Tag Archives: English Teaching

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!


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!

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 🙂

My Second Home, Gorontalo

27 Sep

Greetings from Lombok,

Now that I’ve had a few days apart from Gorontalo, I can tell you all about it.

In so many ways, it felt like coming home, and while I was there, it seemed as though being in America felt like an extended vacation. I swear if I strike it rich someday, I’ll build a house there so I can visit whenever I want. I lived with my Indonesian mother, Ibu Sarkiah, and my sisters, Rya and Yheyen, and my little brother Sultan (bad-ass name, huh?). I saw so many people I loved. I met the new ETAs, Lisa and Marjorie, who are so much more prepared and adaptable than I was when I first came to Gorontalo and Limboto. I went to my school and saw all my old students, teachers, and friends who work there. I hung out with my friend/former student Tyara and went to the house of Mr. Marwan, the guy who cleaned my house, to drink coconut water and give his family baby clothes. I went to MAN Insan Cendekia to see Trisna and Chicha, two of the funniest ladies I know. I had my 25th birthday party at Ibu Sarkiah’s house, and everyone I loved, including the principal of Insan Cendekia, Pak Suwardi and his family, came. I sang karaoke with some amazing Indonesians. I went to a village where few people spoke Bahasa Indonesia and rode horses, snorkeled, and went to the most beautiful beach in Gorontalo province. I got to eat amazing food like milu siram/corn soup, ikan bakar/grilled fish, gurita sate/octopus satay and gohu/(banana “heart”, coconut, lime, and chili). And, perhaps best of all, I got to see my best friend Yunus and talk every day about things I rarely talk about with my American friends – religion, peace, and the wonders and horrors of the world. It was extremely hard to leave, and I cried on the plane rides to Lombok. People from there say that they will miss me, but they don’t have to, because I’ll always come back. While I was there, I also did some work on some essays for the Shansi Fellowship (two-year fellowship to do outreach and mobilization in northern India for women and other minorities, funded through Oberlin) – Gorontalo turned out to be a really inspirational place for writing about cultural exchange. I’ve learned that though I would like to spend my time in between both Gorontalo and Boston, there’s almost no way to make that happen in the way I want to. So I must be insane for trying, right? 😉

It’s hard to get specific about being in Gorontalo – not to get sappy, but when I’m there, it’s like I have everything I want. But there’s no way for me to be fully made an insider, and I will always be given special treatment, which, while it’s very nice, is an indicator that I will always be a princess, and will never quite fit in. I went into the ETA experience expecting 9 months to be the perfect amount of time to be at home in a place, and I thought that feeling would disappear little by little once I went home. Now I know that if I let it, it could stay with me forever. Unless I get off the fence, I’ll never been truly happy about where I am at the moment. I am a person that, despite my love of traveling, needs a place to put down roots. I’m not there yet, but I will be someday soon. I’m afraid that if I keep up all this traveling, I’ll be constantly torn between what I know/what I’m comfortable with, and a world that can only exist short term. Then again, I have been told that traveling an exploring the world is exactly what an adventurous 25-year-old should be doing. But people say that as if this is a phase of my life I should be getting out of my system, before I have things that tie me down, like marriage and a job and kids, that prevent me from traveling. What if I don’t want to be tied down, and what if I never get to the point where I’m happy staying in one place?

Here are some pictures of Gorontalo:

Rici and Yunus at my friend Ibu Yuni's house.

Rici, Ibu Yuni, Syifa (her 3 month old baby) and I

In Boalemo, Yunus' second home - all these bananas are going to be fried!

Yunus 1 and Yunus 2 - everyone says the little one could be his brother.

Milu (corn) and gohu (heart of banana, coconut, chili, deliciousness) - I LOVE Gorontalo so much for its food.

They caught this while Yunus and I snorkeled...gurita (octopus) sate later! I should send this photo to the Patriots - I guarantee you their logo has never made it to a place this remote.

Me and half the village 🙂 I love these guys!

I look happy, but there is so much fear of falling under that smile...

This beach is the most beautiful one in Gorontalo province - I just thought the height progression in this photo was hilarious 🙂

Pak Suwardi, the principal of MAN Insan Cendekia, and Yunus decide who's going to karaoke for me first 🙂

Sorry this is from so far away, but I needed to show you how tall the tree is and how that man is climbing it like it's no thing.

Princess Tyara and me 🙂

At Mr. Marwans house again - babies!

Karaokeing with some of Yunus' friends - they are so cute and great singers!

Enough. I’m in Lombok now, at a wonderful foundation called Peduli Anak. I’m going to be teaching here for a few weeks, for an as yet undetermined amount of time. I have about 10 weeks left in Indonesia, and I want to spend about half of that time here at the foundation, and the other half traveling, diving and in Gorontalo. I’ll be teaching 1st through 6th grade English speaking class, running English club, organizing activities for the girls shelter, tutoring and helping with homework, and training Agus and Syafa’at, two 15-year old boys, to be tour guides for the Foundation. I’ll also be training the teachers in how to incorporate more speaking and fun activities into their teaching and probably doing some grant research. It’s nice to have my priorities so clearly mapped out, and to be able to design my own program. I feel really needed here, and it’s been great getting to know the kids, from 3 year olds to 17 year olds. I also have been hanging out with Jess and Jen, two ETAs teaching at high schools in the area, and Marjolein and Sabrina, two volunteers working at PA from Holland and Germany, respectively. Marjolein has a background in anthropology and is thinking about doing research here, and she’s also my lovely roomate! Sabrina just arrived yesterday and she’s going to be working during the day with the kids in the shelters doing various activities – her background is in child therapy. All of us are 25 and get along really well. Everyone here is so nice and my Indonesian is rapidly improving, to the point where I am exhausted just from speaking it all day! I just got an invite from one of the ladies who works at the canteen and the kitchen to come see her family at her house tomorrow, which should be a great time, since I don’t speak a word of Sasak, the local language! In my experience so far, the more you talk to the people around you, the more comfortable everyone feels. I think I’ll start waking up at 6am to get to morning tea with the teachers by 7am, because we all have a lot of work to do together and making friends will get me a lot farther and make me seem less foreign to them.

More later when I get settled! (That’s a picture of my birthday cake up top, by the way.)

A Crazy Idea

26 Aug

My first thoughts as I boarded the plane to Jakarta from Gorontalo, and then again from Singapore to Japan were: I can’t not go back to Indonesia. Part of me will cease to exist if I don’t. I have to go back. These dramatic/”lebay” (Indonesian for overly exaggerated) thoughts stuck with me through my flight and into my first weeks of being home. Don’t get me wrong – I was and still am happy to be home, especially with the people I love, my bed and hot water. Still, there are a lot of things pulling me back there. I also have not done well with culture shock in some ways, and have felt like my time at home has been more of a long vacation than a homecoming. I am not done with Indonesia quite yet. In Indonesia, there are still friendships to develop, places to explore, and thankfully for my resume something to do that is related to my career. So yes, I am returning to Indonesia for a few months, which is definitely a little crazy but also the thing that is going to make the most sense and bring the most joy to me at this point in my life!

For the majority of my time in Indonesia, I will be volunteering with Peduli Anak, an organization that provides former street children education and job-training, as well as a wonderful place to live and a huge family to belong to. I will be teaching English for two months, and I’m thinking of framing the classes in a way that brings in health education and/or theater, depending on interest and ability. I’m pumped to be working with such a renowned NGO (they now have an office in Jakarta and have been visited by the Minister of Education himself)! I think it’ll be great to get experience working with an international NGO and will give me an idea of what I’m up against in pursuing a career in international relations/development. I’ll also be spending time before volunteering at PA in Gorontalo visiting friends, and then after Peduli Anak, traveling, visiting other friends/former and current ETAs and returning to Gorontalo. Before I even get to Indonesia, however, I’m making a 10 day trip to San Francisco to visit Jasmine (my long-time Boston/Oberlin buddy) and Lindsay (my cousin who just moved there), and then to San Diego/Mexico (where I have never been!) to celebrate Jolie’s (my soul-girl from Indonesia) engagement party. After Indonesia, I’ll be going to Israel for 2 weeks to visit the Reshefs, family friends of ours. Then I’ll be home in time for Christmas! Don’t even try to stop me 🙂 Here’s the itinerary:

Saturday August 27th: fly to San Francisco
Thursday September 1st: fly to San Diego
Friday September 2nd: drive to Mexico with Jolie and Co. for engagement party
Wednesday September 7th: fly to Jakarta
Sunday September 11th: fly to Gorontalo
Tuesday September 20th: fly to Mataram, Lombok (where Peduli Anak is located)
Monday November 14th – Sunday December 4th: travel and return to Gorontalo
Monday December 5th: fly to Israel
Tuesday December 20th: fly to Boston

After this trip, I will have traveled to 4 different countries on 3 different continents in 4 months. I will also have circumvented the globe, which is exciting because the furthest east I have flown is Israel and the furthest West in Indonesia. I know it’s crazy, but it’s what my heart wants.

I’ll use this blog to document this journey, and I think I’ll use it to chronicle any other independent travel I do from now on.

Above is a picture of my family (in Bermuda in June 2010), who will collectively always be the place I come back to, no matter where they or I end up.

I’ve got packing to do and hugs and kisses to give – expect an update from San Francisco 🙂

FYI: Two of the best goodbye messages I have gotten: a painting from my 3-year-old neighbor Cole that is green and glittering with the words “Bon Voyage” on them, and my friend Adam’s literal translation of “hati-hati di jalan” – heart heart on the road 🙂

An Update While Recovering

22 Oct

Written on October 15th:

I’m writing you from my bed as I recover from what past ETAs have dubbed “the ring of fire”.  Most ETAs will get this while in Indonesia, in one way or another.  It’s not a technical disease, but a feeling that your body is emptying itself of absolutely everything for no apparent reason, while your temperature soars and your body feels like you just had the workout of your life.  I’ve definitely been catching up on sleep, watching some great movies, and finally embracing eating rice (albeit a tiny bit) for every “meal” (i.e. 3-4 bites).  Today I even made myself a chicken, rice, and potato soup (I boiled everything together and added salt) and after eating nothing but a few pieces of bread and spoonfuls of rice and horrible tasting ORS formula, it tasted fantastic! It’s staying down pretty good too which is an added benefit 🙂

I realized I haven’t posted about teaching yet on this blog! It has been a really interesting process and one that mostly, I enjoy – it takes A LOT out of me though.  I teach for about 16 hours per week (not that bad) but then every day after school I have something for either 10th grade, 11th grade, 12th grade or teacher’s class, which is the most exhausting part.  Originally, in each English club, I was going to be teaching the whole grade for 2 hours – that’s 80+ kids for 120 minutes.  After a week of this I went a little crazy, as you can imagine, and realized it was really unproductive – 80 kids cannot learn anything, especially when there isn’t a room big enough to hold them.  I would take them outside, but at 2:00pm in Indonesia, it can get up to 104-ish F, unless it’s about to rain and then the kids run inside 🙂 So I tried to make a compromise – why not have the more advanced kids (about 25-30 students) come for the second half, and the rest of the kids come for the first half? The problem is that now that I’ve gotten to know the kids, I feel bad making them miss out on any part English Club, but with this compromise, everyone gets to be a part of English Club and I don’t end the day completely frustrated and exhausted and feeling like I’m developing nodes on my vocal chords from all the yelling.

Enough of the frustrating stuff – my students are really really awesome and so sweet.  Their English is a lot less developed than I thought, but in some ways this presents even more of an interesting opportunity for me. Every time anyone sees me, they say hi and ask me how I am doing – sometimes attempts to carry on longer conversations in English fall flat, but I so appreciate their enthusiasm and love talking to them! In class, they can get a little talkative amongst themselves, but I just get them to check in by using a call and answer system, such as “hello (me) – hi (them)” or “babadababa (me) – baba! (them – they really like this one!).  There are two classes of students in each grade who are slightly more advanced than the others or generally who have tested higher: XA and XI IPA (in the Science track). Let me back up for a second.  In at least 11th grade, there is one class on the Science track, one on the Religion track, and two on the Social Science track – I think this means that each track takes a few more classes focusing specifically on their specialty.  I like these classes a lot because they’re more adventurous with their language and more willing to make mistakes – they also ask awesome questions.

The rest of the kids are also great and surprise me with what they know sometimes – for example, we were playing a game called “Opas”, which is like “Big Booty” to theater people.  For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, I asked the kids to choose a name, such as “Yellow, Tiger, Blue, Sugar”, etc. and tell them they need to remember who they are throughout the game. Then we establish a rhythm using clapping, which is hard to describe through writing: If I call sugar, then “Sugar” has to say “Sugar, Tiger” (clap clap clap), then Tiger has to say “Tiger, Blue” (clap clap clap), etc.  When they mess up (like if they take too long to answer), they each need to say a sentence out loud to the class using their Opas name.  One of the girls chose “butterfly”, and messed up (her name is Alfin and she’s super sweet).  She stood up and made up an entire paragraph about butterflies – how they were so pretty when they flew in the sky, so high, and the sun shined on their wings…it was so adorable, and is one of the moments that made me realize any amount of frustration with shy students or my ability as a teacher is completely worth it.

There are some students I’ve gotten to know better than others: Mila, Tiara, Pipin and Trisul come by my house almost every day (we end up mostly talking about boys/advice); Irwan and Ismail always stop me to talk with me when I pass their 12th grade room, and Irwan often comes over to cook or do my dishes, despite my protesting; Rachmad, who translates everything I say into Bahasa Indonesia for others (I call him Mr. Translator); Racha, who seems to know everything that’s going on in my life (a dish fell in my house and he asked me about it hours later) and who is always disappointed when he misses something I do, like hang out outside my house or have English club; Mia, who always stumbles over herself trying to talk to me when I walk by.

It’s nice in a way that I don’t know how to say I am “still sick” in Bahasa Indonesia – I only know “not healthy yet” – belum sehat. I know I’ll get better and be able to go to Manado on Friday! Here are some pictures of random adventures:

My friend Yunus’ family – his mother, the girl that works/lives at his house, and Chindri, the most adorable and sassy 10-year old ever. I love these people so much – they give me cookies and soda every time i come over, which is often.
Me eating duck after my friends lovingly killed the birds and prepared a feast for us. More on this later!
Some of the guys that are part of my “neighborhood” – a lot of them helped prepare the duck feast!
And the ladies! Mila is on the right (student), Ibu Fatma is in the middle, and the girl sitting next to me is from the Togeans!
Jolie, myself, Abdul and Jamal having a grand old time at Que Que Karaoke!
Jolie and I enjoy a breakfast of coconuts (which are, turns out, ridiculously good for you) the day before I get sick.

Next – Christina gets better, goes to Manado, and starts feeling more at home in Limboto! The featured image is of a sunset from outside my house at school – I say it from my window while I was sick in bed and decided I could go outside for 5 minutes to gaze at the spectacular sky.

One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

2 Oct

Patience is the number one thing they told us to learn to cultivate during orientation – that, and to smile, or better yet, laugh at difficult situations.  Here is a list of things I have done in the past weeks that I didn’t expect to laugh at, during or after:

– I named my cockroach Larry (in honor or Larry David, for some reason) and I pretend he’s the only cockroach friend I have until I see another one.
– My toilet leaked the contents of the bowl onto the floor several times, so I had to be a little creative about going to the bathroom 🙂 It’s also still not completely fixed, and sometimes I wish I had just asked for a regular Indonesian toilet that doesn’t flush!
– I have talked to the thousands of flies that hang out in my house like they are naughty children.
– I kicked in my own backdoor, Law and Order SVU-style, because it didn’t open from the outside and I had two metal walls and one concrete one separating anyone seeing or hearing me calling for help and which were completely unscalable (I also left my phone inside).  It was already a little broken so I didn’t mind as much, but I still felt a little bad.
– I shorted out the power in my house with my stupid surge protector I insisted on bringing (it was on the packing list, to be fair).

I’m slowly getting used to the fact that every day here is an adventure and is going to be different and I have to constantly expect the unexpected.  I wake up every morning apprehensive and wary, and end every day wishing I could stay up longer.  Each day gets easier in most ways, but my life here is best characterized by the perpetual motion of stepping forward two times and then stepping back once.  For example, I am apparently getting cable TV tomorrow (for a whopping $3.00/month, I can get all the channels this area has to offer!), the class I taught went mostly well today, but my toilet is yet again broken, most likely due to flooding.  Of course, I’d rather my toilet work than get cable, but with so many gifts around me I have to be patient. I wake up every day with a to do list, which believe it or not keeps me happy! Waking up with The Proclaimers singing “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) also helps quite a bit 🙂

I can’t even begin to describe how wonderful, in most ways, my new home is.  By home, I include the physical house I live in, the school, and all the people in it and around it.  I’ve been waiting for things to be fixed and for the light to be right to take pictures of my house and my school, MAN Limboto, but those will be up soon.  The most important people to me right now are Ibu Sarkiah, the headmistress (yeah my school is mad feminist, it just doesn’t know it yet) and Yunus, the English teacher for 11th grade.  Ibu Sarkiah is the most adorable little woman ever, and she’s so in charge.  I think Sarah, the ETA who worked at MAN Limboto last year, told me that you’d be happy to do anything for Ibu Sarkiah, which I completely agree with.  She’s so cute and can understand some English – I try to communicate with her in both Indonesian and English and try my hardest to speak directly to her rather than through Yunus.  I went with her to a wedding and even though I think she likes me, she made me sing an Indonesian song RIGHT after I had consumed a large quantity of incredibly spicy food.  Then, she proceeded to tell me how sweaty I looked while singing – the next day, everyone at school made fun of me J She also takes incredibly good care of me and is always offering me something to eat, so much so that I cannot eat it all and end up hoarding it in my house. She is the queen mother in my new family and I love her, no matter how much she unknowingly or knowingly humiliates me!

Yunus is so many things to me: my fellow English teacher, my translator, my Indonesian cultural ambassador, my advocate, my teacher and my friend.  He is 23 and graduated from the University of Gorontalo in 2009 and has been teaching English ever since.  He has a great rapport with his students and constantly cracks jokes so they don’t get bored.  He helps me talk to people I cannot talk to because I don’t have the vocabulary yet, or helps me learn new words or Indonesian grammar.  He tells me what’s ok to do and what is not, and laughs at me when I ask some cultural questions like “How many times a week does your mom ask you if you’re going to get married soon?” He explains things I want to people and makes sure I have everything I need – if I need to go shopping, he usually comes with me.  The other day we went hunting for a hospital that would give me a rabies vaccine – we ended up going to three hospitals and two pharmacies by the time we got a vaccine for me (and I had to buy another one to take home on ice so we don’t have to go on another vaccine adventure!) and never seems to mind taking care of me, even though I ask him a million times if he’s ok with something or tell him it’s not a problem and that it can get fixed later. He loves sappy romantic music from America and Indonesia (from America because the words come slow enough for him to understand) and walks around campus singing) He wants to go to the US to get a graduate degree (maybe a PhD) but his TOEFL score is a little too low, so I want to help him raise it and find some scholarships.

It’s gotten to the point, language-wise, where I can understand things that people say about me when they think they can’t understand them – it’s fun to say “saya mengarti” (I understand) and smile and watch their adorable shocked faces! Learning the language is also a step-wise process – one day I’ll be very able to communicate, and the next I forget words I swore I knew the day before.  Sometimes I wake up and am very confused because everyone is speaking a language that I only know a little of. Another funny thing related to language is that people will look over my shoulder if I am checking my e-mail, even though there’s some kind of confidential stuff in there.  Because of this, on Gchat I’ve resorted to changing the way I speak by adding words that are more sophisticated than I think the people around me can understand, such as:

Me: there are several individuals peering over my shoulder

i’m attempting to utilize large phrases so that they misconstrue what i’m verbalizing

Jasmine: i comprehend your motivations.

It’s a fun game to play and one that I don’t mind doing to have both my privacy and my friends surrounding me.

Today I got my teaching schedule finalized (I have Fridays off, yay!) and my vacation schedule approved by Ibu Sarkiah (I’m still waiting for AMINEF official approval for Thanksgiving and for when I meet my Mom in Bali).  Hopefully I’ll be sticking around the Limboto/Gorontalo/North Sulawesi/Manado area until November 25th, and then traveling a decent amount (at least once a month) until April (I need to begin planning my 14-day trip outside Indonesia that I’m allowed!) Also, it appears that my toilet is finally fixed! The guy who was working on it took the entire toilet off the ground, so I’m hoping this is the last repair he has to make (this is at least the 3rd time it got broken).  The internet was also on for about 30 minutes today, so I got to check the news, my e-mail and Facebook really briefly.  I hope it comes back with some regularity soon!

My favorite class so far is the one I taught today (Wednesday September 29th).  They’re really bright and aren’t as shy as the others.  They really seemed to enjoy what I was teaching and to absorb the material well (I think it was also a little easy for them but it still made me feel good about myself!) They are also apparently the kids who test the best in the school, and I will be giving them extra English club time because of this.  They ask interesting questions and are super funny.  I’m going to be teaching them some more advanced stuff and moving more quickly through the material than with the other classes. There is also an advanced class for 10th grade, which I like a lot, and I will be teaching them extra as well. I’m also teaching a teacher’s class on Wednesday (although that’s not starting until next week), a one-hour club for some 12th grade students, hanging out with some extra-special English-lovin’ students on Monday nights (we’re thinking we’ll make dinner together and do things together while speaking English) and tutoring Yunus in TOEFL stuff.  I definitely have my work cut out for me but I’m so pumped.  Believe it or not, this only adds up to 35 hours a week, including prep time for class that’s allotted into our 40 hours.  I’ve been talking to other ETAs a little about their time, but I can’t wait to rehash first week shenanigans with them.

One thing I’ve noticed is that unless someone who comes into this community knows someone or is very friendly and introduces themselves, the community I’m living in is not super friendly.  It reminds me a little of Boston – if you’re friends with a friend of theirs, you’re ok, but you have to know someone first.  This community is also incredibly protective of me and won’t let me ride a motor-bike without a helmet (a good thing), but they tend to want me to only stay here on weekends or do things with them and I think they get a little sad when I go visit Jolie at her school. Hopefully this will disippate with time as I want to spend more time with the people I work with and also as they get used to me having my own life. I definitely have to balance my own desires with the feelings of the people here on a daily basis.

Today was really interesting in a few ways.  I made my first Indonesian joke! I was speaking to one of the officials in the Office of Religious Affairs and accidentally said “Danau MAN Limboto” instead of “Danau Limboto” in Indonesian (as a side note, I was really excited to see that the Indonesians borrowed danau from the Dutch who may have borrowed it from the Germans, or vice versa) which basically meant that I said MAN Limboto, my school, had its own lake (danau = lake), which was uproariously funny to my principal, Yunus and Ibu Nurmiaty.  Later that day, Gorontalo was hit with a deluge of rain that flooded a lot of the streets (banjir = flood).  I told them “kalau banjir, MAN Limboto punya danau” which means “if it rains, Limboto has a lake!” and they just lost it laughing. The fact that I am able to joke with them, however simply, in their own language makes them so happy, especially because Gorontalans LOVE to joke. Every other sentence is a joke, I swear! Which is nice, once you get to understanding Indonesian a little.  I also discovered that I just cannot take all this spicy food anymore. It makes my face hurt and my face turn red and I can’t taste the chicken/fish/etc. So today, I took a break and ate plain cooked eggplant (poki-poki in Gorontalese, which believe it or not I am slowly picking up also!), white rice and what they call ketchup (which is this brown sweet sticky sauce with no chili) and it was SO GOOD! They all looked at me confused at how I could be eating something so bland, but sometimes I’m just not a adventurous as I’d like to be. In Indonesia, thy say “kalau makan tidak pedas, tidak enak” which means “if food isn’t spicy, then it isn’t delicious”.  It’s going to take me a while to get used to all the makan pedas around here (only the rice doesn’t have something spicy on it, and sometimes it still does) but I’m excited to live in a place with so much love of flavor.

I also talked with Yunus a lot about religion and what Indonesians call “being a fanatic”, or basically taking Islam (or any religion really) to a dangerous level.  Yunus said that if you’re human, you have the capability to relate to other humans, regardless of religion which is really true. His main point for why people from different religions should get along is that no one knows what happens when you die – one can only theorize and no one can come back from the dead to tell you what happens.  So no one should judge the other for thinking a different truth. It made me really happy to hear this.  Yunus has some friends who do not have the best sentiments towards America and he is constantly trying to figure out why they believe what they believe.  I told him that there are religious fanatics in America (case in point: guy who wanted to burn the Koran) and that fanatic didn’t always signify dangerous thoughts – I told him I was both a movie and music fanatic! We also debated Darwin’s theory of natural selection and the concept of evolution for a while, In short, Yunus is awesome and I wish you all could meet him.

Overall, I am having an amazing time here.  I’ll talk about other people in greater depth later, but today, one of the male teachers at my school asked  me if I missed my family.  I said I did, but that I was happy here (true). He said something to the effect of “we can be your family now”.  This made me so happy because that’s exactly how I feel here – I have so many children, brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers that ultimately, I can’t be unhappy here.  Yes, it’s ridiculously hot during the day and I get frustrated and dehydrated and forget to be patient but it’s all a process of learning to adapt. I couldn’t ask for a more welcoming community – I can only hope to be as hospitable as “my family” has been to me. In the next post, I’ll talk about being somewhat of a celebrity here, as well as put up more pictures! The one at the top is me posing with the Liberty English Club, a group of girls who love speaking english in the Limboto area! They were so cute and enthusiastic and warmed my heart!

A Little Bit of Everything

8 Sep Me, Karen, Erin and Mary M staying dry.

All in all, I’m really enjoying learning Indonesian. It’s so different from any language I’ve tried to learn (granted, outside of romance languages (Italian, French, Spanish) I’ve only dabbled in German) for several reasons. First, it is largely vocabulary-based.  There are no conjugated verbs, and therefore no past or future tenses for verbs (future or past is indicated by adding an adjective, such as “in the past”, “yesterday”, “tomorrow” or “in the future”.  Secondly, there are no gendered pronouns – pronouns relate to the type of object being discussed (for example, there’s a different pronoun for animals (seekor) then there is for humans (seorang)). Thirdly, there is no verb for “to be” (outside of the word for there is/there are (ada – it’s similar to hay in español).  Also, there are a few sort of quirky things about the language – to imply that a noun is plural, often you say it twice (for example: cucu-cucu (pronounced choo-choo choo-choo) means grandchildren – it’s one of my favorite words!) Also, there are two different ways to say “we”: one includes the person you’re addressing (kita) and the other excludes them from being in the “we” (kami).  There is also a different goodbye to say to someone when they are staying and you are going. Indonesians are always happy to practice with you and are very patient when you make mistakes. Another thing: there is a verb that means “to have a moustache” – it’s berkumis. It’s harder to learn than I thought, but I’m getting better. If you want to learn a phrase, selamat pagi means good morning! I’ll add some more phrases with each post.

The education classes have been really good for me too. I helped prepare a lesson the other day (I didn’t like the activity we were given), and yesterday I co-taught a lesson on adjectives. We had the kids list some adjectives on the board, and then had them write three adjectives to describe themselves.  We then had a discussion about which member of the class the adjectives described.  It was really fun! I tend to talk down to people in my tone, I and others have noticed, in that I tend to have a more motherly and overly kindergarten teacher like quality to my voice.  This was really good feedback – I need to speak more naturally when teaching and tend to be overly kind and enthusiastic.  Today, I taught a lesson on giving directions – I used a map of part of my town to help them use different vocabulary like left, right, straight, turn, and also to have them learn a little about me. Some of the feedback I got was that I explain simple things too much (like what a map is/directions are) and don’t explain the more complicated things (like what right and left are, or go over the names of my street).  I think next time, I’ll make a map of the village that I’m going to be living in so that I can explain less and my students can talk more! I’ll be teaching again on Monday. It’s so excited to be teaching though, and I really like it – much more than I thought I would. I feel relatively confident up there even though I make mistakes.

I want to talk now about something that’s been troubling me a lot, something that my fellow ETAs and I are going to have to address and something that is going to make our jobs even harder and more important.  If you haven’t heard already, there’s been a lot of buzz in the news about opposition to building a mosque in New York City (note my accurate, if general, choice of words for the location). This heated argument has produced one of the most horrendous challenges to the intercultural harmony which is (hopefully) being constructed on our end, and has manifested in the planned burning of several copies of the Koran on September 11th. I can’t actually think of a more unpatriotic act at the moment. Even Petraeus is urging this group not to go through with the event because it will endanger the lives of our troops overseas (I agree with him). It’s incredibly frustrating when the same law is being twisted in two different ways: we should not have to weigh freedom of religion with freedom of speech. This news may be small potatoes over in the states (50 people are burning a book, big deal!) but over here, it’s huge.

Hate only breeds hate, and so I refuse to hate the people doing this (I also have never met them, so who am I to hate them) and fuel this huge inferno. I just hope they realize the implications of their actions. I also hope that Muslims around the world realize that if this event goes as planned and the Koran is burned, that it is not the fault of the US government that this event happens – stepping in and ending this event in the name of religious freedom would only undermine another American value, that of free speech. I hope that people realize that, like religious extremists everywhere, the people of Gainesville, Florida who decide to burn copies of the Koran are a miniscule minority that does not represent the views of religious or non-religious people and religious leaders as a whole, nor the views of the US government. Not in my name, nor the name of my country.

On another note, I’m getting very comfortable in Bandung, and it’s not just the bed at the hotel. It’s getting lost on an angkot four times (actually it was four different angkots) with two of my friends in the rain and laughing about it, unconcerned about getting back on time or where we’re even going.  It’s going with my friends on a walk to a waterfall and watching the rain fall from the shelter of a gazebo and spiders weave beautiful webs (yes, I used spiders and beautiful in the same sentence!) It’s crossing the street by myself (don’t laugh! it can be challenging and usually I tag along with a group of locals/other ETAs). It’s meeting people and speaking sedikit (a little) Bahasa and getting to know my Bahasa and education teachers and getting a feel for the way life operates around here.  It both makes me sad that I have to leave and comforted that I will be able to settle into my community once I get there!

I also want to talk about the call to prayer that happens five times a day. The other night, it was raining outside, and it was around 6:00pm. I was walking outside listening to the rain and the call to prayer sounded – from 4 different directions at once.  Each was a different melody, at different speeds and each finished at a different time.  It was so humbling to hear such devotion vocalized and performed in such beautiful symphony. The call to prayer is like a song, but simpler in its message. It brings a community together from a long day of more individual work. This experience reminded me of the moment I chose to apply to Oberlin early over all the other colleges I was looking at – I was walking down North Professor in the wee hours of the morning and on one side of the street, I head a violin. After a few seconds, a flute from the other side of the street joined in, playing its own melody, but echoing the same love of music. I knew I belonged there. And hearing the music of the calls to prayer, I feel like I could belong here too, for at least a little while.

Here are some pictures from my walk in the Dago Forest, as well as one of my favorite meals!

One of my favorite meals: barbecued chicken with sambal and rice and avocado juice!

Mary B walking down to the waterfall!

The river in Dago Forest.

Me and the waterfall.

Me, Karen, Erin and Mary M staying dry.

Tomorrow, I’m fasting for the last full day of Ramadan with a bunch of other ETAs (I’m getting up around 3:40am to eat before the sun rises).  I won’t be eating or drinking anything until sunset. I also met an awesome woman named Asmi who works at the hotel and will be helping me with Indonesian – I’ll talk more about her later! On the next post: an Angklung performance (pictures and videos!), some Indonesian music videos, and a discussion of the intercultural education session we had this week.


31 Aug

This morning, we got to go visit a pesantren (a type of Islamic boarding school) outside Bandung to do some observing of how English class is conducted. It was really informative and got me really excited about teaching! Going into this experience, I wasn’t sure how much teaching would be for me, but this visit was definitely encouraging. As I was sitting there watching the teacher, I thought a lot about what I could use from what the teacher did and how I could add some of my own ideas.

What I found interesting was that the kids were super enthusiastic and often talked VERY LOUDLY (hence the title) when speaking in unison. The lesson seemed to be too easy for the girls, and some of them seemed a little bored. The teacher spoke completely in English while teaching, which was great. There wasn’t a lot of hand raising during the lesson – the teacher generally chose the girls to speak himself. In the beginning of class, they were asked about their knowledge of American celebrities like Kate Winslet (they also referenced Titanic the movie in a pretty conservative Islamic classroom…) and Michael Jackson songs, which was not was I expected. The teacher would sometimes point and say “you, you and you, begin the exercise”, which seemed a little impersonal and abrupt to me.  However, each of them had a workbook, a grammar book and a dictionary – we’ve been told that most classrooms won’t have many text books. I don’t quite understand how they all are paying attention when some of them are talking either, which is something I’ll have to either deal with because it’s normal or help alter. The teacher was good at reinforcing what they learn by writing stuff on the board and asking for questions at the end. After the lesson, they asked us questions like “Is it normal when talking to an American to look them in the eye?” and “What is your hometown famous for?” They were so happy we were there and my heart grew about 10 times bigger as a result of that visit. They were so excited to find out I was a singer! Tomorrow we’re going to be discussing what we noticed in the classroom – hopefully I’ll be planning lessons in no time! Here are some pictures from our visit today:

The beautiful pesantren entrance.

Mary, Jack, Nadia and Thomas getting ready to meet the kids!

Me, Adam and Mark getting pumped!

We had to take off our shoes before entering the classroom - I thought this was cute.

In class.

Group picture!

Some of the students at the pesantren 🙂

On a random note, I ate some great barbecue chicken tonight, as well as chicken intestines and I tried some avocado juice! I love the food here and am caring less and less if it makes me sick or not 🙂

On Teaching English

29 Jul

Before I post about things I’ve been learning about Indonesia/Jakarta/Limboto  (some of which are interesting, frustrating, and hilarious), I want to talk a little bit about why I wanted to teach English and make some comments/raise some issues about English teaching in general.

My interest in teaching English first started in Eguafo, Ghana, in January 2009, on a volunteer trip to help out Sankofa Mbofra Fie, an orphanage and school for local children.  In addition to helping out with the organization’s infrastructure (such as figuring out what it would take to get properly accredited as a school and orphanage and taking on more logistical tasks like setting up an office), we came with books (English) donated from family members and friends back home.  Almost every night, we would read with the village children for at least an hour, and would have them read the books back to us.  Spending time with these children was the best part of being in Eguafo – it was so selfishly rewarding to see them smile when they got a word right and I would get excited, or a whole sentence, or when we would converse about the book in English.  It seemed to be an activity that was so mutually beneficial educationally and one that brought a lot of joy to both the children and to me.

As a group and individually, we Oberlin volunteers spoke daily, if not hourly, about the effect our presence was having on the village.  Part of that effect was the language skills we brought and were using to communicate with the village.  One thing to keep in mind is that English is the official language of Ghana, with nine other languages being government sponsored.  Despite this fact, many children in the village did not know how to read English very well or to speak it well either.  It was evident to us that language skills were a huge determinant of wealth and success: in Accra (Ghana’s capital), if you are a doctor/banker/lawyer/business-person/government official, then you knew English quite well, and knowing English was one of the factors that got you where you were.  To me, part of convincing these kids that they could do anything they put their mind to in life applied to learning English. Much of this rhetoric went into my Fulbright application.

At the same time, I struggled with writing my Fulbright application in an honest way while convincing the board that I was a great candidate for an English teaching position.  I do not fully agree with English teaching and see a lot of ways in which, to use an Oberlin term, it is “problematic” to a community’s perception of me and to the unique growth of individuals and cultures across the world.  English was the language of one of the many nations that colonized Ghana, and by using it and having English be a measure of someone’s ability to be of worth to society, local/tribal languages (such as Fanti or Bahasa Indonesia) can become less important outside individual villages.  Language and culture seem to be inextricably twined, and when a newer language becomes part of that equation, it seems that culture has to adapt to keep up.

This anxiety and my thoughts about English teaching as a double-edged sword carry over to my role as an English Teaching Assistant in Limboto.  Not only am I supplementing the English teaching program already in existence at MAN Limboto (the Islamic boarding school I am teaching at), but I am supposedly there to represent my country as a good citizen, as a minor cultural ambassador.  I feel slightly less anxious because there is an existing English program at my school and I will mainly be bringing my knowledge of English as a first language to the classroom, and I am so happy to be providing a service that is being asked of me (and not one that I am prescribing to the community I will be in). I know too that I am contributing to the proliferation of English as the international language, which makes me uncomfortable to a degree as well.

This article in the New York Times, pointed out to me by my good friend Tammela (who will be doing the Peace Corps in Ukraine in September!) makes me think about my upcoming experience in Indonesia: “As English Spreads, Indonesians Fear For Their Language”.  It offers an interesting view about how conflicted Indonesians feel about their children learning English.  The title is a little deceptive: it seems that though Indonesians do fear the loss of their language, they feel that English language learning is the inevitable way of the future.  It saddens me that it seems that bilingual programs tend to be heavier on English teaching as well.  I know that I have no business telling Indonesians how to shape their culture or to resist the influences of the West (that would be incredibly contradictory of me).

The positive thinking on my end that has come out of this is that in my classroom, I have decided that if the school will let me, I will be holding a discussion at least weekly on how learning English affects the lives of my students.  I want them to formulate an informed opinion about why they are learning English, and if they don’t know why, to ask. It’s really important for anyone, anywhere, to learn about why they learn things, but in light of this article and experiences I have had, I think a discussion about this topic would be good and potentially interesting for them to engage in. We could talk about the cultural importance of language, etc., and if nothing else I would learn a ton 🙂 We’ll see! I may post more thoughts on this later too.

The next post will include some funny/interesting/exciting things I’ve learned about Indonesia, and as much information I could find about Limboto (not much, don’t get too excited).  Until then!