Wednesday, April 30, 2008

23rd Birthday Bash!!!

Just yesterday I celebrated my 23rd birthday here in Indonesia! Overall, it was a pretty sweet day of spending time with friends and continuing to experience more of Indonesia's intriguing culture. It was my first b-day celebrated away from home... and though I am 10,000 miles away and sometimes feel like it is more like 20, it is days like yesterday that make me feel right at home. Indonesian people, as I have noticed, are some of the warmest, genuine people I have ever met. Through so many aspects of their culture, it is evident that the value of the individual and importance of the relationship is often held above all else. Through a surprise breakfast in the morning, a cake made by my neighbor, a gift package received in the mail from another part of Indonesia and finally, topping it off with a small party in the evening... it is safe to say I felt a great sense of blessing from new family and friends. Let me walk you through my day.

This is what I woke up to yesterday morning; french toast, hot coffee, a mini cake and a center piece made of bananas (a nice touch by Jordan).

Here is a look at some fine Indonesian cuisine. Can you guess whats what? I probably won't be able to tell you... but is sure tastes good!

This is the group from the party. It is a mix of friends from my high school, soccer team, roommates and some that I met from my trip here two years ago!

This yellow, decorated, mountain-like creation is actually rice. It is usually specially made for birthdays (similar to a b-day cake) in Indonesia. Don't be too jealous, I will make one for your next birthday when I get home.

This is me cutting off the peak of the yellow mountain of rice while everyone else looks on with great anticipation! Within this Indonesian tradition, the next step is to give the peak to a "special" someone at the party. Since my mom wasn't there I opted to gave it to a friend.

Playing some chess and rockin' the guitar! Now that is my idea of a good birthday party!

Monday, April 21, 2008

My beautiful new country!

Indonesia is known for being one of the most diverse countries in the world! I have learned some pretty interesting things over the months here in Indonesia. The country is made up of roughly 17,000 islands with only 6,000 that are actually inhabited by its 300 distinct ethnic people groups. Of those 300 groups around 740 languages are spoken. I am still working on my first. The islands string across the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates which make it a site for numerous volcanoes and earthquakes. The last I heard, there are currently 150 active volcanoes! In 2004 one of the largest natural disasters ever, took place in northern Sumatra as an earthquake triggered a tsunami killing nearly 170,000 people. It is now known as the "Asian Tsunami" as it affected 11 Asian countries. Though it may not be the safest place in the world....I am happy to call it my new home! I thought I would share just a few of my favorite photos so far of the mountains, hills, skies, forests, farm lands and everything in between.

I'm not going to lie... I posted this picture only because my childhood dream of becoming a motorcycle man has finally come true!!!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Trip to Nepal!

I just got back a few days ago from a two week trip having spent the majority of my time in the country of Nepal and also a few days in Thailand. My experiences, people met and sights seen were nothing short of amazing. I was confident after living 5 months in Indonesia that nothing could be quite as different as my change from America to Indonesia… but I was wrong. Nepal’s rugged mountainous terrain including the Himalayas and Mount Everest make it one of the most beautiful countries in Asia, while its political and historical aspects make it one of the most corrupt and unstable countries as well. In just a few weeks the country will have its first ever democratic elections which many agree will turn things for the better or make them even worse. The countries instability is apparent in many ways, one of which being the countless policeman marching the streets in anticipation for demonstrations or riots to break out at any minute. Words are hard to explain all that I experienced so I have posted a handful of pictures that I hope you will enjoy.

Here we are trying our best to represent the Nepali people. We are wearing a traditional "topi" worn by many men in the Nepali culture.

Part of our stay we got to visit this hostel for Nepali children located in the mountains outside of Kathmandu. It was a great experience. The organization that runs this hostel helps the neighboring families put their kids through school who otherwise would not be able to afford to do so themselves. We got to spend time with some of the children. The kids loved our magic tricks and Jordan played his guitar and sang a few songs. It was quite a humbling experience for me in realizing my family and educational upbringing in relation to theirs.

Here are some of the kids that live in the hostel.

A few more little ones. Notice the candle in the background, several hours each day there is no electricity in the whole country. That is when they bring out the candles and flashlights!

Here is one of the classrooms. I was told about 28 students are packed in this tiny room for class. (In case you were wandering, my question never got answered.)

These guys are enjoying their afternoon gambling together, a common activity for Nepali people.

This lady is pretty amazing. She is about half my size and probably twice as strong. No tractors in Nepal, they do it the old fashioned way.

These next two shots are after we participated in a nation wide holiday named "holy". Essentially it is probably the worlds biggest water balloon fight with paint filled water balloons. Safe to say, I've never experienced anything like it.

These guys take their holidays seriously.

Just a shot of people...traffic... and buildings.

Most the population of Nepal are either Hindu or Buddhist. These are are just a few of thousands of temples in Nepal that are frequented by believers to offer prayers and sacrifices to the 300 million or more gods and goddesses that are worshiped.

Looking out over Nepal's Capital City, Kathmandu. This is were we spent most of our time.