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Posts from the ‘Middletown’ Category

Jakarta Bound

“Tomkiw, Lydia. Occupation: Journalist. Jakarta, first assignment as foreign correspondent.” -Adapted from the film “The Year of Living Dangerously” (really, all I did was change the name)

Well, the above statement is almost entirely true. So here it is – I graduated from Wesleyan University. College is over! I’m having a really hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that come September I won’t be returning to Middletown, Connecticut. I love New England fall and I even begrudgingly grew to like winter. I got used to having four seasons. And, now I am moving to a place where there will certainly be no snow although there will be two seasons, one much wetter than the other.

Brief interlude on college before I explain next year: I loved college. I loved Wesleyan. I loved the classes I took; the professors I had were fantastic people passionate about their subject matter and just interesting people to talk with. The friends I made there – well, I can’t say enough about them. If anything ever went wrong they were there and when everything was going right, they were there too. I probably owe them all several rounds of drinks, but that will have to wait for a year. I am so incredibly grateful to my parents who twenty-some years ago thought I’d want to college and made that possible. All in all, college was a good time and hey, maybe if I ever make any money (ha) I might donate (ha).

So, now what? Well, I am glad you asked. In a few days I will be moving halfway around the world. I got a Princeton in Asia Journalism Fellowship so I will be living and working in the capital of Indonesia, Jakarta at The Jakarta Globe newspaper. Asia, you say? Yes, this student who studied Europe, speaks French and Ukrainian is moving to Asia. Why? Because why not? I get to write and travel and that’s exactly what I wanted for a year or maybe two after graduation.

So, what have I done to prepare? Well, I typed in “Jakarta” into my local library’s website and then ordered what came up. I watched Anthony Bourdain’s Indonesia episode and am now very intrigued to try a durian fruit (he described the inside as “custard”). Bourdain fell in love with Indonesia and since he is such a cynical character I think this bodes well for me. I watched the Mel Gibson (before he was crazy, and when he was young and really, very good-looking) movie “The Year of Living Dangerously” which is adopted from the novel by Christopher Koch which is all about a foreign journalist in Jakarta in the mid-1960s when President Sukarno is about to fall. I am going to start a novel by Indonesian author Pramoedya Anaata Toer, who I gather is, one, if not the main, big name in Indonesian literature. I have been listening to podcasts to learn some bahasa Indonesian.  And I bought a modern history of Indonesia book and a phrasebook. Victor bought me a very useful book “Culture Shock: Jakarta” by some Brit ex-pats who have assured me that I will hate Jakarta and then love it immensely. It is a hilarious and helpful book, so I will have to quote it later. I owe many thanks to several Wesleyan students who are all from Indonesia and took the time to talk with me about their hometowns and their country and put up with some very silly questions that I asked: Erwin, Jourdan, Mita, Lana, and Elena – terima kasih (God, I hope I got that right. It’s supposed to mean thank you). They explained to me that Jakarta (a mega city of 9 million plus) is the NY, DC, and LA of Indonesia.


Everything is about to change. I’m getting nervous, anxious, and excited. I’ve gone to my local taqueria three times in as many days to get my fill of Mexican food before I go. The plan for the next week is get to Jakarta and then from there go to the town of Yogyakarta where I will take a week long language intensive. Yogyakarta is one of the most visisted areas in Indonesia. Close by are two incredible temples: Prambanan and Borobudur. I’m hoping to visit both as well as the bird market and palace in town. I plan to update this blog every few days, much like I did in Paris, with stories, photos, stories and photos about food, and my general impressions and maybe even some short creative non-fiction stories (that may be ambitious). There is a link on the side of this blog to “subscribe” that way each time I post something, you’ll get an email with the post instead of having to try to remember to visit the site. For now, I leave you with a classic that’s become a bit of a theme song now:

Baking: Making Macarons

For four years, my friend Catie and I have talked about making macarons. So after I turned in my last paper of college, we finally decided now was the time to do some baking. Macarons are gifts from the Gods, and, as such, are really difficult to make. In my one prior macaron baking experience, they did not come out right. This time around, we were much closer.

For a filling we decided to go with strawberries and cream. I took the left-over strawberries from my fridge, chopped them up, added a little butter, sugar, and water and melted them down into a jam-like consistency.

For the actual macaron cookies we decided to use David Lebovitz’s chocolate recipe because he has a friend at Fauchon and because he is awesome, recipe: here. Since we are/were in college we didn’t have all the necessary ingredients and culinary tools. We didn’t have fine almond powder so we ground down almonds to make a meal in the food processor and this works well.

Beating the egg whites to the right consistency can be hard. Catie and I found ourselves wondering what was enough. This is something you sort of guesstimate and over time must get better at.

Once you have the almond meal, cocoa powder, and sugar combined, you begin folding in the egg whites. David said to do this in two batches, we sort of did it in one, adding small amounts slowly, and it worked out.

Of course, we didn’t have a fancy pastry bag, but we had Ziplock! Just cut the end off of a corner and you’ll be set to go. You really should use parchment paper when you begin piping the macaron batter onto a baking sheet. We used a wax paper and it is a bit difficult to later separate the macarons from the paper after baking.

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Thesis Times

I have finally emerged from my thesis lair. Theses were due this past Tuesday and it feels good to be done. It has become a tradition at Wesleyan to go pop a bottle of bubbly on the steps of Olin Library at 4 p.m. (due date time). So it was only fitting that I would have a bottle of Ukrainian oligarch/politician Yulia Tymoshenko’s champagne to celebrate completing a thesis on Eastern Europe (mainly Russia). Thanks to Victor for getting the bottle.

A lot of people showed up to help all of the seniors celebrate. It was definitely one of those Wesleyan moments I will remember.

And this person had clearly returned all of his/her library books.

One of the best parts of the day was dessert. My friend Liz baked for everyone in our group of friends who wrote a thesis.

And after last night’s monsoon rain storm, I think spring may be here to stay. There is a nest below my window sill so this pretty bird sings to me a lot now.

Happy Sunday to everyone.

Place: Wadsworth Falls

A few weekends ago I finally was able to check off another “must-go-here-before-I-graduate-from-Wesleyan” location. Wadsworth Falls is a beautiful area and a Connecticut state park. There are actually two falls to see: the big falls and little falls. There is a swimming hole if you enter the park from Route 157. The swimming hole was a little eerie drained with the cement platform in the middle.

From the Route 157 entrance the hike to the falls is a little over a mile (Wikipedia says 1.25 miles) and the walk is totally worth it.

The little falls are beautiful and have a cool step-like appearance.

Then you keep walking and go over the railroad tracks.

And then you’ll hear the big falls. I was impressed – I didn’t expect a waterfall this big.

The walk back was much faster (knew where we were going).  The weather has been odd lately in Connecticut. I thought spring was coming and then it snowed a little. And now they are predicting snow for tomorrow – I’m hoping this is a state-wide weather joke for April Fools but I don’t think so…

My thesis is due in a little less than 2 weeks so until then no more adventures around Connecticut.

Food: Juicy Lucy

Sorry for not having written in awhile. My excuse: I am home in California (actually flying back to the East Coast soon) and have been working on my thesis. I’ve been meaning to write this food post for some time now. Meet my housemate Mike. Mike is from Minnesota – the land of all kinds of intriguing and tasty foods. You may remember him from my post on shrimp boils. Well Mike informed me that he was going to be making a Juicy Lucy. I had no clue what that was so I decided to watch and learn and as it turns out there is a battle in Minneapolis over who invented the Juicy Lucy.

So what is a Juicy Lucy? Well it is a reversed cheese burger: cheese on the inside! So you make your own meat patty, lay the cheese on, and then close the patty with the cheese in the middle.

I thought it was pretty brilliant. Good job Minnesota for putting a fun spin on a traditional meat and cheese combo.

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