Just Another Day In Indonesia…

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The big news is finally here! Peace Corps told us at the beginning of training that site announcements would be made on May 25th at HUB Day. That day has been marked in my mental calendar and before I knew it, it was the end of Week 7 and the day was here! At HUB, Peace Corps staff told us they wouldn’t tell us where we were going until the very end of the day. Naturally, everyone was super antsy. I was actually pretty calm, cool, and collected, but it was hard to listen to people lecturing at us when we knew much more interesting information would be soon coming our way! After lunch I got the results of my language test! I passed, with a score of intermediate medium! I only needed to get intermediate low and I don’t think anyone scored higher than intermediate high. Hey, for 6 weeks of language training (somewhere around 120 hours), I will gladly take intermediate med. Saya senang (I am happy)! 🙂

Finally, at the end of the day, they took us all outside and walked us through campus to a basketball court where they had drawn out a map of East Java with chalk and tape on the ground and they had us stand according to our placements. SO DRAMATIC! I am down south in Tulungagung (say that three times fast). I’m living in a village only 1 km from school. I’m teaching at an SMA, which is a public high school, not an Islamic high school (one of the other choices).

My school has just under 1000 students. The principle has actually worked with a PCV before and then he was transferred to the school I will be at, so while there hasn’t been a PCV at my school, he is familiar with PC. My supervisor says this is a huge advantage. My two counterparts are supposedly highly motivated, and that’s rare. I should have about 30-40 students per class. For extra curriculars, the school already has an English club, journalism, IT club, martial arts, basketball, soccer, a youth red cross, and scouting, but they apparently want me to “set up drama club, choir, and debate club.” Haha, these are exactly none of my strengths. But that’s ok! We will figure it out, and I’m definitely lucky to be placed at a site with excited, motivated students and teachers.

As for my family, I have a 64 yr old bapak (host dad) who is a retired elementary school teacher and a 60 yr old ibu (host mom) who is an elementary school teacher retiring in November. They have a 32 yr old son who lives with them and an adult daughter who is married and lives next door with her husband and 13 yr old son. They have a little fish farm (bapak’s hobby, apparently) and they garden and have fruit trees. The house is supposedly really clean and nice, according to one of the PC staff who visited there. The house set up sounds really similar to the house of the ID5 PCV I visited last week on my site visit, and I LOVED her site so that was encouraging.

In many ways, my site placement isn’t really what I asked for in my site placement interview, but that’s ok. At the end of the day, your experience will be what you make it, so I’m just gonna head into it with a good attitude and focus on doing my best.  Peace Corps did a great job placing me with my host family for training (who I will miss so much) and I’m sure they knew what they were doing when they placed me in Tulungagung (I really need to practice pronouncing this).

Oh, and last but not least, I supposedly do have internet at school! And I guess there are internet cafes somewhere nearby? I’m hoping the internet is fast enough for skype, and I’m excited to get into a rhythm of communicating with friends&family back home when I get to site. Thank you all for your patience during these busy 10 weeks. Only two more to go until I’m an official volunteer! 🙂


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Week 7: A Potpourri of Accomplishments

I apologize, friends and family, I’m in a blogging rut. I’ve started writing so many inspired blog posts…in my head, while I am away from my computer, and then by the time I sit down with my Mac, I’m fresh out of words. Life has been busy. I just got back from a wonderful site visit (more on this later), I find out my permanent site placement within hours, I’m at the end of Week 7 of training, and things are just picking up speed.

Here’s a little list of the accomplishments I’ve made so far:

–       I can hold my own in a conversation in bahasa Indonesia with strangers and family alike. Yesterday I was on the bus and talked to a woman for about 20 minutes, all in bahasa Indonesia. That’s impressive for only six weeks of language training!

–       Remember that “being beautiful in Indonesia” blog post from a while back? Well since then I’ve been practicing when to ignore, when to deflect, when to respond, and how to respond to the attention that I get. I’m getting much better at it! In addition, I’m something of a novelty and the novelty is wearing off a bit after (nearly) two months. The kepala desa doesn’t yell my name anymore, and I don’t have as many strangers coming to my house to visit me and tell me I’m beautiful. Plus, I shut down the potential boyfriend my family was trying to set me up with. Still single and happy about it! J

–       I continue to (gently) push my way into the kitchen and I’ve been practicing making different foods, drinks, snacks, etc. I also bought popcorn and coffee as my comfort foods.

–       I’ve read 5 books since I’ve been in Batu. How have I had time during PST, I don’t know. I think I’ve been reading to avoid studying or working on portfolio, and to decompress because we’ve been so busy! I’m also tracking all the books I’ve read this year, and I’m up to 20. I’m pretty sure I’m going to read more in Indonesia than I ever have before (and if you know me, you know that’s saying something). I’ve been loading up my kindle with books, just getting ready for the big move out to site!

–       I’ve had my first Indonesian birthday. It was really a great day. My language group surprised me with pizza and we followed that up with a trip to Pizza Hut the weekend after my birthday. It’s amazing how good sub-par pizza can taste when you haven’t had anything with cheese in months. I got so many texts from other PCVs and staff, and I got to skype with my family in the morning. Thanks to everyone who remembered and helped celebrate with me in one way or another! I appreciate you all!

–       I went to my first Indonesian soccer game. It was a blast, minus the incredibly hot bus ride on the way there and the incredibly slow bus ride on the way back. It’s safe to say the bus ride there was the hottest I have ever been in my life. I hope to never, ever repeat that. I did, however, get to take lots of photos and I posted those on facebook so check ‘em out!

That’s enough for now! Coming soon…a blog about my super-fun site visit and (drum roll please…) the announcement of my permanent site!!! Countin’ down the hours…

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Selamat Ulang Tahun!

I bet you can guess what the title of this blog is. For those of you who have known me for more than two months (and let’s be honest, for those of you who just met me in Peace Corps too), you probably know that about my love of birthdays. My PA staff still teases me about being obsessed with my birthday, although in my defense, I love all birthdays – not just my own. J Anyway, all that to say, it’s May and that’s birthday month!

My language teacher Mas Jono kicked off birthday month with his birthday on May 1st. Our language class celebrated Indonesian-style by eating nasi kuning…that’s right, as if we don’t eat enough rice for every meal of every day, on your birthday you get…rice! But this is special rice because it’s yellow (nasi kuning literally means yellow rice) and it comes with meat, vegetables, tempe, and more. It’s a whole meal-deal, and it’s delicious. (For photo evidence, see my facebook.) In addition to the nasi kuning we had to introduce Mas Jono to a little American celebration, so we added a birthday cake. Cake here is a little different than back home…most cakes are rice-based and those that aren’t often taste spongy, like angel food cake. I definitely miss carrot cake, german chocolate cake, anything I can get from Papa Hayden’s…but I digress.

Birthdays in Indonesia are not a very big deal, apparently. I think this is such a shame, since it’s fun to celebrate people on their birthdays! (Maybe my secondary project will be to try to get Indonesians to celebrate birthdays more. J Kidding…) Anyway, besides nasi kuning, other Indonesian traditions include the Happy Birthday song, sang to the same tune as the American version.

Selamat Ulang Tahun (happy birthday)

Selamat Ulang Tahun (happy birthday)

Selamat Ulang Tahun Mas Jono (happy birthday to Mas Jono)

Selamat Ulang Tahun!

Pretty easy, eh? Except for the third line where you kinda slur everything together to cut out the excess syllables that are so prevalent in Bahasa Indonesia.

Moving on down the birthday chain, May 12th was my grandpa’s 80th birthday! This morning (May 13th for me, evening of May 12th back home) I skyped in with the WHOOOOLE family and got to join in the celebration. I even sang Selamat Ulang Tahun to show off my new language skills. J Grandpa got a brand-new iPad for his birthday and we were able to FaceTime for the first (but hopefully not the last) time. It was wonderful, although I did truly wish I could be there in person.

And up next is yours truly! This Wednesday is the big day, and I’m still trying to figure out how to have an Indonesian celebration. My current plans are to treat myself to a Magnum bar (aka, ice cream bliss) on Wednesday and hopefully get together with friends on Saturday (maybe find some “American” food – Pizza Hut? – and hang out). Whatever happens, it will be memorable as my first international birthday! And first of three in Indonesia, oh my. That’s a lot of birthdays.

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What Sarah Said

Alright, folks, I’ve finally been back in the classroom…for two weeks. This is the end of Week 5 and during Weeks 4 & 5 we have been teaching at practicum schools, to give us a taste of what high schools in Indonesia are like. I’ve been teaching at a madrassa, which is an Islamic high school. It’s been an interesting experience, for sure. The kids here are really well behaved, albiet shy. The teachers are friendly and give us snacks every day. Their only real demand is that we take lots of photos with them.

We have been teaching in pairs + we all have an Indonesian counterpart (or two), so Seth and I are teaching together, which has been great. We work really well together and we’ve been thrown into a couple classes where we just have to improvise…I’d say it’s gone pretty well. The hard part has been…

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