By Betty Jane Glasscock (Will’s mom)
On August 12th, I left Kentucky for a trip to Indonesia and Thailand. I was at long-last going to see Will and Amy and I thought that while I was on that side of the world (for the first and, likely, last time) I would like to see someplace else. Two totally different trips, two totally different adventures. I returned home on September 8th and—other than the 20+ hours of flying each way—it was fabulous and exciting. And seeing the kids was the highlight of the trip. Following are a few of my favorite things from my travels.
First, I can’t believe that Amy and Will speak bahasa Indonesia (excellently, I might add). We would be among people who didn’t know they could speak the language and then Amy or Will would say something and it would start a whole conversation. Next thing you know, we are having our pictures taken, people are shaking hands and calling me mama or ibu, oohing and aahing. Quite fun. Not to mention that it helped us make travel arrangements, get food and directions, and made for a great trip.
Second, motorcycles! Everywhere, ridden by everybody (except for Peace Corps Volunteers, they were on their bicycles). I give Indonesia the award for best use of motorcycles. I saw motorcycles with: furniture, stoves, desks turned into mini-cafes, a mattress, pigs and goats in baskets, bales of grasses, rice, and baskets stacked on baskets. And people, too, of course. Two people, three people, four people and even five people! That was with a baby in a sling on a mom’s back. Motorcycles were also used to pull carts, wagons and things built to haul everything else. The racks built to go on the motorcycles were as wide as a car.
And speaking of cars…cars, trucks, busses and motorcycles (along with the occasional horse and cart) drove on two lane roads as though there were four lanes. It reminded me of playing chicken on my bicycle as a kid when you ride towards each other until someone weaves away. I have to say it made for an exciting trip every time we were on the road.
Third, everyone we met were so incredibly nice and went out of their way to make sure I was happy and comfortable. The most flattering aspect was that no one could believe that I was 60! They thought I was 30! No, not really, but they did think I was much younger. Of course, I didn’t tell them my age, but most people were very inquisitive and asked about my age and lots of other things.
Now, onto the trip!
The trip began in Bali in a city called Ubud. We stayed in a great little inn where you could look out onto rice paddies over the garden wall. Everything was planted in perfectly straight rows, amazing! I never tired of looking at the rice paddies. We shopped, ate, walked everywhere, went to the monkey temple, admired beautiful carvings, batiks, and woven goods. We went to a wonderful Balinese dance performance of a traditional story of good vs. evil. The food was really good and I drank what must have been 400 gallons of water to battle the heat. We went to an organic restaurant in the middle of many rice paddies and I can’t even describe how great the foods and blended fruit drinks were. We also had dinner with Amy’s cousin, Steve. It was a wonderful place to be. Very vibrant and loud.
We left there and went to the island of Gili Air for the next leg of the trip. No cars, no motorcycles. Bikes and horse carts only. The carts reminded me of gypsies because of the bright colors and paintings on the carts. They were pulled by prancing little horses that wore plumes on their heads and worked very hard.
Gili Air was totally different than Ubud. An island feel with beautiful sunsets, neon fish and the best fruit smoothies and shakes ever. Again, great food, lots of sand, surf and sun. It was heaven. We had to talk Will out of eating at the same restaurant three nights in a row, only because there were so many good places. We stayed in a house on stilts and had a wonderful breakfast every day made by Amy’s new (self-proclaimed) sister.
For the next leg of our trip, we started out on the horse cart, took a boat, then a hired car and then a plane to Surabaya, before taking a hired car to Ngoro where they live. I give Amy the tour guide award for finding the best restaurant ever at Cocoa Beach on the way to the Lombok airport. I can’t describe how they did the grilled fish, but it was the best I’ve ever eaten (even with its head still attached). While we waited for the food, we looked at the ocean in the middle of nowhere and laid on mats and pillows and read It was so worth the wait.
Finally we got to Ngoro (where they live). I loved it. Will had talked about living in a village and I had seen on FaceTime parts of their house. But it was not what I thought it would be. They live on a dirt, gravelly sort of road, back off a main highway. Some of their neighbors have cows tethered in their yards, roosters in baskets and chickens in fenced areas. It was like “country” meets “small town,” all within a block.
The best thing about the stay in Ngoro was the people. It was so nice to realize that other people love your kids almost as much as you do. Everywhere we went; school, the grocery, and on busses, someone spoke to, or recognized, Will and Amy. The teachers couldn’t say enough about them, and how happy they were to have them in their schools.
At Will’s school I went on a hike with the whole school where I got to talk to teachers and kids and I learned much about the region and the rice paddies. I spent a long time talking to Pak Eko who is a new assistant principal and was Will’s co-teacher from last year. Since he farms in his spare time, he took pride in telling me all about the agriculture as well as the rice. All of the teachers that I got to talk with were very interesting and interested in the U.S.
Will and Amy had told me to get ready to feel like a rock star, they weren’t kidding. Pictures, lots of pictures and more pictures. The requests came from strangers, friends, neighborhood kids, students, teachers, a principal and families of all of the above. I felt like I was in the South because of the hospitality, the warmth from hugs, the loan of a bicycle for me to ride, the compliments about Amy and Will, and the compliments to me. From offering me a ride to the tailor and a fabric store, to having lunch at a teachers home with Bu Ndari, the hospitality was incredible. I also joined Will and Amy’s friends on a number of other activities: I went to Jombang for dinner with Hakim (who speaks impeccable British accented English), attended a beautiful wedding, and spent a wonderful afternoon touring Hindu temples with Bu Kis, her husband and adorable youngest child Zalfa. I also got to visit a baby volcano that was still smoldering, with teachers from Amy’s school. The giving was never ending.
I also got to be part of the giving of Will and Amy. I went to their neighborhood English classes, and watched the secret handshakes, and the inside jokes between them and the children. I went to class with Will and saw the interaction between him and his students in the English class. I went to school with Amy and was able to attend a wonderful music competition among several schools. Beautiful voices and music. For all the differences in this far away place it was almost like home.
We ended our wonderful trip in Batu, driven there by Hakim and a driver. We checked into a really neat hotel and off we went to see Pak No and family and Ibu Susie and her family. Will and Amy lived with these families for their language and cultural immersion when they arrived in Indonesia for three months. Again it was a big wonderful surprise to discover the area and meet the people. Thank goodness Amy warned me that we would have to eat two meals back to back, so no one would be offended.
It was a great visit and again a true bond between the families and Will and Amy. The end of the visit on day two was capped off with Will pulling little Wahyu out of a culvert that he fell into and had his leg lodged into the rock sides. It was terrifying and gratifying as the little guy cried for Will when he finally calmed down.
We toured the apple orchards with Pak No and walked throughout the village area looking at all the agriculture and talking to neighbors and people that recognized Will and Amy. The view from the hill was beautiful and we capped off our visit to the town square called alun-alun. It was like a continual fair. People everywhere, shopping galore and FaceTime with Bill at home from a little coffee shop. What more do you need?!
Finally our trip came to a close as we headed to Surabaya for me to fly out the next day and on to my next adventure.