Monday, August 31, 2009

Hazy Jakarta and 'Remote' Sidrap

My brain is still kinda swimming here, but I'm starting to settle a bit. So far we've just been doing orientation about what AMINEF does and some basic health and security tips. To be honest, the info has not been particularly helpful or relevant, but I think starting tomorrow we'll be getting more applicable info, and then when we go to Bandung (Friday) we'll start doing the language and teaching classes. Basically, we're just having to hang in Jakarta until the immigration stuff gets taken care of.

So far I've been less than impressed with Jakarta. It seems to be a huge city, but without much to see and pretty dirty/smoggy. And while things are certainly cheaper than the US, it's apparently quite a bit more expensive than the rest of the country. I basically just don't like the vibe I get here, and I'll be ready to leave for Bandung when we do. One highlight (well kinda) today was riding a taxi bike. That was interesting at time, but since we survived it was fun!
Here is a link to the hotel we've been staying at in Jakarta:

What has been a highlight is getting to meet all of the other Fulbrighters. We seem to have a really good group here (32 in total), though people seem to already be splitting off in cliques a bit (I'm doing my usual thing of bouncing between both/several).

I did get some more info on where I'll be located. I think the map I linked to earlier is correct as I am about 1 hour inland from Parepare. I knew I was in deep when the guy that is in charge of the Fulbright committee here in Indonesia described my location as ‘one of the most remote’. Apparently the school is only boys and goes from elementary age to the high school age boys I will be teaching; the two people I spoke with about the school both noted how young the high school age boys looked, and the head guy said I will likely be the 2nd American they have ever seen (he was the first). My living conditions will probably be pretty basic, as they had to make some additions just to get to the standards that AMINEF requires. There is Internet in the school however, but I’m guessing it will be VERY slow. These are all things I can deal with and in a way look forward to (nothing like a challenge!), but what has me kinda concerned is that it is fairly likely that the people I will be working with not only will not speak English, but may not even speak Indonesian; instead speaking a local dialect. The other concern I have is getting money, as Sidrap likely doesn't have an ATM; apparently I'll need to go the 1 hour to Parepare to get to an ATM (and any inkling of civilization! Ok that's an exaggeration). So in sum, it looks like I'm headed for even more of an adventure than I thought I might be getting.

Ok time for some sleep to try to get my body on schedule!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Into Jakarta

Just a quick update to everyone out there. All the flights went really well: I had extra unused seats next to me on my flights to and from Hong Kong. Once I got into Signapore I met up with the other 31 ETAs. Eventually we got to our hotel and checked in around 1am lcoal time. Rather than sleeping, most people walked around the hotel area. A group then went downtown, but I stayed with another group and we ended up hanging out on top of the hotel drinking and talking (after watching the Aresenal vs. Man U game in a local bar; it was surprisingly full).
I ended up getting about 2.5 hrs of sleep that morning (with about 5 hours of sleep on my flights, meaning right now I'm pretty out of it) before waking up for a really nice breakfast buffet and taking off for the airport. Once we got to the airport it didn't look too good for our bags being with us, but in the end we survived a bumpy take off and got into Jakarta with everyone's bags.
Right now we're moved into our hotel, and we'll be in Jakarta through Friday for various bureaucracy things. Alright, I'm gonna have to call that good enough because my brain is absolutely gone right now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Time for another adventure

It's a little hard to believe, but I am just about ready to leave the country yet again. My bags are packed and I'll head for the airport tomorrow morning for my 30 hours of travel!

While the time back was a short whirlwind, it was also really enjoyable. My time in Brazil really made me appreciate friends and family and how important they are which made getting back home to see people all that more enjoyable. Of course I'm putting more emphasis on friends and family just as I get ready to go spend 9months teaching English in Indonesia! I'm not sure I would have wanted to be home much longer though because I would have started freaking out about how little I know about where I'm going and what I'm doing; all of this should be a learning adventure.

My first month or so will be spent on orientation so hopefully next time I post it will be from Indonesia, and I'll have a better idea of what I'm doing.

Oh and I almost forgot. While I'm abroad for this extended period I would really appreciate some pictures of what's going on with people at home (or in Brazil, or Richmond, or St. Louis, or South Africa, etc.); not only will I enjoy seeing people, but I also am thinking it would be nice to potentially share with my students or friends I make in Indo.

So for at least 9 months (maybe more), goodbye to the US!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I've been back in the country almost 2 days now! It's obviously very nice to be back home and starting seeing all the friends and family I've been missing, but I've also been really busy getting stuff done (filling out insurance forms, figuring out what to pack, etc).
My last few weeks in Brazil were perfect. I had a few going away parties and got to say goodbye. As a going away gift the people in the lab gave me a USB pen drive filled with Brazilian music; each person put on whatever they thought I would like. It was a perfect gift for me: I love the music there and it's small enough to take with me everywhere I go. The music is fantastic (in fact I'm listening to it right now!), and it's fun to hear what different people put on. While I wasn't excited to leave all my friends, it was much easier because I was heading to do some serious traveling.
I got into Angra dos Reis Monday morning after taking a night bus from BH, and caught the 8am boat over, getting me to Ilha Grande in plenty of time. Ilha Grande was really nice, I felt like I was on a real tropical island (I was!). One thing that took some time to adjust to was becoming a tourist again and seeing so many gringos. Once I did that though, I was able to enjoy the island much more. One day I hiked over to supposedly one of the nicest beaches in Brazil (I wasn't all that impressed, and saw better later), another day to a waterfall and around, and the last day was spent hiking 982m up in 6km and ~2hrs to the top of the island. This last day was the highlight of the island for me, as the hike was really through the forest (very thick and diverse) and the views from atop the island were amazing. Overall the stay on IG was very good; I met some nice people, had a good hostel, saw some nice sights, and completely exhausted my legs!
After returning to Angra by boat I hopped a bus to Parati. The drive down was really picturesque with lush forested mountains right next to the sea. I got into Parati and looked around that afternoon after getting checked into my hostel (another nice one, with the atmosphere I was looking for and all you could eat home cooked meals!) looked around the colonial city center; it was nice, but no where as nice as Ouro Preto (it was also the most expensive area I saw in all of Brazil). The next day I got to chill out and spent an afternoon on a beach in Trinidade. This beach, was to me, the nicest I found throughout Brazil; very relaxed and more secluded. Neil, a Brit I met at the hostel, came with me for that day; it was nice to actually be traveling with someone for a change.
That night, after all you could eat BBQ and drink capirinhas, I had no problem falling asleep on my night bus to Sao Paulo. I had another great hostel in SP, and I really enjoyed the city even though I had heard less than stellar things about it. It is just a HUGE city, but the energy and diversity of the city was nice. There were also a number of really nice museums that I went to on the correct days to get into for free. The museum scene was a nice change from what I had been doing. Another highlight of SP was the municipal market; not the cheapest, but great food! Ibirapuera Park was also amazing, with its size, facilities (athletics, museums, open grass, etc) it was probably the nicest city park I've ever been to. Oh another highlight of SP was going to the hidden jazz bar on Saturday night; this place was literally at the back of a parking garage. You would never be able to find it if you didn't know where it was (a local took us). But once you got back there, the jazz was fantastic. That night was a lot of fun, as was all of my time in SP, traveling that last week and really all of Brazil.

I'm sure as I get more removed from the trip I will be able to appreciate it even more, but my summer in Brazil was absolutely perfect and perhaps the best of my life; I would do it again in a heartbeat and cannot wait to return.

But now it's all about Indonesia! I leave next Friday (the 28th) have about a month of training and dealing with things before I get to my pesantren until the end of May. Wow! I think I've found the city where I will be though. I've included a link below that should pull up a map zoomed in on where I will be. You should then be able to zoom out and get a feel for where I am.,+sulawesi,++Indonesia&sll=-3.784781,119.729004&sspn=1.296274,1.760559&ie=UTF8&ll=-3.689647,119.675049&spn=0.005064,0.010943&t=h&z=17

I'll be seeing some of you soon, but for everyone else take care and feel free to send me an email to let me know how things are going with you (and sorry in advance if I don't respond for a while, it's not because I don't care).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ouro Preto

Hey Everyone, this will probably be the last posting I manage before I return to the US. I cannot believe it, but my time here is almost up. In fact I leave Belo in exactly 1 week, and already have my bus ticket purchased. My week long solo trip will take me from Belo to Ilha Grande (literally 'Big Island', 1-2 hours SW of Rio) via Angra dos Reis. I'll spend 2 or 3 nights on Ilha Grande seeing some of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil and doing some great hiking (There are no cars on the island). After that I'll probably spend 1 night in Parati before going to Sao Paulo for 2 or 3 nights and hopping on my flight home Monday night. It should be a great end to a fantastic experience. I was a little worried about my Portuguese, but I feel confident I'll manage quite well. Lately I was even more concerned about my knee, but after this Friday I have no worries. I spent the whole day walking up and down hills, but have no pain. That day I was eating ibuprofen like candy as a preventative, but I haven't been taking any since and my knees are fine. Switching shoes and doing some stretches seems to have done the trick! Important since Ilha Grande has some great hiking trails!

Friday I finally made it down to Ouro Preto. My trip was really made because I went with Thiago from the lab. He absolutely loves the place; his knowledge was very helpful, but even more his enthusiasm was contagious! OP was supposedly the first place Europeans found gold in the Americas (not sure if I believe that), and is now the largest collection of homogenous Baroque Architecture in the world. The churches there are gorgeous, and all of the buildings are in the Baroque style. Part of the reason for this is because it is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Check out a small sampling of the pictures:
Thiago and I got down there by bus, waking up at 5:30 to catch the 7am bus and getting us to OP at 9. We stayed until 5pm and returned to BH. I was exhausted because the night before I spent at Thiago's and with Jarina coming over the three of us hung out eating, drinking, and talking. Thiago has some very nice taste (I think he has spent so much time in France that he is actually French!).

Other than that things are going great here. Finally got some results with the research, maybe not the best, but better something than nothing; of course just as I get ready to leave! Also, I'm now moved into Santuza's again for the last week.

I think that's about it. I'll be seeing some of you soon!