This past weekend all 19 volunteers pooled our $1.75 per day “walk around” allowance and went to a beach on the southern side of Java, south of Malang. (Sendang Biru for those of you with Google Earth) We rented a house overnight, and hired 2 boats to take us across the channel to an island nature reserve with white sand beaches for swimming. Sendang Biru is a small fishing village with brightly colored boats decorated with flags. The houses and the boats are blue and red and green and yellow.
The Peace Corps staff helped to coordinate it. Every time you spend more than 24 hours away from your home, the local authorities have to know about it. Indonesia wants to prevent terrorism and so they keep track of anyone who is outside of their home. We had an official document with the seal of the University of Mohammad in Malang, which is hosting our training group, with 20 of our passport numbers, the visa number, which was hand stamped into each passport, the name of the head of the household where we normally reside and our address with the family in Indonesia. When we arrived there was some confusion because the local government official was told by the 3 drivers of the rental vans that there were only 19 of us. The government official came to see me probably because I was the oldest person and looked like the one in charge and I explained in Indonesian that Mike’s name should not have been on the list because he left and went home to America.
The pooled cost of the renting 3 vans with drivers who spent the night in the vans and waited to take us on the 3 hour trip back home the next day, the cost of the rental house with 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms and the catered meals at the restaurant next door including one box lunch that we took the island on Sunday was $20 each. The rental boats and small fee – a first we thought it was a bribe, but when I went into the office for renting the boats the second day I could see that it was a guide fee for hiring the man who set up the boat rentals – anyway, that amount was $2 each. This whole weekend mini vacation was $22 each! Well worth it. As volunteers we are given enough money to live on but not enough act like tourists.
On Saturday we went to a white sand beach and were swimming in the ocean when a pod of dolphins swam by. At first we weren’t sure what they were! Fins! As people were quickly swimming into shore I was swimming out to get closer. It was amazing. The dolphins were curious about us, arching out of the ocean to look at us with dark gentle eyes. Any apprehension I had about swimming in the Indian Ocean disappeared.
On Sunday we went a different section of the beach with a long tree branch extending 30 feet out into the water and the other trainees walked out on the branch and dove into the water. The big tree shaded the ocean so we could float near shore in the shade. If I was given an assignment to draw a picture of paradise, this is what it would look like. There was a path going through the jungle into the nature preserve that led to a small lagoon. The water was calm because we were on the land facing side of the island. It was clear and blue and turquoise and green. Some guys found a shell with something in it and brought it to me to hold. The slimy slug like thing left a little path across my hand.
I’m now considered the brave one in the group because at night I picked up the giant cicada like bug that was in the boys sleeping area and showed it to everybody before I let it go outside and because I was the only one who was swimming toward the fins rather than away. I really like my group of PC friends. I don’t have skills or the desire to balance on a slippery tree branch. I’m not at all tempted to share the 10 cold beers that people found in the little store. I wasn’t the first or second person to fall asleep that night but I sure wasn’t in the “stay up all night talking” group either. We all have different life stories. I guess I have more stories because I’ve lived longer, but I fit in. I feel comfortable with my new best friends. Most of us have no idea where life is taking us and that seems perfect.
Okay, just a few other notes. Last week one of the volunteers in my village, Andy, told us that his host family had found a bee hive and had fried up the bees. We all went over to his house for a bee snack. They were really good. Some were more crunchy with wings and eyes and legs and others were more like larva that that been fried up crispy and golden. All of us sampled one each, but because I really liked them, I ate 3. Then we continued over to Scott’s house because his family had prepared duck stewed in a clay pot for lunch. Our host families take turns providing lunch. That duck was delicious including the meat from the head that you just peel away. Andy was just finishing up a several day stomach episode and was hungry. He ate almost one entire duck by himself. My stomach has settled down, at least for now, and I really like Indonesian food.
To my partnership classroom students in San Antonito, New Mexico – do you have any questions? What would you like to know about life here in Indonesia?