to eastern Indonesia I go…part 2 (the village)

My time in Samasuru village was absolutely amazing!
    Before last week I had never really seen the whole process of building a house from scratch. I’m not exactly sure what I expected…but having a whole house framed, partially roofed, and part of the cement walls put finished in two days was not exactly what I expected. To see something start from a slap of stones and cement to a clear house structure in such a short time was absolutely incredible.
     When we arrived at our village the wood for construction hadn’t arrived yet, so instead of just killing time, we decided to work on finishing details on the existing church. We put plamir (kind of like plaster) on the walls, which would serve as a primer for future painting and look much better than grey cement walls.
     After a few hours, our team finished the inside walls and so we moved on to the outside walls. When I started to plamir the walls outside I had a whole group of ladies come up and started intently staring at me while I was working, which was quite disconcerting. Being quite self-conscious about my plamir technique, I made a joke that I was a little slower than the guys. One of the ladies responded in a very serious tone, “Of course, they’re men.” That was the first time I got a feeling that being one of two girls in a construction team of men might not be as smooth sailing as I thought it would be. However, I pressed on and we were able to finish all of the walls of the church both inside and outside before the start of our afternoon kid’s program.
     The second day our whole team got up and met at the construction site by 6am…even before coffee! The carpenters had been working all night to get the pieces of the house all in the right order so that it would just be a matter of pegging the pieces together and then raising the walls. I have never actually seen a barn raising in person, but I think this was probably very similar to what that would look like.
     After a little bit I saw Korry working with a guy on the edge of the construction site; she was using a machete to form pieces of wood into pegs. I decided to head over that way and see if maybe I could help too. One of the guys handed me a machete and a small piece of wood and I started on my peg. I worked for about 10 minutes and was almost done, when an old man came up to me, took away my machete and told me that he would “help” me by finishing it. I was a little disappointed, I had really wanted to at least finish my one peg, but I knew that I was a lot slower than they were, and we needed the pegs quickly so they could keep building, so I let it go.
     A couple hours in, our IES team realized that we had some free time before the carpenters would be ready for us to be able to help them with the next phase. Instead of just standing around watching, we decided to take a break and go to explore the beach a little bit. We put on our sandals and started our 15 minute walk to the beach through the woods/jungle. We had to wade through some water to get there, but it was completely worth it, the view was incredible! It was so refreshing to walk through the mini-jungle and then see the ocean and play and goof around a little bit with the rest of the team.
     After lunch we were able to start “chor-ing” on the walls. We had to nail wooden boards on both sides of where the walls would be and then pour cement inside of the boards. At first I think they only let me start mixing the cement because they thought I wanted a photo of me with the shovel, but when I didn’t give the shovel back after a few scoops, I think they realized that I really wanted to help. It felt so good to have my sleeves rolled up and finally be doing hard work…I guess my inner “farm-girl” came out and it was great! The fact that it surprised all the guys that I could keep up the mixing speed and quantity was also an added bonus. After about 15 minutes, though, they decided that I should help transport buckets of cement back and forth to the house (since I was a girl after all), so I changed jobs. I actually really ended up enjoying that too. I learned an interesting fact about myself on this trip…I don’t do well sitting still when there is a job to be done, I much prefer to get my hands dirty and be in the midst of the action.
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     Our last full day in the village we were able to finish up all the chor we could do with the supplies that we had, which lasted until right before lunch. After lunch, a bunch of the kids from the village decided to take us to the nearby river for some fun before we had to get ready for our last kids program of the week. I think playing in the river was one of the most fun things I have done in Indonesia. The kids were so unbelievably excited to play with us. Korry and I decided that we were going to sit on a log in the middle of the river and watch the kids and our other team members swim and play in the current. Well, the kids decided they would swim towards us and give us pretty stones as a “toll” for passing by. We laughed, we splashed, we got some sun…it was amazing. Definitely a great final afternoon in Samasuru.
     Not only did we get to work on construction projects, but we also got to work with children…both during our organized kids program, and throughout the week in any free time that we had. The pastor’s two children, Icha and Jael, became my best buddies. One of them was always grabbing on to me or Korry. It took me a while to earn their trust (as I don’t think they had ever seen a white person before), but once they decided they liked me, we were best friends.
     For our kids program, we had been expecting 35-50 children maximum. We were going to do music, games, a craft, and story time. By the time our first afternoon kids program started, we had 147 kids…but only supplies for 50! Thankfully Korry is great at thinking on her feet, so we were able to adapt our program, and no one but us knew that it wasn’t how we initially planned it. The kids laughed, danced, and were just full of joy. For much of the story, they were laughing so hard their eyes were watering. It was better than we could have imagined!
     The last afternoon after the story we took time to pray for each of the kids. While we were praying they were singing the most beautiful song in Indonesian. They sounded like a choir of angels, their voices were so beautiful. After spending three days with them, it was such an honor to get to pray for them.
     Though our organized kids activities were awesome, my favorite part was just hanging out with the kids after the scheduled program. We had a group of about 8-10 of them that would take us on walks, or just stay late and sing every Sunday School song they knew with us. It was so special to get to know them a little bit, to play with them, and to show them love. They are so full of joy. When I was with them, I just couldn’t help but feel full of joy too. Though I am not fluent in Indonesian, my language was good enough to be able to communicate and chat about life, about school, about what they do for fun. They told me about their culture and some of the weird things they eat, like giant snakes. I feel like they gave me a small glimpse into their world, and it was such an honor.
    After our last kids program, we had to get ready for the evening service. It was so cool to worship with everyone in their language one more time before we headed back to Ambon. After the service we took a bazzilion pictures, loaded up the ancot, and headed back to Masohi to meet the other half of the team.
     It was sad to leave them after having really connected. I learned a lot about myself, about them, about life…I will forever be grateful for the three days in Samasuru. But while I was a  little sad to leave, I was also really excited to catch up with the other half of the team and hear what had happened in their village for the past three days.
(to be continued) 

my trek through the flood…

Though I’ve lived in many different places in my life, I’ve never really experienced a true flood. I have heard and seen pictures of flooding, but his year I got to experience it myself.

I had gone to stay with my friends the Tahitoes in Kelapa Gading Sunday night so I would have an “easy” journey to class the next day. However due to the heavy rain all night Sunday and all day Monday, there was no way to get back home and I was stranded in Kelapa Gading for four days.

Early on Tuesday morning (the second day of the flood) the rain stopped and we were able to get a big truck to go pick up my friend Jessica’s family. The plan was to be in and out as quickly as possible–but you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men… Needless to say it was quite an adventure.

We went and got a quick breakfast, as the house was without water and power, and then headed out to start our “quick” rescue operation.


On the way to pick up Jessica’s grandma, we passed these children playing in the flood water.


We met up with the truck and headed into the flood, ready to evacuate Jessica’s family.



The roads were crazy…I’ve never seen so much water in the streets.



We picked up Jessica’s family and began the trek to pick up Mark, an eight year old who was stranded with his nanny because his family couldn’t get to him due to the flooding.


Unfortunately, the truck broke down and Uncle T and I had to make our way through knee deep water to get to the mall where we could rescue Mark.


Once we got Mark, we made our way to Uncle T’s house, where Mark’s family met us and we reunited them.

After a few hours, the rest of the KG team met us in a different truck and we proceeded to start riding through the flood giving people rides.

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We met all sorts of interesting people that night. People would get in and out when we got them to where they need to be. There were some times when I wasn’t sure that the truck would make it, but it did!


Once it got dark and it was harder to deliver people, we decided it was time to go buy supplies for the emergency food packages for the evacuees in one of our slum communities. I’m pretty sure I have never bought so much food in my whole life.

After dropping off the food and everyone back in their homes, we got in the truck and headed back to the Tahitoes house to sleep for a few hours before day 2 trek activities.

the cultural exploration…

As excited as I was to go to Bali for the conference on community development, I also really wanted to get to explore some of the Hindu heritage of Indonesia that I hadn’t gotten to experience yet in the year I’ve been here. My friend Tirza suggested that we rent a car and explore Bali on Monday during the day before the 5pm kick off dinner…so that’s exactly what we did.

We started off by going to a traditional Balinese dance. It’s more like a ballet than other traditional dances that I’ve seen, because it’s not just about the movement or costumes, it’s about the complex storyline that gives you insight into the culture. Though I must say, the costumes were pretty cool…


Our next stop was to one of the largest Hindu temples on the island. 


While we were there we were able to see some of the ladies preparing for a ceremony later that evening…


On our way to the volcano view for lunch, we passed this tea plantation and had to stop to take a picture…


Right around lunch time it started to pour rain, so we stopped at a little restaurant with a gorgeous view. I miss being around mountains so much that getting to see this view was like medicine to my soul…


After this, Tirza and I made our way to the second largest Hindu temple in Indonesia.


While we were walking through we were able to crash part of a Hindu wedding. I got to see both the end of the ceremony and part of the wedding procession…IMG_4148

But first, let’s watch her take a selfie…


We ended our day of adventure by stopping by a coffee plantation, which has been on my bucket list of things to do in Indonesia since I first decided to move here. 


At the end of the tour we got to do a free coffee tasting, which was awesome!

IMG_4192 All in all, it was an awesome day…especially since it had been a while since I was able to do some cultural exploration.

the building blocks of communication…

Language is a very important part of life, it’s the building block of communication. When you cannot speak properly, you cannot communicate, which is so frustrating! I’ve been trying to learn Bahasa Indonesia on my own this past because I couldn’t find a good class here in Jakarta. Since I’m around so much English every day, it’s been really hard to just pick it up…which is why I decided I wanted to find an official class. In September, my boss found a great two-week intensive 60-hour program and recommended it to me—and I signed up right away!

The only problem with the class was it’s location—it was all the way in downtown Jakarta and I wasn’t going to be able to have access to the car, so I didn’t know how I would get there. Well I found out that my friend Valen (who lives in the same area I do) works right next to the school—so she was awesome and showed me the ropes about taking the bus to class so that I could do it on my own my first day.


Every morning I left my house at 5:30am to catch an ojek (motorcycle taxi) and an ancot to get to the street where I could catch the bus into downtown Jakarta. The bus that I took was really nice—it was actually very much like the buses in Madrid. I discovered throughout my two weeks riding the bus that Indonesian flash cards on the bus is a great way to make friends. The girls that would sit next to me were always curious and we were able to have some great chats!

I was a little nervous about the class itself and to be honest not really sure what to expect. I must say I was very pleasantly surprised at how great it was, even from the first session the first day. After working at JMU in the faculty professional development office for a year I learned a lot about proper pedagogy—particularly when it came to intensive seminars—so I tend to notice that kind of thing whenever I attend a seminar. The CFI staff would have been so proud at their course design and layout of my Bahasa Indonesia course! I loved that the three teachers were very different and had very different teaching styles, so it gave us multiple perspectives on both the material and Indonesian cultural observations.

Not only did we get to learn in the classroom, but we got to go on a fun adventure to the market Friday afternoon! We were given a blank list that we needed to fill it in with the names and prices of  10 fruits, 10 vegetables, 4 types of coffee beans, and 3 things we thought were weird. It was so fun! And of course, at the end we had to take a group bonding photo, haha!


I ended up really making friends with my classmates. I guess when you go through an intensive language learning process you sort of bond with the people who are on the same journey. We would go get lunch together every day. Some days we would practice our vocab words and other days we would just hang out. Today, the last day of class, was the most fun. We finish our test early so we had a longer lunch break. We decided as a group to go to this really cool Greek place across the street. The food was delicious and the company great!

Basically the class was incredible! The teachers were fantastic, the material was great, and my classmates were wonderful. I forgot how much I really do love school. I guess now that I’ve been out of school for two years I was actually able to enjoy being a student—complete with about 200 vocabulary notecards! And I think more than a particular set of words, what I really look away was how to study Indonesian. It’s very different than learning Spanish as a kid or French in school. But I’ve figured out my system and am excited to continue my journey towards fluency!


the symbol of a melting pot…


As I was on my way to the IFF Retreat in Lombok, I came across this really cool piece of architecture. According to my taxi driver it is the symbol of Lombok. The small building has pieces of each of the five major religions in Indonesia and apparently it represents how Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism can peacefully coexist. I thought it was very symbolic of Indonesian culture, so I thought I would share it with you all. 

to walk in her shoes…

Last week I had the opportunity to go to a four-day indoor soccer coach training seminar. I was so excited about this opportunity because it would help me be better equipped to coach my kids Sunday afternoons. The training was a good experience…but it was very different than I thought it would be.

I’ve grown up with a lot of freedoms…ones that I never really appreciated until my trip to Bandung last week. I was one of 40 participants…and the only female. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting—but being verbally discriminated against because of my gender by the other participants was not it. I didn’t know this when I signed up to go, but it is apparently not socially acceptable for girls to play soccer—it is a man’s sport. I knew that there were some people who thought that, I just had never experienced that attitude before.

It was interesting spending the whole week trying to understand what was being said (since it was all in Indonesian) and trying to still be able to participate. It’s not that they were rude to me personally—but it was an overall attitude. It was rough…but I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. I had not fully realized the social pressure the girls who are on my Sunday evening team go through when they show up to soccer practice each week– since it’s not an option that is normally available to them. Now that I have had an opportunity to walk in their shoes for a couple days, I am  even more exciting to be able to coach them!