Friday, April 27, 2012

Pageant Update

For those of you who missed it on Facebook, my jaunt in the beauty pageant last weekend earned me a spot in the newspaper!

I translated the story via GoogleTranslate. It talks about the different Kartini Day celebrations that happened around town. My favorite part was when it said "...students were required to dress up in traditional Javanese attire and waddle like models..."haha because when you're wearing that skirt, waddling is about all you can manage!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kartini Day | Salatiga | Indonesia

Last Saturday, all across the country, Indonesians celebrated the life of a woman named Kartini. In summary, Kartini was a pioneer in Indonesian women's rights. And, what better way to celebrate a women's rights activist than pageant? You got it. A beauty pageant to pay homage to the woman who fought to allow Indonesian women to be educated. Being from the international school, we were personally invited to not only attend but also participate, by the mayor himself. Our day began at 5 am....

Step 1: Hair
 1. Insane volume through teasing          2. Bump, twist, repeat                              3. Voila

Step 2: Make Up
       4. Add fake eyelashes                       5. Trace new lips                          6. Make over, check!

Step 3: Add Traditional Javanese Clothing

Step 4: Attend Beauty Pageant
First, we attended a ceremony on the lawn of the Mayor's house. It lasted an hour and involved singing, saluting and praying. It was rather interesting.

Oh, we also had to have escorts. Here are the guys that Ibu Maria wrangled up for us:

Those of you that know me, know that I hate to be the center of attention and I hate speaking in public. Both of these things happened during the pageant. Long story short, out of 150 contestant couples, I was the first one to walk out. Without any instructions, I had to be the first one to walk down the stage. Note the suprise on my face:

Although I have no desire to ever compete in a beauty pageant again, it was undoubtedly a once in a lifetime experience that I am glad to have participated in.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Pacitan | Indonesia

This weekend, Scoopy and I got to roadtrip with some friends to a beach town in Eastern Java called Pacitan. It has been our most vigorous endeavor as driving partners and I am glad to say that we still make a great pair.

We got off to a rough start when about 30 minutes in, a woman decided it would be a good idea to try to cut across the highway without being able to see. Without any warning, there was suddenly a bike in front of me. Without all of the gory details, I had to replace my front tire (thanks to bad driver's headlight) and my ankle is currently the size of a grapefruit and the color of a plum (four days later). Luckily, I was able to hop back on the bike after a short delay and we continued to Pacitan.

After about 7 hours, several volcanoes and too many rice fields to count, we arrived in Pacitan. By this time, it was raining. We made our way to our beach-front bungalos only to be greeted with a sign that said tutup or closed. This was particularly humorous, given the events of the day and that Christine had already called to make a reservation. Luckily, there was a homestay nearby that hooked us up.

Saturday, we hit the beach. There is one beach in the actual town of Pacitan but thanks to the strong current of this part of the coast, you can't really swim in it which means that in order to get to the good beaches, you get to drive a couple hours in the most gorgeous mountains. The first beach we arrived at was Pantai Srau. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves:

From there, we wandered through the mountains to some little beach that I can't remember the name of. There was a photo shoot going on and we found several needles. That was about it. After sketchy little beach, we decided to see where the mountain road would take us. That's where the pavement ended and the gravel began. After about 30 minutes of painstakingly slow driving, we were told by a nice field worker that there was in fact a beach, just ahead. Finally back on pavement, we continued to wind through the mountains on the steepest roads you could possibly imagine. When I say steep, I mean Texas Giant steep. Sometimes, while driving in Indonesia, you get the feeling that the laws of gravity don't apply and this was one of those situations. When we crested the hill to see Pantai Klayar, we were practically jumping for joy.

Unfortunately, it started to rain soon after we got there so we didn't get to see much the first day. We headed back to our town and ate at a restaurant called "Jet Sky" (which I believe was aiming for jet ski)

While we were wandering around that evening looking for an internet cafe, we stumbled upon a Christian church, which we were able to attend an Easter service at the next day. We got there at 5:30 am and although I had practically no idea what the pastor was saying, it was nice being in a real church for a change, especially on Easter. They also gave us each a hardboiled egg. With a bible verse. After church and some coffee on the beach, we headed back to the mountains to check out a couple of caves.

The first cave, Goa Tabuhan, was pretty cool because some of the stalactites were hollow and when you knocked on them with a gong, would make a noise similar to the Indonesian instrument gamelan. This cave was also nice because it was nestled in a small town and we were practically the only people there.

The second cave, Goa Gong, was quite different. As I was hobbling my way up the steep steps to the caves enterance, tour buses were dropping tourists off in hoardes. We decided to enjoy an es kalapa muda or coconut and wait for the crowd to die down a bit because personal space isn't as prevalent here. When we did make our way inside, it was huge. We walked hundreds of steps to descend into the cavern. There was a lot of exploring that could be done, assuming you had the full use of both legs and a flashlight.

After we left the cave, we saw signs that pointed back to Pantai Klayar and decided to see it in the sunlight. The beach was lovely but that wasn't the exciting part of this excursion. 

We ate lunch on the top of a cliff overlooking the beach. Christine and I saw a shack in the middle of the next cliff over and decided to go exploring. After crouching through spiky bushes, traipsing through paddy fields and scaling the edge of a cliff, we arrived in the coolest place I have ever laid eyes on. Period. 

Photographs cannot do this place justice. Check it out, see if you can find me:

Look at the arch, then up at the grass line and to the right just a bit. Yep, I'm that tiny dot.
This trip definitely takes the prize for the most awe-inspiring Easter break.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Jaipur | India | Day 6

Dave was once again concerned that we see the monuments of Rajasthan so after a breakfast of banana-honey pancakes, we headed off to the Amber Fort. This was actually one of my favorite stops of our entire trip. Nestled in the hills outside of Jaipur, the Amber Fort over looks a valley. 
I was dying to take a look inside but quite tired of overpaying for the pleasure of simply looking at a building. I noticed as I was standing in line for the entry ticket that there was a student price. So, I whipped out my good old Baylor ID card.  After being scrutinizedfor a few minutes, I apparently passed for a college student and paid half-price admission (which was still well more than tripple the national ticket price). Tricking the system made this experience slightly more enjoyable than our previous ones.

The girls decided to sit this one out so I took some time to wander around alone. Again, the building was almost completely open to tourists and I was free to wander down the narrow passageways and steep staircases. Here are a few of my favorite shots from the fort:

We stopped by the Water Palace before heading to a textile factory. Shopping is my weakness and once again, I found myself with so much fabric I didn't know what to do. I look forward to sewing it all into something fabulous when I get home this summer!

After eating lunch at a restaurant (which employed someone to wipe the toilet seat before you entered the restroom), we headed back to New Delhi. Luckily, we had all enjoyed riding in the car up to this point because this portion of our trip took nearly 6 hours! Albeit, we stopped for gas and a drug fix (for Dave, not us) and changed a flat tire. This particular flat tire was quite amusing, although without knowing Dave, it's probably just one of those had to be there kind of things.
Dave suddenly jerked to the shoulder of the road when we were about an hour away from the city. After casually sticking his head out the window, he turned around to us and announced in the most monotonous voice you could possibly immagine "Tire is flat". It took us a moment to gain composure and stop giggling. After emerging from the car, we tried to capture a bit of the humorous moment on camera, as Dave unloaded our belongings and stacked them on the roof of the car. We failed.

With the sun setting in the distance, our road trip culminated in Melody screaming bloody murder because upon looking at the ground below her feet, she found the corpse of a dog (minus the head) sticking out of the sand. This unfortunate situation was even funnier because earlier in the day, in the same monotone voice, Dave had distracted himself midsentence by pointing out that "dog is dead" as we passed a twitching dog, in the middle of the street. I don't know whether it was a lack of sleep, trying to ignore Dave snorting something nonchallantly, or seeing a dead dog up close and personal, but it was definitely an entertaining six hours.

Upon dropping us off at the hotel, Dave was eager to get a move on but we managed to sequester him for one picture before we parted ways. You can tell how much he loved us :)

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Jaipur | India | Day 5

Originally, we had planned to stay in Agra for two days but seeing as how we saw the Taj Mahal in one morning, we decided to change our plans and take a detour to Jaipur. We saw some pretty interesting things, but I think my favorite part of the trip was simply riding in the car and seeing the countryside. As with anywhere, the smaller towns were dramatically different from the large cities. The drive to Jaipur was several hours and about halfway there, Dave asked if we would like to see a temple. In the spirit of being adventurous, we agreed. He pulled off the highway onto a small, two-lane road where we promptly came upon a herd of sheep.

Once Dave had honked the horn numerous times, we passed the herd on the side of the road....only to come upon another herd about half a mile up. Then another. Then another. Dave explained that these were real life nomads. Literally. Wandering the Indian countryside with little more than their herds. I don't know about you, but when I think of nomads, I think of people back in Biblical times, not 2012. It was interesting to see that this was still a way of life for so many people.

We arrived at the temple a few minutes later. This temple was rather different from any other that I've seen anywhere in the world, in that it was built down and into the rock, rather than up towards the sky. It went about two stories into the ground, down behind us, in order to collect rain water. 

We headed back to the highway and passed the herds of sheep, again. After another couple hours, we arrived in Jaipur. We checked into our homestay then headed into town. Dave dropped us off at the City Palace Museum, which turned out to be a tourist trap. The only upside to this stop was getting to see a...snake charmer! After taking pictures of him, I was persuaded to join him on his carpet for a photo. I don't know how he managed to do it because I was sitting quite far away and staring quite intently at his basket but somehow, he signaled to the snake to lunge at me. I absolutely cannot stand snakes and proceeded to scream bloody murder. (The charmer insisted that his snake was "safe").

We spent the rest of the afternoon shopping. Nothing can compare to the determination of the shopkeepers in India. Long story short, I had had my eye on this patchwork quilt with elephants on it. I approached the first shop I came to that had one displayed. For those of you who have visited Canal Street in New York, you have probably been led down a dark alley to a secret room that's behind a wall. It was a similar case at this particular shop and we were led into a basement that was no larger than the size of a jail cell. After about 20 minutes of haggling, I could tell he wasn't going to go any lower. We high-tailed it out of there and stopped in the next shop with the quilts. While I was making my purchase, the first shopkeeper is furiously pounding down the street, seemingly in search of us. Glad we doged that bullet. 

We walked around the market for a couple of hours. We were frequently asked where we were from. We turned it into a game to see how far-fetched we could get while still being believed. That afternoon, we told people that we were from England, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. I also was acosted in English, French and Spanish by one particular shopkeeper. It was a rather exhausting afternoon, but it resulted in some lovely finds. 

Fatehpur Sikri | India | Day 4

Senior year of high school, my family took a trip to Rome. Having taken Latin for four years, I was pretty excited to see the places that I had learned about for so long. The ruins were just as I had imagined they would be, but the historical ambiance was slightly overshadowed by the onslaught of shutter-happy tourists around every colonnaded corner. This, however, was not the case for our next stop in India.

After we finished at the Taj, it was only about 1pm. We convinced Dave to take us to a ghost town called Fatehpur Sikri. It was about an hour drive from Agra. According to what I read about it, there were two different towns, Fatehpur and Sikri. Since we didn't pay for a "guide", I'm a little fuzzy on the rest of the history of the place. It was, however, worth the visit. And, as usual, the man love was every present. Well preserved and open for exploring, it was the perfect end to our hectic morning.