last sunday my cousin wendy and some of the volunteers here, stoky and nino, came to my house and we all set off to bogor!! the drive was long. longer than i thought it was going to be acutally, but i liked getting to see all the scenery. even though it was mostly trees and green as far as the eye can see, it was beautiful. and there was the occasional mosque, too, or random buildings. when we got to bogor we drove around in this one neighborhood for a long time, trying to find stefan's (a german student here doing community service) house. neighborhoods are so confusing! well really everything is confusing to me because i don't know how anything is laid out..but this was something else) we asked some ladies sitting by the side of the road which way to go, and they all pointed in different directions, then one of them switched to point the same way as the others. finally we found it, and got stefan and headed to botani square, which is a huge mall. we met up with josh, his host brother dimas, meidy, tami, jascha, his host sister, and vivian. vivian's family wanted her to buy some bread, so before we left she went and got it. it looked so good. i really REALLY wanted to buy some bread and tear into it with my hands, but i resisted. from botani square we went to kebun raya bogor, which is this huge and beautiful botanical garden that bogor is famous for. we saw some really ancient trees and there was one tree with a sign by it that said its bark smelled like roses..it didn't. it just smelled like bark. there were some totally amazing plants there though! it was all so green and alive, i love it. we walked through the garden, talking and taking pictures, and then stopped at this restaurant for the people who weren't fasting to get lunch. at the restaurant, i think they were some of the waiters who got together and started playing guitars and singing to us. then they told us they wanted us to sing 'heal the world' while they played the music. it was kin of sad because no one knew the verses so they were really quiet and then when the chorus came everyone would sing really loud. and we got behind the music a couple times..it was really fun though. then we walked back the way we came and sat around outside the entrance talking some more. then we all piled into our cars and drove off to find a restaurant to break the fast at. the car i was in was already holding 6 people, with stoky in the back since we had vivian, and we got lost so meidy, josh, and tami squeezed into our car to help us out. vivian was sitting by the window and she rolled it down to get some fresh air, but then rolled it up when we passed some of the peddlers. we were fearing a snatch and grab!! haha. we got to the restaurant, and still had half an hour. the longest half hour of my life. we all ordered our food and were just hungrily waiting, counting down the minutes and talking with each other. i really like seeing the other exchange students and getting to talk with them about whats going on and get some perspective for my own situation. its nice to hear about what other people are facing and give and get advice. it seems like right now a lot of us are on the same page, so its really helpful to be able to talk with each other to help each other through it. they brought us our drinks when we still had about 10 minutes to wait. they looked so cool and wonderful...it was like they wanted us to be in pain. finally, at the stroke of 6, we all attacked our drinks. mine hadn't come yet so someone gave me iced tea, and it was the best thing i've ever tasted. the food came shortly after. i got roti cane coklat keju susu, or this kind of indian bread with chocolate and cheese on it. it was so good. i also had strawberry juice, but it tasted more like a smoothie than juice. before i'd left the house that morning dennie gave me two water bottles and some minute maid orange juice. after i was done eating me and vivian chugged the juice, which was way sweeter and more pulpy than the american minute maid. i feel cheated. mmmmm. after we finished eating josh, vivian, meidy, and tami left. the rest of us hung around a bit more, having a good time. me and stoky were planning on camping out in kebun raya, either in a tree with the hammocks we had, or in a tent. and we were going to catch bats and roast them for dinner. we left after that to take stefan home. it was easier to find his house this time, i think we got there in half the time it took us earlier. at his house, stoky and wendy prayed and we all watched tv with his host mom. she was really nice. she told me that when she was younger she went to a boarding school in england, so she knew what it was like to feel far away from your family and homesick. and then we left, after a short visit. we stopped at a restaurant on the way home, looking for durian ice cream, which they didn't have but we got this apple pie that was so good! it looked kind of like a calzone, which was strange, but it had amazing buttery crust and really delicious filling. in the car, we also ate some really greasy and delicious pizza. we made one more stop at anggie's house to say goodbye to her. she and her husband are moving to england for a couple years because she's going to college. while we were there, a girl came up to me and introduced herself. i met tanti, who i've been friends on facebook with for a long time but never actually met. she was bria and elle's host sister last year. bria and elle are both going on the YES program this year, bria to egypt and elle to thailand. i talked with her for a little bit and then we left, for real this time. i was so tired in the car i kept dozing off. when we got to my house, basically i stumbled all the way to my room and passed out. it was a great day :)
so about this week...
this week marks my first whole week of school since i got to indonesia. the past weeks don't count, because there were days when it was cancelled or i didn't go for some reason or another. its so weird. i really like school here, its loads better than east, but i'm still having a pretty rough time adjusting. i sit quietly most of the time, and my friends always ask me why i'm so quiet and tell me not to stare. i can't figure out how to explain to them that i'm not staring, i'm just thinking, and in doing so letting my eyes lose focus. they're really patient with me though, as are my teachers, so that's good. this week i had art class, which i think is my new favorite. i was a little sad because we didn't get to just free draw, we all had to draw a rooster, but it was fun. the teacher came and sat by me and showed me how its done, and i copied. he had his rooster divided so that specific sections (neck, body, wing, tail) all had a really specific way they needed to be texturized and shaded. i used his techniques, but added my own too. quietly defiant, just like always >:) its looking pretty good so far, i mean it still definitely needs work but for a work in progress, i like it. man oh man i had no idea how hard mandarin and japanese were going to be! at first japanese didn't seem so bad, but its total overload trying to learn a language in a language you don't understand. everyone in my class already has some foundation in katakana and hiragana, and i can barely draw the characters. most of the time i just stare at my book, trying to make sense of the mess of characters i see there. still nothing happening, but i think that when i understand bahasa things will get easier. actually that's a dumb thing to say. i KNOW that when i can understand and speak bahasa my whole life will pick up and get way easier. i just need to learn it. but i'm getting really excited because lately more words are starting to stick out to me! today in indonesian, the teacher had a powerpoint up and i was looking at it and recognized the word abu-abu, which means gray. i looked at the whole article and was delighted to find that i knew what it was talking about! for the most part, i could only understand less than half, but i knew that it was talking about the school uniforms for a school in jakarta. i can't believe how happy this made me! earlier this week i was having a really rough time and i felt really homesick but now things are getting way better. and i think talking to my family on the phone and my new-found understanding of more words has everything to do with it.
after school yesterday dewi picked me up and we drove to the hindu temple where i'm going to take balinese dance lessons. she told me that they're trying to find a private tutor for me so that it will be more intensive. i don't care how i learn it, just as long as i learn it i'll be happy. but the idea of taking balinese dance in a hindu temple is just so magical to me.. we walked in on a class of about 7 little boys practicing their dance. it was so incredible. there were a couple who had no idea what was going on (probably a glimpse into my near future...) but there was this one boy who was so amazing! he looked like a pro. he really knew the dance and he was so into it. it was really cool to watch. there was a teeny little girl in the classroom who was playing with another little boy. the little boy was wearing a cap, which the girl yanked off to reveal probably the worst hat hair i've ever seen. where the hat was, his hair was all smooth. but then where it ended, like on the back of his head, his hair was standing up in every direction. he grabbed the hat from her and shoved it back onto his little head. the girl was so funny. she reminded me of a female mowgli, she was just really skinny and mowgli-like. a couple of times she'd stop running around and dance with the boys. she knew the dance better than they did. she was probably like 5 years old and already a better dancer than i ever have a prayer of becoming. she was so cute. so really not a whole lot has been happening lately. i'm ever so slowly beginning to adjust to life here, and while its still incredibly hard at times, i can tell its getting better. i heard from amber for the first time since she got to turkey yesterday! it was so great to hear from her. i feel so bad for her because she's stuck at the beginning of the stage i feel like i'm near the middle of. homesickness and hostility. the whole 'stages of culture shock' thing was such crap. i don't know one person who started out in the 'honeymoon' stage. i think everyone went straight to hostility and homesickness, the stage they said wouldn't come until a couple months in. yeah right guys. i bet they just tell people all that to get them excited, so they don't freak out before they leave and call it quits. oh well. we all know that after things are this bad they can only get better, so i guess thats some comfort..
ramadan is going really well. its much easier than i expected, since i've gotten used to it i mean, and i really like it. its such a cool holiday. i'm really excited to see what other traditions and holidays we're going to experience this year, both living in indonesia and with muslim families. my mosquito bites are almost all gone. i don't think i got malaria.