Monday, November 25, 2013

The Traveling Couples

Adventurous couple: Bruno Frebourg and Isabelle Frebourg pose with Honorary Consul to France Raphael Devianne at the French Consulate in Sanur, Bali on June 28, 2012. The couple has pedaled across 45 countries on their ongoing bicycle journey. BD/Ni Komang, link
I've heard stories about friends having to change their life styles after they are married. Some have to cut on times to hangout and some others have to stop traveling because their spouses dislike the idea of traveling. As a single travel enthusiast, I find those stories a bit disheartening. But here are three couples who shares passion for globetrotting with their spouses and blog about it.

Indonesian couple Jeff and Diana, who were married in 2004, live by Dalai Lama's saying:"Once a year, go someplace you've never been before." They have been traveling to Asia (China, Macau, Hong Kong), Australia and Europe (Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Slovakia and Switzerland) as well as visiting the local tourism destinations. In Bahasa.

Dua Ransel, which means Two Backpacks, chronicles the journey of Surabaya-born Dina and her Canadian husband Ryan going across the globe with only two backpacks. In 2009, they sold their stuffs and embarked on what was planned to be a one-year trip. But then, they changed their minds. They called themselves permanent travelers, nomads or even vagabonds. In Bahasa and English.

American couple Julia and Yuriy kicked off their marriage life by taking a six-month honeymoon across the world. The couple, who work as photographers, also visited Indonesia during those six months. Their latest trip was to Iceland! *nosebleed* In English.

Have a lovely Monday!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

While The Boss Is Away, Let's Post Some Conversations :D

Because the following conversations are too good to be kept by myself :).

What Scholarship Is All About
NPM: Have you taken your Master degree?
Me: Not yet, I'm looking for a scholarship to do that.
NPM: You must remember that you have two goals upon receiving a scholarship: ijazah (the degree) and ijabsah (a word play on ijab/wedding oath and sah/official).
Me: -_-

Where's The Phone?
NPM: (Hold a laptop on his right hand and note pads on his left hand) Let's have the meeting now. Wait a minute, where's my mobilephone?
(Spend the next three minutes rummaging his desk, bag, pockets. He's about to use the office phone to call his mobile when I noticed something...)
Me: Isn't that your mobilephone on your left hand? Between those note pads?
NPM: Oh, you're right.

Music Taste Does Not Lie
NPM: We are going to get a visit from KDI on Friday. Please prepare everything.
PFC: KDI as in Kontes Dangdut Indonesia (the Indonesian Dangdut Contest)?
NPM: -_- No, KDI stands for Korean Development Institute.

Because Good Boss Gives Two Days Off
Situation: Friday afternoon
Me: (sneezing)
NPM: Who's sneezing?
Me: I did
NPM: Okay, you can take two days off, starting tomorrow. I'm a good boss, see?
Me: -_- But tomorrow and the day after are days off

Monday, November 18, 2013

Why Can't Indonesians Speak English As A Second Language?

That was the question asked by my Boss CO. He reminisced how he traveled to the small cities in the Philippines and asked directions to a scavenger, who surprisingly could speak English quite well. He said it's the same thing in Cambodia and Laos, where you could just stop any person on the street and he/she could speak English.

Since Southeast Asians share so many similarities, one can't help comparing an ASEAN member to another member. Let's just omit Singapore and Malaysia, who had the Commonwealth connection, from this discussion.

Does this mean we have less linguistic ability compared to our neighbors? No. When I went to Mt. Kelimutu in Flores island a couple of weeks ago, I met this lovely hostel lady who speaks English. She is a simple homemaker and learns the European language through daily interaction with her guests. So yeah, when demands are pressing, many Indonesians can speak any foreign language.

I've been trying to find the answer for the question in the post title and come up with several factors on the why English in Indonesia is an exclusive language spoken only by the young, the hip and the upper crust.

1. Most Indonesians have to learn many languages since early youth, and it confused them. Taking from my own experience, I have a Sundanese father and a Javanese mother, I spent my childhood with my Sundanese-speaking grandma then I learned Bahasa Indonesia at school.
FYI, there are two types of Javanese languages: kromo (the refined one, spoken when with the elders and people we respect) and ngoko (the casual, used amongst friends and like-minded company), while Sundanese has three types: (1) the one used for the elders, (2) the one used for people of the same age and (3) the one used for younger people (Other Sundanese-speaking people out there, please correct me if I'm wrong).

So, by the time Indonesians enroll at school, study Bahasa Indonesia and then study English, they have a mixed up comprehension on the grammar. Before they have a thorough understanding of their mother language, they have to learn the national language, which has a totally different structure.

I believe that if you want to master a foreign language, you should fully understand your own native language (whatever language that is). I had been very fortunate that D worked as a language editor at a publishing company as he had laid a solid foundation on my linguistic ability.

2. Indonesia is a vast archipelago and the distribution of competent English language teachers has been a bit dispersed compared to Cambodia.

3. Many international tourists usually only visit the tourist-packed places, such as Bali island (because it's more convenient in terms of transportation and accommodation, of course). But if they go to far-flung places and interact with the locals, I'm sure that the locals will be able to pick up a word or two from them.

Things have developed for the better. Let's hope that there will be more Indonesians blogging in English to spread the word out.

Anyway, instead of demanding Indonesians to be fluent in English, why don't we introduce Bahasa Indonesia to the tourists? Afterall, this link says Bahasa Indonesia is an easy one to master:).

What do you think? This random rambling is brought to you by the absence of Boss NPM (He's on a business trip to Poland for one week. Oh happiness, oh freedom!). Oh, and have a magnificent Monday! :)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Scientists Announce Discovery of A New Fish Species In East Nusa Tenggara

Well, well, what do you know? You've just left East Nusa Tenggara and the next news you read is about a new fish species found there. You've got to be kidding me, Universe. This makes a good reason to come back, though.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Going Bananas

A neighbor gave me these bananas. We call this type of bananas Pisang Tanduk (horn banana). D wanted to have it fried, M liked it steamed while I ate them raw. How do you like your banana?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The 2013 Trans Flores Trip

After the Komodo tour, my friends and I went on a Trans Flores trip that started from Ende then on to Bajawa and Ruteng before ended in Labuan Bajo again. We flew to Ende and rented a car. It's a road trip in the spice island :).

Flores, which means flower in Portuguese, is like a living and breathing laboratory waiting for people to discover its beauty. It's not the first time I go to Flores. I went to Ende in 2010 (you can read the experience here, here and here). Yet I was once again mesmerized by the beautiful landscape. 

Instead of boring you with the minutiae of the trip, I'll just post the highlight.

My cousin and friends said the trip had changed their preconceived perceptions about Flores island: (1) They thought the whole Flores island was as hot as Labuan Bajo, but Bajawa and Ruteng were cool as they were located in the mountainous area, (2) They thought Flores people were rude and brash due to the rough facial features (dark skin and big eyes that result in intense gaze) as well as the fact that many thugs in Jakarta come from Flores, but actually Flores people are kind and friendly (this post here is proof). 

Nevertheless Pak Kanis, our tour guide for Komodo-Rinca islands who is a native Flores people, jokingly said,"Javanese people are born smiling, but Flores people have to learn to smile. It takes millions of Rupiah to make them smile. We still have a lot to learn about tourism and hospitality."

 Candlenuts under the sun

Allow me to tell you about Filosofi Kemiri (Candlenut Philosophy). When I came to Ende in December 2010, the people were drying candlenuts in front of their homes. The candlenuts were dark-colored and hard-shelled, so hard that we can not crack them open. But once the candlenuts dry, we can crack them by tapping them with palm leaf stalks. 

A Flores people told me,"The candlenuts are perhaps the best metaphor to describe Flores people. We are dark-skinned and look rough on the outside, but if you know how to treat us, we are so easy to crack open. And our hearts are as white as the candlenuts inside the shell."

For me and Cousin Dina, the trip felt like a homecoming journey to our late Grandma's home in Kebumen, Central Java. The road is winding, hugging the hills and mountains. When we flew over Flores (flying from Labuan Bajo to Ende), we saw the massif crawling all over the island. It looks like the roots of a huge plant and has a soul.

Not only that Flores is beautiful in nature, it also has rich culture. Each regencies, or perhaps each village, has its own vocabulary and language. For example, in Labuan Bajo, a young man is called Nana, while in Ende, it's Eja. They can tell which part of Flores a person comes from just to hear the words he/she is using. Now, this is where my ability to mimic local dialect comes handy:). 

With my darkened skin tone (after all those trekking and snorkeling) and the adopted dialect, sometimes they think I come from Flores. As a result, I got a good price for a bag of coffee in Bajawa and a Rp50,000 discount in a hotel in Labuan Bajo when I told the hotel receptionist I just came from Ruteng (well, it's not totally a lie, I did go to Ruteng).    

We took a journey to the darkness of Gua Batu Cermin (Mirror Stone Cave). Courtesy of travel buddy Mbak Polina.

 Pine trees along the road to Mt. Kelimutu. Yeah, I came there for the second time. I wouldn't mind going there again for the third, fourth, fifth and so on:).

Begonia kelimutuensis, a type of begonia that only grows in Mt. Kelimutu. You can find them in the arboretum. Besides learning about the plants, the arboretum makes a great place to listen to the chirping of the birds. Courtesy of travel buddy Mbak Polina

 A candid photo of me on the way to Mt. Kelimutu by travel buddy Faradilla. The sky was so blue!

 We passed Wologai traditional village, which had just been burned down due to a short circuit. Legend has it that the village has a drum made of human skin. The fire destroyed everything and only these musical instruments survived. They are in the process of rebuilding and plan to finish everything by February 2014.

 Menhirs in Bena village

A Flores woman and the hand-made weaving products that she made in Bena village

Maria Krisanti, 3 years old, one of the youngest residents in Bena village. She calls herself Ican. Her mother works as a kindergarten teacher in a neighboring village, and so she lives with her doting grandparents. Isn't she adorable? :)

A Catholic parochial church in Ngada

This building is right across the church.

 A church and a mosque stand side by side in Bajawa. Catholic and Christian dominate this island. If you are a Muslim and want to take a road trip in Flores, hire a Muslim driver so he can point you to halal restaurants. If you can't find a Muslim driver, then you should resort to Padang cuisines.

The mystery of Mt. Inerie

 The paddy fields in Flores follow the land contour

 The farmers in Flores utilise their tractor as a means of transportation. They connect the machine to a carriage and use it to take people and other tools

Instead of using ounces/grams, vendors sell the coffee powder by glasses. I asked this vendor in Bajawa market with local dialect and she offered a glass for Rp 5000 and three glasses for Rp 10,000. After we asked around, she happened to be the only vendor who offered such cheap prices. We bought all of her supply and she had to borrow coffee from the other vendors in order to fulfill our demands. The vendors roast and grind their own coffee, so each vendor has different product quality. It's custom-made coffee :). Courtesy of travel buddy Mbak Polina

My holiday face was grinning cheek to cheek at Soa hot spring. Courtesy of Cousin Dina.

My feet in Soa hot spring, Bajawa.

Another view of my feet at Pantai Batu Hijau. Oh look, my T-shirt matched the pebbles.

 The spider web rice field in Cancar, Ruteng. It looks as if the aliens came and made it. Courtesy of Cousin Dina

 My travel buddies and the Catholic nuns in Susteran Maria Berduka Cita (the Grieving Mary Nunnery) in Ruteng. They stayed for one night in the nunnery. I was not in the picture because I had left for Labuan Bajo. Rather than the nunnery, I'd prefer to stay in a monastery (just kidding!). Courtesy of Mbak Polina

Due to the limited days of leave, I have to skip Ruteng and head straight to Labuan Bajo-Denpasar-Jakarta. There are many other sites I'd like to visit in Flores island, such as Wae Rebo village and Liang Bua cave (where the hobbit fossil was found). I will definitely come again to Flores. Well, perhaps two or three years from now, because the trip to eastern Indonesia really makes holes in my wallet :P.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Land of Komodo Dragons

I've dreamed to go to Komodo island since elementary school, when the teacher told the students to memorize the animals and plants of Indonesia. Rather than waiting for office assignment or fellowship or downfall from a rich uncle, I decided to save up and just go on my own.

Komodo National Park, which is one of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, is located in the west part of Flores Island and is part of eastern Indonesia. To get there, you need to fly to Bali, find a flight to Labuan Bajo, Flores and then travel by boat. It's an exhausting journey, but like I said before, it is worth the journey.

Airlines serving flights Denpasar-Labuan Bajo are Merpati, Lion Air, Sky Aviation, TransNusa (cmiiw). You can negotiate for the boat prices once you arrive in Labuan Bajo, but my friends and I (we were a group of five women) opted to buy a tour package from valadoo.

We departed to Labuan Bajo on Oct. 31 on Merpati. During the flight, I sat next to a pastor (or at least he claimed to be one, he was not wearing the outfit). We talked about the purpose of my trip and upon hearing that I was still single, he prayed that I would soon find the gentleman. "Actually Father, I am now traveling with four friends, who are also single. Can you pray for them too?" I said. He said he would and said,"When you come again to Flores island, and I'm sure you will, I pray that you come with your husband." Amin to that :).

View of Labuan Bajo

We arrived in Labuan Bajo at 11 a.m., and the first thing that stroke was the heat. Oh my Lord, Labuan Bajo was very hot compared to Jakarta. Pak Kanis from the travel agency picked us up at the airport, which saved us from the ruckuses that were taxi drivers and we soon boarded the wooden boat that we would occupy in the next 24 hours.

I don't like the idea of spending the day on the boat due to my motion sickness, but if I want to see Komodo dragons, then it is the only way. Fortunately, during the trip the sea was quite flat and I could enjoy the boat ride. Our first destination was...(drum rolls)...

Rinca Island

We threw the anchor at Loh Buaya, which means the Crocodile Bay in local language. Before we left the boat, Pak Kanis asked whether any of us was having our period. "Komodo can smell blood from far away and they will come after you. If you're having your period, it is best to stay in the boat," he said. We were safe that week, but imagine the frustration if we came all the way only to find that we were having our period. Girls, be safe when visiting the dragons.

After we completed the administration stuff to enter the park, we started to trek, accompanied by a ranger. But not far from our starting point, Komodo dragons already gathered near the kitchen area. Something's cooking and the big lizards came all the way to find out.

Don't let their clumsy movement fool you. Komodo can run 18km/hour. They also have great smell ability. They mingle perfectly with their surrounding, making the preys unaware of their presence and unprepared for their attack. Stay on your trek with the ranger. Also, take off the sunglasses from time to time. You may accidentally step on their tails and only God knows what will happen next.

Here's an example. Can you spot a komodo in that photo above? Yes, there's one over there because it is guarding its nest. One komodo can lay up to 30 eggs, but of the 30 eggs, only 30 percent hatch. And even if they hatch, not all survive. Some of them get eaten by their mothers or other predators such as boars and falcons.

Once a komodo eats a big prey, it will not eat anything else for a month. It drinks once a week. The females mate with the strongest komodo that win the competition. The ranger said,"We can learn from komodo about living in line with nature and not becoming greedy. Komodo only eats when it feels hungry."

But life as a komodo is not easy, it seems.

Here's an old male komodo that could not walk anymore. The ranger said that his name was Opa Baron. Opa is a Dutch word meaning grandpa. Why was the komodo named that? "Because he once ate a German named Baron Rudolf," the ranger said. Ouch.

Besides seeing the komodos, we also spotted stags, does and boars. They also blend with the forest, so stay alert and stay quiet for the wildlife can come at you, not the other way around as in the zoo.

There is a stag in that photo, you just have to look carefully.

I've never been to Africa, but trekking in Rinca island gives me a feeling that I'm in the black continent. It was very hot (perhaps around 42 degree Celsius when we came), the ground was dusty brown and the grass looked like a golden velvet.

The golden velvet carpet

The lovely color of falling leaves

The holes on the ground are the nests of crabs.

We spent the night by Kalong Island. It was a clear night and we got to see the stars.

Komodo Island

We woke up, had breakfast and watched the bats circling above the Kalong Island as they returned to their homes. Today we're going to Komodo Island. Here are some animals we met that day:

Winged lizard

This is how you should take photo with komodo: from a distance and with extreme caution.

This is how the photo turns out :).

More stags and does.

To my dismay (although my friends do not share the sentiment), we didn't meet the three types of poisonous snakes that inhabit Komodo and Rinca island. We did find the snake skins.

We hiked up Sulphurea hill, but alas we didn't find any yellow-crested cacatoo (Cacatua sulphurea). The view was majestic, though.

Pink Beach

After trekking in the heat, snorkeling in the crystal blue water of Pink Beach, Komodo Island makes a nice treat.

 It doesn't look pink from this side

You should look closer..

And look underwater too:)

Guess which feet are whose? :D

Friday, November 8, 2013

Have A Bright Weekend!

Hi sweeties, how are you? I've just returned from my Komodo-Trans Flores trip. It was a wonderful and unforgettable experience to see Komodo dragons in their natural habitat. You just have to go to Komodo island at least once in your life. Above is the view from my hotel room's porch in Labuan Bajo, Flores.

I would love to tell you more about the trip, but works are piling up my desk. Hope to give you more travel stories next week. In the meantime, here are several events that may interest you this weekend:

-- Indonesia Book Fair. Until Nov. 10.  Istora Senayan Gelora Bung Karno.
-- Pasar Desain. Until Nov. 10. Grand Indonesia Shopping Town.
-- Brightspot Market. Until Nov. 10. Lotte Shopping Avenue, Ground Floor.