Sorry for the lack of updates lately, but with the first week of school starting this week (or rather, the first week in which students show up to clean the school and play games everyday) we have been a little busy.
Just over a week ago, we made a trip back to our training village (Bulukerto) and neighboring city (Batu). We had three goals in mind for the trip:
- Visit our host families—We have really missed our host families, and for good reason. They are the people who nurtured us through the early stages of acclimating to the Indonesian (and Javanese) culture, food and daily life.
- Attend Bulukerto’s Selamatan Desa—The villages annual celebration. Kind of like the Daniel Boone Pioneer Festival, or that’s at least what we were expecting. In the week leading up to the trip, we referred to it as Bulukerto Days (shout out to Mt. Sterling’s Court Days, we’ll see you in two years).
- Most importantly, BUY OATMEAL—While living in Bulukerto we took for granted the shopping center in Batu that was just a short angkot ride away and was home to a Hypermart—Indonesia’s answer to Wal-Mart/Target. We didn’t think that oatmeal would be a precious commodity here, but it is and can only be purchased in bulk at Hypermart. Oatmeal is incredibly important to us because its the only meal we eat everyday that does not include a pound of rice.
I won’t make you wait in anticipation, we accomplished all three goals.
The most rewarding part of the visit was seeing our host families again. Family is very important in Indonesia, and many family live in very close proximity to each other, so us leaving after just 10 weeks was very emotional (on all sides). Our families could not have been happier to see us.
Our first stop was Amy’s house, where her ibu (mom) and anak-anak (children) were elated to see us. Even though it had only been three weeks since we had left, a witness to the scene would have thought it had been years. The kids were really excited to have us back, although the toddler spent the first 10 minutes in some version of downward facing dog, too shy to look at us, but within a half hour he was in our laps. Later, Amy’s ibu told her that the 11 year old and 4 year old sleep in Amy’s former bed so that, “maybe they will dream about her.”
While hanging out with Amy’s family, I looked out the window and saw my bapak (dad) standing in front of his house gazing down the road, looking for me. We ran over there quickly and spent time with him and my ibu, which included eating lunch. We then had a second lunch at Amy’s house and later left for Bulukerto Days.
Bulukerto Days consisted of an enormous tent with seating for 500. In a stark contrast from everything else we’ve seen in our time here, there was lots of alcohol being consumed. In talking with a co-teacher later, I learned that while alcohol is prohibited under Islam, Javanese tradition calls for special alcohol at large events. In this instance, Javanese tradition won and there were many, many men celebrating that victory.
After eating a third lunch, we watched the performance of traditional Javanese music while members of the audience danced on stage. As soon as we saw this, we knew it would only be a matter of time before the bule were invited/forced to dance on stage. That happened approximately 90 seconds later. We did our part in cultural exchange for several rounds of songs and we were cheered on in doing a dance that looks a whole lot like hippie dancing at a Phish show, just in slow motion with music that includes a lot more wooden xylophones.
Following our “dancing”—once we high-fived/hugged/fist-bumped every single person there—we made our escape with Amy’s ibu. Her brother offered to drive us to the bus station, but required us to leave at that moment. As we were nearly out of the village, his cell phone rang and we turned around and went back to their house. The children were all incredibly upset that they didn’t get to say goodbye, and the four year old was in tears, so we went back to get him, the other two brothers and the ibu.
Since it was going to take a few minutes to load up the car with everyone, I was able to make another quick stop at my host family’s house, which was well-rewarded. They had gone out and bought 20 apples for Amy and I to take back with us (apples are the signature product of the Batu region). Then, Amy’s family gave us lots of fruit and a huge bag of cassava chips.
As they all dropped us off at the bus station for our two hour return trip, I don’t think we could have felt any happier or more loved. It is hard to believe that we have a home and families on this side of the world that could care for us as much as our families back home (don’t worry mom, dad, Deb and Peter—we are still coming home…unless they introduce good cheese and bourbon here).