Before writing this entry I thought about how I should go about it. It’s been months since I last posted and too much has happened for me cover everything. Instead of thinking about what I should post about and categorizing my thoughts and experiences, I sort of did what I usually do when I go abroad: get lost. I let go and let this perfect storm take me. Of course, there have been markers and highlights of the past few months that I should mention but elaborating on those as the meat of this entry would not quite represent the past few months. I actually pondered about this while I was showering, somehow cold water and the smell of feces beckons creative cohesion. It’s actually the small things that better express the attitude and funk of the past few months. So I chose 3 distinct stories to begin with to give you an idea of the types of days I have here aside from the larger markers and highlights.
As a preface:
School had pretty much ended after I created the final test for my English classes. My counterparts were all set up and only had to administer the test. I too had finished my own Econ final for my online class. The result of this grand finish was a room that looked like it had been ravaged by a tornado or the Tasmanian devil (pretty much the same thing, really) and questionable personal hygiene. I had a blossoming mustache that honorably remembered my facial hair endeavors from PST and my hair looked like an overgrown Chia pet. But I felt good. I had made it through. So I went out into the post-rain night air and pushed out a genuine workout as hard as I could to sweat all the stress and turmoil of the past few weeks. I showered and climbed into bed, eager to reorganize my life the following day with a good night’s rest under my belt.
I awoke the next morning to a text from a fellow PCV inviting me to go to the beach with a few “peeps.” Unaware of whom “peeps” alluded to; I shrugged and hopped into the shower to get ready. Cleaning my room and shaving could wait. I craved social interaction. A bike ride, hour long bus ride, and a supremely overpriced angkot ride later I made it in one piece. I met up with a few familiar faces and some new Indonesians that my friend had met who were in their 20s as well. We hopped into a rental and headed toward to the beach. As we drove the sound of thunder roared in the sky and huge gray clouds began to creep in. Still defiant, we forged on and finally arrived at Papuma, a local beach I had visited earlier on in service with my school for my welcome party. I hopped into a fishing boat, took off all my clothes, and changed into my board shorts before bee-lining into the water despite the rain. The water was perfect with a strong current. We did manly things like daintily skipping rocks, posing for pretty pictures, and floating poetically in the ocean. It was pretty liberating, to say the least. We eventually made our way to a beautiful lookout point to watch the sunset and then had dinner at a local outdoor restaurant. We sat outside on a platform table by candle light, sipped on fresh coconut water, and peeled rambutan while we waited for our food to be cooked. Grilled fish served with a healthy side of veggies and rice eventually came. We ate with our hands, eagerly picking meat from the fish and sweating over the sambal. Hell, even the mosquito brigade didn’t seem to bother me much this time around. We had a feast in front of us, good company, and the sound of waves in the background. As we drove home that night, half dozing off/half trying to keep a conversation going, I laughed so hard I cried from all the stupid jokes. I can’t remember the last time I laughed that hard.
I had just gotten back from a small trip with a few other volunteers feeling deprived of physical activity and wanted to get in a good jump rope workout in before the rain started around 2pm. The time was 12:30 which meant I had about an hour and a half before it would start raining. I sloppily put on my sneakers and snatched my jump rope and iPhone (timer and set list). I began the workout feeling fine and powered through the warm-up and a bit of the peak of the workout when it suddenly hit me. This dizzy, tired feeling swept over me. I was in a haze. It might have been the dehydration, the excessive caffeine consumed earlier that morning, or unnoticed fatigue from the aforementioned trip. Nevertheless, I pushed on, stumbling through the workout. Nearing the end, I felt the small sprinkling of rain and moved under cover to finish. Sprinkling quickly became a deluge of rain. Truth be told, rain in Indonesia resembles gunfire and the popularity of metal roofs only intensified the effect. Meanwhile, I had already sweated through my shirt. My light grey shirt now looked like a dark grey shirt made of heavy, wet fabric. Sweat was beginning to pervade my loins and I was still floating around in a fog. Doubtful of my will to finish, I made myself a promise: finish this workout as fast as possible and you’ll allow yourself to cool off in this glorious downpour that you’ve always thought about doing. I suppose it was a good bet and I sucked it up for the last few sets, collapsing in a heap of relief after finishing. I removed all electronic equipment and shoes that I didn’t want to get wet and uninhibitedly walked into the rain, laying in the puddles and choking on the heavy rain that was making its way up my nostrils. If you were watching you would probably think
1. I had let Peace Corps service get the better of me and had gone crazy
2. I was being possessed by demons
Because, although my head was firmly rested on the floor, my chest was convulsing up and down either in joy or for the need to breathe. I remained in this trance-like state for what felt like a blissful eternity until my hardened nipples warned me of hypothermia and I retreated back into the world of the living. If anything, it was tantric. In short, I’m actually enjoying the rainy season.
I was waiting on my front porch with my Ibu, talking about something I can’t remember, and waiting for the Internet dude to come and fix our broken connection. It was a rare moment considering I had been out of the house intermittently since the end of the semester. I got a text from one of my students inviting me to watch a Silat competition at a neighboring school. The time was 5:30, the call to prayer blasted through my village, and the sky was a dark blue with streaks of orange, pink, and red. I strapped on my headlamp and naik’ed the shit out of my supercool bike that all my concerned Indonesian friends warned about being a “woman’s bike.” Along the way, I’m blasting old trance music I used to swear by when I was in High School (I had red hair, bead necklaces, and glow sticks to the maaaaaaax) that I recently discovered on my hard drive. To this day, I still don’t understand how an American on a bicycle can outride 70% of the motorbikes on the road. I mean, seriously, do you have ANY dignity? I arrive at the school gym all sweaty and excited, my shaky hand gripping my DSLR as if the moment I walk into the gym some crazy shit would go down. Instead, I was greeted by a few students in uniform who were surprised to see me. The gym was muggy, save for any breeze coming from the open doors, and smelled like sweat, floor padding for martial arts, and tiger balm. I am home. There are a few men that are clearly the headmasters of the event; wearing white gi’s endowed with colored belts and walking around with an air of authority, unlike the younger competitors wearing black attire without any belts. I ask one of the students what the colors of the belts mean and he explains how the color ascension goes in the order of: white, yellow, green, red, brown, black. I am relieved to see that while most of the headmasters are wearing yellow, my teacher has a brown belt strapped around his waist. This guy is THE FUZZ. We are in intermission before the final fights and the floor is open for practice while the headmasters watch and critique. Despite already being covered in sweat from the bike ride, I approach the floor after being called by my teacher. He grabs a pad and orders me to kick. 5 years of Tae Kwon Do as a kid and nearly 10 years later my roundhouse is still as strong as it was before. I’m thwacking the crap out of this pad making my teacher bounce back and reacting to his shouting. By this point, I’m panting and wheezing. My teacher, with a look of surprise on his face, turns toward the other headmasters and says in Javanese, “Only three months this guy has been training. Maybe a few more and he can start competing against your guys?” The other headmasters remain silent and expressionless, which probably means if I ever decide to compete, this strange-looking bulay is going to die a very agonizing death.
The finale starts and fighters enter the floor. The competing floor is a perfect square with a judge sitting on each side facing the center. At two opposing corners stand the fighters, wearing a chest guard and a cup, and two seconds that observe, advise, and deal with any injuries. Fighters ceremonially pray to enter the floor, are read the rules by judges, and searched for hidden weapons in their sleeves and pant legs (not even kidding). Fighters emerge into the ring and fight for three 3 minute rounds. Strikes to the head and pushing are forbidden but everything else is game. It’s open season and I’m told all of our fighters have not lost yet in the preceding rounds. We win some matches and lose some. All the while, we’re hollering and screaming; them in Javanese, “AYO MAJUUUUU!!!!” and me in English, “GET HIM. KICK HIS ASS!” Then the students begin to mimic me, “HAY MAAAAN KECK HEZ AZZZ!” It’s unquestionably one of the best martial arts experiences I’ve had to date, inappropriate words and all. At the end of the evening, everyone crowds around my camera watching the play by play, pointing and screaming at all the insane takedowns they got. I shake everyone’s hand and take a nice long bike ride back home in the cold night air thinking: How can you NOT love silat?
Since I last posted it’s been a wild ride. I’ve been to Bali, attended a long training in Surabaya with fellow volunteers, celebrated my Birthday in, quite possibly, the best pub ever, watched a cow sacrifice, had a surprisingly American Thanksgiving feast, went rafting, and visited a volcano among many other things. I really can’t complain.
WARNING: This video contains animal sacrifice, blood, and gore. Proceed with caution!
Party Party Partiiiii
Next week, I’ll be heading further East to climb this beauty:
To my friends in Japan: rest assured I will prep more effectively than I did for Fuji.
For a week. Be jealous.
Will post more when I return. Happy Holidays/End of the World/New Year!