Indo, Aussie, NZ
by Lauren Ebersole '07
The past three weeks have been a whirlwind: 3 countries, 8 flights, 6 boats (including cruise, pontoon, glass bottom, semi-submersible, and row), 4 coach buses, 1 scenic train, 1 gondola skyrail, and numerous taxis, hired cars, and angkots.
Week one was spent in Indonesia- my home turf; therefore it was the most stressful one for me. Playing the role of translator, tour guide, and insurer of fun was a little overwhelming; although the pressure was self-imposed, as my Mom and Dad were just happy to do whatever I thought was best. We spent the first few days at my site and my parents met teachers, students, neighbors and had many, many photos taken. Everyone was so welcoming and generous to my parents and they walked away with a tidy little bundle of gifts. We made a quick stop at my first host family and had lunch with two friends before making the supposed 7-hour trip to Yogyakarta. Ten brutal hours later we arrived at the hotel. Mom was most thankful for the normal toilet system. In Yogya we made the round of tourist spots. Because it was the school break we encountered many school groups at Prambanan and Borobudur (Hindu and Buddhist temples). My parents were troopers talking to so many kids that wanted to practice English and take photos. A special round of applause to my dad who is not exactly known for wanting to socialize with perfect strangers. He is the person that sat away from all the other parents at my soccer games. Indonesia can be a bit chaotic, there are an unbelievable number of people in the country, especially Java, and they are somewhat persistent in selling their goods. Therefore the Losari Coffee Plantation was a welcome retreat at the end of our Indonesia week. Surrounded by mountains the plantation is an oasis of peace, beyond the roar of traffic and the reach of hawkers. Our room, more like a villa really, was beautiful with fresh fruit for our arrival and lounge chairs on the veranda. After afternoon tea I defeated Dad in a game of lawn chess. Then Mom and I spent the evening in a Turkish steam bath followed by body scrubs and massages. Morning yoga, eggs benedict, and a tour of the coffee plantation completed the luxury and relaxation.
With the exception of people, steering wheels on the right, and driving on the left, Australia and New Zealand in no way resemble Indonesia. The island of Java alone has 130 million people. New Zealand has 4 million people and 40 million sheep. Australia and New Zealand are expensive; Indonesia is cheap. Australia and NZ are organized and efficient, Indonesia is, well, less so. The most striking difference was how easy it was to exist in those two countries. There was no language barrier (except for a few odd phrases and Dad’s later insistence to say tomato like an Aussie), there were timetables and schedules and order. In Indonesia it takes energy to get through each day.
Sydney is a great city. It is clean with good food, beautiful scenery, interesting sites, and friendly people. If I could give it any advice I’d tell it to lower the prices some. We spent three days basically wandering the streets and eating. Some of the highlights for me were the Opera House, the Hyde Park Barracks, and the lamb shanks. Although we didn’t see a show at the Opera House the Sydney Orchestra was rehearsing during our tour and we were able to listen for a while. Based on a few short minutes I have determined that symphony conductors seem a little off. Hyde Park Barracks was a barracks for convicts, now a museum for tourists, and they were having a reenactment of sorts. Don’t be surprised if Dad starts hunting for a hurdy-gurdy to buy. And last, but certainly not least, the lamb shanks. Ordered in a place simply called Meat and Wine, they were so tender and delicious.
After Sydney it was up to Cairns, famous for something called the Great Barrier Reef. We took a pontoon boat out to a huge raft on the reef, about a 90-minute ride, which left Mom feeling not so good, me feeling ok, and Dad feeling just fine. The reef is very cool with lots of interesting fish, but it turns out we might not be dive-y, boat people. On the ride back we saw the most perfect rainbow I’ve ever seen, vivid and a complete arch, plus leprechaun.
Week three found us in New Zealand: land of picturesque settings, from lush rolling hills dotted with sheep to snow-capped mountains and glacial lakes. The north island was formed by volcanic activity. We spent most of our time on the north island in a town called Rotorua. Rotorua has geysers and mud pools, kiwi birds (in captivity), Maori performances, meat cooked in an underground pit, and most importantly sheep shearing. We were introduced to 19 different breeds of sheep, which are about 18 more kinds of sheep than I knew existed.
The south island was formed by glaciers and is cold, but there was not much snow to the disappointment of many skiers and to the delight of a certain person used to tropical weather. I was forced to buy a really cool souvenir hat and gloves that were too big. The south and north island are quite different; with the south island more rugged mountain and lake area. We took a tour to Milford Sound, which evidently is not a sound at all. The drive to the fjord and the boat ride around it were spectacular, everywhere you looked was a photo opportunity. We even saw some seals lounging on the rocks. One girl said she saw dolphins; we think she lied. We also took a tour to Mt. Cook, but the bad weather had finally moved in and we couldn’t really see anything. But the museum information was interesting enough.
For three weeks of travelling everything went exceptionally smoothly. It was a bit surreal actually seeing my parents. I had been counting the days until their arrival about 75 days in advance, but it was hard to believe once I saw them. I think they helped refresh me and reenergize me for the next year. When I arrived back in Indonesia I was almost immediately confronted by things I hate and love about this place. The bus station was unbelievably crowded, like nothing I had seen before and I wasn’t sure how I was actually going to get on the bus. There was no order, just chaos. But then a guy asked where I was going and led me to where the buses park before they pull up to let people on. He said go ahead and get on now or you will never get a seat. Thanks to the kindness of strangers.
Here’s to the start of my second teaching year. I’ll see you all in no time, less than a year.
Much love, Lauren