Thursday, September 30, 2010

Bandung Excursions: One Through Three And A Half

Excursion One: Gunung Guntur.

The first weekend the crew was in Bandung, half of the crew wasn’t in Bandung (hm, paradox!).  Instead, we voyaged to nearby Ciapanas, known for its hot springs and volcano hiking.  Now, when I say “volcano hiking,” I imagine trumpets blaring, and for some reason (no doubt, a good reason), I am wearing a cape, spandex, and I am pointing. 

Yes, [cue trumpets, don cape] VOLCANO HIKING.

We arrived in Ciapanas to check in at the Terta Merta hotel on a Friday.  The rooms were nice enough, but the major pull was the in-room natural hot tub/toilet combo.  The volcanoes that surround Ciapanas generate a great deal of hot water.  This water is channeled into various locations, one of which is the Terta Merta.  So, in comes the water, piping hot, to a tile room connected to the sleeping quarters.  It swirls around for a bit until it is channeled into the toilet.  The toilet water then exits the premises and goes. . .somewhere.  The point here is that the well conceived water flows permits the hot tub water (which I/everyone inevitably urinated in. . .it’s more than a habit, it’s a compulsion, and don't pretend you are above it) to enter the toilet, where it belongs.  It’s like the engineers behind the Terta Merta  had me (and you) in mind.

Throwing the peace around at the Terta Merta
After enjoying the hot-tub/toilet combination during the evening, a small group of ETAs left early to ascend the looming Gunung Guntur.  Yep, the volcano’s name was Guntur.   The personification would have been an Indonesian with big shades and an awesome mullet.  We ambled up through a village and eventually made it to some dirt excavation sites where our “path” became more of a labyrinth.  Fortunately, no David Bowies were present.  Also fortunately, a quick-thinking entrepreneur decided to shirk the dirt for a day, put down his shovel, and lead us up the correct “path.”  We managed—with his help—to find the two waterfalls and to make it to the top (kind of) of Gunung Guntur.  The hike was pretty grueling, lasting about 12 hours total, with a lot of elevation gain and some nasty, loose rock.  Once we got to the first caldera, we decided that was the top.

Getting close to the top.
Waterfall Two
Brian, and the top of GUNUNG GUNTUR.  Not Pictured: exhaustion and the caldera
After navigating the way back—with only a few unexpected twists and turns—it was time to drain some Sprites and Pocari Sweats (Note: This is an electrolyte infused beverage, not an awful, dehydrating exotic disease.  Though, if you come down with the Pocari Sweats, things could get dicey).   Following the re-hydration station,  we took a dip in the local pool that was, you guessed it, warmed via volcano.

Volcano Hike!


The following weekend we went to an angklung performance.  The angklung is a traditional instrument made from bamboo.  It plays a single note when jiggled, so an angklung set is used in much the same way one would play a xylophone or marimba.  However, let’s not lose focus; the angklung is not struck with a mallet.  It is jiggled.  There are few things that are jiggled, much less jiggled intentionally, but an angklung is something I can confidently say is jiggled with purpose (I contest that Jello is most often jiggled unintentionally.  What say you, Bill Cosby?).  Let me tell you, there was some awesome angklung jiggling at this performance.

The performance was at Saung Angklung, a school where angklung(s) is/are made and taught, along with the teaching of traditional dance.  Though a bit touristy, the location satiated my previously unknown appetite for all things angklung (jiggling included).

Despite an overwhelming urge to type “jiggle” repeatedly, I think the pictures of this excursion can stand alone.  Here they are.  Jiggle.

Oh, and the relevancy of this title is that one of the ETAs in our group was given a defective anklung at the time when the audience participates in the performance.  Instead of graciously waiting and enjoying the soothing and percussive surrounding music, she stood up on her own hind legs, drew herself up to the intimidatingl height of 5 foot nothing,  and, bellowed, “BAH ANKLUNG DONE BROKEDED!”  [this translates, roughly, to “unfortunately, everyone, my anklung is not currently functional.”]  All jiggling stopped.  She then sat down, proceeded to smear one of the five pieces of fried chicken she had purchased all over her face, and occasionally managed to angle it close enough to her mouth for ingestion.
Talya: one classy dame.

Excursion Three: Classroom Visit

During week two (I think it was week two. . .), we visited schools that pertain to our placements.  ETAs went to SMAs (Sekolah Mengenah Atas), which are university preparatory schools for students that will further their studies at a university after high school; they went to SMKs (Sekolah Mengenah Keluarah), which are vocational high schools aimed at preparing students for a particular career after high school; and Pesantrens (Indonesian Madrasahs) that combine Islamic teaching and practices with regular curriculum.  Since I am teaching at a vocational farming school (SMK Farming Pati), I went with a crew to an SMK. 
Where are the Americans?
The SMK we visited was a very cheery, high energy school.  It focused on tourism and business.  Out of approximately 2,400 students, 2,360 were girls.  I observed an English class with the one Kelsey Ritzel, and we subsequently fielded questions from the students, took pictures with the students, and allowed the students to lavish praise upon us.  I truly felt like a celebrity, something  I knew I was destined to feel.  Who needs a red carpet when the tiled floor of SMK Bandung waits? 

Excursion Three and a Half: Miscellaneous

The time spent out of training, and not on the previously described trips, was ambled away in various ways.  Dinner was always a delight, with a bunch of restaurants in walking distance and many more just a short angkot ride away.  Cloud Nine, a neat bar set atop a hill that overlooked Bandung, provided a few nights of enjoyable entertainment.  Then, there were errands to be run, the city to see, holidays to enjoy (Idul Fitri/Lebaron, the celebration at the end of Ramadan), and an abundance of good company.

Bandung: not an anti-fecal sentiment, but a great host city for training, adventures, and Indonesian acclimation.

Ban Dung!

Kelsey Ritzel, of photo notoriety, looking . . . comfortable?
Note: Again, K. Ritzel helped me out with a good portion of these photographs.  Thanks, Kelsey.

Belated Bandung Business . . . and Pleasure

The question is, 100% of what?
Assiduous followers of this web log, you don’t exist.  However, if you did exist, I would apologize.  I would vow never to let my posts be so far and few between, again.  Also, I would conditionally promise to buy all of you an imaginary Squeeze-It to quench your hypothetical thirst and love of ‘80s and ‘90s kitsch.

On a more (indeed, utterly) serious note, I vow never to call my web-log a “blog.”  Do you call your country a . . . tree?  That one is for you, Mom.  Enough small talk, it’s time to play catch up on this mother (that one was not for you, Mom).

From the hotel.  Goodbye, Jakarta!
A lot has happened since I was in Jakarta.  The forty three other ETAs and I completed our three week training in Bandung (the Paris of Java), we tearfully spread across the archipelago (this is a map of all ETA placements in Indonesia for 2010), and we have been at our placements for two weeks.  Put in such brief summary, this all sounds pretty unexciting.  My 10th grade English teacher, and Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird, both told me “show, don’t tell.”  However, I prefer the advice of my Kindergarten teacher, who liberally advocated both showing and telling.  So, the rest of this post, and the next several posts, will be a show and tell about my time in and around Bandung (the Paris of Java).

Upon arriving in Bandung, we were greeted by dancing and lemonade.   
Oh, to be a finely crafted and honed instrument, courtesy of the State Department. 

Imagine forty four Jason Bourne/James Bond (styled like Connery, but with some Brosnan lilts and Daniel Craig underpinnings) types tearing around Indonesia, driving all manner of terrestrial and aquatic vehicles, and seducing  everything  animate . . . and inanimate.  Now, firmly but politely dismiss that thought, as it comes nowhere close to reality.  Instead, imagine forty four decently cerebral human beings, forty three of whom had back-stories that are all individually fascinating, and one of whom commonly goes by initials and sweats his body weight everyday in Indonesia.  Yep, there you go.  That’s more like it.
Bandung at sunset.
Our training in Bandung (the Paris of Java) consisted of teaching and language lessons.  The teaching lessons focused on the development of lesson planning and implementation.  The language classes focused on the most basic and essential information and was called “Survival Indonesian.”  It seems effective, in that I am still alive two weeks into my placement where my Bahasa Indonesia skills are tested everyday.  However, “I desperately need to use the bathroom, right now,” “where can a guy get a Bintang [local Indonesian beer] around here,” and “I will seduce either your friend or your cockatoo” were not covered.  I suppose in writing the language lessons focused on basic and essential information.  Fortunately for you, I have included them below.

      Saya dengan seger harus mengunakan kamar kecil.
      Di mana laki-laki bisa minum Bintang di sini?

      Saya akan merayu temanmu atau kakatuamu.  (Note: this sentence assumes you are on informal terms with whom you are speaking.  I don’t think this is a stretch, as nobody would consider seducing the cockatoo of a stranger).

       Use these whenever necessity dictates.  I hope they are correct.  The consequences are dire.

Poolside at the Sheraton in Bandung
These classes, which in retrospect were very helpful, lasted from eight to four thirty, Monday through Friday.  We had ample snacks provided, unlimited coffee, and a comfortable break schedule.  All in all, it was a very positive experience.  Oh, and we stayed in a beautiful hotel, as the State Department is obligated to use a certain caliber hotel for any government related hosting.  The Sheraton in Bandung (the Paris of Java) came complete with all the amenities I assumed my stint in Indonesia would have: an oasis like pool, a hot tub, a steam room, a sauna, a workout room, unbelievably delicious dining, and spacious rooms.  In a lot of ways, this training it reminded me of TFA Institute, except for the, you know, everything.

Although the majority of our time in Bandung (the Paris of Java) was spent in training, the city was interesting, vibrant, and very temperate for Indonesia.  The time I spent outside of training was mainly centered in the area around our hotel, though my fellow ETAs and I did manage several excursions. The following posts will be a few anecdotes from those experiences.

 NOTE: A few pictures of the picture included here are courtesy of Ms. Kelsey Ritzel, photographer extraordinaire and founding member of Kelompok Burung Kakatua [kakatua!].