts I had brought here again. I also really wanted to try going to the gym and running in the morning, before school. Maybe if it is morning and I have not sweated the entire day yet then I would have an easier time running. So, I left my house at 5:45am to walk my 20 minutes to the Swiss-Bel. But guess what! It was still unbearably difficult to run. Maybe it is because I used to be a cross-country runner who only ever ran outside, in all weather conditions, rather than always running on a treadmill. It could also be the long walk that it takes to get to the gym. Or just that I am plainly out of shape—period. Who knows. All I know is that I cannot expect to exercise here like I have in the past.

While walking back to PSBB to shower and then go to school, I saw Tika and Yuna driving away from the school. It was only 8:15am! They told me that there was no school for the rest of the day because it was the prophet Muhammad’s birthday. I was so confused because my counterpart had not informed me of any of this.. If that was the case, I would have gone to school earlier to at least see the kids for a couple hours. Tika and Yuna wanted to come back to PSBB to have a fruit party, but I told them that I still needed to get in contact with my counterpart to ask if I should be going to school today, as I was not told that I did not need to attend. Then, a little further down the road, one of the male teachers saw me walking and told me that there was libur (holiday) today. I was still very confused, but since it was a teacher telling me that I did not need to go to school then I took that as an okay not to go to school. If all the students were leaving, then I did not really want to be at school anyway…

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The view from my back door: forest

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Basically, this describes my day perfectly lol

I continued on my way back home to shower, as I had remembered that Ibu Halimah and Pak Idris had wanted to take me up on my offer to treat them to Pizza Hut, just like I had done for Tika and Yuna the day before. Ibu Halimah had finally gotten back to me and told me that there was a teacher’s meeting at school and that I should go if I wanted to. I did not really want to spend hours in a meeting full of Bahasa Indonesia where I am pretty much completely useless, so I decided to sleep a bit more. Well, I ended up sleeping from 10am until midnight that same day.. Well, there went my chance to quickly get over my jet-lag. In fact, I had probably made it worse, as that is the exact sleeping time for people back in New Jersey. I hoped that Ibu Halimah was not mad about the Pizza Hut thing, as she never called me about it, even though she was eagerly reminding me of my offer the day before. But now, I was more confused than ever about the school schedule this week and when/if I needed to attend. Ugh…

January 4, 2016: Back at it

Week 18 in Indonesia

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Oleh-oleh (gifts) for teachers and people

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Candy for all 24 classes at school

I spent my first night back in Palangkaraya literally sorting out all of my oleh-oleh to hopefully start giving out tomorrow. It actually is a lot of pressure to give out gifts to people here. Since every person who I know here is aware that I went back to the US, they all expect gifts from me. I just can’t do that, not for everyone. But I wanted to give each class at the school—all 24 of them—candy this time, not just my ten classes whom I teach. I think that I have been unfair by only giving oleh-oleh to the students who I teach in class and not to all the other students in the school as well.. Ahh I wish I could give them all so much more! But, tidak bisa (not possible). So, I decided to sort out all of my candy into 24 little bags for every class. That took a while lol.

I woke up first thing this morning to be at school early for the 6:30am flag ceremony. It was so good to see all of the students again. I realized that I did miss them! But I know that once I go back home to the US in May, I will be happy, too. It is just so weird how life goes on, no matter where you are and with whom you are. Anyway, after the flag ceremony, I was very confused with the school schedule. Apparently, there were remedial exams going on, in which the teacher gives the students who have failed their first exam a second chance to correct their exam with the right answers, as well as to give explanations. But all of the other students who do not have remedial were literally just chillaxing in their classrooms or at the canteen. Some students were not even in school! But I still was not getting a straight answer from anyone on if there were also classes today. In other words, was I supposed to be teaching my two classes today? So, I went around asking students if there was class or not. But something seemed different about the students. They did not seem as excited or happy to see me as they usually do. It was almost as if they were bored and tired of me leaving so much that my return and presence was just old news. Basically, I was old news. I knew that this day would come, and I have been worried about it. I don’t blame them, though. I would not feel super excited to see a teacher who keeps coming and going, either. I am almost not reliable to them. It made me feel really bad.

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Mixing everything

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Tika and Yuna trying to figure out the mixer

After the students finished the 11:30am solat prayer, I then saw them all starting to go home! Usually school goes until 3pm. I was so confused of what was going on. When Tika and Yuna invited me to make brownies with them at Tika’s house, I jumped at the opportunity to spend time with some students who wanted to see me. It was really interesting to watch them make brownies, as I have always wondered how that is done here when people do not have ovens in Indonesia. But I learned how! Basically, they melt the butter by putting it in a bowl that is then placed on top of boiling water in a bigger pot. And it is melted on the stove burner. Then they use a mixer to mix everything for like twenty minutes. And then they cook the brownies the same way as the butter: by putting the brownie pan on top of water in a huge pot on the stove burner. I should have realized that this is how desserts are made here, but I had not. Now I know how to at least make something, if I ever feel the desire to cook/bake while in Indonesia. I still have not cooked in my kitchen yet…

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How the brownie mix is “baked”

During the brownie baking process, I decided to slip out and go to the Swiss-Bel gym for a bit. And since I barely had any time to run during the last two weeks, it was so hard to run, again. But I also was reminded of how the Indonesian heat affects me when it comes to exercising. That was a rude awakening… I also have gained several pounds from this whole experience. I really just want to be back to normal, when I can go running and eat relative healthy, but I just do not see how that is possible here in Indonesia. It is amazing that even when I have the resources, it is still not feasible. I have the treadmill and gym at my disposal, but the Indonesian weather makes running feel impossible. I have fruit and other “healthy” foods that I can buy here, but I do not have the transportation to even buy it. Maybe I am just making excuses, I do not know..

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Selfie #1 of 1,000

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Selfie #2 of 1,000

Tika and Yuna picked me up a bit later because they wanted me to buy them Pizza Hut. It felt funny going to the new Pizza Hut on my first real day back in Indonesia, when I had 20x better pizza just a few days earlier in NYC. But I was still excited, as I could eat pizza any day. Unlike in America, Pizza Hut is a fancy restaurant here in Indonesia. It is also very expensive, in terms of Indonesian prices. When we drove into the Pizza Hut, there were so many people! It felt so strange to have to wait outside to be seated, as usually there are no waits at eating places here.. It almost felt like I was back in the US. But almost is key here, as I was quickly reminded by all the stares that I was the bule here—the only bule. I also felt a bit embarrassed that I, as a bule, was eating at Pizza Hut. I guess it just seems so stereotypical of a bule to want to eat pizza. After ordering our food, I then realized what the next half hour would be like with Tika and Yuna: selfie time. They took so many selfies on my phone that I cannot even count. After being in America for the last two weeks where there are very minimal pictures taken, let alone selfies, I was reminded at how weird/awkward it is to take selfies. While they were taking selfies, I looked around at the other people in the restaurant. Literally, there was at least one person at each table who was taking a selfie, picture or looking at their phones. It was actually a bit sad. And Tika, Yuna and I barely talked that entire time while waiting for our food because of those damn selfies…

As we finished eating, I felt myself quickly starting to fade. The jet-lag was finally starting to catch up with me. When they dropped off at home at 8:30pm, I immediately fell asleep.

January 1, 2016: A New Year, A New Outlook

Libur di Amerika

Well my time at home has come to an end. Man, could those ten days have gone by any faster? I am currently sitting in the Newark airport, where I am soaking in the sight of all these bules—a sight that I won’t see again probably until June. It felt like I did both so much and so little in the short time that I was allotted here. I had the opportunity to see my family and several friends, visit Lehigh and pick up ESL books for my students, stay in NYC for two days and watch two Broadway plays, and buy my first legal drink—on three different occasions. I also watched way too much TV and taped shows with my cat, which is something I had missed very much. I am sure that I sacrificed some brain cells for that. But hey, no regrets. My jet-lag also got the best of me, making it very difficult to fall asleep at night but easy to fall asleep at random times in the middle of the day. There were many nights that I did not sleep at all or only got a few hours of sleep. Let’s hope that the jet-lag on the way back to Indonesia is not as terrible, or else I will have a difficult time standing at the flag ceremony at 6:30am on Monday morning!

Throughout the ten days, I continually realized and acknowledged to myself how much I love my family, my friends and my home. It is sad because I had to go all the way around the world just to realize it to the extent that I do now. But I also realized how much has stayed the same since I had left. Yes, there are many things that are different about my life now compared to last December. But my family is still the same. My house is still the same. And New Jersey is still the same. It is really comforting to know that I will still have all of that when I get back, five months from now..

What I found interesting was how much I felt that I was the same person as I had been before I had left for Indonesia. Besides gaining quite a few pounds and not feeling a strong desire to run anymore, I still felt like the same Carlie as I was in August. I think what I am gaining from my experiences in Indonesia is just that: experiences. I am not changing or reaching enlightenment, contrary to what most people assume about those who venture abroad for lengthy periods of time. Instead, I am learning about this other part of the world and what it is like to live there. I am forming memories based on those experiences, but I am not becoming this new person because of it. I do not really know why I had thought that would be the case.

Because I have done a lot of these types of things. Maybe they are not as extreme as a nine-month Fulbright grant in Indonesia, but I have participated in several programs that claim to be “life-changing” and “eye-opening.” And during the moment, participating in those programs does actually make me feel that my life is changing and that my eyes are opening. But then the program ends, and I go back home. And what happens after that? Life goes on, and everyone becomes absorbed in their same way of life as before. It is not that those programs were unimportant, because they still contributed to my memories and made a mark on the person who I am today. But knowing that still did not help me from feeling a bit foolish when I realized how quickly I readjusted to my life at home, almost like I was played or something. But I think it was I who had tricked myself from the very beginning.

A wise friend and mentor told me that she thinks I won’t truly realize the impact of the Fulbright on my life until five or ten years from now, when life goes on and I truly have had the time to reflect. I hope that this is the case. I want this testing and confusing journey to be worth it. I know that it is worth it to others, such as the students and teachers at my school. But I also want it to be worth it in the end for me, too. And I think that it will, just maybe not in the way that I had originally anticipated.

I am also realizing more and more that this blog is not so much about my life in Indonesia as it is about life in general. Most of the lessons I learn can be attributed to life and its many challenges and rewards. And I am growing a lot from it. I actually feel quite old, both mentally and physically, from all of these experiences. I forget that I am only 21 years old sometimes and instead feel like I am 50 or something. But based on what is happening in the world these days, I think that many people are being forced to grow up faster than they should be. It actually is scary, but it is life. And all we can do here is live the life that is given to us.

1.1.16 - home

Goodbye, Flemington..

It feels a bit strange to be leaving on New Years Day. Of course, I am sad to be leaving. I really do not like saying goodbyes. I never really had to do it before this Fulbright. But I want to start this New Year off with something new: curiosity, adventure and appreciation. The first few months of my Fulbright grant had made me a bit disillusioned, but I want to change that now. I want to forget about all of those difficult days and start new, start fresh. I have five months to make a difference in my school and to learn as much about life in Palangkaraya as I can. Not many Americans get this opportunity, but I was lucky enough to try. So from here on out, I am going to try my best to be more positive and grateful for this opportunity that I have been awarded. You can hold me to it!

December 21, 2015: There is no place like home <3

Libur di Amerika

So, as expected, the plane rides were terrible.. There are not too many wonderful things to say about them. The seats were uncomfortable, and sleeping was nearly impossible. I also could not brush my teeth in two days, which is my fault for forgetting to bring a toothbrush in my carry-on, but it also did not make things any more bearable. And on the 15-hour flight from Hong Kong to Newark, every half hour I could not stop checking how much time was left. It really was torturous! I did, however, have fairly decent airplane food this time. The two meals of rice and chicken that I had on the Garuda Indonesia flights were pretty delicious, and the pasta that I had on the United Airlines flight was the best pasta that I had eaten in four months lol. I wonder if my standards of good food are lowering from my time spent in Indonesia.. If so, that is not necessarily a bad thing; I’ll take it!

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The view of Hong Kong’s mountains from the airport!

I also felt really proud of myself at how naturally comfortable I felt to travel alone. I did not even realize it until someone asked me at the Hong Kong airport if I was traveling alone, since I apparently still look very young. Before this Fulbright experience, I was always so intimidated by airports. They scared me, a lot. I never understood or remembered how the whole security, customs, immigration stuff worked, and I never felt comfortable going alone. But now, it feels so natural to be alone, especially when traveling. I am proud of myself for reaching that point. I may have been forced to reach this point based on my many undesired evacuations, but I still reached it nonetheless. I think that it is good to feel proud of ourselves every once in a while and to acknowledge it, as that is how we keep growing as people. Otherwise you can go through life and never appreciate and learn from all of the little obstacles that you had to overcome within yourself to become the person you are today. We all deserve that praise, even from ourselves. 🙂

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The surprises waiting for me at home 🙂

Anyway, I could not believe the emotions of pure happiness and love that I felt when I first saw the New York City skyline come into view in my small United Airlines window. I had seen that view many times before, but I had never appreciated it in the same way that I do now. I never realized how beautiful it was, and I never once felt that it was my home until now. Truth is, I always planned on getting out of the New Jersey/New York area once I graduated. I wanted to see all of the other better parts of America or of the world at large, which is why I was so quick to accept the Fulbright without really thinking about if I could handle the challenges it would throw at me. But now, I have nothing but love for New Jersey and NYC. Dorothy says it perfectly: “There is no place like home.” And NJ is my home. And in a way, it will always be my home—wherever I end up.

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Appreciating paved roads again

The first sight of my mom waiting for me in the closest area feasibly permitted by the airport made me so happy. It is the best feeling in the world to know that there is always someone who will be there for you. For me, that person is my amazing mom. ❤ On the drive back home, I realized that I was taking deeper looks at everything: the paved road, the tall buildings, the abundant cars, the rain drops as they hit the window shield. I appreciated it all in a way that I had never bothered to before. Everything looks different in Indonesia. And I literally mean everything. And it only got better when I arrived home to hug my fat kitty, who I never had truly realized just as fat she was until now, to death. This realization was fostered by my constant surrounding by starved, stray cats in Indonesia. :/ Laying on my big comfy couch. Walking through my house that had carpeted floors. Taking a shower in a real shower. Eating as much American food as I want. Sleeping in my big bed without worrying about rolling in lizard poop or getting bit my mosquitoes. All of it felt like new experiences! But at the same time it felt like I had never left, which makes me wonder.. It has already been four months of my grant, but have I actually changed at all? Will this experience really make me a better person, or will I go back to being the same Carlie and viewing life the same way as I did before when I come back for good in May? Am I even really looking to change myself anyway? I could ponder the answers to these questions for days, but I do not know if I will ever really come to conclusions. Because all I am doing is living life, and life is so unpredictable and spastic that it is sometimes impossible to analyze it so deeply. Also, that is not how I want to spend my ten-day Christmas vacation anyway. Let us save the deep, emotional stuff for my final reflection in May—if you can hold on with me until then! 😉

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YAY for NJ!

Anyway, I am going to cut you all a break from reading my blog for a couple of weeks. Enjoy your holiday(s) with the amazing people around you, who love and care about you! And do not forget to share your love back with them, as love is the most important and priceless thing that we all can give. ❤

December 20, 2015: Sampai Jumpa, Palangka…

Libur di Amerika
12.20.15 - 3

Sudah siap!

I only slept a couple hours during the night because I was packing and getting ready to fly back home. It took most of the night! And then at 5:30am Tika arrived at PSBB to take me to UAIN (Universitas Agama Islamic Negeri) for an event called Jalan Sehat, whose direct translation means “healthy walk.” It is similar to a 5k race, but instead it was a 3k walk rather than a 5k run. It was a beautiful sunny morning, but I was in a very dull mood because of my lack of sleep. I also felt very uncomfortable because I stupidly wore tight leggings to the Islamic University rather than something more modest. That was pretty disrespectful of me. I should have worn something more conservative and not so tight-fitted. I am so used to this type of outfit being acceptable in the American society, especially since I would always wear this type of outfit when I went running with my team. But this is not America. And I received the consequences for my actions, which were a lot of unwanted looks and attention. I particular was not in a mood to handle this unwanted attention because (1) I was sleepy, (2) I was pissed at myself for my choice in outfit, and (3) there were too many people in too tight of corners to stare at me. There were also lots of people there whom I had known, including the headmaster, teachers and students from MAN Model! It was cool to see them outside of school, but it also just made me more self-conscious about my appearance.. However, I tried to accept that I had no other option at this point and to just put up with the discomfort that I caused for myself. Once I got over that, it felt relaxing and soothing to walk around the neighborhood close to the university and just talk to those around us. I also had a chance to meet some of Isty’s university friends, which was cool.

I had been invited to two weddings—through a mass SMS sent to all the teachers—this morning after the Jalan Sehat, but no one had brought it up to me in person so I had not planned on attending. I normally would have asked Ibu Ria if she would take me, but I really just wanted to rest more before my plane ride later. So when Ibu Ria made a statement in which she clearly had the expectation that I was going to attend, I think I surprised her by saying that I was not planning on attending. She then texted Ibu Halimah to ask if it was okay if I did not attend, but that is the thing: I should not need to ask for permission for anything that does not involve Monday to Friday teaching at my school, as per my Fulbright ETA contract. I do not know if my teachers fully understand that. This really bothers me, as I honestly am just so tired of feeling like I am my school’s property. Every time a situation comes up where I feel that I am not treated the same way as another teacher at my school, I feel the emotion build up in me. I really did not want to feel this way with Ria, but in this moment I could not help myself. I wanted to at least have one person at my school who I felt had my back with things like this, but I guess I have not found that person yet..

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Ratri, Tiara, and Wulan (Left to Right)

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Love them ❤

I was able to sleep for a couple hours then before I met up with a couple other 10th grade students who really wanted to see me before I left: Ratri, Wulan, and Tiara. Tiara actually does not go to MAN Model, but Ratri told me that she had really wanted to meet me, as I would be the first bule that she has ever met. 🙂 The girls are so sweet, really. I just love spending time with all of my students, but my 10th grade girls are always the sweetest. They picked me up and brought me to a café called Chib-Chib Café, which served Korean food. We sat in the café, which was empty, talking and singing along to the music that loudly played. It was great. Then they came back to PSBB to hang out for a bit. I felt so thankful that my students wanted to spend time with me, as I was feeling a bit sad about leaving Palangkaraya in just a couple hours. Wulan even started to cry a bit when we said goodbye! This surprised me a bit because we have not been able to spend that much time together, so I do not know her well yet. But there have been several students who have had this reaction to my leaving. If that is the case, then I really wonder the effect that I am having on my students and their lives. Maybe my presence at MAN is doing more for my students than I even realize.. It made me so sad. They all made me promise that I would come back.. I do not know why my students think that I won’t come back. Are they used to people coming and going in their lives? Do they think that I won’t want to come back after being back home in the good, great America? Do they think that I do not want to come back to teach them? I hope that they know how much I love them, as I try really hard to show it. I want them to feel that they can count of me. I think that is one of the most important things that I can do for them, as a foreigner: to show up and show that I care. So of course I am coming back!

12.20.15 - 4

Aya and Ibu Halimah at the airport lol

When they left, I had another hour or so to get fully ready to leave. So I took another shower, as I knew that I would not have any access to a shower until another 48 hours.. And I said goodbye to the ghost in my kitchen and to the kitties outside my house. Mas Deden and Ibu Halimah accompanied me to the airport, which was nice of them. We ended up waiting about another hour for Ibu Ria and Aya to come, since they had wanted to say goodbye but had accidentally fallen asleep lol. I was starting to panic a bit while waiting for them, as I am so used to being at the terminal early in case of any changes. But Ibu Halimah had gotten me to loosen up by making me wait for Ria and Aya, which I was really happy that I did because they immediately made me smile. Aya is just the most adorable little girl there is, and Ria always makes me feel happy and comfortable. They also brought me some key chains to give to people at home as oleh-oleh, which was so nice and unexpected of them. And then it made me feel quite sad to say goodbye, as just one of the many times that I have had to say goodbye to them. I wonder what it will be like when I have to say goodbye for good, in five months from now when my grant concludes. I am definitely going to cry.. Ugh I really hate dealing with goodbyes. I do not like any position that makes me emotional, since I am one of the most emotional people you may ever know. And for those of you who do know me to any extent, you know that once I start to tear up those tears do not stop. I honestly do not know where they come from sometimes; it is like I have a whole tear reservoir consistently building up to humiliate me in any emotional moment. It is a curse lol.

Anyway, I had to hunt down some more oleh-oleh in the airport, so I was really grateful that there were even any shops there to begin with! This is probably the smallest airport in the world, so I was not expecting even a snack stand. But there were several Dayak souvenir shops, which was wonderful because I had wanted to buy souvenirs for my people back home that were specifically related to the Dayak culture of Palangkaraya. And then, since the plane was delayed, I sat at the terminal and mentally prepared for the long journey ahead of me.. 21 hours of planes but another 24 hours spent in airport terminals. I love planes, but I really dislike the flight from Asia to America and vice versa. It is almost torturous to me. But this is the price—both the monetary and mental price—that one has to pay to visit the other side of the world. Even though it really sucks, however, it is totally worth it. So do not let the daunting plane ride inhibit your desire to see an amazing part of the world.

See you all on the other side! 😉

December 19, 2015: Kampung Lauk

Week 17 in Indonesia
12.19.15 - 2

Tika and Isty!

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I could have gone into school again if I wanted to, but since it was a Saturday I was not required to. So, I decided to take some self-care time to both sleep in (until 8am) and do my very much-needed laundry. Want to guess how many weeks since I have done laundry? Three. 🙂 Ibu Noor Hayati—one of the neighbors—helped me with laundry this morning, as I still do not know how to properly do it Indonesian-style. It is actually quite embarrassing, and I feel terrible that Ibu Noor Hayati and Ibu Aan always feel like they need to help me. I am fine doing the laundry my own way, as long as the clothes at least smell like they are clean! I am also grateful, though, that they help me, as it takes much less time than if I did it sendiri. It took about an hour and a half this hot morning. And I asked Ibu Aan if it would be okay if I started paying her to do my laundry come January. I know that Ibu Aan has the time and could probably use the money, so it would be good for her. Plus, I really, really dislike doing laundry, whether it be in the US or in Indonesia. It is just terrible. So basically right now, with my inability to cook, laziness to clean and inadequacy in doing laundry, it looks like I will be the worst housewife there could possibly be.

12.19.15 - 1

Kampung Lauk

12.19.15 - 6

Kampung Lauk view from our table

After that, I had to shower and get ready because some of the teachers wanted to go to Kampung Lauk—a really good seafood restaurant along the Kahayan River when you go over the Kayahan Bridge. I had yet to be there, so I was very excited. And it ended up being a really unique group of people who actually showed up! Pak Rasydi and his cute daughter, Ibu Siti Masniah, Ibu Halimah, Ibu Ria, Mas Didin, Pak Idris, Isty, Tika and a couple other people. Having that many people there just made me feel really happy and loved. It felt like my abroad family. 🙂 But that could just have been my crazy emotions getting the best of me. After Kampung Lauk, Ibu Ria brought me to an oleh-oleh store, so that I could buy some traditional Dayak souvenirs for my family, friends and professors back home. Now that I am going back home for Christmas, I need to buy Christmas gifts! And then I will need to buy many more gifts when I come back to Palangka. Ahh, it’s a vicious gift-buying and gift-giving cycle that never stops.

12.19.15 - 5

Real Indonesians eat with their fingers

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Ria and her studio friend, Aliah

After buying quite a few items for gifts back home, Ria brought me to her radio station studio because she needed to work for a bit. She has been working at the radio station for the past seven years as an announcer. I think that is the coolest thing, and I have wanted her to take me to her studio for quite some time now! I have never been to a radio station studio before, let alone one in Indonesia.. And it was pretty awesome. It was small, in a cute little house. But there were real microphones and advanced equipment that she and her other co-workers used to choose music and speak as announcers. It was super cool to hear her voice on the radio! And I also loved her co-workers. They were all so unique and interesting, all with very different personalities. I think that you need to be an interesting person to work at a radio station. I hope that she will let me come back sometime to see them all again, since I probably should start to do more things with people more my age in Indonesia anyway.. :/

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Having fun in the radio station 🙂

12.19.15 - 9

Smiling with our burgers!

I had a few hours at home to start the packing process for tomorrow before Tika and Yuna picked me up to go get dinner with Ria. Ria wanted to go to her favorite burger warung called Pesona Burger. I think that I was more nervous than excited to see what the real taste of this so-called “burger” was though lol. Most of the Western foods that are sold here have a very, very different taste than they would taste in a Western country, such as the US. And I was right; the burger did not taste like an American hamburger. But it was still pretty good! The key is to think about it as another food rather than a hamburger, or else you will get disappointed and probably not like it lol. We also ran into Fati at the Pesona Burger place, which was such a coincidence! Palangka feels big but it really is a small city.

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Does this look like a real burger to you?

After burgers, Tika and Yuna wanted to explore more before going home. They were originally going to sleep over, but then their parents told them that they could not. I asked some of my other female students, and many have never heard of a sleepover before because they are not allowed to do it. Very interesting! So we drove around until we found another place to go.

You haven’t experienced Indonesia until you have driven on the back of a motorbike. It is a feeling like no other. The wind throws itself against your cheeks, kindly introducing you to the smells of delicious warungs, fishy rivers, and burning garbage all at the same time. You can tell when it is going to pour rain, as the air becomes cooler and you actually begin to feel a bit chilly for once. You can hear the many Calls to Prayer at local mosques, children playing and laughing, and dangdut music from bike shops. As people drive by you, you are so close that can see the dimples and beauty marks on their faces. This is the real way to experience Indonesia.

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Sipping on the rooftop!

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We ended up getting chocolately drinks at a café called Bubble Café. We sat outside on the rooftop, where there were many older people and a live performance. It was so relaxing and also a bit chilly! And when they dropped me off later that night, that was when I continued with the lovely process of packing…

December 18, 2015: KFC Drive-Thru for Motos

Week 17 in Indonesia
12.18.15 - 5

Some of my 12th grade students who had won first place in their Biology competition, written in Bahasa Inggris!

Although I was extremely tired this morning, I was eager to get to school to see my students for the last time before I fly home for Christmas on Sunday. I am starting to get pretty sentimental now that I am leaving. It just feels so soon—too soon.. Since this is my sixth day of proctoring the exams, I have become accustomed to the Indonesian style of taking an exam. Now when I see my students working together to answer an exam question, I just let it happen. It does not even phase me that they should not be doing that lol. At one point, I even tried to help a student solve a physics problem lol, whoops. Basically, I am forgetting that it is an exam and not just an in-class assignment.

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The restaurant 🙂

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Fati at the KFC drive-thru window!

After the exams, I went to lunch with one of my 10th grade students, Fati. I really like Fati. She is so easy to talk to and is quite funny. She also has very good English, which makes things flow a bit better. She took me to a really pretty rumah makan (restaurant), where you sit on the floor around a wooden table in the little bamboo huts. I think when I get a house one day in America, I want to take some parts of the Indonesian culture along with me. These little bamboo huts are so cozy and cute, so I think that I want to have one built in my backyard. I want to decorate the hut with pretty lights and add cushions around the table for people to sit on. Just picturing it in my head already makes me excited. Anyway, I had delicious ikan bakar (cooked fish), tempe bakar (cooked tempeh), and two jus alpukat (avocado juices). It was enak sekali! Pop quiz: What does enak sekali mean? If you are a dedicated reader, I hope that you are starting to learn some Bahasa Indonesian words. Maybe soon I can start teaching you Bahasa Banjar or Bahasa Dayak! 😉

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The view

12.18.15 - 1

Just relaxing at the Taman Kota

It was also really great to spend some time with Fati alone, as we talked about some deeper things that may not be possible in a bigger group. She even told me something that made me cry, as I may not be seeing her every day anymore.. That was a shocker to me! I know that I have been more sentimental this week because I am leaving for America in just a couple days, so it almost feels like everything is ending, even though it sure is not. But my instant reaction of crying surprised me! It showed me how much I really care about my students and how much I want them in my life right now. Fati was sad, too. 😦 After lunch, we wanted to go jalan-jalan(ing) around somewhere, but we could not think of anywhere unique to go. Since we both were a bit sad, I suggested we get ice cream or something. We ended up going through the KFC drive-thru for mocochinos. I immediately laughed when I saw that a KFC drive-thru existed here in Palangka, where 99% of transportation on the road is motorbikes. So basically, it is a drive-thru designed for motorbikes. It just felt hilarious ordering and paying at the window while chilling on the motorbike haha. I had to get off the bike to document this experience with a picture. I definitely embarrassed Fati, but it was so worth it. And my two-minute-long KFC friends at the checkout window seemed excited about it as well! We then went to the Taman Kota—the beautiful waterfall walkway in front of the Governor building—to relax and drink our mocochinos. It was so peaceful and enjoyable, but that is how it is with Fati. She is just a very chill person, which I like.

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More of the view

12.18.15 - 4

Mackenzie rocking her new moto!

Fati brought me back to PSBB around 5pm. I had not made plans with other students because I did not know how long I would be with Fati. I realized that I should not waste this free time watching movies or doing something that I could do at home when I only have a couple more days here. Mackenzie had been trying to get together with me for quite some time now, but it had never worked out with our schedules. So I figured I would see what she was up to tonight, as she can always drive out with her motorbike to see me. She ended up being free as well, so she came on over to PSBB a few minutes later. I forgot how nice it was to talk to her! In the past, most of our talking involved venting about annoying or uncomfortable things that happened to us here. But now, I did not have anything to vent about. I only had happy and exciting things to share. But I loved having someone who I could share those happy memories with and then who I could live vicariously through her happy stories as well. Mackenzie has yet to drive another person on her motorbike, and I did not want to be that first person. Plus, I want to make it home for Christmas to see my family and kiss my cat. So we ended up walking down my street in the dark and trying a new restaurant that I had not been to before. The food took a long time, but it was delicious, as most foods are here. It was great to catch up with Mackenzie once more before going home, too. Ahh so soon!