Tuesday, June 25, 2013


After doing some hard-core eating and resting after the Bali marathon*, my pal John and I took off for the island of Flores. We had little-to-no plan. 

In the end, we were pretty successful, with the Flores journey including:
1) The greatest experience of my life: legally riding motorcycles (officially no longer Peace Corps volunteers) up a mountain before dawn to illegally view the sunrise over the colored crater lakes of Kelimutu.

 2) Finding the loves of my life in Moni:

Karlitos and Ranti. "KarLItos!"
This is forever, people. It should be noted that the rest of the Moni posse not pictured here included Intan and Vikri. 
After a couple of days hanging out with the fam and learning the local language, bahasa lio, from the kids, sadly we had to wave good-bye and board our travel experience from hell to Labuan Bajo. 

3) And the first giant sea creatures and dragons of my life 

John with Ashley and Joe, the New Yorkers we met on the boat. They come into play later. Foreshadowing.
 No way you'd ever catch me scuba diving, so I happily snorkeled while John, Ashley, Joe, and the Italians dove to find some mantas. As I was floating by my lonesome, I swore the mother of all naughty words underwater into my snorkel as I found myself face-to-face with a ginormous manta cleaning itself. No one told me they'd be bigger than me! I was in awe - much like my sister, Colleen, was at the size of the Liberty Bell. It's really not that big. She just thought it'd be like a tiny dinner bell.

Sorry, no pictures of these guys. But they are BIG! And then I saw 3 more.

This lady Komodo in the island of Rinca just lay there like a slug. John actually got pictures of the male Komodo that came out afterward. After hearing our guide's tale of how he was previously attacked by a dragon, chased up a tree, and hospitalized from a tiny prick of the venom penetrating through his shoe to his foot, I cowered and observed from afar. 

 The beautiful island of Rinca. 

 Boating back to Labuan Bajo and flying back to Java...but not before we had one more tasty sandwich and chocolate milk treat!


Afterword: A Love Story Continued

Ashley and Joe were traveling Flores in the opposite direction, so after Labuan Bajo they were headed to Moni. Missing my Moni monchichis, I wrote them letters on my Hello Kitty stationery (never leave home without it) in bahasa lio and gave them to Ashley to deliver. 

Below are the photos she emailed when she met up with them, and you can check out their blog post here:

Imuku Ranti with my letter. Aku meto mbana Moni!!!

*For a read-up on the Bali marathon and end-of-Peace-Corps experience, go here:

Friday, June 14, 2013

What I Learned About Life in Kuala Lumpur

I learned a lot about myself and the world in KL.

1) Know how to get from the airport to the hotel before you arrive at 12:30am. Points go to Indonesia here for always having friendly ibus on call to guide you in the right direction. We did not have such friendly help in KL.

2) Promptness is a thing pretty much everywhere outside of Indonesia. John and I had grown pretty Javanese in regard to time and showed up 15 minutes late to our scheduled time to go up in the Petronas towers. As a result, we were asked to wait as lines of others went ahead of us, resulting in our missing a meetup with fellow PCV, JHo. We couldn't get in touch with him since we couldn't use our Indonesian phones in Malaysia. 

JHo took his own picture at the Petronas Towers after our missed meetup.


3) Cupcakes heal. Feeling down about missing JHo due to my own inadequacy, John and I hit a cupcake place in the KLCC mall. After taking down a chocolate cupcake with peanut butter/caramel frosting, I felt almost ready to forgive myself. We also found out later JHo missed the appointment as well due to an issue with waiting for his Kazakhstan visa. 

4) Leave for the airport more than 2 hours before your flight - if the airport is an hour and a half away. Again, due to our Indonesian-ness, we were happily writing postcards, chatting with an Iranian friend in the hostel, and eating pork buns before we waltzed over to the train and bus. The AirAsia service assistant, Zainal, advised us that we'd have to pay a large sum to get on the next flight. When I asked him if this was our only option, he thought it over, avoided the usual round-about "polite" antics, looked me straight in the eye and said, "Yes". We all had a chuckle over this, and John handed over the large sum of money. Oh, Zainal. Due to our missing the original flight, I was able to spend time in the KL airport where I purchased Reese's and got to play with a happy Chinese baby. So win win there. 

Travel Info
Hotel: Ribbon Stayz (25 RM per person)
Dorm-style, shared bathrooms (I couldn't figure out how to work the shower), but a good place to meet other travelers, and there was toast for breakfast!

Bijou Cupcake in KLCC mall
Chocolate with caramel/peanut butter frosting is the best.

Central Market
Really stress-free to walk around and pick up some souvenirs

Petronas Towers (about 30 USD reserved on-line in advance)
Don't be late to your assigned time, as mentioned above.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Banda Aceh, Pulau Weh, and Medan

After hitting the Peace Corps gong, symbolizing our last time leaving the Surabaya office, my amiga, MEBs and I flew to Banda Aceh on the island of Sumatra.  

We spent the day tuk tuk-ing to the tsunami sites, enjoying the friendliness of the people and the fact that they are a lot less grabby than on Java. Perhaps they have something with that sharia law, although I'm guessing things are different in the villages. We didn't have time to get to them. 

The city had been reconstructed with the inflow of NGO rebuilding funds, and it was probably the nicest Indonesian city I'd seen (should also be noted that in 2+ years in Indonesia, I never visited Jakarta).

After losing a clingy French couple and a South African with a shady past, MEBs and I headed to Pulau Weh which is supposedly the best snorkeling in Indonesia. We wouldn't know b/c it stormed the entire time we were there (and I think the snorkeling with Gina on Bunaken was pretty super). This was fine by us as we spent most of the time sleeping in our treehouse shack, eating, trying to avoid our numerous run-ins with death, and spending time with our Western-posse community of Hollanders, Aussies, and Americans. I also learned of the "chocolate banana pancake" which I'd like to be more a part of in the future. 

How we almost died numerous times
 "Take a right at the attacking, killer geese."

MEBs' hair caught in our tree shack bed net.

Prior to this photo of us safe on land, drinking tea, we had attempted to motorboat and snorkel in dangerous storm waters.

Riding the public ferry through a storm back to the mainland with a thousand of our closest smoking, crying, and vomiting friends. 

The Western Posse and Chocolate Banana Pancakes

After Pulau Weh, we headed for the city of Medan, which has nothing of note, except that we were reuniting with our friends John and Jay there. We swapped travel tales, piled four people onto a becak, and played basketball in the hotel. Jay and MEBs continued to Lake Toba, and John and I had to leave the country to renew our visa. John and I also ate hamburgers and saw a movie. After closing Peace Corps service, all of these things were most enjoyable.