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FOOD [Apr. 13th, 2011|04:23 am]
Here's one of the entries I promised a while ago.

In the 5 weeks I have been here I haven't eating anything I didn't like. Granted, nowadays I'm not the picky eater I was when I was a mere 8 years old. I eat (or at least try once) almost everything. I'm not a big fan of savoy cabbage or animal intestines but that's about it. It's not like I don't care what I eat it's just that everything tastes very good :)

When we first arrived in Indonesia we ate quite a few times at malls and western-style fast food places. While the malls were good but expensive the fast food was CRAP and also expensive. Our choice was due to our lack of knowledge of Medan (i.e. good places to eat) and the guy who was showing us around (a teacher at another university) was a very picky eater.

At first we got our share at authentic food at the university. Since we don't get paid we get lunch at the university every day. It's quite nice, we tell a student what we would like and they just get it for us. This, of course, poses a problem, when you have no idea what kind of dishes exist and what they are called. So at first we got some basic stuff, like Nasi Goreng (fried rice) or Mie Ayam Goreng (fried noodles with chicken). But we try from time to time to encourage the students to recommend something to us.

At dinner, we're on our own to find something that tastes nice and doesn't give us stomach problems. The international students are a big help. They have been here for a couple of months and now quite a few good places. So now we're mainly eating at the cheap, authentic and often quite dirty places ;) It's far more interesting to eat there, sometimes we're not sure what we get when we order. So far we hadn't had more stomach troubles than usual, so let's hope it stays that way.
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Last Weekend [Apr. 8th, 2011|06:57 am]
Last weekend we went on a seminar/trip with students of the English department. They asked us to be speakers at a seminar on soft skills in Lhoksumawe, 400km north of Medan. Of course, we agreed, also because after the seminar on Friday we would continue north to spend the weekend on a small island in the Indian ocean. The seminar was quite interesting and the island very pretty indeed but had I known before how much time we would spent in the car on bad and curvy road with student drivers who sometimes attempted to break the land speed record I would probably have thought about it twice.
Also, I was very much irritated by the Indonesian way of planning things (“Who could've have known that there are only two ferries today? Seems like we must stay another night...”) and their way of finding points of interest (“Lets all drive of in different directions individually. That way we can spent more time in the cars when we wait for the others to catch up! YAY!”)
Anyway, it was interesting and the island and Banda Aceh were really nice. It would've been great to stay there longer and to spend less time in the car. On the other hand we didn't pay anything, even got paid a small sum for the presentations, so in the end it was all worth the trouble.

Pictures are here: https://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=304031&id=527312356&l=28e92c0858

This weekend we will go to Bukit Lawang to trek through the jungle once more and try to spot some Orang-Utans. Wish us luck!
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Another weekend away [Mar. 22nd, 2011|01:04 pm]
We're back in Medan after a nice relaxing weekend in Tangkahan. We saw waterfalls, goannas and washed elephants! The Elephant washing was particularly fun. They're so big (who would've thought!) and friendly. Well, I'm not sure if that last bit can be said about every elephant but our bunch certainly was well behaved.
The road to and from Tangkahan wasn't as relaxing as the other stuff but it certainly was interesting. It was a 4-5 hour ride on a road that was only half-way paved and had bridges that were only one bus wide consisting only of a few steel girders and some planks (Granted, the bridges were only over a few feet gullies but it was exciting nonetheless). Riding in a bus that should've been put to rest 25 years ago added to the experience. On parts of the journey the bus was packed with people but we were the only westerners the whole time.
Tangkahan was the end of the line for a reason. A kiosk, a music shop (for some reason), the visitor centre, and the ferry across the river, that was all there was. We ferried over and climbed a steep cliff to our bungalow. Sadly no river view, but an awesome semi-outdoor bathroom and a porch with a hammock. It was beautifully quite with electricity only between 6 and 11pm and nothing much to do but walk through rivers and the jungle. We did a tubing tour (kinda disappointing) to a waterfall (worth it), trekked up a river for a little bit and, of course, washed the elephants. It was a lot of fun for us, and I hope for the elephants too :)
Yesterday (Monday) all the good energy and the relaxation evaporated pretty quickly. I was not much short of yelling at students cause the left it till the last possible day to show me the corrections of their thesis papers. Most of them did the corrections but somehow managed to add new mistakes! I was quite livid with rage and the head teacher also was super cross with them and almost wanted to fail some of them. What was driving me up the wall was not their lack of language skill but their apparent laziness; I had to correct simple spelling errors, they didn't even proof read their own paper! I didn't make anyone cry, though, so I think I might have to be tougher next time... This morning my listening comprehension class was quite well behaved and we got a good deal of work done. Maybe I have a reputation now and they all fear me.
Bonus: Elephant videos!
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Proper Travel Blog Post [Mar. 15th, 2011|05:01 pm]
[mood |hotpeeling]

So, I take it most of you already got a good look at the pictures of our weekend trip to Berastagi. (Psssst, they're here: https://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=289888&id=527312356&l=4068983032)

We finally managed to get away from the stinking maelstrom that is Medan. Don't get me wrong, the city is fascinating. But it's very hot, very crowded, very dirty and very loud. So we were looking forward to a weekend in a small town.
Berastagi is located in the highlands of Sumatra so the climate is much cooler. On Friday afternoon we took an Angkot (Minibus) from the university to the bus station, where we would catch a bus to Berastagi. We knew the name of the bus station and told the driver, but en-route the driver changed and the new one didn't knew where we wanted to get out. So naturally we managed to miss the bus station and rode til the end of the Minibus line. When we noticed that, we told the new driver and he managed to flag a big bus to Berastagi down for us on his way back (the end of the minibus line is the same as the first part of the Berastagi-line...).
The ride to Berastagi took us two hours and cost about 65 cents 0_0 The driver tried to short-change us first but we are no stupid Bules (= Foreigners, derived from the word vor Albino, because of westerners' white skin) and so we got our change eventually. The road to Berastagi is steep and winding. Our driver nevertheless used every opportunity to pass every bus, car and lorry we encountered on the road, only slowing down to let people hop on or hop off (literally!).

When we arrived it was already dark, raining a bit and deliciously cool. We checked in our guest house (room w/ bathroom, 100000R = 8€), and equipped us with a map to one of the volcanoes surrounding Berastagi. We decided against the route through the jungle since that would've required a guide (150000 to 250000). We opted for the „easier“, „clearly marked“ route.

We set of at 8 o'clock but were brought to a halt before we even left town by two girls on their way to school. They wanted to interview us for school, a popular homework given by language teachers.
The first half of the way went along a paved road, so no much jungle feeling there. It was, however, pretty steep in parts and we got some good looks of the plains behind us. Then we were supposed to get to a turn-off, which we only found be accident. The path improved a lot from meaning that it resembled our expectations of a jungle path much more. After some heavy brush wandering (yes, I made up that expression) we emerged below the crater. The crater itself was vegetation-free and we arrived there around noon. No shade, on a mountain, near the equator, around noon, forgetting to use sunscreen... all this spells sun burn in pretty big letters and even though I rolled down my sleeves and hunched in the shade of a rock for a bit it was pretty obvious that we would have a nice lobster tan this evening.
The crater itself was everything you expect an active volcano crater to be. The smell of rotten eggs, steam emerging with loud hissing noises from holes in the ground, ground and water warm from the magma lurking below (I suspect), yellow spots where the sulphur condensed on the stones.
We stayed there for an hour before we looked for a way down. The lady at the guest house recommended we take the same way down that we took uphill, since the other way was a little washed out because of rain season. Naturally, we ignored that advice. Not foolishly but because our guidebook said it wasn't to hard a path even without a guide. And boy, were we in for a treat! It was Indiana Jones-esque with paths almost becoming tunnels because of the vegetation, 1.5 meter drops, steps that didn't deserved the name and backtracking because the path was sometimes completely grown over. At one part we even had to climb down the roots of a fallen tree! Finally back in the plain we were very sun burned and exhausted but also very happy :) Even though we had to wait 40 minutes for the bus to take us back in the city. The driver just wouldn't be rushed.

On Sunday we just visited to markets in the morning. Berastagi is famous for it's fruit market and the fruit from the plains is sold all over Sumatra Island. I bought passion fruit, avocado and mangosteen, Patrik went for bananas and mandarines. After that we checked out of our room and took the bus back to Medan.
Today (Tuesday) the back of my hands and my nose still look pretty red/purple-ish, despite heavy creaming. I think at least my nose will peel :( But I learned my lesson, I won't forget to screen up the next time.
Next weekend we either want to Tangkahan where you can wash elephants or Pukit Lawang where you can watch Orang-Utans. We'll probably do both anyway it's just a question of what to do first :)
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More lessons [Mar. 8th, 2011|06:01 am]
[Current Location |Medan]
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Peter Fox - Alles Neu]

Wow. When I read my last entry I was appalled by the bad quality of writing. I'll try to do better from now on. (Not fishing for compliments here, some of it STINKS!)

Sorry for the sporadic updates. Last week was littered with horrible, horrible skripsi corrections that used up all my linguistic supplies and wasn't able to produce a coherent text.
I have ideas for updates in my head already but no time to write them down. Expect updates about traffic, religion, food and language some time in the future.

I wrote about how we would go to the ocean on Sunday before last in the last post. That didn't work out, we went around the city instead and did some more work. Last Sunday we managed to have another look around the city. After getting lost, paying too much for a used Lonely Planet and spending too much time in malls we managed to visit a Hindu temple. Sadly we weren't allowed to take pictures inside but the outside and the courtyard were pretty impressive, too.

As mentioned above last week was as stressful as expected. This week is shaping out to be a little bit more relaxing. First, the head teacher is away for a conference somewhere on Java, I think. That means nobody is piling up work on heads right now :P Also, since exams are over we have a lot less corrections to do, so far just one 8-page proposal each.
We even found some time after university yesterday to visit another Hindu temple. Got lost again (on foot this time) but managed to find it before sundown and witness a Hindu ceremony, even though we were the only people there beside the priest(?) and had no idea of what was going on.
After that we had dinner at a really classy looking but cheap place in a mall (seriously, I'm beginning to grow sick of malls...) and celebrated the 25th birthday of one of the international students there.

This weekend we're planning on going to Berastagi, Sumatra's fruit basket, and hiking up one or two dormant volcanoes there. That should be fun :)

In case you forgot, here is the link to all the pictures: https://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=289888&id=527312356&l=4068983032
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First day of school [Feb. 25th, 2011|03:06 pm]
[mood |workingworking]
[music |The Streets feat Robert Harvey - Soldiers]

Yesterday I had my first class. It's a class I teach together with Patrik, a friend from Bonn who I'm doing this internship with. In this class the students have to prepare a 10 minute presentation about a subject of their choice. We also try to teach some basics about academic writing since most of the students lack in that department A LOT! Since I can't keep my gob shut I was a little hoarse after class but I hope I'm back 100% next week when teaching commences.
Today was all day Skripsi-correcting. We stayed 7 hours. It's hard work. Imagine a 30 page essay where there are almost no sentences that are correct. Very few have simple spelling mistakes, most of them are in deep structural trouble and some are simply indecipherable. I don't want to bash the students because most of them are trying very hard but. I also don't want to say that the teachers aren't good since I have no way of knowing right now (maybe in 3 months time). It's just that these students come form a culture that is far less focused on the written word than western culture. But now they're supposed to produce a 30 page bachelor thesis that is (supposed to be) judged after these western standards. Can't end well in my opinion.
But it's not as bleak as I'm making it out to be. It's just that we are under a little bit of pressure. Quite a few students are supposed to hand in their thesis papers next week and some of them are just not gradable. Both Patrik and me are working friday night and saturday to get the corrections done, to talk the students through them on monday so they can implement them till tuesday :/
We might go to the ocean on sunday (we need a day off too!) so there might be some more pictures on the Facebook this weekend.
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...and the case of the missing voice. [Feb. 21st, 2011|01:04 pm]
[Current Location |Mess, Medan, Indonesia]

I lost my voice, can't find it anywhere, it's completely gone, pissed off to have fun somewhere else. You can imagine that this is a sub-optimal condition for some one who is supposed to teach language. I got sent back to my room to get my voice back by the head teacher even though we were only supposed to do some corrections at the teachers lounge today. I must've made a pitiable impression with my croacking attempts at conversation. I hope this passes quickly.
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Weddings and slightly terrifying taxi experiences [Feb. 19th, 2011|04:04 pm]
[Current Location |Medan, Indonesia]
[mood |sleepysleepy]

So today we went to a wedding of a former german student from Medan University who is now a german teacher. The wedding was full and loud and very interesting. We saw and spoke to the bride and groom only a little bit and spent most of the time sampling the food :P When we arrived we had to shake a lot of hands first, then we were ushered straight to the food tables. It was spicy but not unedible. We sweated profoundly but we always do so nobody noticed. Then we had to pose for a picture with the bride and groom and shake a lot of hands again before we left.
For dinner we went to a korean restaurant in a chinese mall and finally bought something to eat for breakfast, some crispy bread rolls that taste like coffee and are either filled with cheese or marmelade, opinions differ. Until now we either skipped breakfast or had an apple/cookies or something else we got from the supermarket.
Tomorrow we're goint to visit the great mosque and maybe try to buy some clothes.

(I uploaded all the pictures to facebook and can't be bothered to upload them to photobucket again. Just look at them there.)
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First few days [Feb. 18th, 2011|06:13 pm]
[Current Location |Indonesien, Palembang ]

So the second full day draws to a close. It's still very hot, I reckon about 28°C, and it doesn't cool down much at night either. I drink a lot of water and all but the heat is getting to me a little I guess. I might need some more days to adjust to the weather.
We got our timetable today. We work every day but only between 3 and 6 hours. Some days we just correct "Skripsis" (thesis papers) or helping students who are currently writing their skripsi. Other days we each teach two classes. The skill level among students seems to be varying quite a lot. So you have very good speakers and people in their 3rd year who can't utter a whole sentence.
Tomorrow we're going to a wedding! One of the German teachers(?) is getting married and we were second hand invited today :) Expect pictures!
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INDONESIA [Feb. 17th, 2011|05:07 pm]
[mood |hothot]
[music |cicadas chirping]

Hey fine folks, I thought I fire up this old thing since it hasn't evaporated in the internets yet. And since I'm now in INDONESIA I have stuff to write about. So keep your eyes peeled for exciting reports about showering with a bucket, the importance of a/c and the joy(?) of teaching German.
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