Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Who asked you to come to Palembang?"

And to think… a few weeks ago, I was actually complaining about the sound my hair dryer made. Hah! Boy did life get a lot harder in the last week…

I can see that I must certainly have angered the culture gods or something. “What? Katie is starting to adjust to life in Indonesia? She’s starting to feel comfortable? She experiences occasional feelings of genuine happiness? We cannot allow this to continue.”

And so, three flight delays and two suitcases that couldn’t possibly have held one more thing later, here I am in Palembang.

I met my counterpart Yana when Fulbright brought her to Bandung. She’s my “partner” here at the school who is assigned to help me get settled and will do some teaching with me throughout the year. We went through 2 ½ days of training together, where we got to know each other a little bit, talked about our expectations for each other, and went over a very general plan for the year. She's quiet, but very nice. I don’t know much more about her, but maybe her favorite hobby is reading blogs by Americans in Indonesia, so I will keep that in mind.

The Palembang airport is very small, but modern and clean. But as soon as we stepped outside, I was hit by a wall of heat. I feel like I’m sitting directly on top of the equator in a massive forest fire. Oh, wait…

The first night I stayed at Yana’s house. We went to dinner on the river with her family, and I had “pindang.” It’s a really spicy soup-like dish with beef or fish. (I chose beef.) I knew they didn’t have a traditional toilet, so I made a vow not to drink anything at all during dinner in hopes that I wouldn’t have to use it. That soup was so unbelievably hot that I drank two big bottles! And her whole family was just slurping it down like ice cream!

We walked past the Ampera Bridge, the most “famous” Palembang landmark. People were pointing and whispering about me the whole time. Yana said a lot of them are afraid of me, too. I tried to smile and say hello in Indonesian, but most of them just looked away. AMINEF said we’re probably the only Americans most of these people will ever meet. A band was playing a concert there and everyone was chanting, shouting a line over and over again. I asked Yana what they were saying. She said it was a soccer fight song, and they were yelling, “Who asked you to come to Palembang? We didn't ask you.” Yeah, that sounds about right. I felt like they might as well have been talking to me.

I found a pretty decent deal on international calls for my cell phone, so I use that when I don't have a good internet connection. While I was outside Yana's house that night talking on the phone, she overheard her neighbors talking about me.

Neighbor 1: Who is that girl?!

Neighbor 2: That must be Yana's American.

Neighbor 1: Her nose is so long!

Neighbor 2: Yeah, that's how you can tell it's a real bule.

Another blog coming soon! Miss you.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Down the Rabbit Hole

Guess what I should be doing?


(That's the answer about 85% of the time when I'm procrastinating.)

I have to set my luggage outside my door at 5:00am, and the bus for the Jakarta airport leaves at 6:30am. So I need to wrestle all my new clothes and old clothes and books and medicine bottles and shower stuff into two suitcases. And I need to shower. And sleep. All within the next 5 1/2 hours. Yes, this seems like a smart time to write a blog.

Tomorrow I will arrive in Palembang, and I'll stay there for the next eight months. I won't have the internet right away, but I'm hoping to get it set up on Wednesday. Tonight I'll take my last hot shower in who knows how long. This is what I signed up for... here we go. I'll also step back an hour, so I'll be 10 hours ahead of EST.

I remember staying at Samantha's house in St. Mary's, Ohio this summer for a few days. I checked my email one morning, and I had a message from AMINEF. It said I'd been placed in Palembang, South Sumatra for the 2009-2010 school year. I looked it up when I got back to Muncie. Then, it was just a little dot on a map of a country I knew hardly anything about. In 12 hours, I'LL be on that little dot.

And take a look at this beluga whale of a baby!
It even made the front page of the Bucyrus Telegraph-Forum.
This is from the island where I'm headed:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Instead of writing 5,000 words...

I figured I'd post some more pictures! Don't worry-- I'm still planning to write one more Bandung blog before I hop on the scary plane to Palembang.

At the McDonald's here, you get rice with your combo meal!
(But they're still trying to get you to supersize it. I guess some things are universal.)

Outside of the Saung Angklung performance area... isn't this pretty?

Trying snakefruit. Not as bad as durian, but it's no dragon fruit.
(John, me)

Dago's waterfall! At least by the time you're gasping for air from the hike, you're rewarded with this scenery. Indah sekali... very beautiful.

Taking a short break from our sprint down the volcano to stop at the crater at Tangkuban Prahu. Smelled like sulfur. (me, Christine, Tyler)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Bandung- Part Dua

We've run into quite a few language misunderstandings. Like when my friend Alexa ordered SOUP from room service and a very sweet employee brought her SOAP. Or when Christine called to say she'd blown the fuse in her room and they sent up four light bulbs. We practiced our writing one afternoon in class by writing letters to Nellie, the woman in charge of our program. I wanted to tell her-- just simple stuff, I'm not getting complicated here-- that I am excited to start teaching in Palembang. Suffice to say, the first entry in my translation dictionary for excited is a different kind of excited. One that you should not be around children. And that is exactly what I said: "I am aroused. I want to meet my students." Spectacular. If they stone people for adultery here, I don't even want to think about what they'll do to me if I don't get that one right soon.

Then there was the time I found a food stand called "Toast Toast" at the mall that sold... yes, toast. So I got the best kind of toast-- french toast. But when the waiter finally brought it out, I didn't have any maple syrup. It seems like a relatively simple request, right? Wrong.

Waiter: *sets food down*
Me: Ooh, terima kasih! Can I have some syrup?

(Leaves and does not ever return.)

(Five minutes later, I walk up to the counter.)

Me: Hello! Can I have some syrup? *motions pouring syrup*
Waiter: Yes! Yes!
Me: Thank you!

(Nothing happens.)

Me: Can I please have some syrup?

(Waiter hands me a spoon.)

Me: No, syyyyyyrrrrruuuuupppp.

(Waiter hands me a straw.)

(I get out my Indonesian dictionary, look up word for syrup, and say it.)

Waiter: Ahh! SYRUP! Yes yes!

(Hands me ketchup.)

By this time, people are laughing at me. Finally, a nice little Indonesian girl walks up and grabs the maple syrup from somewhere I couldn't see. They would only give me a thimblefull, but finally I carried my plate up and they let me pour on as much as I wanted. French toast tastes better when you earn it.

Everyone looooves Jason Mraz here. Seriously, sometimes they play his CD on repeat in the hotel lobby. He actually played a concert in Jakarta last year. Even the roaming musicians in the street who beg for money sing “I’m Yours” to you as you’re parked in traffic. Bagus (which coincidentally means “awesome” in Indonesian) is a local guy who works at the hotel. He came to dinner with us one night, and in the taxi on the way back, I asked him what kind of music he and his friends like. “Well, mostly heavy metal like Iron Maiden,” he said. “But also The Carpenters from America. And Jason Mraz.” Haha! While that genre cocktail sounds a little odd to me, it’s pretty typical here.

Let’s talk a little more about restaurants. I, for one, am going to officially stop ordering lasagna. These people may do ayam sate very well, but they do not do Italian. After an experience with lasagna that looked and tasted like a bland burrito at a restaurant called Atmosphere, I tried again at the Dago tea house. A solid twenty minutes after everyone else had received their orders, I got a “lasagna,” complete with cherries on top and smothered in what I can only assume was mashed potatoes.

Luckily, these bad food experiences don’t set me back much. Most full meals here are about $2-3. At a really nice place, you might pay $6 at most. Efficiency is not highly regarded, though. It usually tastes quite a while before a waiter even visits the table to take our order, then to bring the food, and we always have to flag someone down to ask for our check. Once, I tried to speed the process up by asking for the check when I got my food. The waitress said, “No. You get when you finish.” Then she smiled happily, oblivious to my Western impatience.

They also tend to bring out food at completely different times. Not trying to be rude, the first person to receive their plate usually waits until everyone has been served. Here, you just cannot do that. It can be anywhere from thirty seconds to a full thirty minutes before everyone has what they ordered.

And speaking of dining out, I went to a blind restaurant a few days ago for dinner. It was AWESOME. Apparently they have these in quite a few big cities, even in the US. You order off of a menu before being seated. Then, they lead you into a completely pitch-black dining room. It's supposed to give you a sense for what it's like to be blind. Here's what I learned about being blind: I am bad at it.

You'd think your eyes would adjust eventually, but there is literally no light coming into the room. I had one tiny little silent panic right before they put me in my chair, but from then on, it was one of the coolest things I've done in my life. Here are things I learned:
1. perhaps we should have tackled speaking the native language before being blind here
2. you should not order spaghetti when you can't see what you're eating
3. I drink three times as fast when I can't see what I'm drinking
4. I eat relatively nothing when I can't see my plate. (What a dieting breakthrough!)

So I managed to down my 3 beers-worth bottle of Bintang before I even got my spaghetti. That's not including the bit I spilled all over the guy sitting across from me. And then when I finally did have my plate and found the noodles with my fork and fingers, I ate what I thought was nearly everything. I should have known when the waiter (who was wearing night-vision goggles) took everyone else's plate and left mine. And then I said I was done and he still didn't take it. I woke up during the middle of the night feeling like I hadn't eaten in a whole day. Which I suppose is possibly an insensitive thing to be upset about in a country where people literally are starving themselves for 12 hours a day for Ramadhan.

Since we had today off from classes for the holiday, we decided to go to Tangkuban Prahu, an old volcanic crater north of Bandung. It's the stuff Oedipus complexes are made of; instead of being shaped like a normal volcano, it once collapsed upon itself and now slightly resembled an overturned canoe. The legend is that a prince returned from war and fell madly in love with his mother. She was justifiably upset when she realized her lover was her son, and told him they could only be together if he could build a huge damn and boat in just one night. He set to work, and when she saw that he might actually finish on time, she asked the gods to make the day come sooner. Her son was furious and turned his boat over in a fit of rage, thus forming the volcano here today.

The AMINEF employees advised us against visiting today, saying we couldn't even imagine how bad the traffic could be after the holiday. We decided to try anyway, because even if it took a little longer, we didn't have anything else to do all day.

Oh, how wrong we were. What should have been an hour-long drive took four and a half. That is an awfully long time to be sitting in the middle seat in the back of an SUV. I suppose one advantage of the long trip is that we all had plenty of time to look at the scenery as we stopped dead still in traffic.

At one point on the trip, we passed stands and stands full of little bunny rabbits. They were adorable, hopping all around each other and wiggling their tiny pink noses. I imagined little Indonesian boys and girls going with their parents to pick out their new pet rabbits. I even started to think that maybe I could keep a little bunny while I'm here. I got so far as to decide that he would be in black and white, and I would name him Charlie and affectionately call him "my little fellow." While I was thinking about whether or not Charlie would need his own pillow to sleep on at night or if the mattress would be all right with him, traffic started to crawl again.

And then my heart stopped. After we passed all the stands of bunnies, we started to pass through block after block of restaurants. Restaurants. Restaurants with pictures of bunnies on the signs. "Maybe," I said to the other girls in the car, "that sign just means that pet bunnies are welcome to dine there as well?"

"Apa kelinci?" Christine asked the driver. [What is 'kelinci?' That was the word on all the signs.] The driver held his fingers over his head and pretended to have long ears. Dear god. Poof! Suddenly my little Charlie was a bunny-ka-bob.

Explain to me why these people won't eat a fat, ugly old pig, but they're content to munch on the Easter Bunny...?!

The volcano was impressive, I'll admit that. But after nearly five unexpected hours in a car, Muncie might look like the stuff of mythology, too. We had been warned against the traffic on the roads outside of Bandung, but we really hadn't counted on the crater itself being packed. It was worse than the parking lot after an N*Sync concert; unfortunately, I can tell you that from experience.

We finally just got out of the car and walked the rest of the way to the top, our driver agreeing to meet us at the bottom. It was so unbelievably packed we could hardly walk around. We finally found a nice vendor who spoke English, and he led us to a little clearing where we could use the bathroom (for a price and with no toilet paper-- good thing we brought our own) and breathe. We also had to hire a guide, because it's required by the tourism office. We were told by AMINEF not to pay more than $1 a person.

The guy said, "$25 per one hour."
I proudly said, "No, only $1 per person."
"No," he said.

Well, crap. I didn't know where to go from here, but we HAD to get down this volcano. With my luck, it would probably have its first eruption since 1969 today. He finally agreed that we could pay at the end of the hike when we reached our car. If it only took us a half hour, we only had to pay $12.50, and that wasn't too awful split 7 ways.

"How long does it usually take?" I asked.
"Huh?" he said.
"Jam... berapa... HIKE?" I asked.
[Time... how much... HIKE? I asked.]
"20 minutes."

Ok, we could handle that. So I took off down this volcano like I was the lead on The Amazing Race. (I had just bought a couple pairs of shoes for more than two month's worth of this guy's salary, and I wasn't eager to spend more.) Whew! It might have been all downhill, but it was not easy. Most of the dirt/tree trunk steps were at least a foot and a half apart. One of our girls stepped on one of the tree trunks and broke right through it. "Oops, old wood," said our guide.

We were duped. The "20-minute" hike down to the bottom took us over an hour and a half to finish, even with me hacking through palm trees and sprinting from bugs. We finally reached the parking lot where that favorite information guy of mine promised he'd asked our driver to meet us. "Everyone, wait," I say. "Our car is black." There were no black cars. So we wait, sticky and dirty and smelly, until someone else realizes that our car was, after all, silver. And then we began the two and a half hour drive home.

I couldn't look at Charlie when we passed by him this time.

A Post on The Jakarta Post

The Jakarta Post is the English newspaper published in Indonesia's capital. I've been working on the crossword puzzles during breaks between classes. (Yeah, why NOT waste time improving my English skills when I could be learning new words in Bahasa Indonesia?) I've also been reading the stories, and there are a few topics I want to share with you...

Selamat Idul Fitri!

Idul Fitri is the Muslim equivalent of Christmas, and it starts tomorrow. It's the end of Ramadhan, a whole month in which Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. In fact, as I type, I hear the constant sound of fireworks and excited Indonesians screaming into loudspeakers outside on the street. Not shockingly, some of these explosives look a little shady. And considering my 11th floor hotel room is one of the tallest spots in the city, I'm staring them all in the face.

Anyway, something rather interesting to note is that Indonesian Muslims didn't know until today WHEN they would be celebrating their biggest holiday; they just knew it would be sometime in the next few days. This is a completely foreign concept to me. (Pun!) I guess it has to do with coordinating the lunar calendar and the approval of the government. So they literally found out today that tomorrow is their biggest holiday. I can just imagine if we in the US found out when Christmas was on Christmas Eve. Regardless, I seem to be the only one who's confused by this. Everyone else is out in the street with a bottle rocket and bull horn.

Aceh and Stoning Laws

In the honors humanities classes I took my freshman year, our professors always stressed how important it is to use our "lenses" when we're trying to understand the lives of people who are very different than we are. Basically, that means not judging something or someone as wrong or ridiculous because it's so different from the way we think now. I suppose this same concept should apply to Aceh's government's latest attempt to sentence all adulterers to public stoning, but it's awfully hard to even understand what they're trying to do.

In a nutshell, the outgoing government in Banda Aceh (like Bahnd-uh Atch-uh) is trying to sneak through this stoning law before they're out of office. Only, they aren't sneaking it through at all because everyone is upset about it. Under the new law, married adulterers would be stoned 100 times or until they died and unmarried adulterers would be caned up to 100 times. And here's a catch: adulterers can only be women.

It also categorizes homosexuality and public displays of affection as crimes. To be fair, most of Indonesia is very opposed to the ordinance, and hopefully, it will never actually become a law.

Here's a really good opinion column about a 13-year-old girl who was sentenced to death because she was raped by a married man:

Aceh is at the very top of Sumatra, many hours away from Palembang but still on the same island. The Jakarta Post also featured a great editorial about the issue, saying that a law like this would only set back the country as a whole, which has come so far politically in the last decade.

And here's one of the craziest parts to me, and I am TRYING to not to just look at this as a Western feminist-- at the top of the front page, there's a section offering readers a chance to "Text your say" to "Aceh's Stoning Bylaw." Really? We can use our cell phones to text opinions to our online and print newspaper... and we're still stoning people?

Polluted Palembang

I officially have less than a week left in Bandung before I head to Palembang. So imagine my excitement when this fun little headline is splashed across the page: Haze Forces Airport Closure in Palembang.


Forest fires around Palembang have made the air so polluted that officials are literally handing out masks to people on the street as they drive by. All the pollution in the air is causing respiratory infections, eye and skin irritation, and diarrhea. Luckily, I think I'll be a little bit outside of the city.

Well, this post didn't end up being a happy one, did it? Whoopsie. I promise I'll have more stories with a much more positive outlook on life in Indo coming up very soon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bandung- Part Satu

As I type this, my laundry is soaking in the bathtub. If that doesn’t sound like something noteworthy, then you give me way too much credit. I have never washed my clothes in anything but a laundry machine. So here—with no laundromat nearby and a hotel that charges about $4.50 to wash a skirt—I’m trapped between my distaste of physical labor and my preference for wearing clean underwear. The latter won. The hotel is nice enough to wash two items each day for free; I’m using that service for things like jeans and nice shirts. But I’m tackling my underwear and undershirts myself. William J. Fulbright would be proud.

I’ve been in Bandung for a little over a week now. Climate-wise, it’s much more comfortable than Jakarta, since it’s up in the mountains and thus cooler. The traffic is better here, too. (And so far, no earthquakes.)

There are bugs everywhere. I put on bug spray everytime I go out, but I always miss places. Right now they’re feasting on my ankles. Mosquitos, too, are everywhere. And the thing I’ve discovered about killing bugs by smacking in between your hands is that if you succeed, there are dead bug parts all over your hands.

We’re in orientation classes for about seven hours each day, starting at 8am. We take Bahasa Indonesia for about three hours, and we have around four hours of teaching classes, too.

Do you want to know the four coolest things about the Indonesian language?
No plurals
No genders
No tenses
No articles
No kidding!

You’d think all I have to do is learn a few vocab words and I’d be writing bestselling Indonesian novels, right? It’s a little tougher than that but, thankfully, reellattiivveellyy easy to learn.

I wasn’t really planning on taking many classes now that I graduated, so it really wears me out to turn on that part of my brain again. We haven’t been exploring as much of this city as we did Jakarta, but we’re also here for two more weeks. Here are some things I HAVE done:

Tried stinky, stinky durian:

It wasn’t as horribly disgusting as I was expecting, but I don’t think I’ll be enjoying more anytime soon. Sort of tastes like a garlic-y soft banana, but it smells like rotting produce.

Tried yummy, yummy mangosteen:

Yum! I liked this one a lot. This is the fruit all of a lot of those crazy “superfruit” drinks like XanGo.

Missed home:
Some days are tougher than others.
It’s just so intimidating to think of being in this country for the next eight and a half months. At least I might be able to go home at Christmas for two weeks. Some days, I don’t feel good. And when I feel sick, I want to be able to talk to my family and friends and eat food that just tastes good. Both of those things are hard for me to do here.

Celebrated the end of the fasting day during Ramadhan:
Many of our teachers and the people we meet here are fasting from sunrise to sunset each day this month for Ramadhan.
One day, we got to end the fast with them and listen to a lecture on the significance of the holiday. Fasting seems to be less a way to show devotion to God, and more a way of understanding the plight of the poor who cannot afford to eat. And fasting during Ramadhan doesn’t just mean no food: it also means no drinking (even water), no smoking, no sex, and no medicine (unless it’s absolutely necessary).

Gone to a Saung Angklung performance:
This was one of the best things I’ve done since being in Indonesia.
The anglkung is a bamboo instrument native to the country. We got to watch the professionals perform, and then we tried a few songs as an audience. I’ll attach some pictures.

Been disappointed by passionfruit, and then discovered dragon fruit:
Nerd alert. So Anne of Green Gables was always my favorite book. And Anne can’t wait to see a diamond for the first time. But when she finally does, it’s nothing like she expected. She’s disappointed. But then she sees an amythst, and it’s everything she thought a diamond would be and more. That pretty much describes my new relationship with dragon fruit. Trying a fresh passionfruit has been on my life’s to do list forever. Well, now I can cross it off and go do more exciting things… like eat dragon fruit.

Shopped a lot:

Bandung is the fashion capital of Java. (I kinda just gave it that title, but I’m nearly sure it’s true.) There are clothing outlets EVERYWHERE. The clothes aren’t quite as dirt-cheap as I’d been hoping, but I’d say a brand name shirt is around $9. You just have to be willing to search through a lot of junk and be followed around by clerks. Note: I am willing to do both of those things. A lot.

I will write more soon, but I’m afraid my clothes are going to dissolve in the bathtub. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

My Start in Jakart(a)

Also known as: The disposal and subsequent resurrection of my Lonely Planet guidebook

Well first of all, my hairdryer in this new hotel sounds like a weedwacker. Every morning I try to use it, and I’m constantly afraid it’s going to start chopping away at my hair. And it took me an awfully long time to grow out my bangs. So if you see pictures of me with wet hair, don’t think it’s a lack of hair drying technology. Weedwackerish technology is more like it.

Here is my basic schedule:
1 week in Jakarta for information sessions and orientation
3 weeks in Bandung for language and teaching classes
8 monthsssss in Palembang actually teaching

I’m in the Bandung part right now, but I want you tell you all about Jakarta.

I am painfully ignorant of Bahasa Indonesia. Luckily, that’s ok, because I’ll be taking three hours of courses every day to learn it. Bahasa, as it turns out, means “language.” So they speak “the language of the Indonesians.” In the US, we speak Bahasa Inggris or “the language of the English.”

The words, the few that I know, are very fun. For example, taxi is “taksi.” Mexico is “Meksiko.” I like to pretend it’s some sort of fun kids’ language where everything is spelled phonetically. I should be kaytee from the yew-ess-ay. (I know, you’re saying “Kaytee, they just don’t use X’s like we do. Well, it’s more than that.) But those are just a few of the fun words. The rest? I have absolutely no idea. Naci goreng is fried rice; I’ve got that one down.

A lot of people have Kindles or electronic book readers. I guess I’ve always sort of snubbed my nose at those. You know, you can’t smell a Kindle. You can’t stick a photograph of your cat between the pages of a Kindle or see little old chocolate smears on the pages of your Kindle. As it turns out, however, a Kindle doesn’t take up a third of your luggage and cost you lots of rupiah in airport security, either. I might have been wrong about this one.

The flight into Jakarta was so bumpy. I have flown in a lot of planes, and I’ve never been this nervous. I guess the sky was pretty cloudy, too, and that didn’t help. We flew Garuda, the government airline, which is supposed to be the best one. It did feel really appropriate to sort of mini-crash to the ground. BAM! HERE GOES NINE MONTHS! A smooth landing wouldn’t have had the same effect.

The scenery reminds me a lot of what I saw in Mexico. (Meksiko!) Trash everywhere, horrible road conditions, houses so unbelievably close together you wonder how people have room to breathe. But that makes me wonder if the remote parts of Mexico really looked like Mexicoooo as much as they looked like any poor, undeveloped area would.

Here are a few of the things we did in Jakarta:

Two dirty, crazy, flea-market style malls
(The prices were low, but so was the quality of what the vendors were selling.
I didn’t buy anything, but I did find a shoe store that changed over some of my American money.)

One really nice, really expensive mall
(This one was downtown and nicer than any mall I’ve seen in the US.
I’d say brand name prices were comparable, if not more expensive.)

The Museum Seni Rupa dan Keramik
(Ceramics Museum with a few paintings, too.
This was sort of disappointing, but it only cost 10 cents, so I shouldn’t complain.)

A seafood restaurant whose name I should have remembered
(I think 7/8 of us ordered naci goreng after smelling the kitchen.
I tried an Indonesian beer here, though! It was surprisingly good—definitely a light flavor. Expensive, though; it was about $1.70 for one can. On a side note, there were small cats all over the balcony of this restaurant where we were sitting. I think the waiter confused my delight for disgust and just starting kicking them off the roof when he saw them. It was terrible!)

An attempt at Blowfish
(This restaurant was reviewed really well in my Lonely Planet Indonesia, my 924-page guidebook that makes my shoulder hurt everywhere we go as it weighs down my purse.
After spending about 40 minutes in a taxi, we finally got there. The taxi left, and the guard told us it had closed a year ago. Well, crap. Luckily, there was another nice French-style restaurant around the corner. And it happened to be right next to the Marriott/Ritz, where the bombings were earlier this summer. I would never have sought those hotels out on my own, but I’m glad we saw them. )

And the highlight of Jakarta for me:
Dunia Fantasi: The Indonesian Amusement Park
(This was truly the coolest thing I’ve done so far, and it’s how my Lonely Planet book made its way back into my heart.
I’m shocked that the Disney Company hasn’t shut this place down. You walk down a main street before stopping at the princess’s castle. They have a ride with little dolls from around the world that sing “It’s a Small World.” There are spinning ‘Native American’ teacups and flying elephants. Whatever— it’s exactly what I needed.

We didn’t get on the rides that went upside down, but we were able to walk right on to nearly everything else. The scrambler-style ride in particular was an interesting experience. You know how there’s usually someone in a booth with a microphone off to the side of every ride? Well this guy sure had a personality, and he either hates or loves Americans, I’m not sure which. He made the ride go faster than any I’ve ever been on like that. And he would shriek into the microphone with this maniacal laugh every time he sped it up. Like “HAAAAAAAAAAAA HAHAHAHA HAHHHAAAAA HAAAAAA YEAAHHHHHH!” This all as you spin around and around and your Lonely Planet guidebook starts to put a hole in your rib. Then he slowed the ride down and stopped it, before suddenly pushing it to full speed again with a rousing encore of “HAAAAAAAAAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAA YEAHHHHH HAHAHAHAAAA!”

The other rides were awesome: We went on an Mars boat-style ride where you got a laser gun and had to shoot the aliens before they attacked. They had a 3D simulator ride where you felt like a log going through processing in the Arctic or something. They had a “tilt house,” where you walk through a perfectly normal house, except it’s all shifted about 30 degrees and reallllyyyy makes you dizzy.

Abby Tohline from Ball State put it perfectly, and I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her: “The thing I love about cheap Asian amusement parks is that you always have the vague feeling that you're about to die.”)