On Food: My Cuisine in Jogja & DFD

Here are some of my favorite foods that I tried while in Jogja:

Gado-Gado or Lotek


A Javanese dish composed mainly of lightly cooked vegetables, potatoes, and rice with a rich peanut sauce. It is a sweet dish in Jogja, but it is a salty dish in more western parts of the country.

Nasi Goreng (Ayam, Bebek, Telor…)

Nasi GorengTelor     Nasi Goreng Ayam + Telor

I ate this a lot. It’s simply fried rice with egg and chicken, and it is good pretty much anywhere.


Pancake with Chocolate Ice Cream     Pancake

There are many pancake shops in Jogja. Unlike in America, pancakes are usually eaten for snacks throughout the day instead of for breakfast. The two pictured above were from Maryanne’s — a pancake and ice cream shop near Anna’s Homestay.

Mie Aceh (kuah)

Mie Aceh Kuah

A spicy dish from the Aceh region, one can choose to get it kuah (soup), or goreng (dry). This dish is not a joke — you better get it tidak pedas (without spice).

Ayam Geprek

Ayam Geprek

This is a very interesting dish: you tell the cook how many chilis you want, and he or she grinds them up on a concave stone. Then, the cook takes a piece of fried chicken and pounds it into the stone with the chilis. It can be extremely spicy, and I usually only got 1 chili or half of 1 chili. I heard at one place that the record number of chilis in one Ayam Geprek is about 200.



You cannot escape tempe if you spend any time in Yogyakarta. There are many variations, but it is usually fried soybeans, and it is really good with sambal — a common spicy sauce.



This fruit kind of tastes like a cross between an apple and an onion if you ask me, but it is everywhere in Jogja, and is worth a try.


Disaster Risk Reduction

On October 26th 2010, Yogyakarta was plagued by a series of extremely damaging eruptions. Mount Merapi–one of the most dangerous volcanoes in the world–threw debris, stones, sand, and other volcanic materials at the surrounding villages.

The Indonesian government provides assistance to disaster survivors. The general philosophy of providing assistance is to promote a collaborative effort to find the best and most sustainable solution. The Department of General Affairs of Indonesia created Rekompak as a more specialized body to take a regional approach to solving reconstruction problems. Rekompak has been involved in the relief programs of many regional disasters such as the Aceh Tsunami of 2004, and the earthquake in Yogyakarta of 2008. Rekompak’s position is that of a “helper to a community”; they assist people in reconstructing their lives and planning their futures. Rekompak provides people with advice on how they should proceed, but they do not force them to take certain action (Interview with Wijayanto, July 2014). The national government of Indonesia placed the Merapi DRR program in Rekompak’s hands.

At Merapi, the Indonesian government mandated that the community within the red-zone (20 km from the summit) move to a location of lower elevation. The Merapi eruptions survivors who did not wish to move out of the red-zone were not eligible for governmental assistance. It is easy to speculate on the reasons for which the people did not move. However, the less intuitive reason has important implications: the survivors have spiritual connections to their land on Merapi. Their beliefs hold that Merapi is a holy place where gods and godesses live. Therefore, even if an eruption were to occur, the loyal locals would remain unharmed. Rekompak assisted the Merapi eruptions survivors who were willing to abandon their land in finding new real estate, and paid for the acquisition of it. Once Rekompak found the land, the survivors were responsible for partitioning it equitably among the people of the community. Once it was time to build, Rekompak assisted in finding contractors and other construction workers to do the job, but the choice of whom they would hire was ultimately given to the Merapi eruptions survivors. Likewise, when it came to the materials and other logistical decisions, the people were responsible for making them.

Rekompak’s hands-off way of guiding people is problematic because it demands unfair participation of them. The Merapi eruptions survivors lost everything and then were asked to reconstruct their villages in a new place with no knowledge of how to do it. This placed a huge burden on the people, as the institutional memory that is necessary for a project of this magnitude does not exist. IDEA conducted a social audit to assess the legitimacy and success of the program a couple of years after the DRR program had been initiated.

In July of 2014, my internship with IDEA led me to assess the DRR program with IDEA’s supervision, specifically analyzing the progress that had been made in augmenting the DRR program since IDEA’s first social audit.

Jerusalem: A Melting Pot

There is much being said about Jerusalem in the news these days. It is Israel’s capital city, though most of the world does not recognize it as so. It is a weighty city with a beautiful yet violent history. While visiting Jerusalem during my CPGC trip, I enjoyed walking the ancient streets and tried to imagine the many events that occurred there. It took a bit of imagination because the reality today is quite different.

In Jerusalem there is tension between the vast varieties of people, yet it is a product of the openness of the city. Only under Jewish control of Jerusalem has there been religious freedom for all people. And it comes at great risk and a high price as Jerusalem has been one of the hot spots for terrorism. There is no other place in the world where I could have walked the streets and find myself brushing shoulders with not only multiple sects of Judaism, but also the Eastern Orthodox Christians, Catholics, Muslims, Armenians, and even Mormons. The list could go on and on. Sometimes I felt like I was walking around the ancient version of Manhattan! Walking through the old stone streets of Jerusalem were monks, Imams, and my personal favorite, the evangelical tour groups who were occasionally found singing hymns.

Within the ancient walls of Jerusalem’s Old City lie four ancient and distinctive cultures. The Old City is divided into four quarters – the Jewish Quarter, Muslim Quarter, Armenian Quarter and Christian Quarter.

Constant streams of pilgrims visit the most holy site to the Jewish nation, the Western Wall, also known as the Wailing Wall. Five times daily, one can hear the Muslim call to prayer being sounded from the El Aksa mosque located right above the Western Wall. Armenians fulfill their daily ritual prayers in the Church of the Holy Archangels – a structure dating back to the medieval period. And throughout the year, Christians retrace the steps of Jesus, visiting the temple ruins, Gethsemane, The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, and the Garden Tomb.

The diversity of the ancient city of Jerusalem rarely, if ever, makes headline news, but it should. While Israel’s so called “intolerance” toward its Arab citizens dominates the mainstream media focus, individuals of every race and creed are granted cultural and religious freedom throughout Israel and most visibly in Jerusalem – the most holy city of the Jewish faith. This can hardly be said of any other country in the region and certainly not Saudi Arabia which will not even permit a Jewish person entrance into their country or any non-Muslim/infidel in Mecca.

Jerusalem is a shining example of religious and cultural freedom in an area of the world where religious persecution is practiced regularly and quite brutally. Jerusalem has seen much bloodshed in the past from religious conquests to dominate the region and the minds of her citizens. Thankfully today, there is freedom of conscience for all people. I am thankful to Israel and the Jewish people that I, as a Christian and a foreigner, was able to visit and celebrate the life of Jesus and worship freely without fear of intimidation or persecution.

Working with Unite for Sight in Ghana

I honestly don’t know where to start in terms of how things have been. I’ve been conducting research with Unite for Sight (UFS) to determine whether or not patients who have received free cataracts sugery (funded by UFS) think other people who have cataracts in Ghana will be willing to contribute a little money to the cost of treatment. I’m learning a lot about how to conduct research and how to work with interpreters. I’ve been keeping in touch with Arancha and she has been absolutely great at helping with the research process and helping me put things into perspective.

Since UFS works with different eye clinics in Ghana, I’ve also had the opportunity to work in different parts of Ghana. My first week, I worked with Crystal Eye clinic on their overnight outreach to Takarodi in the western region of Ghana. Conducting research has also allowed me to interact with Ghanians which I’ve enjoyed. During outreaches, volunteers help eye clinic staff by assisting with registration, conducting visual acuity testing, data entry, or dispensing medication. Each day, we travel to communities in the region and help the clinics to provide eye care to a number of people. Depending the location, the number of the people at the outreaches ranges from 100 to over 300 people per day. The team is usually made up of 1 or 2 optometrists, 1 or 2 drivers, local volunteers, and UFS volunteers. My day typically starts with interviews with patients who have had cataract surgery. After that, I spend the rest of the day helping out with visual acuity, data entry, or dispensing. I’ve also had the opportunity to observe cataract and pterygium surgeries.

So far, I’ve worked with clinics in Takarodi/Sekondi (western region), Kumasi (Ashanti Region), Elubo and Nzema (western region near the border of Ghana and Ivory Coast). I could see the Ivory Coast from where the outreach was located which was pretty cool.

On our way back from an outreach to Elubo, the van I was in had an accident (I’m okay and so is everyone who was involved). The van ran into an old man that was trying to cross the road. It was dark and the road was bumpy and dusty so the driver didn’t see the old man on time. The man was rushed to the hospital and thankfully only suffered a minor cut to the head and a fractured femur (He’s recocvering well). While he was rushed to the hospital, myself and others who were in the van spent an hour surrounded by villagers on the side of the road while we waited for another ride to where we were lodging. We ended up spending an extra night in the area because the van’s windscreen was damaged and needed to be replaced. That was quite an experience.

On a lighter note, I’ve picked up some twi and it’s been fun and interesting interacting with locals, clinic staff, volunteers, and Nigerians that I’ve ran into. People often think I’m Ghanian and are surprised or even displeased when I say that I don’t really understand the language. I’ve also enjoyed spending time at the cultural center, museums, markets, Jamestown, Osu, and the kente weaving village in Kumasi.

I’ve definitely expereinced a lot of different emotions while being here (good and bad) but overall, my experience has been positive. It’s been a dose of reality but also very strengthening and inspiring.

Charity Eye Clinic outreach team in Kumasi

Charity Eye Clinic outreach team in Kumasi

A visual acuity station

A visual acuity station

Staring at the Ivory Coast from Ghana

Staring at the Ivory Coast from Ghana

Dr. James Clarke performing cataract surgery at Crystal Eye Clinic in Accra

Dr. James Clarke performing cataract surgery at Crystal Eye Clinic in Accra

Gandrung: A Look at “Cultural Preservation” Through Dance

Dance has always played a big role in Indonesia and it has changed dramatically over time. The research methodologies course I am currently taking at UGM featured a guest lecturer recently who grew up in West Java. Dyah–a professor of Dance and Southeast Asian Studies–talked to us about narrative and memory in Indonesia throughout the Soeharto period. She talked about a traditional dance that has undergone many changes since 1965: Gandrung. She broke up her lecture into two parts: the narrative of the dance, and the impact of surveillance on its role in the community.

Professor Dyah at UGM.

Professor Dyah at UGM.


Dyah learned the Gandrung during her childhood in West Java, from her grandmother. Before the massacres of 1965, the traditional dance was performed by women in order to ensure the prosperity of the year’s harvest. It was not a performance in the modern sense of the word (with makeup and costumes), but an important ritual that brought prosperity to the village. To Dyah, the dance was empowering because it enabled the women of the village to be leaders in providing for themselves and others; a feminist ideal very engrained in the community’s culture. Today, however, the narrative of the dance is quite different.


Before 1965, in a stereotypical household, the mother planted rice, and the father tended to the buffalo. This created a sort of equality between the role of the husband and wife in a family in which both supported the land and the family. In 1965, Soeharto’s new regime brought about an anticommunist movement, which violently changed Indonesian culture. The “equitable” way the men and women of Western Java shared roles in the household was deemed inherently communist by the state, and was therefore terminated. The military massacred many villagers in the name of “democracy”. This changed the way villages farmed and because the state mandated a male-dominated economic system, there was no longer a reason for the women to perform the Gandrung.

In 1998, when the anticommunism movement ended, the dance returned as a way for Indonesian people to discover their identities and to remember their history. It was brought back–under the supervision of the state–in the form of grand performances with a large focus on aesthetics. The purpose of the dance for the dancers changed from nourishing the village in the pre-1965 period, to discovering personal identity today. The modern version of the dance also attempts to tell people how to remember the past. Because the state supervises national performances, it effectively rewrites memory to shape morale. Dyah implored us to consider the possibility of revisionism when conducting our research projects.

The Soldier and the Frog: Jerusalem on a Friday Morning

The profile of the IDF soldier reminded me of my science lab partner in the twelfth grade. We were put together because both of us had been sick the day lab partners were assigned. Neither of us had spoken to the other person before our senior year, and we often argued over the answers to lab reports or who got to dissect the frog. The soldier had the same straight nose, the same tension in his shoulders that I had seen when my lab partner peered over his text book or scantron test sheet, he was a nervous test taker and would chew on the ends of all his pencils. I wondered if the soldier would have argued with me, and if he, like my lab partner, would eventually give in and let me make the first incision in the frog dissection .

I was staring at the soldier, blatantly staring, in a way that was probably impolite and thinking about frogs as our tour guide hustled our group through the barricade recently placed in front of the gate we had just hours before passed through easily.

I spent the days leading up to this blog post thinking about what I was going to write about. I realize now that this was a bit silly, since its hard to plan on a reflection on something that hasn’t happened yet. I knew all week that Friday would be our trip to the Mount of Olives, and my plan was to have a section about how the Mount of Olives was a difficult sight to miss, and how it would still surprise me when I turned my head and looked over at the ascending gravestones, and about how even though we didn’t tour it until Friday it had been a continuous presence among all our tours of the Old City. I expected there to be something strange about reorienting ourselves and looking out at a city where we had spent the last week wandering through searching for good falafel and cool cotton pants with elephants on them, neither of which was hard to find.

IMG_0934 IMG_0939

Mary Magdalena Church and View of Old city from Mount of Olives

But, of course, its ridiculous to try and write about a view before seeing it (forgive my cheesy statement). Although, being on the Mount of Olives was a moment of “reorientation,” reframing the city once again. Being on the Mount of Olives, much like being in the city of Jerusalem itself, was a moment of locating ourselves within centuries of text and the space within a city that is very much a part of current world.

When I remember the Mount of Olives I remember the centuries of gravestones along with the woman I met on the path who told me she liked my scarf and asked where I was from. I remember our tour guide pointing out the views of the Temple Mount as I shared water bottle with classmate on what was the hottest day of the trip. And in what was perhaps the most jarring moment of the trip I remember reentering the Old City after a potential suicide bomber had been caught in the West Bank – I remember staring at a boy with the gun who reminded me of the smell of sharpened pencils and high school science classrooms. We walked through the same streets that we had been exploring for the past week, retraced the Via Dolorosa among barricades and chaos. The place that had become increasingly familiar was once again distant, and I was no longer tasked with locating myself within the city but only with moving through it.

As the trip progressed it became increasingly clear how much time we needed in Jerusalem…and how extraordinary it was to get to spend ten days in the city. Now, after being back for six weeks (oh gosh, this blog post really is late), I can picture the walk from our hostel to Jaffa gate, see the Old City, the Mount of Olives and retrace the paths we walked. The most extraordinary part of the trip (and perhaps this is something unique to the city itself) was that “reorienting” ourselves was a continuous process – and one that continued even after our return home.

Brigitta Schuchert

A Weekend in TC

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It was 4:30 am on Saturday July 12th. With bleary eyes, I filled up my water bottle, tied on my running sneakers, and pinned my bib number to my shirt. Trotting towards town, I was struck with how dark it still was even as the time crept past 5:00 am. The town was busy with excitement with everyone setting up for the parade later that day. I spotted my friend Angela all dolled up in a tutu and a cherry shirt, clearly ready to run a half marathon. From there, Tiffany, another runner from the Traverse City Track Club, drove us to where they were busing runners to the start line all the way up the peninsula. Once there, we warmed up, hydrated, and waited for the beginning of the race.


This past week was the Cherry Festival, which is a huge cherry themed festival (as you could have maybe guessed with the photo at the top of me and my friend Angela inside a giant cherry) that draws a million people to Traverse City for the 10 day long spectacular that includes a full carnival, fireworks, parades, and other events around the city. The festival also includes a series of races, including a half marathon that I decided to run. The race was great and I had loads of fun. Here is a picture of me finishing: 21_1405449896-img_8414 3.20.26 PM

On Sunday, to top off the weekend, I headed to Sleeping Bear Dunes, which is a national park that is known to be one of the most beautiful places in Northern Michigan. DSC_0001

My roommate Wendy and I went for a hike and spent some time in the historic town of Glen Haven.


It was incredibly beautiful, just as beautiful as everyone had been telling me. I was glad I had the chance to go and to see another gorgeous place in Northern Michigan! DSC_0034

Keeping Inupiaq Alive

This week was jam-packed with both work and fun. We had 7 people come in and present to the IDEA (Intergenerational Dialogue, Exchange and Action) project that our research team is coordinating. Each person had a unique perspective to offer on topics like leadership, culture and community engagement. It has been really interesting for me to hear people talk about how they navigate both Western/American society as well as Eskimo/Inupiaq society and culture. One couple who spoke to us was especially inspiring. As children they had been sent to American boarding schools where they were forced to assimilate and speak English. Throughout their lives they have continued to watch the Inupiaq language slowly die out. To counteract this, they founded an Inupiaq immersion school here in Kotzebue called Nikaitchuat Ilisagviat, which roughly translates to “There are no boundaries, anything is possible, a place of learning.” The school helps to pass on the Inupiaq language and culture by immersing its students (preschoolers through first graders) in the Inupiaq language. It also follows a curriculum based on traditional seasonal activities. For example, in the fall hunting season the students learn how to process a caribou, and in the winter they learn how to sew traditional items like mukluks (boots) and parkees (jackets) from animal skins.

Everything is labeled in Inupiaq

Everything in Nikaitchuat’s classroom is labeled in Inupiaq.

While we are here, a second project that Idun and I are working on is helping Nikaitchuat design a survey for their alumni. In order to expand and receive more funding, the school wants to track the experiences of their alumni as they transition from Nikaitchuat to the public school system and then on to jobs and college. So this week we finished creating the questions we will ask the alumni, and then began contacting people and conducting interviews. While we are hopefully collecting useful data for the school, it is also a valuable opportunity for us to learn about one challenge this community is facing. Many of the people here in Kotzebue have explained to us that the loss of their culture is not just something of the past, but is actually something that is happening right now. The Inupiaq language is in the process of dying, and with it much of the culture’s traditional knowledge and skills as well. Many of today’s elders grew up speaking Inupiaq, but young people my age know very little, if any, of the language. Nikaitchuat is working to change the tide for Inupiaq, and it is a very inspiring group of people to work with and learn from!

Outside of Nikaitchuat

Outside of Nikaitchuat

Idun hard at work inside the school. This is also the space where the IDEA project takes place.

Idun hard at work inside the school. This is also the space where our IDEA project takes place.

Research in Haverford’s Backyard

I finally have a picture of myself at RFA! At this point in the summer, I have spent many, many hours in front of this computer. Because my internship is entirely office-based, I’m thankful that my projects and assignments have varied considerably over the course of the past eight weeks.

I’ve just begun work on a short-term project for the organization, one that is quite literally in Haverford’s backyard. We’re contributing to the five-year strategic plan of a school district on the Main Line, analyzing survey data to make recommendations about what students, parents, teachers, and other community members would like to see from their schools. I’m working with a much larger set of data than I have previously, with well over 2,000 survey respondents. Coding all of this data is incredibly time-consuming, but I’m also beginning to gain a sense for the spirit and character of the community.

It’s really exciting to be working on a project that is so relevant to Haverford’s direct surroundings, and to play such an active role on much of the data analysis!

An Indian Summer

Namaste from India.
I’m here in Northern India for the summer working and learning about migrant populations in India, as well as their access to education, healthcare, and other services.
Despite some organizational difficulties, my time here so far has been fascinating, fun, and filled with awe-inspiring landscapes. I spent my first week in Himachal Pradesh living with a homestay, and this was the view from their house:

Although the Himalayas in the background look close, they’re actually several weeks’ trek away.
As for the migrants here, those who I’ve encountered so far typically fit certain profiles: they are originally from Punjab or Rajasthan (two states just south of Himachal Pradesh); they work in the home, or as agricultural laborers, trash pickers, or dog breeders; and they live in semi-permanent camps of a few dozen people, in structures made of bamboo and tarps and with mud stoves for cooking.

(Picture credit to Paula.)

Before I came here, I thought that as agricultural workers, the migrants would move around every few months. But in fact, the groups I’ve met stay in one place for 6-8 years at a time! The reason they are still ‘migrants’ is because they generally do not have official citizenship in the places they go, are not connected to public utilities like electricity and running water, and do not send their children to local schools.
So, why not? I’m still trying to answer that question, but I can hazard a few guesses. The migrants I met, it turns out, do have citizenship papers-but in Punjab. They intend to go back there some day, and even own land in the state, so they don’t want to give up their Punjabi citizenship for papers in Himachal Pradesh. As a result, however, they can’t access many of the charities and services provided to the rural poor in the state.

A child drawing at a migrant camp. (Picture credit to Paula.)

As for school (my main focus), the picture here is interesting. There are a variety of reasons why the migrant children do not go to school:
-they are needed for household chores and work at the camps, such as cooking and fetching things
-as dalits (low caste Indians), they risk discrimination and teasing by classmates and teachers at school
-because most of the migrant children haven’t received formal education, they would need to enter school in classes with much younger children
-the children and their parents do not necessarily see school as relevant to their lives

All of these points deserve deeper analysis than I can provide right now, but the last point is especially complex. Most of the migrants I’ve worked with (both children and parents) have shown strong interest in learning subjects like math and English, but much less interest in formal school (though it’s worth noting that several of the children attended school previously in other states). This overall disinterest in school may be due to the other factors above, or there may be more to the story. Language barriers make it difficult to discover these nuances, and it’s also important not to assume that standardized education is the best path for all people. But I hope to continue learning during the rest of my time in India, and will seek to understand more of the migrants’ backgrounds, needs, wants, ideas, and worldviews while I am here.