Sunday, February 6, 2011

A Beach Day

Last weekend a couple of Chris’s dirt biking friends invited us to go out to the beach with them.  We headed out on the Scoopy (my motorcycle) and followed Chris’s friend on the 30-minute drive to the beach.  Now, you are probably picturing an expanse of sand, lifeguard towers and foam-tipped ocean waves.  Well, not exactly…

These are actually pictures from a different day that Chris and I visited the beach.  There are 2 beaches on Tarakan.  This is the old beach and there is a new beach farther down the coast.  Both are muddy and the water is anything but clear.  Ships loading and unloading coal, plus all sorts of other pollution, I’m sure including human waste (delightful), make the water a muddy brown and less than appealing to swim in, at least to me.  The waves are decidedly brown scum-topped as opposed to the picturesque foamy ocean swells.  Last Sunday it was high tide, so the water was up to the retaining wall that you can see in the pictures.  No one was swimming that I saw, but it may have been because of the high tide.  I asked one of my language tutors if people often swim and she said for sure yes, but usually when the tide is lower.  Braver souls that I, that’s for sure.

Our beach experience, which from talking to others was quite typical, was mostly eating and talking in a small warung-a café open to the “beach”, sort of, well, more like the little road that runs along the empty lot that is before the beach, which happens to contain packs of roving stray dogs.  That probably shatters any Tahitian-type illusions of our beach-going experience!  Stray dogs have a way of depleting the romance of any situation.  There was an exciting moment when one of the dog packs chased a cat across the lot and the frazzled feline climbed up on the roof of one of the neighboring warungs to avoid being torn to pieces.  It was a big source of entertainment.  Exciting days at the beach in Tarakan!

The warung we ate at & the table full of fresh clams

Okay, back on track, we gathered with Chris’s friends at the café, and sat on plastic chairs at makeshift wooden tables.  Right away we were given yummy reddish-pink drinks made from coconut water and syrup with big peels of fresh coconut floating in them.  They had a strong taste, but were good and refreshing.  Then came pisang goring-fried bananas and another fried starchy item with peanut sambal (hot sauce) to dip them in and they were so good!  I think fried food is synonymous with the beach across the world, which is sort of funny if you think about it.  You are wearing less clothes than usual in most beach situations, why is it suddenly the perfect time to ingest a pile of greasy food?  Are you attempting to immediately increase your size or is it just a hope that the oil will ooze through your pores and react with the sun creating the perfect sizzling tan?  Food for thought, or better yet, food for a comatose condition, which you will surely achieve after eating delectable fried food and then basking in the sun!  May I add I am speaking from a strictly pro-fried food position-the whole thing just strikes me as kind of funny.  Let me say that they sure know how to fry things up herein Indonesia-lightly battered, golden brown and delicious!  Last, but certainly not least, in the front of the warung was a table piled with fresh clams, still wet from the ocean.  Chris’s friend took a couple of handfuls and sent them back to the kitchen to be steamed.  Soon we were eating fresh clams right out of the shell.  They were slimy, but very tasty.  I had to willfully disregard the fact that the clams had just recently resided in the mucky brown ocean water, and said a quiet prayer that we wouldn’t end up spending some up close and personal time with the commode later (which we didn’t at all, praise the Lord), but then enjoyed those ocean morsels very much!  Chris friend was pleased we liked them and was sure to tell us they were full of cholesterol!  Great, more please!

Our yummy beach food

While we ate we chatted with Chris’s friends, well, he chatted and I listened.  I’m getting to the point where I can understand quite a bit of conversation, especially if I have a context, but when I try to speak it usually comes out all wrong and I forget or mix up words that I know-so frustrating.  I tried to say a couple things, but it didn’t go so well, so I resorted to my usual mode, sitting quietly and smiling a lot.  Hopefully his friends think I’m a bit shy and friendly and not dumb as a rock…hmm…. I’m not going to think about that too much.  It’s funny because I took the usual language in high school-French in my case-and then some American Sign Language classes in college, but I didn’t think I had much of either language left in my brain.  It has taken learning Indonesian to realize that there are plenty of words in both French and ASL that are still kicking around in my brain, because they are the only words I can think of when I’m trying to speak in Indonesian!  The ASL can be helpful at times because it’s often a meaningful-looking gesture, but French is absolutely worthless!  Anyway, I digress (surprise, surprise). 

After about an hour and a half of relaxing in the cool ocean breeze, eating and chatting with friends, we parted ways with handshakes and smiles.  It was a nice way to spend a sunny afternoon-just another Tarakan experience to add to my collection.

Things have been going well here for the past couple of weeks, just working on language and keeping up with the house and cooking and stuff, nothing unusual.  What is great is how much better I have been feeling about being here.  I am cautiously optimistic that I am through the first, and I am told the toughest, wave of culture shock.  My longings for home have been less acute and less frequent, and I’m feeling more comfortable here.  I spend decidedly less time fantasizing about trips to Target and American grocery stores, which I have to admit has taken a concerted effort on my part to NOT indulge (wallow?) in.  I have definitely felt the prayers and encouragement as I go through these different stages of adjusting to life over here, so thanks!  I appreciate all of you so much!  Thanks for reading and experiencing these days along with me!


  1. Would you make sand castles on a low-tide day at the beach since you won't swim? Just curious. Sand castles are fun.

  2. I hadn't thought about sand castles-we will have to do that next time!

  3. I did not know clams were high in cholesterol. Not that I eat them very often, but, it is good to know all the same.