Tuesday, December 20, 2011

There's a Reason This Stuff is Banned!

Meet, the durian.

In the spirit of following our trend of trying new things, Ellie and I set off to the pasar after school to buy a durian. Some of you might have no idea what a durian is. I myself first learned of the durian while playing Super Mario Sunshine once upon a time. 

The durian is a curious fruit. It is not known for its unique appearance or for its potentially life-threatening spikes. The durian is instead famous for its insanely pungent odor. 

I truly cannot put into words a just description of the smell that eminates from the durian. The smell of the durian is so foul that you can literally smell it from a mile away. It is forbiden on public transportation. It is banned in hotels across Asia. When I say that it smells bad, you can just imagine the worst thing you have ever had the misfortune of smelling and multiply by 100. Six hours after eating this thing, my house still smells wretched.

This is the woman who sold us the vile-smelling fruit. We stopped on the way home to get noodles, to wash away the taste after eating. When you ask a person to describe the flavor of durian, you are likely to get a wholly unique answer. I have heard everything from stinky-sock garlic-flavored yoghurt to consistency and flavor of snot, so you can immagine my excitement at trying one of the only foods that the conquerer of all things nasty, Andrew Zimmern, spit out and simply could not swallow.

After I mildly wounding myself on the razor-sharp spindles in an attempt to break open the fruit, we watched it for awhile, basking in the odor, trying to decide if this was really something we wanted to continue with. On the outside, the durian looks pretty awesome. 

On the inside, not so much.

I have to admit that the durian was not nearly as heinous as I had anticipated, taste-wise. At least I was able to swallow it. But the smell? It's still lingering today. I accidentally dropped a bit on the table which subsequently soaked into the wood grain and remains as a reminder of the day that we tried durian.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Culture | Salatiga | Indonesia

Warning: The photos you are about to see are of a very dark, grainy quality. 
But, in my defense, these events took place at two different warungs (street food stalls) which are dimly lit by a few simple fluorescent lights.

Many of the girls here have seen a lot of the world, like myself, and are also commonly asked the question, "What's the weirdest thing you've ever eaten?"

Since none of us had a very exciting response, we went in search of something worthy to be our answer. Our third try was a charm, as we stumbled upon a warung, situated across from a dump, with the dreaded RW sign. 

You might be asking yourself, what does RW mean?
Well, I actually have no idea what the literal R and W stand for but I do know that upon my arrival and orientation, I was told to avoid these places because an RW sign meant that they were serving...dog.

Yes, dog.

Since the vast majority of Indonesia is of the Muslim faith, which considers the mere touch of a dog to be unclean, warungs that serve this dish display RW sign so that no religious laws are unintentionally violated.

I have to say that the entire drive to this place, I was thinking of Clover and how sad I would be if someone stole her out of my yard (because that's what happens here) and ate her.
But despite the Golden Retriever pup that Kriston and I saw bounding down the road towards us on the way, we were determined to try one of the craziest things (in our opinion) that Indonesia could throw at us. So, we took our seats on the mat-covered ground and braced ourselves.

I tried to keep an open mind during this process but it was pretty hard as this is what we were served. 

See all the white-ish bits? That's a mixture of fat and bone. That dark part in the middle? You can use your imagination.

The only way that I can describe the taste of dog was summed up by my roomate Kriston, who subsequently gagged twice upon putting it in her mouth: canned Alpo. Eating dog literally tastes like the food that we serve to them. Not that I've eaten canned dog food but if I ever did, I imagine that this is what it would taste like and it without a doubt, smelled the same.

I tried really hard to get it down. I smiled. I pictured a juicy steak. I even picked a prime piece with a minimal ammount of fat and no bone. But I simply couldn't swallow. The meat was much more tender than beef or chicken and was without a doubt the most foul taste I have ever had in my mouth. They also make it pedas, which means hot and super spicy. 

Those of you that know me well, know that I have only thrown up twice since the age of two. This almost came in as the third. After about two minutes of contemplation, I had to step outside (so as not to offend the owner) and spit it out. I quickly washed it down with a cold and fizzy Coke Zero.

Despite the fact that I technically didn't "eat" dog since it didn't make it to my stomach, I shared the experience and can say that it stretched me to my culinary limits.

To celebrate our accomplishment, we drove to a nearby warung to sample a traditonal Indonesian drink, Ronde. Based upon a simple ginger broth, this drink also contains clear seaweed, jellies, floating peanuts and a rainbowed assortment of other goodies. 

After the dog experience, this was heaven. I was first introduced to ginger drinks after a massage in Bali. It is customary here to be served a drink and light refreshment after a massage. I love ginger.

The pink ball on the spoon was my favorite part. I have no idea what it is called, but it is made from sticky rice gluten and is incredibly chewy. In fact, it was so chewy that I couldn't help but giggle every time I bit into one. I have never had a food literally make me happy before but I just couldn't help but giggle :) All around, it was a great night filled with many new and unforgetable experiences. 

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Animal Market | Ambarawa | Indonesia

Welcome to the exotic animal market. It takes place in a town about 20 minutes outside of Salatiga, every five days. Row upon row of strange and not so strange animals abound as far as the eye can see.

This is a luwak. The luwak are famous in Indonesia for their poop. Yes, their poop. They are fed coffee beans that are subsequently collected after being digested. The final product is called Kopi Luwak. It is very expensive.

There were so many people.

Among them was this guy. While we were pushing through the crowd, we came upon him pulling a....special part...out of a bag, indicating that if you were having man troubles, his herbal remedy (as seen in the bottle) could help you out.

Remember a few months ago when I found the Tokay in our extra bedroom? Apparently they're good for eating.

Yes, this is a baby cheetah, just hanging out in a cage.

And I will leave you with this lovely image. I screamed out loud when I saw this. Apparently the snake blood has desirable qualities and you can purchase a shot for a nominal fee.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

A Tropical Christmas

Clear water, blue skies and cool water made for a perfect day at the beach yesterday. Not only did I manage to get a little bit of a tan in December, but we got to explore the bounty of tidal pools. We saw sea urchins, a variety of crabs and even an octopus!

School | Christmas Concert

The annual Mountainview Christmas Concert took place Friday night. As soon as I got to school, I had to snag a pic with all of my girls because they were all in dresses!

We took a class pic by the Christmas tree during intermission before they all had to get back up on stage.

The 5th and 6th grade sang together.

At the end of the concert, we got to do a candle lighting. Those of you that have attended a Christmas service with me in the past know that I have a hard time leaving the candle alone in my hands. I tend to make wax shavings that end up covering the floor. This service was no exception. Unfortunately the candles were red so I'm still trying to get the color off of my finger nails!

And here's a pic of all of the teachers at the end of the concert:

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 9, 2011

An Owl A Day Keeps The Blues Away

For those of you who don't follow instagram, I have begun a little project as a hobby. I have a book:

It has a different crafty rule for each day, which in the end results in a year-long collection of some pretty cool stuff. I mostly stick with the guidelines, although I have come up with a few side projects on my own. I am sticking with an owl theme. I've been going for a little over a week and here's what I've come up with so far:

Day 1: Using the objects around you, create something that fits in the palm of your hand.

Day 2: Use paper as your inspiration today (we were making snowflakes in class this day so it was a handy idea)

Day 3: Oragami Owl (Ellie and I got crafty in art class :)

Day 4: Toilet paper owl, take one

Day 6: Toilet paper owl, take two

Day 7: Mosaic Owl

Day 8: Use chalk as your medium today and make a creation around your house

Day 9: Brown on Brown

That's all so far. I peaked ahead and these are going to get pretty crazy soon!