Leave for Change Blogs
Many Leave for Change participants blog - often before, during, and after their volunteer assignment - capturing the diversity and richness of their volunteer experience, their reactions to being in a new country, how they navigate and negotiate their mandates, and the impact the whole experience has on them personally and professionally.
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On the weekend of April 11th I arrived in Malang, where I am now. Originally the plan had been to land in Jakarta and then travel by bus and train to Malang, while visiting Indonesia along the way: Bandung, Pekalongan, Borobodur, Surabaya and then Malang.
However, because of the election – which is a national holiday – everything was all booked up. So, instead we flew straight to Malang right after the election. After a lovely day of rest, we packed up and headed off to Pekalongan, the city where my father was born and raised. It was a long 12 hour drive to Pekalongan, but it was a fantastic way to see Indonesia. After Pekalongan we visited Borobodur, Prambanan and Jogjakarta before heading home.
The reason I wanted to travel by bus and train was to have a chance to really see the country. Airfare is relatively inexpensive, so we could just hop over the island, but all I’d get to see that way is the inside of airport and planes <grin>. Taking the road trip was fantastic, because not only did I get to see Indonesia up close, but we stopped at every town to try the local food.
Indonesia is very regional and every region is fiercely proud of its food – it’s fresh produce and the local specialty, often Soto…a type of soup/stew that is eaten over rice. It is very common to see Soto named after a place, like Soto Pekalongan or Soto Madura. Also, every town has it’s own snack – seriously – it’s amazing. It seems like every town has a store advertising Oleh-Oleh Khas Pekalongan, or whatever the city is, which sells and endless variety of snacks which seem to only be available in that one town! My Aunt Lan called our trip Culinary Tourism <grin>. It was fantastic.
I had a great time taking photos on this trip. I love my new camera a lot . I’m so happy I managed to get a hold of it before this trip. This camera makes me look great, even when I’m shooting through a windshield .
This is a good example of a quiet Indonesia highway here on Java. Beautiful, lush and open. The roads here are quite good – I mean…at least as good at Québecs <grin>.
The countryside of Java is filled with farms: rice paddies, corn, sugar cane and more. I managed to catch a tired farm hand taking a break from the sun and the field on a hot Javanese afternoon.
Cities here are a charming mix of old and new. You can see the history everywhere you go in Indonesia, in the buildings, streets and faces…and you can also see glass buildings, billboards for Blackberries and iPhones and shiny new Toyota Kijangs, a 5-door car built here in Indonesia.
The mix of old and new always seems starkest to me in the streets, because there are motorcycles, WWII era VW jeeps, giant passenger buses with Spiderman painted on the back, bicycles, gleaming black Mercedes, vintage Vespa scooters, rickshaws, carts and sometimes even horses…all jostling for position as they dash madly off in all directions.
Crossing the street is a very special skill here, requiring keen eyes, nerves of steel and a profound faith that you’ll make it to the other side. Sometimes, you even need to take a bit of break in the middle <grin>.
A curious, but common, occurrence is that the front of traffic at stop lights is always motorcycles. It took me awhile to figure out, but its because there’s always one or two motorcycles at the front, just by sheer numbers. And then, while the light is red all the other motocycles sneak up and line up waiting for the light to turn green.
It’s amazing what people fit on a motorcycle here. Especially the number of people. I have seen a family of five on a motorcycle – but I didn’t quite managed to get a picture of them <grin>. This is a good example of what I mean; kids often sit in the front. I really like that his family is all wearing helmets.
My Uncle has a really nice van that we took on our road trip. There was lots of room and glorious, glorious air conditioning. However, what my dad really liked was that we put the seats up in the back and turned it into a bed.
I’m not saying he used it…because I don’t have to