i see i’ve had a few visitors over the past few months. if you’re considering joining the peace corps and would like to speak with me directly, please leave a comment & we’ll work something out!
xo – sam
as i please, homegirl got a new camera. back to. i’m trying to do weekly themes. this week? on the porch.
i hang with this crew of ladies and gents every evening after school. they’re my social life, and i’m so happy. i wouldn’t have made it to within four months of close of service (as in, i did it, i can’t believe i survived, i’m half crazy) without them.
my new host mom is the lady in the blue jacket. putri is my host sis, lia, leni, and indah are our friends and neighbors.
please enjoy. xox, sam.
red no-school days are always dreaded for their potential for dullness. luckily, i haven’t been in too much pain over the past few free days, thanks to the little moments and tiny adventures that make living here lovely.
the last day we taught before the vacation for lebaran—the big celebration at the end of Ramadan—classes ended early so that the teachers could have a nice… long…really jam-packed with lots of discussion in the high form of Javanese…long… meeting about scheduling holiday activities. i almost cried from boredom, spending the meeting smsing with scott about… well, something along the lines of, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, even if you’re miserable.
it wasn’t a very good demonstration of patience. however, relieving stress by bitching with american friends, as ugly as it usually is, is a good way to deal with crappy situations without involving (and offending) host country nationals. my volunteer friends have a perfect idea of what’s going on in my life. our capacity for mutual empathy is off the charts. i’d rather get the nasty stuff out of my system than reach a breaking point and lose it in front of a counterpart or friend at site.
once the meeting was over, i was calmer, but definitely bitter about the hour and a half i’d never be able to gain back (my frustration was aggravated by the fasting: normally we get snack boxes to help us through). heading home was a good idea for my nerves, so i said goodbye to bu heri. we shook hands, knowing we might not meet again for about a week or so. as i turned away, she said “goodbye, miss. i always miss you.” i texted scott about it, and his reply: “totally worth it.”
now i don’t know how many friends bu heri has besides her coworkers. since i spend more time with her than with other teachers, it stands to reason that she spends a lot of time with me. i hope that she is as challenged and stimulated by our relationship as i am. i know we mean a lot to one another, and building relationships is one of the main reasons i’m doing all of this. there’s nobody here (who’s not a kid) more cherished than bu heri. so, about sitting through the terrible meeting—and slogging through tedious lesson planning sessions, yanking my hair out during communication breakdowns, and feeling too often like i’m pulling teeth, trying to teach an old dog wholly-too-foreign new tricks? totally worth it.
and after saying farewell to bu heri, the lazy vacation days started. i won’t see my students for two weeks. yesterday, i made some great progress with grad school applications and had a nice afternoon snacking and drinking coffee. i get a few days’ break from fasting, since my body is temporarily ‘unclean.’ it is a much welcomed reprieve, though i’m looking forward to continuing the challenge of completing the fast. i’m doing much better than last year; by this point last ramadan my lips were so horribly chapped from dehydration that i had to break down and drink water each of the last ten days or so. up til now, this year, i’m feeling okay.
today, much of the same, internet work and getting application materials ready. i took a trip into town to mail some treats to the states and buy some envelopes for sending in hard copies of application stuff. on the way back home i chatted with a lady on the angkot about her experience working as a housemaid in saudi arabia (though the era of indonesian laborers in that country may be coming to an end). the lady had worked for two families over the course of five years, traveling there all by herself, and had largely positive experiences, though conditions were strict. when she leftindonesia, she said, she had one kid in elementary school and another in middle school. when she came back, the kids were in middle school and high school, respectively. i told her i lasted here for about five months before i started going real off-the-wall crazy to see my friends and family. can you imagine being away for five years?
chatting with the lady was a chance for me to practice the rapid-fire questioning skills i’ve picked up after being on the receiving end of third degree questionings for the better part of a year and a half. i asked her all sorts of things: what’s the weather like, what’s the land like, do saudi people want to learn about or travel to indonesia, what was your language experience like, what’s the food like, how did you get involved in the program, could you travel, what were your daily duties, were you treated well, what’s the migrant worker community like, did you go to mecca, did you start because you needed the money or because you wanted to travel?
she responded graciously. she was initially motivated to work because of her family’s poor economic situation, but her husband forbade her from working in malaysia or singapore. for whatever reason—perhaps safety? or prestige?—she was permitted to work in Saudi Arabia. when a recruiter for the government program, called TKI (Tenaga Kerja Indonesia, Indonesian Work Force; for ladies, TKW, Tenaga Kerja Wanita, Womens’ Work Force) came to her area, she drafted herself, had a medical exam, and got her paperwork in order. she took off a few weeks later.
saudi arabia, she said, is a beautiful place, but when it’s hot, very hot, and when it’s cold, very cold. some saudi people, she decribed, enjoy vacationing in bali when they have the money or if they want to find an indonesian wife (which seemed strange since bali is mostly hindu, and pretty liberal). her employers had traveled before to indonesiaand spoke a little bit of bahasa: she herself grew up reading and studying qur’anic arabic, which is completely different from any of the dialects of modern spoken arabic, so in saudi arabia she spoke a mixture of bahasa, classic arabic, and modern arabic picked up in her daily life. she couldn’t travel at all—whether in-country or back home to indonesia—without permission of her employer, and if she did travel around saudi arabia she had to wear a full burqa-type chadar, covering everything but her eyes in huge drapings of black fabric. still, she had four months off each year, and spent lots of time traveling with her wealthy boss. she was treated well, unlike some migrant workers, who have sadly been beaten or killed by their employers.
but there are more positives, she said, for the lucky folks. there are so many indonesian workers in saudi arabia, she said, that you can find basically any type of food you’d like to eat and you don’t have to search far for friends to make. wealthier households sometimes have multiple laborers, and more often than not the whole staff is indonesian. she did indeed get to go to mecca when she was there, luckily, but didn’t consider it making the pilgrimage (hajj) because she wasn’t going to mecca from her home.
our conversation was presided over by a beautiful and toothless old grandma, swathed in a purple veil, smacking her lips, smiling constantly. i sometimes get down on myself for wanting to be more observant and less active in my interactions with adults—i tend to be a watcher, like the grandma, instead of a bundle of supremely bouncy extraversion—but i was pleased in this instance to notice not only my deeply genuine curiosity for the woman’s experiences but my easy gregariousness. i felt a real lack of concern for any imperfect impressions of my barrage of questions and grammatical acrobatics* made on her. though it gets subtler, cultural adjustment never truly ends; i’m getting more comfortable here.
lazy day evenings, just like school day evenings, are still filled with the charmed and charming neighborhood little ones, playing games, adventuring, and practicing being human. today, a special day: lia’s dad’s homecoming from his two month work stint in kalimantan, doing construction work. though he’s only back temporarily, this was the first time in lia’s nine years of life that she was apart from her father for any substantial length of time. seeing her so happy was a pleasure. plus, i got to see him, too—he’s like my second host dad, very different and much younger from ayah. he sleeps over with bu yati and lia when my host parents are out of town, which can be for weeks at a time.
today he was more social than i’ve ever seen him; it was obvious that he was elated to be home (and not only because survived the terrible, exhausting, malodorous passenger ferry from kalimantan to jawa—i think you know the one i mean). thankfully, he’s now making enough money to do some renovations on their house, where the three of them—lia, bu yati, and pak surat—live with his parents. it’s a dirt-floored place with woven bamboo walls, a wood-burning stove, two bedrooms, and an open-air kamar mandi with a tilted concrete water basin and a plastic bucket for standing in while bathing. they’re presently rebuilding the living room walls with brick, which will be a lovely improvement, especially appreciable when the heavy rains return in a couple of months. paksurat will be able to stick around for a few weeks at most, but it seems as if the family’s sacrifice will be worth it, and at least he doesn’t need to go as far as saudi arabia.
*yes, the whole conversation was in Indonesian. we peace corps volunteers are badasses. and now it’s time for a long aside… i had a great moment in surabaya a couple weeks ago during the mid-service conference—a moment of realizing how far i’ve come with my language and communication skills.
i had gone to the mall to break the fast with some friends before my mid-service dental appointment, scheduled for seven. i had planned to head to the dentist’s office alone, in a taxi, from the mall. the address i stuffed into my purse before leaving the hotel (rule number one of taxi traveling in a non-english speaking country: before you leave, write down where you need to go. bring it with you; you don’t need any language skills to show it to the cabbie). but i failed to notice that when i ran back upstairs to my room to unload a couple of books, i unloaded the slip of paper with the address on it. as luck would have it, the moment i realized this was when i was escalating down to the line of cabbies in front of the mall, t-minus twenty five minutes to dental appointment, no time to go back to the hotel, no clue about the dentist’s name or the name of the street. all i remembered that it was somewhere near my hotel and there was a banking complex—bank mega—on the corner.
i explained it all to a cabbie at the front of the row of waiting taxis: i’m going to the dentist, it’s on a side street somewhere within walking distance of the hotel i’m staying at, and there’s a bank on the corner. he knew the area, he said, and i believed him: he was a friendly and older gentleman (sometimes the young whippersnappers like to say they know where you mean just to get your fare. you end up going around in circles or stopping at each corner to ask for help as the meter racks up the rupiah and the cabbie tries to find your destination). amused by my plight and charmed by what i can only assume he saw as my silly-young-girlishness, he was ultimately endeared to me, if a little slightly patronizing.
i planned to text a fellow volunteer for the address while we were en route, but, as per newton’s laws, my phone died just as i tried to send the message. so, the cabbie just took me to the dentist that he thought i was talking about. i had no idea if it was the right one; where you find one dentist inindonesia, you find a bunch more, and always on the same street. there were some guys resembling security guards standing on the curb in front of this one, though, and, knowing that all volunteers had dental appointments at this same place, i asked them if they had seen any foreigners around. they had. they mentioned andrea’s name. i was in the right place. problem solving skills and marvelous language abilities be praised! success! and i did it alone!
the trip was a sweet victory and a nice chance to see proof—an actual result—of growth and progress. i still remember the way my heart beat and my brow broke into a cool sweat the first time i rode an angkot alone inmalang, after three months of riding the very same route from my homestay to campus, always together with my entire training group. in surabaya, from the time i realized on the escalator that i didn’t have the address to the time i walked though the dentist’s door, i didn’t even flinch.
hey, do you have any questions? like bart and noel, i’m fielding questions from my, ahem, readership. i’ll answer probably anything, about peace corps, indonesia, islam, my life here, teaching english, or other stuff, like snub-nosed golden monkeys, how to build a good campfire, or the benefits of daily sitting. comment here or send questions via facebook. my mind grapes will do their best.
something new: i’m tutoring a college sophomore in English, at my house. he’s an amazing kid from the next town over from my village. he wants to become a veterinarian in korea or the states, so his tefl scores need to be high. luckily i can help him out… for free.* to protect the the innocent, i’ll call him the kid.
when i first arrived here, lots of students came by asking for private English lessons. they’d hear a rumor that a foreigner was here and assume that i’d be offering or selling lessons. at that time i was very averse to the idea; i was so busy adjusting and working on lesson planning for school that i couldn’t afford to spend time that way. i couldn’t see the efficiency of working with one or two students for even a few short hours a week—i was focused on giving group lessons or starting English clubs so that i could reach more kids. plus, i needed evenings to myself, for downtime.
but now, things are different. this kid, my student, showed up one evening at my front door. he requested lessons for the months of his summer vacation from college. he didn’t use any Indonesian during the conversation—something the others didn’t do—even when he had to struggle a little bit for Norm to find the file. he had a specific idea of what he wanted to study as well as a clear idea of why he needed to improve his English. he came to my house three times before he caught me at home.
this was back in June. since i knew Ramadan was coming and the lessons would be temporary, and because the kid seemed very with it and motivated,
i agreed to teaching the private lessons. i had been looking for a way to fill my extra hours since extra-curriculars hadn’t yet started at school (still haven’t). i had also come to realize that working one-on-one with somebody isn’t any less valuable than working with a group, though it may not fit the ideal model of sustainable development in the pc sense. i agreed to help, acceding that a few hours a week of extra English practice could open some very big doors for this kid.**
the kid rides his motorcycle over to my house a few days a week, in the afternoons, and we work on conversation, grammar, and vocabulary. we use the grammar bible—azar—and I share magazines, science articles, and books. it’s been lovely getting to know him. his English is already great; besides the English teachers at my school, his language is the best in town. we’re learning lots and i’m getting the chance to teach some higher level grammar stuff (noun clause? let me look that up real quick).
it’s so strange to think of myself as occupying a big place in a young person’s life, which i’m sure i do being for many of them the first foreigner they’ve ever met. even stranger is to think of how i’m (potentially, negatively, positively) influencing these kids. of course, as teachers, we do indeed make impressions on our students, but teachers with whom we have very close one-on-one relationships are all the more influential. my two flute instructors, Stephanie and Carmen, were a couple of the most influential people during my adolescence; they taught my private lessons. i can confidently say that if i hadn’t known Stephanie, i would not have moved toIndiana. that’s a huge amount of life-changing influence. those two ladies had an enormous impact on me in other ways, too,, more so than most if not all of my high school teachers (and my teachers’ influence was considerable).
it’s hubristic to think that i’m influencing this kid in the same way as Stephanie did me, though nice to think that there’s a possibility of it, or a possibility of having a small fraction of that type of positive influence. i know the value of having in your life an older person who’s a young adult, not too much older than you, who’s a good role model, a source of inspiration, someone different than you to help expand your mind. someone still relatively young and hip.*** given the range of our topics of conversation—colonialism, pop culture, plastic surgery, American and Indonesian history, love and marriage, genealogy, religion—i’m sure he’s learning more than just English.
peace corps volunteers can have huge influence. that’s undeniable. one of the pcvs in my group, luke, met a pcv in his small village inPolandwhen he was a child. luke moved to the states when he was fifteen and always remembered that pcv. now, he’s a volunteer himself. of course, that’s a horribly abridged version of the story, but you see.
so, i wouldn’t have moved toIndianaif it weren’t for Stephanie. back to me and the kid. what if this kid gets a motivation boost from me, studies English until he’s nutty, passes the tefl test with flying colors (because he’s only got a short way to go before his ability is high enough for this to happen), goes to korea to study and work, and then says he wouldn’t have done it if it weren’t for me? even the possibility of that happening—however slim or great—is a huge motivation for me. i know how amazing it is to achieve the dream of working and living abroad. if i could help one kid do this, or be the final push he needs towards ensuring that he makes it happen for himself, i’d consider this pc service a job well done.
of course, that would be a very concrete piece of evidence that i have influenced my students. thinking about the tiny ways in which i influence them, especially
the very young ones, is strange. like, realizing fifteen years after the fact the ways that babysitters or older cousins positively or negatively influenced me, or remembering the sense of loss when one of them faded out of my life. and what do i remember about them? i told lauren once about how i remembered a lady named sandee, a college-aged supervisor at my elementary day care. i remember she had short blonde hair and wore grey sweatshirts a lot, and could make neat sound effects. weird, huh? but i remember her being very positive and loving, a good force, a cool role model. did i aspire to be a blonde, sweatshirt-clad voice actor? obviously no. there was something more subtle, something less easy to pinpoint.
what will the kids i teach here remember about me, after i disappear from their daily lives? will any of them end up doing something great and saying—like i do
about Stephanie—if it weren’t for sam, i wouldn’t be where i am today? or will they remember me as influencing them in more subtle ways? either way, that’s sustainability, creating positive change that lasts long after i’ve gone. this is why the relationships i have with these kids are the most important part of my life here. of course, it makes me feel like i’m working all the time and pressuring myself to perform, to go outside and interact when i want (and sometimes need) to stay in and relax, but… in the end, what’s better than hanging out with kids all day? it’s good for the kids and good for the soul, and it’s the real path to sustainable change.^
*i did take the new harry potter off of his computer, though. and requested that he help me teach les to the little kids. promoting volunteerism! excellent!
**some of the kids who came to my door back when i first arrived could barely speak any English. i wonder what the ethical debate would look like about refusing to spend large amounts of one-on-one time with students who have studied for years but have no grasp of basic English versus jumping at the chance to spend large amounts of time with someone who has advanced skills in the language. of course, very big doors could be opened for any Indonesian kid who becomes proficient in English, and i’d like to help them all. but based on the pc framework, i don’t have to give private lessons, and anyways, can tutoring one student be considered sustainable development work (it is direct skills transfer)? does this fit into the project goal of working with youth to help improve their employability? does it count if it’s one kid? i can probably get the kid closer toward his absolutely achievable goal in the short amount of time i’m here than if i was starting with someone else from square one, someone who may be less motivated or capable to continue studying on their own once i’m gone, someone who may want to work abroad but would need to put more work into their English than a couple extra hours a week. is it justifiable for me to have turned the others away but to have accepted the kid as my student? if the others had shown up again now that i’ve adjusted and have extra time, would i teach them? maybe. bottom line: tutoring him is better than not tutoring him, and my time is available.
***i wear chucks now.
^coming soon: what is change, who’s changing what under whose terms, what are the positive and negative changes i’m making and experiencing, and who says what i’m doing is right at all? i’m still not convinced that this peace corps thing isn’t some weird sort of neo-colonialism or feel-good political insurance policy. stand by!
i’ve been writing a few little paragraphs here and there, but nothing worth posting. the new school year and the new (positive) feeling of the pressure of time have been keeping me very busy, as have our mid-service conference, preparing to take the gre, working on essays for various applications, and lots of delicious reading. i’ve spent a fair amount of time preparing a few packages, letters, and post cards to send home, too, though i haven’t been able to get to the post office. here’s to this week.
my new students are fun though adjusting to the change has been tricky. the students are adapting to me and i’m still getting over the sadness of seeing last year’s kids move on. unfortunately, i haven’t even met all of my new students: we’re building two new classrooms and while we wait the 10th grade students i’m supposed to teach have been distributed amongst the other 10th grade classes, which i don’t teach. but my other sections are 11th graders, whom i’ve met and teach for all their English hours. getting to know them is nice. there’s an additional challenge of trying to read the kids and identify who may have special needs; there’s no real system of support for kids with special needs, at least in more rural areas of the country. as much as i disagree with some of the ways students with special needs are served in our country, a poor system is better than nothing, and the situation here seems a shame (from my perspective).
but there are positives. so far, everything about this new school year is easier than last year. it seems simple enough that year two would be easier, but it’s impossible to imagine accurately just how profound the difference is. i’ve been describing to some of the volunteers who experienced their first year of teaching last year that i feel just as green as if i hadn’t had any experience teaching in the states, especially in a formal setting; though i had a decent grasp on basics, co-teaching a new subject to an unfamiliar demographic was just as difficult as my first year. now, i’ve got more language, more good jokes to please indonesian teens, lesson plans to reflect on and adjust, and lots more motivation because i know what to expect. that’s the biggest difference—i feel so much more in control because i now have the foresight to understand that there’s little i can control beyond myself.
and then there are those good things on the horizon: workshops for teachers, textbook collaborations, English camps, a big leadership summit. feeling the pressure of nine months is a good way to focus rambunctious energies.
thusly i plod, loving and supporting the students and trying to stay patient with everyone else (including myself). please send me a little positivity so i can find the time and dedication to keep updating this for you.
happy independence day, august 17
o the wonders of optimal behavior! why are we always having to turn over new leaves? when you’re a teacher you get two opportunities for new year’s resolutions. luckily, my life tends to be in a state of permanent shamblery—apparently no matter where i am in the world—that my second round of resolutions gets a greater scope than mere teacher-world and tends to include world-world, brain-world, people-world, and being-a-tidy-non-slob-world.
this year’s spotlight shines its coruscating light on the ineffable and glorious mr. bradbury. i am your sedulous champion, bound not by sky nor stars!
“i don’t believe in optimism. i believe in optimal behavior. if you behave every day of your life at the top of your genetics, what can you do? test it. find out…you must live life at the top of your voice.”
and now for something completely different: holiday tales in two parts.
preface: all photos by the beautiful nisha and the monstrous travatops.
part 1: the vessels of dreams and terrors
for the first part of our summer vacation, noel, nisha, travis, and i visited the orang hutans in kumai, southern central kalimantan (borneo). we took a lovely houseboat up a river in tanjung puting national park for four days and three nights, organized by yours truly on the recommendations of diana, scott, and betsy. our guide picked us up from the pangkalan bun airport and drove us to the docks, where we met our captain and crew. the vessel was a tiny klotok, a motorized, brightly-colored wooden boat with a toilet and shower as well as a kitchen below deck. we boarded and set off toward the park, located across a large bay from kumai, pretty stoked about our awesomely badass situation.
even though it was a school holiday, there were only a few boats on the river; the park wasn’t crowded at all, save for the gigantic, hairy, rusty-red and very friendly forest people. we spent the days on the shortest and easiest hikes imaginable to orang hutan feeding sites, watching them scarf down bananas with near-unbelievable alacrity, and relaxing on the boat watching monkeys congregate in the tree branches. we read a lot, played cards (including pre-1987 trivial pursuit), listened to music, chatted with the crew, drank delicious coffee, and ate fantastic food prepared especially for us by the crew (lots of fresh fish!). blackly dark nights were spent staring at the stars and meteorites, beauties rarely visible in the perpetually glaring land of fluorescent street lamps (aka any town or village in indonesia). we had a lovely few days of relaxing quiet, ending our lazy adventures sleeping soundly on the deck of the klotok, tucked away in mosquito nets and wrapped in sarongs against the chill.
we had managed to get a flight out of the city we few into, pangkalan bun, for two days after our riverboat tour ended. we quickly discovered that there wasn’t much to see in town, so nisha and i had a greatly romantic and ingenious idea that would give us a nice, relaxing transit back to java for our next flight to sulawesi and that would save us a decent amount of money on plane tickets: take a passenger ferry from kalimantan back to java.
after a few hours of figuring out how to exchange tickets and book our sea voyage, we ended up with about fifty-five bucks each in our pockets and ferry tickets to java in our hot little hands. we decided that even though the twenty-six hour ferry ride didn’t take us directly to surabaya in east java—from whence our flight would take us to the next destination on our vacation—we could land in semarang, central java and take a bus to surabaya. easy and lovely, we thought, after our four days on a riverboat: another day on a boat, sailing the wide open sea, enjoying each others’ company and only spending about fifteen dollars.
without going into too much depth, the trip was terrible. nisha and i should have done a better job anticipating that this form of public transportation is the same as all other forms of public transportation in indonesia: crowded, smoky, not the cleanest or most comfortable (and, for us, full of gawks and stares). we didn’t have chairs—or air conditioning, or a fan, or an open window—we were economy class, lowest deck. abysmal!* moreover, noel fell asleep before she could give us her dramamine, though really we were afraid to sleep for fear of being burgled. here’s a picture of our platform. those cheery ladies are smiling only because they hadn’t yet been on board for two minutes, mind.
luckily, we arrived two hours earlier than we expected. if we had been a couple hours late, we would have risked missing our flight out of surabaya. thankfully, this didn’t happen. after enjoying the sail into the harbor, we…dismounted? de-boarded?…and hopped an angkota to the bus terminal. luckily or unluckily, we found an expensive, cushy, AC bus in which to tromp our way to surabaya. we made it across the java sea and almost half of the northern coast in about thirty-two hours or so, without really sleeping. granted, we saved fifty-five dollars that ended up being used well during the rest of our trip, but i’d like to take this opportunity to tell you that the flight from pangkalan bun to surabaya is about forty-five minutes. with seats. and snack-boxes. all we got on the boat was some free gray rice with an egg covered in what we could only surmise to be mucus. great.
after our voyage of stupidity and short-temperance, we were in stellar moods and we smelled great, not to mention how we looked (at least we didn’t have vomit stains). if i could describe the voyage in three words, the words would be…malodorous, moist, pitiable. but it makes for a good story. right?
part 2: forty-eight bookless hours, or: how we decided to move to australia
never fear, your weary travelers are about to be greatly rewarded! everything about our trip to bunaken island in north sulawesi was perfect. traveling was easy, our hostel served great food, the snorkeling was amazing, and we met a bunch of neat and friendly folks. plus, we tanned! and slept in! and didn’t have to be on a passenger ferry!
the pictures really speak for themselves. the island was quiet and not very busy, and our hostel was filled with interesting people from europe and australia, traveling in bunaken for scuba diving. one of the most famous places for snorkeling and scuba diving in the world, the island itself is small and beautiful, situated next to another small island that’s really just a giant volcano floating all on its lonesome in the ocean.
our hostel, panorama, is owned by a manado lady and her german husband, sven. he’s the diving instructor. sven! believe it? he even had blonde hair and a tan. they were a great couple. he was sweet and endearingly more excited about small fish than the average man, and she was sassy and fluent in lots and lots of languages (though i especially liked hearing her speak bahasa manado and bahasa indonesia with her staff—their accents made them sound like they were speaking spanish or italian, a remnant from their portuguese colonizers). other guests included two very funny and sweet australian guys traveling with their german buddy, a couple of austrians, some swiss guys (one of whom has been traveling since 2009!), and a few other european-types. of course, our language skills also helped us make friends with the local staff and dive instructors.
during our stay at panorama, the weather was perfect and we snorkeled everyday. we’d go out on the boat to different sites and would snorkel while the scuba divers dove below. the snorkeling was by far the most amazing part of the entire vacation. i was the only person of the four of us who hadn’t snorkeled before and i sure went to the right place to do it. at the risk of sounding cliché, it was like being in a giant aquarium. the corals and fishes were just as colorful and bright, the water just as blue. i’d never seen such blue water…or so much of it. the reefs would end at the drop off; we couldn’t see anything but pure blue emptiness where the reefs ended and ocean began. it was fairly terrifying, but not so much so that we didn’t snorkel multiple times a day. there were so many fish. i wish we had had an underwater camera; maybe we’ll get some pictures from our australian friends who had one, then i can post them here. until then, here are some pictures of other things. enjoy!
*thank you, travis, for not killing me or nisha.
War stories for my high-flying compatriots, those golden morning rays, walkers of history, sturdy cowboys in the sunset, my salty old dogs…
What on earth have I been up to this spring? Seems my time is structured away into doing my duties and keeping my head. Morning/afternoon routine still the same: wake up, go to school, come home, give lessons to loveable neighborhood mongrels. Actually, my after-school lessons have become increasingly frequent since the national exams. My high school students were on vacation while the seniors sat for the tests, so I spent a few days visiting local elementary schools (one state madrasah, one private madrasah, and one public elementary) and advertising my free English lessons. The entire third grade of the neighboring private madrasah is now my Wednesday afternoon lesson group. Great!
Evenings have been spent reading, drinking coffee with powdered milk (the newest probably-would-be-gross-if-i-ever-ate-it-the-states-but-i-am-so-deprived-of-“normal”-food-or-even-just-variation-since-i-basically-eat-rice-and-tempe-everyday-which-i-admit-i-like-but-it’s-hard-to-stomach-sometimes-and-it’s-real-repetitive-so-i-need-a-guilty-pleasure-like-oreos-or-peanut-butter-type addiction), watching basically any American TV show or movie from the last fifty years I could dream of. Who knew that by joining the Peace Corps I’d develop the best collection of TV and movies this side of the Pacific? Thanks, Noel and everyone else who wasn’t a jerk and brought an empty-hard-drived laptop (cough cough Sam cough). And by the way aren’t we lucky that we’re alive at this moment in history so we can enjoy the multifarious pleasures of the fruit of George Lucas’s mind…grapes? Eh, I thought I could make it work. Wine of the mind grapes? Grape jelly of the mind grapes?
May 1st approaches… the first day I have actively planned beginning a process that could lead to the ascertainment of The Next Move. Weird. Just got off the phone with Noel and we figure (or, I figure and force her to agree with me because otherwise we’d have to fight to the death and I’m not ready to accept that challenge because I would certainly be the “the death” part of that whole situation) this summer and fall is apply-for-stuff time, like the stuff we’re going to do next fall. My plan is basically the opposite of when I finished high school (when I applied to one college) and college (when I applied to one job) and when I finished at NMS (apply for one job): I’m going to apply for as many programs and projects and jobs as possible because I really have no idea what I’m going to do next. Something interesting should turn up!
Hey! My stepsister and stepbrother-in-law—what a mouthful—had their kid! A boy! First baby birthed by one of the magnificent four. I always said Kristen would have a kid before me… if she keeps this up she’ll have a few before I’ve even settled down. Go get ‘em, Perfect Ten!
Ok, enough for tonight. I promise to think about trying to be more diligent with this blog. I miss Diana a whole lot but so far I’ve been communicating with Noel more frequently since she’s gone, so… thank god Diana’s out of here, Noel and I can finally be together. Just kidding, Diana (though traipsing around Southeast Asia on an RPCV joyride, courtesy of taxpayer dollars—free from the stresses of PC Indo world—makes you fair game).
Uttini, ya’ll! Send me… your love beams. I’ll strum you a banjo tune, just listen real careful-like in the early mornin’ hours, ear to the east. Peace!
i didn’t eat any bat sauce. it’s just been an awful long time since i’ve written anything. mostly i don’t feel the need to anymore so i’m getting lazy; i mean it’s not necessary anymore to write about my experience to feel sane, at least write in this public bloggy way.
lots of things have happened this month; march was uneventful until the end weeks, mostly full of extremely fun teaching times & most adventuresome after-school lessons with the little kids, who are now “brave” to come over since my host mom is out of town (we’re closing in on five weeks—she’s been visiting her kids and grandkids in sumatra and Jakarta, host dad too).
mom and al came to indonesia for a week! it was a nerve-wracking blast of travelventure and whirlwindery, an exciting but exhausting romp through east and central java with stops in my training village, current site, and Jogjakarta, the cultural-arts metropolis of indonesia. i highly recommend forcing your parents to visit you at site if you are a pcv or basically anyone living in a foreign country for a length of time. they will drive you fairly insane but it’s so good—someone besides your fellows has got to understand what you’re experiencing. mom said that nobody—none of her friends, that is—will be able to really “get it” about indonesia, and i agree. we pcvs are all sort of worried about not having anyone but each other to relate to once we get back in the states; peace corps says one of the hardest things to deal with upon return is the fact that you’ve been away so long and it’s impossible to relate everything to everyone. but it’s great that my folks were here. having them meet people in my life here was really a treat. they probably met 500 people, including all my students… i bet they were as exhausted as i was; i slept for two days straight after they left. translating was fun but draining. i felt like i suddenly had two babies to take care of…very opinionated babies. but they were superstars, eating with their hands, trying everything put in front of them, buying lots of batik, renting real nice hotel rooms for us in Jogja, hanging out with my cool host cousins and eating lots of amazingly delicious duck for real cheap. thanks for coming to indonesia, my parents!
i had two hellish days of impatience and anxiety between the day my exhaustion finally wore off and the day of the newbies’ arrival; the impending hangings out with friends in surabaya (read: with ice cream) are always terrible in their propensity to make me want to hurt most everyone i see. we had a nice reunion and celebration of our one year anniversary of arriving in-country (actually it’s been almost 13 months now) and welcomed the new kids with a nice party with the staff in the office. the new group seems very cool and experienced; i can’t wait to see who’s placed near me (their swearing in is in June and a nearby city is supposedly getting four volunteers). good luck with training, pcid2/5!
the only downer over the past month or so has been diana’s really awful situation. unfortunately, she’s heading for surabaya tomorrow to do her medical check-out before heading back to the states. a big bummer.
apologies for the silence. i’ve written massive amounts of poetry over the past five months and it’s been consuming my writing time; blogging is definitely taking a back, way-back seat.
oh the tender things
slipping in beneath the clouds,
quiet with pretty eyes,
young skins and pretty crimes;
walking can be done
in the night and sunlight,
taller and with sinews,
breached and behind rested;
we were once children
of our own country,
placed and shuffled.
now we are made of lines,
fogs, any type of liquid.