Today is day 21.
Have I ever told you guys that I don’t believe in common numbers? So when I’m supposed to wake up at 5:20 AM, I instead wake up at 5:21 AM. I know it’s all in my head, but it’s GOING AGAINST THE GRAIN.
You too could be the red person walking up the stairs!
Thus, this is posted on day 21 rather than day 20.
So much has happened.
So let’s start with a party.
No, not that kind of party, although banana parties are a lot of fun. A welcoming party. Here we go.
(and quick thanks to everyone whose pictures I stole and put on here)
My host family decided to throw a welcoming party/belated birthday party for my host mom and I. My whole week I was here, my host mom kept inviting everyone we met and knew.
Thus, when the party started, there were 100+ people there. I tried to greet (salim!) all of them. After my host mom said some remarks in front of everyone, they invited me to come up and introduce myself.
Now. I. Don’t. Speak. Indonesian. I practiced and memorized an introduction, and I messed up anyway. But you know, some mistakes don’t matter. And it was one of those.
Then we did a traditional party thing, where there is tumpeng (mountain of flavored rice rimmed with different side dishes). You cut off the top and then put a little of each side dish on the plate. You give this plate to someone who is important to you. I gave it to my host mom, because I felt that she had done so much for me to make me feel welcome and comfortable.
The rest of the party was a blurry of saliming, speaking in two languages, and singing. My host dad is a musician, and all his musician friends came. Someone played the keyboard the whole time and people would just go up and sing. It didn’t matter if they had the skill or not; no shame there. So much respect.
My host aunt is an AFS returnee from Australia, and she brought all the alum/on program AFS attendees and we sang Leaving on a Jetplane. I’ve never heard it before, but apparently it’s a classic. So go and listen to it.
And we took so many pictures. So many.
To top the Sunday off, a reporter from the newspaper was invited. He interviewed me and the other host student staying in Bogor (from Germany).
Lo and behold, in the paper the next day, there was my shining bule face.
Look at me. In the pape. #newsies #ImthekingofBogor
The day after the party was my first day of school. I was really nervous about it, mostly because there was going to be a flag ceremony and I would have to introduce myself in front of everyone. We arrived just a little late and everyone saw us anyway. So I just lined up like everyone else until they called me up.
I used my memorized introduction from the party, and it was all good.
The rest of the day was followed by a lot of staring, a lot of “What’s your name and where are you from?”, selfies, and chatting about a) what school in America is like and b) do I know any of the celebrities?
No. I don’t.
I think school has helped me a lot. I really have a hard time being the center of attention (or being the bule here), but I feel that studying abroad is about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. Mostly I speak in English with people, but they try to help me learn Indonesian. No, I don’t understand anything the teachers are saying. And no, I don’t have to take the tests or do the homework (thank goodness).
On Tuesday-Friday after school my teacher mentor had me join Rineka, a traditional dance/instruments extracurricular. I was really excited about this. They let me play some traditional drums and then the gamelan, which is a sort of xylophone/marimba thing.
Yep. That’s the gamelan for you. Except the one I played wasn’t quite so ornate.
After playing for a little, they informed me that I would be playing the gamelan with them in the school’s anniversary part on Saturday.
So, the rest of the week was just that: going to school, being a celebrity, and practicing the gamelan. I actually had a lot of fun, especially in Rineka.
When we got to Saturday, I had to go to a teacher’s house at 6 in the morning and get all made up. I seriously have never worn so much makeup in my life. And I got a fancy hairstyle.
We got to the school and chilled until our performance. And then, of course, we performed.
I didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked to prepare, so I wasn’t quite ready. Consequently, I messed up at the end, and it was ok.
It’s ok to mess up.
After we performed, the student hosts brought me up in front of everyone and just did a basic Q and A. What’s your name? (butchers Ruth) Where are you from? How long have you been playing the gamelan?
After the performance and Q & A, I took a ton of photos with the Rineka group, with my friends, and with the other exchange student in Bogor.
After my performance, I hung out with friends and then attempted to listen to other people perform.
Key word there: attempted.
I could hardly listen because people kept coming up to me and asking me to take pictures them. I’d say maybe 10-15 came up and asked me for photos, and even more were actually in the photos.
Do I know any of the people?
Also, a company who set up shop at the festival asked if I would be their model. With my visa and being on this program, I am not allowed to work. Also, I don’t want to advertise for a company just because I’m a bule.
I left the festival at 3 and and 5, we drove to Bandung. Now, I’m sure that we would’ve gotten to Bandung quicker had there not been. Traffic. Every. Part. Of. The. Way.
So after 4 or so hours and several stops, we got to Ciater Hot Springs. At 1 AM.
My host parents informed me that lots of people go swimming at 1 AM. It’s cooler outside and the water is nice.
Sure enough, people ringed the two pools and sat at tables around the pools.
Let’s (really quick!) talk about swimsuits in Indonesia.
You can’t wear this.
You should wear this:
Or something akin to it. Boys are the same.
It was fun sitting in the hot springs at 1 in the morning. I was really glad, actually, that I had to wear clothes because I know I would’ve gotten more stares than I was getting had I not. I chatted with my host sister and the other AFS student (we brought her with). We were there until 3, and it took another hour to get to our hotel. Then I took an ice cold shower and got in bed at 5.
And then there was call to prayer. The mosque was literally next door.
So I went to bed probably at 5:20, and woke up at 8.
We drove to Tangkuban Parahu, the volcano by Bandung/Lembang. There are 3 craters and we only saw one, but it was really cool! As usual, we documented our visit with pictures:
We walked around the little tourist shop road ringing the crater, took more pictures, and talked to a random professor while drinking bajigur. Bajigur is a hot, sweet ginger drink from Sunda culture. I really like it.
And then we went home. Well, we drove around Bandung a little first and saw (from the car) the sate (sah-tay) building as well as the building that the Asian-African conference was in. I saw a lot of bules in Bandung. It was a little shocking, actually. I get a little irritated when people wheel around when they see a bule, but someone in the car was like, “There’s a bule!” and I did the exact same thing.
I want to end with talking about the garment I wore when I played the gamelan. I know a lot of you are wondering what it is, so I’ll put your hearts and heads to rest. It is a kebaya. It is transparent, lavishly embroidered, and traditional for Indonesian women. The one I wore was my host mom’s and particularly expensive (thanks Bunda for letting me wear it!) One wears a kebaya to fancy occasions (like a wedding or a performance, for example).
Anyway, peace out, come back next week, and assalamualaikum.