March Hiccups

If I could summarize the teaching schedule for the month of March, I’d describe it as sparse, senseless, and VERY erratic. One week all of the 10th and 11th graders had ‘vacation’ while the 12th graders took practice tests for the Ujian Nasional (mandatory national examinations). The following week, school was ‘back on schedule’ except not really because all of the 11th graders, whom I teach, went to Bali for a study tour, I didn’t ikut (join) for two reasons…the first, because it overlapped with the beginning of Camp iGLOW (!) and second, because all of my become little puke-monsters as passengers on moving vehicles. I was under the impression that the week after the students returned from Bali the schedule would be normal again. I came to school, changed into my hideous civil servant khaki uniform and approached my counterpart who informed me that she would be giving tests to our students on material learned two weeks prior. Giving the students an exam on materials they learned that long ago without warning or review made no sense, it’s just setting them up for failure. Not only that, but my counterpart had created the test without me, which means it was littered with errors. But there was nothing I could do. I taught a total of 5 days during the month of March. I still managed to keep busy and active, here’s some highlights:

  • World Map Project progress!
  • Clara, one of my great friends from high school (who was an exchange student from Germany) stopped by Indonesia to visit me briefly!
  • Aside from the Coconut Accident at Jay’s (click here!), we still managed to make the trek out to Sukamade, a turtle conservation center in the middle of NOWHERE.  I always complain about how crowded East Java is and how I can’t escape the gasoline fumes or “halo mEEEST-erRRRRR’s” but Sukamade takes the cake for being the most peaceful place I’ve visited in Java so far.  The trek out there was an adventure in itself–passing rubber plantations, cacao plantations, and deserted beaches, spending over 6 hours vigorously jerking around in an unpromising-looking Jeep like rag-dolls, sweating uncontrollably, crammed in the backseat with Jay and John eating duku, going painstakingly S/L/O/W (think less than 5 mph) on a rocky pothole-ridden ‘road’ that makes the road in my village seem smooth as… iiiiiicing. Did I mention we forged a handful of rivers (see photo below, this was one of those times)? This was hands down the most daring car ride I’ve ever experienced. I have no idea what would have happened if we had run out gasoline. There was zero cell phone coverage, I had run out of water early on and we were in the middle of a jungle where the LP mentions the possibility of the Java Tiger still existing. Spending time with the turtles was pretty magical too. (Click on John’s name (above) for a more detailed account of our adventure.)
  • Hannah, my [first] best friend since we were 5 years-old, stopped by for the weekend to visit me after seeing Clara off, and to help out with the camp. I hadn’t seen Hannah in over a year and a half, since she left for Laos. It’s amazing to see a friendship like ours persist and to visit one another during each crucial chapter in our lives. She’s currently teaching at Vientiane College in Laos, where I’ll be visiting next weekend! During the short time that we did have together aside from the camp, Hannah developed a love affair with all things es and we explored at night Mojokerto (a first for me) … where we accidentally discovered a place that we’ve dubbed the ‘banana cave’. She brought back some pre-fried kerupuk as oleh-oleh (souvenirs) to Laos… gosh, it pains me to imagine, a life without kerupuk?!??!?!?!!?!
  • The first ever Camp iGLOW was a success (will save this for another post) with over 60 participants! Maggie, Lauren, Erika, and Natasha… we did it!

I am approaching my one year mark in Indonesia…aduh! I’m not going to lie, when I requested the Asia region during my initial Peace Corps interview, I was secretly hoping I would be placed anywhere but Indonesia, even though I essentially knew nothing about the country and its culture, even desolate Mongolia seemed more appealing than living in a society heavily influenced by religion. Obviously, living here for about a year has changed my perception greatly. There’s some days where I curse Indonesia for being so damn hot, but then I take a couple bucket baths and everything’s better again. Or I go on adventures like the one’s mentioned above where I am reminded how unique these experiences are, how things I do here would never ever happen in the States, or when in the span of three days, meeting a handful of highly motivated girls renews my sense of hope for the youth of Indonesia.

It’s tough here sometimes but all of that aside, I am a really lucky girl.

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