Monthly Archives: September 2014

Hari-Hari Saya di Bali: My Days in Bali

Salamat pagi! Saya sekarang di Jawa! Saya tiba di Jawa di senin dengan teman-teman saya dan guru-guru saya. Saya rindu Ibu dan rumah saya di Bali, tapi saya suka keluarga saya di Jawa juga. Saya punya Ibu, Bapak, dan satu adik laki-laki. Di rumah saya di Jawa, saya mononton televisi, makan malam, dan tindur. Sekarang saya di Gadjah Mada University (UGM), dan saya belajar Bahasa Indonesia.

(Good morning! I am now in Java! I arrived in Java on Monday with my friends and teachers. I miss my host-mother and house in Bali, but I also like my family in Java.  I have a host mother, host father, and a younger brother. In my house in Java, I watch television, eat dinner, and sleep. Right now I am at the Gadjah Mada University (UGM), and I am studying Bahasa Indonesia)

~note: sorry this post is so long! I haven’t had a chance to blog that often, so I thought a more comprehensive and longer post was in store. ~

As you may be able to tell, I’m coming along with my Bahasa Indonesia! After about a month in Bali, I still have a ways to go but I am able to have a conversation and understand quite a bit. I apologize for not blogging sooner/more often – I have been very busy exploring Bali, learning how to speak BI, settling in at my homestay in Bedulu and exploring nearby Ubud. Schedules seem to be very flexible here in Indonesia, and we have had a lot of lecturers cancel which means we get to hear Bu Ari (our academic director) fill in and teach us all about various topics in Indonesia, from religion to politics. We have been able to visit a mask maker and saw him demonstrate wood carving. We watched him hold the mask between his feet as he whittled away at the wood with incredibly sharp tools. I have the option of learning how to make a mask as the art component of this program, but as I was watching the mask maker demonstrate the carving techniques, I can easily picture myself cutting my feet with the tools. Ouch. The mask maker creates masks both for fun and for spiritual/religious purposes, but because feet are considered the most unholy part of the body in Bali, religious masks must be purified with holy water before they can be used. My favorite part of the mask visit was when we were able to go into his gallery and try on a ton of masks. It wasn’t the most comfortable experience, but I loved seeing everyone with crazy new faces. Another highlight was when we visited a wayang, which are Balinese shadow puppets. The shadow puppet maker is also a dalam, which means puppeteer, but also serves as a teacher and Hindu lay-leader. The dalam was a super cute old Balinese man who didn’t speak any English and demonstrated his various puppeteer voices. He had one of the best cackles I’ve ever heard, and luckily it occurred quite often during his presentation.


The mask maker with examples of different stages of the process


The dalam (shadow puppeteer) and Bu Ari, my program director holding the wayang (shadow puppets)

In Bali I live with a sweet older woman who is my Ibu (host-mother). She has a son who lives in Denpasar (~45 minute car ride away) with his three young children and wife. The son speaks some English, but my Ibu can only say about ten words, so I have a lot of opportunities to practice my Bahasa Indonesia. I eat breakfast (usually little Balinese cakes, toast, fruit, and tea, but sometimes nasi goreng [fried rice]) and dinner (usually tempeh, tofu, chicken sausage, sautéed greens, rice, fruit, veggies, but sometimes nasi goreng or chicken sate). In Bali meals are eaten in solitude, so my Ibu serves me my breakfast and dinner in my room, and I eat in the company of my two favorite meal companions, solitaire and tetris. My homestay is a bit quiet since it is just me and my Ibu, but I’ve grown to like having a place that I can go home to where I know it’ll be less hectic than normal daily Bali life. I also have a shower head with warm water and a western toilet, which is a nice added bonus.


With my Balinese host family (photo by SIT Bali)



The view of my homestay compound from my room




A breakfast from my Ibu (fried rice with a fried egg, rice cakes with banana and red bean inside, little bananas, and tea)


Part of my room (there is a shrine in the top left)


Another part of my room. I eat my meals at the desk.

My daily schedule totally varies each day, but here is a rough idea of what a day in the life looks like:

6:20-6:40: Wake up! So far I haven’t had to wake up with an alarm because I have at least ten natural alarm clocks in the form of chickens, roosters, and dogs. Although roosters aren’t the ideal alarm clock, I’ve grown to enjoy waking up to them because it helps me feel like I’m living somewhere way different than home.

6:40-7:30: Mandi (bathe), get dressed, eat breakfast, berjalan ke program center (walk to program center). My rumah (house) is about a five minute walk (including two street crossings) away from the program center. I took a hyperlapse (timelapse sort of video) of my walk, which I’ll post at the bottom.

7:30-10:45: Internet time, Bahasa Indonesia class. There is internet at the program center so many of us usually come a little early to take advantage of it. Bahasa Indonesia class starts around 8 (Bali stretch time means it sometimes starts around 8:15). First we all congregate together and learn in a big group, but then split off into smaller groups (kelas kecil = small class) to practice what we’ve learned. I’m proud to say that I’ve learned quite a lot in less than a month – I can easily have a conversation and can even understand some speeches from lecturers!

11-12:30ish: Usually we have a thematic seminar lecture (something relating to arts, religion and social change). Recently we’ve had a lot of seminars about religion, but we’ve also had many seminars about arts in Bali (which is a major part of the culture, from wood carving to shadow puppet making).

12:30-1:30 THE BEST LUNCH EVER. I love the food at the program center. Perhaps it’s because there’s usually a large variety of dishes, from sate to salad to chicken to veggie stir fry to fruit, but also probably because it simply tastes very good (enak sekali = very delicious). It’s safe to say I gain about five pounds every lunch, but it’s worth it.


A lunch from the program center: salad, beans/vegetables, tempeh (fermented soybean, which sounds gross but is actually quite delicious), rice (so much rice), fruit, and noodles.

The rest of the day: this varies tremendously, because like I said before, the schedule is very flexible. Sometimes we don’t have a lecture before lunch and instead host a lecturer or travel to one another time during the day. Other days, we have the afternoon off and hang out at the program center or travel to Ubud to explore. One of my favorite afternoons was spent in Ubud relaxing in a restaurant with comfy couches, yummy food, and wifi. That’s one thing Indonesia doesn’t really lack – wifi. Although our homestays don’t have wifi, we’re usually able to find it other places. That being said, it often is super slow. Guess that’s the trade off! 

In the evenings I usually go home to my homestay and have dinner. Sometimes I stay there, studying a little and then going to sleep, but other days I go back to the program center to hang out. Our program center is located within someone’s compound, and there are about six little girls ranging in age from about 4 to 10 that live there. They are the sweetest and only recently warmed up to us, so lately I’ve enjoyed filling in the gap of no children at my homestay by hanging out with them, singing songs and dancing. The other night they sang songs for a couple of hours (many of which I knew from class), and then we danced to Waka Waka and Gangam Style.

For the past week I’ve been in Java (which will warrant it’s own blog post), but being here has helped me put my time in Bali into perspective. I get a lot more stares from locals in Java than I do in Bali, probably because Bali is way more touristy and locals are used to seeing non-Balinese people walking around. The shock from locals that I find in Java usually happens when I open my mouth and start speaking their language, which they usually enjoy. I’ve found that people in Bali as well as Java have been so friendly, always forgiving my mistakes when I try to speak Bahasa Indonesia, or just saying hello if I pass them on the street. I’m back to the cold bucket shower here in Java, which is not as much as a shock as it was the first time during orientation, but I definitely prefer the hot water shower. Bali is a lot more green than Java, which has helped me realize that my impression of Bali as a tropical paradise (largely influenced by the western tourist impression of the island is not what the country of Indonesia is like as a whole.

Overall, my time here has been incredibly enriching, largely due to how integrated I am in normal life. Lately I’ve been talking a lot with my host family, and realize that I spend many hours without speaking English, which is a totally weird feeling that I’ve never felt before. I haven’t been spending as much time in a classroom, but I feel like I am still learning a lot just from observing and participating in the Balinese and Javanese daily life, like performing rituals, speaking the language, and using public transportation.


Bali countryside from the car window


The beautiful program center

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

One of the many statues in the program center

Again, thanks for reading my posts and I apologize for the lengthiness of this one. If any of you have requests for specific posts, please let me know!

Public Transportation, Bali Style

Salamat pagi! (Good Morning)

I’m writing this morning from our beautiful Program Center, which is filled with Balinese statues (many with flowers behind their ears and offerings at their feet), an immense amount of tropical plants and flowers, cute little kids running around, and multiple buildings with intricate wood carvings. Our classroom looks somewhat like a classroom (picture multiple rows of chairs with desks attached), but it only has three walls – the fourth wall is wide open and looks out at stone paths framing little gardens and pink and purple bougainvillea, which litter the pathways and add to the magical feel of the compound.

To get to the Program Center from our orientation site, we all took public transportation in small groups. This was about a 30ish km trip, but took around three and a half hours. We were first dropped off in Kerambitan (where our orientation was), and hopped into a mini bus for about a dollar each. I climbed over baskets of offerings, through rows of flip flow wearing Balinese, straight to the front row which was ideal for watching the television screen showing Indonesia  n music videos at the front of the bus. With just a couple weeks of Bahasa Indonesia classes, I was able to recognize a few words from the subtitles, but I still have a long way to go. The music videos definitely helped make the hour long ride more exciting, though. As soon as we reached our first stop, we immediately found a bemo (shared taxi) driver who directed us to his little car. Initially he told us a price, but then tried to raise it once we got to his car. Not acceptable by us savvy travelers. We refused to pay more, and finally he gave in and drove us to our next stop.


Minibus! Featuring a music video.

Once we reached our destination, we hopped out of the bemo into the hot sun. Thankfully we were greeted by a large bus heading the right direction, and the driver agreed to a ~$1 ticket. Our bodies sank into the cushioned seats, which somewhat made up for the sweat dripping from our bodies. I got a very good tour of the area, since the bus drove along at a snails pace. I watched motorbikes pass, and then cars pass, and then even humans pass on foot. We finally made it to our last stop, which was about a thirty minute drive to Ubud, the touristy town close to our program center and that day’s lunch spot. We must have looked a bit disheveled by then, because a nice Balinese woman directed us to the right bemo stop (which was simply just a spot on the side of the road. Cars and motorcycles kept passing the stop, but no bemos. Finally, a bemo came around the corner and I nearly wept tears of joy (which I could have easily confused with sweat, since we were standing in the sun).


The view from the back of the bus

Our ride to Ubud felt like a ticket to tourist land, as the number of non-Indonesian people became greater and greater the closer we got to the Ubud pasar (market). I had only been in Bali for a week, but already I felt like I wasn’t there to just be a tourist – my purpose in being here was a lot deeper than touring around and shopping in Ubud. I remember one of us telling another bemo passenger, “kami bukan tourist, kami mahasiswi!” (We are not tourists, we are university students!). That being said, when we reached Ubud and sat down for a lunch of wood fired pizza, my stomach was overjoyed to be having a non-rice based meal. The pizza so was simple and delicious, I even ate the whole thing (and for those of you that know me well, this is pretty impressive).

After a long day of travel and heat, I was content with relaxing for a bit in Ubud before taking another (quick) bemo ride to our Program Center. Traveling was definitely not as simple as the United States, as official bus or bemo stops don’t exist and a schedule is unheard of, but I felt incredibly accomplished when we made it to Ubud in one piece. Since our day of travel, I have taken bemos a number of times between Bedulu (where our Program Center is located) and Ubud, and each time I feel incredibly prepared, thanks to the challenging and rewarding day of long-distance public transportation travel.


I have many more posts that I’m dying to write since our days have been rich with cultural experiences (weddings, cremations, general exploring, and even a massage!), but internet is very slow at the Program Center and our days have been jam packed. I hope to post more soon, so stay tuned for updates about my host family, food, and general Bali life!

**Note: Sorry about the poor image quality – my internet here is not a fan of uploading pictures.

Greetings from Bali!

For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Maya and I am a sociology major spending my fall semester in Bali, Indonesia on an SIT program. My program focuses specifically on Arts, Religion and Social Change, and we also learn Bahasa Indonesia. I apologize for not posting sooner – we have been having orientation for the last week at a puri (palace) in Tabanan (a south-central region).  After being in Bali for a week, I have so much to write about! Each morning at the puri I wake up at sunrise, thanks to a call to prayer (Hindu version, stolen from the Muslims), which consists of melodic gamalan music (kind of like marimba-ish sounding) and beautiful chanting. If I’m not already awake enough, I get a little bit more of a wake up when I take a shower, which consists of just a bucket of cold water that you pour onto yourself with another smaller bucket. To al of you who did the ice bucket challenge this summer, I have no pity – it is basically my daily ritual now. We have had intensive language classes every day for multiple hours, but I can now have a whole conversation and know all sorts of random words. We also adventure around the area, eat a lot of delicious food (which will probably end up being a whole blog post in itself), and spend a lot of time just bonding as a group.

One of the highlights of the orientation week was our hour-long drop off, where the program staff dropped every student in a different location around the area with the mission of forcing us to interact with locals and use our Bahasa Indonesia. As we were driving to my drop off spot, I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest and I was expecting to turn around and find cameras following me like some sort of reality show. I ended up being dropped off at a warung (local convenience store/restaurant) where there were about fifteen women and children gathered around a bamboo platform at the front of the warung. My Bahasa teacher (guru) that accompanied me quickly took my picture and then drove off, and suddenly it was just me, my notebook, and a bunch of very curious Balinese. I quickly introduced myself (nama saya Maya), told them I was from America (Saya dari Amerika), and was bombarded with at least ten different questions. I could answer some, but spent a considerable amount of time flipping through my notebook. I ended up being ushered to sit down, and thankfully was able to talk to a fifteen-year-old girl who knew a little English. I spoke to her and her mother for a little while with my limited Bahasa Indonesia, but soon they had to leave (and I couldn’t go with them since they were on a motorbike).

The rest of the hour I spent sitting on the bamboo platform with my notebook out in front of about six kids, and we went through everything that I’d learned so far. I found out that the liked all the foods and drinks that I had written down, but most didn’t like coffee (kopi).  We talked about sicknesses, colors, families, ages, temples, and the fact that my name backwards in Bahasa means chicken (ayam). When they saw that I had the Bahasa Indonesia version of head, shoulders knees and toes written down, we sang the song. After what felt like less than an hour, my guru was back and I had a newfound sense of confidence in talking to locals. On our way back to the puri after picking up another student, we passed a young boy that was sitting with me at the warung and I heard him singing the song with his grandmother. Success!


After the drop-off!

After just a week in Bali I know that my semester will be incredibly rich with experiences that will be both challenging and rewarding. The language is incredibly easy (Gregorian and phonetic alphabet, no tenses, conjugation, gender, and many cognates), and so I am hoping to do a blog post later on in both Bahasa Indonesia and English so you all can see what it looks like. I hope all is well in Walla Walla, and I’m sending lots of good studying vibes from fifteen hours ahead!