Tag Archives: daily life

Snapshots from a karate competition

28 Jan

Yesterday my school hosted a karate competition. It was the first time they’ve hosted such an event and were able to do so with our fairly new sports hall. By all accounts it was a success. Roughly 80 participants from the local community came to spar from elementary school kids through the high school level. Having never been to a karate competition it was both exactly what I expected and also much better. What surprised me was how immersed in it I became, and likewise, how into it the entire audience was. Occasionally I’d seen students practicing Sunday afternoons, but it’s much different when they’re actually going head to head in competition. Watching the students maneuver attempting to get in a hit without opening themselves up to a potential blow had us all intermittently on the edge of our seats and cheering.












Confession Sunday 1.13.2013

13 Jan

It’s not even over yet and I’m already reminiscing. Meaning… I watch this video way too much:

This video was made earlier last year to welcome the new group of volunteers to Peace Corps Indonesia. It’s a nice little peek into what our lives are like here, and I can’t help but get warm fuzzies every time I watch it.

The video is a compilation of short snippets shot by PCVs around East Java and masterfully combined by a Miss Elle Chang.

This is a video I for some reason still haven’t gotten around to posting yet either. It shows a day in the life of an Indonesian village. It was created by a group of volunteers and edited by Mr. Timothy Curtin during our group’s pre-service training nearly two years ago!

Maaf! for the delay but hopefully that gives you some idea of what this experience has been like. Additionally, I will post an actual update here real, real soon. So sit tight folks!

Snapshots from Idul Adha (Hari Qurban)

27 Oct


became this…

within a matter of hours earlier today.

Yesterday was Idul Adha or Hari Qurban. Though yesterday was pretty uneventful with only a prayer session. The real event was today…

Quick facts a la Wikipedia:

Screenshot of quick facts on Idul Adha from Wikipedia.org.

This is my second year experiencing Idul Adha. I wrote about my first experience in this blog post from last year. I went easy on the graphic photos then. However, this year I find myself not only more desensitized, but also left with the feeling that you come here to see something different right? To see a glimpse of life in a different part of the world. Well, this is it. So here we go! (Mouse over for captions. Also I promise it’s not that bad. I’d like to think I was tasteful in shooting and choosing images.)


A few differences between this year and last year:

  • Last year I didn’t actually see the cows get killed. However, between then and now I had witnessed a goat get killed for a celebration my host family held back in March. Like I said, I felt more desensitized having seen it before. I think last year it would have been much more difficult to watch.
  • Last year the whole thing had me feeling rather somber. So it was hard to make sense of everyone else’s nonchalant and merry attitude. This year I understood and accepted it more. These things didn’t bother me as much. Perhaps a sign of how I’ve adapted?
  • Continuing on that note, I thought there was a certain peacefulness and respect in the way they killed the cow. Specifically I saw some students stroking the cow’s face to calm it as it was being tied up. I also liked how they said a prayer before, and while  the religion teacher cut its throat he covered it with a banana leaf, making the whole thing much less gory.
  • This year I actually ate some of the meat. It’s difficult to get over the images of a cow’s windpipe sticking out from its neck, the sound of pouring blood filling a ditch and not to mention the smell of it all. But after the fact I was able to shake it off, teach a class and meet with my co-teachers. Meanwhile back in the school kitchen staff and students were cookin’ up Nasi Rawon, a beef and rice stew. Enticed by the fact that this may be the freshest beef I ever have the opportunity to eat, I tried it. Always try something once right?

Snapshots from Halal Bihalal

8 Sep

In East Java, the “most wonderful time of the year” has just passed. Ramadan and the following holiday, Idul Fitri or Hari Lebaran (or Eid-ul-Fitr or some variation of that in most parts of the world) is the equivalent to Christmastime in the U.S. The two celebrations/holiday seasons are far different but do share a few common threads…they’re the most significant religious holidays (respectively speaking), they disrupt the daily rhythm of life (though in different ways) and both tend to send people into a shopping frenzy on the brink of their concluding. So we’ve just gone through our version of that here, and things are pitter-pattering back to normal.

Ramadan in general was much more enjoyable than last year. It spurred deeper connections and observations into the Islamic faith and my community. It also made me rather sentimental during the last breaking of the fast, knowing it’d likely be my last time participating.  In addition to fasting, I also choose to go on the mudik, a jumble of nearly everyone on one of the world’s most densely populated islands hitting the road and heading to their hometowns to visit family and friends all at the same time. It was slightly chaotic.

Included in all this is Halal Bihalal. During Halal Bihalal you ask forgiveness from any former wrongdoings on your part towards that person with the phrase “Mohon maaf lahir dan batin” which roughly translates to “I’m apologizing from my heart and soul.” I’ve seen this said with the kind of sincerity it implies, but in many cases it came off less so.

Therefore the last few months have been pretty busy with the false start of school blending into the holidays, time off, holidays, celebrating, traveling around. I hadn’t captured quite as much of Ramadan as I had hoped to, but I’ll leave you with a few photos from the Halal Bihalal celebrations at my school with my school being my strongest tie to my community other than my host family.

Halal Bihalal is celebrated, as many things are in Indonesia in gathering together with family and friends, ceremony, prayer and food. Above are pictures from Halal Bihalal celebrated among teachers and staff the day before school resumed from the two week break. The photos below are from Halal Bihalal celebrated the next morning with students before lessons began.

Snapshots from the past six months (And a few things I’m learning about photography)

22 Jun

This post is a bit random but I was looking through pictures from the last six months and here are my favorites: (Mouse over for captions and context. You can also click the photo to see it larger.)

The photos don’t have much to do with each other, other than they give a small glimpse into my life here. But also I noticed a few things in going through my photos.

1. My favorite photos almost always include people. For whatever reason I find them much more engaging.

2. They are always my best, technically-speaking. The above photos have little to no editing. (Part of that is because I finally learned how to set a custom white balance. If you’re learning to use a DSLR like me and you haven’t tried this feature yet, I highly suggest messing with it—it makes such a difference in getting the right colors.)

3. Good photos are few and far between. I’ve taken many more pictures in the last six months than any other period in the past. A few thousand. Many were deleted because they just didn’t turn out, and I fear I’m becoming a bit of a snob when it comes photos. So out of all those, these nine were my favorites (excluding those I’ve posted for other special events or from my travels.)

4. It’s more difficult to photograph every day life than it is to take good photos while traveling. It’s easy to be inspired by new sights and experiences so that you can’t help but start snapping away. It’s much more difficult to see every day life with fresh eyes and a sense of wonder.

“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder” – E.B. White

Snapshots from a kripik home business

10 May

In Indonesian villages, many people have home businesses whether it’s a toko (store with daily necessities like soap, shampoo, snacks, water, etc.), warung (a small restaurant) or salon, etc. On Sunday, I visited a school administrative assistant’s home.  We visited one of her neighbors who has a kripik home business. Kripik are chips often made from sinkong or pisang. That is kassava or bananas respectively. Here’s what this kind of little operation looks like: (Mouse over for captions)

And that’s how it’s done should you ever want to start a kripik business!

Potty talk

1 Jun

I have a dirty little secret.

I’m still using toilet paper. Yeah, I know, it’s repulsive and wasteful. No need to worry though, I’m becoming enlightened on the subject. I’ve just finished a fascinating little read titled “How to Sh*t Around the World” by Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth. One would think these are the sort of things in life one could figure out on their own, but sometimes it helps to have a little guidance and confirmation that there  are other acceptable practices for taking care of business.

Having not traveled to Asia before or having lived in a village, this is all new to me. I’m realizing a vast amount of people around the world do not have a porcelain throne to perch upon. After reading this book, I’m realizing there are a wide variety of toilet situations a person can stumble upon depending on where their travels take them. Likewise,  it would be good for me to know some of this common sense, that’s not so common sense to me.

So how does it all work exactly? Luckily, Peace Corps has provided us with a little diagram:

A supplement provided in the Peace Corps Indonesia Health Handbook. Drawing created by current Peace Corps Volunteer Andy MakePeace.

I’ve been grappling with the concept of adopting the Indonesian way of doing things since I got here —  using water and the left hand (see diagram above.) I still can’t quite bring myself to use the restroom sans toilet paper, yet even getting over the idea of squatting every day was difficult to accept several months ago. Prior to arriving, one of the first things I did when I learned of squat toilets was call the Peace Corps Indonesian Country Desk in Washington D.C. and asked if I would be able to find toilet paper in Indonesia or if I should consider packing a decent supply to get me started.  To my relief toilet paper is plentiful. Some people do use it, but for many it’s just not practical or customary. One fellow trainee was even shunned from his host family until he adopted their ways. In talking to some of the others who’ve adjusted, I feel like an oddball for sticking to my American ways. Perhaps I’ll come around at some point…

I know one of my concerns was of the cleanliness of it all. Well it is quite a clean habit, given you wash your hands well afterwards and before eating food. I even have a quote from the book to prove it. “[Using water is] an excellent and hygienic habit which most Westerner’s find revolting, yet citizens of warmer countries find our habit of using paper instead of water incomprehensibly uncivilized and dirty.”

It’s true, toilet paper is considered dirty here. It can’t be flushed down the toilet, so it must accumulate in trash cans or plastic bags which may make it to the dump or be burned in the front yard.

I find this cultural clash over bathroom practices quite fascinating. When we arrived at the airport in Surabaya, I was horrified when I walked into the ladies room and everything was dripping wet. I was soon informed by Peace Corps staff that a wet bathroom is considered a clean bathroom in Indonesia.

My humble squat pot gets the job done.

And now some fun facts about toilet paper:

  • Tp was first produced in England in 1957. It was called Gayety’s Medicated paper and only used by the rich. At the time it was considered embarrassing to buy such a product.
  • Toilet paper rolls first appeared in 1928. In 1932 soft toilet paper was introduced.
  • Another fun fact: “…in a lifetime, the average Westerner’s toilet paper use consumes about 22 trees.”

(Fun facts courtesy of “How to Sh*t Around the World” by Dr. Jane Wilson-Howarth.)