Snapshot: Bandar Lampung, South Sumatra

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Beautiful Bandar Lampung, from the top floor of the hotel where I stayed.

I have been bouncing around Indonesia quite a bit recently, as anyone who follows my Instagram might have noticed.  Most of these visits have been for research, but a couple have also been to assist with the WORDS Competitions at certain schools.  One of the sites I visited for WORDS Competitions was Bandar Lampung, at the very southern tip of Sumatra.

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Ancient writing from Museum Bandar Lampung

Bandar Lampung is a medium-sized, extraordinarily diverse city, and I wish I had had more than a few days there.  The driver who took me around was a fountain of information about the history and politics of the area (elections for a new governor had just occurred before I arrived, so the latter was a very hot topic at the time), and he would pipe up every time we entered a new part of the, letting me know if the population there was majority transmigrasi[1], Chinese-Indonesian, orang Palemband (the people of Palembang, a region north of Bandar Lampung), or one of the ethnic groups native to the region.  I learned later, while visiting Museum Bandar Lampung, that while the city encompasses the whole area now, there is apparently still to this day a significant difference in the traditions of those ethnic groups who live close to the sea, compared to those who are from the hills.

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The Butterfly Garden.

Bandar Lampung is very much situated in a beautiful space.  With the mountains on one side, and the ocean on the other, it really has the best of both worlds for anyone interested in escaping city life.  My driver told me that a large number of tourists from Jakarta frequent Bandar Lampung on the weekend, and that most of them go to Bandar Lampung for the snorkeling and diving near the many small islands right off the coast.  However, as I was there for tugas (an assignment, or work), that was not something I planned for.  But the teachers at the schools I went to happily took me to more in-land tempat wisata (tourism spots), such as the butterfly garden and the deer sanctuary, and, especially after having spent this grant period in Jakarta, I was so thankful that they took the time to accompany me to such beautiful green spaces.

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Some of the SMP dancers, and the wonderful ETA

I was also lucky enough to be in Bandar Lampung during a festival budaya (cultural festival), and was invited to go by the ETA placed there. where I got to see beautiful examples of tapis (a fabric native to this region), taste local kopi (coffee), and watch part of a SMP (middle school) traditional dance competition.  This was my favorite part of the whole trip.  I have always loved dance competitions in Indonesia, but have not attended one since I stopped being an ETA.  Being able to see dances from all over the region (some students were from as far as Palembang), and performed by such talented students, was such a privilege.

The hospitality of the teachers and the ETA of Bandar Lampung meant I got to see much more of the city than I ever thought I might on a mere work trip.  I am ever so thankful, and hope that someday I will be able to return.

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Some of my favorite little dancers.  These lovely ladies are actually in SD (elementary school), and had performed earlier that morning.

[1] Java is the most populated island in the world, and over population was such a problem that as one point the Dutch Colonial Government (and the Indonesian Government later continued this program) moved the people from entire villages on Java to other places around Indonesia.  Or at least, that’s the official narrative.  Many people say that the real goal of the program was to spread Javanese culture, as it was seen as superior to the culture of the people who already lived in those areas: these villagers were to integrate into the surrounding community, and instill Javanese language and values, replacing that of the people native to the region.  If this was, in fact, the goal, it wasn’t particularly successful.  Many transmigrasi sites have become very insular communities, which maintain their own language and culture, without necessarily integrating fully.  Opinions abound regarding these communities, both from those who live near them, and those who live (or lived) in them, and it has been a fascinating topic to explore since coming here.

Benteng Otanaha

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One of the watch towers at Benteng Otanaha.

One of the few tourist sites listed in the Lonely Planet for Gorontalo is a place called “Benteng Otanaha” (benteng being the Indonesian word for fort).  I have passed the entrance to this tempat wisata (tourist site) many times on my way to visit one of my sitemates, but have never found the time to actually stop and see what the fuss is all about.

So when my school canceled classes the Friday before the national exam, and the other English teachers asked if I had time to jalan-jalan (travel around[1]) with them, and maybe go to Benteng Otanaha, I most assuredly said yes.

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The co-teachers on some of the stairs we did actually climb.

We left in the morning, so that we could be there before it became too hot—and it is sweltering by about ten o’clock in Gorontalo—in the car of one of the teachers.  There are over three hundred stairs leading up to Benteng Otanaha, where it overlooks the surrounding area.  But, in part because we had limited time (there is a special Muslim midday prayer on Fridays, and my teachers did not want to miss it), and in part because the idea of willingly making yourself sticky and gross from sweat is a somewhat baffling idea for most grown Indonesians, we bypassed all of those stairs and drove to the top.  I’ll have to go back and count the stairs at a later date.

The fort, believed to have been built by the Portuguese, itself is not very big, and is essentially made up of three watch towers.  But the stone walls are simultaneously sturdy and crumbling, the way any historical site should be, and scrambling up and down them with my co-teachers (taking plenty of photos along the way, of course), made for quite the enjoyable excursion.

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Taking in the view.

It also gave my teachers the opportunity to regale me with tales of the bravery of Nani Wartebone, the local hero who was instrumental in helping Gorontalo gain independence from the Dutch[2].  I have heard all kinds of stories about Nani Wartebone since coming here, from the believable (he was born and raised in a desa right near one of my sitemate’s schools), to the not-so-believable (some say he was able to teleport, and that’s how he was able to beat the Dutch).  The man who has become a legend here did much of his fighting in the area around Benteng Otanaha, so the site is especially significant for a place that has been free from colonial rule for less than one hundred years.

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Danau Limboto, as seen from Benteng Otanaha.

Because Benteng Otanaha is so high up on the hills, it offers a wonderful view of the surrounding areas, including Danau (Lake) Limboto.  The lake used to be much larger than it is now, and from Otanaha my teachers pointed out the old boundaries; in many cases, there are now whole neighborhoods where there used to be water, because those areas have been dry for so long.  It was a sad reminder as to the damage humans can do to their environment.  Nonetheless, what remains of the lake is still beautiful.

We finished our jalan-jalan in time to enjoy a delicious lunch of ikan bakar (grilled fish) together, before heading back to our respective homes.  My co-teachers have become something like family here, and it was fabulous to spend a morning with them outside of school.

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The fam.  A little sweaty, but still happy as can be.

[1] Jalan is the word for “walk,” but when it is doubled like this, it can mean almost any activity that can be done outdoors: going for a walk, wandering around, traveling…

[2] Gorontalo was actually independent from Dutch control two years before the rest of Indonesia, and there was even a still-often-talked-about visit from Sukarno, Indonesia’s first president, to make sure that Gorontalo was actually going to become part of the rest of the nation.

To Market, To Market

When I first came to Indonesia, I was terrified of the pasar (market).  It was loud, crowded, hot, and full of entirely unfamiliar and not always pleasant smells.  And in Indonesia, unless you are at the rare stall that uses harga pas (fixed price), you are expected to menawar (bargain), and I am terrible at haggling: I’m never aggressive enough, and always end up either stubbornly walking away on the principle that I should not be grossly overcharged just because I am a foreigner (therefore empty handed), or submitting to being charged harga bule (the foreigner’s price) (therefore with damaged pride).

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Approaching the market, surrounded by bentors, as it always is.

Throughout my first grant, I rarely had any need for the pasar, as I ate all of my meals at school and wasn’t overly fond of berbelanja (shopping), generally speaking.  Every so often, I stopped by the fruit stalls that were near the entrance of a market I would pass on my way home from school, and bought batik fabric (the one thing, other than books, I do enjoy shopping for) from the market a handful of times, but for the most part, I avoided them.

This year, I live right in the middle of two of the main markets in town.  Pasar Selasa (the Tuesday Market) is perhaps a ten minute walk from my house, and Pasar Rabu (the Wednesday Market), is a mere five.  And both semesters, my class schedule has allowed me a free morning on at least one of these days.  Since I am on my own for meals this year, and wanted to do some of my own cooking—instead of just eating at the warung near my house—without paying ridiculous grocery store prices, I decided I would need to brave the market.

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The tarps give everything in the market a warm orange glow.

For the first few months, market day was my least favorite day of the week.  I would wake up early, knowing it would take me at least a half hour of hovering in my front room to work up the courage to actually walk out the door and head to the market.  Market day was a day of dripping with sweat under the make-shift tents, no matter how close to opening I arrived.  Market day was trying to get fair price for the vegetables on my list without having to go to too many sellers.  Market day was trying to weave through the crowd amidst the cacophony of shouting (in Indonesian mostly, but the occasional English, too)—“Ayam! Ayam! (Chicken! Chicken!) Miss! Cantik! (Beautiful!) Ikan!  Ikan! (Fish Fish!) Mister! You like fish?”—as I tried to find the one tempe and tahu (tofu) seller that I had been promised was at the back of the market[1].

Some people are good at this kind of chaos.  I am not one of them.

Still, I kept going, every week, week after week, month after month.  I told myself the fresh vegetables were worth it (and they absolutely are), and refused to give up and only eat out.  And slowly, market day became a bit less intimidating.

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My tempe/tahu lady on the right, and Mr. Kopi on the right.  They’re always teasing one another, and I ended up capturing it when I tried to take a picture of them.

By this point, I am well-known at Pasar Selasa (Pasar Rabu is no longer as convenient because of my new school schedule).  I have my favourite sellers from which to buy various delicious, fresh vegetables and fruits, and they are always telling me what is in season and how the weather is affecting various crops (it has been particularly dry this year, and the manner in which they lament this fact takes me back to my own farming community in New York).  The man I buy eggs from asks me about my classes.  The fish sellers know by now that I do not buy fish, and have ceased to try to tempt me with their fresh, still-flopping wares, except occasionally in jest.  There is a man who sells coffee next to the only stall that sells tempe/tahu, and it has become a running joke for him to try to convince me to buy coffee from him, even though I always tell him that I only drink tea.  I didn’t make it to the market at all in January (except for the occasional quick trip to get eggs for breakfast), because I had gotten busy, and when I finally went for a full-fledged shopping trip in early February, my tempe/tahu lady actually asked me if I was okay: after not seeing me for so many weeks, she thought maybe I was ill; I smiled warmly at her kindness, and noted to myself that I wouldn’t have this element of community if I had given up on the market  experience entirely.

Though I feel I have gotten much better at the ins and outs of market life in Indonesia, I have yet to master it, and I look forward to my relaxed, quiet farmers’ markets at home.  But nonetheless, the pasar has become a key part of my life here, and I have come to find joy in the chaos.

[1] While I am not a vegetarian, I find that cooking meat for one person is far more work than it is worth, especially with only a single burner in which to cook anything, so I tend to only eat meat when I go to a warung.

The Magic of Tana Toraja

Tana Toraja is the sort of place you read about in National Geographic, the sort of place that fascinates and inspires, but which you never think you’ll get to see.  But I am lucky enough to live on the same island as this cultural treasure, and so when I had a week off from school because of testing, I decided to take a few days to head south and explore.

The most popular way to get to Tana Toraja is to take a bus from Makassar, and so after spending a day in the capital of South Sulawesi, I hopped on a night bus to Tana Toraja.  (The nicer buses to Rantepau, the town I used as a base for my exploring, are rather nice, so I decided to splurge on a night bus rather than paying for an extra night in a hotel.)

I arrived in Rantepau just as the sun was rising, and already I was in awe of the tong-konan, or traditional houses, that dominate the landscape.  These houses are built and meticulously cared for by the families they belong to, and apparently can never be sold.  At the entrance of each house is a tower of buffalo horns, reflecting the status of the family that resides within—the more buffalo horns, the higher the status.  The roofs curve upwards at either end, jutting out against the blue sky and challenging anyone who sees them to not stand in awe.  On the older houses these roofs are thatched, but tin roofs—some painted a brick red, others a shiny aluminum color that reflects the sky—are more popular for the newer houses.  It didn’t matter how many houses I passed, either on foot or on motorbike, I was dumbstruck by their beauty and detail every time.

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Various houses I came across in my travels.  The oldest houses I found are pictured on the far right.

In Tana Toraja, life revolves around the dead, and it is the complex funeral ceremonies that attract so many tourists to the area.  Though I was not in Tana Toraja during the peak funeral season (which happens in July and August, and which is also the peak tourist season), and though I chose to go without a guide (I joined a group of other fabulous backpackers who were going about on motorbike instead), I did catch the end of one funeral.  Dozens of pigs and water buffalo, bought by the family and brought by friends, are sacrificed during the funeral (it is believed the dead can take this food with them to the next life), and family and guests arrive in the beautiful traditional beading and weaving that makes up the traditional dress of the area.  These funeral ceremonies go back centuries, reminiscent of a time when the Torajan people worshiped the god of their ancestors.  Though Christianity has since been (quite forcibly) brought to the area, and is now the dominant religion in the area, some traditions have survived.

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In the far left picture, family members, wearing a mix of modern clothes and traditional fabric and beads, are being received into the house; the center photo shows many pigs waiting to be slaughtered, and in the far right picture, the coffin is displayed for all to see, with a mix of Christian and traditional Torajan iconography

The animals sacrificed at these funerals, though sometimes bought directly from the families that raise them, are more often purchased at Pasar Bolu, the main market in Rantepau.  Though this market runs every day, it only runs at full capacity every six days.  I was lucky enough that my second day in Toraja was one of those days, and I was able to wander through the many rows of stalls selling everything from souvenirs to toothbrushes, as well as the area where the water buffalo were sold.

It was a sea of kerbau (buffalo)—far more animals in one place than I have ever seen before in Indonesia—and some of the farmers were more than happy to chat with me (thank heavens for my rudimentary Indonesian skills) about the various prices most animals go for.  Even a young animal, not yet a year old, can easily be sold for 800 U.S. dollars, while adults are sold for well over a thousand, and the rare, very sought-after albino buffalo can go for about the same cost as a used car.

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Our first glimpse of Pasar Bolu is in the far left photo; in the middle photo a rare albino water buffalo waits to be sold; and in the far right a few buffalo get a bath.

Perhaps even more impressive than the funerals are the graves themselves, which are carved out of solid rock, and then enclosed with elaborate wooden doors.  Photographs and other objects are found outside every grave, and the graves themselves can be found almost anywhere there is stone.

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The far left photo shows one of the largest grave sites in Tana Toraja; in the center is one of the decorated doors found on every grave; and the far left is a road-side grave site much like so many others we passed while on our motorbikes.

Perhaps one of my favorite sites was what is apparently the oldest grave site in Tana Toraja.  Tucked back in a bit of jungle, many of the doors of the graves are rotting away and falling, which means the forest floor below is littered with wooden remains, along with a few skulls that are displayed at bottom of the ravine (which we were able to reach with the help of a particularly graceful Ibu).  Though the grave site is certainly less glamourous than it probably was in its prime, there is something about it that seems to epitomize the endurance of the Torajan culture, and that is beautiful.

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The oldest grave site in Tana Toraja, pictured from above on the far right; the middle photo shows a few bones found at the base of the site; and in the far right is the woman who showed us how to slide our way down to the bottom of the ravine.

I am a bit of a fabric geek, and I am especially fond of the various fabrics found around Indonesia.  In Toraja, it is weaving that creates the traditional fabric.  While in a weaving village (which I have a funny suspicion has been created solely for the benefit of tourists, but was still lovely), I talked to one of the women making fabric there, and she explained the various iconography that is often seen in Torajan fabrics.  Water buffalo and people are especially common, and to a lesser degree the sort of fresh-water eels that are found in the rice paddies, but the most important symbol is the eye.  While it sometimes is very recognizably an eye, often this symbol is merely a diamond incorporated into the pattern somewhere.  According to the woman I spoke with, the eye must be included in any piece created in Toraja, and the idea is that when Torajan people meet somewhere outside of Toraja, they will, with the help of the eye, be able to see and recognize someone of their own people, and know that they are of one family.

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A couple of pictures from the weaving village.

Beyond the magical qualities of the culture that prevails, the area itself is simply magnificent.  From the back of a motorbike, weaving in and out of the jungle and the rice fields, it is easy to fall in love with Tana Toraja.  I was only there for a little over thirty-six hours, and I know I did.

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Various shots I took from the back of a motorbike.  I hope that someday I can go back to beautiful Tana Toraja.

Wedding Season in Gorontalo

It seems inevitable that when one is in Indonesia, one goes to a lot of pernikahan (weddings).

This was certainly my experience last year, and it did not take long for it to begin again this year: I attended my first wedding during my first week at site, prior to even going to orientation, and continued to do so for quite some time following orientation.

Weddings in Indonesia have always seemed ornate affairs, and if anything they seem to be more so here in Gorontalo when compared to the ones I experienced in East Java last year.  The bride and groom are completely desked out in matching outfits, with elaborate hats and headdresses that come from traditional Gorontalo dress.  The parents and other family members are in their very finest—and are often also matching one another—and everyone in attendance, from the smallest child to the oldest Ibu, is wearing their finest; even in my favorite dress from Indonesia—which I’ve taken to calling my “wedding dress” because I always wear it to any wedding I am invited to—I often feel very underdressed.

The funds for all of this comes from the family of the groom.  While paying an actual “bride price” in the form of cows or goats goes not seem quite so common anymore, or at least not in metropolitan places (Gorontalo is a small city, but it is still a city), it still falls on the man to provide funds for the wedding.  The level of extravagance of the whole affair is often directly related to the wealth of the groom and his family.  I attended a wedding with one of my sitemates and her teachers that was held in a giant hall, which the couple would have had to rent out, complete with giant fake trees and the largest spread of food I have ever seen at an Indonesian wedding, here or on Java.   Most of the weddings I have attended here, one the other hand, are held in tents outside of the family’s home; they are still warna-warni (colorful) and indah (beautiful), but there are certainly no fake trees.  I asked one of teachers once what happens if the groom cannot pay for the wedding, and she told me that while in the past that might mean the couple could not marry, now they tend to have what is essentially a court-house wedding at the local ministry of religion[1].

Weddings almost never start on time, in keeping with the jam karet (rubber time) that is so pervasive here.  While everyone waits for the ceremony to begin, neighbors catch up on gossip, teenagers play with their hand phones, and young children become progressively more restless until they amuse or annoy everyone around them with their antics.  Often there are singers performing pop ballads in various languages, with varying degrees of talent.  But sometimes, in between songs or at weddings where there are no performers, the background to the waiting period is just friendly chatter.

Once the ceremony actually begins, I don’t usually fully understand what is happening.  Different family members speak, and there are various prayers said, that is certain, but I am never sure exactly what is being said, due to the fact that the prayers are in Arabic (a language I do not yet speak) and while I might be able to understand the Indonesian speeches in a different situation, I find it extremely difficult to hear clearly over the sound systems which are always used at weddings.  To be honest it, it never seems as though anyone in attendance is paying close attention to what is happening; most continue to whisper to the people sitting next to them or distract themselves with their HP (hand phone, or mobile phone).

Meanwhile, I sit peacefully and people watch, and admire the grandeur of the whole set-up, including the extravagant stage the couple and their parents sit on.  One of my co-teachers told me that for the wedding night the bed is also decorated in a similar fashion.  To be honest, if I were in their place, I’m not sure whether I would find this incredible, amusing, or intimidating.

After the actual ceremony is over, various individuals are called up for photos with the couple and their parents.  Then, sometimes the bride and groom sit in the ornate throne, and sometimes they change into a second set of wedding clothes, just as colorful as the first.

As soon as the first set of photos is finished, however, it is time to eat.  People swarm the tables on which the food is laid, and pile their plates with daging, sayur, and, of course, nasi.  In my experience, queuing is not a concept in Indonesia.  I’m never quite assertive enough for this bit of craziness, and still find the mild chaos a bit terrifying.

Then, it is time for a second round of photos, and then everyone goes home.

Indonesian weddings are always a particularly interesting experience as a foreigner.  Often, I find myself in a position of honor at the wedding, even though I really have no connection to the bride and groom at all.  I continue to find this position quite uncomfortable, as I have done nothing to deserve this attention, but I feel I have gotten better at navigating it less awkwardly as my time here increases.

While I found myself at a number of weddings during my first month and a half or so here, the invitations seem to have waned.  Because it is considered lucky to get married around the time of the pilgrimage to Mecca, there were a lot of weddings in the months of September and October.  But now, the Wedding Season is over in Gorontalo, and while this makes everything a little more peaceful, it also makes everything just a little less colorful.

[1] I’m sure there are all sorts of prejudices and politics wrapped up in this, but it is reassuring to know that some progress is being made.  I’m a hopeless romantic who believes love can conquer all, but I’m also a realist who knows the world is not always kind to love.

Birds, Flowers, and Surprise Temples: Exploring the City of Malang

Creating and maintaining a consistent schedule has proven to be quite the challenge here, and so it was only recently that my site mate and I were able to acclimate ourselves to our weekly responsibilities and coordinate regular free time.  We are fortunately both free every other Monday, which allows us to explore areas in and near Malang while also avoiding tourist traffic.  Recently, she and I explored some of the more famous places within the city limits.

Hotel Tugu is a high end hotel near the center of Malang.  Neither my travel book nor the internet were able to give me much information about this remarkable place, but I was able to glean that Hotel Tugu has a sister hotel on the island of Bali, and that many of the trees I saw on the premise were rescued from the Malang Botanical Gardens when parts of it were destroyed by developers.  Inside the Hotel itself are artifacts from Indonesia, both from traditional culture and from the days of Dutch colonialism, as well as other parts of Asia.  In this way, Hotel Tugu doubles as a museum, and is free to the public.

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Very little is labeled in Hotel Tugu, so while wandering its ground floor is fascinating, it is not particularly informative.   The occasional bowl might be labeled with a simple tag saying “Ming Dynasty,” but no more information is provided, and many items are not labeled at all.  I have always loved the education I am able to get from the more organized museums I have experienced in America and Europe, but there was something about trying to puzzle out what the uses and origins of different objects were that somehow embodied the heart of inquiry that I believe is part of any museum visit.

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At one end of Hotel Tugu there is a kind of temple hidden in a corner.  Its tall, imposing sides and shadowy alcoves only sometimes occupied by statues transported us out of the bustling city of Malang and into a peaceful, solitary place for self-reflection… at least until the honking of horns reminded us that the busy street was just on the other side of it’s cool, stone walls.  Due to a lack of labeling and a shortage of information about Hotel Tugu online, I am unsure whether this temple is a restoration or a replica, and I have no idea what its name is.  But I was extremely appreciative of its lack of ropes and barriers, which allowed me to breathe in, touch, and even climb on the mysteries of this inexplicable artifact.

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Near Hotel Tugu there are some fairly well-known markets, one of which is Pasar Bunga, or the flower market.  Blooms in every color line the street, and it was extremely difficult for me to not bring home a little potted plant to brighten my apartment.  I’m unsure of the regulations regarding bringing houseplants across borders, and feel it would be unkind to adopt a tiny sprig of life that might not be able to benefit from a green thumb after my time here.  But this was only my first visit to the market: I might not be able to resist next time.

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After a short walk, Pasar Bunga turns into Pasar Senggol, Malang’s relatively famous bird market.  “Senggol” is essentially Indonesian for “bump into,” in reference to the crowded nature of the market on weekends, and of most markets in Indonesia, to be honest.  Fortunately for my site mate and I, it was relatively quiet, being a Monday, and while the market was still crowded with wood, metal, and plastic cages of varying ornateness, there were few people.

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The bird market is filled with the calls and colors of tropical birds.  Many of the birds at the market are native to Indonesia, though not necessarily to Malang.  These winged jungle inhabitants are not the pigeons, sparrows, and swifts I am accustomed to seeing flying above the fields around my school.

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The market did not limit itself to tropical song birds, and it had more than its fair share of owls, eagles, crows (which are supposedly still used in black magic rituals) and the ever-present chickens.  There were also, cats, dogs, monkeys, gerbils, geckos, and even the occasional snake.  Like most of Indonesia, it was a mix of the exciting and the ordinary; sometimes the two can be found perfectly blended into one small cage, such as the chicks we found that had been dyed various colors, for reason unknown to us.

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Seeing so many animals in tiny cages was as heartbreaking as it was incredible.  I’ve never fully understood the desire to cage an animal meant to fly, and seeing these tropical birds pant under the hot afternoon sun to which they are unaccustomed made me want to break open every cage and set them free, but part of being a cultural ambassador is trying to reign in such impulses, and seek to understand, rather than judge.  After telling her that I had visited the bird market, one of my co-teachers told me of her husband’s love for birds, and how he loves his pet birds like they were his children; it seems that is some ways, not all birds in cages must also be prisoners.  Having been raised in the agricultural industry, I am acutely aware of how complicated the concept of domestication can be, and how important it is to educate ourselves about the aspects of animal-human relationships with which we are unfamiliar.  When I am able to keep the more sensitive side of me in check, I find it is actually exciting to have my own ideas of the rights and wrongs of animal care challenged.

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Malang does not go completely unnoticed by tourists, as it is on the island of Java, the favorite child of Indonesia, but it is certainly not as popular as the islands of Bali and Lombok, or the cultural city of Yogyakarta in Central Java.  But with its own unique blend of familiar western influences and unfamiliar traditions and history, I could not have asked for a better city in which to have been placed.  I find it entirely appropriate that Malang is one of the university cities of Indonesia, because if there is one thing I am always doing here, it is learning.