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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

Bologna was my first CouchSurfing experience and still stands out as one of the best. This was due in no small part to my incredible host Valentina. She ended up moving to Mojokerto, Indonesia to teach English for six months. Vale has since left, but let me know to drop by and visit the little city while I was in Java. I did.

I didn’t have internet access in Probolinggo and wasn’t able to get in touch with Valentina’s friends prior to my arrival. When I got into town at 5pm on a Tuesday, I called Valentina’s friend Susi, mentioned her name and the rest was history.

Susi is an administrator/teacher at one of Mojokerto’s junior high schools and an incredibly gracious, kind, and funny host. With no advanced noticed, she picked me up, found me a place to stay, then took me to dinner. Susi let me know that if I wanted to visit her school and teach, I was welcome to. I really, really enjoy teaching and jumped on the opportunity. I was in the classroom at 8am the next day!

I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t get many foreign visitors or if the people of Mojokerto are just that awesome, but I was treated as nicely as I’ve ever been, anywhere. The faculty, support staff, and students treated me like a VIP. I have to admit, I liked it. A lot.

Class was fairly straightforward and similar to what I had done in France the year before. The kids were polite, involved, and an absolute pleasure to work with. After my second day of school, I was accompanied by two teachers and five students for a private tour of the area. We visited a place where they make batik, traditional Indonesian fabric as well as a museum, a temple, and a reclining Buddha.

Susi’s hospitality didn’t end with the school day. After the first day of class, she invited me to have dinner with her family at their home. Her husband, son, and daughter were just as friendly and nice as she. The next night they invited me to have the best nasi goreng in Indonesia from a street vendor near their home. It was so good I ended up getting a second bowl. In addition to making amazingly delicious rice, Mr. Benny, the man that runs the cart, is also quite a character and had us laughing so hard our very full stomachs hurt.

Other food highlights from Mojokerto were the goody boxes that greeted me upon arrival at school each morning and plenty of bakso. I had spicy duck a couple times and it was quite tasty, but not as spicy as in Bali. Mojokerto is known for its sweets, most notably onde-onde, which is a medium sized dessert ball.

The nature of this trip prevents me from spending more than a few days in any given place, but I could have easily spent weeks or months in Mojokerto. Out of all of the places I’ve been and experiences I’ve had, Mojokerto has a special place in my heart. The people and place appealed to me on so many different levels and everything just felt right there. If you are interested in paying Mojokerto a visit and teaching at the school, just let me know and I’ll put you in contact with Susi.

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