November is always a busy month at SMAN 1 Ngunut. November 20th marks our school’s anniversary (this year being the 29th) but the whole month is dedicated to preparing for and celebrating the occasion. Last year you may remember that I danced Gangnum Style with my students (I still consider this my crowning achievement in Peace Corps) and helped directed the English Club drama. Last year our celebrations last eight days but this year we officially scaled back to only four. In reality, though, we still took a solid week for activities because the first few days included a girls’ volleyball tournament with 9 senior high schools in the area as well as the English spelling bee contest. Naturally all the classes were informally canceled because of these events.
Here’s the highlights:
Girls Volleyball Tournament
I was very excited to see that my school hosted a GIRLS sports event. I was also excited to see the girls in sports gear similar to what I would see in the States. More than anything this is just an emotional reaction. Though I’ve never blogged about it, I’ve talked with some my students about wearing a jilbab (veil) and their clothing choices. The ones I talked with were quite articulate about their reasons for/for not wearing these clothes. There’s not as much social pressure at my school for girls to be veiled compared to what I’ve heard about at other schools. (In fact, I’m currently very puzzled by several of my students who only wear a veil a few days of the week or just every now and then. But I’ll save that for another post another time.) For these reasons I respect the girls who make their own decisions about the clothes they wear. I also respect the fact that the volleyball girls got to wear spandex shorts! I love watching sports and I especially love seeing my students shine in areas outside the classroom so it was a blast to watch the tournament. I even convinced my counterpart to cancel class for it – something I have never advocated before…there’s a first time for everything. Our girls did well – they got 2nd place!
The English spelling bee was definitely a success. It was even better than the first spelling bee we had last May. I already blogged about Agus, who won first place. Other highlights for me were seeing so many of my English club students last into the final rounds. It was also fun to see them cheering on their friends. And one of my tenth graders stuck through almost to the end. He was the last tenth grader (and therefore youngest student) for several rounds.
Story Telling Competition & English Club Talent Show
Every year for the past nine years, our school has hosted an English story-telling competition for junior high school students. This is a promotional event to encourage students to come to our high school, particularly if they’re interested in English. It’s also the biggest event of the year for the English Club because they help host the event and usually perform a drama at the end of the storytelling competition to showcase the English talent of SMA students. Last year the students performed the tale of Buto Ijo, a Javanese tale about a giant green monster. I helped direct the drama last year and it was one of my favorite activities of the year. It really brought the students together. This year, however, we were off to a slow start. Whereas last year we rehearsed for about a month, this year we didn’t even start the discussion until two weeks before the event. The students said they would be too busy to prepare for a play so we improvised and we made an English Club Talent Show Competition. In my opinion it ended up being even more work than a drama since the students had to write their own scripts but it was still a success. We had two emcees and three performances. The first was a word guessing game called “Eat Bulaga” here. The second was a short skit, and the third was a commercial parody. It was a busy (read: stressful) couple weeks practicing but they pulled it off. I really enjoyed watching my students perform – and not only the ones who joined the talent show. Two 12th grade students (Joko and Defi) were the emcees for the story-telling competition and they did a fantastic job speaking spontaneously in English. They both felt rather embarrassed when they made mistakes but I assured them that even native speakers make some mistakes when they are speaking extemporaneously in front of an audience. My favorite moment of the whole day was when my friend and fellow volunteer Francesca was persuaded to sing on stage (two of my neighboring PCVs and their counterparts helped us out by judging the story-telling competition). While she was waiting for the music to be set up, Joko was spontaneously interviewing her. He asked her how she felt the first time that she arrived at her new school. She answered, “Scared.” And, in all seriousness, he immediately asked, “Why, did you see a ghost??”
On Friday morning students and teachers alike were at school bright and early for the “healthy bike ride” (the translation just doesn’t do it justice). I was very excited about this as we had a sepeda sehat back in September but it was just after my stint in the hospital and I was too weak to join. I rolled into school at 6 AM to see that the place was packed full of bicycles. To my amazement there was one other teacher who wore a bike helmet! I was sure I would be alone. After a flurry of text messages I managed to meet up with my 12th grade students. Thanks to some miscommunications and a broken bicycle we were at the back of the pack – but it was much more fun to ride without a crowd. It was still early so it wasn’t too hot and it was a gorgeous day. We pedaled past kilometers of rice fields set against a landscape of hills. We stopped for photoshoots (of course) and to switch who was riding what bicycle (since a couple had bikers with passangers on the back). Most bikes come with racks here so you can easily give your friend a lift. I had tried that in the past and it was a failure. I’m not known for an excellent sense of balance and – to my credit – I haven’t been practicing since birth like most Indonesians. But on that day, we tried again. Agus rode my bicycle and I sat on the back. I discovered that I could include balance and once I got the hang of it, it was awesome. No work for me!
Every 11th grade class had a stand assigned to them. They were free to decorate it however they wished and then they created menus of food and drink to sell to attendees. The students would active about promoting their products – they would bring printed menus to the teachers’ room and deliver food and walk around with samples to show everyone what they had to offer. Every class asked me at least once to buy their food. I’m bad at saying “no” so I usually said “later” but that got me in trouble when they would hunt me down a couple hours later: “Miss, you promised to buy ice cream!” Needless to say, I didn’t go hungry that Saturday and Sunday. I really only wanted to visit the stand of the one 11th grade class I teach – and they did not disappoint.
One of my favorite parts of Dies Natalis this year was that it included a showcase of student artwork. It brought back many memories of my high school art classes (all four years!) and the annual art show every spring. There was a myriad of art mediums – everything from canvas paintings to batik fabric to miniature buildings.
Pensi: Class Competition
On Saturday all the tenth and eleventh grade classes performed some kind of talent (skit, singing, reading a poem, dancing, etc) in a school-wide class talent show competition. My favorite performance (of the few I watched) was my 11th grade class that put on a talent show. I have one student, Faisal, who lives for the stage. He’s sweet in class but he’s fierce on stage. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
Sunday was the final day of Dies Natalis and it was the second day of Pensi, with a different focus. Pensi is short for Pentas Seni which translates literally to “stage art” but is better described as “talent show.” While Saturday featured 10th and 11th grade classes, Sunday was open for student bands and guest performers. We couldn’t top last year when the school invited a reggae band and absolutely packed out the place. This year was more low-key but still lots of fun, in my humble opinion. I spent the day with Agus and Joko, checking out the music, the art, and eating at the food stand.