In the first post on IST, Amy discussed the real meat of what IST was all about. After we ended the conference each day, though, IST leant itself to a great time socially, as well.
Having been in our individual villages, schools and sites for nearly 4 months, it was great to see the other 41 volunteers and we had two weeks to catch up and have fun. There was so much we did, we’ll have to do this list-style.
The hotel we stayed in was a cottage/resort type place, so each room had two volunteers and quite a bit of space. Perfect for two weeks. The highlight? Air conditioning. And, the pool. There was an epic pool that provided a great way to decompress after the conference every afternoon. The pool was also the perfect venue for chicken-fighting. My partner and I were undefeated over the two weeks.
Given that we were in Surabaya, the food options were really incredible and we ate ourselves ‘around the world’ in the two weeks we were there. We had Mexican and Indian food. Pizza and cheeseburgers. Pork chops and waffles. I think I gained back most of the weight I had lost over the past months.
On the third night in Surabaya, a couple of the volunteers discovered a classic American dive establishment. Appropriately named, Pub Steak House became a favorite for most of the volunteers over the two weeks. There were cold ones on tap, friendly waitresses that memorized all of our names and live-band karaoke with a great band.
About a 10 minute walk from our hotel was a huge, super nice mall. Probably the nicest mall I’ve ever been in. If you know me very well, you know that the last place I would want to spend my free time would be in a mall. Well, Peace Corps really changes you. The mall was like an oasis in the dessert. An oasis with a really nice movie theater. One afternoon a few of us decided to go see Looper and when we arrived, we saw that there were VIP seats available for the equivalent of about $5. VIP turned out to be a separate theater, with 30 fully reclining chairs, wait staff and blankets if you got too cold. I watched Looper and ate waffles covered in hazelnut ice cream. Any chance that Winchester installs one of these before we return?
Badminton is Indonesia’s sport and you see it played everywhere. Peace Corps hosted their annual badminton tournament for volunteers and staff on the Saturday between the two weeks. My team made it to the second round and Amy’s was eliminated in the first. It was a fun morning and a great way to get to know many of the PC Indonesia staff.
Amy and I spent the day after the badminton tournament exploring Surabaya. We checked out the “Arab Quarter”, which centers around a mosque that was built in 1421. We then walked through the bazaar that surrounds the mosque and played some street soccer with the kids living in the area.
Next we stopped at the famous Zangrandi Ice Cream Palace, an ice cream shop that has been open since the 1930’s. Surabaya is a really hot city, so the break for ice cream was exactly what we needed.
Lastly, we walked through the park that runs alongside the river in the middle of the city.
During the second week, we had an early Halloween party that was complete with some pretty creative costumes: Indo Zorro (wearing a sarang), Peace Corps volunteer’s dream (peanut butter and oreos), and ‘sexy’ bakso (a meatball’ish dish here). Amy dressed as a World War II nurse, using parts of her school uniform, and I joined a couple of other guys dressing as the “Aussie bros” that are crawling all over Bali.
Returning and readjusting to our village life after IST was really hard, because of how much fun those two weeks were. But, we returned inspired and with our batteries charged…I just can’t wait until our next vacation!