Tag Archives: School Visits/Conferences

“Every Day is a Winding Road”

24 Oct

I taught this phrase to my co-teacher, Yunus, and he loves it – it’s how I describe to him how being in Indonesia feels to me.  We were in a car and this came on the radio and he asked me what it meant.  Sometimes I think Sheryl Crow really sums up how life can be in this town – not good, not bad, just surprising and completely unexpected.

Now that I am well, I have so much to talk about and seem to be really embracing life here in Limboto! I’m feeling much better – it took me 5 days of being sick to feel better, but  I did get to go to Manado the weekend after (October 15-17th).  Jolie and I got to see Polly, our ETA friend who lives outside of Manado in Amurang.  Our friend and ETA, Melina, also came to Amurang on Friday from Tomohon because it was Polly’s birthday! We had an amazing day filled with crazy food and cake and lovingly hovering Indonesians.  It was so nice to just hang out in Polly’s house with her PUPPY (yes, she has a dog, which goes by Puppy for now) that she got for her birthday! (If anyone is thinking of a late birthday present, my house is currently puppy-less!) It’s little and white and is really shy but slowly came out of her shell.  The next day we went to the beach and then to a wedding, which was very long but pretty and full of yet more food.  Since I was recovering from my unknown sickness, I couldn’t eat anything with any spice in it, but I did have some really good coconut yellow rice and marlin satay! The next day Polly and her counterpart Esther took up shopping in Manado, which was amazingly overwhelming. Jolie and I definitely experienced some culture shock walking into a HUGE Hypermart with everything in it under the sun, including gouda cheese for ~$25 a pound…yeah. It was also really interesting being in a Christian community – we wore dresses to the wedding that just came below my knee and went below my shoulder.  For weddings in Gorontalo/Limboto, I wear a shirt that goes at least past my elbows, definitely not a dress, and a skirt that goes to my ankles.  It was so nice to just hang out in a pretty dress that showed off some of my body and made me look attractive in a way I am used to – Muslim clothing is definitely attractive, but it’s also very conservative. Here are some pictures from our trip!

The kids at Polly's school performing Justin Bieber's "Baby" for her birthday!

Polly with the best birthday present ever - given to her by a student!

Polly and Jolie at Polly's party!

Polly, her cake and her excited students!

I call this one "Mother and Child".

The beach near Polly's house.

The wedding we went to.

Bride and groom!

The sweet band at the wedding!

Pretty sunset right outside MAN Limboto!

Today (Tuesday, October 19th) was the best I have felt so far in Limboto.  I think being sick for so long made me miss my students and gave me a renewed sense of purpose here. I’m really excited to be teaching debate to my more advanced students slowly but surely, and I think I’ve found a way to manage my bigger English Clubs – playing telephone in groups, and listening to music and making dialogues based off of new vocabulary words. I woke up feeling capable of facing anything.  I went into the teachers’ room (I have my own desk where teachers and Rici, a guy who works for the school, leave me snacks often).  I began the night before in somewhat of a bad mood – I hadn’t prepared my lesson for the 11th grade students and I found out 24 hours prior that I would be speaking at a conference today, which gave me no time to prepare! I woke up at 5:30am and went to work – in 20 minutes I had prepared my lesson (teaching them the verb “to be able to” and “there is/there are”) and in another hour I had planned my speech about teaching speaking in a fun and engaging way (with a lot of help from Penny Ur’s “Grammar Practices Activities” book).  I waited around for while until we left for the conference and then sat through an hour of introductions that I did not understand. Then I gave my speech slowly and clearly and hoped that people both understood me and weren’t completely bored.  Surprisingly, I got a lot of questions afterwards – Yunus made almost everyone talk about problems at their school or questions they had or comments or suggestions for other teachers.  It gradually evolved into a workshop where we all shared our opinions on teaching and we even played a “getting to know you” game together! The “workshop” lasted 90 minutes and I definitely had fun and felt somewhat useful – it was surprising how much I felt I could contribute to the conversation and how we could solve problems encountered by teachers together. The gist of my speech was just getting teacher to take curriculum they already had and make it more engaging for all students and aiming curriculum at encouraging speaking to a larger extent.  After we were done, I was asked to sign papers confirming my participation – Yunus told me it didn’t mean anything but that, so I didn’t think anything of it.  And then a woman hands me an envelope with an insane amount of money for a 90 minute presentation.

I ask Yunus to take it and then take him outside and begin to freak out.  I am NOT allowed to have another job or accept monetary compensation for anything on my grant.  I had no idea they were going to pay me in anything besides some food, perhaps.  He tells me it’s rude not to accept the money and if the school takes it, it’ll look like corruption and they could be investigated.  I repeat my statement and call Nadia (my contact at AMINEF), who talks to Yunus.  Yunus eventually tells me that Nadia says it’s ok if the school keeps the money in their name and buys me gifts with the money instead of giving it to me directly.  They tell me I can still keep the money with me, but I make Ibu Sarkiah take it.  They decide to take me cloths shopping, which is great! It still makes me uncomfortable, but I am trusting Yunus to tell me what he and Nadia discussed.  Pictures from the conference!

The conference panel - I wish I could tell you what the titles of the men sitting next to me were! They work for the local Ministry of Religion. Also, the poster is hilarious - what's more enticing than a white baby calling for you to join it in speaking English?

I just thought this picture was amazingly awkward - this gentleman is introducing the conference and I am attempting to listen with my quite limited Indonesian language skills.

Me giving my speech!

Asking questions.

Playing games!

Me and the lady teachers.

Me and about half the male teachers - I think some of them were afraid of me?

Another thing I forgot to mention about Indonesia (probably because it happens all the time) is that there are a lot of power outages.  About 5 days of every week, power goes out somewhere around school for varying lengths of time – anywhere from 2 minutes to 4 hours.  Usually it’s not a big deal, but one night, the entire school went out and everything was pitch black.  Everyone came out of their houses and we basically had a party on the basketball court outside my house.  Yunus was talking about how the students who are dating often find places to go during these blackouts, when no one can see them. Sure enough, when the power came back on, we saw a few students quickly separating from sitting next to each other.  The best part was watching the stars and talking with my neighbors and learning some more Bahasa J After the power went back on, I asked two students, Tiara and Irwan, and my neighbor Ibu Fatma to help me cook kangkung (grilled water spinach) and nasi goreng (fried rice).  It was so much fun hanging out with them and getting to know my new “family” better.  I also might attempt to make it on my own soon!

Wednesday, October 20th,  was my 60th day in Indonesia.   It’s so crazy that I’ve been here for that long.  It’s even crazier to think that I really won’t be here for that long in the grand scheme of my life.  I’m trying to enjoy every minute of life here and weather the frustrating moments.  I also have about 18 week days of vacation (not including Fridays, my day off), most of which occurs in November, December, January and February, which I am excited about! If I just stay prepared for lessons and realize that I have to let go of expectations, always.  I am falling in love with this place in so many ways and am so lucky to be in such a beautiful place with such amazing people.

The picture on this blog is another pretty sunsets – I’m on a roll! I promise the lead picture will be something different next time 🙂


Almost Famous

21 Oct

Written on October 5th:

I step out of the car that takes me wherever I want to go with Ibu Nurmiaty and Ibu Sarkiah, my entourage.  People immediately begin taking pictures of me (including Yunus, with my camera) as I walk towards the school.  I meet Chandra, one of Yunus’ friends who asked me to come speak at his school, smiles and tells me how happy he is that I could come.  Teachers crowd around me to shake my hand, kiss my cheek, and touch me in random places (like my butt (women only) – for real), all while the cameras are snapping away. I walk through the hall and see children peeping out of windows and doors and giggling or running away or running towards me or shrieking.  I walk with my entourage towards a large room.  When I enter, the room roars and immediately comes to life – about 300 students are standing up and shouting and laughing and clapping.  I take a seat among other teachers (phew!) but them am immediately asked to speak about America.  I talk about who I am, where I am from, what America is like – all the while, the students are literally falling out of their chairs and giggling and seem to be unable to contain themselves in my presence. After I speak, I am asked to pick five rows where they will take pictures of me. First of all, I cannot choose from 200 students (all of which are gesturing for me to sit next to them) and secondly, when I do sit down, the students run away and giggle or get or shy that they scoot over and don’t want to be anywhere near me or are so excited they almost hit me in the face.  When I sit in the back among a group of boys, they almost injure me with how much they are squirming around either trying to get closer or farther away from me (boys here are particularly shy and giggly around me and I presume most older girls who are not from their culture).  When I leave the room, the students follow me and walk alongside me.  I don’t get very far because people want to take so many photos – I take two steps and there are more people lined up.  Some of the ibus even put their cameras right in my face, five inches from my nose.  I shake hands and get touched in comfortable and uncomfortable places and smile and thank people and say I am happy to meet them and to come to their school until I am escorted back to the car.  Sometimes, it is all I can do to keep thinking that the children at this school have never seen a bule before in person, and that is why I feel like a celebrity and an object but I know just by being there, I am doing both my school and the schools I visit a service that is very easy to offer. I also leave with about four times more food than I could eat in a week (mostly peanuts, bananas and cookies), half of which I later give to my friends and neighbors.  Another school sings “If you’re happy and you know it” to me and the people there are more low key.  I would love to see what happens when Obama (hopefully) visits a school in November in Indonesia, and compare experiences.  Perhaps the cameras will be bigger, there will be actual press there, more people, and he will speak faster in English than I did.  Sometimes I feel like the local celebrity, the status of which comes solely by virtue of me being white, American, and an English speaker.  I can’t say I am proud of my celebrity status, but if it makes people happy I think it’s worth the hassle. Here are some pictures!

My principal, the principal of the school I visited, and me getting to know each other.

Me speaking to a sea of wide-eyed students.

My favorite of all the pictues with the students - these boys nearly flipped my chair over before this was taken in an effort to be just close enough but not too close to me.

Me and all the teachers - some of them were nice, and some stuck cameras in my face!

Students at another school singing "If You're Happy and You Know It" for me.

Meeting and greeting students.