Shedding Hair, Acquiring a Flair… for Teaching.

I’ve been back at site for less than 48 hours. The initial adjustment of returning back to my home at 10pm Sunday night was a bit shocking. My room was exactly how I had left it, shorts and towel draped over my plastic red chair, the shape of my body still imprinted in the sheets just how I had slept the night before leaving site, my Saturday school clothes still in the messy pile on the floor. Upon discovering some gecko droppings on my sacred childhood blankie and easily shrugging it off without any question or flinch of disgust, and despite knowing that I’d be falling back into this mundane routine and slow-paced lifestyle — somehow this predictability of village lifestyle is reassuring to where I am right now emotionally.

The past two weeks, I have been busy at In-Service Training (IST), which is a series of intense Peace Corps guided sessions meant to help us better develop our skills as teachers (or whatever the PC assignment is) as well as more effective community members. On top of that, there’s medical, safety, cultural, language, and a variety of other sessions facilitated by Indonesian nationals, government officials, and other highly skilled PCV’s. Heavy stuff. Mr. Sketch fruity smelling markers brought back sweet memories of elementary school, flip charts came back to haunt us, and “parking lot”, Post-It notes and PACA tools reminded us how important communication, organization and teamwork are in an environment known for its on-the-fly attitudes, jam karet, and other hoopla. Our chosen counterparts came the last three days of IST so they could better develop their co-teaching skills, create a support network with other CP’s, and understand our role to them as assistants. I had a mini-breakdown while regretting my decision to bring one of my counterparts who seems to have gained absolutely nothing from the sessions. It was difficult for me to see how interested and inspired other CP’s were while mine was preoccupied with other things. I hate to compare myself against other but it wasn’t as if we were on different pages, we were in entirely different books. We had a productive conversation about this as it was torturing me, and making me feel especially self-conscious in front of the other PCV’s and their active CP’s. I felt that her behavior reflected badly upon me, when really it’s her, and I’m learning to adjust to her style and attitude, keeping in mind that she may need some extra push and semangat not only from me but from the other English teachers. In short, some sessions were more engaging and applicable than others (ID-5’s, think hand motions, and standing on chairs) but I think IST was pretty damn successful. I’m still trying to process the massive amounts of information I’ve acquired the past two weeks and actually apply it, while jumping right back onto the train that never stops.

IST wasn’t just about training and sessions, it was also about reuniting with the rest of ID-5. It was the first time for all of us to reunite after 4 months as a group, which is almost twice as long as our friendships have actually existed. There was a special unspoken bond that regardless of our differences, we have all experienced something so similarly unique, challenging, and yet wonderful to a completely indescribable extent, that truly brought us together. We’re crazy, but we’re crazy together.


Aside from sessions:

  • At least 9 of us got new haircuts (thanks Sam & other Indo hair-stylists!) — I have short hair again for the first time in almost 4 years. To my surprise, my host sister got the same haircut while I was away! I’ve gotten quite some mixed reactions at school, from “you look fatter”, “you look more feminine… in the bad way”, “you look lebih fresh”, and others say I’m still centik (beautiful). I’ll take the latter comment to heart.
  • A few of us got bed bugs from the hotel… it was terrible.
  • We had a Halloween party! In a country where noise is not an issue to anyone because they’ve severely damaged their eardrums from the excessive dangdut, this surely worked to our advantage. Some award winning costumes included: a badminton birdie, mosquito with dengue/malaria, and a portrait of SBY, Indonesia’s 5th president whose portrait is literally ev-er-y-wh-ere. Fellow Tlekungian Nicole and I wore stylish Indonesian bathing suits. Other notable costumes included: Lele or catfish, an M&M, Flip Chart, PCV on a motorcycle, tempe, paper doll, Upin the popular Malaysian cartoon character, angry birds, and an ambiguously awesome white sheet that continuously morphed into different characters as the night progressed. More pictures and different perspectives can be found on Daniel P. (DP), John A., Erin and Nicole’s latest posts. 
  • I haven’t consumed an Oreo in 2+ weeks. I was surely tempted on several occasions but abstained. That’s Prooooogresssssssss!
  • I barely slept. There was lots of bonding, unwinding, deep conversation and most importantly… sarong wearing nights makan‘ing tanpa utensils. There may have been nights where we bought out all of the cold Bintang’s from the Alfamarts. And now Foster the People and Daft Punk have been on repeat and it’s becoming unhealthy.
  • Navigating around Surabaya is easier. Now I know where to get some amazing mango slushies and notable nasi goreng.
  • Had the opportunity to meet and eat lunch with the Deputy Director of Peace Corps, Carrie Hessler-Radelet. She hadn’t planned to share with us a personal and intimate anecdote about the time she met the President of Ghana, but it was probably one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever heard and will stick with me forever. In short, the President of Ghana grew up in a small village and had a teacher who was a PCV, who ultimately motivated him, helped him acquire scholarships/financial aid, and perhaps indirectly got him to where he is today. I nearly cried. It really puts into perspective the long term effects that we’re going to have on students in our classrooms and people in our communities. Very powerful.
  • I can’t stop saying exaggerated Javanese/Arabic expressions now… Lo! ikiiiiii looooooooo! waaaaaa DOH! Alhamdulillah! Ya Allahhhhhhh! Not only that, but I get a good chuckle every time I hear it said in real-contexts, which is ALL. THE. TIME.
  • Made it to the Final Four… PCV/PC Staff Badminton Tournament with Isom, we looked great in our matching yellow headbands. Can I just say Tlekungian’s have some serious champion blood running throughout our veins? Truth.

Rainy season is creeping up. I have now spent a summer without intense thunderstorms and until now had forgotten how much I missed listening to the force of nature just beating down without reason, and that smell of wet pavement, and the calming silence that follows after an aggressive storm passes with faint chirping of the birds coming back to life. Though I don’t miss the humidity that accompanies. And I’m not looking forward to the 10-minute bike ride to and from school when it really picks up. As the season continues to change from dry to wet, bright red chili peppers are beginning to sprout up left and right where stalks of sugarcane once prominently stood. When I got back from running some errands, a flock of neighborhood children were waiting for me outside of my house, saying they missed me. I had one of those humbling “wow I really may belong here”-moments, and at that time I knew that I had really pulang‘ed. I’m sure this honeymoon feeling with my village will unfortunately fizzle out in the coming weeks or even days to come once the monotony really kicks in, but for now, I’m content and the next couple of months are looking exceptional. Counting down until reunion Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the Consulate General…

All seriousness aside, please check out this wonderful YouTube video made by some PCV’s in Melanesia… so accurate, it hurts.


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