It's crazy that I'm already here! To get a few things out of the way, I'm writing this in a warnet (an internet cafe sort of thing) and the keyboards are terrible, and every word is underlined as wrong if it's not in Indonesian, so please excuse any spelling mistakes.
My first area is Solo (which is called Surakarta on some maps, occasional official documents, and nowhere else), which is awesome. Our flight was very, very long, and when we arrived in Jakarta, we were greeted by a wall of heat and humidity. After getting our luggage, we met President and Sister Subandriyo, who are our mission president and wife for the next couple of weeks. We got in a taxi and drove to the mission home in Jakarta, where we ate, had a lot of training, and slept. On our second day we were told where we are going. There is one complication: because it's Ramadhan right now, all of the government offices are closed. Because of that, we aren't able to get our Kitas yet (a Kitas is the official documents that say that we're allowed to be in Indonesia. Because we couldn't get our Kitas immediately, we'll all have to return to Jakarta in a few weeks. The sisters from my MTC group are staying in Jakarta until then, All of the Elders were sent to their areas, with Elder Graves in Tangerang, Elder Schmitt in Jogja, and me in Solo.
Solo is a relatively small city, with only about as many people as Spokane. It actually has the largest church presence in the entire country, with 4 wards. Each ward has its own missionaries, so Solo has 4 companionships of Elders, one Sister companionship, and one senior missionary couple. All the missionaries in Solo went together for P-Day this morning out to a waterfall. It was super cool,and especially cool that I got that on my first P-Day in Indonesia. Usually missionaries have to wait a long time for a trip like that, but I happened to time it just right.
My companion is named Elder Doud, and he's from all over. His family lives in Virginia, but he lived in Utah for a long time. He just become the district leader of our district in Solo (Solo just split into two districts), and is also training for the first time. I think we get along well, and he's a great missionary.
Our apartment has 4 Elders in it, and they're all pretty cool. There are some definite quirks about it, like how every once in a while we have to go into the neighbors' house to fiill up our water tank, or how our washer only works when the bathroom light is turned on. Our house has no hot water, you have to drink filtered water we get separately, our study area is up a super tight, windy spiral staircase you have to duck under, rats get into the kitchen every once in a while, our neighbors are stealing our electricity but if we turn theirs' off they come and turn ours off, and a ton of other things that make it just crazy, and I love it.
Indonesia is a super cool country. The culture here is hard to describe, because it's such a blend of a bunch of them. Probably the thing that's surprised me the most is the amount of Arabic influence here. Indonesia feels far more like an Arabic country than a Southeast Asian country, which is very surprising. The Masjids around the city play the call to prayer in Arabic several times a day, although they're all desynced, so it's basically just a constant sound that you start to drown out over time. Because it's Ramadhan, there' extra stuff going on at the Masjids, and all of the restaraunts have curtains up so you can't see people eating. It was pretty funny going into a Mcdonald's and seeing a bunch of Hijab-wearing women eating Big Macs at 2:00 in the afternoon.
Before I came here, we would joke that Indonesia has a wet and less wet season, but it turns out that I was wrong. Solo is super dusty and dry, although still humid. The dust gets everywhere and adds to the feeling that this mission is as close as you can get to serving a mission in the Middle East.
The food here is crazy. We eat a lot of rice and chicken, which are called nasi and ayam respectively. Sambal is super spicy, but I'm gradually getting used to it. It's very flavorful once you get past the spicyness of it. Pretty much everything is fried here, so almost everything you buy is called ___ Goreng, which means fried. The other thing is sate, which is meat on a stick like a kebab, often with a peanut sauce on it. At the waterfall today we tried rabbit sate, which was actually really good. Drinks are also really good. Right outside of our church building there's an Es Degan stand, which is coconut water, with coconut strips in it. It's mixed with syrup and sweetened condensed milk, and it's crazy good. Something I've learned is that coconut we eat in America is way overripe, and normal coconut is much more like other fruits. Everything here is unbelievably cheap, and spending more than 5 USD per day on food is considered unusual.
Language here is pretty weird. Almost everyone in Solo speaks Javanese as well as Indonesian, and there are a few words that get added into Indonesian from Javanese. Monggo means please in Javanese, and is used here to say "go for it", replacing the Indonesian word "Silahkan". There's also some things we learned in the MTC that I haven't heard once since I've been here, the most important of which is that nobody uses "tidak" as no. Everyone uses "ngat" or one of a dozen other words that mean no, but never tidak, which was very surprising. I still don't understand what people are saying most of the time, but Elder Doud said that my language is really good for someone who just arrived in Indonesia.
For travel, we usually bike around, which I've picked up pretty quickly. I'm now able to bike all the way across our area, which is a far cry from my ability to bike just a couple of days ago. Other than that, we occasionally will take a becak, which is a sort of rickshaw. Earlier this week we took a becak across town. Our driver was 61 years old, and had been driving a becak for 40 years. At one point he took a turn onto a one way street, going the wrong way. Traffic laws here are basically nonexistent, with everyone just sort of doing their own thing. The most important part of not dying in traffic is staying confident: if you are crossing a street, just walk out and keep going at a steady pace. People will swerve around you, because everybody here are very talented terrible drivers.
Everbody here is incredibly friendly, which makes missionary work both easy and hard. It's pretty easy to talk to people on the street, since no one will reject you straight out. The problem is that they won't show up when you try to set up appointments with them. There are a lot of great and a lot of really hard things about this mission, but I fell pretty confident in saying that it's the best mission in the world.
I've already written a lot, so I'll try to wrap it up here. Included are a bunch of pictures of our waterfall trip, as well as a few pictures of Solo, and a picture of our becak driver driving the wrong way down a one way street. I know I've told a couple of stories that might make Indonesia sound weird or bad, but I want to be clear that I absolutely love it here, and there's nowhere else in the world I would rather be right now. I know this is where the Lord wants me, and He will sustain me through all hardships I encounter here.
A couple things I forgot in that last email:
-We met monkeys at the waterfall
-Kids here are adorable, although sometimes they follow you around and ask for money
-All of the teenagers here ride scooters and shout out "hello mister" at every Bule (white person) they see, which is the only English they know
-Everybody here loves white people
-People here try to set up every white person they meet with their daughters, sisters, or whomever
-I also included a picture of our zone in the MTC
-The rumor is that we'll be getting smartphones in the next few months, which is exciting