Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Maximum TEN O'clock

Maximum TEN O'clock is the name my 10-person a capella group has chosen.

The boys:

The girls:

Two weeks ago, they performed our two songs, "1, 2, 3, 4" and "Stand By Me" for the whole school in the cafeteria over lunch. The culture here is less formal and more clap-when-you-feel-good, so when they clapped in the middle of our set I knew we were not being ushered offstage. I think the students and other teachers really enjoyed the performance - I know the students felt a sense of accomplishment. They definitely stepped up to the plate. Despite nerves, they put forward their strongest performances of the songs yet.

If you want to check out the group, I posted a video of Stand By Me on YouTube:

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Weekending in Jakarta

above: pictures from the Papuan music concert I went to last Saturday. I have videos, but they would take weeks to upload, and with the power outages, it would never happen.

So! After a gritty, wonderful experience at Gunung Gede, I was pumped up for some adventure. I made tentative plans to take a 3-hour boat ride out to the thousand islands off the coast of Jakarta to the north. The weather prevented this, however, so I stayed in Jakarta.
Nina works at Jakarta International School's elementary school campus. A group of teachers there are putting on a Christmas show in mid-December, and Nina brought my name up, so I joined them on Friday afternoon. We played and sang through "White Christmas," a group of maybe 8 gathered around a piano. It was nice to be around a piano. Dwiwarna has a keyboard (apparently), but exasperatingly, I can't get access to it after weeks of trying and being told "yes." As we discovered in Bandung so long ago, I've been getting "yessed." So it was refreshing to be around the keys, and to be around a really capable player and some singers. I think I'll forget how to play completely if I don't get access to the DW keys soon.
Anyway, Sabina (Nina's daughter/Lavina's sister, 21) and Rohan (ETA from last year in Papua, who I would have succeeded before they switched me to DW. He's been back for about a week, and has a job teaching English that starts in a few weeks) let me know that they were in Senayan City (massive classy mall) and planning on seeing 2012. JIS is pretty close, so I met them at Senayan City and we grabbed some frozen yogurt before going to the theater.
Indonesian movie theaters (at least, the ritzy ones at world-class malls in central Jakarta) have some muscle. The seats are enormous, red, and tremendously comfortable. When you buy a ticket, you pay for specific seating, so there's no way people can sneak in and prevent you from seeing a popular movie, and if you buy early you are guaranteed good seats. 2012 wasn't that packed actually. The movie was hilariously clichee, but fun. The characters were likable and the lack of plausible explanation for the disaster or even any attempt at just added to its charm.
We had made plans to join Angie Kilbane and John Colombo, two more previous ETAs, for dinner in Kuningan. Unfortunately it was raining heavily all afternoon and night, which in Jakarta on the weekend means the taxis get booked. We wandered around and waited for twenty or thirty minutes trying to catch a cab before heading off to the busway. Dripping wet, we took the busway a few stops but were still far from our destination. Taxis proved impossible to find available, so we had this brilliant (read: stupid) idea, to take three separate ojeks, or motorcycle taxis. Had three ojeks signed on for this, we would have been in for an endlessly long night. Thankfully, they had the presence of mind not to "yes" us. They knew it was too far and/or they didn't know the way, so they refused to take us. Randomly, a bajaj (Indian three-wheeled put-put) showed up, and we recruited it to take us to our dinner. We were now a solid 45 minutes past our scheduled dinnertime.
The bajaj was in very poor shape, and we rode in it for a good while, ending up in some narrow Jakarta sidestreets. One guy told us our destination was definitely that way; another around the corner suggested with confidence the opposite direction. We went in a circle and tried again, somehow ending up across the street from our destination restaurant. We were an hour and a half, or was it an hour and forty five minutes late? Doesn't matter, jam karat (time is rubber - blanket idiomatic excuse for Indonesian cultural tendency for tardiness).
Angie and John were still at the restaurant and graciously had yet to order! We had a delightful meal, sharing stories about Indonesia, AMINEF, and life in the "real world." Angie is teaching English to elementary, 8th graders, and other teachers. John is working for an energy company and getting married to an Indonesian in January (Chris Boveroux will be coming in for that and other revelry). It turns out Angie had the privilege of translating the all-time bestselling Indonesian novel to date (from bahasa Indonesia to English, soon-to-be-published), Laskar Pelangi, so yeah, she's fluent.
On Saturday, after sleeping until 11 and spending hours and hours eating and playing online chess, I met Angie for a Papuan music performance at TIM. TIM is a performance venue, a sort of cultural campus/collection of theaters and a planetarium in downtown Jakarta. The concert was not what I had expected. They featured a star from Indonesian Idol, Michael, who Angie met through a co-ETA from last year. A note on his Facebook page was the reason she knew about the concert and told me about it. He sounded like he could have been on American Idol (turns out he's traveling to the US from January till March. He'll be in PA and some other places I forget. He asked me if it would be cold there. If only I could live inside his head to experience those first days of winter, having grown up in Papua and lived my whole life in Indonesia). The performance was playful and very theatrical. There was alot of group percussion on hand drums, alot of simple beautiful vocal parts in harmony, and alot of a didgeridoo-type instrument. It sounded altogether more African than I would ever have expected.
Sunday I had more frozen yogurt at the Grand Indonesia with Christine and Sarah who had come in from Depok. Christine, you'll remember, is an ETA stationed in Depok, and Sarah is an ETA from Gorontalo, all the way in North Sulawesi. She had come to Bandung to pick up a computer, then contacted Christine. We hung out, went to the expensive import grocery store, and then hit the busway to the Fathonys. There Sarah and I relived our orientation glory, singing Simon and Garunkel. Rohan and Sabina showed, and Eyang, Nina, and Herul completed a cozily packed house for dinner, music, and relaxed conversation. It was a familial end to a weekend that showed me how familiar Jakarta is becoming.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Gunung Gede (Big Mountain)!

This weekend, Nina, Herul and I went to a big mountain in West Java called, of course, big mountain. It was about 2 hours of angkot rides from central Bogor. You can see the first signpost above. Climbing Gunung Gede to the peak takes some ten hours and is ill advised in the rainy season when fog and rainfall waylay the unlucky traveler. We opted instead for a shorter climb. Starting out, Herul leading the way:

By now the climate was fresh, cool and altogether wonderful. The air and the sunlight filtering in were reminiscent of May runs through the glen at Hamilton. The din of traffic slowly faded as we wandered up the fairly steep slope:

Along the way, there was a "blue" lake to the side of the trail. It was sort of blue, I guess. You decide:

It was positively teeming with fish, who mostly swam right near the surface. What rapture to be a heron in such circumstances!

The paths were not crowded, but we did meet a few hikers along the way. In typical Indonesian fashion, Herul and Nina struck up lively conversation with the passersby. We were best friends in just a few hundred meters:

From my perspective facing the other way above - Herul, photographer:

Right after posing for that shot, a group of noisy monkeys crossed over our trail through the trees high overhead. I took a number of wildly errant shots, which I will not revisit here, in trying to capture the elusive creatures. Here's one that was actually somewhat successful. He was probably wondering what the hell I was doing:

The gorgeous vista that opened up as we got farther up the trail:

And finally, the object of our hour-and-fifteen-minute journey - waterfalls!

The water was surprisingly cold, but being in Indonesia for so long I didn't mind feeling cold for once. Herul, of course, lead the charge. You'll notice he's the one actually standing underneath the pounding water. I, on the other hand, could not withstand the needle-like pain for more than a few moments at a time:

I'm like a ten-year-old kid again:

On the way back down, we encountered another more numerous family of monkeys. There were twenty or thirty of the small, black climbers, including babies hanging around their parents' necks. Naturally I failed to catch those individuals. And my viewpoint left many of the shots unavoidably backlit. But here's a few gathering in a tree high above and near the trail:

This guy is scouting a path across the canopy to the tree pictured above, where his aunts and uncles waited impatiently:

This specimen sought to lure individuals from the trees to the forest floor using a biscuit cracker:

From here we finished our trek and journeyed back to Jakarta.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween Weekend

I cruised into Jakarta on Saturday to hang out with the Fathonys and to celebrate Halloween. Chris and I arrived at midday. We went to an embassy family-centered Halloween party in the late afternoon that was quite an experience. Would you believe, right there in the middle of Jakarta, a bunch of white people in costumes with their bratty kids? Well we could hardly believe our eyes either but it reminded us a little of home. The theme was "trunk or treat," where families set up their cars as little houses in a line that the children can walk among for treats. Check out the above picture - it felt like we could have been in a parking lot anywhere in the US. Here's a detail shot of my favorite trunk:

They had some fun activities set up, including a fashion-style runway for the costume competition:

Look at all the white people!!!


After we had had enough of the family Halloween scene, we headed off to - you guessed it - the mall. Obligatory frozen yogurt at Tutti Frutti was followed by walking around and heading home. This is a cool display that was up in Senayan City, the ridiculously nice mall we chose. It's called "In my room," and the displays are all pictures of famous Indonesians in their rooms. They are holding guitars, or a loved one, or reading, or smiling, or whatever. There were some cool portraits:

So a low-key but fun Halloween weekend.

This week I got clearance for a Thanksgiving trip with the Fathony's to Madura and Surabaya, so look out for that. There's a wedding that Friday and I'm hoping that I'll get the chance to hike Bromo.