A day-trip to North Sumatra’s Toba Lake

Covering 1707 square kilometers, Danau Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and the largest volcanic lake in the world. In the center of the lake lies Samosir Island, home of the Toba people, one of five Batak tribes native to North Sumatra. With its lush greenery and its relaxed, sleepy atmosphere, Samosir makes…

Book Review: Saman

A schoolgirl falls in love with her teacher; a priest defends a rural village and loses faith in God; a woman plans an affair with a married man. Such are the plot lines in Ayu Utami’s Saman, a 1998 romance novel that became a cultural sensation in Indonesia following its publication. At first glance, Saman…

Culture shocked in Indonesia

“Culture shock does weird things to people,” said one of our presenters during orientation. Despite having spent a fair amount of time in Indonesia before my Fulbright grant, he was right.  Case in point: Sometimes when I’m lonely, I talk to the geckos. “Killing roaches” sounds like a normal way to spend a Friday night.…