It feels like so much has happened, and yet so little has happened since I last wrote. I get nervous that once I’m placed at my permanent site, so little is going to happen that I’m going to slip into writing mundane entries about teaching, teaching, teaching. And even though I haven’t begun teaching and won’t until July (I think), I have been trying to delve into my daily routine to find that being here, whether it may be boring or not, definitely has its interesting moments, and I’m trying to remember each and every one of those “oh shit” moments. Like just now, my “host father’s mother”, or my kakek just let out 3 big burps, no biggie, she’s like 70-something and very cute.
Since I’ve last written, I have had three distinctive “wait, am I really in PC?”-moments that I can remember—obviously, there’s been many, but here’s a mini-highlight.
–Last week, Noel, a current PCV, came to one of our TEFL trainings to brush up on grammar with us. In doing so, Noel, in all seriousness made us sing this VERY silly song many times about some worm sitting on a fence post, chewing his bubble gum (making chewing noises), who ate this family. It was quite amusing. And yes, there was a grammar lesson learned.
–This past Friday, we had our last day of Bahasa Indonesia (language) lesson, to celebrate; our guru (teacher) took our class out to karaoke. Might I add, there was (sadly) no alcohol involved. The interesting selection of songs ranged from Justin Bieber to Ace of Base, from Queen to Lady Gaga to Bloodhound Gang, and of course the Indonesian national anthem (which I now know by heart, YouTube it!). Not to mention the background videos, which were some of the strangest pieces of stock-footage I’ve ever seen, and I’m almost certain that one of them was the prelude to soft core porn…awkward.
–Another strange moment was walking down this random creepy long ally way that led us to an amazing batik (Indonesian fabric pattern) place where I bought some lovely patterns that I’m going to get made into skirts and dresses, and maybe even rompers.
Not sure if I mentioned this, but some of the trainee villages are trying to have matching batiks custom-made for our official swearing-in ceremony (June 15). It’s been a pain the ass for some groups to come to a decision on fabric pattern and style, so it was a pretty big deal when my group settled on a print! The fabric seller ended up knowing how to speak a little bit of Chinese, so I found myself speaking a strange combo of Bahasa Indonesia and Bahasa Mandarin. It was a unique cross-cultural feeling to say the least.
On Sunday, as always, I TRIED with all my might to sleep in, I really just want to sleep in until 8:30 or 9a, but it’s seriously impossible. I feel like I’m 80 years old, naturally waking up at 5:30a. It turned out to be a perfect day, the weather was cool, comfortable, breezy, sunny, the skies clear with a wide range of blues that my mom would have loved to sit and discuss with me as her professors in art school once had. I decided to go on a long walk by myself and explore, with my camera in hand of course. I walked up this steep, winding road that one of the trainees and the kepala desa (village head) lives on which leads to Oro-Oro-Ombo (another village, which another group of trainees resides). On the way, I saw the most beautiful views of Malang (nearby city) and the surrounding mountains. I saw some of the thickest and strongest stocks of bamboo I’ve ever seen in nature (as in, not being used as scaffolding, like in big cities), a wide variety of gorgeous native flowers, and of course, farmers. I ended up having almost perfect cell phone service so I ended up calling family back home, and I took advantage of the seclusiveness of the area by belting out some of my favorite songs with my iPod in, and it just felt GOOD. Usually on Sundays, I fall into a small depression because I’m not used to having no structure in my day that I have no idea what to do with myself, so I think that exploring, thinking, and finding the beauty (sounds so cheesy) in my surroundings is a good way to stay active and happy. After I got home, my host family took me to Batu (another nearby mountainous city) for this festival that I still can’t really explain because I barely understand what it was but I think it’s called “Bantengan Nuswantara”. From my understanding, people who are “possessed” by the devil dress up as bulls and while another person cracks a massively terrifying whip to rile them up, and they charge at other people, and then the person sometimes ends up falling on the ground and they look hurt/severely dehydrated, but it didn’t seem like anyone was actually concerned and SO I am still lost in what the purpose of the festival was, if there even was one. Sunday seemed to last forever because after the festival my family drove me up the windiest roads to a relatives house, to show me this Paprika farm they kept mentioning. It was gorgeous in the mountains, not to mention, pretty cold, but again it was englightening to see so much fresh produce around me. The area was also well known for its delicious “Batu apples”, so I bought some for my trip to Blitar.
Monday morning commenced the beginning of our various journeys to visit current PCVs at their permanent sites to get a feel for what it could be like when we are sworn-in as volunteers. Taylor and I visited Angela in Blitar, where she teaches at an Islamic high school. We would be taking the bus for the first time, which I have discovered I really do not enjoy. Even though I wasn’t expecting for the economy buses to be air-conditioned, I secretly hoped they would be, when in all reality, I wasn’t even guaranteed a seat on the 2-3 hour-long ride. The buses are pretty wild, they stop mannnnnny times along the way picking up and dropping off people as they desire, barely giving the person time to get on or off the bus, and even the elderly have to be quick. As always I am very impressed by the driving skills in this country, for we didn’t drive over a cliff or hit a person/car/[insert moving object here]. While I love living in and gazing at mountains, I absolutely hate driving up them, especially in buses. The winding roads scare me mainly because I know that I have no control over the vehicle and because I’ll have no control over someone’s car-sickness issues, which disgusts me, so always take Dramamine before these tumultuous rides to ensure I don’t lose it too. It’s kind of a serious OCD-thing that I’ve been coping with for a while. And of course on the bus ride, there was puker sitting in front of me that Paige (a trainee from my village who knows about my OCD thing) pointed out to me while smiling. As I saw panicked face of the puker right before and I knew it was time to close my eyes and turn my music (Fleetwood Mac) up really high to keep my mind off of what was going on. I was even more disgusted later on when I noticed that long after the puker had been off of the bus, she had left her “goody bag” on the floor where other passengers belongings had been. GROSS to the MAXXXX! I learned that the same thing happened on another bus that a fellow trainee was on. Angela also informed me that usually there’s a puker on buses in Indonesia which has led me to believe I was sent to Indo not only to fulfill one of my life goals to become a PCV but also to confront my fear with being in confined spaces with pukers. Yes, weird revelation, but I think it’s TRUE.
Oh yes, visiting Angela at her site in Blitar was refreshing. Angela, 25, is Malaysian-American (which allows her blend in with the Indonesians, moreso than the rest of us), from Atlanta, GA, has a twin sister, and is a very professional and excellent teacher. Blitar has a small city-like urban feel to it compared to my village. It is very flat so everything is accessible by bicycle. It is also home to Indonesia’s first President, Sukarno. I am going to be very envious of the person from my group who will be placed in Blitar because I am in love with the city. We met Angela in her high school and observed some of the classes, met a couple of her counterparts and other teachers, everyone was very friendly and warm. We ended up drinking coffee in one of the teacher areas, listening to Afroman, yes, both of the VERY inappropriately hilarious songs. I was laughing hysterically inside at the fact that I was sitting in an Islamic high school, surrounded by girls in jilbabs, in an office with an administrator, next to the school’s mosque, listening to songs about getting high and meeting ladies from around the world, to put it nicely. Angela’s family was more than welcoming and hospitable—they are both teachers. I almost felt like I was in Taiwan with some of my distant relatives, it was just very cozy. It was easy to talk to her family. We ended up making pancakes for breakfast and spaghetti for dinner, it was great and I swear it’s never felt better eating a meal unaccompanied by rice (if you didn’t know, rice is eaten with every meal, or else is means you haven’t eaten). At night, we talked about random things, including my vomit-fear, and watching 30 Rock on her laptop. It felt good to just be 22 again and be able to have girl talk on the porch without screaming babies constantly interrupting. Angela also is friends with a set of Indonesian twins who are training to be English teachers. We rode bikes (!!) to Sukarno’s burial site, where people sat, contemplated, prayed, and got emotional. It was powerful to observe people, even in my generation, feel so much emotion for a president from decades ago. I can’t say I feel too much for George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or even Obama. They were/are great men and heroes but I don’t think I will ever feel that same connection that Indonesians feel for their national leaders.
Since I didn’t have much desire to take the bus back, we discovered that it was possible to take the train instead! And for a third of the cost, as in it cost Rp 2,500 ($0.35) for a 2.5 hour train ride as opposed to Rp 12,000 ($1.38), plus it took about the same amount of time, with no pukers. The only thing that’s irritating about the train ride is how many solicitors there are on the ride, there was NOT EVER a moment throughout the ride when someone wasn’t trying to sell something to you. Solicitors literally throw things in your lap, from children’s books to ginger candies to gloves, then they come back around to collect the items that you usually don’t buy. There’s constantly musicians, usually pretty good, walking up and down the aisles, and I even saw a guy playing/carrying a full size bass (like the one’s in orchestras)—that’s seriously impressive, and what’s most impressive is that we as humans endure these things, on both ends of the spectrum (as passengers and solicitors). People work really hard in this country to earn a living. By the end, I was pleased with the train ride and definitely prefer that as my main mode of transportation, the fact that it was smooth, fast, cheap, and didn’t induce vomiting, made me a very happy passenger, hot, but happy.
I am now back in Tlekung, sitting in my living room, listening to my Ibu snore, as she has fallen asleep in front of the TV watching a horrible sounding soap opera. It currently, as it usually does at night, smells like fruity-poo (not so pleasant) because of the cow manure/landfill up the street. I just looked up to crack my neck, and hey, there’s a gecko on the ceiling. Cool. Oh yeah and while I was eating dinner today, 3 massive cockroaches revealed themselves from the depths of our kitchen—apparently my Ibu sprayed stuff so they’re all going to come out and DIE in the open, yes, an appetite killer for sure.
Tomorrow I will find out where my permanent site will be! I can’t explain how excited and nervous I am to know what kind of school (religious or public) I’ll be teaching at and to learn more about my new home for the next two years!
As always, thank you for reading. My butt has officially fallen asleep as I’ve been writing this post for almost 3 hours now! Ma’af (sorry) for the grammatical errors, word count is too long for me to proof-read, must sleep!
Hey how’s it going? I enjoyed reading your trip. I’m Indonesian but lived in the US for 13 years. I left when I was still in high school and practically grew up there. Came back in 09 due to the financial crisis and looked for a better job here, which I got. I get what you’re saying here… hahaha yes the culture shock here can be quite… shocking. Anyway, I work for the national inflight carrier here now, and I’m always interested in uniquely Indonesian stories seen from a (sorry) foreigner’s perspective. Would you please keep in touch via email? My email is as entered when I left this comment. I assume you can see it from there. Thanks! Keep going!
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