3 Jun

This will be my last post on this blog. I decided the next chapter in my life needed a new name and a new face. This blog has chronicled a defining period in my life, and I’ve really enjoyed writing in it. I’ll be leaving it up so it can be a resource for people going to Limboto, Gorontalo, Lombok, or anywhere in Indonesia. My new blog can be found here – it’s called “roots into branches”, which, while super cheesy, makes a lot of sense for me right now.

You can subscribe to my new blog at the new website. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope you’ll continue to do so at my new blog!

Much love,



The January/February Update

9 Mar

The above picture is of the Shansi fellows with our TESL certificates on the last day of class and is provided courtesy of Veronica Colegrove.

Wow, I have really let this blog go! No longer – here is an update of my homecoming and where I see my blog, myself and my writing, going.

Minus the lack of snow, I had a great Christmas with my family. I had so many presents for them from Indonesia and Israel, including Ahava skincare products for my sister, my mom and even my dad. I definitely spoiled my family this holiday season! I was then lucky enough to have a visit from the loveliest duo there is, Aisha and Jasmine, and got to mostly eat amazing food and ring in the New Year with my loves.

Unfortunately for me, and probably for those around me, I was undergoing some serious culture shock. First of all, I was SO COLD. I felt like I had the flu because every part of my body ached as part of some reaction to the temperature. While my friends were wearing your average winter jackets and sometimes gloves, I was still shivering INSIDE in my outdoor heavy-duty jacket and gloves and sometimes even a hat. I felt ridiculous. I wanted to go ice skating, but even on a day where it got up to 40F, I couldn’t bring myself to spend more than 10 minutes outside. I was also really missing Indonesia and Israel, and all the people that I know that are a part of those amazing countries. I felt like being around all the people I loved best was made very strange by the fact that I had been away for so long. Relating to people was really hard, and I felt like I was walking around with some sort of cloud around my head, making it possible only to partly communicate with people around me in a way that was mutually meaningful.

Still under this culture shock haze, I made my way to Oberlin. Initially, I was not super excited to go. I was pumped about the Shansi Fellowship, but I was apprehensive about spending my winter covered in snow with people who I pre-supposed would be younger than me in both age and maturity. Upon meeting my exceedingly talented and amazing co-fellows, all of those conjectures melted away to be replaced by a warm fuzzy blanket of love. I’m sorry that’s corny, but that’s how I feel. These incredibly mature students who see such value in spending time overseas and who also love studying languages and nerding out about other cultures were the cure for my own culture shock. It took me no time at all to compartmentalize my feelings for Indonesia and immerse myself in the opportunities that lay ahead. I was with these fellows almost 24/7 – I was also fortunate enough to have two 2009 grads living in the same house as me, which mainly amounted to late-night Mad Men watching and happy-hour frolicking. We all took a class together on TESL (Teaching English as a Second Language) and had 5 wonderful ESL students originally from China and Korea to teach and bounce ideas off of. We stayed up late lesson planning together and coming up with cool themes to frame our teaching around. We bonded over tons of homework and a love of Asian food. We ate an entire box of tofu that was leftover from a co-op (we’re talking 40 sizable slabs, of which we ate around 30). We hosted a potluck for the ESL students and other teachers at Shansi House, and had an amazing retreat weekend with some former Fellows. We were inundated with information about the many awful viruses, bacteria and parasites we assuredly would encounter. We all came out forever fused at the hip. I have my Shansi Fellows and the former Shansi Fellows) to thank for getting me over my culture shock, and putting the amazing future into perspective. I’ve already been back to Oberlin once to visit them, and plan on going two more times, including over Commencement Weekend! We all have to do a skit for this mini-ceremony in our honor, which I am pumped for. An article on the Shansi website and an article on the Oberlin OnCampus website highlight our awesome stories 🙂

I think I’ve done a really good job of embracing the fact that I am living with my parents at 25 and  have no real money of my own. I’ve been dog walking, last-minute baby sitting, standing in as a model for a wedding photography company (I got to be a fake bride for two days AND wear a really nice wedding dress), and later this month I’ll be burning CDs for attendees of a UMass Medical School conference relating to mindfulness in medicine. I’m also reading a lot about India (currently getting into “Makers of Modern India”, edited by Ramachandra Guha – I also have a huge stack of books on South East Asian feminism to get through), watching Bollywood movies, trying to learn Hindi (I tried to sign up for a class at the Boston Language Institute, but only one other person signed up so they had to cancel the class – I’m doing some studying with programs from the library, plus looking into tutoring though!), and running every day (I’m up to 25 minutes, and “WOW CHRISTINA THAT IS SO AMAZING!!!” is what I need to hear from you right now…) I’ve also been catching up with old friends I haven’t seen in years, going to lots of trivia nights, reading almost every article in the Economist, and getting into shows such as Downton Abbey, Parks and Recreation, and Big Love. I’ll also be trying to see family more, including my dad’s parents, who moved to Annapolis from their awesome house in Rhode Island this January. Another big project I’m working on is uploading all of my remaining Indonesia and Israel photos to the internet…it will take a while!

I also figured out a lot of what I’ll be doing in India, which is very exciting! I’ll be working for the Aware Women’s Action for Justice team (AWAJ) at Jagori Grameen (for an outline of the fellowship, see this post). Below is a rough outline:

  1. strengthening the Jagori team on issues related to female empowerment
  2. teaching rural youth English language skills
  3. organizing activities and workshops for adolescent girls on issues of self growth and confidence building
  4. developing creative counseling programming to strengthen the emotional and mental well-being of the AWAJ collective members
  5. documenting and preparing reports of various events organized by the AWAJ team
  6. designing and conducting short research projects related to women’s issues
  7. training young Jagori team members to utilize street theater as an educational tool for social change
  8. standardizing the body literacy school program (I’m still a little unclear about the exact meaning here, but I’m assuming it means strengthening literacy in the students who attend school?)
  9. participating in all activities of the organization

This was written in a letter to me crafted by Ahba and Anoop, two of my supervisors at Jagori Rural, and by the Associate Director of Shansi. I’m really happy with it, and am glad English teaching is only a part of what I’m doing, despite how much I like it.

I’m also attempting to put into words my experiences in Indonesia (inspired by a friend). We’ll see what comes of them – if nothing else, it will be therapeutic for me, and possibly entertaining for others.

For now, I’ll be writing intermittently about Shansi-related or travel-related stuff, getting ready to leave, etc., but the real fun on this blog won’t start again until mid-June, when I go to Wisconsin to study Hindi at the South Asian Summer Language Institute (SASLI). I think I’ll keep my blog at this website, but somehow change the name – we’ll see!

Until I have more news, sit tight!

Sampai Jumpa Indonesia, Shalom Israel!

18 Dec

Leaving Indonesia was almost (with one amazing exception) anti-climactic. I hugged a lot of people (mostly women) goodbye, shook a lot of hands, and promised I would return many more times than I said goodbye. Because this was my second time back, after only 3 months of being away, it felt natural to quietly slip out the back door and let everyone realize I was kind of gone later. Right now I still feel like I’m on vacation from Indonesia, and I’m not sure when that will change. It’s not an unpleasant feeling; it’s nice to feel completely content with where I am and where I am going.

Now for that amazing exception! I stopped in Jakarta (and Surabaya to get the rest of my things and say goodbye to Emily, TJ and Max over a delicious breakfast) because I thought a lot of my friends would be there as well (most of them had just finished a regional conference in Makassar and were on their way to Southeast Asia and beyond for winter break via Jakarta). We had planned to meet there for one last night, but in the last few days I hadn’t heard from anyone except Marjolein (who I stayed with) and Heather (a former ETA who is teaching in Surabaya). I assumed everyone was busy or hadn’t been able to make it (Heather also seemed confused as to why no one was responding to her SMSs), and was perfectly happy to have a last great Indonesian meal and go to a bar with Heather to complete my time in Indonesia. When Heather said we had to try this amazing resturant in Kemang, I thought nothing of it. When I walked in and saw my three friends Melina, Rachel and Jess sitting at a table, my first thought was “Oh wow, this is awkward, we just walked in on them having this private dinner, this is why they’ve been avoiding me all day, etc.” It took me 10 minutes of sitting and talking to them (keep in mind, I am running on ~3 hours of sleep) that they planned this surprise dinner for me to celebrate me leaving Indonesia and for getting the Shansi fellowship! Another current ETA, Chris (from the Malukku Islands) and an ELF, Michael, came as well. We ate amazing Italian food, laughed and loved, and I thought that was the end of the surprises. We then got in cabs to go somewhere they wouldn’t tell me about (I figured it out on the way because I recognized the streets after a while). We ended up at our friend Mia’s house, where we met Elena (another former ETA) and had carrot cake. I was so amazed that my friend planned this wonderful night for all of us and realized that I was sad to leave the community that we had all made together so far away from home (I even made a speech to that effect). It gave me so much confidence that I could again create that kind of community in India next year, at home in Boston, and wherever else I might go.

Israel has been relaxing, freezing at night, and full of warm people I love. I’m here mostly visiting the Reshef family, who my family met when they lived in the US and went to the same school as me and my sister for two years. I’ve been to Israel once before (with my Mom and Casey in 1999) but we never made it to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. It’s been amazing being here, very different than I remember and expected, and most of all, it’s been wonderful seeing my friends and Israeli family. This is what I’ve done so far (I have one more full day here, so there’s not a lot left to do):

– asking questions about EVERYTHING about Israel, Palestine, Arab/Israeli relations, how Christians/Jews/Muslims/everyone else gets along, etc.
– driven through the Golan Heights and seen some Druid ruins (as well as driven by a coffee shop called Kofi Annan, which means “cloud coffee” in Hebrew, and happens to be near a UN base as well – clever!)
– learn some new Hebrew words like “mud” (bots), “fruit” (perot), and “what’s up” (manishma)
– seen Jordan, Syria and Lebanon across the border fences (which happen to be electric fences, ouch)
– listened to a news report in English (very rare in Israel) about Indonesia on a Jordanian radio channel while driving to the Dead Sea
– felt the water of the Dead Sea (which is so salty it feels oily, and you can’t put your head under water because the salt will find a way to get into your eyes – also you can practically sit up straight in the water because it makes you super buoyant). The shore is mostly salt, which has accumulated over time, and the water is an amazing shade of green blue. It is a very strange and beautiful place. The water is rapidly disappearing though – around 40 years ago it was about 25 meters higher than it is today. This is happening for 2 reasons: 1) factories on the sea shore are using water from the sea to process the extraction of Dead Sea minerals; and 2) rainfall is not keeping up with the water that is evaporating/being used by the factories. Most efforts to get more water into the Sea (either by piping it from the Mediterranean or the Sea of Galilee) would disrupt the Sea’s ecosystem, and other conservation efforts would cost billions of dollars. We’ll see what happens, but it’s not looking so good for the Dead Sea. Get here while you can! It’s also the lowest point on dry land at 418m/1,371ft below sea level.
– brought Gorontalo kerawang cookies and fabric to give as presents to my family here – Gorontalo meets Alon HaGalil (which means “the Galilee Oak Tree” by the way)
– went to Nazareth to see the Church of the Annunciation where Mary supposedly recieved the news that she would give birth to Jesus. My favorite part was the art of Mary and (sometimes) Jesus that came from countries all over the world and ranged from quite traditional to very modern.
– went to Haifa to see the exquisite terraces of the Baha’i Gardens and learned about the religion a little
– went to Akko (known as Acre in English) just north of Haifa to see the old city built by the Romans and go to the fabulous market there
– ate AMAZING food (most of it involving tahini, or trina in Hebrew, which is in lots of things sweet and savory). Highlights have included chalva (tahini mixed with sugar and sometimes nuts or coffee or other tasty things), hummus (of course), “Turkey” salad (tomatoes and hot peppers and other delicious things mixed up together), Michal’s famous cooking of soups, rice dishes, quinoa, etc. The most amazing dairy on earth is also found here – I will never think of cottage cheese the same way now that I’ve had it here!
– went to see Masada, a group of ruins of ancient palaces and forts on top of a pleateau near the Dead Sea. Allegedly, when the Romans tried to retake the city from the rebels living there, they all killed themselves rather than be taken hostage.
– hung around Tel Aviv University, which is really beautiful!
– went to Jerusalem to see the Western Wall, the City of David and just walk around the old city. I couldn’t go into some places, like the mosque, Al-Aqsa (Jews apparently aren’t allowed and it wouldn’t have been safe for me to go by myself). We went to see the Dead Sea Scrolls (pieces of the text that became the Bible and were preserved for centuries in caves near the Dead Sea) at the Jerusalem Museum as well.
– got to hang out with some amazing people. Hemyah and Meitar are now 13 and 9, and I last saw them when they were 10 and 6 respectively. Both were really shy and didn’t want to talk to me. Now Hemyah plays with my hair and we talk as best we can about American music, and Meitar wishes me good night and good morning in English every day. The whole family has been amazing to me and I can’t wait to come back and visit again!

I can’t believe that in less than 48 hours I will be home. Once again, I am mostly excited and somewhat nervous. I’ll miss all the places and people I love, always, but it’ll be nice to take off my coat and stay for a few months.

Re-envisioning To-Do Lists

1 Dec

This post is a conglomeration of things I’ve observed these last few days:

1. As some of you know, I keep a scary-long to-do list on the right side of my computer screen. Mostly, this list is comforting to me – it helps me get stuff done and keeps me on track, but sometimes it gets overwhelming. Today, I was updating things and adding things to do before I leave, and right in between “later: peace corps and master’s programs in public health (3-4 years), double/triple MPP/MPH/MLIA?” and the “Money” section of my list, I found this, (don’t forget to comeback to indonesia ❤ yheyen), from my adik (literally “younger”, but here meaning “little sister”), Yheyen. She had used my computer before to check something online. It made me laugh, and tear up, all at the same time. And it makes me realize I have to come back! I’ll never think of my to-do list the same way.

2. Here’s what I’ve already done in Gorontalo:

–   saw Marjorie teach at MANIC and got to meet the new 10th graders
–   hung out with Tyara, one of my awesome former students
–   went karaoke-ing with my MANIC ladies (Trisna, Marjorie and Cica, this time joined by Ibu Nita, a visiting English teacher from Malang)
–   went to dinner with Trisna, Ibu Dewi, Marjorie and Ibu Nita by the sea
–   played cards with my Indonesian brother, Sultan, and my Indonesian sisters, Yheyen and Rya
–   discussed (in very simple words) the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with Pak Herson, by Indonesian father (who I am getting to know little by little – he’s a really serious guy)
–   gone go-carting with Yheyen and Sultan, to realize that after 10 minutes, it’s a little boring (at least on the tiny track in Gorontalo)
–   visited Yunus at his training camp and met some of his lecturers and friends who will go with him to Nusa Tenggara Timur
–   went to lunch with Marjorie, Lisa and Mickie, the latter of which is an English Language Fellow (ELF) working as a lecturer at Universitas Negeri Gorontalo (Gorontalo State University) in the city
–   making an apple crisp (of sorts) with Marjorie and eating it with Lisa and Mickie in honor of Thanksgiving
–   drank air zam-zam with Ibu Sarkiah. Air zam-zam is holy (dzam-dzam: Arabic) water (air: Indonesian/probably Arabic too) from the large mosque in Mecca, and it is supposed to make you healthy and live a long life. My Ibu brought it from Mecca when she came back from hajji. (NOTE: I thought my Ibu said “air jam-jam” (jam means hour/o’clock/clock), which made her laugh in her adorable way.
–   Visited the school of my Indonesian mother, Ibu Sarkiah, who teaches English there. Her students were super cute and gave me 9 drinks (3 cokes, 3 chocolate milks, and 3 vitamin c drinks), all of which they expected me to drink then and there.

3. These are things I have left to do:

–   visit my school (MAN Limboto) – tomorrow morning, and probably again with Yunus on Saturday
–  hang out with Yunus and help him get ready to leave for a year
–   learn how to make milu siram, or corn soup, a traditional food from Gorontalo (this may or may not happen, we will see!)
– Take my Indonesian family out to dinner (tonight!)
– Shop in Gorontalo for gifts

More things will pop up, I’m sure! My schedule changes by the hour here 🙂


This is the blessing we said before (and supposedly you’re supposed to do it after too) drinking air zam zam (in Arabic) (I got this from Rya and Ibu Sarkiah):
Bismillahirrahmanirrahim (Rya claims this is one word)
Allahumma innii As’aluka Ilman
nafian warizqan waasian
wasyifaa’an minkulli daa’in
wasaqamin yaa arhamarrahimiin

In Indonesian (just for curiosity’s sake, the blessing is spoken in Arabic):
Dengan menyebut nama Allah yang maha pengasih lagi maha penyayang
Ya Allah aku mohon padamu ilmu
pengetahuan yang bermanfaat, releki
yang luas dan sembuh dari segala
sakit dan penyakit dengan rahmatmu.
Ya Allah wahai tuhan yang maha
pengasih dari segala yang berhati kasih.

In English (this, unlike the others, is a combination of Google-translation from Indonesian and my limited knowledge of Indonesian):

In the name of Allah the merciful, the Most Merciful,
O God, I beg of you knowledge that is useful,
and thorough recovery from all
Illness and disease, with blessings.
O Allah, O God the Almighty
Loving-hearted of all love (this last line doesn’t really make sense but I left it that way because I like it).

5. Things I learned on the day I was sick (yesterday):

a. Don’t put your hair up when it’s wet after you wash it – it will break.
b. Don’t shower at night, you will get sick (this definitely has some truth to it, but I am hot here ALL THE TIME and I shower at night so I can sleep…)
c. If you keep hiccup-ing for long enough, you will die.
d. If someone rubs icy-hot on your back with a coin really hard, you will feel better (this is true, but I doubt the coin has anything to do with it (also, it was a 1 cent Dutch guilder from 1938 – crazy).

5. Since Ibu Sarkiah and Pak Herson have gone on hajj, they have different titles that they are addressed by now; they are now Ibu Hajjah Sarkiah and Bapak Hajji Herson (abbreviated in writing as Ibu Hj. and Pak H.).

6. SKYPE CONVERSATION: A few days ago, I had a conversation with my family at my grandparents’ house in Rhode Island. My mom, Casey and Casey’s boyfriend Ryan got to talk with Yheyen and Rya, but Yheyen and Rya were off-screen because they weren’t wearing jilbabs and felt too shy to appear in front of my family that way. Instead, they talked from off-camera and occasionally waved at my family with their hands only. They kept saying very frank things about my family (your sister’s boyfriend looks bored, your sister looks like your mom because their hair is short, your mom looks young, your dad is handsome) which was hilarious to all involved. I wish I could have conversations like this more often.

Caption for the featured photo: My Indonesian family – Yheyen (2nd from left), Sultan (the boy just to the right of me), Ibu Hj. Sarkiah, Rya, and Pak H. Herson.

Bali, Jakarta and Some News!

27 Nov

Time has been moving so quickly and I feel like I’ve been in so many places since my last post, so here’s my attempt at catching up (no photos this time either, internet is too slow):

PEDULI ANAK NEWS: Samsul is getting glasses! He’s about 9 (though this varies according to which report/who you ask) and has trouble counting and reading, but LOVES to sing. Hopefully the glasses, which are coming in about a week, will help him in class! I miss this place so much and am definitely coming back (I also still need to write my volunteer testimonial, oops!)

BALI: I saw a lot of fantastic temples and places: Tanah Lot, a temple by the water; Bedugul, a temple (featured on the Rp 50,000 bill) in the mountains on a beautiful lake; Ubud (mainly just the Monkey Forest because we didn’t have much time); Padang-Padang Beach (as featured in “Eat Pray Love” when Julia Roberts almost goes to bed with the Australian dude, I believe). There was a TON of traffic because the ASEAN conference was going on, which Obama attended (I also passed very close to Air Force One (or Two or Seven, no idea) when I took off for Jakarta!) I also got to hang out with my friends Emily and Max and met these British travelers (Sophie and Dan) who are coming to Boston after New Years! Hopefully I’ll get to show them around.

JAKARTA: I hung out my friend from Holland that I met at Peduli Anak and her boyfriend last week, and had a great time. Last weekend we went to hang out with the Baduy tribe (what I know of them is explained below) for two nights, and watched the semi-finals of the Junior football teams of Thailand and Indonesia play each other (Indonesia won, yay!) for the SEA Games (not at the Baduy tribe site, they don’t have TVs!) We ran around around eating amazing Western food and buying oleh-oleh (gifts you buy when you travel to remind the people at home you haven’t forgotten them) for Gorontalo people and checking out her neighborhood (and catching up on much-needed sleep). For my last night in town, we went to see Zee Avi (a Malaysian artist) concert.

SURABAYA: I ate an amazing Thanksgiving lunch with Emily, Colin (her family friend who was visiting), and some of her friends from Surabaya, then went to the Consulate General’s house for MORE food. I met some more of the new ETAs this year who are all really amazing and nice. I also got to see Rachel and Heather, who I am going to miss so much when I leave here. That night really made me realize how important the web of support and friendship that I have here has been to me – I’ll be really sad to leave that behind.

Which brings me to…MY NEWS: After lots of work and help and love and support and lack of sleep and 2 essays, 1 resume, 4 recommendations and an interview and about 10 late night phone conversations, I am officially going to be working at Jagori Grameen as a Shansi Fellow from August 2012-June 2014! I’ve been working on this endeavor since I got back from Indonesia, and I’m so happy and excited to be embarking on yet another amazing journey (after spending some much-needed quality time at home). As of now, it’s a little up in the air as to what exactly I’ll be doing at JG, but in the next few months I’ll be talking with JG and the Shansi staff to create a great project. It looks like my skills in health education could be useful in being a health counselor that works with doctors and patients to address the health needs of the community around JG, which sounds fantastic to me. I also have some other ideas up my sleeve. This means I will be in Oberlin for Winter Term for orientation (January 4th-January 29th or so) then heading to probably University of Wisconsin-Madison to take some Hindi classes in June, then heading to India from August 2012-June 2014. This also (hopefully) means I’ll be able to come back to Indonesia at least once during my time as a Shansi Fellow, as they give annual In-Asia Travel Grants to each Fellow once a year (this is my current understanding). So excited! Please come visit (I’m telling you all early so you’ll have time to plan/save money :))

BADUY INFO: The Baduy (pronounced “bah-doo-ee) number less than 10,000, and are the only indigenous tribe left on the island of Java that still maintain their lifestyle despite modernity closing in all around them. There is a division of the Baduy into two groups: the inner and outer Baduy. The inner Baduy have maintained their tribal lifestyle – they walk barefoot, wear very plain clothing (usually black and white, with the men wearing white cloth tied around their head), only travel by walking (including to Jakarta), and live off the land (for example, they don’t use soap – they make their own cleaning solution out of ground up leaves). Non-Indonesians are not allowed to enter the territory of the inner Baduy. The outer Baduy are larger in number and wear more colorful clothing, usually blue (especially the women). They often walk barefoot, but sometimes wear sandals or shoes. They do not own motorized vehicles, but they take public transportation over long distances. All of the Baduy have their own tribal religion, which is based on a belief in the power of nature and ancestors. There is one Muslim village in the outer Baduy, which the elders of the community permitted for the first and last time. The village we went to was so organized and clean – it made me think we’ve complicated our lives to the point where we’ve forgotten we don’t need as much as we have.

GORONTALO: I have about six days left here, and I have so much to do! Yesterday I went to MAN Insan Cendekia to see Trisna, Cica and Marjorie. I visited Yunus at his training center (he’s having orientation to go teach in Nusa Tenggara Timur in south-east Indonesia, so proud of him!) and then spent the night at Cendekia. I really want to go to the beach one last time, go to my school, hang out with students, and generally say goodbye to as many people as I can, until (hopefully) two years from now. I’ll miss my second home so much, but I know I’ll be back.

Wrapping Up at Peduli Anak

11 Nov

I have a day left to get everything done before I leave this wonderful place, and I don’t know how I’m going to do it! For lack of something more poetic, here’s my to-do list for tomorrow (again, not pictures because the modem just can’t take it):

1. PACK! (This will take some time – I have a whole bag of souvenirs I bought in Senggigi…)
2. Learning all the words to “Hero” by Mariah Carey for the post-wedding party of Ibu Tania, the 6th grade teacher at YPA
3. Record myself singing children’s song so the teachers at YPA can use them in the classroom
4. Giving copies of my lesson plans/songs/other teaching materials to teachers
5. Recording and editing more videos of children saying their name, their age and what they want to be (I’ve gotten mostly “doctor”, “pilot”, “teacher” and “football player”, as well as one “spa manager”).
6. Running 2 English clubs, where we’ll learn the Banana Song and make snowflakes (kids with scissors, what are you thinking Christina??)
7. Finishing my rough draft of a grant proposal to get a new shelter for the girls at YPA
8. Writing my last volunteer report!

Hopefully I’ll also get to go to Senggigi to buy some last minute items and for a last dinner with Sabrina and Laurens, and I might even go to the eye doctor with Sabrina and Samsul, a boy who has been through a lot but who might be finally getting some glasses!

As some of you know, I came here with some donation money. For the children of YPA, the funds purchased:

– 16 English-Indonesian/Indonesian-English dictionaries for SMP students
– a trip to the beach with snacks and transportation for 3 counselors and 30 kids
– about a dozen library books in Indonesian for beginners
– about 80 pairs of sandals for the kids (they lose them a lot, they’re little!)
– about 70 “rewards” (think moisturizer/perfume for the girls, and hair gel/cologne for the guys) for when the kids do good things to themselves and others
– 2 small drawing tables for the kids who don’t go to school yet (the 3 Musketeers, Dian, Kiki and Nurul)
– cooking utensils, namely a glass blender, a wok, 3 large pots and one huge cooking pot
– bed sheet materials for 10 sheets, and thread and sewing machine needles for 100+ bed sheets
– 5 emergency lights for when the power goes off (which is about every other night for at least 20 minutes)
– payment for the labor hours for making around 100 bed sheets
– (possibly) glasses for Samsul!

As you can see, a little in the US can do a long way here in Indonesia!

I’ve enjoyed my time here so much, and it will be hard for me to leave. Despite all the work I have to get done, I really want to spend my time tomorrow with all the people here, especially the kids! Although it’s not perfect and I’d like to think of a better way to do it, I’m trying to make my work sustainable by passing on lesson plans I did in class to teachers, recording songs I sang in class, and making photocopies of pertinent lesson plans from my books I brought. I’ve also been working with the teachers on pronouncing the text in their textbooks so that they’ll be more confident in speaking English in the classroom and will do it more often. I had such a great time the other day with the female teachers (Ibu Ratna (class 1), Ibu Uci (4), Ibu Sari (5) and Ibu Tania (6)) in teachers’ class- they’re such gossipers and I wish I could just hang with them all the time! Hopefully my lesson plans, pronunciation lessons and my English volunteer guide will help the program flourish and another native speaker will want to come volunteer at YPA!

Sunday, on the way to the airport, I’m going to the wedding after-party for the 6th grade teacher, Ibu Tania – I moved my travel plans a day later just for her! Later that day I’ll spend the night in Surabaya to drop off my two suitcases I won’t need for 3 weeks. Monday I’m off to Bali, on an adventure I have yet to plan! I forgot that Obama is coming to Bali on Thursday, so it’s possible I could leave before then, or I could be stuck there until he leaves! I’ll keep you all posted.

I’m going to leave you with some idioms that Indonesians sometimes use:

Nasi sudah menjadi bubur (literally: The rice has already become porridge): This means you can’t take back what you said or did, whatever that was!

Siapa menabur angin akan menuai badai (One who spreads the wind will get a storm): Someone who says something bad has it coming to them…

Mencari jarum di tumpukan jerami: Looking for a needle in a haystack (also, mendirikan benang basah (to make a wet thread stand up straight) – to be impossible!

Guru kencing berdiri, murid kencing berlari (If a teacher pees standing, his students will pee while running): I don’t quite get why the kids are running, but this means “to set a bad example”.

Air beriak tanda tak dalam (water that is not calm is shallow): to signify a shallow person (we have a similar one, “still waters run deep”, in English).

Karena nila setitik rusak susu sebelanga (one drop of poison ruins the whole bucket of milk): small mistakes ruin everything.

My personal favorite:
Gaja dipelupuk mata tidak kelihatan, kuman diseberang lautan terlihat (literally: You can’t see an elephant in front of you, but you can see a bacteria across the ocean): you can’t see the obvious.

I’ll write next from Bali!

New Beginnings Near the End

7 Nov

Sadly, I couldn’t put pictures on this blog post – we’re using a modem with limited data usage minutes (or something to that effect) because the internet provider in Indonesia, Telkomsel, is refusing to turn our internet back on, claiming we didn’t pay for last January and February. We definitely did, and we have the goods to prove it, but this is Indonesia, so I am thankful for the modem! This just means no pictures on my blog or Facebook, no Youtube and no video calling on Skype until further notice.

We have a new addition to the Peduli Anak family, and his name is Laurens (pronounced “lao-rents”, exactly like it sounds)! He’s from Holland, like Marjolein (pronounced “mar-(yuh)-line”, with the middle syllable like a schwa) and he’s really great! This is his first time to Indonesia, and he’ll be doing an internship here for six months. He has a background in psychology and is going to be observing and working with the children to look at some of the behavioral issues they may have. To welcome Laurens, we went to a restaurant called The Square in Senggigi, and Sunday we made Dutch pancakes at Jess’s house together. We also got a drink called es kelapa muda, which I haven’t tried yet in the (almost) year I have been living here! It’s coconut meat, coconut water, condensed milk, gula merah (red or palm sugar), and lots of limes and lime juice with ice all mixed together – so delicious!

Unfortunately, I and Marjolein are both leaving at the end of this week – M on Thursday, and I on Saturday. It’s sort of sad to see a new face come to YPA and then have to leave so soon! I’m definitely excited for this week though – it’ll be great to have time to say goodbye to the kids and to everyone else I’ve met here that have made me promise to return.

Sunday, yesterday, was an Islamic holiday, Idul Adha (Eid al-Adha in Arabic), which is a celebration of sacrifice and giving to the poor. It originates from the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son, Ismail (Ishmael), to God (wherein God, impressed with Ibrahim’s willingness to carry out God’s will, told him to replace his son with a ram to sacrifice instead). Each year, villages band together to purchase a goat (cost: ~ 1 million rupiah, or roughly $113) or a cow (cost: ~ 7.5 million rupiah, or roughly $850 – both of these animals are VERY expensive for Indonesians). These animals are killed in a manner that is halal, or religiously acceptable according to the Qur’an, and then distributed accordingly, usually at the local mosque. The family who owns/buys/slaughters (depending) the animal retains 1/3; another third is given to friends, relatives, and neighbors; and the last third is given to the poor. Pak Agus, one of the people who helped Chaim found YPA, said this holiday is all about giving back to the poor. Because all of the children at YPA are considered to be impoverished, YPA kept the goat to have for lunch and dinner for the entire foundation.

This year, YPA sacrificed a goat and kept it relatively simple (things were a little different last year: my friend, Ibu Nurmiaty, had 4 cows sacrificed at her house, and MAN Insan Cendekia had 11 cows sacrificed at their school!). I found out today that Pak Dan, a social worker for YPA, went to Central Lombok for Idul Adha, and there they sacrificed 300 cows for the surrounding villages! If 25 people get the meat of 1 cow (what he told me) then those cows fed around 7,500 people.

This year, they hung the goat on a tree to make cutting the meat off the carcass easier, which definitely looked creepy. For some reason, the sight of blood and seeing an animal being killed, especially in the calm and careful, non-violent way the people in Indonesia do it, does not bother me. The kids also help a lot by sorting stew meat from sate meat, and taking apart and cleaning the innards of the goat (and playing with them dangerously close to you, too!) This might sound disgusting to some of you, but I think seeing where your meat comes from makes it more delicious. This year I also helped a little by putting the goat meat on sticks to make sate (basically pieces of cooked meat (can be chicken, beef, etc.) on a stick, this time with sweet sauce and spicy peanut sauce). With some goat stew and rice, it was the most delicious meal I’ve eaten at YPA so far!

In the coming weeks, I’m planning to travel to Bali to see my friends Max and Emily, to Tana Toraja to see some animist funerals and see Rachel, to Jakarta to see Marjolein and see Zie Avi perform, and of course go to Gorontalo to say goodbye to home again 🙂 Than on to Israel for 2 weeks, then HOME! I’ve been missing the snow recently (partly because I’ve been watching movies like Home Alone and Groundhog Day, both of which have snow in them, and also because in the afternoons it almost gets cold because of all the rain), and unlike last year, I am really REALLY looking forward to coming home for a long while!

As a PS (and a substitute for no pictures), I’d like to link you to two articles that are really pertinent to my life right now: Hillary Clinton’s article in Foreign Policy Magazine about America’s future collaboration with Asian countries (particularly Indonesia), and an article in the Jakarta Post about the pros and cons of having native speakers in Indonesian schools. Here is also a link to pictures of Eid al-Adha celebrations worldwide – look for a photo of Indonesians celebrating too!

Next up: my last week at Peduli Anak, and some things everyone should know about Indonesia.

A Busy Few Weeks at Peduli Anak

31 Oct

So many things have been happening at Peduli Anak since I got back! My first week back was so busy – every day I did something with the kids! In addition to teaching and the extracurricular stuff I planned for, the weekend had two important events that deserve their own post. I’m also going to make a very concerted effort to post once a week, so we’ll see how it goes!

Last Saturday, a group of dentists took over the auditorium and provided free dental checkups to all the kids at YPA, as well as anyone from the local village and anyone involved in the social services program that is connected to YPA (about 90 families are involved). Many teeth were pulled and tears were shed, but everyone was done in a few hours! I comforted many kids, younger and older, most of whom were just crying because they were scared or uncomfortable. Most of the problems the kids encountered were that they had gingivitis from not brushing enough, so their gums would bleed a little which scared them. The good news is gingivitis is totally preventable at their age! The dentists were very kind, amazingly kept everything sanitary, and were extremely thorough – they did everything from cleaning to teeth pulling 🙂 The group was from the Netherlands – one of the dentists lives in Senggigi (a touristy city north of Mataram, the capital) and organizes the whole group to come to YPA and other villages/areas once a year. This is their tenth year coming to YPA! The founder of YPA, Chaim (also from the Netherlands) also got a free check-up 🙂

On Sunday, part of my donated funds paid for 40 kids and myself, Marjolein and Pak Muklis (one of the YPA counselors) to go to the beach for the day (the total cost was all of $24…not bad!) Little did I know how hard it would be to keep everyone both happy and safe! Luckily around 20 of the kids could swim by themselves and some others were not so into going into the water, but most of the time I had five kids begging me to swim with them and clinging to me. I joked with them that “pulau Christina ramai” which means “Christina Island is crowded”. I felt like an island with so many kids attached to me! I would usually have two on the back, one under each arm, and one in the front with their arms around my neck. Nana, a 4th grader, got mad at me because I wasn’t paying enough attention to her, but then later she got tired of being mad and came back and cuddled with me. Hanging out with all of them made me realize how much I myself want kids someday! Seeing how happy they are almost every day, it’s hard to imagine what they felt like before they came to live at YPA.

This week progressed as normal. I taught my kids a little about Halloween – we talked about ghosts, witches, zombies and vampires, I learned about some Indonesian ghosts, and after they asked the question “Trick or treat! May I have some candy?” I gave them a piece of candy! On Monday, my fellowship application for the Shansi is due, which will be awesome to have out of the way 🙂

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This weekend has also been fun – Friday night, Martina, Marjolein and I went to a great coffee shop and ate dinner and had a work party/talking about love and life. Saturday in the morning, Marjolein and I decided to go to Gili Air, which is a small island in a trio of islands (the others being Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan, which is the biggest/most famous). We dived together once and say some amazing fish, and then today, Sunday, I dived and saw 4 sharks, 2 sting rays, and 2 turtles! I forgot how much I loved diving, and how much I want to buy an underwater case for my camera and a dive computer! We came back from Gili Air this afternoon (it takes around 3 hours round trip to get there if you time it right). Tomorrow night we’re hoping to get together with Jen and/or Jess, the two ETAs teaching in Mataram, to watch Hocus Pocus in honor of Halloween! Now I’m just preparing for the week (which will include editing the current English curriculum, making a guide for future English teaching volunteers, researching potential grants for YPA, and making a video of the kids sharing their dreams) and putting the finishing touches on the Shansi application – wish me luck!

More East Java Adventures + A Quick Jaunt to Gorontalo

21 Oct

On October 7th, I flew to Surabaya from Lombok. From the time I got to Lombok (so 3 weeks ago) until I left for vacation, they has already opened a new airport, which now supposedly has international flights. It’s so much dirtier than the last one, and after 6pm there isn’t anywhere to buy food. It’s also almost an hour from Peduli Anak, whereas the other one was a maximum of 20 minutes away! My flight was delayed 3 hours (which I’m just chalking up to new airport malfunctions), so I met Rachel (current and former ETA, she renewed this year), Heather (former ETA now teaching at a tri-lingual school in Surabaya), Emily (works as a Foreign Service Officer for the Consulate General in Surabaya), TJ (Emily’s housemate, works at the Merlion Singapore International School in Surabaya), Rem (a current ETA in Surabaya) and Rizky (Emily’s boyfriend, former rockstar turned businessman) at Emily’s apartment rather late. We stayed up until 3am eating terang bulan (like a pancake filled with chocolate, peanuts, sometimes coconut and sometimes cheese) and catching up – I hadn’t seen Emily, Heather and Rachel in months!

The next day, Rachel and I woke up, thinking we had made a reservation for a travel car to take us to Malang, a city 3 hours south of Surabaya, at 9:30. When it was clear that the person we told to make the reservation did not make it, we hurried to the train station to see if we could catch the next train. There was one at 11:00, but it was economy, and therefore we were not guaranteed a seat and would be surrounded by cigarette smoke the whole time. We opted to stay in the taxi that had taken us to the train station and pick up McDonalds take out on the way. While the ride was comfortable and I was able to sleep, it was about two times more expensive than we thought it would be. However, we got to Malang in time to catch the car that was taking us to climb Gunung Bromo, a still-active volcano that actually erupted in March the day after a few of our friends had climbed it, 3 hours south of Malang. We met up with Iris, an ELF teaching at Brawijaya University in Malang, who had arranged the whole Bromo trip, and Herbert, another ETA from this year from Genteng (south of Malang). Together with Gozi, a friend of Iris’, and his four friends, we began the car ride there. We stopped to buy instant noodles, eggs and bread for the night. At first we were going to go through what Gozi and his friends called the “Sea of Sand” at night as a short-cut – when they told us that yes, there was a slight chance we would get stuck in the sand and have to wait until morning for help, we decided to go the long way. As we wound our way up the mountain, it started to get cold – luckily I had brought enough layers for myself and others. We ended up camping on the side of the mountain huddled in our tents under one blanket – we barely slept, but the sight the next morning was completely worth the lack of sleep.

We woke up at around 4:45 (thanks to Herbert!) to try to catch the sunrise. Walking over the hill and seeing the sun hit the sides of the mountain was like walking onto a movie set – it was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, and the sunrise looked surreal. We sat there a while, huddled in our sheets and blankets, and watched the world embrace a new day. Now we could see the Sea of Sand, and we were really glad we didn’t go through it at night – it would take an hour in the day time and cars take no particular road through the sand, they just go in the general direction of the hills. After some breakfast, we hiked down to the sand and trekked across it to a Hindu temple that was closed. Though the sun was up, it wasn’t hot at all – there was a strong wind that blew the sand everywhere and we were relatively comfortable in long pants and a long shirt. To get to the caldera of the volcano, we climbed up a mountain of ash and then around 290 steps to the crater. People were selling medical masks to block the ash from getting in your lungs and nose – I totally should have listened to them and bought one! By the time we came down from the crater, I was covered in ash, more so than any of my friends for some reason. They cleaned off half my face, called me a coal miner and took pictures of me J We then rode back through a town in the mountains that rests in between two cliff-sides and disappears into the mist when you go through it. That night, after a vigorous shower, I met up with Emily and Rizky, who had come to Malang for business, and met Max, Emily’s friend and colleague who helps her organize her educational outreach work when she comes to Malang. We met in the Tugu Hotel, which has a museum of Javanese art in it and it one of the most carefully decorated hotels I’ve seen. After getting my tarot cards read, I got a ride with Max to Iris’ where I slept for about 11 hours after barely sleeping for two nights.

The next day, Monday, we woke up late and went to a coffee shop called the Java Dancer for lunch and some of the best coffee I’ve had in Indonesia. We hitched a ride with Emily and Rizky in a car back to Malang, and half way there I realized I had forgotten my wallet and several other less important things at Iris’ house! We called Iris, but she was sick from dehydration and wasn’t getting out of bed. Then I called Max who I had met the night before and asked if he could send my things via a travel car. He opted to drive to Surabaya himself on his motor-bike to see friends he hadn’t seen there for a while. On Tuesday, After I got my ticket to Gorontalo, Max and I went to the mall for some lunch, a movie (Green Lantern! I know I’m late in seeing it) and some Sour Sally frozen yoghurt. We hung out and then went with TJ to get some pasta, pizza and ice-cream, and then watched Thor. He’s a really nice guy and wants to go traveling in Bali with me and my friend Rachel, so hopefully we’ll make that happen!

I finally got to Gorontalo (via Makassar, where I stayed with Emily in her hotel Thursday night) on Friday, and for the first time, there was no one who could pick me up there. Ibu Sarkiah and her husband were on haji, Yunus was in Pohuwato, and Ria (Ibu Sarkiah’s daughter) has given her motorbike to her uncle to borrow. So I took a “taxi” for the first time ever in Gorontalo, which made me feel somehow grown up and independent, even though only tourists take taxis there. It costs Rp. 100,000, which is really expensive for anything in Gorontalo, but it was over an hour to get to Ibu Sarkiah’s house. On Friday I just hung out at the house, got some work done, played games with my sisters, and watched five six-year-olds dance to the Indonesian song “Playboy” for me, which was super cute and also disturbing. Yheyen and Ria’s aunt, Mei, was there and helped cook and keep everyone safe – she’s really nice and had a sad story to tell. She has been divorced from her husband for three years, and is “already” 32, and she worries that she won’t get married again, but she’s still in shock from the divorce and doesn’t want to try to find another guy just yet. She also asked me a lot what I ate in America to get so fat, which would be so offensive elsewhere, but I just shrugged it off and told her Americans eat everything :).

Saturday I went to my old school, MAN Limboto, where everyone said I had gotten so thin (last time, for a reference, they told me I got so fat – I can’t tell anymore!) and hung out with the students, who didn’t have anything to do after sports ended at 11. I ran into my old principal, who said I could stay at the school any time and asked if I could come back to teach (it was hard to believe the veracity of either of those sentiments) and also met a lot of teachers there and some staff too. Since this is my second time back in Gorontalo, people didn’t rush to see me as much – the teachers were so busy preparing tests, and some of them even said “Oh hi, you’re back again? Sorry, I have to go, see you later!” and ran off to do the important thing they had to do. I was really happy about this actually, because it’s nice to know I’m becoming somewhat of a usual thing to see around the area, rather than a princess who needs to be taken care of every second of the day.

I talked with my students about their hopes for next year, and what they think of school and we reminisced about last year. We made plans to hang out the next day and eat at Farlan’s house, one of my students.

Then I went home to get ready to go to the airport with Trisna and surprise Lisa and Marjorie when they got off the plane from Manado. We picked up Ibu Dewi first (she manages the canteen at MANIC). We dropped Lisa off in Limboto, and then went to see Ibu Dewi’s aunt (I think) in Limboto. Her nephew had just come back from Canberra and his English was great, so we talked for a while. Then we picked up Cica and made our way to dinner and a karaoke place that had more cigarette smoke than air in it, and then they dropped me off. I love those ladies so much – I felt a little bad because I forgot about a very important thing that happens in Gorontalo – when you say you like something someone has, often they give it to you. I told Cica I loved her bracelet and asked where she got it, and at the end she just GAVE it to me! I was so surprised. I felt bad because I think Marjorie was super tired and I feel like I’m hogging the attention sometimes because I’m loud and outgoing and she’s much more like my sister, who watches everything and adds very salient things to the conversation. I make jokes in Indonesian and take on the character of a Gorontalo person, which means I get even louder than I already am! Jolie and I also just had this rapport with them that developed very early on, and they’re so easy to be with. I really hope I’m not stepping on any of the new ETAs toes – they are AMAZING and rarely complain about anything. I feel like compared to them I was a spoiled brat when I first got there, and was really uncomfortable with some things. Now I don’t want to leave!

Sunday I went to Farlan’s house on Tyara’s motor bike and met some students, including Irwan (a 12th grader from last year) who moved back home from Manado because he missed his friends J. I love him so much – he told me I was like a sister to him, and I almost cried. I told my students that if I win the lottery, I’ll build a house in Gorontalo. They told me they would all come live with me there, and I told them I’d throw a party every Saturday night for everyone I knew. A nice dream for another life. I’m trying to think of something I could do, like start an NGO, in Gorontalo – let me know if you have any ideas. I was thinking something having to do with the environment or women. I’ll refine that idea and get back to you all – just a dream for now!

Now (Monday) I’m waiting for my flight to Mataram in Surabaya, which is delayed, as usual. I bought a sweet political thriller about Indonesian politics and the Suharto regime (which should give me a fictionalized version of what actually happened) and The Space Between Us, which sounds a lot like The Kite Runner, but with women, and in India.

Here’s a slide-show of some pictures from the trip (a few are courtesy of Iris Laurencio):

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More updates later about Yayasan Peduli Anak!

Peduli Anak Updates

20 Oct

Sorry I’ve been so bad at updating! I have no excuse – with the exception of 5 days on the road in various places, I have had excellent internet access. People have just been so awesome and wonderful, yet again.

In the past few weeks I’ve been figuring out my role at Peduli Anak, and I’ve already established a few activities that I’ll be doing every week. First, I am teaching English to all six elementary school grades, but this only takes up 6 hours of my time. I’ve also been organizing 3 English clubs (which may become 2), helping kids who go to the junior high school at night do their homework, training Syafaat and Agus on how to give tours (they gave one without me the other day and I was so proud!), and giving a teacher training class once a week on Saturdays to all the elementary school teachers with Pak Ali. It’s been going well so far, but it’s a lot different than last year. I’m speaking more Indonesian in class this year because my students speak less English because they’re younger, and most of the teachers I teach with don’t speak English because they teach all classes at the elementary level. This means I have to improvise a lot in Indonesian, which is making my language acquisition a little better everyday. I also sing A LOT more – it keeps the little kids from getting bored. I’m excited too because the teachers are learning more fun ways to teach English, and I can already see the English of some of the teachers improving. It also means each class is an adventure! I’ve been teaching anything from learning how to say “Good morning, good afternoon and goodnight” through song to the 1st graders to describing celebrities (are they tall, thin, athletic, etc.) with 6th graders.

The entrance to the Foundation - it's a really nice place.

A view from the school, where I teach.

Emily and her assistant Esmi came to visit! Nurul (on the left), Dian and Kiki hung out with us for a while 🙂

English Club is also interesting – last year the only disruptions I had were students talking, but this year I have to keep them really interested otherwise they get out of their seats! I end up with six or seven kids who really want to be there (out of about 10-15) which is totally fine – right now we’re playing games and dancing and occasionally drawing (the younger kids tend to want to do that) so I’ll be working more in the framework of having fun rather than doggedly pursuing skills learning. I am also going to be setting up a volunteer position specifically for English teaching at Peduli Anak so hopefully they’ll have someone there most of the year who’s had experience and is a native speaker :).

In Narmada, where Emily, Jess and Jen (the two ETAs on Lombok this year), Ibu Grace (a lecturer and researcher at the University of Indonesia and also one of the teachers at ETA Orientation) and I went one afternoon.

All the kids lined up for a school photo 🙂

One of my 4th grade students, Nana, took pictures during English Club - this is me, Elma (center) and Isnul having a conversation.

Me with Nana on my back!

I’m really enjoying my time there in other ways too. I’ve become good friends with Ibu Dian, Eni and Ina who all work in the office, and have worked a lot with Pak Ali (who is one of the school coordinators, and also a local volunteer!) and am getting to know him better. It’s been nice having Martina here this week to bounce ideas off of, get feedback and clarity on my goals, and hang out! The teachers and I also get along really well – it’s nice because most of them are still under 30 and are not married yet so we have a lot in common :). They tease me about finding a boyfriend in Lombok and have invited me to hang out with them when I get back, so I’m very excited for that. Marjolein and I are very good roommates – she’s so sweet and reminds me a little of Casey because she’s a little quiet but so thoughtful and caring 🙂 The volunteer who is here during the day, Sabrina from Germany, is really great too and we usually get ote-ote (flour and veggies fried together that form a lump, a traditional food generally from the Lombok/East Java area) and Nutri Sari (what I imagine Tang tastes like)/coffee at our morning break together. I’m quite happy here, and plan to do around 3 more weeks of work at the Foundation.

The following photos, including my featured photo above, are courtesy of Martina Natratilova Fetter.

Me teaching 1st graders how to say "Hi my name is _______."

High five, you got it dude!

Me and the kids in 1st grade reviewing a song about good morning, good afternoon and good night - we're singing about night time now, in case you couldn't tell 🙂

I’ll be leaving around November 8th – 10th, depending on what’s going on in Gorontalo and when my visa renewal gets processed. Two people (Mr. Zay, a security guard/general office guy at MAN Limboto, and Mr. Oi, the school driver) are planning on getting married around the 10th of November, the Bahasa Indonesia teacher at MAN Limboto and my former neighbor Ibu Fatma’s daughter is having a mandi lemon (lemon-water bath) ceremony, which I think has something to do with coming of age in Islam, on the 12th, and Ibu Sarkiah and Pak Herson are coming back from haji (pilgrimage to Mecca, one of the five pillars of Islam) on the 14th, so I have a lot of invitations to go back to Limboto and Gorontalo around that time! Unless I pay to expedite it, my visa renewal could take up to 5 days, and once I renew it I have 30 days until I have to renew it again (at which point, if all goes as planned I will be on a plane to Israel). My visa expires around the 7th of November, so I’ll have to extend it before then and before I go to Gorontalo – I have a lot still to figure out with my supervisors at Peduli Anak. I realize now that Gorontalo is a huge priority for me now and I want to spend a lot of time there because after December 5th, I don’t know when I’ll visit Indonesia again – sometime in the next 5 years is all I can say for sure.

Next post: my adventures on my 10 days of vacation! The featured picture above is of me teaching 1st graders how to count to six 🙂