Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Christmas and new years adventures

for christmas this year i camped at jillian's house for 2 nights. on the 24, we met in a mall and ate krispy kreme special holiday doughnuts to try and get in spirit. its hard though when its bright and sunny and around 90 degrees outside. when it started getting late we took a taxi to her house. when we got there her host family had a surprise for us. they were all standing around the table and praying. they stopped when we came in and said to take our stuff upstairs, wash our feet and hands, and come pray with them. confused, we did as we were told. we couldn't understand what they said, it was in arabic, so we stood awkwardly until it was over. we watched across the universe after that and then stayed up late talking about all our christmas traditions. it was kind of sad. i really missed my family during the holidays. just missing the familiarity, the traditions, and so many people. but it was ok. we still had a good time.

the first thing jillian said to me when we were both awake on christmas morning was, "santa doesn't come to indonesia." indeed he doesn't. its too far away. we ate twinkies and skittles in her room and then went downstairs to make breakfast. i brought pancake mix and she bought some bisquik biscuit mix, and we were very excited to try them out. the whole time we cooked the maids were hovering about, thinking they could do it better and staring in wonder and the weird crap we were cooking. the pancakes were weird. it was wheat mix and they tasted kind of dull, so i was hoping i could make good syrup to cover that up. we couldn't find regular brown sugar though, we had to use palm sugar, which comes sold in hard round cakes and does not look very appetising. it turned out ok but there was too much water, and the weird sugar gave it a strange taste. her host family's oven cooks the bottoms of things way faster than the tops, so the biscuits were a little brown but still edible. we both got phone calls from home, which were long and wonderful. it was weird talking to my family though because it was still their christmas eve. crazy time.

then we got ready to do some real cooking. our plan was to make a spectacular christmas dinner feast for her host family and us. mostly for us. we had everything we needed to make green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and peanut butter cookies. we had to peel the potatoes with knives. it was fun but took a lot longer than it needed to. 2 of the cans of green beans we had needed to be opened with a can opener but we thought that if they didn't have potato peelers why would they have a can opener so she got a knife and stabbed it into the top and tried to cut it open. the look on the maid's face when she saw was priceless. she took the can away and got out a super old school can opener and opened the beans for us. pretty much everything we made needed to go in the oven, but we didn't know how to turn it on and neither did the maid. she said it would blow up if we didn't do it right. so we got everything as ready as we could and then would cover it up and start something new. i think the stuffing was the worst thing we made. we had this huge loaf of white bread and we tore up tons of it until we thought we had enough. to check, we filled a coffee cup and then dumped it in a plastic bag because there was no where else to put it. we couldn't find celery at the store so we cooked up mushrooms and onions instead. we waited to put the chicken stock on the bread until someone came home to turn on the oven so it wouldn't get soggy. the potatoes were fun. the recipe jillian had said to mash them with sour cream and cream cheese so while they were still hot we put everything together and mashed them using big wooden spoons. they tasted so good! all night we kept eating them because they were easily the best thing we made. jillian had some frozen hash brown patties that we wanted to try to make something out of so we went online. the easiest recipe was some casserole type thing. we cut all the patties in half and made a layer on the bottom of the dish. then we did a layer of good cheddar cheese, more hash browns, and then covered it all in cheese and fried onions and dumped an egg and milk mixture over it. we were excited to see how that one turned out. we got the cookie dough ready and then just loafed around until her host family came home and did the simple task of turning on an oven. we grated cheese on top of the casserole and mashed potatoes and everything smelled so amazing. then it was time for the stuffing. the broth we got was some sketch vegetarian chicken stock from taiwan. we opened it up to find the most revolting looking fake chicken floating around in it. we picked it out and threw it away and hoped the broth wouldn't be too toxic. neither of us had ever made stuffing before and honestly i think it was a fail. it tasted ok, but it wasn't very good and nowhere near as good as its supposed to be. we hit another problem with the cookies. we could only cook one tray at a time so it was taking long. the first tray took forever, the tops just wouldn't cook. and then we remembered. it smelled awful. the bottoms were BLACK. and rock hard. we had the tray on the stove and i don't know how it happened but it slipped and fell on the floor. we both yelled "10 second rule!" and gathered the cookies. one solution we had was to just cut the burnt bottoms off, but that left the cookies so pathetically thin we just ate a couple and threw the rest away. the second tray went better though. we took it out a little bit early so nothing burnt and then broke a lindt bar up to put a square on every cookie. then it was dinner time! we explained what every dish was and started eating. everything was good, except for the stuffing. the hash browns were ok but i would probably never make them again unless it was for a joke. at the end of the meal there was just a tiny bit of green bean casserole left and they tried to get the maid to eat some but she's sassy and stubborn and wouldn't even come in the room when they called her, she just yelled that she didn't want any and kept watching her soap. after dinner we went to jillian's room, feeling successful. while it was a bit ghetto, it was a really great christmas. unlike any christmas i have ever had. definitely one of the most unforgettable. it was so fun.

for breakfast the next day we had leftovers from dinner. it took like 45 minutes to microwave them because the microwave was a dinosaur but they were delicious. we were lazy all day till lunch, when we met up with josh and rio and went to raka's house for lunch. i was safe eating vegetarian stuff, but josh got stuck eating man food, otherwise known as goat foot soup. of all the stupid things. it looked pretty bad. lunch was fun though. we talked a bunch and ate weird little cookies that glued your mouth shut and hung out till maybe 4, when we took a taxi to go to an afs christmas party. when we got there we were greeted and put to work. we had to crumble up styrofoam, which then got glued to a pole covered in red butcher paper with some sticks stuck on it and decorated with lights, tinsel, and ornaments. it was our christmas tree. when everyone came we sat in a big circle and someone gave like an introduction and welcomed everybody and then turned the time over to us, the bules, to tell a little bit about what we do on christmas. its always a bit awkward getting put on the spot like that but i find that i'm getting so much more used to it. i think thats a good thing. its about time too. so after that they turned on loud christmas music and we had dinner. the only vegetarian offering was mashed potatoes so i loaded up a plate and got tons of little cakes and cookies. there were presents under the tree and during dinner everyone got a little paper with a number on it. every present had a number too, so you would find the one that matched and it was yours.all the gifts were sort of white elephant-esque, so i thought there might be some stealing of gifts too, but it didn't happen. i got a cup. after the presents me and jillian went out on the porch and payed with candles. she was burning a leaf and i was dipping a pine branch in wax. some girls who were just leaving invited us to come to a mall with them, so we went and hung out for an hour or two and then went home.

that was christmas. a few short sweet days later, all the americans got together again for new years. we met at omar's and stayed there for a while before deciding we wanted some fake mexican food. there's a restaurant near his house that we went to. i got some burritos, which were ok but dang, i would kill for red iguana. or taco bell. either or both. anyway, all was well and good until they brought out the bills. i guess its not expensive for american terms but for indonesian terms, we got robbed. it ended up being like $40 for all of us. ridiculous. none of us really had enough money. we helped each other out though and jillian ended up paying for her food with mostly coins. that made me think of something me and my friends in america would do for fun sometime, haha. anyway, we decided then that we are done with amigo's. they will no longer steal our money for not so good mexican food. we were just starting to argue prices with a bajaj driver (ha we all wanted to cram in one bajaj) when omar's host sister jade drove up. she needed help grocery shopping for a bbq the family was going to have, so we got in the car and helped her. well really we didn't do much. we pushed the cart and talked while she did the real work. while we were in the check out line we saw someone eerily familiar get in line behind us. it was the creeper security guy from the us embassy! at first none of us really knew what to do but then he started talking to us. he remembered us when we said we were american exchange students and immediately asked where the one from la was. his cart was full of alcohol, mostly vodka. and he was the one telling us to be safe...tsk tsk. haha. at omar's house we watched the strangers and across the universe. then we helped with the bbq. what started out as us helping turned into us doing everything while the others disappeared. it took a long time to get the coals to light, they had no lighter fluid so we were fanning them with pieces of cardboard and eventually graduated to a real fan. this resulted in tons of crap being blown into the koi pond but it got the fire going. we cooked burgers, hot dogs, and baso. needless to say, the first things we cooked all got burnt. the second round went better, and then we pawned it off on someone else so we could eat. after dinner we met up with jascha and stoky. we didn't have any plans, we just went out. there was a big road block, we couldn't figure out what until we walked right up to it. the street was packed with people. and somewhere, i guess at the start (or end) of the sea of bodies, there was a stage where someone was speaking, i think reading from the qur'an or praying. that's what all the people were there for. jascha said he heard it was set up to keep muslim youth from going and partying all night long. seems likely enough to me. we met up with some other people and hung out for a few hours. we stayed out until 5, because stoky said we had to see the first sunrise of 2010. back at omar's we basically all passed out for a while. not long enough. when we left me and jillian went to a mall for a few hours. we were both dirty, tired, and kind of in bad moods, so we went to krispy kreme to eat our grief. i slept like a rock that night.

until this year, i never noticed how much i depend on my family. for really just about everything. i think the holidays were the hardest so far in terms of homesickness, but it wasn't like i hadn't expected that. i'm really grateful to all the people who have helped me thus far in my journey. without all their support and understanding and just being there to hang out with, i would not be here. i have made a long list of things i want to accomplish and change this year, as i'm sure many have. i never used to take new year's resolutions seriously, i just figured if i remembered to do them, good on me. if not, its not a big deal. but this year i really do want to try and work for them. we'll see though. i had an amazing holiday (s?) this year. the most unconventional, unforgettable christmas and new years. what better things could i have asked for? the only thing i wish i could have changed would be seeing my family. but that will happen soon enough. i cannot believe how fast time goes. already my time is near the halfway mark. can it be true? i think my biggest goal for the rest of this year is to live it up and leach every second for all its worth, because it seriously will be over before i know it.