Moving to Bandar Lampung has simultaneously been the worst and best thing for my mental health. Worst because I’m grappling with the negative affects of culture shock. Best because it’s allowing me to explore my creative side and develop some super-awesome hobbies.
I teach 10 classes at SMAN 7 (my high school) at 1.5 hours each. That, plus English club and a bit of lesson planning, brings me to about 30 working hours each week. I have A LOT of free time.
At first, I hated it. The empty space was suffocating me. It was so different from my busy schedule in Maryland.
Now, however, I love it. Tucked away in my neon green house, I am free of prying, curious eyes, cultural restrictions, language barriers, and the constant pressure to be a “good cultural ambassador.” I can wear tank tops and shorts, blast American music, and even drink beer *gasp*. It’s liberating.
Here’s how I’ve been spending my time:
1. Playing the guitalele
My guitalele has been my saving grace in Bandar Lampung. I started studying the violin at age five and have been indoctrinated with musical theory every since. Music is a part of me. It calms me. It reinvigorates me. It reminds me of home. And learning a new instrument has taken up a lot of my time. I love it!
Hold Up. What’s a guitalele? A cross between a guitar and ukulele. Duh! It has the same number of strings as a guitar, but the tuning of a ukulele. Of course, when I bought it, I didn’t realize this. Finding guitalele chords has been a nightmare. But, with a bit of creativity and transposing, I’ve been able to pick up a few songs. I even filmed my first acoustic cover of “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”
Bandar Lampung is FULL of stationary stores. Colored paper. Markers. Colored pencils. Tape. Paint. Whatever you want, they got it (except for sticky notes, which are super hard to find and insanely expensive here)!
I’m gone ham on the art supplies. And, armed with an Adult Coloring Book from my parents, I spend HOURS coloring away. I put most of my completed work on my walls. It’s an attempt to mitigate the feeling that I live inside a neon asparagus. I also sent a few colored postcards home at the beginning of October–let’s see if they ever make it!
3. Exploring the city on my motorbike
My biggest and most important purchase in Bandar Lampung has been my motorbike. At a whopping $615, this is my new pride and joy. Not only is it cheaper and faster than public transportation (a week’s worth of gas is Rp 20,000, or $1.50), but it gives me free range of the city. I’ve explored cafes in downtown Bandar Lampung, ridden the hills of nearby mountains, and am planning a beach trip next weekend!
I’ve only fallen a handful of times (mostly when I’m driving my sitemate, Matt. Sorry dude!). And, of course, I always wear a helmet 🙂
4. Eating congee and tofu
Eating probably shouldn’t count as a hobby. But I eat so much congee and tofu that I have to count it.
Chicken congee, or bubur ayam, is a typical breakfast food in Bandar Lampung. There is a small warung (outdoor/hole-in-the-wall cafe) near my house that sells delicious bubur ayam for Rp 10,000 ($0.70). It comes with a full bowl of rice soup, shredded chicken, roasted peanuts, a veggie garnish, and a side of krupuk (a type of fried chip). Saying I’m a frequent customer would be an understatement.
Tofu is my other true love. I can get fried tofu, sweet and sour tofu, stuffed tofu, or baked tofu. But my favorite is steaming tofu in my rice cooker. I simply put a thin layer of water on the bottom of the pot, add tofu to the steamer, and hit “on.” Twenty minutes later, I have perfectly-cooked, firm tofu. Yum!
5. Making games for class!
I’m always trying to think of new, creative ways to engage my students. From card games to board games to lapbooks, I spend a good 5-10 hours each week creating classroom materials. My latest project is a “Guide to the USA” lapbook, which will feature facts about different states, national parks, historical figures, and holidays in the USA. I’m hoping to use it as an education tool in English club.
Whew! That’s a lot of hobbies. I probably spend more time doing hobbies than actually working. Oops. It’s a complete 180 from my life in Maryland, where I was a full-time student working two part-time jobs. Hobbies are a waste of time, I used to tell myself.
But after a long, exhausting, mentally-degrading day in Bandar Lampung, there’s nothing more I want to do than curl up in my bed, color, and watch a movie. And I’m learning that isn’t a waste of time. It’s what I need to recover from being a foreigner in an unfamiliar place. And I’m going to give myself that luxury. Stay tuned for more pictures, videos, and artwork to come!
Learn Bahasa Indonesia!
Motorbike = Sepeda Motor
Draw = Melukis
Chicken Congee = Bubur Ayam
Hole-in-the-wall Cafe = Warung
Traditional Chips = Krupuk
Tofu = Tahu
Game = permainan