Week one: Surviving the Drop-Off

Maya Volk

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Note: This post was written a few days ago, but with finicky internet it’s only getting posted now. My apologies!

Hello readers!

After being in Bali for a week, I have so much to write about! Each morning at the puri I wake up at sunrise, thanks to a call to prayer (Hindu version, stolen from the Muslims), which consists of melodic gamelan music (kind of like marimba) and beautiful chanting. If I’m not already awake enough, I get a little bit more of a wake up when I take a shower, which consists of just a bucket of cold water that you pour onto yourself with another smaller bucket. To all of you who did the ice bucket challenge this summer, I have no pity – it is basically my daily ritual now. We have had intensive language classes every day for multiple hours, but I can now have a whole conversation and know all sorts of random words. We also adventure around the area, eat a lot of delicious food (which will probably end up being a whole blog post in itself), and spend a lot of time just bonding as a group.

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One of the highlights of the orientation week was our hour-long drop off, where the program staff dropped every student in a different location around the area with the mission of forcing us to interact with locals and use our Bahasa Indonesia. As we were driving to my drop off spot, I thought my heart was going to beat out of my chest and I was expecting to turn around and find cameras following me like some sort of reality show. I ended up being dropped off at a warung (local convenience store/restaurant) where there were about fifteen women and children gathered around a bamboo platform at the front of the warung. My Bahasa teacher (guru) that accompanied me quickly took my picture and then drove off, and suddenly it was just me, my notebook, and a bunch of very curious Balinese. I quickly introduced myself (nama saya Maya), told them I was from America (Saya dari Amerika), and was bombarded with at least ten different questions. I could answer some, but spent a considerable amount of time flipping through my notebook. I ended up being ushered to sit down, and thankfully was able to talk to a fifteen-year-old girl who knew a little English. I spoke to her and her mother for a little while with my limited Bahasa Indonesia, but soon they had to leave (and I couldn’t go with them since they were on a motorbike).

The rest of the hour I spent sitting on the bamboo platform with my notebook out in front of about six kids, and we went through everything that I’d learned so far. I found out that they liked all the foods and drinks that I had written down, but most didn’t like coffee (kopi).  We talked about sicknesses, colors, families, ages, temples, and the fact that my name backwards in Bahasa means chicken (ayam). When they saw that I had the Bahasa Indonesia version of head, shoulders knees and toes written down, we sang the song. After what felt like less than an hour, my guru was back and I had a newfound sense of confidence in talking to locals. On our way back to the puri after picking up another student, we passed a young boy that was sitting with me at the warung and I heard him singing the song with his grandmother. Success!

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Since this cultural encounter, I’ve had many more including trips on public transport, a wedding, a cremation ceremony, monkey forest adventures, and lots of delicious food. Like I said previously, it’s a bit tricky to upload over this internet connection, but I’ll try my best to keep you all updated. Terima kasih for reading!

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