Hello dears,

Still in Tuban and feeling great. Still teaching Ė final exams began last Monday. Second semester will begin in a few weeks. Still studying batik - havenít even finished my first sarong yet. Now I know why the hand made stuff is so expensive (relative to Indonesian salaries). My new project is collecting batik samples to take back with me to the US. From there I will look into starting an import/export business.

I celebrated Chinese New Years a few weeks ago. This is the first year that the Indonesian government allowed public celebrations of the ethnic minorityís holiday. Big reason to celebrate! I went to the Chinese temple - an old Confucian temple named after a crab (Iím told Tuban is shaped like a crab)- where there were many festivities including music, puppet shows, martial arts, a lion dance, fireworks and food. Many people lit incense and prayed. It was quite a lively celebration that continued until 2am (really late for Tubanese).

Iím becoming a radio celebrity here with the first two local broadcasts of an English teaching course organized by an Australian NGO. The pre-recorded course is only 20 minutes, so another teacher and I fill the remaining 40 minutes of the program with English songs (mostly oldies), call-ins and some sort of "interesting" topic. Also in my spare time, Iím helping a group of students put together a student magazine. So, Iíve been pretty busy, but love every minute of it.

Iíve attended some big events lately- a birth party, graduation and a wedding. The first was the graduation at my university. It was the typical long graduation ceremony where each student crosses the stage and accepts his/her diploma. But the opening and closing rituals were much more monarchical. The rector is like the king who presides over his court. The best part, in my opinion, is that women wear traditional Javanese dress, and put their hair in the traditional "sanggul" where the hair is pulled up and back and a big fat fake bun is pinned into their hair. Or, they wear veils. I wore the complete outfit: a kabaya (long blouse) and jerik (skirt) and went to the salon for sanggul and makeup (itís custom to make women look whiter so they use a ton of make-up). Youíll see pics when I get home. The ceremony was outside of the university under large canvas canopies. It was killer hot, especially with the long clothes and gross make-up. But everyone was pleased to see me in traditional clothes and I received the best complements that I looked just like a beautiful Javanese woman. (blush, blush)

At the baby celebration, I learned that in Islamic culture it is customary to kill one goat for a baby girl, but two goats for a baby boy. When I asked why it was only one for the baby girl, the only answer I could get from them was that it was their tradition passed down from generation to generation. Couldnít really argue with that Ė I mean who am I to question tradition? (Thatís sarcasm, of course.) The new baby girl is precious, regardless of how many goats were killed in her honor.

The wedding reception that I attended was that of the daughter of my batik teacher. Their traditional Javanese house (high walls and ceiling made from wood and rattan, large porch and spacious sitting room with stone tile in front, bedrooms in back, a dirt-floor kitchen with clay cook stoves and wood pile) was transformed into a beautiful wedding hall with flowers, intricate palm leaf streamers, buffet tables etc. Like most Javanese weddings, guests arrive, register and place their gift at the receiving table, congratulate bride, groom and in-laws, eat and leave. There is music (Javanese, of course), but no dancing. The bride and groom wear traditional clothes. The bride wears the same clothes as I described in the graduation ceremony. In addition she wears something like a crown on top of her sanggul, like gold rays shooting from her head and wears even more make-up; around the face is painted an exaggerated widowís peak - a point on the center forehead and a point on each temple. Also, she wears a long weave of jasmine flowers from her hair. The groom wears a matching sarong and rather funny-looking waist-length jacket (a modern addition) and also wears make-up. I learned from this wedding that the bride, groom and in-laws could not bathe for three days before the wedding or on the day of the wedding. The reason was to keep the rain away. The weeks before the wedding, it rained every day. But, it did not rain on the wedding day, alhamdulillah (praise Allah!)

Today is hot and sunny and something in the air tells me that the remaining days of rainy season are few. Thereís no doubt that the daily showers have passed. It hasnít rained in 2 days. But, at least I was able to beat my mattress and put it out in the sun today (to kill bed bugs). And, my laundry will dry quickly. I guess thatís all for now. Hope you all are fabulously well. Looking forward to news from home.

Lots of love,