As I continue to reflect on the travel I’ve done since moving to this region of the world, I can’t help but think about my trip to the Gili Islands. Where Jakarta is chaotic, the Gilis are calm. Jakarta screams while the Gilis whisper, and for this reason I really enjoyed my time while there.
My first year in Indonesia, I decided to do a yoga retreat during the March break. A married couple that I befriended at work loved diving off of Gili Air and I, well, just loved the beach. Still do.
Gili Trawangan (aka Gili T), where I stayed, is known as the party island. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a partier. I have to convince myself to go out and actually liked that Luang Prabang, Laos had a 11:30 PM curfew.
I say all this because it was very easy to avoid the party scene in Gili T. Ignore the middle-aged man who asks if you want to buy shrooms every day at the same corner and explore the island instead. Here are a few suggestions:
- Take a yoga class or two at Gili Yoga. Most days, I took two classes. One of my favorite memories in Indonesia is sitting on the wooden platform after a class and listening to the call to prayer. Glor-i-ous.
- Eat, sleep, read, repeat on the beach.While at Gili T, I (foolishly) attempted to walk around the entire island in the heat of the day. When the heat got the best of me, I ended up stopping at Pink Coco and camping out. The food was good and the staff extremely friendly. It was a nice place to watch the sunset too.
- Rent a rusty bike and circle the entire island. Cars are not allowed on the island, so that made the experience all the better (There are horse-drawn carts to get around, but I felt bad for the animals. Some were clearly overworked). At points, I had to push my bike through the sand, but it was a beautiful way to spend the day.
- Snorkel or scuba dive. The Gilis is a diving destination. Coral bleaching, pollution, and tourism are definitely damaging the wildlife. That being said, I’m so glad I snorkeled. I saw my first turtle there. As someone who loves the ocean but will only get in water up to my neck, another traveler I befriended had to convince me to snorkel. I’m so, so glad I did.
- Island hop to Gili Air and/or Gili Meno. One day I took the ferry over to visit my co-workers on Gili Air. Again, I rode a bike and had a wonderful time cycling around, being near the ocean, and eating. In March 2016, one-way fare cost 40,000 Rp (roughly 3 USD). The ferry left twice a day.
- Visit the Sama Sama reggae bar for live music. I have to be honest, I’m beyond tired of seeing Bob Marley murals and buildings decorated with red, green, yellow, and black whenever I go to a beach locale. As a Black woman with two-strand twists that are often mistaken for locs, I had locals come up to me soooo excited. Some asked me how I did my hair (and I laughed inside at the signs that promised to start locs for people). Still, if you want live music…it’s there.
What are your must-dos or want to dos when on an island vacation? Would you ever consider a yoga retreat?
Earlier I hinted that I would hopefully have my thoughts on a trip to Yogyakarta posted to another website. Well, that time is now here. I’m excited to announce that I’ve begun partnering with Black & Abroad to write about my travel experience as a woman of color.
Check it out here, and please leave comments. I hope you all enjoy the piece!
I recently visited Yogyakarta, Indonesia for the second time due to a Muslim holiday. The three day weekend reminded me about the best part of Indonesia: the plurality of religions. My dear friend from Belgium came to visit me in Indonesia, so I had to get her out of Jakarta and to the UNESCO World Heritage sites that are known as Borobudur and Prambanan. While Borobudur is a Buddhist temple and the other is Hindu, both are places I can visit every year. I’m blessed to have now walked in the shadows of Machu Picchu, magnificent churches, Uluru and my mother, and I can confidently say that Borobudur is one of my favorite spiritual places.
The mixing of religions is ever-present in Indonesia. Where else can you leave a Buddhist or Hindu temple only to see huge trucks moving oxen that would be slaughtered for a Muslim holy day?
A more detailed piece will, hopefully, be published on a travel site soon so stay tuned!
Less than a month from now on the impossibly lush, green island of Sumatra there’s an opportunity to experience a unique cultural tradition in Indonesia: bull racing.
Seared to perfection, like one of my favorite Texas steaks, is my memory of this event.
I haven’t written on this blog much since moving to Indonesia. The short answer is because I’ve been busy and low-level depressed (when I’m sad I don’t really write). The long answer is because I’ve come to fully realize that I’m not a fan of Indonesia. I was raised to not say anything at all if you don’t have anything nice to say, so I figured that extended to an entire cultural experience too.
Then, something happened last night that made me say f*** it. I’m going to write, and let the cards fall where they may.
Indonesia, you have some work to do.
Let me start at the beginning.
A co-worker and great friend invited me to the Java Jazz Festival back in August. After she blocked my attempt to cancel on her at the last minute, I found myself in an hour plus cab ride across town. We arrived at the venue and watched two female performers–Michelle Walker and Candy Dulfer–perform amazing sets that left me bubbling with excitement and gratitude.
“Thank you for having me come,” I kept saying to my friend as we walked around sampling sets, looking at the merchandise for sale, and just enjoying that Jakarta had something to offer besides traffic and pollution.
In my mind, I was already crafting the blog post that would be convincing people to attend the Java Jazz Fest. I was already raving to my friend and fellow blogger Sojourner’s Sojourns. I was already planning my return for next year.
My friend and I sauntered outside to hail a cab that would not try to take every last rupiah we had in our pockets (i.e., a Blue Bird Taxi) when it came from a group of men around my age.
I turn. My black body in a black dress is facing the men.
“What did you say?”
I’ve neglected this blog. There’s no way around it. Since relocating to Indonesia in July, my new job has kept me moving at a pace that I’ve found difficult to sustain.
These are a few of the things I’ve done since landing:
- flown to Singapore three times in four months
- had an overnight retreat with 200 twelve and thirteen year olds
- met parents at Open House and Student Led Conferences
- sat in more meetings than I care to count (my new job loves The Meeting; Lunch Meetings; 7 AM meetings; 90 minute meetings; this-will-only-take-a-minute-but-really-it-won’t meetings)
- traveled to Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Sumatra; and a shockingly deprived area of Jakarta…
With all of this craziness, there are 5 main things that stick out in my mind that have either taught me about myself or reinforced my own beliefs. Over the next week, I’ll post about them.
5.) I’ve become the expat instead of the immigrant, and I’m uncomfortable with that.
Remember when I posted about the difference between the expat and the immigrant? I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’ve become the expat. This is not a positive thing in my mind. The expat willfully lives in a bubble; chooses to not associate with the local population; does not attempt to master the local language; compares a developing country to a highly developed country and gets frustrated when things aren’t the same; and the list goes on.
That’s been me, and I’m annoyed with myself. I’m taking Indonesian language classes but am a horrible student who never finds time to study (which is ironic since I’m a teacher). Then, I have the nerve to get frustrated when a taxi driver can’t understand what I’m saying when a two year old can communicate in Bahasa Indonesia, the local language, more than I can.
Though Indonesia is a very moderate Muslim country (re: I know where to buy my pork products and wine when the cravings strike), I’ve walked outside knowing damn well I needed to cover my legs or my shoulders a little bit more but didn’t want to bother. My rationale: they know I’m foreign. Whatever.
This has to change.
How quickly (and how willingly) I will make an effort to do so will have to be another post.
While at my freshly minted new job, I found myself getting dizzy. Closing my eyes briefly, I took a deep breath to steady myself.
My life has changed dramatically within the last two months, and the change was physically getting to me.
Exactly two months and two days ago, I left Valencia, Venezuela–where I’d been living for the past twenty four months–only to (im)migrate to Jakarta, Indonesia.
Though I did not state it on the blog at the time, the violent political protests during my first year abroad solidified my decision that I would not be staying in Venezuela long term.
Thus, I started the job search last summer and right before Thanksgiving, 2014 I landed one…a 20.5 hour plane ride and 12 hour time zone difference away from my hometown of Houston, Texas.
While Venezuela had extreme scarcity (re: I had to bring my soap, shampoo and feminine hygiene products from the US because there were severe, painful shortages in Venezuela), Indonesia has bounty. Where Venezuela had insecurity, Indonesia has safety.
But I miss the people in Venezuela. I always will. As a way to honor my old stomping grounds and my new one, I decided to create my first infographic.