Highlights of backpacking SE Asia, pt. 1

Where: Klaten & Jogja/Yogyakarta, Central Java, Indonesia

When: November 19-29

purple dot on the right: Yogya/Jogjakarta, purple dot on the left: Klaten (too small to be labeled)

Who: Ellis, a crazy Dutch girl who’s been living in the US for a long time

Ellis and I enjoying some fresh coconut juice in Klaten


Part I (Klaten): Volunteering. We had both agreed to volunteer teaching English while staying with a family. We loved the wife and kids. I loved the first class I taught because it was just four really enthusiastic, hilarious eight-year-olds who loved life and loved learning. Ellis and I were cracking up the whole time with these kids. The other classes were… not as fun. 

A picture Ellis took of me with the fun class. These kids were great!

Ellis and I both stayed about a week and by the end, we had figured out the husband’s scheme (he was the one “organizing” (very loose use of the word) the classes. Basically, we pieced together that he had been fired from most of his other jobs and now only actually taught a few hours himself, but mostly relied on bringing in foreigners to “teach” at all these different schools (where ever he could get in, and also teaching his own classes). He tells the schools he has foreigners (doesn’t matter if they’re native speakers) and HE gets paid, while the foreigners don't (they're volunteers). He usually left the room and had us lead the whole class on our own with no preparation or advance notice about what kind of class it was. 

Now that in itself wouldn’t be so bad if the guy wasn’t just an asshole anyway. He was constantly making inappropriate “jokes” and sexual comments. When I first got there, he told me I looked terrible and I should go to sleep (I think he meant it as a joke or at least not in a mean way, but that's pretty much exactly what he said, word for word...so how is that funny?).  He asked me about 10 times a day if I’d bathed yet, which made me feel really uncomfortable (yes I did bathe, though they didn't have a shower or bath, just a vat of water and a little bucket with a handle to pour water on yourself). He also pulled a stunt to both Ellis and I (separately) where he took us out to dinner after evening classes and wouldn’t leave the restaurant for like an hour after we’d finished eating. Like he was just stalling coming home as long as possible.

And the last school he brought us to was the final straw. He took Ellis and I both to a kindergarten with HUGE class sizes. The first class at this kindergarten had about 30 three-year-olds who spoke NO English. Two of them were also deaf. About 3 seconds before the class started, they informed us that we (Ellis and I) would be leading the whole class on our own. The director of the school asked whether we would like a book to read them or anything. Before Ellis or I could open our mouths, this dick (the dude) butts in, “No!” Then he wanted to sing the hokey-pokey like 15 times in a row and kept saying stuff like, “Sarah, now you lead!” I’m like, “fuck off, dude. I don’t even know this song particularly well.” I hate being put on the spot like that and he kept doing it the whole time.

Anyway, Ellis and I bonded over our growing mistrust and suspicions about the dude. Every night we would go for long walks around Klaten and slowly hash out the situation. By the end, these walks turned into an occasion to hatch escape plots.

We wanted to leave a little earlier than we'd said, but didn't want to rely on them for transportation to the train station (we thought he'd pull some kind of shit to get us to stay longer). We looked all around trying to find the phone number of a taxi or at least a hotel where we could ask about taxis. We finally found a hotel and the dude goes, "No taxis in Klaten." We're like "Whaaaaaat? How is that even possible??"

The next morning when we told them we wanted to go to the train station, the dude was being obnoxious about it for a while, but eventually they brought us both on their motorcycles (had to make two trips because Ellis had a gigantic suitcase). 

Part II: Jogjakarta (Freedom!!)

We did it!

Note: there are two spellings of Jogjakarta/Yogyakarta. Indonesians use both, but it's actually pronounced as if they were English j's.

When we arrived, there was much jubilation and glee. And beer.

Bintang: the beer of Indonesia...the only beer of Indonesia.

Bintang: the beer of Indonesia...the only beer of Indonesia.

We spent the next couple of days exploring the city, buying matching t-shirts, and getting rained on. 

At the "Water Palace". In our matching Java Pride shirts.

On a rickshaw. With the rickshaw driver.

Ellis had been there before and she'd already seen the two big temples, so I booked an expensive tour on my own. 

Me at Borobudor. Being here was magical. I felt like I didn't want to leave the top of the temple.

Prambanan. I visited the temples on Thanksgiving Day :)

Prambanan. I visited the temples on Thanksgiving Day :)

Ellis was the first real friend I'd made on the trip. I had honestly been pretty lonely up until then though I had been having fun on my own and seeing a lot of cool stuff. I just hadn't met anyone that I really got along with. She kind of turned the trip around for me, and I'm not sure I would have survived Klaten without her.