Hello all,


I'm in Yogyakarta now.  It's much nicer than Jakarta in every way .  Cooler by a few degrees, less smoggy, more beautiful....etc.  Everyone here is getting ready for independence day on Aug 17.  So, there are lots of activities and the neighborhood is getting all spruced up.    


I started language school today.  I have so much to learn.  Good thing the language is easy!!!  The school is within walking distance to the dormitory where I am staying.  It's a friendly area.  People always willing to help when you're not sure how to get somewhere.  There are very few street signs or even good maps, for that matter.  So, it's easy to get confused.  The food vendors line the street, especially in the evening.  I still don't know what most of them are selling, so eating is always an adventure.  I even tried nasi kucing (cat rice).  Don't worry, it's not actually cat.  It's just small portions of rice and some side dishes together, like leftovers you would give to your cat.  I quickly learned how to say "without meat", so being a vegetarian has not yet been a problem.  I've been eating lots of tempeh and tofu.


I went on a midnight hike up a volcano last weekend.  We could only go halfway up because it's a very active volcano.  We were lucky enough to see lava coming from the top going down the right side of the mountain.  We saw a spectacular coral colored sunrise from the halfway point.  So nice!!!  I was freezing cold, but didn't mind too much.  At the bottom of the mountain, we ate fried bananas-Yum!


I taught my first English class last week, too.  It was a blast!  I wasn't sure how interactive the students would be.  I had heard that many of them are very shy.  My worst nightmare was to stand there and make an ass of myself for two hours, not knowing if the students were learning anything.  When class started, the students were reserved.  I introduced myself and asked if they had a few questions for me.  There was a moment of hesitation before anyone spoke.  But then, two giggly girls in jilbabs (the Muslim head covering) started asking questions.  Others followed their lead.  Where are you from?  Where do you live?  Are you married?  How old are you? (At which time another girl scolded "you're not supposed to ask that!") I had a few activities for them and they warmed up very quickly.  They seemed to have a good time and everyone ended up participating.  I was so relieved!!!  They were suprised that an American would want to come to Indonesia.  Somehow they get the impression that Americans think Indonesia is a dangerous place full of terrorists!  I don't know where that comes from.


There is room for a lot of progress here.  It seems that corruption prevails almost everywhere.  The US govt just gave the Indonesian govt $50 mill for military training against terrorism.  I'm not sure how that will help anything.  Unemployment is rampant.  I was able to visit one nonprofit organization working to improve sanitation and water while providing employment to local people.  They work all over Indonesia and in other parts of Asia.  So, at least there is some progress being made. 


I was so glad to hear from many of you.  Sorry I can't reply more personally.  I think of all of you often and hope my emails give you some idea of what I'm up to. 


Love and happiness,