Tag Archives: Indonesia

Abroad Blog of the Week (revisited): Healing Pilgrim

I first featured Healing Pilgrim as an Abroad Blog of the Week just as I was starting Global from Home. The pictures of Amit hanging upside down doing yoga, the explanations of various traditional medicine, and the process of healing by engaging in the culture of Ubud, Bali, they all attracted me. At that point I wasn’t doing interviews, but over the past few months, I have gotten to know Amit better through her posts and comments. Now I consider Amit a friend of the blogosphere and was determined that I needed the interview to go along with the first post. Healing Pilgrim is amongst my favorite blogs – one in which I feel transported by the writer. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

What attracted you to Southeast Asia to begin with?

There was something about Asia (not just SE Asia!) so otherworldly, so ancient and completely different from where I grew up, that it appealed to me on many levels. For example, although I can’t explain the source of this particular desire, I simply knew – in the same way that you know what you are hungry for, which ingredients you want to use for a sandwich – that I would have to travel in Nepal, Laos and Mongolia.

How has your perspective on travel changed since your accident?

I can see more clearly now. I pay more attention – to what goes on around me, as well as what goes on inside. I trust my intuition and instinct in ways that I didn’t before, and I honor the angels and guides that I’m now certain protect me and hover nearby. I am inherently as adventurous now as I was pre-accident, but I’m more limited in my mobility, so I appreciate disability, the challenges of aging and finding creative solutions to still getting around.

What cultural aspects of Ubud still surprise you?

Regardless of the increasing influx of tourists, offerings, temple festivals, family and banjar ceremonies are still very much an intrinsic part of life in Ubud – less so, in other parts of Bali. I’m also constantly amazed by the array and output of creativity, and how Western elements and beliefs are woven into the fabric of their lives; often with surprisingly innovative results.

What has living in Bali taught you about healing the mind and body?

Letting go of control. Being open and grateful to what I have rather than what I wish I did. That which is ‘unseen’ is equally significant, sometimes more so, than that which is ‘seen.’ There are SO many ways to heal ourselves, and going natural is the optimal way to go. And that if I believe that my body (and mind) is healing, then it will be so…

What is your favorite yoga pose?

Since I began to learn and practice Iyengar, I would have to say that I love – as does my body – doing inversions, preferably those that involve ropes. A close second is warrior, because I feel strength coursing through my body. And if I can throw in a third, savassana 😉

What advice would you give the traveler who is going through a healing process?

Breathe deeply. We are never taught about the importance of deep breathing in our healing process, in oxygenating our bodies and minds. I would also say that healing does not have a finite point so it’s a worthless (and frustrating) endeavor to find it. Trust that your body does want to heal, it just needs time, guidance, the most nutritious foods possible, exercise, rest and an acceptance that you are now exactly where you are supposed to be.

Abroad Blog of the Week: Lottie Nevin

If you haven’t already subscribed to this Abroad Blog of the Week, you’ll want to. I came across Lottie Nevin when I first started blogging about six months ago. I was hooked by Lottie’s blunt honesty but humorous take on the difficulties of being a Brit new to Jakarta. She is also a fabulous story-teller and frequently weaves previous life experiences into her present day predicaments. Lottie just celebrated her one-year blog birthday (huge congrats!) and her blog is a great source of funny advice for anyone considering a move to Indonesia. Want proof? Just keep reading for my interview with Lottie…I promise she’ll have you laughing by the end.

Looking back on this first year of living in Jakarta, what are you most proud of?

My greatest achievement thus far, is managing to avoid falling into any of the open sewers that are such an attractive feature of Jakarta. I’m proud of that but then I seem to remember a saying that ‘Pride comes before a fall’ so maybe I should think of something else?

I’m proud of the fact that I haven’t gone totally mad from living in Jakarta. With the best will in the world, I doubt very much that it features on anyone’s bucket list of destinations but it’s our home for the moment so I’ve had to step up quickly to the mark and embrace the good, the bad and the ugly side of living here which if I’m honest, is not always easy.

I’m also very proud and somewhat relieved of not getting run over trying to cross the notoriously busy Jakartan roads. Crossing any road here could be described as something of an extreme sport. It certainly helps to have a sense of humour and the patience of a saint, because you can bet your bottom dollar, that whatever you have planned for your day will not go smoothly. In case you were wondering, I have neither.

How do you handle the attention you get from being a blonde, British woman in Indonesia?

The blonde hair does get noticed, and that coupled with me being a good foot and half taller and at least 3 foot wider than most women here, makes me stick out like a sore thumb which sometimes I find difficult. We don’t live in an expat area of Jakarta so if I’m out and about walking, the sighting of another western women is a rare occurrence. In Bali it’s different because being a holiday destination there are plenty of blonde Australians, which means I blend seamlessly into the environment.

Have you picked up any new habits since you’ve lived abroad?

Ah, that’s an interesting question. Habits, yes, I’ve certainly picked up some new bad habits over the past year, wearing a dastah (Indonesian onesie) for example, which went down like a lead balloon with my husband. I’ve had to wean myself off wearing them as he gave me an ultimatum. Not enough exercise is another. Because of that, I am now almost spherical and resemble the apple motif on the front of my laptop. My best new habit is probably starting writing a blog. I’ve discovered so many great blogs in the past year, and since starting my own I’ve met up with other bloggers in the flesh so to speak and subsequently made some good friends. I also now write for an expat website, a glossy magazine in Jakarta, and best of all, I get emails from people who’ve stumbled across my blog on the internet and want advice on moving to Indonesia. I’m always delighted to hear from people and it’s a good feeling being able to offer advice, and help in any way that I can.

Do you think you’ll ever get used to Indonesian bathroom culture?

Never in a month of Sundays will I get used to Indonesian squat and drop type toilets. There’s something very off-putting about having to place ones feet on the ceramic paddles either side of it, and hover over a hole. After one too many Bintangs, it can also be a perilous balancing exercise. The sit down toilets aren’t a lot better because the seats are generally covered in dirty footmarks from the Indonesian ladies who don’t like sitting and prefer to scramble up onto the seat to squat. Not least the fact that toilet paper is rarer than hens teeth in these parts. Instead, there is an apparatus resembling something akin to a high-pressure hose that is supposed to be used for washing afterwards. I’ve never managed to use one without soaking the bathroom and myself from head to foot.

Which is your favorite post from your blog?

My favourite post? That’s quite difficult to answer because I’ve enjoyed writing all of them.  I know that there have been certain posts that have proved popular with people who follow me, but I think My Pelvic Floor and Our Move to the 12th Floor is definitely one of my favourites. I like it when I can weave things that have happened in my past into what I am writing about here in Indonesia.

What considerations should someone contemplate before moving abroad to Southeast Asia?

I think it very much depends on where you are going to be living in S.E Asia. Thailand is  different from Indonesia and so are Malaysia and especially Singapore. Indonesia is the largest modern Islamic state in the world. Culturally it is very different from the UK which is where I was brought up. It’s certainly important to do your homework before moving out here so my advice is check out expat websites, read expat blogs, and find out as much as you can about all the cultural differences, especially if you are moving from the west.

Something that I read prior to our move, and at the time made very little sense to me but which nonetheless stuck in my mind, was the line ‘when moving to Indonesia give up on the idea of ever having any control over anything. If you need/want to be in control, you will not last 5 minutes here’ or words to that effect. Having lived here for just over a year, those words now make perfect sense to me.

Abroad Blog of the Week: Lauren Livingston

Well, dear readers, I am finally back in OKC after a week in Georgia and happy to bring you another great Abroad Blog of the Week. I found Lauren Livingston’s blog a few weeks ago while searching through the study abroad tags. Amongst the many blogs from Spain and Italy, Lauren stood out. In my six years of working with study abroad students, I personally have never sent anyone to Indonesia so I was fascinated to read about Lauren’s experience. It wasn’t long before I realized that she has a great writing style and quite the adventurous spirit.  I caught up with Lauren via email to find out what brought her to Bali.

How did you decide to study abroad in Indonesia?

Sophomore year I discovered SIT (School for International Training), clicked through their website and optional programs, and thought their hands-on approach, in-depth language concentration, and field study requirement clicked with my idea of how students should learn in an international setting.

SIT’s Indonesia program is centered around art, religion, and culture.   All of which I knew relatively little about.  Religion and its influence on society has always been a huge curiosity of mine, but to be honest, my knowledge of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and even Christianity was(is) sparse. I  also enjoyed the idea of learning about Southeast Asian art and music and was upset by how ignorant I was of Indonesia’s culture- a society consisting of around 220 million people. As I read the program’s description and researched the country and region, I knew Bali and Indonesia involved a complicated history and culture that I wanted to know and learn more about.  So I applied, and here I am.

 What are you reading right now?

I just finished Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom which follows the progression and ups and downs of a fictional, middle class American family.  Within the novel, Franzen highlights “freedom” as a term that has ongoing consequences for humanity and the world as a whole.  It was interesting to read about American family dilemmas while experiencing and adapting to the family structure in Bali.

I read Freedom because of a book exchange a friend and I had started.  Over the summer, we would write reviews on books and mail them to each other.  One of the questions he asked was  what conclusion did Franzen draw on the idea of kids inheriting characteristics from their parents.  Are we in a constant cycle of inheritance, and, if so, what traits are inherited?

I’m starting to believe that our identity is not necessarily formed through characteristics or traits we inherit, but in what we, as individuals, believe we have the capability to do with those inherited characteristics.  Our own perceived capabilities and aspirations as human beings develop out of a cultural context, and our family is just a bi product of that culture.

Currently Reading:

  • Course required readings mostly on religion in Indonesia
  • The Bhagavad-Gita Barbara Stoler Miller’s translation
  • What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains: The Shallows by Nicholas Carr-I’ve seen a few of the author’s talks online, and it was on the summer reading list for my university.

 How is the Balinese language coming along?

For our first week in Bali, we practiced Bahasa Indonesian five hours a day.  We learned everything from the alphabet to the Happy Birthday song.  I acquired more of the language in that one week than I have in the three weeks that have followed.  Now we’ve moved to 2.5 hours of class, four days a week.  I find myself forgetting a lot, and I know if I want to get better I have to start memorizing outside of class.  It’s hard to do when there’s so much more out there to explore.

Speaking with my host family has been fun.  We can talk about daily activities, poke fun at each other, and bond over food, but it’s definitely Indoglish. My goal is to be conversational to the point I can communicate easily with the village kids, my bargaining skills are perfected, and I understand the local bemo drivers.

So far, what do you love and what challenges you about Balinese culture and traditions?

There’s so much to love about studying in Indonesia-the people, the villages, the weather, the religion, my classmates, our adventures, I could go on and on.  In Bali, for the most part, the way of life is deeply rooted in the makeup of the family and Hindu traditions.  Bali has taught me how meaningful family support and love is.  I find I often take for granted my family in the States and fail to make an effort to spend time with them. Being here has shown me how incredibly important they are to me, and I appreciate that.

Of course the language is a huge set back.  It’s hard to talk about ideas and compare thoughts with another culture when you have such a barrier as language.  After being in Bali, I desperately long to study and to know other languages.  Language is the first step in getting to know someone and their feelings.  If you can’t  grasp the emotion in their speech, you cannot connect with them and understand who they are.  I’m not only talking about spoken language, but body language and mannerisms as well.

It can also be difficult to get away from the Western, American stereotype, but that’s an aspect of traveling and living in other cultures one has to understand.  People are welcoming as long as you respect them and their beliefs.  As an international student I can offer them a new perspective while also gaining their insights and beliefs as well.  It’s an amazing collaboration I am so thankful to be a part of.

It seems you don’t know a stranger. How do you like to start up conversations with the people you meet on your travels?

When I think back about past travels, it’s definitely been the people I’ve met who made the trip versus the places I went.

Meeting people, sharing experiences, and life stories is the absolute best reward I’ve gained from traveling.  Being open to having a random conversation with anyone you walk by can lead to so many fun and interesting interactions, and you can talk about anything-food, pop culture, religion, life.

I’ve found, in Indonesia, it’s quite easy to talk to locals if you’re enthusiastic about practicing the language.  They are very excited when you speak their language and they start asking questions.  From there, the conversations can go in any direction.