why am I wearing a wool cardigan right now?

Since officially (oh la la!) swearing-in as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I have been settling into my new home in the regency of Mojokerto. The horribly rough roads from Mojokerto to my new village, make the potholes in Richmond feel like tiny pebbles. While we were driving through, my new counterpart and vice principal , who picked me up from Malang, said we would be “dancing in the car”, to be honest, I felt happy to have survived the ride without a neck brace.

Once I got to my new host family, my host sister showed me to my new room, “JELEK!” or ugly she said, as she repeated when she showed me the bathroom. I thought my room was nice, a lot bigger than my last bedroom, although the same blinding lime green decorated the walls.

The next morning, my host mother, who always has a look of worry and confusion on her face, kindly told me eat “sarapan”, Javanese for breakfast. My body was and still is adjusting to the new environment, so I took a modest amount of rice and a fried egg. She had a minor freak out and told me to take more tempeh! tempeh! I told her I wasn’t that hungry. Shortly after, I hopped on my brand new lime green bicycle with a silver basket, and took off, as my host sister, who is an administrator at the school, followed along behind me on her motorbike. Once I parked my dinky little bike next to the REST of the motorbikes, I was greeted by my counterpart and principal and led to meet guru-guru  and some students who were finishing up before taking off for summer break. Coincidentally my first day at the school was also the day the police chief and some big deal from a religious org were giving a presentation to some students on why they shouldn’t drop out of school to get married. The slideshow was bizarre and involved a mock Playboy cover with an old wrinkly woman on it, with some jumbled words, “America”, being one of them. I felt very awkward, as I sat on the panel. I was asked to give a small speech and introduce myself, then led by the Principal to meet the rest of the guru-guru.

That day, there was a big meeting to see how many, if not all, would go on to the next grade level. All but one made it, cool, I can take that 99% pass rate. The teachers couldn’t have been more welcoming, and I felt like I was really wanted there. They told me one of the things they wanted me to assist with is starting a teacher’s conversation club. They all seem to goof around with one another–they’re a big family, and although most of the teachers are happily married, they still have school pacar-pacar, meaning boyfriend/girlfriend. They even told me to watch out for one of the teachers for she may steal my boyfriend (hey, boo!) when he comes to visit. YA OKAY LADY. They also introduced one of the teachers to me as an orang-China or Chinese person, so I said “benar? Anda orang-China?” with excitement that maybe we could exchange a few words in bahasa Mandarin and it turns out they say he is a Chinese person because his eyes are small. I’ve barely been here for a week and they have already teased the hell out of me. If all else fails, at least I know I could potentially make it as a comedian in Indonesia.

It feels like so much has happened since arriving last Wednesday night, so I will spare you the itty-nitty-gritty-itty, ya? I am proud to say that I have introduced my family to oatmeal, but oh man you should have seen the look of confusion on their faces before they knew what it was. Once I finally made it in front of them, they MADE ME PROOOOMISE that I would eat rice for lunch and dinner. For my stomach’s sake, I have found that if you spread rice plate/bowl flat, and then layer veggies and proteins on top, it looks like I’m eating a lot more rice than I’m comfortable with, so that’s what I’ve been doing, yes, acting like a 5 year-old and pretending to do things to appease them. Hay, if it works.

The other night, one of the neighbors/close family friend who is often hanging out at the house, who’s a masseuse, and very tomboy one she is, gave me a massage. I also found out that she offers her services to others at the school too, like our principal. So I asked if she goes to her home to do it, and it turns out the principal comes to our home, and she gets it done in my host sisters bed. This would never happen in America…very strange, a cultural awakening it was. The massage was rough as hell and I could BARELY walk afterwards, but it was good. When one has a headache, they usually point to their head and say “pusing”, which I thought meant “pain” or “ache”, but really means “headache”. So before I knew this, I pointed to my legs and said “pusing” and got blank stares, theeeen they realized what I was saying and pointed to my legs and said “sakit” or sick, so it turns out they call things sick even when it is sore or hurts. Now everyone I see, even at school, points to their legs and asks me if it’s pusing … looks like I won’t be living that one down! Because the massage was given in my bedroom, my host sisters helped to alleviate the awkwardness and kept us company. My host sister kept saying something about my room but I had no idea what she was talking about, so I gave her my dictionary, and she came to the word “smashed”, later on I realized she was trying to say it looked like a ship had wrecked in my room. How about that, Mom!

My school is very pleasant, as it has a set of traditional music instruments, where students practice often, it sounds quite nice. I will try to upload a video sometime!

So far my village is very nice–quiet, more rural than my training site, with no IndoMart in sight, probably for the best. Luckily my favorite ice cream is still accessible by bicycle.

It’s been a smooth transition, although I have had to get used to many things again. Like being told when to do things, and having people always be worried about me and health and if I’m tired. And being talked to like I’m from a different planet, like if someone came up to you and asked in English “Eh-lee…have….yeww…ea-ten…to-day?…wo-uld…yewww…ly-ke…to taaaay-ke..a REST?” Not to mention, I’ve been extremely frustrated with people trying to teach me things in both bahasa Indonesia and bahasa Jawa, it’s just too much right now. I can’t wait to get into a routine and a rhythm with my students, counterparts, and family. Until then, life will be like driving on the street from Mojokerto, patchy, unpredictable, bumpy. Trying to take things hour by hour. Bali [read: BIRTHDAY BASH] in less than 3 months! Ya, newbie PCV’s?




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