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Amy's Indonesian Experience

Welcome to Amy's Blog. This is where I will be keeping an online diary and a few photos of life in Indonesia.
Please feel free to leave a comment for me or email me at-

Diary Entries

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Location: Sydney, Australia

I made use of my week in Australia and the fact that Cel was on holidays by having a little holiday up at the Blue Mountains, 2 hours West of Sydney. We had a relaxed couple of nights staying in a lovely converted train carriage at Madison's Mountain Retreat... enjoying walks, the spa, the views over the Devil's Wilderness (the National Park surrounding where we were staying), watching DVDs and exploring around.
We did a day trip over to the Jenolan Caves and joined a group for the Lucas Tour - taking us through the Catherdral and past the famous Broken Column. Random lesson, 'Jenolan' means 'big mountain' in the local Aboriginal language. I hadn't been to the caves since I was about 10 and I was glad to explore them again... I recommend it to anyone in the area :-)

Monday, 22 September 2008

Location: Sydney, Australia

Week 52 - Back in Australia
I have been keeping very busy and the last week has passed so quickly. It seems like jam karet has followed me home from Indonesia!

I have slowly been adjusting back to life here. And I have enjoyed taking it slowly, feeling in no rush to start job or house hunting. Much of my time has been spent sleeping and relaxing like a lady of leisure. But more time has been spent catching up with friends and running around doing the chores needed to start settling in. I’ve begun my return medical exams and am still awaiting results (I might find out what made me so sick in April) and written my final AYAD report. I’ve started packing away all of the new clothes and souvenirs which I bought throughout the year, it has been fun to reminisce about all the places which I went and bought myself oleh-oleh from. I’ve printed about 100 best photos from Indonesia, and showing my photos to friends has made them very jealous – I should get a job as an Indonesian tourism ambassador!

I’ve spent lots of days enjoying the beautiful sunny weather Sydney has been enjoying recently. Cel and I went to Manly Oceanworld (Aquarium) since neither of us had been since we were 10 years old. Now that I have a new found hobby of scuba diving it was interesting to see how similar some of the tropical fishes found in Australia and Indonesia are. I also got to catch up with old work colleagues Claire W, Mary and Teri and exchange stories from the past year.
On Sunday I finally had a welcome home lunch with my family, Alessio and some of my best friends – Cel, Anika, Bethanie, Catherine & Andrew, Arch, Matty, Monique & Ben. We ate so much Mexican food that we felt sick afterwards, but it was lovely to catch up and eat.

For all my Indonesian friends I will write an Australian lesson for you. It is about the relaxed lifestyle around the northern part of Sydney where I live. There is no traffic on the roads – it is actually enjoyable to go for a drive for no reason. People usually smile and say hello when they walk past you in the street, even if you don’t know them. Manly is always full of tourists with big smiles enjoying beaches on both sides – ocean and harbour beaches. And there are so many cafes and restaurants to sit in and enjoy catching up with friends in, meals are a social event. I hope I can share it with you one day :-)

Monday, 15 September 2008

Location: Sydney, Australia

Week 51 – The end! I’m now back in Sydney after a very busy and sad final week in Bandung.

On Monday and Tuesday for my last two days at the office I just toured around greeting all 213 staff members to give them little gifts from Australia (which I bought when I holidayed in Sydney in June). It was nice to be able to say goodbye to everyone individually, and not be too overwhelmed by saying bye to everyone at once. Many people wished me well for my return to Australia, including wishes that I get married and have children soon! But more often than that was being told that I had to return regularly and continue my friendship with all these new colleagues.

I also had to run around Bandung doing a few last little chores – finalising my Visa at the immigration office (which thankfully only took 1 day and no extra effort or money on my part), exchanging money, giving away lots of my belongings and posting another box of souvenirs and gifts home – all my work friends have been hastily giving me gifts galore,.

Lili, Atik, Dewi, Zuhe, Chatin and Echi took me out for a lovely dinner at Stone Café up at Dago on Monday eve. They also had gifts for me and we spent the evening chatting and remembering all the fun times we have had.
Then on Tuesday night the heads of PPPPTK-IPA took me out to dinner at break fasting time for one last delicious Sundanese meal. I’ll miss the creatively grilled and fried fish, the herbs (especially kemangi which looks like basil but tastes a bit like lemon grass), the hot chilli sambal and especially the fruit juices. I got one last avocado and chocolate juice in =)

On Wednesday morning it was time to finally depart my most recent home. It was a sad and teary time as I was driven away from the office with lots of my colleagues there waving goodbye. It still didn’t quite feel like it was the right time to be leaving, how has 1 year already passed..? I enjoyed driving through Bandung for the last time and the beautiful scenery during the 2 hour drive to Jakarta. I was dropped at my manager Nani’s office in the ‘golden triangle’ of central Jakarta where I tried to gather my thoughts and wrap up things with her and a few other AYADs who I talked to. I got a good opportunity to start the process of reviewing my year during a delightful Javanese massage in the afternoon. Nothing like smelling fresh of essential oils and getting rid of your stresses and toxins before hopping on an overnight flight! Nani took me out to the airport that evening and we had a final chat and exit interview. She passed on the good feedback from my workplace and reinforced that my assignment is considered a model success in the AYAD program which was nice to hear.

My flight home was easy, the plane was empty and the 5526km passed quickly. Soon I was watching a beautiful Thursday morning sunrise over the east coast of Australia and feeling so happy to be returning to this glorious country. Thankfully most of my wooden and shell products were acceptable for customs then Mum and Dad were there to pick me up at Sydney airport and welcome me home.

Since returning my time has flown again. I’ve spent a lot of time sleeping, which was a main part of my plan. I’ve also caught up with some of my most missed friends Cel, Anika, Catherine and Bethanie. The weather has been exceptionally warm which has helped my body adjust (except for the hay fever I seem to have developed after living in such a humid and polluted country), and I’ve been able to enjoy my days off to soak up the sun. But I’ll write about my adjustment next week….

The last Indonesian lesson is about the key to life in Indonesia – a smile. No matter how crazy life gets, when an Indonesian shares a warm smile with you things seem a little better. Travelling with a smile is also the best way to get around Indonesia; when you don’t understand what people are saying, when you experience something that is unusual, when Indonesians offer their friendly hospitality and when you are succumbing to jam karet (rubber time) – a smile will make your life easier. I’ve recently learnt in Islam a smile is considered an ‘ibadah’ (good deed which God will reward), so no wonder Indonesia is such a smiley country with approximately 180 million Muslims! I will most certainly miss the smiles, so please help me out by having a big smile waiting for me when you next see me…

Sunday, 07 September 2008

Location: Bandung, Indonesia

Week 50 – Almost the end. I officially finished working at PPPPTK-IPA Bandung this week, my year long volunteer job is over, it seems almost as soon as it began! I did a final presentation on Friday morning to all relevant staff which summarised all the work I have done, and listed my main successes and challenges. It was strange to sum up a year’s worth of work and see how much I got done, even when at times it felt like very little. It was nice to have my work recognised by all the staff here who have become friends, and exchange gifts to make the memories last longer. My bags are still getting heavier with presents - I had to post a package home last week and may have another one to ship this week at this rate!

I was also lucky enough to be able to sell my motorbike and fridge for the money I wanted and given away most of the rest of my home items to my friends. I’m giving my plants to good homes (with Agus, Jay and Atik).

As it is Ramadan here I joined in fasting on Thursday to have a better understanding of what my Muslim friends are going through now. I stayed at Atik’s house and was up with her family at 3:45am to eat before the fasting begun in Bandung at 4:23am. After that it was actually quite easy to abstain from eating until the evening prayer at 5:55pm, but holding back from drinking all day in this heat was tougher. Anyway, I lasted the time and am sure that it was because I was too busy getting all my work done to notice. I broke my fast with Agus by eating a delicious lamb rump dinner at MyLK (the Australian restaurant).

This weekend was both happy and sad as I both celebrated with and farewelled my expat friends. I went to Jakarta to share a few celebratory drinks with Tim N who has also finished work. Then we met up with lots of friends – Nicole, Erin, Amelia, Olivia, Anna and Jay and celebrated some more (a little too much) at a bar called Eastern Promise in Kemang. After recuperating on Saturday by eating pies and lazing around Tim’s house we made our way down to Bogor to meet up with more friends than I expected. There was a surprise farewell party held for my English friend Ruth (perfectly organised by Alex and Endah) and I was lucky enough to use the opportunity to be able to say goodbye to all the expat friends I have made in West Java over the last year. Many of them I will see again in Australia during the next year. But others who are remaining in Indonesia, or moving further afield (like Tim C to Hong Kong or Maarit back to Finland) I will look forward to meeting somewhere exciting in the future.

I caught the train between Jakarta and Bandung for the last time this afternoon and got to marvel once again at the beauty of the scenery through Java. Even though it is the last month before the rainy season begins, it is still beautifully green, lush and lively.

Now I am back in Bandung getting ready to leave this week. I have prepared kenang-kenangan (gifts to remind people of me) for all 213 staff at my work and will spend the next couple of days saying my goodbyes to the people here at PPPPTK-IPA Bandung and packing my bags. It will be a busy time doing all of the last things I want to do here before leaving on Wednesday. I am really looking forward to being able to catch up on too long without a sold night’s sleep!

This week’s Indonesian lesson is about Ramadan. It has been explained to me that the purpose of this month in the Islamic calendar is to show your devotion to Allah by giving up pleasures or undesirable traits. This aims to allow Muslims to be more empathetic and have a better understanding of what their prophet Mohammed did in Allah’s name. The most obvious pleasure given up during daylight hours are eating or drinking... in fact nothing is meant to be put in your mouth (not even your toothbrush). Smoking, gossiping, physical relations and being angry are amongst the other habits people also sacrifice. There are exceptions from fasting for certain conditions, e.g. pregnant or menstruating women, elderly, ill or people travelling far, but the days that are missed are expected to be paid back when possible. An alternative to paying back the fasting days is to feed 14 beggars for every day missed. How 14 days was figured out I cannot tell you!

Thursday, 04 September 2008

Location: Bandung, Indonesia

Sorry this is late, the internet connection at my work and home has been down for a week and I have been too busy to go to a cafe... so here is Monday's update :-)

Week 49 – This week has been an overload and I think my crazy life in Indonesia has all caught up with me. I’ve been trying to make a start on wrapping up my life here by catching up lots with my closest friends, preparing to sell and give away my belongings and finalising things at work. Indonesians like reports and numbers and tangible results (even though it’s not always possible) so I have been driving myself nuts trying to write a laboratory management manual based on the skills I have imparted, make a presentation on my work and write a final report with recommendations for the future.

AYAD manager Nani was up in Bandung on Wednesday and we had a long catch up over a lovely lunch, I’ve newly discovered all the boutique hotels and restaurants to the North of Bandung, huge houses, beautifully manicured lawns straight out of a house and garden magazine, not what you’d expect in Indonesia.

In the lead up to the fasting month of Ramadan (which started on the 1st of September this year) there have been lots of activities. My work had a Mungahhan on Thursday, which is a West Javanese custom where staff eat together before Ramadan and ask for forgiveness for any wrong doings. We went up to the pine forests in Cikole to the north of Bandung and had a day of eating, singing karaoke, outdoor activities, preaching and enjoying each others’ company. I had not actually gone into the woods before, so it was nice to get to enjoy the beautiful views of the mountains and farmlands near Lembang. On Friday I had my final early morning wake up call for the aerobics class – I enjoyed watching my not so coordinated work colleagues for the last time and the idea of not being woken up at 5:30am on a regular basis!

This weekend I hosted AYAD friends John and Sarah H in Bandung. We took in the colonial streets and buildings, finally got to go up one of Mesjid Agung (Bandung’s city mosque) tall minarets for great views over the city, exploring the malls and factory outlets, riding around Dago area in the north of Bandung and eating fine meals. We even stumbled across Amigos, a Mexican themed restaurant and bar, complete with accurate decor, a band, tequila sunrises and delicious tacos.

This week’s Indonesian lesson is about how relationships often start. Indonesian’s are often very shy when it comes to expressing their affection for another person, tending to admire from afar or through friends, like I last experienced in junior high school. There is a slang term for this ‘ngeceng’ which I can only describe as having a crush. It’s when you like someone but they don’t know it, you may follow their movements and gather as much information from other sources. Once a person has gathered up the ‘percaya diri’ or ‘pd’ (courage) to spill the contents of their hearts to the object of their desire, this is called ‘menembak’ (literally to shoot). It seems that relationships are initiated here by women as often as men through this indirect way, and it seems to work!

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Recent Messages

Hi Amy,Been told the pizzas made back in Aussie are better than ones in Italy.What do you think?
Response: nooooo way!
Aussie pizzas have nothing on the delicious Italian pizzas! If only I could bring some home :-P
Great news! (except for your family)Amy, your a woman of the world.Im looking forward to your reviews.Watch out! one day you may not enjoy yourself so much.Do you actually have a job when you get back? Or are you still studying?
Response: Hey Mick, I am loving the freedom of being between jobs and taking all the opportunities presented to me! I haven't started thinking about jobs yet, I'll save than for when I return :-)
From nita
hi there,hi amy!
u still remember me?i just want to say thank u for ur gift.i hope u back again in PPPPTK IPA.
Response: Hi Nita,
I hope things are still good in Bandung :-)
Enjoy your Lebaran holidays...
From Tim Martin
Hey Amy - welcome back!
Can't believe you're pissing off overseas again. Half your luck. Have fun in Italy and let us know when you're back - we can debrief!
Response: Hey Tim, have you done the official debrief yet? It would be fun to be RAYADs together...
I just missed you in Syd (heard you were still in PNG) but we'll catch up soon!
From Echi
hi amy... i've received your email and just can't wait to click on the link to your travel web blog. i've seen lots of interesting pictures here. you know, sometimes pictures tell better than words. by the way, if you wanna see more pictures on our last farewell party, you can drop by to my blog at Oh and by the way, may i put the link in my blog to your travel blog? thanks a lot..

big hug,
Response: Hi Echi, nice to hear from you. Of course you can link our blogs. I usually keep it for writing about my travels... Hope everything is good in Bandung :-)
From Mick
Welcome back!
Thanks for letting me be a part of your life for all these months.I have learnt so much from your work and stories of Indonesia.Sorry I was abit slack with the emails but I could see you had lots of family and friends checking on you.Good luck on your next adventure.I will miss your diary.Keep Smiling.
Response: Hi Mick!
Well, it turns out that the next adventure is sooner than I thought, I'll keep you updated on my next month in Europe on this website too... :-)
From santi
hello amy? How is Australia? I miss your english class i try looking 4 U at the internet and i find U! so.....I steel can learning english from ur writing,right? So...keep on writing......
Response: Hi Santi!
Australia is wonderful, I wouldn't be able to leave Indonesia if I didn't have such a nice place to come back to :-)
I hope the English classes will continue without me...
From deni
Hi Amy,
love to see the pic of the next casey stoner! i can't wait to see the next valentino rossi :-)) andriz and faza say hi to you. i believe they will be very excited to see their pics in your blog :-)
Response: Hi Deni, Atik, Andriz & Faza, It's been nice sharing so many experiences with you, aku senang sekali berkeliling dan bersantai sama keluarganya! Say hello to everyone from me :-)
From binoy
Hi Amy,
The end of the week indonesian lessions are really informative. May be you could put them all in a book and make it a bestseller.
Keep up the good wrk!
Response: Thanks Binoy, I like doing the research and being able to tell about my experiences :-)
From Lili
Hi, Amy!
Nice to read your stories. Thank you for all you've done and all mean a lot. Bring our great story to Australia. Remember, here you have lots of people who loves you and likes having friends with you.
Response: Hi Lili, you're welcome, I've really enjoyed being here to work, make friends and travel. But it's not time for goodbyes just yet... :-)
From sagejam
Hi Amy.
Enjoying the website. Love the photo of the small doorways with you spreadeagled to get through. Your cousin Sarah now taller than her mother so she'd have to go through on her knees.
Love Jane and co. xxx
Response: Hi Jane and co, We thought Sarah would overtake us all soon! I'll come down to Melbourne soon after I get back so she can look down on me then...
From The shadow
Hey Wilesy
How are ya? Not bad photos you've got. What happened to that Andrew guy he seemed like a champ?
Response: Hey Shandy, got a bit of extra time on your hands still? All good, been talking about you lots on the weekend and the impending return - very exciting. Can't wait to catch up on months of gossip!
Thought you'd liketo know Georgia is enjoying soccer, she kicked her first goal last weekend and so far their team is undefeated. She's also enjoying band, not that we get to her practise at home too often.
We are enjoying your updates. Sorry we don't write more often but home life compared to your adventures seems a bit boring. Lovev Jane and co. xxxx
Response: Hi guys, I'm looking forward to having a kick around with Georgia when I'm next in Melbourne! Georgia - score a goal for me :-)
From Evan
Hey Amy!

How's Indo treating you? I can't believe you and James haven't met up yet! I guess you two actually do work...

Aceh sounds kinda creepy. That freighter! wow... I think locals should think about following Allah further inland where land is more dry and holy.

Response: Hi Evan. Indo is good! Yeah, time has flown and the times I've tried to meet up with James it doesn't work out. Maybe we need you to come over here and be the reason to catch up! I hope all is good back in Manly :-)
From Tom
Hey where'd my message go?

...Waiting for the next chapter :D
Response: Next chapter coming right up =)
From Tom
Hi Amy
I've gotten way better at keeping up with your stories. I think to the point that I'm getting hooked.. When's the next one coming?? :)

Love your little lessons at the end of each episode.
Response: Uh-oh Tom... I hope I can keep up with your addiction!! I'm pretty stoked with nearly keeping up with Monday installments. Glad that others can learn something from my experiences here.
From me :P
were are all the photos of you and dean traveling?
i wanna see
Response: Hey bro,
There are too many photos to put up! I'll show you the best when you come here...
From Mick
Hi Amy,Nothing like a bit of shopping for a female to get the redness back into the cheeks.Are you doing anything for ANZAC Day?Good luck with your manual, if they like it they may name a Wing where you are staying after you.Mick
Response: Hey Mick, I think Anzac Day dawn will be spent participating the aerobics class at work and performing Indonesian Military-like drills at our weekly assembly. Nothing commemorative like our trip to Gallipoli... I hope you find a nice service to attend :)
From Jane
Hey amy,
Hope you are feeling better now. I am still enjoying reading your entries! We drew 1 all in soccer on Sunday against DY....not bad for our first game in div 2. Keep having fun. Love Jane xo
Response: Congrats! I so miss being there on Sunday mornings to play with you guys, say hi to the team for me xx
From Tim
Hey Amy
Just stopped by to check your progress- you're so organised - I got through three posts on my planetranger and got over it...congrats! Sounds like you're killing it - I'm sure you're making a big difference which will become apparent soon I'm sure.
We're back in Sydney - I'm job hunting. It's a BIG anticlimax. Live it up my AYAD sister, and contemplate staying there! Forever...
Tim xox
Response: Hey Tim, I heard you & Ag were already home, and that is a scary concept for me. The AYAD experience is so great and I don't want it to be over. But I will look forward to having a boogie with you guys and a few tequila shots when I return, haha. Good luck with re-settling, bet you are missing the $2 massages and $1 beer in Cambodia. x
From mick
Hi Amy,Glad to see you have not forgotten where you come from.Sounds like another good Aussie Day party was had by all.Sorry, I cannot find Triple J on my radio, I had it blocked years ago.I am back at work now after surviving a Darwin cyclone just after the new year.Had lots of wind, a little rain but not much damage done.Keep smiling.Mick
Response: Hi Mick, the countdown was good, it was fun to hear familiar voices of the radio presenters!
From mick
Hi Amy, I have also tried "pinang",while over the other side of the island about 15 years ago during 'hearts and mines" with work.I accidently swallowed some as well.....bloody awful stuff...I am really enjoying your reviews.
Your descriptions of all your adventures are better than any "Lonely Planet" or "Getaway" guides.
Am still waiting for the 'WET' to arrive here(getting close now).Thanks for the Xmas greeting, all the best to you and watch out for the prawns over the holidays.Mick
Response: Hey Mick, I've just truly experienced the wet season in all it's glory - I will never again dismiss warnings of travelling in the rainy season again! haha... I hope the rains don't hit you too hard!
From Tahme
amy this blog is amazing! have just read everything and have such a good idea of what it's like over there. Indo seems like one big incredible adventure. You are too funny. We are about to move to Canberra in january which is somewhere new (i hear the people smell there too tee hee). love you! Tahme xox
Response: Hey Tahme, I love being able to share my exeriences :) I'm guessing you got that job in Canberra - congrats! Good luck with the move...
From Lizzie
Wow! Looks like you're having so much fun! Just finished uni for the Xmas hols over here so've had chance to catch up on what ur up to. Keep enjoying urself & have a great Christmas!!
Response: Hey Lizzie, enjoy your hols, hope it isn't too cold. Are you heading back to Nottingham? Say hi to all the family!
From mick
Hi Amy,Are you covered for medicial insurance while you are attending Uni their?We dont want you being evacuated back to Aussie in a military aircraft because the prawns were not cooked or being knocked off "CHAS".Well done on your presentation your friends and family must be very proud of you.Are your "Western Goodies", expensive?
Response: Hey Mick, I hope not to be evacuated, but if I'm in Darwin I'll have to say hi! Western Goodies are at Western prices, which is considerably expensive for over here...