Saturday, December 30, 2006

Ten More Things Jaya Would Be Cute Doing

Working as a footwarmer.

Vanquishing her new Christmas toy.

Helping out the servants.

Reading The New Yorker.


Getting ready for a walk.


Playing computer with Brother #2 (a.k.a. Hairmano).


Singing the jailhouse blues.

3. Showing off her circus dog genes.

Hiding from the puparazzi.


Just being herself.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Vacation Face

(written by special guest writer Petra's Mother, edited by Petra)

To fully appreciate Petra's vacation adventure one needs to understand the nuances of Petra's vacation face. I do not know if non-family members have ever seen this face but I can attest to its frequent presence during our perambulations together.

Here is the face:

Here are the situations in which the face appears:

1) "He is speaking a foreign language." Petra's linguistic talents do not come from her paternal genes. PatrusPetra believes that every language in the world can be pronounced using a loud voice and either an American English or an Argentinian Spanish accent. Thus, the German word for "street", strasse (editor's note: that final e is a schwa) is said, loudly, as either "strays" or "strawsee" (accent and hand gesture on the last syllable). Petra's vacation visage was particularly present when Patrus, inspired by the German all around him, produced the one German word he remembered from his college days: schadenfreude. Over the course of the 10 day vacation poor Petra, the linguist, had to hear this word pronounced variously, and at top volume, as: "sa-chen-den-froy-dee", "skan-ten-de-fru-dee", and "se-che-ne-da-fro-how-you-say-it."
2) "She is doing math again." Petra's mathematical skills do not come from her maternal genes. MatrusPetra believes that every math problem in the world can be solved with enough creative narrative around the problem. Thus the Rock's vacation face appeared often as Matrus recounted how a salary of 15,000 a year was a good amount of money, working out to 5000 a month, how the 8 hour flight from Vienna to New Delhi really turned out to be a 6 and 1/2 hour flight (3 and 1/2 hours is halfway) and how something that costs 34 euros works out to be 15,000 Indian rupees which works back to being about 200 US dollars. (editor's note: You can check the exchange rates for this one to experience your very own vacation face!)
3) "The Sound of Music Bus Tour." A huge tour bus. Noisy, fat Americans. Painted scenes of Maria and 7 von Trapp children in curtain clothes. A flamboyant tour director explaining why "we LOVE this movie so much." Matrus singing along to the soundtrack as the bus drives through Salzburg. Heard enough? Vacation face.

A face to make a mother proud. Thanks for coming on our vacation, Petra.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Some Things Never Change

When I was a senior in high school, my Latin class's trip to Italy got cancelled because of September 11. A reporter for the town paper came around the school looking for suitable quotes for her piece on the topic. Instead of using deep thoughts from my peers, like "Man! This totally sucks!" she featured a quick interview with me, in which I said, "I am a bit disappointed" and pointed out that the trip's cancellation was rather paranoid; Italy and Afghanistan are not exactly close neighbors, and the danger to a bunch of 16 and 17-year olds travelling abroad would still come more from alcohol poisoning than terrorist attacks.

When the article was published, my friends all teased me endlessly. I sounded like an idiot, after all: what sort of high schooler, when denied a chance to see the glories of ancient Rome, tamely says "I am a bit disappointed"? Way back then, I tried to blame the reporter--I would never phrase things that way! She must have misquoted me!--but, having just reread the opening line of my last blog entry, I see now that I would, in fact, phrase things that way. So then, Local Reporter, wherever you are: I'm sorry. I should never have tried to blame you. Your reporting skills are better, and my sound-bite-giving skills worse, than I ever imagined. I am, all in all, a bit disappointed in myself.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

High On a Mountain Top

I am a bit disappointed by Austria. I did not expect to travel halfway across the world to an exotic foreign country and find that it looks just like Utah. In fact, as far as I can tell, Austria is a sort of bizarro-Deseret: the mountains looming over the city are the same shape but a little taller, a little more looming; the houses look like Park City, in that wooden, boxy, chimneyed, houses-drawn-by-kindergarten-children Alpine style, but a little more authentic; and the people are tall, blond, and healthy, precisely like Utahns, but a little more German-speaking.

It is, however, quite a bit colder here. My poor family and I, unprepared by our respective Ind* countries for this sort of weather, look a bit pathetic, having scrapped together whatever cold-weather gear we could find. Before leaving Jakarta, I stopped in at Plaza Indonesia, the city's ritziest mall, and purchased some expensive sweaters from chichi European stores like Mango and Zara, but they're not thick enough on their own, which means I hit the streets of Innsbruck every morning wearing three pairs of pants, four sweaters, and a pained expression that says, "I can't feel my fingers or toes." Luckily, for the ski slopes themselves we rented or purchased warm clothes, so I was always perfectly warm on the top of the mountain, wearing overly thick ski pants, an incredibly high-tech coat, and a pained expression that says, “I paid $30 for my socks.” Oh, right, and a fuzzy black hat, which, with my short hair, makes me look more like a cancer patient than a Swedish ski bunny.

Not that, while facing down the mountain, fashion is my top concern. I've done a fair amount of skiing in my life but yet, alas, I still vacillate between "nearly intermediate" and "rank beginner." When the terrain is smooth, snowy, and not steep, I can swish and swoosh like someone who knows what they're doing. The minute the terrain falls apart, though, so does my technique. On the steeper hills, I am not above pizza-wedging, stair-stepping, or even butt-sliding my way down. (Ask me about the time I took out an entire mogul field with my stair-stepping technique.) The main problem with my skiing, as far as I can tell, is that I have absolutely no need for speed; quite the reverse, in fact: I wind down the mountain as slowly as I possibly can, muttering "Up! Down! Butt! Knees! Up! Down!" under my breath. I look and sound like an idiot, it’s true, but I’m used to that. At least I don’t fall very often.

The last time I took a bad fall in Utah, many years ago, my Butt and Knees having failed to go properly Up and Down, I lay in the snow for a few minutes, snatching, like an Italian soccer player, a few moments of rest. As I stared up at the sky, an old couple on the lift over me shouted down, full of tender concern, "We're praying for you!" Yesterday, after taking my skis off and sliding down an entire mountain slope on my backside, finding that the least frightening and most effective way to the bottom, a young girl skiing by made the mistake of looking back at me and my mom, working her way down the mountain the same way. She paused for a split second, as if considering what to do, and then literally fell over laughing. I guess I'm not in Zion anymore after all.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Radio Head

So, thanks to the U.S. Embassy and its magical powers of networking, my friend the Short Loud One (not her real name) and I have our own radio show. (Or, rather, our own regular guest spot on someone else's radio show--it's practically the same thing, right?) We are supposed to, once a week, lead a discussion, in English, about American culture and whatever else we can think of. We've only done it once so far, but, seeing as how it was a blast, we're planning to set the regular schedule in stone just as soon as I'm done travelling to Yogyakarta and Vienna and New Delhi and the SLO is done travelling to Burma and Cambodia and Thailand--that is, sometime in February.

In any case, our first attempt at a show was, as I saw it, excellent. We explained the history of Thanksgiving, talked about different traditions--in the South, apparently, they deep-fry their turkeys--and developed a fun rapport with the actual hosts, two very hip-yet-pleasant twenty-somethings. With the exception of a suggestive joke on my part--"size always matters" referred to turkeys, people, turkeys--our wit was nice, safe, and culturally sensitive, all that "Congress pays me to be a nice American" sort of stuff. What's more, since our interview was interspersed with music, our hosts allowed me to choose a song; I think that's the first and last time an Indonesian audience will hear Radiohead's "How to Disappear Completely" played on air. I just hope they appreciated it.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Busy Bee

Things I did this week, in a desperate attempt to fill my spare time:

hosted a radio show
read four (4) novels
taught piano lessons to six (6) rowdy Primary children
worked on my grad school application
created a poster presentation for an academic conference next week
did aerobics with the Relief Society
taught my weekly English class at the church
did numerous (?) crossword puzzles
guest lectured about anaphora and deixis in a university class, in Indonesian
took a five (5) hour nap
watched my favorite soap opera, The Teenage Bride
memorized five hundred (500) vocabulary words
tried to watch Trainspotting for the second (2nd) time
beat my students at Scrabble one hundred seventy eight (178) to forty-four (44)
changed my phone number to avoid my stalker
wrote tens (10s) of emails
went to a housewarming party
had a Javanese lesson
read six (6) books of the New Testament
ate delicious soup with some friends from class

Notice how not one (1) of those things is "did homework" or "studied for finals." Life is good.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Talk the Vote

Recently, I've been working on my graduate school (re)application. (I deferred and now have to reapply, with the assurance that I will be accepted again.) If I want a certain scholarship--and I do--I have to study a foreign language. I can't decide what I want to study next (7 down, several thousand to go), so I figured, hey, why not let the internet decide? So, here we are, a poll: what language should I study in graduate school?

Afrikaans (to quote a certain mountain climber, because it's there)
Arabic (I miss hacking up parts of my throat)
Dutch (super useful for Indonesian linguistics)
Farsi (to be the NSA's wet dream--Arabic, Indonesian and Farsi)
Indonesian (they have some lit classes that look fun)
Irish Gaelic (Welsh was fun, so why not Irish?)
Sanskrit (it's dead, so I would never have to speak)
Turkish (vowel harmony, plus see "Farsi" above)
Vietnamese (tones, topic-comment structure, reduplication, classifiers. Whee!)


From First Date to Eternal Mate

So, the local bookstores here sell all kinds of English phrase books--businessman English, student English, construction worker English (I kid you not). When I pick up these books and rifle through them, as I frequently do, looking for mistakes, I like to imagine the given phrases in sequence as an actual dialogue instead of isolated phrases; it's much funnier that way. If you read it the right way, one I picked up recently, about dating, tells a quite engrossing story of a relationship, start to finish. Without further ado, then, and without changing anything about these phrases, including their printed order in the book, I give you scenes from "Dating in English 2: The Return of the Killer Pickup Line."

(All right, I made up the title. But the book is real!)

Scene 1: Meet and Greet, the Honest Way
You're cute.
I want to know more about you.
Come on, tell me more.
Don't be shy.
Ask me some questions.
Ask me anything you want.
Except what color underwear I'm wearing.

Scene 2: How to Impress the Ladies
What do you study at college?
I went to a special business/trade school.
How do you do at school?
Very bad.
I must work harder.
I'm a bad student.
I don't like studying.
Studying is the last thing I wanna do.
I didn't get any credits last semester.
I'm taking a semester off.
I failed in all the subjects I took.
I have to repeat the courses.
I never attended the lectures.
I'm too lazy.

Scene 3: With Enough Alcohol, She Likes You Anyway
Let's sit close to the bar.
Free drinks are over there.
Can we buy beer here?
The drinks here taste terrible!
This is not very strong.
They serve weak drinks here.
Ask for stronger drinks.
Stronger drinks, please.
Please make this drink stronger.
If I get drunk, that's okay.

Scene 4:Not a Back Seat Type of Girl
We've known each other for three months.
We can make it work.
I want to know what you're feeling.
I can't think of anything but you.
Say you'll be mine.
I'll make you happy.
I never felt this way before.
Look into my eyes.
Stay just a little bit longer.
Let's find a good place.
How do you know about this kind of place?
People can see us here!
That'll make it more exciting.
Let's get in the back seat.
Let's recline the front seats.
Take your shoes off.
Enjoy yourself.
I'm cold.
Make me warm.

Scene 5: In America, Girls Spend the Night in the Front Seat
Stay with me tonight.
I can't, my dad is expecting me at home.
I have to be home by midnight.
Are you kidding? This isn't America!
In Indonesia, girls have got to be home by this time.

Scene 6: The Easy Way Out
Are you telling me you don't love me anymore?
You lied to me.
Stop lying to me.
Everything you've ever said is a lie.
You messed up my life.
You're so selfish!
Don't tell me what to do.
Don't try to change me.
Leave me alone.
Stop checking up on me.
Don't pretend nothing happened!
Think about the way you treated me!
Don't act like my wife!
Yes, I'm already married.
I tried to tell you many times, but I couldn't.
Let's change the subject.

Scene 7: She Says With a Gleam in Her Eye...
I know I hurt your feelings.
I didn't mean to.
Let's get back together.
I'll do anything to make you forgive me.

Scene 8: That's Right, Minimize the Wedding Laundry
When do you want to get married?
Are you trying to propose to me?
What's the question?
What's the answer?
Will you use my last name?
Are you a Christian or a Buddhist?
I'm a Muslim.
Should we have a Javanese or an American style wedding?
What's the difference?
Which one is cheaper?
Which one do you prefer?
Whichever doesn't require me to keep changing clothes.

Scene 9: Now That We're Married, I thought I'd Ask
How many times a day do you take a shower?
It depends, but usually just once.
I spend all day in an air-conditioned room, so I don't need to shower twice.
Westerners don't really like bathing anyway.
The thing is, Indonesians are obsessed by bathing.
Bathing is very important for us, because we live in a tropical country.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Follow the Prophet, Qur'anic Edition

Ibrahim1 the prophet had descendants as the sand,
Christians, Jews, and Muslims now share his Promised Land.
They say it was left to his treasured old-age son;
The problem is the sources disagree which one2.

Follow the nabi3, follow the nabi, follow the nabi
Don't go astray
Follow the nabi, follow the nabi, follow the nabi
He knows the way.

'Isa4 was a prophet, born of virgin womb5,
He was God's beloved who never saw the tomb6.
At the crucifiction, the whole earth did shake,
'Isa watched from heav'n as the Jews just killed a fake7.


Mohammed was a prophet, the last one Muslims know
In the barren desert, he helped Islam grow.
While Mohammed prayed, Allah told him to READ8:
1.3 billion9 now follow where he leads.


2According to the Qur'an, Ismail (Ishmael) was the beloved son whom Abraham tried to sacrifice.
3Arabic for "prophet"
5Maryam, his mother, wasn't even engaged
6According to the Qur'an, Jesus was taken up to heaven without dying
7It wasn't Jesus who was crucified, but a lookalike.
8The literal meaning of "Qur'an" is "the reading" or "the recitation"
9CIA World Factbook, 2006

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Day Late and Rp. 9,157 Short

This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for, in no particular order:

Maya, who solves all my problems
the Internet
my family
Mark Kozelek
your mom jokes
the Church
McDonald's soft-serve ice cream cones
toilet paper
the new James Bond
Graham Greene, Shusako Endo, and J.M. Coetzee
my sense of humor
the $10 all-you-can-eat buffet at the Novotel, an excellent Thanksgiving dinner

and, finally,
my health, strength, and daily rice.

Too Bad It's Not Halloween...

So, because my acne has been absolutely terrible since I got to Indonesia, and because I'm generally worried that looking so much like my fifteen year old self will cause me to start acting like my fifteen year old self--given that this was the only year of my life that I thought "Catcher in the Rye" was a good book, that idea worries me--I decided to go see a dermatologist. I asked around at school to find the most famous dermatologist in Semarang, convinced an Indonesian friend to call and make an appointment for me, and today, finally showed up in the office to wait as, with traditional Indonesian sense of time so often called "rubber time," the nurses finally remembered to call my name, two hours after my actual appointment time.

I know that the medical profession isn't particularly distinguished in this country--and when I consider that medical school is basically a 4 year undergradate degree, I understand this a little better--but I figured, hey, what's the worst that could happen? I waste some money on a cream that isn't useful, and I stop using it. I'm $20 in the hole, sure, but that's a small price to pay for self-esteem.

"What's the worst that could happen?" as it turns out, is a dangerous question to ask. Given that I started my day at 5 AM by attempting to kill a giant cockroach that had crawled into my toilet paper--after failing to smash it with my sneaker or slam it in the door, washing it down the drain proved to be effective--and then continued it by having to substitute in the twelfth grade class and being forced to lecture to 17 year olds about direct and indirect report speech for upwards of two hours, I should't have pushed my luck with the dermatologist. Apparently the standard procedure for acne is to look at my face for roughly 25 seconds, prescribe me some cream and pills, goodness knows what, and then make me lie on a table for a nurse to repeatedly press a sharp metal object into my face. I think she was clearing out blackheads, but I couldn't really tell, seeing as how I was completely blinded by the bright light she was shining in my eyes. I kept trying to ask whether that process would cause scarring--I feel like popping pimples is the wrong way to actually treat them--but it's hard to talk through tears, much less in a foreign language. And then, of course, the fact that I couldn't keep myself from crying at how freaking painful that metal stick was when jammed into the side of my nose just made me cry more. I haven't cried in public since at least the last time I went to a doctor's office, and it's never an experience I enjoy. (If I were a pretty crier, the type whose tears make her look sweet and innocent and feminine, just begging to be comforted or protected, perhaps I wouldn't care. Instead, I'm the type whose face gets red and blotchy and swollen and who generally looks like the ugly stepsister of the Creature From the Black Lagoon.)

So now I've blown $20 on probably pointless medicines and been forced to walk around in public with the sort of face that frightens small children. Luckily, my next activity this evening is teaching piano lessons to small children. I'm not sure my self-esteem, normally through the roof, can handle screams of "Mommy, make it go away!". That, my friends, is the worst that could happen.

(Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

A Real Blog Post

Because I promised one, and because I keep my appointments...

(Name that allusion, please.)

I've been taking Javanese lessons for the past five weeks. I only meet with my teacher once a week, and I'm really lazy about studying vocabulary, so it hardly does any good, but at least now I can recognize what "monggo" means when people say it, oh, about every other word. (It means "please" or "after you" or, more generally, "I'm being polite to you right now.")

My lessons are, in general, a real kick: my Javanese teacher speaks no English, so I get long lists of Javanese vocabulary translated into Indonesian, and at least part of our lesson every week is devoted to fumbling around with an Indonesian dictionary trying to figure out what the heck "terjungkel" means. ("To fall over backwards from a squatting position"; a semantic space apparently highly necessary in a land of squat toilets.)

Last week's lesson was particularly confusing to me. The first four lessons followed what I viewed as a logical progression of vocabulary: greetings, politeness phrases, body parts, numbers, basic verbs, prepositions, and basic adjectives. Just the sort of words I need to start forming simple sentences, or, alternatively, to tell people that I don't speak any Javanese.

The fifth lesson, though, was a little different. Instead of moving from body parts to, say, days of the week, we went to "ways to move or position the aforementioned body parts." My vocabulary list at the end of last week's lesson looked something like this:

selonur: to sit with the legs stretched out
ndodok: to squat
sila: to sit cross-legged
ngeplak: to hit the head with the hand
ngeplok: to clap
njawil: to stroke the arm with the hand
merem: to close the eyes
melek: to open the eyes
mentheleng: eyes wide or bugging out
kera: cross-eyed
sipit: squinty-eyed like the Chinese (her words, not mine)
bangir: high-bridged nose
pesek: flat Asian nose
nyeprok: wide nose
ndomble: sagging lower lip
gugut: jutting chin
nyathis: receding chin
mecep: sticking the lips out
merot: sticking the lips to the side
melet: sticking the tongue out

Why, you may ask, would I need those words as the next basic step in learning Javanese? I asked myself the same thing. The lesson as a whole made no sense, not least because I don't know most of those words in Indonesian. And, please, let's be honest: what good will it really do if I describe someone as "squinty-eyed, with a flat Asian nose"? Number one, seeing as how I work and live with ethnic Chinese, it will do no good whatsoever. Number two, I just look racist. None of these words, I thought, could possibly be useful.

I was wrong. In the week that has elapsed since my lesson, I have heard the words ngeplak, ndodok, and gugut, and have used the word njawil. What's more, I have actually heard, from one of the teachers at my school, a description of her students as "squinty-eyed, with a flat Asian nose." Who's racist now?

*Nota Bene: not me. Actually, no one in this story. This blog entry might be better if followed by another one about how Indonesians are perfectly honest, and, to an American perspective, perfectly tactless in their physical descriptions. Teachers at my school are commonly described as "the fat one," "the short one," and "the black one." I goggle every time I hear this in Indonesian and now, thanks to my Javanese teacher, I can goggle every time I hear them in Javanese.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Break From Our Regularly Scheduled Programming shamelessly promote my 16 year old cousin, Thomas Barrett, who was selected as one of 20 finalists (out of 1100 entries!) for the BBC's "Next Big Thing" competition, a search for the best young band or solo performer from around the world. In case you can't tell, I'm exceedingly proud--just imagine, I'm related to someone cool enough to possibly be the "Next Big Thing"! (It doesn't seem possible, does it?)

In any case, the next stage of selections is done by internet vote: the top 6 most popular will then proceed to a final round of judging. This means that Thomas needs your vote (and your friend's, and your friend's friend's, and, of course, your mom's). Please, if you have a minute, visit this site to listen to his song, "Forever and Ever Again," and then visit this site to vote for it. (If, of course, you like it. I did.)

I promise a real blog entry later. If, that is, you all vote for my cousin.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right

This shouldn't come as a huge surprise to anyone who has seen me try to dance, distinguish left from right, or, say, walk without tripping over my own two feet...oh, heck, I give up: this shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who has ever met me. In the interest of full disclosure on the internet, however, I feel I should say this: as I learned from tonight's church activity, I am, if possible, even more clumsy and awkward at aerobics when the instructions are in a foreign language. Yeah. That was embarrassing.

Oh, And In Case You Were Wondering...

There apparently is no common phrase in Indonesian for "virgin birth." The closest that the English teachers at my school could get was "born from a virgin girl." I feel cheated.

Overtaken by Grammar

Let's all pause in our pursuit of absolute foreign-culture hilarity for a moment here to remember that, yes, I was a linguistics major in college, and yes, I plan on pursuing that field further, and yes, I am a complete and utter nerd, and not just because I have programmed my cell phone to play "The Spirit of God" every time someone calls me.

With that in mind, you may continue reading. One of my favorite aspects of Indonesian grammar--and may I just take this opportunity to insist that it does have grammar, contrary to the beliefs of its native speakers--is the circumfix ke-...-an. For the most part, it's a rather innocuous little nominalizing affix, taking an adjective to an abstract noun: friendly to friendliness, beautiful to beauty, happy to happiness. For a certain small class of roots--and it is to the everlasting detriment of the language that this is not a productive function--this circumfix creates a word that roughly means "overtaken by X" or "caught by/in X." Hence, ketinggalan, "left behind," or "overtaken by staying"; kesiangan, "overslept," or "overtaken by late morning/early afternoon"; and, a word that has become increasingly important over the last week or so as Semarang enters the rainy season, kehujanan, or "caught in the rain."

I have been kehujanan several times already, none of them pleasant. The rain comes on quickly here, and, trust me, it never rains but it pours. One minute the sky looks normal, and the next minute the streets are flooded up to the ankles in water. (Semarang apparently has water-drainage issues, making it famous across Indonesia as a city of floods. My school principal, after seeing the worried look on my face as he told me this, reassured me that the floods "almost never" get above the knee.) Since I don't own an umbrella, and since I rely on my own two feet as my primary method of transportation, being kehujanan poses a problem for me; normally, in an American rain, I would dash from shelter to shelter, risking a few drops on my head, shoulders, knees, or toes, but here, the rain comes in buckets, not drops, and the air afterwards is much too humid to dry me off naturally. Hence, I am usually forced to change my plan and stay put--to flip through a magazine, browse a pirated DVD stand, or maybe write a blog entry--and simply wait it out.

Luckily for me, the rain usually stops as suddenly as it starts. Barely 20 minutes ago, it was hard to see out the window for the rain, and now the sun is shining again and I am free to put the finishing touches on inconsequential blog entries and leave the shelter of the internet cafe for home. So there's your free lesson on Indonesian grammar for the day; stay tuned for next week's installment of "Affixes I Have Loved": the suffix -an attached to a reduplicated base. It's a doozy.

Monday, November 13, 2006

La Nausée

5 PM: Struck by a sudden wave of nausea. I try lying down to counteract it, and spend the next hour staring at the mildew pattern on my ceiling.

6 PM: Realizing I hadn't really eaten anything all day, and connecting the dots between nausea and an empty stomach, I head out to the dining room and forced myself to eat some chicken soup.

6.30 PM: With the nausea increasing, I decide to take a nap.

7 PM: One of the maids interrupts my sleep to tell me to eat something. I told her I had already eaten, so we had the perpetual argument--"You didn't eat enough!" "Yes, I did; I think at 22 years old I know how much I want to eat."--which ended only when I, still groggy from my thirty minutes of sleep, told her I was sick and would eat more when I woke up from a nap.

9 PM: I wake up abruptly from my "nap," only to realize that I don't really have the energy to change into pajamas or brush my teeth. I roll over to try to go back to sleep.

9.30 PM: Not successful at sleeping, I finally drag myself out of bed to put on pajamas and brush my teeth. After turning on a quiet CD, I fell asleep again.

10.30 PM: Still nauseated, this time I wake up to realize that I have to throw up. Now. Dash to the bathroom to clear my body of everything I have eaten in the last 24 hours.

11.00 PM: Wake up next to the toilet, not wearing any pants. Stumble back to my bed, still without pants.

11.30 PM: Trash around my bed trying to find a cool spot in the sheets. Wonder what is making me so sick.

12.00 AM: Throw up again. Still nauseated, the thought strikes me: this must be what morning sickness feels like.

12.30 AM: Throw up again. Begin pondering ways I could possibly be pregnant.

12.31 AM: What if there was a little drop of semen on the motorcycle I rode yesterday and it leaked through my underwear and made me pregnant?

12.32 AM: That's ridiculous. I wouldn't be feeling morning sickness nearly that quickly.

12.33 AM: Bathtubs! Isn't there some urban legend about a bathtub?

12.34 AM: Or toilet seats!

12.35 AM: Realize I don't even have a bathtub. Or, for that matter, a toilet seat. Fall back asleep.

12.47 AM: Rape! Rohypnol! I could have drunk something at a party...

12.48 AM: I don't drink. Or go to parties. And wouldn't I remember waking up in some strange place? Fall back asleep.

1.01 AM: Virgin birth!

1.03 AM: My school's not going to be happy about this. They'll never believe it's a virgin birth. Try to think of how to say "virgin birth" in Indonesian, in case my principal asks.

1.04 AM: Kelahiran perawanan? Kelahiran dari perawan?

1.36 AM: Throw up again, this time with diarrhea too.

2.04 AM: Toss about in bed shouting something that I now don't remember. Someone was misunderstanding me, I think, or maybe they just wanted me to lie quietly in place, but they were wrong, wrong, wrong! How could they think such a thing?

2.37 AM: Throw up again. Decide to call in sick for school the next day.

3.17 AM: More random shouting. More tossing. More throwing up. Consider finding a bowl to throw up in from bed, and realize that I don't know where the bowls are. Curse God, and hope to die.

6.01 AM: One of the maids pops her head in, wondering if I'm going to school. I stare at her blankly, trying to find the Indonesian words for "Are you kidding me? I just expelled my intestines through my mouth and you expect me to stand in front a bunch of 17 year olds all day and lecture about debate?" Settle for "No, because I'm sick."

6.18 AM: Call my school principal to tell him I'm not coming in today.

So now I've got the day off, which I'm mostly using to lie around in bed reading Virginia Woolf's "Orlando," with the exception of a brief excursion to the internet cafe, where the cigarette of the person sitting next to me is doing nothing to help my nausea. I think I'm going to use my afternoon by returning home, climbing back into bed, watching a movie, and maybe falling asleep. A night like last night justifies a little daylight decadence, don't you think?

Friday, November 10, 2006


Indonesians are a touchy people. Not in the easily-offended sense--there might be some of that, although given the generally non-confrontational nature of Javanese culture, I'd never know about it--but more in the sense of "keep your hands to yourself, lady, or I'll show you the meaning of easily offended!" Touch happens between same-sex friends--in a conservative Muslim culture, public displays of affection between the sexes are right out--and it's all very casual and natural. While conversing, Indonesian friends stand close and occasionally pat one another on the arm, or, if sitting, tap the knee for emphasis. In my classrooms, "go back to your seats" has taken on the meaning of "sit down in the same chair as your best friend," and I've even seen a group of three boys in one chair, arms casually slung across each other's shoulders or around each other's waist, nonchalantly chatting.

Having recently grown much more friendly with the other teachers, due to greatly improved Indonesian skills, I am not exempt from this behavior. The other teachers think nothing of greeting me every morning with hugs and hearty kisses on both cheeks, and when we're just sitting around talking, I usually have someone leaning on me or reaching across me or just holding on to my arm, as if for comfort. The school bus I ride across the city every morning and afternoon also does a lot to inure me to this feature of the culture: as the bus gets more and more crowded, I end my ride every morning with one of the chemistry teachers sitting, quite literally, on my lap.

Those of you who know me should know my feelings about this. I was a baby who leaned away from the person holding me, and a BYU student who absolutely never touched a boy's elbow in trying to flirt. I'm the sort of person who used to flinch when anyone tried to hug her; having since been broken of that habit by an irate mother, I am still the sort of person who tenses up at any unexpected physical contact. I've been trying my best to hide my consternation at all this touching, and have managed to control my flinching reflex, since, I must concede, it is rather rude, but today I was found out.

After school, I caught a ride to a school event on the back of the motorcycle of one of the other teachers. When we arrived, everyone instantly started teasing me for the strange way I ride a motorcycle: leaning back ever so slightly, holding on to the handles in back, instead of conforming to the proper Indonesian style by putting my arms around the waist of the driver and snuggling up.

I tried to explain to them that rules of touch are different in America: people stand further apart, and they touch less. Even very close friends tend not to sit with their legs crossed over each other. Oh, and that whole "hands on the hips of the motorcycle driver" thing? Or the way the sociology teacher held my hand during our conversation about the recent elections yesterday? That's boyfriend behavior, thank you very much, and so you'd better be ready to commit.

They all stared at me blankly. The teacher sitting next to me turned, and, placing her hand more than halfway up my thigh, said, "Really? That's very interesting! What other sorts of touch would you restrict to a boyfriend?"

That's when I gave up. Go ahead, touchy-feely people, bring it on. I can take it. Be warned, though, all my dear readers: if I come back next summer and automatically put my arm around your waist before talking to you, try not to flinch. It's rude.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Trick or Treat

As discovered in last week's lessons about Halloween,

Vocabulary Words My Students Knew Without Me Telling Them

eye patch
peg leg

This from kids who can't put together a complete and correct sentence about what they did over their holiday. I don't get it.

I (Almost) Ate Bugs!

So, as I'm sure you're all dying to hear the details of the last few days of my vacation--my recent blogging silence has been due to out-of-town guests, not rabies or motorcycle accidents or floods--I'll share at least one funny story, mostly because it's too surreal to be kept secret.

After recovering from my mysterious illness with even more mysterious drugs--does anybody know what "Floksid" is? Google doesn't--I went out to some random village near Salatiga with a friend and her entire extended family. Seeing the traditional old Javanese house where her traditional old Javanese grandparents live was a good time, but the fact of the matter is that hanging out with other people's families is, for the most part, boring. They're wonderful people and they were very kind and friendly to me, for which I'm very grateful, but holidays consist mostly of sitting around chatting, which I don't understand, or reviving old family memories, which I don't share.

Anyway. This introduction is nice and all, but is it germane? I do have a story to tell, after all. After coming home from a Lebaran party, which consisted entirely of sitting in chairs and staring at the other guests, we found my friend's uncle entirely absorbed in what is, apparently, one of his favorite hobbies: collecting bugs for dinner.

I'll let you all absorb that for a minute. It certainly took me some time to believe that was really what he was doing. ("Am I understanding this correctly? Did he really just say he was going to fry them?") This was especially stunning because her uncle is no village hick; he's a surgeon who owns a very successful practice in Semarang, the fifth-largest city in Indonesia. A surgeon, for heaven's sake. In the medical profession. People trust this man with their health.

It blows my mind. He claims that these bugs are the reason he had the energy for med school: they're full of protein, he told me, and they will make me smart. Luckily for me, I didn't stick around long enough to find out; my ride back to Semarang left before dinner that night, so I didn't have to be subjected to pressure to eat insects. (I would have done it, too, if only to title this blog entry with a panicked, "I Ate Bugs!") I did, however, spend a good three hours squatting near the swarm, watching various members of the family using a toothpick and/or fingers to collect the biggest, juiciest specimens they could. Good times.

And as for what kind of bugs they are, I'm not exactly sure. At first I thought they were ants, but upon closer inspection, they were bigger and not quite shaped the same. They were certainly swarming out of a crack in the floor like ants, and the large winged ones, the kind the surgeon fries and eats, remind me of the large winged ants we used to get in Virginia. Perhaps someone with a gift for entomology can look at the photos and take a guess? Me, I'll just be quietly sitting in a corner somewhere, trying to figure out what path my life has taken to bring me to this point. That, and waiting for more of those supposedly delicious, protein-rich insects.

Land of the Free

Recent questions from the other teachers at my school, translated from the original Indonesian:

Why don't Americans believe in God?

What sort of child-rearing methods do Americans use to instill such a sense of independence in their children?

Can bison be domesticated?

It's no wonder that I'm constantly confused in the teacher's room.

Dear Abby (Indonesian 10th Grade Edition)

Dear Abby,

I have a problem. I am destroy my neighbour house. What should I do?



Dear Worried,

You should reborn the house. You shouldn't kill your neighbour, because you will get caught by the police.




Dear Abby,

I have a problem. I have friends. He angry with me. What to I do? Before he is my best friend. After we got quarreling, we close we other. What to I do?



Dear John,

You should kill your friend and your life will be beautiful. But another alternative is you should say sorry to your friend.




Dear Abby,

I have a problem. My dog always bites a peson who laughed near it, and screamed like a wolf after did that. What should I do?


Dog Lover

Dear Dog Lover,

You should teach your dog. If your patient runs out you can kill your pet!




Dear Abby,

I think I have a confusing problem. My friend follow the Antichrist. And he said that I must follow his religion or he an all of his friend will make me as a victim offering. What should I do?




You should pray to your friend. You shouldn't don't have a friend like that. You should ask to your friend to go to the church. If he is not agree you should kill him.



Sunday, November 05, 2006

Born to Be Wild

Things I Am Now Comfortable Enough to Do While Riding On the Back of a Motorcycle

  • Open my eyes

  • Breathe

  • Put my hand out to indicate turning direction, like a good passenger

  • Put my hand out to ward off oncoming buses

  • Talk with the driver

  • Let my legs dangle off the sides

  • Ride sidesaddle in a skirt

  • Not hold on

  • Send and read text messages

  • Send and read text messages from the driver's phone

  • Think of blog entries like this one

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Not My Week

So, with the help of some pretty serious third-world drugs (not, fortunately, the kind that gets you into some pretty serious third-world trouble), I was back on my feet by Tuesday morning, albeit a little bit shaky in stomach and legs. (I sound like a sailor in this description.) My friend called me at 5.40 AM, ready and waiting to pick me up. I put on some cute clothes and a happy face, and set out for her house, ready to enjoy my days of holiday festivities at all costs. I arrived, put down my bag, got the grand tour of her beautiful place...and was straightaway bitten by her dog.

So now I've got a perfect set of angry red teeth marks, overlaid on a giant, swollen, blue and purple bruise about the size of, well, a dog's mouth. The worst part is that the bruise is on the outside of my upper thigh, in a place impossible to show anyone without completely taking off my pants. So I've finally got a decent wound, and I am denied the pleasure of displaying it. What a cruel, cruel, mad, cruel world.

Monday, October 23, 2006

11.5 Things to Do While Travelling Solo

1. Pay $3/night for a hotel with a Western toilet, shower, and fan, but without a trash can or electrical outlet.

2. Go to a wayang orang show. Get adopted by a very chatty old woman, and a man who she claimed was her husband but looked more like her son. Go backstage to see the performers in various stages of dress/undress. Practice a meagre amount of Javanese. ("Yes." "No." "Please." "Thank you.")

3. Walk everywhere, just to kill time.

4. Spend an afternoon exploring the environs of the city with a total stranger. (He offered me a motorcycle tour of erotic Hindu temples. How could I say no to that?)

5. Go to a movie, all in Indonesian, and understand most of it.

6. See missionaries on a public bus, and randomly hop on to say "Hi, Elders!" and ride with them wherever they're going. (I think they were far more confused than I was.)

7. Eat pineapple pancakes.

8. Visit old Javanese palaces. Marvel at items in the Sultan's collection, such as traditional Javanese gold dance accessories, ancient medicines, Belgian crystal, French statues, and Italian swords. (Apparently, the Sultan had connections.)

9. Get sick. Long for death. (I guess that's really two things. Or maybe one and a half.)

10. Read Tom Jones.

11. Think of blog entries like this one.

Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying

Or, How to Lose Five Pounds in Two Days

It's actually quite easy, and takes very little self-control; rather, a good deal of the opposite is the issue. (Ha, ha.) All that's required is picking up a very nasty case of something, Allah only knows what, that necessitates frequent trips to the bathroom for diarrhea and/or vomiting.

I'm four days into my vacation, and two days into being incredibly sick. I'm quite impressed with myself, actually, as I'd say this is about the sickest I've ever been. It's getting a little better now, but Saturday night was one of the low points of my existence, and I include the time I threw up on the ground of a train platform in Cairo with 300 Egyptians looking on. After coming home from the day's activities around 4.30 PM, I climbed straight into bed, and spend the next 16 hours throwing up--loudly, to what I'm sure was the regret of my neighbors in a hotel with paper thin walls--shaking with fever, and sleeping only intermittently due to frequent trips to the toilet to "buang air besar," or "throw out big water," if you catch my drift.

It's been a little over 48 hours now, and, surprisingly, I'm not better. With food poisoning, these things usually come and go, and one night of expelling everything I've ever put into my body is usually enough to solve the problem. Not so this time. Sunday morning I felt just as awful, and it took all I had to drag myself out of bed and into a taxi to try to get to district conference; I ended up missing it entirely, which is a pity, since that's the main reason I went to Solo. I arrived at the church just in time to ride the bus to Salatiga, my next destination; I had originally planned to stay with a friend in Salatiga, but as I was too sick to be fit for human company, I found a hotel and collapsed upon my bed there. I essentially spent all Sunday alternating between my bed and the bathroom, hoping that, with enough rest, I could defeat this thing.

And yet. I had to cancel my plans for today, going out to my friend's village to celebrate the holiday with her and her parents and her grandparents and whatever other random people might come along, in favor of lying in bed and moaning, with occasional sprints to the toilet. I also mustered up the energy to let my friend drive me to the hospital--okay, so it didn't require that much energy--where, for a mere 75 cents, a doctor listened to my stomach with a stethoscope, asked me if I had thrown up, and prescribed some medication. I'm taking the meds, but I'm not sure if I trust them--with all the numerous things that can cause diarrhea, how on earth can he know what I've got with only a 2 minute consultation? At least I didn't pay much.

In any case, I'm miserable and I want sympathy. I haven't even anything in more than 48 hours (57, to be precise), because I know I won't keep it down. (Also, I'm not hungry.) I have to be near a bathroom, because I have to, as they say, "paraphrase Bloom" roughly every half hour. I'm exhausted, despite all the rest I'm getting. My head hurts. I'm vaguely nauseated. Oh, and, worst of all, I can barely walk because my calf muscles are so cramped from dehydration. I'm valiantly trying to replace my fluid loss by drinking water, soda, Pocari Sweat, and oral rehydration salts, but since I can't keep anything down, it's not doing me much good.

What a way to spend a vacation. At least this illness has managed to undo some of the maids's efforts to fatten me up. Only two days, and my hipbones are more obvious than ever before. If this continues for much longer, I could start acting as a spokesperson for some grand new diet: totally easy! totally effective! totally free! All it takes is a small sacrifice of time, energy, and any shred of dignity you still possess.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Going Solo

Idul Fitri, the major Muslim holiday better known as Eid al-Fitr, is next week, and my vacation begins tomorrow. (Or, more properly, today at 12, since school ended early.) Thus, I'm off for a week or so of adventuring around Java, beginning with an early-morning bus ride to and three-day stay in Solo, completely alone.

The possibilities for puns are endless. I'll let you all console yourselves in my absence by making them.

Something Old, Something New

As part of our morning activity at the marina, I asked one of my twelfth grade students to tell me something funny. He thought for a minute, and then his face lit up with an idea.

A: Miss Hannah, can I ask you something? It's a little personal, so you can choose not to answer.
Miss Hannah: Go for it.
A: Are you still a virgin?
Miss Hannah: [Silence. Do I say yes and dispel the stereotype of whorish Americans, thus fulfilling my role as a "cultural ambassador" and blah blah blah, or do I keep quiet, thus maintaining the appropriate teacher-student social distance?] Ummmm....
The other students: Whoa! I don’t think you should ask her that!
Miss Hannah: Well, I’m not married yet, so yes, I am.
A: Okay, cool. Did you know that Alex here—pointing to one of his friends—is not?
Miss Hannah: Ummmm….
The other students: Whoa! I don’t think you should tell her that!

Yeah, I guess that's something funny, I'm just not sure why that's the first idea that sprang* to mind.

*Suggestive word choice edited because, come on, people! My grandma reads this blog!


Remember how I mentioned I had a student who answers to the name of Christ? I take it back. He's named Christ, but that's his first name. He actually answers to his middle name: Conan.

That's right. Christ Conan. I asked if I could call him "The Barbarian." I don't think he got it.

One Yell Is Not Enough

My "teaching" job was pretty much a joke this week. One of the physics teachers was taking the students on a mini field trip to the Marina, for a morning of games and activities, and he invited me along as one of the supervising teachers. This means that instead of sitting in a classroom desperately trying to speak slowly enough for the students to understand, I sat on a bench by the Java Sea and desperately tried to speak slowly enough for the students to understand.

The activity was that each group had to invent a group cheer of some kind--coordinated cheer routines, or "yel-yel," being a popular pastime among the students and teachers both, for some strange reason--and then I had to give them a task to complete, in English.

The physics teacher wanted me to force the students to be creative and funny, so I simply told them to make me laugh. There was only one rule, I said: they had to speak English. (Upon hearing this, one of the boys' eyes lit up. "So we can tickle you?" he asked. I quickly added another rule.)

I have a healthy sense of humor, so the students were mostly successful at their task. I heard some Indonesian jokes, translated into broken English with my help, I saw some funny dances, and I even watched a silent skit. (This, in my mind, violated the "must speak English" rule, but since these poor girls took about 30 minutes to invent the skit, I decided not to mention it. The fact that it wasn't at all funny was another problem I overlooked on that basis.)

In any case, the best part of the morning was definitely watching the students perform their cheer routine. I don't know about you, but, in the past, when I've been assigned to create any sort of creative cheer expressing esprit-de-corps, it has always ended badly. Either the best minds of my team could only invent something lame--"Go yellow group, go! Yay."--or, at best, one girl sang something cute and well thought-out, while the rest of us stood in the background and tried to clap rhythmically. (And, in my case, mostly failed.)

Not so with these students. Each group, including a group made up entirely of 17 year old boys, had long, involved routines—songs with different verses sucking up to each of the supervising teachers, including a stanza for me, in English, to the tune of James Brown's "I Feel Good"; lengthy chants that sound better in the original language, about how "physics is hard but we know that with time and patience we'll master it"; and intricate dance steps that were definitely more than just clapping rhythmically. Not only can I not imagine a group of American high school seniors performing, or even inventing, these routines with such creativity and good cheer, I definitely cannot imagine any American high school senior boy shimmying--shimmying! In broad daylight! Sober! In front of a teacher!--with a smile on his face.

My only regret is that I didn't have a camera.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

At Least It's Not Crabs

My school principal recently taught me an Indonesian phrase, in reference to my stalker: ada udang di balik batu, or "there is a lobster behind the stone." It means that someone has hidden intentions: a wolf in sheep's clothing, as it were. I get the image, and I get the point, but what I don't get is this: who on earth thought of this phrase, and why? Who first saw someone with an unclear and possibly malicious motive, and said, "Hey, guys, I've got it! It's like a lobster, see, crouching behind a rock. How perfect!"

Hm. Maybe this is a question for the 100 Hour Board. How much would you hate me, Katya, if I asked?

Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles

I came home this afternoon, and lo and behold:

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. They also wist not where it came from, but, frankly, they didn't really care. I mean, they may been silly enough to melt their jewelry for an idol, get lost in the Sinai for forty years, and tire of manna from heaven, but surely not even the children of Israel could look a gift doughnut in the mouth.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Here Comes the Sun

Indonesians get up early. By six in the morning, when I leave my house, the day is in full swing, the streets crowded with families of five commuting on motorbikes and becak drivers desperate for work. Many Muslims, exhorted that “prayer is better than sleep,” get up around four for the morning prayer and never go back to sleep. Most dedicated housewives, even the Christians, get up at four-thirty to begin a busy day of caring for the family. The “early to bed, early to rise” mentality clearly still prevails over this society.

So much so, actually, that Indonesians are shocked and appalled to learn that I sleep in until six-thirty, and sometimes even seven, on my days off. When they call or text message at five-thirty and wake me, which happens oh, just about every week, far from being apologetic, they mock me for still being asleep. Not being fully awake at five-thirty is shameful: that’s definitely sleeping longer than is needful. One of my friends, when she heard about my wasteful sleeping habits, eyed me reproachfully, and said, “Here in Indonesia we have a saying: a girl who sleeps longer than the sun will never find a husband.”

Let that be a lesson to me. So, for now, I wake up at precisely five the mornings I have school, in order to catch the school bus at six-fifteen. It’s relatively easy, because the sun is already up, but it still brings back memories of high school—dragging myself out of bed in the cold and the dark, only to go sit in early morning seminary and mentally chastise myself for mentally cursing my boring, uptight, and rude seminary teacher, all while mentally willing myself to stay awake. It was enough, most mornings, to drive me mental.

Here, once I throw off the covers, it’s a little easier: the marble floors are cool and soothing to the touch, the sunlight streams in through the bathroom window as I shower, and the birds chirp a cheery wake-up call. I don’t exactly like waking up so early, being more a nightingale than a lark, but I’m slowly starting to get used to it.

I will continue to sleep in on my days off, though: there’s no way I’m getting out of bed before six without a pretty darn solid reason, and “the sun is already up” is not--definitely not--that reason. And that’s why no man will ever love me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My Topic Today is Globalization

[Originally written for The Collegiate Post]

Good morning, brothers and sisters. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Hannah, and I’m from Boston. When The Collegiate Post first called and asked me to write an article about globalization, I thought, “I don’t know anything about that!” But then I did a little reading and realized this is a really interesting topic, so I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with you all today. I just have a lot of scattered thoughts that I’ve strung together, so I hope it makes sense. I’m also really nervous about this, though, because I’m not a very good writer, and when I get nervous I write really fast, so you’ll have to bear with me.

When I started my talk I wasn't sure what "globalization" really means, so I went to the dictionary. First, I found out that the word comes from the Latin root globus, meaning a round body of mass. I think this is really cool to think about, because we’re taught that the Lord’s course is one eternal round; the Lord’s course, today, can include globalization! In fact, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said that “in time there will be globalization of the Church.” Isn’t that exciting?

Webster’s dictionary defines “globalization” as “to make global in scope or application.” This means, basically, that as our world gets smaller and more globally-oriented, we have to shift our scope from just our little neighborhood to the whole world. It also means that globalization isn’t just a fancy concept to think about sometimes; it’s something that has application in our daily lives. I for one haven’t been very good at noticing this in the past, but while preparing this article, I realized how important it is, so I have made a goal to be more aware of the effects of globalization in my life. I’d like to challenge you all to do the same; reading this article is a good start, but we can always try harder. I know we’ll all be so much happier if we are aware of current events and trends in the world, especially globalization

In closing, I’d like to relate a personal experience I had once with globalization. Due to its effects, I could break my Ramadan fast in Alexandria, Egypt by eating a McArabia at the local McDonald's.

I know beyond the shadow of a doubt, with every fiber of my being, that globalization is an important trend in our world today, and that it affects many aspects of our lives. Even though I wasn’t happy about it at first, I’m really grateful to The Collegiate Post for giving me the opportunity to write this article. I think it was probably more for me than for you, because I learned so much while preparing it. I just hope it hasn’t been too boring (girlish giggle). I’m also grateful for the chance to be at this university, which is definitely the Lord's University. Oh, yeah, one more thing: I love my roommates.

Friday, October 13, 2006

And how will your product help?

I opened my email this morning to see a spam message with this title: Your mother has always dreamed of beautiful kids but you can’t provide her with them.

This blows my mind. How on earth did they know?!?

That Means "No" Where I Come From

The last blog post represented a breaking point for me; the day after writing it, first thing in the morning, I marched into the teacher's lounge, threw my cell phone at Ibu Maya, my favorite teacher, and told her the whole, long, sordid story. I was a little worried she would regard this as semi-normal behavior, or laugh it off, but, as I told the story, and Ibu Maya translated for the benefit of the rest of the listening audience, all the teachers gasped and said, as one, "He's crazy!"

So Indonesians think it too. I was relieved. Moreover, they instantly took action to help me: Ibu Maya drafted, in "good and clear" Indonesian, a text message telling him that I do not, hate him due to differences of religion, but rather deplore his methods of trying to get close to me, and that this is absolutely, categorically, the last text message from me. The other teachers forbade me from leaving the house for the next week. (Yeah right.) The school principal, upon hearing the story, volunteered to pick me up and drop me off from school for the next few days, saving me the walk home through public areas. I think that's a tiny bit of an overreaction, but I do appreciate the gesture; plus, it means I don't have to ride the overcrowded and overheated school bus.

As for this crazy guy himself, he didn't give up quite so easily. The last barrage of messages has swung wildly between surrender and threats, hope and disappointment. In one message he claimed he couldn't sleep for thinking of me, in the next he asked what he could do to make me forgive him. "This is just a miscommunication," he said. "Let's start a new relationship." He messaged once that he was sorry, and regretted everything, and didn't mean to bother me, but five minutes later he claimed he loved me, even though I hated him, and that he needed me, and would never surrender. "Love is a gift from God, right?" he said. That's all well and good, but it didn't feel like love when, directly after that, he messaged that "If you don't respond to respond to my texts or see me again, I'm coming to your house. You are the one who started this whole mess. Why don't you understand my feelings?"

I don't understand your feelings, dear sir, because they're not the same from text to text. You're unstable, and I refuse to be bothered any longer. I told the story to the servants and told him never to let this man into the house, and as far as I know, he hasn't tried.

The last few texts ended, as they started, on a somewhat contradictory note: first, he wrote that, "maybe I misjudged you. I thought you were a communicative person, happy to be friends, because you're a language teacher, and, besides that, you're a foreigner. I guess I was wrong." Happy to let him think that, since that text contained a note of surrender and resignation, I was steadfast in my silence, and about an hour later received another message saying, "It's already been a week since I've seen you! How long will I wait for you?"

Funny: that's exactly what I was wondering. One would think that having sent dozens of messages and received precisely three in reply would act as a strong hint not to wait. Moreover, the icy and clearly refusing nature of the replies--and I quote, "I do not want to be friends with you"--should also lead one to conclude that waiting will not create a friendship.

So far, though, it seems that a week, plus several straightforward rejections, is the upper limit of his waiting. I have now gone two days without any text messages from him, besides a chain text promising money for President Suharto's birthday that I've already received from three other friends today. I've got my fingers crossed that this means he's given up. As my school principal commented, at this point he's only embarrassing himself, Islam, Indonesia, and all males everywhere.

As for me, I've learned several things from the experience. Every story needs a moral, right? First and foremost: lie. When I first told Ibu Maya the story, her spontaneous reaction was, "What? You told him your real name?!?!" Second, I work at a good school, where they care about protecting me. (Maybe a little too much, actually, but that's a story for another day.) Third, I have good friends, who give good advice. And fourth, if I hint that I'm in danger, my mom will offer to pay for Tolkien Boy to visit. Mom, have I ever told you about the time an Asian Mafia leader threatened to release hundreds of poisonous snakes, made hyper-aggressive by pheromones, onto the school bus I ride every morning?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Take My Stalker--Please!

Recently, I have, quite unwittingly, made a friend. While shopping at the mall, one of the salesmen decided that I was the coolest thing ever and that we should be bosom buddies from then on out. He eagerly asked me the full panoply of Indonesian getting-to-know-you questions: my full name, my religion, where I was going, and where I live. Without thinking too much, I responded to most of them truthfully.

Big mistake. One thing that can be said about the guy, he's resourceful. Oh, actually two things: resourceful and persistent. Since I told him the name of my neighborhood--not my street, not my house--he figured out where the house was and came over to visit, uninvited, several times. The first few times, I (luckily) wasn't home. The third time, he was waiting outside the door as I came home. He asked to be invited in; I made up some excuse about how I was going to bed. He asked when he could come over next; I made up some excuse about how busy I am. (Not true. Clearly not true.) He asked for my cell phone number; I made up some excuse about how it's only for emergencies. He saw through that one, and demanded again. I realized that if I didn't give him my cell phone number, he would continue to dog the house, embarrassing me in front of the maids. I gave him a fake number; he called it right away to check if it was real.

So now he knows my address and my real phone number. On the up side, he doesn't show up at the house anymore. On the down side, he makes good use of the number. I hate to think how much money he's wasted texting or calling me. I could probably count it, actually: in the course of a week since I gave my number, he has sent me roughly 7 text messages a day. (That's an average. Today the count so far is 21, and four of those were received in the time it took me to write this entry.) In the course of one night, between 10 PM and 6 AM, he called or texted me 16 times. (When does he think I sleep?)

Normally, I'm open to new friends, even ones I meet randomly in the mall. I am here, after all, partially to get to know Indonesian culture and language, which means getting to know Indonesians. This guy would ordinarily be prime language-practice time: I know he's willing to use Indonesian with me, even though he knows some English, and he's even willing to speak slowly. However, something about him just creeps me out. I don't get a good feeling from him, and I mistrust his intentions, no matter how many times his text messages say he just wants to "dialog" about "science."

I'm not sure what to do. I've told him several times that I don't want to be friends, and that I don't think this is appropriate. Semarang is a little more liberal than some places, but it's still not quite right, in this Muslim country, for a single man and woman to meet and go out alone. I think he knows that, and I think he thinks I don't. I'm trying to just ignore him, but the text messages are getting increasingly more desparate, as he tries everything he can think of, from "I miss your smile" to "your perspective is so broad and interesting" to, his latest attempt, "Jesus says love everyone; if Jesus was so open and loving, surely you as a Mormon should be open and loving."

Ouch. The guilt tactic. Maybe I should come back with, "Mohammed said when a man and woman are alone together, the third person in the room with them is Satan; if Mohammed was so strict and reticent about male/female interactions, surely you as a Muslim should be equally strict." I doubt it would work, but I have no idea what else will make this man give up. Blocking his number is an option, of course, but I'm afraid he'll start hanging around the house again. Restraining orders are not an option and neither, apparently, is simply telling him to stop texting me. Aside from going back in time and telling him off the very first time he ever tried to talk to me, I think I'm stuck. Ideas, anyone?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I've Prepared Charts and Graphs

So, for yesterday's 12th grade lesson (and tomorrow's 11th grade lesson, because I'm lazy), I took the students to the language lab for a listening exercise. They had been there the period before mine, listening to TOEFL practice tests, mostly simple conversations about the weather and how to get to the airport; they were also clearly bored out of their minds. So, to pep things up a bit, I brought in the Postal Service song "Nothing Better," and had them fill in the blanks on the lyrics sheet.

I left the classroom feeling like the coolest teacher ever. Not only did we get to review vocabulary, and then discuss who was right in this situation, both valid teaching techniques, the students loved the song. The first time through, a few of them bobbed their heads or quietly tapped their desks. The second time through, about half the class was stomping their feet or rapping their desk or clapping along; several students were even singing along, in that awkward I've-forgotten-I'm-wearing-headphones-and-so-shouldn't-be-singing sort of way.

These kids are seriously cute. And they like the Postal Service. Suddenly, being stuck in a room full of 17 year olds for the next eight months doesn't seem quite so bad.

(Just wait until next time, when I bring in Joanna Newsom.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Because Optimistic Might Not See It Otherwise

Optimistic. said:

It's Q-36, isn't it?

Actually, I don't need clarification on that. It's Q-36. I'm quite positive.

Posted by Optimistic. to purplepetra at 10/03/2006 06:59:33

Wikipedia said:

Some people mistake the sound of "PU" for a "Q" and say "Q-36." However, the weapon's name is derived from the letters "PU" which coincidentally is the atomic symbol for Plutonium—named for the dwarf planet Pluto.

Never go in against a purple when...well, never go in against a purple.

Monday, October 02, 2006

You Naughty Earth Specimens

I have, in one of my tenth-grade classes, a boy whose voice sounds exactly like Marvin the Martian, minus the British accent. When he first talked today, I had to lean over to the real teacher and ask her if that's his real voice. It's fantastic, but it's also rather hard to resist the urge to giggle and teach him phrases like "Oh goody! My Illudium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator."

(Surely there must be some situation that phrase could come in handy...)

Friday, September 29, 2006

Key Decisions

My local Internet cafe is playing "The Final Countdown," while someone is throwing up very loudly in the bathroom. Flashes of GOB, anyone?

I'm going home. Too bad I can't watch Arrested Development there; maybe I'll convince the maids to watch a pirated version of Snakes On a Plane with me instead.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Unbearable Lightness of Being Purple

Operating in a foreign culture and language, or at the very least a slowed-up, watered-down, turned-around version of my own language, means that I very often find myself losing hold on certain parts of my personality. It's hard, for instance, to be sarcastic when one's conversational partner isn't sure what is being said in the first place. It's hard to convey a picture of a relaxed, liberal Mormon, relative to the norm, when no one has any idea of the actual norm. It's hard to seem smart with the vocabulary and grammatical capacity of a nine year old suffering from Broca's aphasia.

One of the most disconcerting examples of this personality loss, at least for a generally level-headed person like myself, is the wild mood swings. On a daily basis, Indonesia offers unique new experiences and opportunities for curiosity and wonder and personal growth and all that tourist-brochure jazz; on that same daily basis, though, it offers unlimited petty frustrations and irritations. Caught between these poles, I sometimes feel like I'm catapulted back to the age of 15, subject to the slings and arrows of all manner of new, startling hormones. (The major case of acne I've developed since being here does little to alleviate that feeling.)

For the most part, I'm happy here, but most of the time that "happy" is not quiet contentedness but an average between ecstasy and misery, with the scales tipped in a positive direction. Last Saturday, for instance, I began the day feeling euphoric, watching a parade of small children randomly banging drums to celebrate the beginning of Ramadan, but quickly swung into exhaustion and depression, mostly based on the fact that the weather was hot and I was thirsty. (What can I say? My needs are simple.) Throughout the rest of the day, I experienced everything from the transcendent (much as I hate Thoreau and Emerson and everything associated with them, the Javanese trance dance I watched requires the word) to the downright annoying (trying to make my way through the mall mostly just left me thinking, "Go ahead, move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me.").

Perhaps what I'm trying to say is better symbolized by my train of thought while riding through traffic on the back of my friend's motorcyle: one second all I can do is grin widely and think "Wheeeeee!", but the very next second that grin is a grimace, and I'm trying to remind myself to breathe, while thinking, in a panic, "Holy shit, woman, that bus was two inches away! Did you even look???"

Emotions that roller coaster like this leave me breathless, tired, and not a little peeved at myself. I'm not used to it, after all. My feelings can typically be handily tucked away into a pocket somewhere, or easily suppressed by reading Boethius or doing a math problem. Here, half a world away from my copy of "The Consolation of Philosophy," I have to take other emergency measures: first, purchase and consume every chocolate bar for sale in the local grocery store (this, luckily, for my future case of type 2 diabetes, is not that much chocolate); second, turn on Radiohead, Okkervil River, or Sufjan Stevens; third, spend several hours memorizing vocabulary lists. It doesn't get much more soothing than that.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Let's Study English Using Our Respective Idiolects

The above is a title of a "teach yourself English" type of book I found once at a bookstore here. I was rather bothered by this title: first, it's not exactly the catchiest of phrases, and one rather wonders what less-than-savvy marketer let it get past (I mean, it's not as if LSEUORI even makes a memorable acronym!), and second, do we really want everyone studying English using their respective idiolects? I think not. What would English be like if we just, willy-nilly, continued to let me egregiously mispronounce "caricature"? What if no one stopped Alea from misinterpreting basic English syntax? Just imagine the chaos!

In any case, I've seen plenty of examples of English around here that put the "idio" in "idiolect." This is to be expected in a non English-speaking country; Egypt had some great examples, such as my personal favorite, a T-shirt that read "I'M NOT GOING TO PROCLAIM VICTORY OVER THE GREAT SATA SIMLPLY BECAUSE MY GEEK CORPS MANAGED TO MADOC THE NASDAQ SYSTEM." (Yes, those capital letters were on the T-shirt.) So far I've been amused by such gems as misspelled dirty words on supposed "hardcore" T-shirts and bumper stickers, strange phrases on notebooks ("I Love Pig"), and trendy little teen lit novels called "I'm Not Bitch!" and "Vagina's Dilemma." (This last, upon further investigation, turned out to be a nickname for the novel's heroine, Varah Ghita Nabila.)

Yesterday, though, took the cake (so far). Wednesday is my day off, and yesterday I spent it lazing about the house of an Indonesian friend. She picked me up early in the morning and drove me to her house, where we then chatted, ate food, watched her young nephew run crazily around the house, ate some more food, and...well, you get the picture. To combat the real heat of the day, we spread pillows on the floor and collapsed to watch a movie. The film du jour, apparently, was a pirated version of "The Da Vinci Code," with a dark, fuzzy picture, poor quality sound, and terrible English subtitles. I couldn't really understand what the characters were saying, and couldn't even rely on the subtitles to fill me in. They included such dubious renderings as "shoot go!" for "fire away" and "so correct your liver" for "your heart is true," and, even more bizarrely, "I in shoot, and I is soybean cake bleed" for "I have been shot, and I am bleeding." I don't know what English word sounded like "soybean cake" to that poor subtitler, but I have to admit it certainly spiced up the film.

(I'm sorry, Ron Howard, but that's a sad commentary on your film. Not even Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, and Paul Bettany, some of my favorites, could salvage it. I think you would have been better off just sticking with "And now the story of a mysterious family that lost everything, and the one professor that had no choice but to put it all soybean cake together.*")

*Props, as always, to Misaneroth.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Take That, Everyone Over 30

From a recent twelfth grade student presentation: "Aging is the process of becoming not useful."

I think she meant "youthful," but I kind of like it better this way.

Foreign or Just Stupid? Act II

In a warung, or food stall by the side of the road, my host mother handed me a plate of food. "This is called nasi ruwet," she said, in English. "That means 'complicated rice' in Javanese. We call it 'complicated' because there are so many ingredients."

"Interesting," I said, "but I didn't quite catch that word you used to describe the rice. It's a word I've never heard before, after all. Can you repeat it slowly so I can remember it?"

My host mother leaned forward to make sure I could see her lips, and said, very carefully enunciating each syllable, ""

Who Like Many Indonesians Only Has One Name

Nearly any newspaper article about Indonesia will, at some point, include the phrase "who like any Indonesians only has one name," or, in some variations, "who like many Indonesians only uses one name." (Try me on this and see. I guarantee it.) I'm not sure why this is the accepted phraseology--perhaps Reuters releases it every so often, just to remind reporters never to stray from the formula--but you can try me on this and you'll see. I guarantee it.

It's true that many Javanese do only use one name. My school, though, being a Christian school, is attended mostly by ethnic Chinese students. (The ethnic Chinese minority tends to be Christian and rich, while the ethnic Javanese majoirty tends to be Muslim and poor. You can see why there's a lot of resentment.) In any case, the Chinese students usually have plenty of names: three, or four, or even five. The amusing thing is the type of name, though; as I've worked this week on memorizing the names of my students, or, at the very least, on forcing them to wear nametags, I've noticed some basic groupings of names, which, since I'm obsessed with onomastic and assume that everyone else is equally interested, I'll share with you.

1. The traditional (Javanese) names. We do have a few ethnic Javanese students, with a few ethnic Javanese names. Thus, we have a Dewi and a Sri, a Hendra and a Nugroho. I've also encountered a wide variety of nicknames that sound like nonsense syllables to me: Dede and Jojo and Bowo. With these kids, I peek at their nametags.

2. The traditional (Biblical) names. It's a Christian school, so one should expect Christian names. My classes are filled with Andrews, Stephens, Davids, Esthers, and Marthas. They pronounce them a little differently, but the kids don't seem to mind if I don't roll the "r" in Andrew.

3. The traditional (American) names. I'm curious about these ones--why, exactly, do they have these names?--but I'm always happy to see them, as it's much easier for me to pronounce and remember names like Jane and Melissa and Edward.

4. The traditional (Russian) names. These ones confuse me. Why on earth, in Semarang, Java, Indonesia, do I have students named Ivan, Alexei, Sonia, and Natalya? Is this some sort of crazy Russia-China-Indonesia Axis of Generally Disagreeable, or were their parents just reading too much Dostoevsky?

4. The nontraditional (Biblical) names. These Christians tend to be a little more adventurous in selecting Biblical and saints' names; I have an Obed and a Nehemiah, a Bonifacius and a Bernard, a Yehezkia and an Abednego. I dig these kids; I mean, who can't like someone named Abednego? What's more, I even have, in one eleventh grade class, a certain tall and solemn boy, always seated near the back of the classroom, who answers to the name "Christ."

5. The nontraditional (American) names. Everyone's heard stories about Chinese foreign exchange students in the States who adopt bizarre English names, thinking they're normal. (I have, at least, and so I will assume, once again, that everyone shares my experiences.) Kaneeneenie, for instance, had a roommate who went by "Phyllis." Alea has a friend of a friend (FOAF) who chose "Mitzie." My school has its fair share of that type as well, and I'm finding that it's hard to keep a straight face meeting students named "Vienna," "Antartika," and "Queenina." (She goes by "Queenie." Is she a Berenstein Bear?)

The prize so far, though, goes to a pair of tenth grade boys in one of my classes, who sit next to each other and are clearly best friends: Hans and Franz. Now, if, like my students, you've never seen the old SNL sketches, you won't appreciate the self-control it took for me not to laugh and instantly call them "girlie men." It was tough, but I succeeded. I think congratulations are in order.

(I did not, however, successfully resist the temptation of laughing and instantly saying, "I'm going to PUMP [clap] you up." I think the students were confused. Then again, they don't really speak English, so confusion is pretty much the default in the classroom.)

Sexier Than Television

I've always felt a bit like a local celebrity here: people frequently turn and stare as I walk down the street, surprised by this blond white giant in their midst, and the teachers at my school always know what I've been doing in my spare time, based solely on the local gossip. ("Hey, my aunt's friend's maid said she saw you in the grocery store yesterday, buying shampoo. Why were you buying shampoo?")

Now, though, that status is somewhat deserved: I was on TV!

I'll give you a second to digest this new info before I admit that it really wasn't cool enough to warrant that exclamation point. There's a channel here, run by one of the local universities, that has a weekly program highlighting a local high school. Last Friday was my high school's turn, so of course they brought me along, mostly to show off: they have a native speaker of English(!), and one from America at that(!) And look! She's tall! And blond! And obviously foreign!

(If I'm not careful here, I'll get a swelled head. What can I say? I'm a hot commodity.)

This was an hour-long program, in which we mostly sat and advertised the school to the announcer, a very perky Indonesian Kelly Ripa. I managed, in that awkward yet charming way of mine, to get half my face into the background shot while some tenth grade girls played the violin and sang at the opening of the program; I then managed, even more awkwardly, to look at the wrong camera at these moments, so that only the whites of my eyes showed. I'm sure the viewers at home were confused and repulsed, as I must have looked like some sort of Creature from the White Lagoon.

I also managed to wear the same color as the announcer, so that by sitting next to each other we seemed to blend into one giant mass of pink. (This fact is not as surprising as it sounds, since roughly half the clothes, bags, and shoes sold in any stores here are that particular color. Coral: it's so hot right now!) What's more, I look even whiter than normal, since the glare of the cameras washed me out. Everyone else got to wear makeup to counteract this effect, but they didn't have any makeup that was white enough to even approximate my natural color. (This, too, is not surprising, as my skin tone is known in the business as "extra ivory." I'm serious.)

Mostly, though, the program was dull. I answered a few questions about the school and my role within it, but since both the questions and responses were in English, I suspect I could have said nearly anything I wanted without much ado. The announcer clearly didn't understand what I was saying; as I talked, very slowly and clearly, she got that glazed "it's all Greek to me" look in her eyes, and several times, as I talked, she attempted to cut me off in the middle of a sentence. (One would think that intonation would be enough. Or perhaps, say, pausing? Not for Ms. Perky Smile, though.)

So that's my grand debut. I think the other teachers at my school were much more excited about the whole thing than I was; on Monday after the program, I was mobbed in the teacher's lounge, and beset with comments like, "My friend's sister's boyfriend saw you on TV! Why were you on TV?" I guess I'd better just get used to fame.

(PS: Five points to the first person who can, without using Google, name the song referened in the title.)

Attention, Please!

[Live Nobly Or Die a Martyr]

I would like to take this opportunity to encourage all the residents of Semarang to live nobly. Thank you.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Note to Self

Do not (NOT!) eat very spicy and possibly dirty food before embarking on a three hour car ride. Any toilet found in gas stations in central Java is bound to be squat, dark, dirty, and definitely without toilet paper. The experience will be unpleasant, from begging your host parents to ask the driver to pull over, no, not in fifteen minutes, not when we get to a more convenient place, but NOW! to having eucalyptus oil rubbed all over your back and stomach by an assiduous fifteen year old maid. Never, ever, ever again.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Welcome Aboard the U.S.S. Skin Cancer

Mom, you're going to hate me for this. In fact, it might be better if you just stopped reading here. I'm serious. Stop.

For the rest of you still paying attention, you can hear my confession: I have a blister. It's red and slightly swollen, it's about the size of a quarter, and it's right where my neck meets my collarbone. In looking at it, I am reminded of the time one of my roommates stayed out with a boy until 4 A.M. and then claimed that the red mark on her neck was a burn from her curling iron. (I sure hope my mom has followed instructions and skipped this post.)

To obtain this blister, though, I didn't have to get near either curling irons or boys. All I had to do was stay out in the sun. That's right: I'm blistered from a sunburn. Although this isn't the first time this has happened, and probably won't be the last, this is definitely the biggest and most painful sunburn blister of all time. (Since my mom isn't reading, she can't counter with the time she was burned so badly her eyes swelled shut.) Even worse, nearly every shirt I own brushes this spot, just so that I can never, ever forget this sunburn.

That's actually all I've got on this topic. I mostly wanted to complain and get a little pity. Indonesians, for the most part, are too confused by the entire concept of a sunburn to really be sympathetic. If you need any more reason to pity me, I got sunburned through my shirt a few weeks ago, and another time I got sunburned despite having applied SPF 45 three separate times. So come on, people, let's feel the love. Pity the fair-skinned fool, please.

Fun with H., My Favorite of the Maids

One of the features of having servants is that I don't get to do anything by myself; in fact, I think they deliberately hide things (such as the toaster) in order to prevent me from doing mundane kitchen tasks (such as toasting bread) by myself. If I even so much as start serving myself rice, a maid, or sometimes two, comes running into the dining room to do it for me. No! Heaven forbid I be forced to do something for myself!

The other day, the task at hand was cutting an apple. My attempt to do this alone stymied by the fact that knives are among those kitchen implements conveniently hidden from view. Admitting defeat, I wandered into the servant's kitchen to ask for a knife, only to realize that I couldn't remember the Indonesian word for knife. The ensuing conversation went something like this:

Hannah: Um, excuse you have something here for cutting an apple?
H.: Yes! Of course! Here.
Hannah: What is this called?
H.: (very slowly)"pisau."
Hannah: Thanks. Oh, and is there another one? My friend needs one too.
H.: (nods, gets another knife.)"pisau."

Sometimes I think people around here get "foreign" and "stupid" mixed up. In any case, I'll never again forget the word for knife.

(This is not nearly the funniest story I've heard about language mixups and knives; a former roommate once, while praying in Arabic, forgot the word for "atonement." Deciding to substitute a random word instead, she ended up thanking God for Jesus' knife. It's a good thing the Lord looketh upon the heart.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Javanese Way

Java has one of the world's highest population densities (according to Wikipedia, if Java were an independent nation, it would be the eighth most densely populated nation in the world, at 863 people per square kilometer), so it's no wonder that Javanese culture values togetherness and cooperation. This means that doing things alone here is impossible, or, at the least, strange. If I sit in my room alone for too long, one of the maids knocks on my door to come hang out with me, or at the very least offer me strange desserts. If I want to exit or enter the house, one of the maids asks where I'm going, and one of the random boy servants opens the gate for me. If I walk around the city by myself (see previous post), at least 27 people ask me, in total shock, "kok sendirian?" or "why are you by yourself?" and offer me a ride.

This aspect of Javanese culture was brought home to me in painful force this morning. I wanted to go to a nearby bookstore, and I wanted to ride a becak. However, I didn't know how much was reasonable to pay for the distance I wanted to go, so I asked S., one of the maids. She didn't know, so she asked A., one of the drivers. A. told me a price (about fifty cents), and unlocked the gate for me. Since there was no becak waiting outside the gate, a rare occurance, A. and I waited for a few minutes. After no becaks approached, A. asked one of the random men sitting outside the door if they could find us a becak. (I don't know who these men are or what they do--at the very least, they're another byproduct of Java's overpopulation.) Random Man #1 called across the street to a group of becak drivers there. One young driver made motions as if he were going to bring his becak around, but then ended up shouting back across the street to some of the becak drivers sitting about a block down from the house. One old man then dragged his becak, against the flow of traffic, back to the house.

Let's take a look at that again. I asked S., S. asked A., A. asked Random Man #1, Random Man #1 asked Young Driver, and Young Driver asked Old Driver to come back and pick me up. It's like a giant game of Six Degrees from a Becak Driver.