Just Another Day In Indonesia…

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Three Months, One Post

First and foremost, I have to wish a HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my baby sister Hannah! Today marks her second birthday that I’ve spent in Indonesia and I miss her dearly.

A lot has happened since I last blogged. The lag in blogging hasn’t been entirely intentional. Both my external hard drive and my internal hard disk broke since my last post and my computer was out of commission for almost a month. I’m happy to say that everything is fixed, it wasn’t expensive (thank goodness I had a warranty), and I didn’t lose anything. It’s SO nice to have my laptop back.

One of the highlights of the last few months was having Zach and Amanda Banker pay a visit during February. It was lovely having friends from home come and see my little corner of the world. The Bankers were the first non-PCV visitors I’ve had and it was a totally different experience having to explain things that are so normal to me that I don’t even think about them now. When I gave them the tour of my house I went outside and said, “And this is the mandi” without even thinking about it. “What’s mandi?” they asked. I had to laugh at myself. Usually when my volunteer friends come over we mix English with some bahasa Indonesia words, as there are some concepts that just make more sense in bahasa Indonesia. It was strange to be in my house and use only English with my friends. But I got plenty of practice with my bahasa Indonesia as I translated back and forth. Ironically, I think my language skills (and confidence) really improved during the Bankers’ visit. They spent a week at my site and got to meet my coworkers, students, and neighbors. We celebrated Valentine’s Day with two parties and they got to watch some of my eleventh graders perform horror story skits. They were kind enough to teach my classes for a day and I think their presentation and stories really opened my students’ eyes to a world outside of Indonesia. After leaving my village we went to Surabaya to fix my hard drive (I am eternally grateful that problems arose while Zach was here to help me fix them!) and on from there to the small island of Gili Air. Getting there was…rough. The journey really deserves a blog post and a half but I’m not going to relieve that trip in this post. The trip there plus ticket troubles plus credit card issues meant the trip wasn’t quite as relaxing as I anticipated but it was still worth every minute to get to spend time with good friends while eating delicious food, relaxing in hammocks, reading books, playing cards…and I got to swim with turtles one day. I was sad to say goodbye to the Bankers but look forward to the next time I get to see them (and I wonder what country that will be in?). 

I came home from Gili Air, blinked, and it was March. Second semester in Indonesia can be summed up in two words: class cancellations. During April the 12th graders have national exams and during February and March they have practice exams as well as final exams for normal classes…usually classes for 10th and 11th graders are canceled during those testing weeks. My school is a little unique in that we have testing in the morning and classes in the afternoon. Instead of coming to school at 7 and wrapping up by 2 I found myself starting school at 12:30 and finishing at 5. Besides these testing days we had a couple holidays thrown in (Balinese New Year, Good Friday) and needless to say, it’s been chaotic. Sometimes I won’t see one of my classes for two weeks. You’d think I would have oodles of free time on my hands but somehow I’ve been busier than ever. My students and I have doing lots of activities together. One of our holidays we took a day trip to visit the grave of the first president of Indonesia, Sukarno. On our walk back to the train station we stopped at the local football stadium and met one of the players, who was actually African and only spoke French! Naturally we commemorated the occasion with a photo shoot. The next week we planned to cook together. One of my PC friends came for a visit and, along with my students, we made spaghetti, bread, brownies, cookies, and fried rice. Nasi goreng (fried rice) was the only Indonesian dish and with 10 Indonesians I thought it would be a cinch. Turns out none of my students knew how to cook fried rice and it was a bit of a flop. But all the recipes I provided were delicious and it was a blast cooking and eating together.

Besides the random activities I do with my students, I also started another weekly English les (informal class) at my house. It’s a speaking les for some of the English club students. I told them they must think of a topic every week and then come ready to speak in English. When they don’t know words we find the English translation and write the new vocabulary on the board. I also correct some pronunciation and grammar errors. It’s been fun so far because in class I have little time to give one-on-one attention to students like that. I also think their confidence is improving as they realize they can speak English. Between speaking les, English club, Friday les with elementary school students and my actual classes I see most of these students 3-4 times a week. Hanging out with them is my favorite part of my job, and I’m grateful.

During March I also took a quick trip to Jogja with one of the English teachers and one of my students. The highlights of the trip were retrieving my fixed computer, shopping for souvenirs for my peeps in America, and watching one of my favorite students experience a big city for the first time. Watching her try to keep her balance on the bumpy bus (while everyone else remained calm, cool, and collected on their daily commute) as she described herself as “orang deso” (“village person” spoken in a Javanese accent) was just priceless. I also got to visit my language teacher from my pre-service training and see the organization where the language teachers came from, Wisma Bahasa. It is a really neat organization which teaches a variety of local languages (in addition to bahasa Indonesia, of course) and they do volunteer work teaching English to street children and kids in orphanages. In addition to their language classes they have cultural classes for their students in cooking, making batik, Javanese traditional dance, and more. Last but definitely not least, they have highspeed wifi and coffee/tea/water available for their students. (And that last sentence just goes to show what I get excited about after a year of not living in America.)

April is kind of a big deal because it marks ONE YEAR IN INDONESIA. I left home March 31st, had staging April 1st, left America April 2nd, and arrived in Indonesia on April 4th. Look for a one-year post coming soon, but for now suffice to say…time flies. And April isn’t slowing down. I had a meeting last week in Surabaya and I’m headed back this next weekend to greet the new volunteers, ID7! It’s simultaneously crazy and awesome to know that there’s a new group here. Crazy because I can’t help but wonder how did I become the old, veteran volunteer?! And awesome because I’m excited to have new people to join our group and (fingers crossed) hopefully some new neighbors come June. Next weekend is also our party to say farewell to ID5. They will be here til June but will be sticking close to home in their communities to finish wrapping things up so April is the last time for our groups to see each other. Immediately after our welcome/goodbye parties we have national exams for 12th graders…meaning no school. Not quite sure what I’ll be up to then but at the end of that same week I will be participating in iGLOW camp – Indonesian Girls Leading Our World. I’m thrilled to be bringing 8 of my students and I’m so excited about the different topics and speakers. More on this to come…The rest of April will equally fly by. If I’m invited, I may get to help with ID7’s training and pass on a little bit of what I’ve learned after a year here.

Then it’s May, the month of birthdays and graduations and celebrations. My school has big plans for me to star in a Javanese drama and have my very own kebaya (Javanese formal wear) made to wear to graduation.

And after May it will be June and I get to come home to see all the people I love and be in a wedding that I wouldn’t miss for the world. I think about it everyday and am so excited.

In between teaching and meetings and such I have been reading lots of books (thanks especially to the Bankers’ recommendations) and watching TV shows (finally got on the Downton Abbey train) and more. Though I’ve been busy I also have plenty of time to relax and I’m grateful for that. Here’s to hoping I can use some of that time to blog more consistently in the future!