Guilty Pleasures of Indonesia

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Shelby Lawson’s favorite dog at her local pet shop, her name is Ubi (the word for Cassava in Indonesian).


As English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) in a foreign country some days can be harder than others. Indulging in little things, that wouldn’t normally be so special back home, can make all of your troubles melt away. Many of the ETAs have started using the phrase, “Treat yo’ self!” which is the best way in Indonesia to stay happy and mentally healthy. We asked ETAs to share the kind of embarrassing (and hilarious) things they do that brings them more joy than it should.

Krupa Patel
Surabaya, East Java

Pisang goreng hahaha because what’s not to love about fried bananas smothered in chocolate, heavy condensed milk and processed cheese? Although I consider myself to be a cheese connesiour and would never eat processed cheese at home, this dish makes it work. The sweetness of the chocolate, the creaminess of the heavy condensed milk and the saltiness of the processed cheese add dimension and layers of flavor to the batter fried banana snack. I’ve called it dinner one too many times.

Also bleach, known as Bayclin in Indonesia. There is something fun about bleaching my floors, bathroom and white clothes in Indonesia because everything gets so dirty here!

Julianne O’Connell
Kupang, NTT

When I am feeling down I like to pick up roti babi (bread stuffed with pork) and set up my hammock at the beach. I sit and read and nap and eat and eventually the stresses of the day fade away. In bad weather/time crunch situation I make some Indomie and watch Gilmore Girls and it transports me to another world.

Also when eating IndoMie and watching GG, I turn my AC down so low so that my room is freezing and it merits eating hot noodle soup. It’s a wasteful, pricey guilty pleasure, I know.

Mackenzie Findlay
Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi

I eat an embarrassing amount of Mac n Cheese. I brought a pound of mac n cheese powder from the States and it is literally amazing (check it out here). In the evenings I’m often too lazy to go out and find food and this is a super easy thing I can make at home (in my rice cooker!). I used to it eat maybe 3 times a week but now it’s more like 5 times a week… whoops.

Caroline Rose
Malang, East Java

I absolutely love buying and eating prepackaged ice cream cones from Indomaret and Alfamart. They are enak sekali (delicious)!

Katarina Krueger
Central Java, Bringin

I like to take advantage of living alone by having solo dance parties, blasting my favorite songs and dancing around my house. This happens a few nights a week. I also like to go to the nice spa in Salatiga for a massage every now and then to unwind and truly relax.

Kate Barton
Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi

If I’ve had a rough day at school, I like to either unwind at the only coffee shop in town that has BOTH espresso and AC, or I’ll head home with a box of KFC in hand to watch Rom-coms while I climb under my sheets. I also am in love with Pangsit (a dish with noodles in chicken broth with a fried wonton on top), but I don’t think thats a guilty pleasure because everyone should love it.

Ayat Abourashed
Makassar, South Sulawesi

I love going to the movie theater alone at least once a week and treating myself to a huge bucket of salty, buttery popcorn. For nights when I’m much too lazy to leave my room, I love ordering martabak manis (preferably chocolate with peanuts) using Go-Food. Shamelessly, my last guilty pleasure is blasting my speakers and dancing around my room to some quality tunes – I’ve gotta get a workout in somehow!

Shelby Lawson
Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi

I love mentos. I keep them stashed everywhere and eat them pretty much whenever I’m hungry or bored. Oh and I also make almost daily trips to visit pups at this rundown pet store and pick ticks off of them. It’s nice to take care of them and they get so excited to see me!

Shreya Kundur
Malang, East Java

Every month or so, I get a really good manicure at the salon in the mall. Although relatively expensive, when I’m done I feel just a bit more put together than I usually do in Indonesia.

Daniel Gerardi
Balige, North Sumatra

I usually start my mornings with a couple cigarettes and a couple cups of coffee. I know it’s unhealthy and that I ought to cut back or quit entirely, but honestly, coffee is too amazing and necessary to ever give up. Some days it seems like I’ve survived entirely on chicken nuggets, french fries, hard-boiled eggs, and root beer. Have I eaten any Indonesian food? I think PopMie counts. And finally, living at my school is a blessing. Nothing gets me through the hard days more than knowing that when nature calls, I can always run home to the bathroom. If I never have to squat over a squatty potty during this grant, I’ll consider it a success. Home is where you can poop in comfort.

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