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Dear Indonesia, Terima Kasih

Dear Indonesia,

You knew I was coming back, right? You must have. You must have known I needed to see you and that my soul needed to climb a volcano, see orangutans in the wild, get food poisoning in front of 50 people, think my boyfriend was proposing (read on for that one), see a few sunrises and sunsets, and snorkel the most amazing waters – you knew, you crazy, beautiful, chaotic, fascinating nation, you knew didn’t you?

So how does a girl get a two week vacation in Indonesia in late August and early September 2016? The simple answer is quit the job where you’ve been miserable for months (thanks rounds of layoffs) and convince your new boss that starting a job in financial journalism in August when everyone is on vacation is not a great idea. Then you get Victor to talk you into going to Indonesia (a country you’ve talked about incessantly for the past four years) instead of a new country. So in less than two weeks I planned a two week Indonesia trip that would take us to Java, Sumatra, Lombok, and the Gili Islands. Planning this meant I got to choose places I never made it to while I lived in Indonesia and also avoid the heavily touristed places (while still great, I’d much rather do off season).

After running through the Dubai airport (the most intense workout of my life) we caught our connecting flight and made it to Singapore. After traveling for 24 hours you deserve a cocktail or two and sometimes you get lucky and a truly fantastic place, Hopscotch, is right near your hotel (oh my god the Jewel of Maxwell cocktail with gin, lychee, yuzu, rose cordial, grapefruit, and fresh citrus I’m still thinking of you – don’t worry full restaurant, hotel, adventure list at the end of this post). We spent 24 hours running around Singapore exploring, eating, and catching up with friends.

Of course I would sit down next to Mr. Retra (whose business card says business manager) on the flight from Singapore to Jakarta. Within a few minutes we were chatting and he said I should call him if Victor and I needed a ride or just wanted to hang out while we were in Jakarta (Indonesian hospitality and kindness is always heartwarming). I was surprised how quickly my basic Indonesian came back to me. It’s true about things hiding in the back of your mind somewhere.

It had been four years since I set foot in Jakarta. My friend Niar was there to greet us in the morning and spend all day with us exploring Kota Tua, having lunch in Grand Indonesia, going to the spa, and eating a big Indonesian dinner. I still recognized Jakarta despite the continuing building boom. Traffic has gotten worse, but the city is actually looking a bit cleaner. A lot of that, in Niar’s opinion, is thanks to the governor Ahok. In late August sitting in a cab in Jakarta traffic talking politics with Niar neither of us could predict that in less than a year Donald Trump would be elected president in the U.S. and that Ahok would be charged with blasphemy and face two years in jail. It’s a crazy, unpredictable world these days and Indonesia’s echoes of 1998-1999 are really scary to me especially when it comes to mentions of Chinese Indonesians.

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Dreaming of Japan

Two years ago around this time I took a trip to Japan with grad school classmates. It was an amazing trip organized by Japanese students attending Columbia (most of whom are back in Japan these days working for their government), which meant they organized and guided us through their home cities making sure we got to see, eat, and do as much as possible. Now that I work full-time, I find myself dreaming about my next trip to somewhere far, far, away, but while I plot that, I figured I should share some photos from Japan that I never got around to two years ago.

We started out trip in Kyoto — a city I hope to return to some day. Like the Japanese ladies below, we got dressed in kimonos (minus face paint) and walked around seeing temples, eating, and enjoying warm weather.

Geisha Walk

Geisha Back

Latern Sign

Wishes and Prayers

Kiyomizu-dera temple above Kyoto:

Temple and Kyoto Tower

Catching Water

Kyoto Temple

Laterns

Kimono Pickings

Kyoto’s Golden temple, also known as Kinkaku-ji:

Golden Temple

Temple Incents

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India: The Fieldwork Edition

Better late than never, right? A year ago at this time I was frantically reading everything I could about girl’s education in India in preparation for a two-week trip to northern India as part of my capstone project in grad school. My team was working with an NGO, the Study Hall Educational Foundation, based in Lucknow, India, doing an evaluation of their girl’s empowerment curriculum that is being used in nearly 100 government run all-girls boarding schools known as KGBVs. The KGBVs are grades 6-8 and target students from lower socioeconomic classes. The curriculum teaches girls about their rights and bodies — the legal age of marriage, what abuse is, the changes they experience during puberty, hygiene — something that is desperately needed in many parts of the world.

Before we headed into the field, we spent two days exploring New Delhi and Agra. I’d heard a lot about India from fellow travelers especially while I lived in Asia and to be honest reviews ranged from “it was the most amazing trip of my life” to “eh, it was hot, dirty, people are very poor.” The whole time I was in India I was comparing it to my time in Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia and well, maybe I have a major bias, but I enjoyed traveling Indonesia a lot more than India. India was interesting and I would love to visit the southern parts some day but it’s not that high on my list.Colorful Delhi

Taj Mainer

Colorful India

Our fieldwork took us all over the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, one of the poorest regions in India. Many of the schools we visited were over a two-hour drive from any bigger town. Below is a photo of a ghat in Mirzapur, one of the larger cities on our journey. It was magical watching the fog roll in over the Ganges River and spotting freshwater dolphins swimming along.

Ghat

Delhi was a bustling, busy and messy place. I also didn’t expect it to be so cold and foggy in January. When we opened the curtains in our hotel room we couldn’t see anything down below — that’s how thick the fog was.

Electricity

The Jama Masjib in Delhi where you must don long robes to walk around. It’s one of India’s largest mosques.

Delhi Mosque

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Meet End Notes

I know, I know, so much blogging to catch up with. Since I’m working full time in news these days, I’ve decided to join the ever-growing newsletter crowd. My weekly newsletter is named End Notes, after those great little notes at the end of academic pieces that are often full of little gems. That and it comes at the end of the week. I’m planning to send it out every Saturday and it will feature a rundown of international and domestic news, food, gender, and cats.

Click here to sign up. More soon here too, I promise. I leave you with some pictures of fall in New York.

Italy: The First Week Of Summer During One Of The Last

It’s only fitting to look back on the first week of summer during one of the last warm weekends. At the end of May I headed to Italy for a week with my parents. We started off in Rome and then headed to the five villages of Cinque Terre on the Ligurian coast. On the way back to Rome we stopped off for a day in Florence. It was a fantastic trip full of amazing food, gelato, and desserts. I had been to Rome in college while I was studying abroad in Paris and I had great memories of staying up all night the last night there to catch an early morning flight back to Paris. Since Italy has so much written about it, I’ll keep it at a minimum and let the photos do most of the talking.

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Wandering the Trastevere neighborhood where we stayed in Rome was fantastic. Someday I will look this chic…

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