Next week, I will have been living in Jakarta for 3 months. That doesn’t sound like much but when I consider that I’m already a quarter of the way through my time here it seems pretty mind-boggling!
My lessons are cancelled today due to flooding. Apparently the water is waist high! It honestly felt like winning the lottery. I love my classes but, being a quiet person, having to converse with people for at least five hours a day is pretty exhausting. Fortunately, my house is fine; the school is a couple of miles away from where I live. We had a minor flood a couple of days ago. Water started to flow through cracks in the floor of our kitchen as the water table rose. The kitchen is slightly sunk compared to the rest of the ground floor to help protect the rest of the rooms. Unfortunately, it continued to pour and water started coming out of the walls in two bedrooms and up through the floor in my room. We tried bailing it out for a while. A fools errand. Eventually, the boys waded out to get beer and Stifan made me dance with him in the water. The floor tiles become super slippery when they’re wet, so it was a pain when you wanted to walk anywhere. But nothing was damaged and have a handy flood-break wall outside our front door. It could have been a lot worse!
Lesson learned: When the high water comes, stay positive and attempt to party.
Now, stepping back in time. I spent my Christmas holiday learning how to surf in Pacitan and exploring the city of Yogjakarta (Jogja) .
For anyone looking for a quiet getaway, I highly recommend booking into Harry’s Ocean House in Pacitan (around 4 hours drive from Jogja). It’s a great surfing community home stay less than five mins from the bay. It’s really basic accommodation; mattresses on the floor of wooden houses, but it is all you need. There’s a large communal kitchen and you can rent good quality boards. The owner actually makes his own in a workshop onsite. And if you don’t have your own transport, they have a large collection of mopeds that you can borrow to get down to the beach. The also do car pick-ups from Jogjakarta for just 300,000Rp.
At the left side of the bay, a river meets the sea, which makes for a really interesting experience for the senses. One minute you’re paddling in warm sea water, swallowing salt; the next you’re hit by the cold, murky river water which tastes decidedly sweet in comparison… then you’re back in the heat of sea. As we paddled out to the calmer water, the side of the bay towered high above our heads. Flora bursts from every crag in the rock and the sky was so blue it hurt to look at for to long. The beach was clean; the only thing you had to watch out for was the driftwood. The sand was soft and streaked with the black glitter of volcanic sand. The sunsets were astoundingly beautiful; the clouds over the forests on the edge of the bay seemed to catch fire. At night all you can hear are the songs of frogs and crickets. I honestly, felt like it was the closest to paradise I had ever been.
The wet season is the best time to go if you’re a beginner like me because the waves are smaller. Having said that, I almost drowned anyway! It took me a few hours to stop being afraid of every wave that came my way. I soon learned to accept that I was just going to swallow water and get it down my nose, so that I should just get on with it! I was completely exhausted by my third day, burnt to a crisp (literally) down the back of my legs and had a rather impressive collection of bruises but it was the most fun I’ve had in a long time! I caught lots of waves and the thrill of riding them is well worth all of the hard work it takes to get to them in the first place. And, its one more thing to check off of my bucket list!
It felt odd to spend Christmas away from my family and away from the internet and my friends. Let it be known that I am owed one Christmas dinner! But, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t nice to get away from all the hype and the mania of urban life.
I spent the rest of my holiday travelling on my lonesome in Jogja. Maybe I just haven’t been to the right areas of Jakarta yet, but Jogja immediately struck me as more of my kind of city. There is street art everywhere, bands play on lots of the main streets and there are a lot more tourist attractions. Jakarta is full of history, but its modern history like the declaration of independence. Jogja has a lot more pre-colonial cultural features.
I buddied up with some wonderful German and Dutch girls (never confuse the two!!) and an English girl who teaches in Jakarta (it is such a small world!) for adventure time. Highlights of the trip included cycling around Prambanan Temple and the other, less advertised, temples; seeing a traditional dance display in Kraton/the sultan’s palace; exploring the ruins of Taman Sari/The Water Palace; and getting lost in the beautiful batik painting shops and shadow puppet workshops.
I threw myself into a new level of street food experience on this holiday, thanks to Race. I am now a pro at eating with my hands. I also spent most of my meals sitting on the mats that are spread out along the streets at night. We found a fantastic vegan restaurant in north Jogja. The Loving Hut serves the most convincing mock meat I have ever tried. I had to ask if my tofu was chicken was actually made from tofu. The BBQ bacon was also purely tofu but I couldn’t tell the difference!
I’m continuing to learn a lot about myself and city survival in Jakarta. I think this post has got long enough but I’ll be uploading some ponderings about Indonesians’ peculiar fascination with bulay (white foreigners), being in a cross-cultural relationship and some of my experiences as a new teacher!
For now – ciao! :)