Just Another Day In Indonesia…

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Hari iGLOW Kedua

A few weeks ago my school hosted our second iGLOW Day. Last year, eight of my students joined Camp iGLOW in April. When they got back they were ready to share what they learned with the other students, so we had a day-long activity where they led some of the same sessions they had participated in during the camp. Around 30 girls joined Hari iGLOW (iGLOW Day) and we ended the day with a brainstorming session about what we would do in the future. Then we took a break for a couple months since it was the end of the semester, break, and Ramadan. DSC_0022ed Finally we kicked things off again. The previous participants met with my counterpart and I and decided to 1) meet as an informal club and do activities that focus on learning (inviting guest speakers, watching videos, etc) and doing (volunteer activities, raising awareness, etc) and 2) include boys. Inspired by Melanie and her school, we officially changed iGLOW to mean Indonesian Generation Leading Our World (previously the G stood for girls). The reason we want to include boys is not to take away from the important message of female empowerment. On the other hand, we want to make our efforts for female empowerment more successful by teaching men to respect empowered women and we want to teach boys and girls to work together so that ALL can be strong leaders. There’s been a lot of great work done in other camps and other countries focusing on this male role, including this Camp BREW (Boys Respecting Empowered Women) in Cambodia. And last but not least, the boys at my school asked to join iGLOW. I figured if there was interest, why not give it a shot?

Some of the fantastic alumni that joined & led the sessions

Some of the fantastic alumni that joined & led the sessions

So we held our second iGLOW Day for male and female students, especially for the new 10th grade students and the boys who hadn’t yet had a chance to participate in iGLOW. My counterpart Bu Chris and I didn’t want to just repeat the same topics we had last year because that would be pretty boring for the iGLOW veterans. Instead we decided to mix it up. Our topics included Choosing Friends Wisely, Healthy Relationships (including dating/romantic relationships, understanding what is an abusive relationship and how to protect yourself), Self Confidence, Finding Your Talent (Calling), Decision Making, Goal Setting, and Human Trafficking. It was a whole lot to talk about and unfortunately we couldn’t count on our students presenting since the topics were new for them. Luckily Bu Chris has an excellent network of SMAN alumni (her former students) that she calls on whenever she has a task she thinks they can help with. We invited a handful of alumni and they invited a handful more and we ended up having around 7 or 8 alumni join. DSC_1001ed

I may be unqualified to teach yoga but at least I was rockin' that sports uniform

I may be unqualified to teach yoga but at least I was rockin’ that sports uniform

DSC_1005ed We started the day with yoga, by request of the students. I am certainly not qualified to be a yoga instructor but it was fun to show the students a few poses. How they managed to do yoga in jeans, I’ll never know. (I did tell them to wear sports clothes!) DSC_0015ed DSC_0005ed Next we had introductions and icebreakers. We played the Human Knot game which was a lot of fun and really successful. Plus it makes for a great photo opportunity. DSC_0037ed Each student was given a name tag and a workbook when they registered. The workbook (which my students were gracious enough to help me put together during a particularly stressful moment the day before iGLOW day) had a page corresponding to every session with reflection questions and material we wanted the students to read at home. DSC_0016ed Our first session was Choosing Friends Wisely. The alumni all shared their experiences during high school. Some of them had felt peer pressure and were not confident enough to make friends with the students who would support them and encourage them to do their best. Instead, they hung with the cool crowd. Other students recognized that their friends would influence them so they chose to spend time with the smart students. Others just didn’t care. They were who they were and they were proud of it. DSC_0020ed DSC_0019ed From there we transitioned to talking about dating. The boys (all two of them + the alumni) and the girls split up and made posters detailing the characteristics of their ideal partners. The groups presented and had to answer questions; what would happen if their partner didn’t have this characteristic? The groups were given different scenarios: imagine if your partner planned to join you for a meeting but he/she was more than 45 minutes late. How would you respond? We discussed how to respond passively, aggressively, and assertively. Then we discussed scenarios where abuse takes place. My counterpart did a great job of explaining why in those instances you need to protect yourself and not put up with abuse. We watched a video case study about an Indonesian celebrity who was abused by her boyfriend and put up with it for a long time before she finally came forward with the situation and publicly broke up with him. We discussed the progression of abuse and gave the students warning signs of abuse and steps they can take if they think they (or a friend) is in an abusive relationship.

My inspiration!

My inspiration!

After that heavy topic we had a short break and then we continued to self confidence. Seno encouraged the students to practice self confidence, even if they feel shy. Then we had some improv skits, as a way to practice speaking in front of people and breaking out of our shells. The twelfth graders were up first and they did a great job. They had to act out a skit where the characters were romantically invoved. Usually students are embarrassed by that and will giggle shyly and refuse to act. I was so proud of my students. They weren’t afraid to be silly and they showed a lot of confidence. If we had done this a year ago I know it wouldn’t have been the same. I’ve seen these students grow SO much in their self-confidence this year through personal interactions, in English Club, and in iGLOW. I didn’t plan the skits but it was one of my favorite parts of iGLOW Day because it was a clear picture of how my students are changing and growing. Then we had the tenth graders do a skit based on the Cinderella story. The girls were pretty shy and quiet. The difference between the two skits was clear. Rather than criticizing the younger students the older students gave them motivation. They told them that when they were in tenth grade they were also quiet and shy but that as they practiced public speaking, joined dramas, and joined iGLOW, they overcame their fear and grew in their self-confidence.

The 12th graders doing their improv skit

The 12th graders doing their improv skit

The 10th graders doing their improv skit

The 10th graders doing their improv skit

The Finding Your Talent session was rushed, since we were behind schedule, but it was a chance for students to think outside the box about future career opportunities. Many students aspire to become teachers because, when faced with the “what will you do when you grow up” question, a teacher is a respected position in the community and it pays well. And, maybe, they also answer “teacher” because they haven’t learned to dream beyond the obvious. Don’t get me wrong, being a teacher is an excellent and important vocation but it isn’t for everyone. One of the alumni who joined is a graphic designer. Another just graduated with a chemistry degree. I hope their stories helped students to start dreaming big. DSC_0079ed DSC_0083ed

We also wrote encouraging notes to each other in the booklets during the lunch break

We also wrote encouraging notes to each other in the booklets during the lunch break

Next was one of the best parts…eating together! Every time we have an iGLOW activity at school we eat potluck-style. Each student brings something to share and Bu Chris (or this time, one of the students who lives nearby) brings the rice. Then we share everything. It’s simple and free. 🙂 DSC_0088ed DSC_0096ed After lunch we did a “Cross the Line” activity. I wasn’t sure if this activity would be successful but it ended up being one of my favorite parts of the day. Everyone lined up on one side of the line and Bu Chris read a sentence, “Cross the line if….” Each time she gave a different scenario that related to the iGLOW material (you have a boyfriend or girlfriend, you have felt not self-confidence, you like talking in front of other people, etc). Each time some students crossed the line while some stood still. Then they had to chance to share about their experiences. Some questions got pretty personal, such as, “Cross the line if you have ever experienced any kind of abuse in a relationship.” One very brave soul crossed the line for this question and was willing to share about her experience with some emotional abuse. Other interesting scenarios were “Cross the line if you have ever tried to do something and failed,” followed up “Cross the line if you have ever wanted to try something but have been too shy or scared to do it.” I had not planned on participating but I surprised myself by jumping in and sharing about my own experiences in high school (failing to win the college scholarships I applied for and never trying out for a play in high school though I secretly wish I had done that). After the questions we all debriefed the activity. Bu Chris and the students were all surprised that I had failed in my attempt to do something or been too scared to try something new. They reassured me, though, that I now have plenty of drama experience, thanks to my time in Indonesia. After all, I’ve already been on local television when I acted in ketoprak last spring! DSC_0101ed DSC_0102ed Our afternoon sessions were Decision Making and Goal Setting. Our alumni led us in a decision-making activity. We were split into small groups and given a scenario with a character who was balancing family, school, social, and extracurricular activities. It was very familiar to my students and me. We had to make priorities and choose how to balance our time. I jumped in with a small group and discussed, all in bahasa Indonesia. I liked being included as a participant; my group included students, an alum, and me…but it felt like we were all equals. The age difference and cultural difference didn’t really matter. Goal Setting was closely related with Decision Making. Students formed new groups and went through the process of setting a goal. They had to identify the goal, where it would take place, who could help them, when it would take place, how they would go about reaching their goal, and finally, they had to describe why (what was their motivation). Each group presented their goals and then they had a page in their workbook where they could create an individual goal to accomplish in the following year. DSC_0108ed DSC_0111ed Finally, we ended the day with a session about human trafficking. It was a little abrupt switching from sessions that were all focused inward on developing the individual to a topic that we hope will never affect any of the individuals! Bu Chris was as creative as ever and she had the idea of making a board game as a way to share the information about human trafficking (an idea she borrowed from Peace Corps training sessions). We opened with watching a video about an Indonesian woman who had been trafficked and then we played a game in groups where students were asked true or false questions about human trafficking. Even though students were tired, the game was a hit. The day ended with a short journaling session. Students wrote about the things they wanted to remember from the day and the material that was most important to them. Then they wrote a letter to themselves for six months from now. They had to write their personal goals and dreams to their future selves.

Writing goals for post-iGLOW

Writing goals for post-iGLOW

Writing a letter to read 6 months from now

Writing a letter to read 6 months from now

Everyone was getting antsy by the end but after reading the iGLOW commitment, they were more than willing to prolong the day if it meant a photo shoot. DSC_0116ed DSC_0123ed DSC_0128ed DSC_0132ed

Looking ahead to our futures ;)

Looking ahead to our futures 😉

All in all, it was a success! I was so proud of my students and grateful to the alumni that joined. At the end of the day the question everyone was asking is, “When will the next iGLOW event be?” 🙂





A big shout out to Amy (fellow PCV) who let me use her adorably spooky leftover decorations from our PCV Halloween party the week before. Click on the photo to check out Amy and Will’s blog.

You may remember from last year that I held a Halloween party with the only class I taught on October 31st. Well this year it was practically expected and I was excited about it. I had two classes and English club on Halloween since it fell on a Thursday. That meant three back-to-back parties which is a whole lot of celebrating for the holiday that I actually like the least (when I’m in the States, anyway…it’s much more fun here when I get to plan the celebration without stressing over a costume).



We asked all the students to bring a mask to class as a way of dressing up. Costumes were out because all the students wear uniforms and masks are easier, anyway. A lot of students opted to buy pre-made masks (I’m curious where they found them…) but some were really creative and made their own. We had a contest for the best homemade masks and the top three winners got cash prizes! (all less than $1 but still).



Class started with our “word of the day” which I do everyday to teach students a new word or phrase in English. I teach a lot of idioms, common phrases, and some slang (for example: take care, fine by me, costs an arm and a leg, cool, etc). The word for October 31st? Spooky.


Then we split the class into groups and gave each group a short paragraph to read about the history and traditions associated with Halloween. I’m completely indebted to HowStuffWorks for all my information. I learned a lot that I didn’t know before, and I was most interested in the Celtic holiday that preceded Halloween, the Celtic New Year known as Samhain. Read more about it here.




Each group read their paragraph and then had to explain it to the class using bahasa Indonesia. After that we gave a short oral quiz to check if students had paid attention. The students with correct answers got candy, naturally.




We finished up the day with a round of Halloween bingo (taken gratefully from this website). Students learned the words for all our ghosts and ghouls and learned how to play Bingo in the process. It was lots of fun and they begged to play longer but class time was over and I told them that all ghostly things have to come to an end. (Though not before trick or treating…an activity the kids loved so much that they tried it the next day too, but I told them, “Halloween only comes once a year.”)


But a party is never over until you take group pictures, right? Note my counterpart’s creative witch mask that she made herself (and used for the second year running). And I was a little proud of my own cat mask creation. 🙂




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Monumen Trisula

I came home last Saturday after school and my ibu and bapak immediately asked me, “Are you busy tomorrow?” I was free, Sunday being the only day of the week where I’m not at school. “We want to go to Bakung. Call Sam and see if he is free!” My friend Sam, another volunteer, lives in a village in the next regency. His site isn’t far away from mine as the crow flies but the roads are small and hilly so it’s not the easiest trip. To my shame, Sam has biked over these hills, potholes and all, to my site countless times (it takes about two hours) and I still hadn’t gone to his site.


Rafa originally said he was brave enough to stay home alone (ha…) but decided he would be happy to come along if he could bring his cobra-on-a-stick

So I called Sam and he had nothing going on and my host family called a driver (my host brother, our go-to driver, was not berani – brave – enough to drive over those “mountains” and bad roads) and it was a plan. It wasn’t until I got in the car the next morning that I realized we had 9 people with us! After about an hour and a half in a car (you will see what a speedy bike rider Sam is, considering he can bike to my site in about 2 hours), we made it to the sleepy village of Bakung and parked by a field. I called Sam to ask how far away he was from where we were – turns out he lives only three houses away and we were in front of his school!


The crossroads in Bakung where Sam’s house, school, and the famous monument basically intersect

Though Bakung is a small place, it’s known for the role it played in “defeating Communism”* a few decades ago. There’s a well-known monument in Bakung which was part of my host family’s reason for the visit. We weren’t the only visitors that day – which shouldn’t have been surprising considering that it was National Heroes Day – there were two buses of students from Jogja in Central Java!


The field where the Communists were killed. It’s not a bright side of history, but one that is important to learn about.


The students from Jogja getting a lecture from Bakung’s favorite army man who, Sam says, often comes to classes when teachers are absent to give motivational speeches


Monument up close with my family below for scale


The traditional Javanese house next to the monument…plus some students maybe taking a picture of Sam and I or maybe taking a picture of the monument…or both? 🙂


My host sister Bu Nova and Rafa at the base of the monument

Besides our sight-seeing, we ran into Sam’s counterpart and visited with him at his house and then visited Sam’s house. In total we only had to walk a few hundred meters to each of these places and, according to Sam, everything important in Bakung was within eyesight. After just a couple hours we piled back in the car to drive home. It was fun to finally see where Sam lived and meet some of people that I’d only heard about from his site. It was also fun to see his school. My site is completely different; my school is 5 times the size of Sam’s and my area is bustling with activity. His site is calm and quiet and beautiful and both of our site placements suit us to a tee. ☺ And it was fun to go jalan-jalaning (going on a walk, i.e, traveling) with my host family. It was the kind of activity I enjoy doing with my family at home – taking a daytrip, exploring someplace new – and it reminded me yet again that I really feel like a part of this family.


Sam’s school – it’s a technical/vocational school so students are split into different tracks: fishery, cooking, and computer building/technology


The fishery part of school


Sam and my bapak checking out the kitchen area for the cooking track


The view of Bakung from the top of the monument


Beautiful, quiet, peaceful

* Indonesia’s history with communism is not pretty and is not an open topic for conversation with most Indonesians. In fact, a documentary – “The Act of Killing” – was recently released and this article digs into the politics a bit. I haven’t seen the documentary but I got it from Sam and plan to watch it soon.