The opinions expressed in this blog are mine, and mine alone. They do not represent the views of the Peace Corps or the United States Government.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Indonesia: Bali Continued

My fifth day in Indonesia Rachel, Daniel (her boyfriend) and I went driving up the Bali countryside.  We stopped in a place called Tagellelang.  They have beautiful rice fields there.  We had tea and sat enjoying the view.
The three of us

More views of the Tagellelang rice fields.  They are a sight to behold.  And if you can see in this photo, the palm trees are HUGE!

That night, we went to a Mexican restaurant in this cute town called Ubud.  It was SO good!  I actually had cheese enchiladas, almost like I am used to them in the states.  I wanted to get a shirt with this saying on it but it didn't work out unfortunately.

This is an amazing local dessert, made with cheese.  Forget the name unfortunately.

The next day, I rented a car and a driver who took me to the northern part of the island.  The first major stop was this Hindu temple.
Inside the temple

This is a traditional toilet in squat on the ground and use water to wash yourself as well as flush it down.

Then I went to Kintamani, which is famous for its two active volcanos and beautiful caldera.  I started to  experiment a bit with taking black and white photos.

More photos of Kintamani

Next, we returned to Ubud and I shopped at the traditional market.  You must haggle the price when purchasing anything.  But by this point, I knew what most things were worth and I had no problem paying a fair price.

They use Absolut vodka bottles to sell Petrol on the side of the road.  This is fabulous.
This is the view from a temple in Uluwatu
Rachel, her friends and I went to this place called Echo Beach and had seafood for dinner.  So yummy.  The view and the sunset were spectacular.

On one of my last days, we decided to go snorkeling.  The beach was BEAUTIFUL.  Unfortunately the winds were pretty brutal and the ocean was dragging us around so it was pretty tough to snorkel.  But I took underwater photos of fish anyway and had a great time.  

Eating sate lilit (fish sate) at the snorkeling beach

Bali was absolutely amazing.  I had a great time.  After Bali, I headed to Jogjakarta.  Photos from Jogja will be in the next post...

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Bystander Intervention

On September 13th Botswana welcomed its new batch of trainees, aptly named Bots 13, who will hopefully all become volunteers after two months of training.  Like I did, they will spend that time in Kanye learning Setswana (or other local languages depending on their sites) and generally trying to figure out how to be a volunteer.  Most training sessions are co-facilitated by staff and volunteers.

On the 25th, Karla (a Bots 11) and I are talking with the trainees about how communication styles differ between Americans and Batswana.  Karla made a list of her observations, such as:

  • Americans are more direct, whereas Batswana can say "yes" meaning that they agree, heard what you said and are not agreeing nor disagreeing, or disagree and are too polite to say so;
  • Americans make eye contact and consider it impolite when others do not do so, whereas Batswana think eye contact is not polite especially when speaking to an elder;
  • Americans are usually expressive in our emotions, showing how we feel, whereas Batswana are less likely to show emotion and seem much more subdued;
  • Americans are usually more assertive than Batswana and are oftentimes perceived as aggressive or angry because of it;
  • Americans tend to be uncomfortable in silences, whereas sitting in silence with people around you is normal in Botswana;
  • Americans generally feel much more urgency about getting something done, whereas Batswana do not respect time as much, nor feel rushed to do things;
  • Americans use curse words MUCH more than Batswana.

But today, I realized something as well.  I have spent much of my service trying to de-stress, become more Zen and lessen feelings of urgency in my life as they relate to everyday experience.  I have noticed these changes in myself.  Finding peace and balance in one's life is a goal worth striving for, but I realized that the feelings of stress and urgency are so important.  Batswana do feel stress, for sure.  And not everyone is the same.  But I have observed that stress here is rarely converted into constructive action.  It doesn't push one to get things done more quickly or efficiently.

On this blog, I have rarely expressed thanks for my more "American" qualities, especially the ability to be stressed.  Yet, I am thankful...grateful, really, that stress propels me to action rather than paralysis.  The other day, it was really windy in Shoshong.  A big tree with spikes ended up blowing down into my hair and right arm.  Not only did it hurt, but I was also afraid it wouldn't let me go without someone's help.  Two women were walking about 20 yards away.  I called out to them.  To be honest, I was screaming--not at them, but just in general.  And I yelled out, "Ke kopa thuso," I am asking for help.  They slowly walked toward me, didn't change the pace of their step nor express any concern.  Before they arrived, I managed to pull myself out of the tree.  I was fine--just some strands of hair gone and some pinpricks of blood on my arm.

I didn't feel upset that the women did not come more quickly to assist me.  I have found that bystander intervention is not very strong here in general.  And I am not the only volunteer to experience this.

We have nerves and feelings for a reason.  When we begin to feel stressed or nervous about something, it often signals to us that it is important.  What if the nurses in the hospital emergency rooms in the states never felt any sense of urgency?  Troubling thought.

I welcome the momentary stress that comes with a crisis.  I will run to help you because I care.  And I have glad that I have the ability to have that kind of emotional response.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Indonesia: Jakarta and Bali

In the last couple months, I have written about a few mini vacations I have Hukuntsi, Kang, etc.  In the beginning of August I went to Indonesia, but this was not a mini vacation.  I went there for about 2 and a half weeks.  The impetus to go was to visit a friend of mine from high school, Rachel.  Rachel has been living in Indonesia for about a year.  We haven't seen each other since the summer we graduated from college so a visit was long overdue.

Needless to say, I had an amazing time.  I spent time in Java and Bali.  On Java, I visited Jakarta (the capital) and Jogjakarta.  In both places, I stayed in hostels.  The majority of the trip was spent on Bali.  Rachel, her dad, her cousin and some Indonesian friends of theirs live in a beautiful house/condo on the southern part of the island of Bali.  Rachel is working at the Four Seasons hotel and her dad is running the International Christian Community (ICC) organization there.  Their house almost feels like unofficial ICC headquarters.  It was great meeting all of Rachel's new friends.  They are beautiful human beings.  When Rachel was at work, I even went out and had meals with them!  I got two massages, went snorkeling, swimming, shopping...ate great food.  I saw the sultan's palace in Jogjakarta, and volcanos and rice fields in Bali.  It was the perfect combination of R&R and sightseeing.  I returned to Shoshong refreshed and rejuvenated.

Around Jakarta - notice all of the motorcycles and mopeds.  They are EVERYWHERE.  Even babies and young kids ride on them behind parents.  There are a lot of accidents in Indonesia because of the way people drive these.  But they are also really efficient and easy to get around with.

I stayed at a hostel in Jakarta.  I ended up traveling around Jakarta with this guy named John who was staying in the same hostel.  It was nice to have a travel buddy.  This is one of our stops...the largest mosque in Jakarta.  Indonesia is a predominantly Muslim country.  We were there during the holy month of Ramadhan in which Muslims cannot eat or drink anything from sun up to sun down.  Not surprisingly, many came to the mosque to pray and sleep to get through the day.  Women and men are separated--women sitting on the far side, men on the near side in the photo.

I love seeing houses of worship, especially churches.  I find them really beautiful.  And I LOVE gift shops.  I go in them whenever I can.  This photo was taken at a church gift shop in Jakarta.  I found a book called "Princess Amelia."  Can you believe it?!  Best day ever!  Clearly I had to purchase it, especially since it cost me a whopping $1.

This is at a night market in Jakarta.  Somehow they were tattooing in the middle of a public square.  I am guessing they were using a generator but I found it really crazy haha.

This is my first photo of Bali.  My friend Rachel is on the left and Emma, one of Rachel's friends from Indonesia, is on the right.  We were going to this place called Krishna.  Krishna is one of the most important gods in Hinduism.  There are statues of her everywhere.  In this context, Krishna is the best souvenir shop in Bali.  In Indonesia, you have to bargain to buy almost anything.  It can be difficult to navigate for foreigners because we don't know the prices.  So it is really easy to rip us off.  Krishna has fixed prices so you can be sure you know what you are getting.  For some reason, they want to count the number of patrons they have.  So, without warning, a young woman comes up and puts a sticker on you.  Clearly a moment to remember.

This is Sisi (left) and Jen (right).  They both live with Rachel and her dad in Bali.  Sisi is Indonesian and works for ICC.  Jen is Rachel's cousin.  She moved to Indonesia about a month ago to teach.  They live in a really modern condo.

Me at the beach in Bali!

On the way to the beach, there are many souvenir shops.  Most of them sold penis-shaped bottle openers of varying colors and sizes.  So bizarre.  I really wonder who buys them...

After the beach one day, I was wandering around and came upon this Balinese ceremony.  Each island in Indonesia has its own, unique culture that is different from Islam or Hinduism.  This is a Balinese ceremony.  They play beautiful music, pray, give offerings to the gods, have water and rice sprayed on them (for lack of a better term).  It was really interesting just coming upon this scene.  And there were so many of them.  I think I saw ceremonies forming almost everyday in different parts of the island.  It is an important part of culture there.

This is another photo from the ceremony.  These are young women dressed in traditional dance outfits.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to see the dancing, but I have heard that it is amazing.

I will put up more photos of Bali in the next post!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Botswana Hip Hop

Botswana is a really small country.  Less than 2 million people live here.  You know the ability to walk all around NYC and not see anyone you know?  Not possible in Botswana.  Even if you go to Gaborone, the capital, it's inevitable to run into people you know--or at least, people who know you by name even if you can't remember who they are.  Similarly, it's easy to walk through Gabs unaware that you are passing people who are radio personalities and locally famous.

Because I got to be friends with some of the people making music in Gabs, I was around for the making of a music video.  One of the up and coming groups is called Fancy Path Music Group.  A couple guys from FPMG, Motswaki Vic and Khwezi, collaborated with Nomadic, a rapper based out of Johannesburg, to record "For the Love (Motswako Music)."  Motswako is a genre of music--hip hop in Setswana, adding in other languages.  They usually mix English in with Setswana, but can also use Xhosa, Zulu, Kalanga, etc.  It's pretty cool stuff...and it's relatively new.  Rapping in Setswana makes the music accessible to most Batswana and brings it closer to home.  These artists are truly owning their art of hip hop in Botswana by making it personal, infusing their rhymes with metaphors in multiple languages.

The "For the Love" video is below.  And if you watch the whole thing through, you'll see me near the end!  :)

If you are interested in learning more about Botswana hip hop, you can check out FPMG on Facebook by searching for "FancyPath Music Group."  BATSOFE is another local group.  Those guys work with FPMG on a lot of tracks as well.  Their blog is

Understanding the music scene in Gaborone and getting to know new artists is not something I thought I would be doing during my service.  But it has been amazing.  Understanding youth culture makes me feel more like I have a life in Botswana.  It feels more real.  This isn't just Peace Corps service.  This isn't 2 years of going to the clinic, going to meetings and coming back to my house, biding my time until I can come back to the states.  I live in Botswana now.  Embracing that and making it my home by becoming close friends with locals has been one of the most fulfilling parts of service.