Monday, December 12, 2016


Right this minute I'm in Frankfurt, on my way back to Colombia after almost 2 weeks in central Java. It has been an amazing trip, not least because of my "entourage" - three young people who accompanied me throughout. The purpose of this trip was to interview people about our youth exchange programs, I think I talked with close to 100 people, and ate mounds of amazing food. 

Soto, cooked before our eyes in a street-side cart diner

2/3 of my Entourage! in yellow, Stephannie my interpreter and handler; in white next to her, Anielle my PR rep and agent. Not pictured: Alan the driver! This is at the Soto food stand

One night we stayed with a pastor and his wife at what they call the “pond house” – our only homestay on this trip – and there were so. Many. Critters! What you might expect from a pond house… to get there we drove and drove and drove on little country lanes with rice paddies stretching out all around on all sides and views of spectacularly pointy mountains around every bend. Little villages with elaborate tiled mosques and fish markets. We got lost and had to ask directions several times. The roads were narrow and bumpy. When we found the house the pastor and wife were waiting on a covered verandah waiting with hot jasmine tea and fried tempeh snacks, wearing matching batik button-down shirts. Behind the house was a 7-hectare fish pond (yes, it was enormous). This was the only place I stayed on the trip where there was no A/C and no Internet, it was kind of refreshing… but also got really hot!

The pond behind the pond house!
 When we went to bed, I saw about a thousand mosquitos on the ceiling around the light but Stephannie said they weren’t mosquitos. I put on a ton of repellent anyway. Then an enormous flying cockroach buzzed around the room. Stephanie killed it and then found another and killed that one too. The next morning while interviewing the pastor I saw a centipede on the floor. But it was so nice sitting on the bed for the better part of the day with my puffy feet up, the floor fan slowly rotating, looking out over the pond while my clothes dried in the sun and I typed up interview notes.

The bathroom system here is different. Every bathroom has a tiled water tank in one corner, with a spigot and a plastic dipper (about 2 liters size). There may be a squat toilet, what Albanians call Turkish style, or a regular sit toilet, but there is always a hose with a spray nozzle for washing your butt. What I can’t figure is how you are supposed to dry your butt after washing? There is never any toilet paper. The proper thing is to bathe twice a day, morning and evening, using cold water dipped out of the tank. Despite the poshness of the hotels, in only two of them has there been truly hot water for showering. (You know how I love my hot showers…)

 I feel like my body odor has changed from all the spices in the food.

Fried frog legs! I also had them in the soup version which was delicious. Add enough garlic, lemongrass, and spices and anything tastes amazing!
After a dozen of these lunches I think I gained at least 10 lbs on this trip:

beautiful countryside. It also rained every day.

This Christmas tree was made entirely out of plastic water bottles and cups cut into flower shapes!
It was a really amazing opportunity to see this country and meet so many people. Sadly the only phrase in Bahasa Indonesian that I really learned was "Terima kasih," which means "thank you." But I sure got to say it a lot :-)