changing colours

It’s amazing how one year away from your home country can affect you.

One thing that really strikes me now is the changing seasons. In Indonesia, I experienced two seasons: the rainy season (October to May) and the dry season (May to September).  (Although, while I was in Paciran, there also was the panas-dingin “hot-cold” season, where it would be quite hot in the day and then cool off at night (as opposed to being hot all the time), but I’m not sure if that was a separate season, or a lead up to the rainy season.) Even then, it was so different between places. In Yogyakarta during the rainy season, it would inevitable rain heavily every day, usually during the afternoon for about 3 or 4 hours. And this would not be a light Vancouver drizzle that last for hours. I’m talking about a complete downpour where the heavens open up and rains down you. But in Paciran, which is on the north-east coast of Java, the climate is so different.  During the rainy season it might rain once a week. But again, when it did rain, it was such a relief from the humidity, you would just want to run outside and udan-udanan…play in the rain.

And then the dry season, you don’t need to take your jas udan with you anymore, and you could hang up your umbrella for those months, because you definitely wouldn’t be needing it. It just doesn’t rain, it’s that simple. On the bright side, it’s sunny all the time too. Just don’t forget to wear sunscreen. And bring sunglasses. I found that I really needed sunglasses in Indonesia compared to here in Montreal because the sun seemed so much brighter and harsher and hotter. It’s funny because my eyes are light, and Indonesians all have dark eyes, so they thought it was cute that I always had to wear sunglasses or a hat, or both…

Coming back to Canada in August, I got to experience the last dog days of summer, and then the merger into fall with a beautiful Indian summer during Thanksgiving. But I find myself checking the weather everyday — do I wear my rain jacket or not? Should I start wearing my long johns yet? It’s not so easy as wearing a rain jacket for 6 months, and then not wearing one for 6 months because it’s completely unpredictable, the weather here. And I hope I don’t get too cold in the winter! I’m sure I’ll transition fine, but honestly when I came back in the SUMMER, I was already freezing. Lately, I’ve been wearing my winter jacket and it’s only November 1st! I need to get used to this weather or I might not leave my apartment in January…

While I was in Indonesia, because I didn’t have the 4 seasons to guide me in which month it was, I was constantly making mistakes in my elicitation notebooks. As I’m entering in the data, I’m reminded of the confusion I had. I have a date — November 17, 2011, cross that out and put February! And then I got confused again: February 3, 2011. Oh wait, that’s JUNE 3, 2011. I don’t think anyone would get February confused with June in Canada…. maybe November with February if it’s a particularly rough winter, but February with June! No way.

So far the thing that is so striking to me is the fall colours. It really hit me as I rode back to Sarnia from Montreal for Thanksgiving weekend. It was an afternoon, and the reds, oranges, golds, and greens were blazing in the sunlight, against a crisp blue background with clouds feathering across the expanse.  Now, when I walk across the field to get to the Linguistics building in the morning, I look back at Mount Royal, and see the colours change a little bit everyday. That is quite something.


It’s weird to wear socks.

My feet are covered! My feet have been breathing for a year, as I was sandal-clad in Indonesia. The only times I wore socks and shoes was when I went for a run or a long hike, which wasn’t all that often. Most people in Paciran wore flip-flops. There are so many of them. You can buy some for 10 000Rp, or maybe even 7000 if you’re a good bargainer. Or you could get a mismatched pair on the beach, there were so many washed up on the shore from the tide. Since I left all my footwear back in Indonesia, coming back only with my books and batik, I purchased some new sandals in Canada….for $15, they were half off too. That’s like 15 meals in Indonesia.

I miss you, Indonesia.

I miss waking up at 5am to see the sunrise, and going for a walk in the cool air, feeling the temperature rise as the sun rises.

I miss eating food so spicy I was sweating. I tried to make some basic Indonesian dishes here – sego goreng, oseng-oseng, sambal tomat, sambal kecap. But it’s not the same. I can’t find the right onions, or the right chilis. And I don’t think Canada imports rice from Indonesia. The closest thing I could find was from Thailand. It tastes pretty good. It tastes even better when I eat it with my right hand.

I miss the flexible rules. SSHRC won’t let me hand in a late application, that’s for sure. They are even reminding me every time I log in: 7 days 18 hours and 6 minutes until the deadline.

I miss being confronted by things I would never think of, being challenged in my religious views, my feminist views. But I am comforted to be back home and not be challenged, and just ‘be’.

I miss the predictable weather. During the dry season, there is no rain. During the wet season, there is rain everyday. Everyday the weather is changing in Canada, and I don’t know whether or not to wear rain gear, or a sweater, or a t-shirt. So I bring it all, and wear a giant backpack.

But most of all, I miss the people I became close to in Indonesia. In Paciran, I shared so many experiences with my amazing friend the Research Assistant/Cultural Advisor/Gossip Advisor, and also with her family! I lived under one roof with a family of 10 people and 4 generations. The grandmother would just laugh at me and smile. The 2 year old would ask me to sing “bunny road (Bumpy road)”. The sisters would hang out and get the best sego goreng from the next village over. The father who would tell me to be careful, that they are my family in Indonesia, so don’t worry that I’m sick; they will take care of me. The neighbour girls across the street calling out to me, asking me to go for a walk on Friday. All the people in the village were so generous and welcoming, almost insisting.   In Yogyakarta, it was my friends who kept me sane – cards night with my bule girls, dinners at warungs with those ladies, cycling and rock climbing with Andre the non-giant, language learning with the patient tutors. Even though I wasn’t living in Yogya anymore, it felt like I always had a place there because of my friends.

While I can remember all these things, and cherish these things, I cannot replicate any of these things here in Canada. And so all I can do is miss them, send them a message that I hope to visit soon, and have a good cry.

Flexible rules

The past few days have been getting bags ready, rearranging stuff as to make the most of my weight allowance. Actually, I found out that with Japan Airlines, I have an allowance of 2 bags, each with 23 kilos. To do the math for you because that’s pretty advanced math, that is FORTY-SIX kilos!! I hope I don’t have that much stuff. But the tricky part is that I fly first Yogyakarta to Jakarta with Lion Air, a domestic flight carrier. And with Lion Air, I only have an allowance of 20kg. However, I found out that I can get an extra baggage allowance by virtue of being a student here in Indonesia for the year since I will have so many books! Which I do! So I got a letter from UNY for that purpose, requesting that I would be allowed to have a few extra kilos and not have to pay for the extra….

So I found out about that letter 4 days earlier, got the letter the next day, and then went to the airport to request it officially the next day, one day before my flight. I was dreading cycling all the way to the airport yesterday…it’s not that bad, it takes about half an hour, but it’s just not that all pleasant because I’m cycling on heavy-traffic roads with gross exhaust. At least the motorbikes and the cars give you wide berth, unlike traffic in Montreal. I think they are just used to smaller vehicles and giving space here in Indonesia where the majority of the traffic is motorbikes. There is more of a ‘flow’ here (I guess when there can be, when there is no macet.) So I finally left to do that errand at 3:40pm, and arrived at the airport at 4:10pm, sweating, and buying a water, but then trying to drink in private since it’s Ramadhan right now, and it’s really rude to drink or eat in public since everyone else is fasting. Made it. Then went to the counter, and the mbak was super nice, but not really helpful, since I really have to talk to the manager instead, but the manager had left at 4pm. I should’ve known! I missed the manager only by 10 minutes. The manager’s work day is: 10am – 4pm. So the mbak at the Lion Air counter said I should just come back earlier before my flight and ask then. Will do.

Back at the airport for my flight, I ask at the counter, and the Mas this time just told me I had to ask at least a week beforehand so they could’ve arranged things! I asked if it’s possible just to have 5 extra kilos, since I know that other students didn’t have this requirement before. Mohon maaf, mohon maaf, it’s really not possible, since they have to arrange carrying it. Oh well, I tried. I go in the airport to check-in — this is where you go through security, BEFORE you get your boarding pass, so your friends can’t really come in and wait a little bit longer with you… Of course there is no concept of “line” here, and the old ladies butt in while I’m trying to juggle my giant bags of books. By the way, I arranged it so I have a really, really, really heavy carry-on. I can feel the straps almost breaking my collarbones when I put on the bag. But how else can I do it? I should stop collecting old Javanese dictionaries and have a collection of feathers instead.

Then I check my bags – I’m 13kgs over the 20kg allowance. The mbak tells me this, and then I think…. Oh, I have this letter from UNY, requesting a higher baggage allowance. She asks the guy beside her, and then the lady beside him. No problem! So I don’t have to pay for the 13kg overweight. Sweeeeeeeeeet.

Bending the rules here is an interesting matter. Sometimes you can play the “bule card”, and say that you don’t understand the rule, why it’s like that… Sometimes you explain your situation, and they will allow for your exception… Sometimes you can just smile and nod… or sometimes you can ask at a different counter! All these things (except for the first one) you can also do in Canada, but I get the feeling that here you can bend the rules a lot more here.

But other “rule bending” is not so bendable. This is actually because I am a bule that I am treated as a person with infinite amounts of dispensible nduwit, and I can just throw my money away to anyone and at anyplace, since I have wads and wads. For example, at many tourist places, there is an Indonesian entry price, and then there is the ‘bule’ price, which is at least double the Indonesian. I guess this isn’t really a ‘rule’ persay, but if my friend had said, hey, I’ve been living in Indonesia for the past 7 years, and I speak amazing Indonesian, doesn’t that entitle me to an Indonesian price?? No, that really doesn’t. So cough it up. I don’t think there is a special ‘Canadian’ vs. ‘non-Canadian’ price. But you can’t enter in the contests on the back of cereal boxes unless you’re an official resident of Canada. So we have our biases too. haha.

And sometimes you just really don’t want to have the bule card in your hand. For example, some of my friends have had to pay the Immigration Office an extra little somethin’ somethin’ to get their VISA on time. Otherwise, the Office would not have time. Time = money. And then they would not have their exit VISA permit on time, and that is just not cool.

HP = Harry Potter

The other day I watched ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2’ in the theatre here in Yogyakarta. Actually, I had this movie BEFORE it was released in the theatre. I bought it for 10000 Rupiah (which is about $1.10 CAN), along with the rest of the HP movies. OH yeah. But I didn’t watch it until I went to the movie theatre, so I didn’t spoil it to anyone. Renegade and I had also gone to the movies earlier, and we saw ‘Blitz’ with Jason Statham, the rogue cop. Then we were looking at dvds at a store, and there it was, while it still was playing in the theatres!

The most funny part of HP7 was at the very end when the screen shows the WINDOWS background, with the ‘shut down’, ‘hibernate’ and ‘restart’ icons showing. They also don’t play previews…probably because it’s not the original reel, and they start movies EARLY. Who does that?? I entered the theatre at 8:14pm, when it was supposed to start at 8:15pm, and it was already 2 minutes into the movie…. So that meant I didn’t pee until the end of the movie because I clearly wasn’t going to miss a moment of HP, even though I had to pee before the movie. And then, the weird part is that when you exit the theatre, you go through a different exit to the outside parking lot. But we all had to pee, and we wanted to get back in, so we could go to the washroom! We tried to play the dumb bule card, and knocked on the window doors to try and get the attention of one of the cleaning staff still inside the theatre, but the door was locked, and he just pointed in a vague direction towards the right. So we hobbled along, and then with the sleuth skills of Nicole, we found two SINGLE washrooms on the outside of the theatre, thankfully. As we rounded the corner to get our bikes to go home, the theatre was really locked, and all the workers had gone home. It was 9:30pm. Oh, Indonesia.

You can also go to a store here and rent dvds with all kinds of programs, like Rosetta Stone, MatLab, and even the whole Windows7 and download them to your own computer… they are all clearly pirated copies. So I think you have to have either a computer bought here, or special programs to allow your computer to accept it… I tried to download MatLab a while back, but I couldn’t, and I assume because it’s a pirated copy. But I’m no computer genius.

hp = handphone

I have 4 days left in Indonesia, concluding this year’s adventure….hoping to come back….but just waiting to muleh to Canada to see my family, to see my friends, to ride my bicycle without breathing toxic fumes of exhaust from falling-apart-motorbikes.

It’s time to go home — I left my hp in the angkot at the last transit to another angkot (mini-bus) just before arriving in Paciran a week and a half ago. And by ‘hp’, I mean ‘handphone’ or ‘cellphone’, and not ‘Harry Potter’. The latter deserves capitalization.

The annoying thing was that I realized I left my hp behind just moments after it happened. But there was nothing to do, because we were already in the different angkot, and the other angkot must have already left the terminal. They’re always (lurchingly) on the the move. I guess I could’ve told the driver…

So when I finally arrived in Paciran after a vacation in Karimun Jawa…ferry: 6 hours, bus: 5 hours, angkot: 1.5 hours… I told my predicament to Bu Z. I first called my number, and someone answered, but then they hung up on me! Then Bu Z called, and was able to talk, but he basically said he was busy and hung up again! Okaaaay. So I knew someone picked up my hp. Then we sent an sms saying that if they could bring it over, since we assumed it was the driver of the angkot, that they would possibly take the route down to Paciran, and then I could give a thank you/reward in the form of thousands of Rupiah.

But no reply…so then I got my other friend to call, and she actually talked with him for a few minutes, and we set up a time to meet. It turns out he works at the TPI in Brondong (fish market), and he said he couldn’t meet the next day because he’s going to a wedding, but he could meet the following day. He said he would be at a warung across the street from the street to TPI between 7 and 9am. Sounded complicated…

So that morning, we were ready to go, and we tried to call my number to confirm the meeting place/time. But my number wasn’t active anymore!! We still went to the warung, hung out for over an hour, repeatedly tried to call my number, but it still wasn’t active. We asked around, it was the “news” at the warung that morning, and people kept on shouting ‘ono bule!’ when they entered the warung. Good gracious.

So why the elaborate fabrication when you know you’re not going to show up? I know for a fact that he’s still using my number as his own. It was a cheap hp, but the information was all my contacts for a year! So annoying to now get back… I guess facebook is good for some things. And now the question is ….

Do I get a hp for when I’m in Canada, or just deal with my home phone??

I know some friends really want me to get a cell phone (ahem, her name starts with a B). I don’t know how necessary it is, though. You just have to plan things beforehand, and mostly stick to the plan. It’s necessary here in Indonesia for sure…I don’t have a home phone either, so it makes sense that I have a hp. But do I need one in Canada? It is convenient to have one though, but why is it so damn expensive in Canada??  I can’t decide.

les amoreux sont seuls au monde

Is it normal to miss work while on vacation?

Things are winding down. I’m heading back to Canada on August 10th. I can’t wait!!! My man is here, and we’re on vacation, exploring Java. I’m speaking a lot of English. I make a lot of mistakes. That’s usual though for me…haha… It’s a bit of a buffer to hang out with some one from North America in Indonesia just before heading back.

But the other day, I just broke down. As much as I’m looking forward to experience fall weather again, eat bran flakes for breakfast, have hot showers all the time, this year has brought me to people and places that I would never have dreamed of meeting. And I’m going to miss my friends here. A lot. Who else can I speak Javanese to in the middle of the night? I shared a bed with my friend for 3 months! She checked my hair for lice! And found some! We swam in the North Java Sea! She is so patient when I cannot explain myself. She taught me how to make sambal!

I wish I could bring back a bit of friend, a bit of sea, a bit of true cooking back with me.

Happy Canada Day!

I spent my Canada Day on a bus, for about 11 hours. It was SPECTACULAAR!  I traveled from Yogya to Paciran. I was planning to leave at around 6am, but didn’t get out until 7am… ah,well. It must be the jam caret, or rubber time that is rubbing off on me. Or I’m always bad with time. (Bethany could concur with this.) Anywho, I’m traveling by myself (kok sendiria? YES, I’m traveling alone. Nggak ada temannya? Di mana temannya? NO, I do not have any friends traveling with me. OH, by the way, I’m from Canada. Just wanted to let you know, because I know that’s your next question. *earphones back on”)…. so I don’t really have a set schedule.

So I popped an immodium (there are no bathrooms on the bus, and I constantly have stomach issues here in Indonesia…I don’t know if it’s from stress, or from actual bacteria, anyways, I seriously have not had any golden boys this whole year….very disturbing), and then I was considering popping a gravol, but I survived without it…. it helped that this time i wasn’t sitting beside Mr. Pukey.

The first leg from Yogya to Semarang was fine; I zonked out for a bit, and then listened to Paul Simon’s Graceland album, enjoying the hills with cassava plantations go by.  And it was a bus with AC. Oh yeah.

Transit in Semarang after 3 hours. The boys in the warung across from the bus I get on to Tuban now recognize me. I said HI, got to go to the washroom. By the way, I don’t use toilet paper anymore. I just use water, like the locals. Some bule  people think that’s gross. And I did at first too, but I don’t know what happened… I just got used to it, I guess. And it’s so hot here, I pretty much have a shower after going, so it’s not a big deal.

Then, back on the bus. This leg is longer; 5 hours. Believe me, I know this trip. Here, I’m traveling east across the north coast. On the north side, I sometimes look out to the North Java Sea. On the south side, I look to villages, rice paddies, shrimp farms, and occasional forest.  AC again. I wanted to work a bit, but was too nauseous to do so… I didn’t want to join the puke club. It was stop and go, and the road is bad. Also, I have to mention that there is a lot of slow truck traffic, so the bus is constantly pulling out to pass the other traffic, accelerating in blind corners, taking turns exceedingly fast, and braking and pulling back into the correct lane only at the last minute. Once I sat in the front because it has more leg room, but I will NEVER do that again, since I felt like I was going to witness my own death at least 5 times every minute. The driver was probably getting annoyed at me too, since I was pseudo-gasping at least 5 times every minute. So I sat in the back, usually where there is more room.

However, this time, AMAZINGLY, there was a bathroom in the back! BUT, this was so nasty, I would not even venture to step into that cubicle; furthermore, given the aforementioned driving tactics, I do not begin to imagine how one can properly pee into the designated hole. I refused to enter and so didn’t drink a lot of water.  But other people dared to enter, and unfortunately there was something wrong with the latch, and so on particularly bumpy parts or a sudden accelaration (e.g. at least 5 times per minute), the door would swing open, and there would be gasps and grasps to hold the door back. AAAAHHH, and they just needed to pee! I listened to Stereolab ‘Dots and Loops’, and then the Dixie Chicks and a few songs by Jean LeLoup.

Then, the usual stop at the bus restaurant, we all get out and run to the washroom (which usually isn’t much better than the one on the bus), and then have a meal, which is included in the price of the bus ticket (55 000Rp; about $6CAN). Then, I get off at Tuban about 15 minutes after the restaurant stop. The bus continues east to Surabaya, but doesn’t take the direction of Paciran. Now comes the fun part….angkot umum.

So I get off, then after AC that is blasted in your face for 10 hours, I climb into a type of small cube van that is designed to carry passengers with no AC. The first bench is taken, so I’m relegated to the middle/back benches which are designed for Indonesian height, so my knees are squished into the seat at an awkward angle. Then we travel to Brondong, at the aforementioned pace and speed, which is exacerbated even more, since we pick up passengers along the way. There is sort of a jockey that calls out BRONDONG, BRONDONG, and waves at people to see if they are going to jump on or not. He also takes your money and gives change, and opens the door, and helps old ladies with giant bags get on and off. We manage to fit 21 people in the van. I’m sweating. No problem. I’ve been in the van with 26 people before. Oh by the way, I’m from Canada, and I’m going to Paciran. NO, I do not want to go to WBL, the tourist destination. I will be going to the village. I do research there. Yes, I speak Indonesian. I also understand what you say in Javanese, so you might want to be careful. NO, I am not going to WBL. I live in Paciran. I do not want to go to WBL. As you might tell, I am getting tired after traveling for 10 hours.

Then, transit in Brondong. Getting in another van. Not to WBL, Pak, just to beside Alfamart (one of the two corner stores in the village).

ARRIVE. Happy Canada Day! I collapse in a chair and sit some more.