Idul Fitri Fireworks

This month’s update is coming to you from Yogyakarta! Josh and I loved it here so much when we came here in December that we decided to come back here for our last holiday and to celebrate Josh’s 25th birthday. It’s been an excellent trip so far, and I’ll have some Yogya posts coming up over the next few weeks! For now, here’s my July wrap-up.

I started the month with a tumble into the sewer that Josh and I walk along every day, which is why I spent the first week of July nursing a torn shoulder and a bloody, bruised (though thankfully tetanus-free) gash running up the length of my left leg in addition to those pertussis symptoms I mentioned in my June update. It was not a fun start to the month as I limped around, clutching my aching rib every time I inhaled, sneezed, or had a coughing fit.


My health finally started to improve as the month progressed, and I’m almost back to being 100% well again, after more than 6 months of various illnesses. Luckily, Josh has managed to avoid all of the bugs that I’ve picked up, though his smoke allergies are slowly growing worse.

With only a month left to go before we leave Indonesia, these are just some of the reasons that we’re looking forward to getting out of here!

The Great Painting Fiasco

Peeling Paint

The house that we share with some of the other teachers continued to fall to pieces–something I don’t think I’ve talked about much on here before–and construction workers moved into our house so that they could work on fixing some of the issues. Unfortunately, Josh and I were made very uncomfortable by some of the cultural norms when it came to the workers.

We were very disconcerted to come home one night to discover that our housekeeper had let the workers into our room so they could paint a wall. They appeared to have left the door open while they painted, which made for a miserable night of swatting away mosquitoes and crane flies that had moved in while we were gone. Additionally, the humidity from outside is probably what contributed to the paint already peeling away by the time the whole wall finished drying.

And since there aren’t many health or safety standards in Indonesia, it hadn’t occurred to anybody to ventilate our room after they finished painting, so we slept with the AC on full-blast and the screened window wide open but woke up with headaches from the fumes anyway.

What made me angriest, however, was the fact that people had come into our apartment without our consent–we hadn’t been notified that anybody would be coming in, let alone moving and touching our things, and I felt sick when I walked in the door and saw that our privacy had been so blatantly invaded.

It took me a while to calm down and realize that nobody had any ill intentions and the reason that the whole situation had happened was because of cultural differences; privacy simply isn’t much of an issue in Indonesia. Obviously, this was something that I haven’t adapted to, since I still feel it’s unacceptable for a stranger to come into my bedroom without me being notified at least 24 hours in advance.

Internet Access

Krispy Kreme Kafe

Sometimes I feel like I’m failing at life by not being able to survive without a reliable internet connection. So many people live without computers and internet access; shouldn’t I be able to as well?

But there are so many important things that I use the internet for–keeping in touch with family and friends on the opposite side of the world, online classes, language learning, finding reading material, trying to maintain this website–that I suppose it’s okay to admit that I really am dependent on the internet, and it ends up being a problem when I can’t get connected easily. As the year goes on and the internet issues mount, I get more and more frustrated at being so cut off from the rest of the world.

It really feels like as time passes, the internet just gets worse and worse here. In July, this country’s already-slow internet proved just how awful it could be. When the internet at our house stopped working altogether (following several days of only barely functioning), Josh and I went to a mall with the intention of taking care of all our online work using wifi at a cafe. After several hours of buying drinks or pastries at multiple places only to sit down and discover that the wifi was not working, we angrily admitted defeat and went home.

It was several more days until we were able to glean enough internet to catch up with all of our online needs–replying to emails, keeping up with our online reading material, and working on our websites were all impossible tasks for almost a week, and I was in an incredibly horrible mood because of it.

Some Positive Thoughts

And yet for every awful thing to happen in Indonesia, I really do love a lot of my life here. The downsides of living in Indonesia can be incredibly overwhelming at times, but I wanted to share some things that I really do appreciate here. Most of them are little things, but they still make me glad.

Strawberry juice. I love anything strawberry-flavored, but I had never considered that strawberry juice existed. Freshly blended strawberry juice is available at almost every restaurant here, and it’s become my usual drink whenever I eat out.

Pepenero. And speaking of eating out, Josh and I have been enjoying Indonesian food, but it’ll be easy enough to cook it from our own kitchen. The food that we’ll really miss from here is our favorite Italian restaurant, which is the cheapest and most delicious Italian either of us has ever eaten. The wait staff are wonderful, and all of them know our order by heart, which tells you how often we go there!


Butterflies and flowers. Walking to work every day involves being almost immediately drenched in sweat from the heat and humidity. Nonetheless, there are brief moments during my walk that feel like paradise, as butterflies fly around me and I walk along paths of tropical trees whose fallen flowers are scattered along the sidewalk. You won’t find much of that in Ohio!

Blitzmegaplex. This is one of the main cinema chains in Indonesia, and I’ve seen more movies there than I can count. Tickets are cheap, especially on weekdays (about $2 USD), and they are usually up-to-date on most American movies–sometimes movies even come out here before they do in the US. Though they don’t sell the buttery popcorn that used to be my usual movie-going snack in the US, I’ve happily converted to their amazing caramel popcorn. Mmmmmm.

McDelivery! I never anticipated that one of my favorite rituals would be the pancakes that Josh and I have delivered from McDonald’s every week or so. It’s not the healthiest habit, but I think it’s always a well-deserved treat at the end of a busy week. We make up for it by loading up on tons of veggies and fruit on weekdays.

Grand Indonesia. One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to go to what I consider to be the best mall in Indonesia. There’s a delicious vegetarian restaurant, an Auntie Anne’s and Krispy Kreme for when I want to satisfy an American snack-food craving, and tons of other shopping and dining options. Best of all, though, is the New York-themed fountain show in the Rockefeller Plaza area. I watch this every time we go, and it amazes me every single time.

Fountain Show

The teaching. I haven’t written much about teaching lately, other than the stressful scheduling. But I really do love my classes, and so many of my students have found their way into my heart. I feel like I’ve grown as a teacher so much this year, and no matter how overworked I feel at times, it is still a genuine joy to walk into class every day.

It’s been a month of ups and downs, but as I enter my last month in Indonesia, I’m feeling very optimistic. I’m determined to finish the year on a positive note, and when Josh and I get home from Yogya, we’ll have just enough time to revisit all our favorite places around Tangerang before it’s time to pack up and move out!

Love, Elizabeth

*All photos in this post were taken by Josh.