June 1, 2012

A final semester and goodbyes

Filed under: Uncategorized — by erikawade @ 1:24 pm

I’m currently on the flight from Taipei to LA on my way home from Indonesia. It seems like a fitting time to write a last blog entry which I’ll post when I get home. I apologize for not writing for so long. I don’t really have a good excuse: there was a lot going on, and seemed to me at the time that living it was more than enough without writing it.

There is also the added factor of trying to temper my strong emotions and reactions to current situations to make it unbiased enough to put on the internet. Even now I’m a little dubious about whether or not I should post this, because it simply isn’t possible to put a positive spin on everything, but the reason I started this blog was to let people know about my experience in the Peace Corps, so I hope that it will be understood that everything I say is simply my personal opinion and reflects my experience not necessarily universal truths about Indonesian education or Peace Corps.

Also this blog post is going to be REALLY (exceptionally, excessively, extremely) long since rather a lot has happened since the last one. Sorry.

This year started out difficult. My sisters came to visit for Christmas which was spectacular. We had several days in Surabaya, spent a week or so in Bali with my friends, and generally enjoyed each others’ company. As I’m sure those of you who know any of us can imagine, we talked almost non-stop, swapped the majority of our clothing with each other, and were just generally thrilled to be together. But when it came time to go back to my real life (aka, working in my tiny village, isolated from my American friends and family) it turned out to be a lot harder than it had been previously.

I spent most of February and March feeling frustrated. I’ve heard from other Peace Corps volunteers and staff that often, as our service draws to a close, PCVs feel a sense of frustration because they haven’t necessarily accomplished the high goals they set for themselves. I had this going on in spades. My frustration with my class sizes, the curriculum, my apparent inability to find local partners who really wanted to be stakeholders in English education in my school: it had me all but banging my head against my desk in the teacher room.

Of course, things weren’t all down, there were bright spots, but I think there were a lot of things that I had to work through in those months. It’s easy to think that once you’ve been in the country awhile you’ve somehow got it: it’ll all be good from there on out. But that is not the case: the process goes on.

One of the tougher weeks when we had a holiday I was able to go in visit Noel in Bogonegoro: that turned out to be an excellent decision. In addition to just being able to spend time with one of my best friends, I also got to observe her classes with her counterparts and visit the Bojo MGMP where we also met up with Luke.

Peace Corps emphasizes that every volunteer’s experience is different, and that visit really brought it home to me. I’m quite happy to look back and realize that rather than compare myself to two exceptional teachers, I took notes (literally, I wrote down everything they did in class) and tried to take those practices back to my school. (Well, I may just have felt better because we ate about two pints of chocolate ice-cream wrapped in crepes)

I arrived back at school ready to implement extraordinary change aaaand that really didn’t happen. Back into fustrationland for Erika. Cultural mistakes I’d made (or perhaps just general social awkwardness- much of it on my part I’m sure…) meant that I was having a hard time with a crucial person that I work with, and I felt like I was effectively working alone for most of February and March, because no one was ready to get in the middle of the situation by helping me.

Somewhere  in this period my friend Tim (from the group after mine) was kind enough to come out and observe two of my classes. The day he came I ended up in my two largest (most…rambunctious shall we say?) classes teaching alone. Tim watched me try to balance teaching one of my… less favorite… parts of  the curriculum (I’m so grateful that I will never have to look at a “spoof text” again, God willing) with the police act that is necessary to try to keep 52 (FIFTY-TWO) energetic teenagers on (in their defense, a singularly boring) task. I think he was rather horrified, which on some sick level made me feel better. Time, being an excellent teacher, was able to give me several helpful suggestions. A fresh pair of eyes is a marvelous thing!

Not too long after this we had a Sustainability/COS conference. The first half of this was a conference that Peace Corps, working in tandem with the Department of Education and the Ministry of Religion planned for volunteers, students, and counterparts to discuss sustainability within the program. After some dramatic negotiations between teachers and with my principal, my school ended up sending two teacher and a students with me to the conference.

The conference itself I think went well- the teachers and student who came from my school are some of the most motivated people I have encountered there, and I think it was really valuable and inspiring for them to hear about all of the different projects going on at other schools.

We also discussed continuing English club after I was (am?) gone: something I sincerely hope happens, because I feel strongly that my English club students are spectacular, remarkably diligent, and deserve to have a place to practice and learn (and perform plays and make brownies and use glitter!) outside of their massive classes.

After the sustainablilty conference, the school partners headed home, and the volunteers went to a resort where we spent three days receiving information about transitioning back to life in the US. The best part about that conference for me was just getting to spend time with the other volunteers after and between sessions. Our little group contains some of my absolute favorite people; I feel comfortable and supported among them, and I thoroughly enjoy the crazy times we have together! (So much so that I will even go on extremely awkward grocery runs for you ;/)

That said, the one really difficult part of the conference was that when we exchanged success stories of course I inevitably started comparing accomplishments in my head, much to my dismay. I have to stop doing that.

Post conference we ran straight into Camp iGLOW.

Camp iGLOW was a camp for girls Lauren, Maggie, Elle, Natasha and I planned; Sam, Noel, and Elle’s friend Hannah came out to support us! The goals of the camp were primarily to encourage girls to become leaders and work together (we had a much more eloquent way of saying that that took us the better part of a night to come up with, but I cannot think of it right now).

Overall we had around 67 girls and 17(?) counterparts (16 and 4 from my school) attend the one day, two night camp. We played games, sang songs, made crafts, practiced martial arts, had a performance night (and one impromptu massive dance party) and generally thoroughly enjoyed ourselves (In spite of the fact that those of us who were involved in planning were sleep-deprived, coughing like consumptives, and very nearly been running on empty by the end. (Among the other lessons,  I learned that Lauren is a superhero and also that movie editing and subtitling can in fact cause you to lose your sanity.)

Having this opportunity to spend time with a small group of my students in an exciting environment outside of school where I could really get to know them and interact with them was really one of the highlights of my service.

While we were at Lauren’s school (where most of the camp was held) I took the students to see the world map that Lauren, her counterparts, and her students had painted on their wall. One of the geography teachers at my school and I had already been discussing attempting that project for several months and the students were really excited after seeing the example. A few weeks (?) after the camp Bu E finished the (insanely complicated- kudos to her) proposal, and our principal gave us the go-ahead, and a one-week time limit: we had to finish before the national exam.

That week Bu E, Bu R and I along with a constantly shifting group of ten to twenty students stayed after school as long as there was daylight, just painting and listening to Linkin Park (I did not choose that, but since they found it on my computer I  couldn’t really object). We completed our map the Sunday before exams and it was marvelous if I do say so myself. The students labeled EVERY country, which was quite a challenge where Eastern Europe was concerned: I had to personally repaint Luxembourg three times- geography lessons for everyone!

Immediately after we completed the map 12th grade had national exams, so I took the opportunity to visit Gio, go “camping” and raft down a river in Probolinggo with several friends. I put camping in quotation marks because the place we ended up camping was approximately 100 feet from the office, indoor bathrooms, and showers.

The morning after we got there we spent several hours on the river. At one point we saw giant monitor lizards in the water. Before the volunteers could even grasp what they were, the guides all jumped out of the raft and unceremoniously started chasing the lizards, attempting to whack them with paddles. Someone said they wanted t o eat it: I really think it was just their live-action version of whack-a-mole, but whatever it was, it was entertaining to watch! (the lizard escaped).

On the same trip, after a break to drink fresh coconut, we were convinced to jump off a “cliff” (don’t worry Peace Corps, we wore helmets and the ever-present life vests). I’m not sure how high up it was, but I would estimate about four stories. The best moment was when Oma Colleen jumped (!!!!!), because she let out a scream that sounded like a teenager, and held it all the way down into the water.

I’d say after all of those events things started winding down a bit. I helped four of my students prepare for an English competition (two of them placed, and they all did a wonderful job!) Attended classes as usual, taught the smaller SD and SMP kids who came to my house after school, etc.

A few weeks before I was preparing to go people started being sad. At first I was bewildered by this, but shortly realized that I was in denial and that I also was sad. Of course I am excited to be going home (really really truly YAY!) but there was a point when I realized that going home this time meant that I would leave the people who I have lived and worked with for two years with no definite plan to see them again! L

The hardest experience at our school in this time period by far though was that one of our students passed away after suffering a head injury in a motorcycle accident. He was a twelfth grader, had just finished his exams, and was engaged to be married to another of our twelfth graders. The morning after he died, the eleventh and twelfth grade students prayed for him at the morning assembly, while the teachers stood to the side and tried not to cry: most of us failed to a greater or lesser extent.

It is not the culture in the area where I lived to grieve excessively, I think I mentioned before the often when people cry, other people laugh at them. In this situation though, my school really came together and impressed me. Rather than point and laugh (which I have seen people do in the past) the teachers were crying in empathy. The entire school community really pulled together to get through something that was beyond any of our abilities to explain.

A week after this I was seriously preparing to leave. I had given a goodbye speech at graduation (entirely in Indonesian!), and we had several events at school to say farewell .I was moderately taken aback to hear from the teachers how they had been initially horrified by my “black sweetness” (that is my least favorite phrase EVER), but they explained that they had gotten over it, which I guess makes it ok?

The hardest part of leaving the village was saying goodbye to my students. Over the past few months I’d gotten a lot closer to the students from English club, the students who I worked with for the English competition, some of my eleventh graders, and even some of the tenth graders since I’d started moonlighting in some of their classes. The day before I left, they all came to say goodbye. I was determined not to cry, and I was doing fine, right up until one of my best students came up to me with her eyes full of tears and just flung herself into my arms. At that point I started crying, which of course made more of the students cry, and it just ran from there.

That evening around thirty students came to my house over the course of two hours. They brought gifts, they brought their camera phones, they brought food; it was spectacular (except that my face hurt from smiling for the camera). The mantra of the night was “Don’t forget me Miss”. I assured them that such a thing would be impossible.

Later in the evening, after I thought that all of the the students had all left for the night, several of them returned to bring me dinner and take more pictures. I went to sleep that night feeling so incredibly loved and appreciated. Thanks guys!

The last day at site was kind of anticlimactic. I had already prepared everything (suuuper sleep deprived) so I said goodbye to the twelfth graders as they got their final reports (they all graduated!!!!) and then my host family. Some of the little girls from the next village over came to my house and just sat on my couch until it was time to leave, staring at me with their huge sad eyes. I’m going to miss them so much!

Speaking of missing people, we headed out to Surabaya where I spent the next three days finishing up medical clearance and paperwork to leave (aaaand talking about bodily functions. Peace Corps volunteers talk a lot about bodily functions because apparently our bodies malfunction rather a lot).

Saying goodbye to the volunteers in my group was tough. The 17 of us still in Indonesia from my original group have become incredibly close. There is not one of those people that I do not trust and feel close to, not a single one whose presence I don’t enjoy. Some of the ID5s came out for some things too so we got a chance to say goodbye to them as well- some of them also have become great friends, and I’m going to MISS them!

This mixture of happiness, relief, wistfulness, and abject misery (rather more of the latter than I expected) made for a confusing last few days. Fortunately my friends were handy with the hugs and the tissues. Those of the ID4s who are staying  in Indonesia for a third year to make the program even better (somewhat to my dismay- I want them where I am) were great enough to come out and spend time with us (Noel, you are a rockstar, and the best therapist ever!), and then, at 4 o-clock this (yesterday? Tomorrow?) morning I left Indonesia. For good, but I hope not forever! I’m writing this in LAX as I wait for the last plane (I’ve already been on THREE) to take me to DFW.

I cannot wait to see my family and my friends. I’m rather terrified about all of the changes that will have taken place in their lives that I am not a part of yet, but with all of Peace Corps’ training about community integration, it ought to work out J.  Here goes!

To all of my friends in Indonesia, Saya mohon maaf lahir batin atas segala masalah-masalah saya, yang sengaja dan juga tidak sengaja. Saya harap panjang umur dan tambah maju untuk semuanya. Terimah Kasih atas segalah-galahnya, dan saya harap samuanya akan salamat sampai kita berjumpa lagi.



January 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — by erikawade @ 12:19 am

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!


November 14, 2011

A change

Filed under: Uncategorized — by erikawade @ 3:14 am

Most of you know that when I first arrived at my Peace Corps site I agreed to wear a jilbab (Muslim head covering basically) to school.

In spite of a lot of time spent thinking abut it, I’m not exactly sure how this came about. This is primarily because it happened at a time when I was fairly overwhelmed with new things, and my language skills were just barely adequate.
I know I asked if I should wear it, and I received the impression that, while no one would require me to wear it, it was much better and fitting that I do so. It’s really hard to tell sometimes, especially on Java, what is “fitting” and what is “required”. There tends to be a lot of overlap; so i wore a jilbab for a year and a half.
During this time period several things became clear to me;

1) this is Indonesia, and people here are, for the most part, very tolerant of religious differences- for the most part they just don’t talk about them too much. This is not a country where all women must be muffled from head to foot. Here, in most places, it is a personal (or family) decision.

2) There are not, to the best of my knowledge, any non-Muslims (besides myself and Oma) who wear jilbabs on a regular basis. I don’t even know of any who wear it occasionally unless they have to go into a Mosque. It just isn’t really done.

3) Wearing a jibab in Indonesia is partially a modesty thing, but even more so it seems (in my opinion of course) to be a declaration of faith for the wearer.
So how did I end up wearing one a daily basis?
This is the question I had been asking myself with greater and greater intensity over the last few months. I tried seeking advice from people and my community and other teachers, but it seemed that I had at last stumbled onto a touchy subject (whereas all sorts of things I think are awkward to talk about are openly discussed lol)

Through very pointed questioned I finally came to the conclusion that opinions were mixed (helpful for making decisions that…). Some people thought I should do whatever I needed to. Others thought that since I had started out wearing a jilbab I should see it through to the end.

I started out in the latter camp, but the sheer mental weight of it was getting to me. So, I let some key people know what I was planning to do and, with moral support from Peace Corps, I stopped wearing it. I started out with a few extra-curricular activities, and then progressed up to going to school without it. Thus far it is going well.

There have been a number of double takes, questioning looks, and flat questions, but having thought about this for so long before making the decision to take it off I feel very comfortable answering. “I am not wearing a jilbab because I am not Muslim, and usually in Indonesia non-Muslims (and many Muslims) don’t wear jilbabs. Right?” People have understood pretty easily I think. The kids mostly just want to ask me how I wash my braids.

I do want to be very clear that my decision not to wear a jilbab is not a negative reflection on my many beautiful friends, colleagues, and students who choose to wear one daily as an expression of their faith. That is certainly their perogative, and I respect it: however, after a year and half is is clear to me that it is not for me. No big deal, and enough said.


September 23, 2011

How it’s going

Filed under: Uncategorized — by erikawade @ 1:09 am

My host mother is roaming the house singing I cannot tell exactly what she is singing about, but I believe that I feature pretty heavily in the song. Something about my window closing on its own. I do really enjoy listening to my host mother sing. I think that this is because she used to teach Javanese (including traditional songs) so when she sings she not only has a pleasant voice, she also puts a neat Javanese twist on all of the songs.

My host mom and I have been spending more time together lately. Part if this is leftover goodwill from Ramadan, and I think the rest is because out of desperation I have been spending long periods of time following her around the house or just watching her watch tv until she talks to me.

I was trying to figure out what made the most difference between the way I felt living in Batu and the way I feel living here. What I concluded was that in Batu I was helpless. I was like an infant: I could not be left alone. Before I moved to my permanent site I had regained some modicum of adult independence (even if I do eat mentos for dinner when left to fend for myself), and as a result spent considerably less time doing nothing. If people are sitting around staring at the tv I tend to get up and leave to find something else to do. This month’s goal has been to give it a few minutes before I run for something to read or study or at least keep my hands occupied.

Most people in Indonesia, I think I can safely say at this point, do not multitask. When I do it freaks people out and/or makes them thing that I am not paying sufficient attention to one of my tasks. This is not true- I am a champion multi-tasker, but when I am just sitting, people here seem much more comfortable approaching me. (I also have been told that I walk WAY to fast)

So I sit. Sitting and doing essentially nothing (especially in a room with no furniture) makes me crazy, (sorry over textmessaged friends!) but I think the result has been worth it. For her part, Bu has started translating her Javanese comments into Bahasa Indonesia a little more so that I can understand more of what she’s saying. She also has started occasionally asking me to do things around the house (usually move large objects), and popping her head into my room at all times of day and night to make observations (“your window is closed. It is dark”) or ask questions (“it’s 5am- why aren’t you up yet? Aren’t you going to school?” Yes. At 7).  All of this makes me happy because it makes me feel much more like I belong there.

I imagine that matching volunteers with host-families is quite the daunting task for this reason: I am miserable when my host family doesn’t interact with me, while certain friends of mine want nothing more than to be left alone for five minutes. There is a cultural factor here, but more than that it seems to be more an issue of matching personalities. Like college roommates that you have to live with for two years.

Sorry I haven’t written much lately. I was going to say something about being too busy, and I am plenty busy, but then I thought about how many episodes of Daria I managed to watch last week among other things and decided that that excuse was no good. (Daria reminds me that I am an optimist and also to check a certain natural tendency for vapidness. Useful right?). My other reason is that for some reason (leftover habits of a high-school diarist?) I tend to mostly write when I am upset about something or other. Moods being what they are, I almost never finish the entries that I start in fits of pique and what I do write is best deleted upon reflection.

Life here is pretty biasa or usual. Most days are alright and go smoothly, some days are absolutely spectacular, and occasionally a day will come along that makes me want to run out into a rice-field and scream at the universe.

School is…going. The PPL (student teachers) are still teaching my two Science classes while I retained the three social classes (putting a brand new teacher in a class of fifty students for their first real-life teaching experience would just have been too cruel)

I think that I’ve been really fortunate in that the two PPL who I work with are willing to work really hard and listen to suggestions. It’s interesting to compare the amount of effort that PPL (and some of the younger teachers) are willing to put in to lesson preparation to the way that many of the more experienced teachers just wing it. Perhaps part of the difference is their confidence in their ability to wing it. I for one want to melt into the ground every time I have to deviate from my written (or scribbled as the case may be) lesson plan.

I have a number of ambitious plans to help me learn the names of my students. I don’t know how that’s going to go…so far I think I have learned about six of their names (I know I know). Something about being in Indonesia has exacerbated my natural tendency to have no clue who anyone is. Maybe it’s the bazillions of new people I seem to meet every day, maybe it’s the new language rattling around in my head, the uniforms and head coverings/identical haircuts, maybe it’s the much lower level of variation of eye and skin color than what I’d come to depend on in the US: I don’t know, but I have some plans underway.

My other project is getting the English teachers to work with me. To those of you who ask “what? Haven’t you been working with the English teachers all along” I can only smile, and assume you haven’t taught in Indonesia before. Convincing people to do any kind of “extra” work here is like pulling teeth: with tweezers, and no anesthesia. We have a meeting this afternoon with all six of us (well, one of the teachers has gotten sick- I assume not to spite me…) and that took me three weeks of trying and one ten minute impromptu meeting. We’re going to discuss being invested in our school’s English program/working together. Hope for the best!

I’m constantly trying to adjust my expectations to what I can actually accomplish. One of the most important lessons I think I got from mid-service training was that I really do need to work with other people (even if they rarely show up, show up late, make excuses for not showing up, disappear altogether for days at a time without explanation… you get the idea). It’s harder to work with other people, but the end results are so much better that it’s worth it.

This is something new at my school because often here once the task is assigned to one teacher, the others scatter (flee). That happened last year to me with English club and I’m determined that this year we are going to work together (whether anyone else wants to or not! Haha). I know that my co-teachers have taught me as much as I have taught them, and just the few times I have attended class with the twelfth grade teacher showed me how much I can learn from working with someone with his kind of experience- I want to make the best use of ALL our resources: not just my English fluency, optimism, and scanty experience.

With that in mind I have set out on a quest to “work together” (Hold hands, sway, and since Kumbaya ect. Ect. – I do like that song). Progress is slow, but I think that with a focus on what my partners here want to accomplish we’re going to get somewhere. There are some clear hopes for our English program and our school, there’s just a certain disinclination to subject ourselves to the momentary inconvenience and extra work of moving towards those goals. I know that feeling, but I’m hoping that’s something we’ll be able to get past 😀

Sorry if I’m incoherent or repetitive. I’m still working all this out in my head, but thought I would share: mostly because I know my parents appreciate the reassurance that I am, in fact, still here 😀

Sampai Jumpa Lagi!


September 1, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — by erikawade @ 2:56 am

I started to write earlier, but I think that it got erased by one of the approximately a billion children that hung out in my room today. This is disturbing mostly because I thought I was watching them better than that, but I guess I prefer rewriting a blog post to the part where I was cleaning chocolate out of the keyboard (I like children, but do they have to be so sticky?) I’m going to try to start at the beginning, but I apologize if I get out of order.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate with a day called Idul Fitri (I think Eid Al Fitri in places that aren’t Indonesia) On this day, families gather from however far away. In the morning there are special prayers, and then the families and go around visiting neighbors and other relatives apologizing for bad things they have done that previous year.
Of course many delicious snacks are also involved.
I had decided to spend the holiday in Malang this year (I stayed at site last year) so accordingly, two days before the holiday I headed to Malang with my friends to stay with my first host family.
It is always wonderful to go back to Malang- everything is so relaxed and welcoming that I feel like I fall right in to the pattern of things. I fasted the day I got there, and the day after, so on the evening of that second day I was really excited that the next day I’d get to eat! We spent that second day cooking. I didn’t watch them kill the chicken, but I sat through the rest of the preparation and surprised myself by being a lot less squeamish than I thought I was. I always knew the chickens in the yard somehow turned into the delicious chicken on the table- it was actually kind of interesting to see how it was prepared and the amount of work that went into it. It’s a bit sad on reflection that I am so proud of myself for watching (and fetching bowls when required) while my 12 year old host-sister was actually ripping out bits of chicken. (Thought I was going to say that it was sad about the chickens? Nope. They had good free range lives, quick deaths, and tasted delicious).
We (mostly my host mother and her sister-in-law, but I was there!) prepared a ton of food in preparation for the next day, but then all plans got put on hold.
What I didn’t realize was that different Muslim denominations (right word?) calculate the month of Ramadan differently. People had mentioned to me before that the dates of Ramadan could change, but I thought that was hypothetical (the movement of the moon and stars being predictable last I heard, I don’t really understand) so I was fairly shocked when my host father in Malang seriously mentioned the possibility of the holiday being moved.
As the evening went on we watched on the news as religious authorities from various parts of the country weighed in on whether or not Indonesian Muslims would celebrate on the 30th or the 31st. The debate was long and intense. My host family in Malang watched, but since they are a different denomination (sorry, I don’t know the right word) the day that they would celebrate was already said. In the words of my host father “We count” whereas everyone else was talking about the visibility of Venus and the Sun and the Moon and many other things that they are experts on and I am not.
So. The end result was that after much discussion, the Indonesian department of religion concluded that by their method of determination, the holiday must be celebrated on the 31st and not the 30th.
Thaaat made things a little awkward. In my host family, the immediate family followed that ruling. This meant that we went to the University for prayers and to eat together. For the prayers, hundreds of people separated by men and women, gathered outside with their prayer carpets (and for the women their special white prayer coverings, often decorated with gorgeous colored embroidery) and in unison went through the ritual of praying while bowing themselves multiple times in the direction of Mecca. It is not my religion or my belief, but it was special to watch nonetheless. To me, as I see it, the humility of all of those people earnestly and in all humility bowing themselves before God is lovely.
After the prayers there was a short sermon (right word?) I listened a bit (there was talk of tolerance, and about avoiding sin) but for the most part I watched small children in their fancy holiday outfits running around together on the grass off to the side while their parents listened to the Imam. It reminded me a bit of the scene outside of a church after and Easter Sunday service, when all of the children are dressed in their best clothes and still rolling around in the grass: pretty cute.
After the service (?) we all went inside and ate together (well, most of us did) some people, including the more distant relatives of my host family who live next-door, continued to fast. I thought that this was awkward, but no one else seemed to have any problems. Even back at the house when fasting relatives (grandfather, grandmother, aunt, etc…) walked through the house while we were eating, everyone seemed to accept it for what it was, a difference of opinion. I was impressed: very impressed.
The acceptance that differences of opinion do occur even though everyone is trying their best, and the no one needs to be vilified over it, is something that we could perhaps all learn from. We may disagree that with someone’s conclusion, but that is no reason to malign their character or commitment. Right?…
Well. We knew that my host family at site would be celebrating the 31st (like the majority here) so I decided to take advantage of this split to celebrate the holiday with both of my host families and hopped a bus back to site. I really enjoy the reliable public transportation in this country! Maybe it’s just because I grew up in rural Texas, but the notion that there is a relatively inexpensive bus that comes by regularly and will take me wherever I want to go just makes me want to clap my hands.
I dozed off on the bus (I have pretty much quit fighting that. I just make sure I’m sleeping on my bag) and the conductor woke me up shortly before my stop.
I had an awkward two miles on a bicycle in a long skirt (It seems that I will just never learn to dress properly for the occasion) and then arrived at a home made… lively… by the arrival of three of my host mother’s six children and their numerous offspring. Since this was the REAL last day (so I was assured) the children, including the six year old who doesn’t usually fast, were trying to fast through the day. They were, to say the least, a bit lethargic. Fortunately my arrival meant that they could get their hands on their favorite toy: my keyboard. We spent the hour and a half till time to eat playing twinkle twinkle little star with different sound effects (I never knew my keyboard had a setting where every note is the sound of a different gunshot…also, should twinkle twinkle be played with gunshot sound effects?) and drawing together with markers from America. I think the time went by fast (of course, I wasn’t fasting, so…)
Around 5:30 we all got to eat, and I made a major effort and spent the full 3 hours before I went to bed out socializing. Whenever I was left to my own devices and didn’t know what to do, rather than retreat into my room I looked for someone else to talk to. There were fireworks and an impromptu parade involving what must have been half of the village on their motorcycles, and then, when the fireworks ran out, one of the men started setting various things on fire in the driveway which seemed to amuse the children nearly as much.
Fast forward to this morning- I got up early so I wouldn’t miss anything, but I still didn’t see people leave for prayers. There were quite a few people in my house who I don’t think went though. A fourth child of my host-mother arrived with her husband and three children. Everyone got dressed up in their nicest clothes and then we assembled in the hallway to formally apologize to each other for the past year. This wasn’t just saying the words either- it really seemed like everyone meant it. There were tears, more hugging than I usually see in a year in Indonesia, and then we took pictures together. My host mother made sure that I was included in everything which was really sweet of her.
After the apologies to the immediate family we all piled into two cars (should not EVEN have been possible. There were between 11 and 13 children and 8 adults counting me) and drove about 200 meters to the homes of all of the oldest relatives. My host-mother’s daughter put my jilbab (head scarf) on for me, and she wrapped it in a loose way that felt much better to me than the firmly swathed way I usually wear it. Later it was shifting so my host mother pinned it more securely (It was pretty funny when she tried to reach the top of my head: sitting was necessary :D)
I was glad to notice that the past year has pretty much rid me of my instinctive recoil from saleeming: at least as far as older people are concerned. When I first arrived here it just seemed so strange to me that it was hard to do it- now, after being here for a year and often seeing everyone touch other peoples’ hands to their faces to show both respect and affection, I’m pretty thoroughly onboard. I did have a bad moment when I wondered if all the hand touching my face would make me break out, but I got over it.
We then drove to many places farther away and visited many people who were familiar from last year. Finally we came back (how I ended up in the car with 6 children and only 2 other adults is beyond me) and the kids mostly hung out in my room (It’s not me, it’s the a keyboard, the crayons, and the Naruto videos…). The rest of the day (what little was left) various visitors dropped in. My room remained the retreat for kids which was fine with me- I mostly gave them things to do and then, while they played, I read though at one point some of us figured out how to play Sudoku together. A couple of times the parents of the children came by and asked if I needed to sleep, but really I enjoyed the company. They all headed out by early evening and this village starts to shut down by 7:30 so at that point I could take a break. By take a break I mean bathe, eat, and write this 
I am wiped out! Going to bed and I’ll try to post this tomorrow if my internet works!

August 6, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — by erikawade @ 12:25 am

As many people already know, the first of August this year was the first day of the (Islamic?) month of Ramadan. This month is a very holy month for Muslims, who fast from food and water from Sunup to Sundown, refraining from negative emotions during those hours, and have many extra prayers and activities. This is, I recognize, a painfully inadequate summary, but I’m hardly an expert. If you want more, non-anecdotal, information I suggest the lovely website known as Wikipedia.

What I really want to talk about is not eating. Clearly this is on my mind because I am hungry :D. This year, out of solidarity with my host family and community, I’ve opted to fast for the whole month instead of the half hearted thing that I did last year (aka: peanut butter in oreos in my room).

Everyone tells me that fasting (the 14 hour kind with no water) is healthy. It’s true that I can drink plenty of water before and after the fast, and since I am not (yet) diabetic I guess I don’t have to worry about the intense blood sugar spike at 6pm every day: right? Perhaps I should remain diplomatically silent on the subject.

People also tell me that I will lose weight: I would take a bet on that- 5:30pm to 4:15am is plenty of time for me to eat- especially because there is usually someone reading in the musholla (right next to my room) until 10 or 11 at night so you know I’m not sleeping then…

I don’t know what the difference is, but this year it is WAY easier than last year to fast. I do not, of course, want to minimize what people are doing here, of course it takes focus, (I miss snacks!) but at some point it occurred to me that for a healthy, well-fed 23 year old (aka me) not eating for 14 hours is not exactly a huge hardship. Sure, sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but every time I feel a bit hungry, I can remind myself of all sorts of things: among them, that unlike many people in the world, I have never actually HAD to go a day without eating in my life. Kind of puts things in perspective.

I think another part of what makes fasting easier for me this year is that I’m actually willing to do it. Last year when I fasted, it was mostly out of a weird sense of guilt. This was silly, because I am not Muslim, I am Christian, and therefore have no obligation to fast whatsoever, however, I told myself that if I didn’t fast, I was being a bad community member. I should note that no one else said that: that was all me.

This year, I choose to fast, with the knowledge that I am perfectly free not to. I want to because it gives me an opportunity to bond with my host family and my community over shared experiences. It’s nice to have something like this that I can do without feeling that I’m compromising myself. Getting up at three in the morning to eat together (sleeeepy!), breaking fast together in the evening, and particularly that last hour right before we break the fast when everyone just stares at each other and the clock, are all things that give an incredible sense of solidarity.

It’s been kind of tough to blog lately just because every time I start typing someone comes to talk to me and then I completely lose my train of thought. This post was no exception so sorry if it’s kind of disjointed.

Life here is going on nearly as usual. I have, of course, had to stop jogging in the mornings for the time being since I wouldn’t be able to drink anything afterwards, but riding my bike places in the afternoon, even without water, is not too much of a problem.

My school is incredibly innovative, and rather than shorten our classes down to the smidgen of teaching time that many other volunteers are having to deal with, we (I say we, but I did nothing) created a schedule where we go to half of our classes each day, for the full class period. This works really nicely, and still gives the students time to ride their bikes home before the heat of the day. I really think that my school is exceptionally adept at clearing administrative and scheduling hurdles.

What else? My marvelous co-teacher is unfortunately out sick, but even when ill at home, she thought to make some calls to make sure I didn’t have to teach our class of fifty…energetic…students alone. This really impressed me, and is just one of the reasons why she’s so amazing.

My current dilemma is whether or not I can ride my bike the 45 minutes into the city to go to church on Sunday, while fasting. I think so? Guess we’ll find out!

July 14, 2011

Santai saja

Filed under: Uncategorized — by erikawade @ 4:53 am

Let’s talk about today. I need to write this because I cannot concentrate on anything until this frustration is out. This could become a blog post, but it could also just get written into my diary. We’ll see how vitriolic I get before deciding.

I was told that today would be the first day of class. This semester I will be teaching five classes and no conversation sections (unless I want to just tag along with the teacher, which I plan to do when I can). I made a simple survey (familiar to all PVCs from my group as the brilliant idea that Sam and Noel had during PST) and was all gung ho to start (in spite of three days of false starts) I was READY for today!

Well. I forgot what often happens to plans in this country (and in other ones for that matter. I think John Steinbeck wrote a book…). Classes started a little late because of an Upacara. Don’t ask me what upacara: I don’t know. The only part I’m sure I understood was when the principal told the students not to step over his plants. Instead they should get down off of the sidewalk and make a large circle around his office, walking in the dirt.

anyway. That ended, and I though “yay! Time to accomplish some stuff!” Well, stuff is getting accomplished, but it sure wasn’t according to my plan. I had a few minutes before time to start teaching, and in this time I was informed that I have two student teachers who need to take some of my classes.

It is not the student teachers’ fault, and I understand that they need to practice, but I am, I think understandably, a little miffed that I moved across the world to teach English and it turns out that I am supposed to NOT teach English so that student teachers can do it. Just. A little. Annoyed.

My co-teacher (who is amazing and wonderfully sympathetic in those moments when I am visibly holding my breath) and I decided that we would ask the student teachers (PPL) to teach the science (IPA) classes and take the three social classes (IPS) ourselves. Social classes tend to be larger so we figured the two of us together are probably best equipped to take them on and get the most positive results. I think this plan should work nicely.

Then we had to find the PPL. Apparently the PPL are supposed to come to us and we are just supposed to wait, but since ours had apparently gotten lost, I said forget that (since I this point I still thought we were having afternoon class) and marched (I walk in a way that terrifies the people I come in contact with here) to find them. They came willingly back to the office, at which point my co-teacher had to leave, but I was able to have a nice conversation with them (I think it was nice), in English (hooray! Encouraging!) about the material, about not teaching straight from the book, and about team teaching (I want them working together: partially because it will give the students more resources, but mostly for the selfish reason that their classes will then be learning more or less the same lessons making it easier to coordinate everything)

Note the part where I have become a rather scary person. This is also demonstrated by the way that every time I walk through the school all of the smoking teachers (always men) run for cover because I have expressed, clearly and often, my disinclination to die from secondhand smoke, and also that anyone who would smoke near the many pregnant teachers is just awful. A cigarette has not been lit in the teacher room since school started! (Still working on the office: and the library)

Sorry. That was tangential. Anyway. Finished with the PPL, moving in the direction of class and disaster struck. Not the part where it took ten minutes to find the classroom, something else. There was another teacher in the classroom. We waited outside for twenty minutes.

In retrospect I realize that my co-teacher knew that this waiting was futile, but she also knows that I feel better when I’m at least close to where I need to be, so she patiently waited with me. THEN we were informed that the classroom wasn’t clean yet, there is no board to write on (actually pretty problematic for my plan) and that there was no desk for the teacher (which I don’t care about, but apparently is a BIG deal), so we couldn’t teach.

The worst part of this whole thing was that it was said in Javanese, so while I understood the part about the desk, for the rest of this information that so directly affects me I was completely dependent on my (wonderful spectacular amazing) co-teacher for translation. Keeping in mind the amount of work that I’ve put into learning Bahasa Indonesia, and the fact that I asked the person explaining to switch languages twice in the course of this conversation, and was ignored, perhaps you can guess how I felt.

I seriously considered getting on my high-horse and insisting on teaching anyway, but the thirty minutes that had already passed (and all the fearful looks I was receiving from the other teachers: I think I was inadvertently growling a little) demoralized me. So now I’m back in the teacher room, staring wistfully at the classroom where my students are currently sweeping and moving tables instead of learning English.

I have also been talked out of trying to teach my next class (in forty minutes) since their homeroom teacher would like to have a meeting with them. I’m not up to fighting about it at this point, and I’m not sure that I should be anyway since this seems to be the way things usually work.Sometimes it’s really hard to decide when to push and when to let things go.

I’ve decided for sanity’s sake that for today the only important thing today is that the students are doing something at least marginally worthwhile and that they have a teacher with them. Tomorrow, however, no one had better stand between me and my classes! That is, if I can find them…

I’m feeling better. I’m going to get to correcting the plethora of mistakes in the workbook that we’re supposed to use. It’s much better than the one from last year!

Update: I actually went to half of my second class (we ended up splitting it). The students were lovely, not overly bewildered by my pronunciation, and ready to work. The day is looking up 🙂

June 9, 2011

Home and Laaaazy

Filed under: Uncategorized — by erikawade @ 7:14 pm

Hi there, I realize that it has been approximately forever since I’ve written anything: I’m going to put down as much as I can in a short time.

So- as many people know, I made a pretty last minute decision to visit home for two weeks to attend my sisters high-school graduation, and it has been wonderful!!!!!

DON’T WORRY, I’m still coming back 🙂

Obviously it’s wonderful to see my family: I got to see my parents, sisters, aunts, uncle, and all four of my grandparents ❤ which pretty much made my year- I’ve been able to attend my sister’s graduation (Yay!!!!! She made it!!!!!) attended a good friends wedding (congratulations again! You guys are wonderful!), and a pre-funeral gathering for a former teacher, which, while it was sobering to realize he is gone, was a celebration of the life of an incredible man.

I’ve been able to meet up with friends, catch up on the phone with those to far away to meet, arrange to meet with relatives of some current volunteers and trainees in the area, buy necessary clothing in sizes that FIT…it’s been good

Let’s talk about culture shock cause I know a lot of people are wondering what to expect:

First off, nothing has been as shocking as I expected it to be. Let’s face it, I lived in this culture for the first 22 years of my life- a year of something else isn’t going to throw me off too badly for too long. Yes, I had a small freakout when I realized that I could understand everything that was being said in the SanFrancisco airport (and with different regional accents!!!) Yes everyone seems enormously tall, and yes, I thought American money was a weird color for a few days, but again, 22 years of this didn’t just fade away, and it came back fast.

(going through Hong Kong was…odd though…)

I was nervous going into a grocery store the first time, but it turns out that the stores in Surabaya have kept me in decent practice (I was a little disappointed I couldn’t bargain for my fruit….but hey: I think I always have been)

I’ve been eating basically nothing but ice cream (cookies and cream), potato salad, and pumpernickel bread, but I’ve branched out into olive garden food, cobbler, brisket with baked beans, real mac and cheese, apples, CAKE, hot dogs, pizza, tacos, cinnamon toast crunch, honey wheat pretzels…you get the idea. Haven’t touched tofu for some reason 😛 nor have I fried anything. I’ve also eaten rice only once, and as it was smothered in cheese (and delicious Peyton!), I decided that was acceptable lol. and no: I am not still hungry.

(Noel, I googled Rhubarb to find out what it was, but I don’t think we have that in Texas…)

In other cultural tidbits

No one has called me fat or black sweet since I arrived in America. Nor has anyone told me I should get married NOW (since 23 is so incredibly old) I know that people mean well when they say these things, but its lovely to have a break from hearing them. For serious serious.

Unfortunately Oleh-oleh followed me back here darn it. My suitcases are going to be so heavy…argh

Speaking English at a ridiculous rate using all my idioms and slang is also marvelous, hot water, ovens, news I can follow (though sometimes I have to wonder why I bother), the radio (and the 70mph speed limit and lack of tour buses!), being able to wear whatever I want to without worrying that I will inadvertently offend someone, going out at night and walking down the road for two miles with my dog without seeing another living soul, piano (piano piano piano!!!!!), all so great.

I feel like me.

Still, I find that as wonderful as it is to be home, I do miss some things about Indonesia (yeah!): I miss people- my neighbors (even though they do call me fat haha) my host families,my students, the other volunteers (I’m so jealous everyone got to hang out with Diana again before she left!). Though I do not yet miss eating rice ( I could be finished with rice. Forever), I miss having rice fields out my door (the sunsets here may be just as good, but I’m not sure about the cows). I expecially miss having a job that I was doing every day- as much as I needed a break, I’m starting to gear up to get working again.

I needed this, but now I think I’m ready to roll down my sleeves and get back to work.

So. Two more days vacationing at home, and then I’m back to my other home and what is for now, my real life in Indonesia. Hope I can still speak the language!

PS I will NOT be leaving the Airport in Hong Kong this time…I believe I may have had enough of THAT kind of adventure for one trip lol

April 3, 2011

Finally back

Filed under: Uncategorized — by erikawade @ 9:41 am

My computer is finally up completely up and running. (thankyouthankyouTHANKYOU!!!!) After the darn thing decided to come on again I got to download microsoft office using my temperamental modem: fairly unfun. However, office is activated, most of my applications are back, and I lost very little information. Sweet!!!

Today I went on one of those psycho cleaning benders. I think this was somewhat justified since yesterday a kitten was murdered in my room (by another cat)and wanted to remove all traces.
My response to this outrage was to go after Mr. large-feral-baby-murdering-tomcat: barefoot, with a blanket, a frying pan, and the worst of intentions. (I promise I’m usually kind to animals.I was provoked)
Anyway, I didn’t catch him (this time) in spite of the help of the neighborhood children. My neighbors thought it was pretty funny (and no one likes a kitten-murderer). One asked me “Miss, angry?” …You BET Miss was angry!

I’m less angry now though in spite of myself. That’s not really mood I can maintain. That cat is still in trouble if I catch it though. At the very least, deportation.

(I apologize for typos: apparently when I reinstalled the hard-drive my reconnection of the keyboard (with tweezers and a flashlight in my mouth) was less than excellent. This tendency of the keyboard to randomly move the cursor/type random letters could eventually get annoying.)

Also last night we had a prime example of how, for best results, communication really should involve only two parties, both of whom speak the same language. I think I managed to inadvertently offend my host-mother pretty badly for a few hours. Fortunately, Bu Ida sorted it out for us before I had to look for a new home (I don’t want a new home! I like this one! Except for that evil cat)

So much has happened since I last wrote that I’m sure I’m forgetting things: my apologies for that!

Two weeks ago Truong was able to see my site, so that was super 🙂 We’re theoretically the closet together in our cluster, but practically it’s something else. It was a short visit but really nice: we walked to see my counterpart, met some neighbors, basically talked for two hours straight. Now I have to figure out when I can return the visit!

This past weekend I made my first visit to another volunteer’s site (it’s only been ten months!). Angela* and some of her friends were kind enough to invite me to judge an English competition there. My wonderful counterpart and his wife drove me the 2.5 hours (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) and I got to see Angela!!! Hooray!!!!

Angela’s host family was marvelous. They were incredibly friendly and welcoming, yet not at all pushy or intimidating. They were great hosts .

It was wonderful to be able to spend time with Angela: she has a wonderful way of making me saner

The contest went well. I was very impressed with the work that all of the students did preparing and by how well they presented their speeches. I also enjoyed meeting Angela’s friends who organized the event and chatting with the other judges.

After the contest I spent a little more time with Angela and her host fam, then they took me to catch the bus home.

Note: if the bus is too crowded, DON’T TAKE IT even if it’s getting dark. You could end up sitting on the engine block next to the driver, with the wind rushing by your feet, staring terrified through the windshield at oncoming traffic. Lesson learned!

Apa lagi? Of course, there have been various ups and downs and changes this week that I’m not sure I should go into online. Let’s just say that a very disappointing decision was made, but can and should still be remedied (hint hint) no harm done.

Changing the subject: We all can’t WAIT to meet the new group that comes THIS WEEK!!!!!! Yay yay yay :D!! We’ve all done the requisite facebook stalking, but some people aren’t there, (and also I would question how well you really get to know someone by reading a three year old list of their hobbies) So we want to meet you all in person! I’ll be the one talking non-stop ;P

What else? I’ve sorted out my school schedule so that (as of tomorrow) I officially only need to be there 5 days. I’m hoping that this will lower my stress level and I didn’t have class on the sixth day anyway. Sitting in the teacher room staring at the walls was making me crazy! Especially since in the report books for each student, the teacher has to write out the number of the grade the student receives in each criteria. For example, if Siti got an 88 in pronunciation, her teacher must write the numerals and then delapan puluh delapan. Now imagine doing that for every criteria, for every student. I can think of better uses of time. I’m really incredibly grateful my offer to help was turned down.

I think that’s all for now. I really should work on entering my lesson plans for the past two months into the computer, but really, I think I’m going to read. It was a long week and my Dad just sent some new ebooks I’d been wanting. Yay!!

PS anyone who reads this and then goes to the PC lounge, Please please PLEASE alphabetize the books (they’re by non-fiction or fiction) or at least maintain the current alphabetization (haha- how is that a word?!?) – it could (well, will) get to be a real pain to find anything as our library grows if we don’t have a system.

*Soon we’re going to have to figure out how to differentiate aren’t we ;)?

March 17, 2011

Missing my computer

Filed under: Uncategorized — by erikawade @ 10:42 am

There is a little banner on the side of facebook that says “volunteers wanted”. Sudah facebook: SUDAH 😀

For anyone who doesn’t know, my computer is down. This means that i cannot prewrite blogs or emails, so when I go to the internet cafe I just have to do as much as I can as fast as I can. I’ve decided that if I end up biking home in the dark, I’ll deal with it, because by the time I got out of English club i only had maybe two hours before dark. I need a head lamp :

Talking about head lam,ps makes me think of Noel, who, in an awesome turn of events went out ot Malang with Luke and I got to meet up with them as well as with my first host family (LOVE!!!!!). Luke’s host Dad treted us to the bset rujak manis I have ever tasted, and then drove us around on a long (and unfortunately fruitless) search for n affordable full-sized keybard (have since concluded doesn’t exist here. Would love to be proven wrong) And then Noel came back and visited my site! That was the first time that any other PCV has visited my site and my neighbors were somewhat shocked, the school schedule was off, and it was, in other words, very representative of my life 😀 but I had a great time! We were able to jalan2 in the city a bit before she left and that was wonderful 😀

K, well, this keyboard is awful ( type and then wait a full two to three minutes for it to appear on the screen), my writing is worse, and a very shady human being is attempting to converse with me, so I’m going to hurry up and leave.

Just know that I am indeed alive, and I will be in touch better later!


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