Tosari, Tengger; Jawa Timur: The Hills Are Alive With The Sound of Cicadas.


Tosari’s green hills inspire one to break into high pitched song and frolic in the abundant greenness of the Tengger. In complete contrast to Jakarta, it was a great second place for me to experience in Indonesia. It’s high altitude makes it much cooler than many other parts of Java and instead of falling asleep to the sounds of car horns and the Islamic Call to Prayer I fell asleep listening to the equally loud, but largely more soothing song of the cicadas.


Tosari is a small, beautiful, green, Hindu sanctuary tucked into the volcanic mountains of East Java; people are amazingly gracious and friendly, air is crisp, the sky is blue, the fields are green and plateaued, and it is separated from pollution, large shopping malls,  hot water, western toilets and toilet paper…

Shane’s mom, dad, brother and I shared his home stay here and became in complete awe of how he handled the bathroom situation with sheer grace and explained it step by step to the 5 of us who would be sharing the bathroom and praying that we could manage to use it minimally for both showers and everything else. The sweet irony of Shane eloquently explaining the perfect squat position, the use of a water bucket and pourer, and the real purpose of the left hand to the couple who 23 years ago potty trained him amused me.

I tried to hold out for as long as I could, but the feasts that came mostly deep fried 3 times a day did not aid my abstinence. No amount of instruction could have prepared me for the abandonment of my most base and taken-for-granted western luxuries in the bathroom. In fact, most of the world has similar toilet situations if not worse, so I felt like an MTV drama queen, but I only showered once. The pride and accomplishment that I felt for willingly pouring ice cold water over my head multiple times easily overshadowed everything that I felt in my cap and gown as the Pomp to Circumstance played 6 months earlier.

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After that crash course, we all dove right in to Shane’s daily life of waking up at 6 and doing the 30 minute hike to school. We were greeted by all the staff so graciously and then called to a platform where the school stood attention at an assembly in our honor. Being the girlfriend, I was greeted with applause and giggles causing me to blush in front of about 50 uniformed students. Everyone else was greeted with a chorus of “Hello Miss” or “Hello Mister,” why couldn’t I be so lucky?

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We went to be interviewed by the cream of the crop in Shane’s English Conversation Club. All these students were specially selected for their skill in English and had all prepared probing and thought provoking interview questions for us after giving us a presentation on Tenggerese Culture. I got really deep questions from these 10th and 11th graders, like, “What are your dreams?” and “Why?” Then of course there was the question that every person in Tosari had on their mind, “When are you and Mr. Shane getting married?” “How do you feel about Mr. Shane?” and “Are you ever anger with Mr. Shane?” I was not going to contribute to the delusion of love that Indonesian media often gives, “Yes, yes I anger with Mr. Shane sometimes” especially when he is annoying, or I’m hungry, or I haven’t slept, or it’s early in the morning, or if I just poured ice water down my butt crack. Afterwards we had a cell phone photo shoot with all the students, Shane’s brother was quite popular with the blushing Indonesian teens.


The next day we went to cross country practice. I got to relive my days of slacking at the back of the pack on P.E. running days. It was raining, and I came with my jacket and umbrella to trail along in the back while getting to see the students to whom Shane had imparted the passion of running. Although you wouldn’t know it from the posse of 12 students who chose to walk the course of their 4 mile run with me rather than run up at the front with Shane and his brother. I began to feel like I had an entourage. I thought a girl just wanted to use my umbrella, as all the students were soaked, but little did I know that there was a bit of a competition going on to see who would hold my umbrella for me, when I got hot, there were 3 girls who wanted to take my coat for me, I was served fresh fruit from off the path, learned the Indonesian words for thunder and lightning, and how to identify different crops, before being serenaded by a group of 3 girls playing Indo-pop music off a cell phone. I was questioned about the marital status of Shane’s “handsome and strong” 19 year old brother, and shared in gossiping and slacking in the back of the pack.  Life really doesn’t get any better than becoming a princess and having a group of Indonesian children as your handmaidens. At the end of the practice I arrived back at the cross country field with a girl linked to each arm, my umbrella being held for me and my fruit gift in hand.  Only to spur a cell phone photo shoot with all the runners. When they were done, they touched our hands to their forehead or cheek as a salute of respect before speeding off on their motor bikes.

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