Hi there! It has been far too long since I last wrote for which I sincerely apologize-
I don’t really have any good excuse. I am busy here, but not so busy I don’t have the time to write. I think it has something to do with the total amount of time I can spend being extroverted in any given week- by Saturday night, once the super adorable children have finally stopped calling through my window for me to come out and play or help them with their homework (they are less adorable if I am sleeping when they are calling), all I really want is a good book (ok, ok, season seven of Bones). Putting out original ideas -especially in a well thought-out ideas suitable for a public forum (aka- saying things that are at least somewhat relevant and also don’t make me sound like a complete idiot)- becomes much too daunting a task for my brain.
I apologize in advance because I think that this post is going to end up being extremely long and rambling, rather like my sentences.
Things here have been going well. I mentioned in my last post that I have stopped wearing a head covering- apart from one or two initially awkward conversations this has gone, I think, well. Kudus to (the people in my part of) Indonesia for being tolerant and just generally understanding!
I haven’t written in so long I don’t even know where to start! December is a pretty laid-back month for me at school because exams take over the schedule and there are very few tasks I can perform there. Proctoring tests is not a good fit for me as seeing the cheating that goes on gives me heart-palpitations. In spite of not even being in the classroom I still foiled several attempts by students to signal through the windows/actually pass completed answer sheets between rooms. I concluded after watching other teachers just ignore these things (not all of them, but enough) that chatting with the other teachers in Bahasa gado-gado (Indonenglish?) about crocheting, and helping with data entry would be my biggest two contributions for a time.
The teachers here are really excited about American yarn and large crochet hooks because the yarn they can get here is tiny, as are the hooks, and it takes forever to make anything. This makes it even more wonderful of my friend from Blitar to make me a beautiful fuchsia birthday scarf- thank-you Anin!
The administration at my school is making some serious efforts to bring themselves up to date technologically with the introduction of three lcd screens (we have 16 classrooms, but it’s a good start!) and a website. No sign that school computers will be forthcoming, but most of the teachers have laptops (which they are getting progressively better at using) so the only people who really need computers now are the students…
My two younger sisters were able to come out for a visit over Christmas, which pretty much made my year- They had some trouble getting out here initially which made for a very stressful 24 hours. My host mother was wonderful. She even patted me on the shoulder sympathetically before going back to bed after I waylaid her coming out of the bathroom at three am right after I got the news they were finally (!!!!!! ) really truly on the way. I think I was way too excited for three am, but she was quite sypathetic J
Before my wonderful counterpart drove me out to pick up my sisters, I judged the English story-telling (“telling story” UGH) competition at my school- Watching the students tell stories was quite exciting and encouraging. It can be very hard to measure what kind of progress my students are making, but listening to so many of the more active students speaking English for 3-7 minutes straight (no Javanese interjections?!?!) confidently and with MUCH better pronunciation than I think they had last year was one of the things that put my great day over the top. They were absolutely marvelous!
Some had nerves of course, and there were a few students who were doing more reading than I would have liked, but other students had memorized their stories, brought props (a live rabbit?!?), used different voices and costumes, and really made me proud. Well done MAN 7!
After this we picked up my sisters from the airport- I basically panicked the entire way there (well, until I fell asleep) because I was so worried that we would be late and that my sisters would get lost in Indonesia and that I would never find them again, but actually we had to wait for about an hour for them to make it through customs and get their bags and all that good stuff.
It was so worth the wait though!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I think from the time they got off the plane until we arrived back in my village four hours later not one of the three of us stopped talking J this will be unsurprising to those of you who know me and/or them haha. We stopped to eat and they got to try some Indonesian food (Nasi Pecel with tempe, es buah, es campur, and es alpokat!); the car overheated so we spent some time at a gas station; then the headlight died so we walked around Jombang a bit and visited some acquaintances while my CP and his neighbor got that fixed. We finally made it to the village where my sisters were enthusiastically welcomed by my host family. My host mother was lovely, offering food and drinks in a mixture of languages that was both entire incomprehensible to my sisters and completely clear since my host mother is a pantomiming superstar.
A very short period of time later we were taken all around the village to meet people; never mind that it was around 9:30 pm at this point and the entire village goes to bed at 8. Every time I think I’ve totally adjusted culturally (I’ve got this!), I run into these mental blocks that take an extreme amount of effort to get over J there’s hope though! What traumatized me this time was that we just opened people’s doors and yelled “Assalamualaikum!” into their houses until they stumbled out in their pajamas to give us tea and chat with us. I felt pretty terrible, but my CP’s wife pointed out to me that in this culture it is completely acceptable to do this, and that it would have been much ruder for my sisters to depart the next day without visiting those families. Who knew?
I felt really bad that I couldn’t take my sisters to see my first host family in Malang, but the time was just too short.
The next day I took my sisters into school- they met with the teachers who had many entertaining observations and comments: “why is the older one smaller? Really? That one is older?!” “They are so white! You look Indonesian miss” and,“I’m sorry miss, but your sister is more beautiful than you”. Lol
My students were fairly shy and we didn’t have any official class, but a few of the braver ones came over to shake hands and introduce themselves briefly- others fled when I attempted to wave them over, but then spent the next 30 minutes peeking at us from behind buildings.
I think my favorite moment was when it was time to leave, and about 7 twelfth grade girls just popped out of the woodworks for the most intense photo shoot I have even been involved in- I have got to figure out how to get copies of those pictures! They were so excited it was just a lot of fun even though by the end my face was starting to twitch from all the smiling.
My CP once again volunteered to drive us into Surabaya- I was (once again) in a panic over arriving on time, and this along with the fact that we somehow squeezed nine people (and nine large bags) into one car made for quite the ride into the city. It also didn’t help that it started pouring rain and the roof leaked. We made it though!
We had planned a Christmas eve party in the lounge which I think went well- it consisted mainly of decorations (yay Christmas lights, paper snowflakes, and trees!) many of which Oma Colleen, Noel, and Scott kindly provided, and a ton of baked goods (thanks Natasha!) as well as far FAR too much candy. We finished out the night by watching Christmas movies on the wall upstairs using the projector that PC (thank-you Meghan!) was kind enough to let us use.
The next morning was Christmas brunch at Betsy’s home which was absolutely marvelous- ate delicious food, chatted with several interesting people, and some of the lovely ladies of PC Indo 5 came up with a hilarious Indonesian version of the twelve days of Christmas that we managed to sing as a group.
That evening my sisters and I had a nice Christmas dinner with some of my favorite people- it was all very low key, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly J
Bali was nice, it was, as usual, extremely crowded, but I think my sisters enjoyed it, and I enjoyed just being with them and with my friends more than I can say. There is a certain surrealism to watching my home world and my Peace Corps world merge.
As I discovered the first time I went to Bali, I really enjoy going out with my friends- just being out after 7pm feels like such a luxury! Still, after a few days the part of me that is a homebody kicks back in and I eventually always find myself just reading by the pool, unwilling to stay up past midnight, and completely out of patience with indecisiveness that seems to always suffuse large groups of people trying to decide on activities during vacation: So basically I turn into a boring grump lol.
The trip back was super long. I always wake up on these long (14 hour…) car rides and find that I have curled (kicked, punched, wiggled, whatever…) myself into the most awkward positions possible relative to the people around me: oops.
The trip back to site was more or less uneventful. It rained til I got here, which seemed fitting, and then the sun came out during the last few minutes of the day, which also fit with the way I felt when I finally saw my host sister and we chatted about the trip and life in the village while I was gone (surprisingly, nothing exciting happened haha).
What else? Settling back into site is going fine. Today I once again seem to have demonstrated exactly how weird foreigners can be by washing my laundry in the rain. Having attempted to do this in the past and been told that I will “masuk angin” (catch a cold basically) I made sure to use an umbrella. This quickly became a spectator sport because, really, what could be more entertaining than watching someone attempt to hand-wash laundry with one hand in the pouring rain while holding an umbrella in the other hand? No, that was not actually sarcastic, I am aware that I am ridiculous, but I feel vindicated since that was eight hours ago and it is still raining. My life will not be dictated by monsoon season!!! (insert fist shaking here).
That’s really all for now- settling back in to life as usual, missing my friends, missing my sisters more, but also really looking forward to starting the new semester! Wish me luck!