As the second year of my service begins I have made a goal to visit as many other volunteers’ sites as I can during my free time. So far some of my best memories (but also quite a few bad ones, too) have been while traveling around Java so I’m trying to see as much of it as I can this last year.

I made a trip to Kediri to help facilitate some training sessions for the new class of volunteers last month and afterwards I had a few days before I needed to be back at site so I decided to make a trip out to Madura to see the “mom and dad” of my cohort, Rachel and Evan.

Rachel and Evan live on Madura, a small island in the northeastern corner of Java. Currently there are a handful of volunteers on Madura but once the ID9 cohort leaves in June Madura will be home to only three volunteers. They may be far away from many other volunteers but their site is not rural.

They live in a decently sized city with many amenities. Rachel is about a five-minute walk away from her school and Evan bikes a few kilometers to get to his school, which is fairly easy as Madura only has two hills.

Their family is pleasant and provides them with plenty of space to do their own thing but they are also quite friendly and hospitable. The biggest downside I can think of regarding their living situation is that they have an array of speakers on a small tower sitting in their front yard. The speakers blare the call to prayer five times a day. I don’t know if I have ever heard a louder call to prayer than the one I heard on my first morning visiting their site.

Unfortunately, because I was visiting on the weekend I didn’t have an opportunity to observe either Evan or Rachel teach. But they’re both experienced English teachers who taught in South Korea for several years before joining Peace Corps so I’m sure they are fantastic in the classroom. In fact, there have been a couple instances when I have been in the middle of a class and have texted Rachel for teaching advice.

I intend to write about all the site visit trips I make but since this was my first one I wasn’t quite sure how I would format it into a compelling narrative. And now, as I’m trying to write, I find it hard to explain life at someone’s site beyond some basic facts about their living arrangements. So the remainder of this post will be pictures documenting some of the sights we saw, the things we did, and how much fun we had.

Presented below, in chronological order, my trip to Madura.

It wasn’t but fifteen minutes after I arrived when we started wondering, “well, what are we going to do?” Life at a volunteer’s site isn’t the most thrilling.

Rachel and Evan live near a picturesque canal they sometimes walk by. We started my visit by taking a walk out to see the sawah, rice fields.

Evan and I walking out to the sawah

Evan and Rachel walking along the canal. The water was pretty dirty but it still made for good pictures.

Rachel pointing something out to Evan. Probably some rice field. In my opinion, there is nothing more quintessentially “Peace Corps” than a volunteer pointing at something in a photo.

Walking home after having seen enough sawah for one night. This was taken on a Friday after school and almost every other person seemed to know Rachel. It was cool seeing everyone greet. She has done an excellent job of integrating into her community.

A beautiful Madurese sunset over sawah.

Roller blades are all the rage on Madura right now. These kids were blading around their city’s park. It’s a pretty nice park.

The roller blading kids having a fun time at the park.

The park even touted some exercise equipment, although much of it seemed to be falling apart. The pull-up bar was in fine working order, though a little too tall for the average Indonesian, perfect for me.

For my first meal in Madura we ate at a little roadside food cart and had sate Madura (skewered meat) and gule kambing (goat curry). It was delicious. The food in Madura is surprisingly different from the food in West Java. Lots of meat on Madura whereas Sundanese food typically has a lot of vegetables.

For whatever reason, I never see anyone in West Java walk around with stuff on their head and seeing this woman carry stuff around on her head made me a little jealous. She’s clearly super cool.

At the market looking for ingredients for all the tasty food Evan and Rachel planned to cook while I was visiting. The tomatoes are for tomato soup.

Markets are such photogenic places.

On the hunt for more ingredients. Rachel and Evan’s city doesn’t have any public transportation besides becaks (pedicabs). Not a huge deal because the places is pretty flat and they both have bikes but I really enjoy the convenience and ubiquity of angkots at my site. You can see all the becaks lined up waiting for passengers to transport.

Rachel engaging in a little bargaining with the ibu of this fruit stand. Evan was considering purchasing some dates while Rachel did all the haggling.

Rachel practicing her levitation skills and Evan looking on in amazement. That’s a Bali orange, its like a grapefruit.

Making guacamole. Guacamole is practically considered an abomination by Indonesians. The avocado is a dessert-type fruit for Indonesians so seeing it used for a savory treat is nearly unthinkable. To Americans I imagine a similar equivalent would be dipping pizza in ice cream, or something, I don’t know. I could actually imagine eating Pizza and ice cream simultaneously so maybe not the best analogy.

Me taking a picture of Evan taking a picture of Rachel taking a picture of one of her English club projects. When I visited they were just putting the final touches on a video they made for a fellow volunteer’s PST session. You can watch the video here.

One last clip to record before uploading the video. Evan and Rachel are popular YouTube personalities. They started making videos in Korea and have made several about their time in Indonesia. I highly recommend checking them out. You might even see a familiar face on their YouTube channel.

Their favorite cafe at their site. Good coffee, fast WiFi, air conditioning. Everything a volunteer craves.

The tastiest treat I’ve had in Indonesia. Rootpresso. Root beer float + espresso = magic.

Dicing up some tomatoes for the tomato soup. Rachel and Evan’s family has two kitchens, one for cooking things for the catering service they run and one for family cooking. Evan and Rachel frequently cook at site.

Blending some tomatoes for the soup.

The stove is only about a foot off the ground. I don’t quite understand Indonesians’ predilection for cooking close to the floor but it seems to be pretty common.

The best tomato soup I have ever had, in Indonesia or elsewhere. The grilled cheese was delicious too.

Pancakes on Sunday morning before I headed back to West Java. I no doubt had some of the best home-cooked meals of this past year while visiting Rachel and Evan. I cannot imagine better or more gracious hosts.

Rachel, Evan, and I from our trip out to the sawah on the first night.
The photos above do a decent job capturing some of the fun and interesting times Rachel, Evan, and I shared but my favorite part of the trip was much harder to capture on camera: the conversations. Most of our time was spent just sitting around chatting about the topic du jour. Peace Corps (of course), religion, politics, the American south (Rachel is from North Carolina), the incoming class of volunteers, traveling, Korea, blogging/vlogging, and so much more was on the table.

My trip to Madura would’ve been interesting no matter what, but Evan and Rachel made it spectacular.

2 thoughts on “Visiting Evan and Rachel

  1. Looks like a great place. I like the sawah, it looks serene. I was able to check out their YouTube. Btw the big grapefruit is called pomelo, but Indonesian called it jeruk Bali ☺️


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