dynamo kings

fresh for ’88, kill my honey dead


Well, I had a funny thing happen this morning at 3:15 am: I didn’t wake up for sahur! There wasn’t a call from the nearby mosque for some reason, and I felt so comfy in my bed and so full of memories of last night’s enormous dinner that I just kept sleeping. I managed to make it through the day today, though I had a rough time putting thoughts together during a conference call with Ken and Betsy and the volunteer advisory counsel (of which I am a part). I’m sure nobody noticed anything except me.  Anyways, that means about 24 hours of not eating and drinking, the longest period in my life I’ve gone without at least drinking something. I’m sure, too, skipping or forgetting sahur is not an uncommon occurrence, so it’s good to get the perspective and feeling.

I had a lovely time this weekend traveling back to Malang to visit my former host family. I met up with Erika and Noel, too, which was excellent. My host family is doing well… still as funny as ever. None of them except Sinta is fasting. Ibu has a gaggle of kids from Kalimantan staying at the house while they’re in a study program, so she’s got to wake up at 2 am to cook; she got a stomachache after a few days of this and decided to stop fasting. Bapak said he’ll fast once he’s forty years old (ha!). He likes smoking too much.

Ibu took me to Junerejo to get a haircut, my first one in Indonesia. I was planning on letting my hair grow until I went home, but I realize now that would be extremely silly. My hair was getting way too hot and the ends were all crispy from the constant mandis and hair-washing, so it had to go. Luckily, the haircut turned out to be one of the best ever (matched only by the stylings of Ms. Evelyn). Plus it was about $0.50. Score!
Visiting Tlekung again was so refreshing and soothing (even though it was freezing cold and I found myself—to my surprise—wishing I had a sweater and a pair of slippers. Probably it was 65 degrees). It doesn’t seem possible that it’s been nearly three months since I moved away. Visiting the old host families, catching up with my neighborhood friends, and seeing the beautiful hills and valleys of the village were such treats. Big news in the village: Bu As might be marrying a man imported from the Netherlands. He apparently wants to convert to Islam and Bu As’s younger sister—who lives in the Netherlands with her own Dutch husband—is hooking her up. This is big news, especially for Bu As’s daughter, Dewi, who’s twelve years old (her father died a couple years back). I’ll be interested to see if and when it happens. Hopefully I get invited to the wedding!

Took a car back to Magetan on Tuesday, stuffed myself silly during the evening meal, and slept for about ten hours…straight through sahur! Whoops!



And then I didn’t write anything for a week because I was too busy sleeping on the beach, hanging out with my Peace Corps friends, and eating delicious toast and jam.

The end of Ramadhan was neat but I didn’t get to experience Idul Fitri since my car to Bali via Surabaya picked me up at seven on the morning of Hari Raya, the big day. I did see throngs of folks flocking to mosque for the special morning prayer, decked out and shiny in their new Lebaran clothes. From what I hear, everybody goes to Mosque on Idul Fitri, whether they pray regularly or not during the regular days of the year (it’s sort of like how the only memories I have of church are of Christmas services).

Took a private car up to Surabaya and hung out in the terminal for about five hours waiting for Noel, Diana, and Luke to show up to catch our bus to Bali. We ended up eating rice and swapping stories until the train departed an hour earlier than scheduled—we almost missed it and I’m fairly confident that had we been “regular” folks it wouldn’t have waited for us. Luckily we had the stupid-foreigner thing going for us, which lends a certain amount of leeway for imbecility; we were the last people on before it jetted out of the terminal and were privileged to pay an extra $10 for our troubles. I was supremely embarrassed and could feel all of the Indonesian eyeballs roll in their sockets as we clamored aboard, taking our seats in the very front row, but thankfully Indonesians are a lot nicer than Americans, who, I’d imagine, would shamelessly harass a group of confused Asians for delaying departure of a Greyhound. It could be wishful thinking, though; Indonesians are generally softer-spoken than Americans.

We took the bus straight to the easternmost edge of Java and hopped a ferry to cross to Bali (bus and all). It was a little after midnight and we watched the stars shine from the top deck of the boat. Once we hit Bali, the bus drove another few hours to Denpasar, the capital, before dropping us off. We hopped an angkota for an astoundingly high price and boogied on over to Kuta, the tourist city where Noel had booked our lodgings (we stayed for two days in the city before the others arrived). We hit a dog on the way. A few words about dogs in Indonesia: they are very few in Java because Muslims don’t keep dogs; Balinese dogs are notoriously rabid; dogs can scream.

We arrived in Kuta at about four in the morning on Saturday, just in time for sunrise but six hours before our check-in time. Grabbed coffee (not Javanese coffee—espresso!!) and snacks at a 24-hour convenience store and watched the drunk people stumble toward their hotels since the previous night’s party was just ending. We ended up bumming on the beach with our duffel bags and giant Peace Corps issued red life vests until checking into our hostel. After check-in, we proceeded to bum on the beach until we ate pizza, after which we bummed on the beach with drinks. Luke and I went out dancing later that evening (until four), which was a blast. Though the clubs were full of rich, drunk Aussie surfer-types, we had a lot of fun and I felt more normal than I have in a while…not having to worry about what I have to do tomorrow or who’s going to try and feed me next was delightful.

Sunday was very similar to Saturday, except we ate burritos and Noel and Diana came out dancing, too. We were out again until four, getting back to the hostel, showering, and collapsing into bed just in time for Bart to show up from Malang at five. We slept a few hours before getting up, mustering ourselves, and hitting the beach.

We headed out of Kuta toward the bungalows Sara had rented a couple months ago—some of the other volunteers had already checked in and others were still en route. The bungalows were about an hour north of the city, isolated from the hullabaloo, peaceful and luxurious. We had half of the resort rented for our party, each group of four to six taking one bungalow. This place was the max. I’ve never stayed in such a place and probably won’t again for a long, long time. Two floors, a big porch, and a spectacular outdoor, open-air bathroom and shower in a garden. We were given oil lamps at night instead of using electric lights, and each bed had a mosquito net and a fan (not glamorous but very, very appreciated). Each bungalow was a little different and they were all surrounded by beautiful trees and tropical flowers. The beach was about a ten minute walk away, itself sufficiently isolated from the storm of tourists and surfers in Kuta, surrounded by cliffs, rocks, and caves on either end of the half a mile or so stretch of pebbly sand. The reef was fairly rough and rocky, making swimming adventurous at least and sometimes difficult but providing a perfectly picturesque natural boardwalk during low tide.

Reuniting with the Peace Corps folks was even more sublime than the beach. We spent four days lounging on the sand together, eating delicious food (toast, granola, fruit with yogurt every morning for breakfast instead of white rice?! Genius!), swapping stories, collecting seashells, bumming around the pool, telling jokes, ordering ice cream, and getting really, really tan (or, in Luke and Diana’s case, trying our damndest to turn from human beings into Christmas hams). It was lovely to commune and get a sense of normalcy via conversations about everything from insane eating situations to crazy school adventures to the excitement of making it through six months to successes and failures in our host families to how great it feels not to be told to mandi since we’re on vacation.

I travelled back to Magetan with Andy yesterday, leaving Bali after eating ice cream with Truong, Maggie, Scott, Lauren, and Travis and stopping at a gift shop to buy souvenirs for family and friends here in Java. Amazingly, our scheduled travel car picked us up from Kuta early, but for some reason the ride back to the west coast seemed to take twice as long as the ride in. After the ferry and another short ride we waited at the Surabaya terminal for about five minutes before hopping on the bus (and saying farewell to Diana, Luke, and Erika), and the rides from Maospati station and then from Magetan were short and sweet. Without stopping except once to eat, it was about seventeen hours travel time for me (and I’m the farthest from Bali), not really that bad if done overnight.

The week’s tastiest treats: lycee lime cocktail with fresh basil, tamarind ginger soda, grilled pineapple sandwiches, banana juice, caramel ice cream, French fries and ketchup, smores with Hershey’s and Honey Maid and Jet-Puffed (thanks, mom!), oleh-oleh from Colleen’s village, M&Ms, everything with cheese.

This vacation was much needed (if not well-deserved*) and I’m so happy to have spent it with such good friends and in such a beautiful place.

*Disclaimer: I do realize I’m not in the middle of the Sahara eating cassava balls day in and day out, fending off camel spiders, and sleeping on a straw mat.


How did it get to be September 21? Yesterday was our first day back at school since vacation started two weeks ago. We had what was called halal bihalal, a special Indonesian ceremony to celebrate Hari Raya (I’m told that nobody in the Middle East or in Muslim communities outside Indonesia celebrates halal bihalal).

The day started with a short ceremony at school during which the entire student population individually saleemed every teacher, including me. We then visited different community and religious leaders in Turi and Joso. Luckily I didn’t feel too out of place because I had been given—and had accepted—the advice to wear a jilbab.

Unfortunately, I didn’t know the halal bihalal was going to last until three in the afternoon; the tiny people showed up for les at 1:30 and were eventually shooed away by my host mother when she realized I wasn’t coming to meet them. It was for the best, anyways, since I was feeling fairly loopy and drained.


Yes, it’s true… things take a while to get going around here. My English course for the teachers at school has been in the works since the middle of June and I have yet to hold class. It keeps getting pushed back, pushed back, pushed back, rearranged, cancelled, etc. and the anticipation is starting to wear on me. I thought that it would finally start this week, but nope! Yesterday I stayed home sick from school and the next possible day is Friday, though it’s some sort of halal bihalal again, so students are excused from school and extracurriculars are cancelled. I’m hoping I can start the advanced course on Saturday. Plus, I haven’t had a formal English club since June. And the extracurricular study group for seniors (national exam prep) that I’m co-teaching has met once since school started (it was cancelled today).

I’m hoping to start a regular English department meeting, though it’ll have to be either directly before or after school since there is not one single hour where one of the three English teachers isn’t teaching. It would be so good to get the three English teachers together: their strategies and methods are very different and they have a lot to share and teach each other, in my opinion…but we’ll see if I can make it happen.


I just had a fantastic afternoon! Lucky for me. I was feelin’ kinda grumpy about the nothing-is-happening-yet thing. I popped over to Bu Yati’s place to find her father-in-law knee deep in dry corn cobs and corn husks, sorting through the rotten ears and bagging the good ones. She excitedly rubbed my belly upon greeting me, exclaiming her immense delight at my good turn of health. Some of the neighborhood kids—the littlest and the cutest—spied me through the open doorway, despite the low lighting, and practically jumped over Grandpa’s squatting frame to fling themselves into my arms. Man, if there’s one thing that makes it all worth it, it’s the running-to-hug children.

Took a meander through the fields with the babes, playing lion and making the farmers laugh (I’m not shy to do very un-Indonesian-ladylike things when playing with the kids: running, jumping, crawling, yelling, etc.). They had a nice time fighting over who got to get piggy-backed and I ended up carrying Indah through the fields—a darling little girl with special needs.

As I headed back home, I spied my neighbor Bu Suti sitting on her front porch with her roosters. She’s an amazing old woman who was left by her husband and all but disowned by her children, for reasons yet unclear to me, and I love her. I ran inside and grabbed my last oleh-oleh from Bali and scampered across the road, sweating like crazy since today was the most humid day in ages and I kept my hair down to cover my tattoos. I offered the souvenir to Bu Suti’s extreme delight and answered all her questions about Bali, nibbling on a sweet steamed rice treat that she lovingly forced upon me.

While we were chatting, I saw a man and a little girl ride up on their motorcycle and stop in front of my house. They entered as another motorcycle showed up, womanned by two young girls. I figured they were MAN Panekan kids and started to call them; luckily, they answered and came across the street. They turned out to be a middle schooler from Panekan and a vocational school junior from Magetan, adventuring to the village in search of me. Amazing, huh?

We had a lovely conversation and snapped some great pictures. They were extremely animated and their English was great. We ate candies in Bu Suti’s house after the little girl from before—who turned out to be the middle schooler’s younger sister—and Lia and Putri joined us on the porch. Before they left, I met the two girls’ father, a very nice man from an island east of Lombok. I gave the little girl a pencil topped with a wooden tucan (I bought a pack in Bali to give out to kids as occasion offered) and gave my phone number to the older girls. Ah, new friends!


dearly beloved… we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…

dear krinkle kut… adore, b-sides

have you told truong lately that he’s amazing? go, go, go!

enjoy these photos from bali:


jump ropes

So we made jump ropes out of used plastic bags. I made one beforehand and brought it outside before class started so the kids could get excited– they immediately used the jump rope as a limbo pole and then jumped over it (only a couple of them had ever used a jump rope in the way we typically do).
They dug it. I had about 70 kids in all, in three waves. It was hectic as all get-out but worth it, of course!

coconuts coconuts


Every single morning I’m out of bed before my host dad. He comes out of his room, looks at me, giggles, and says “Sudah bangun.” You’re already up. Yeah, I am! It reminds me of the play-by-play Scott’s always getting about his life, but luckily nobody ever tells me when I’m going to the bathroom. Very funny.

Lesson planning. This is so incredibly difficult. I decided to make a two-week unit plan for teaching “narrative,” which is in the curriculum as a genre with which students must be technically fluent (understand exposition, rising action, climax, etc) and linguistically proficient…since they read stories in English. The problem is that their language skills are too low to accommodate the stories found in their workbooks, which are usually misrepresented or threadbare retellings of classic stories like Goldilocks, Cinderella, or Snow White. Sometimes there’s an Indonesian folktale or a short fable but the majority of workbook “narrative” texts are Western. So, we’re bound to the really awful curriculum that’s not tailored to meet the needs of the students but to the content of the national exams. This makes lesson planning a drag since I’ve got to figure out how to teach the content (the students have paid for their workbooks, so my counterpart is insisting they be used. Plus I can’t make photocopies without going into town), give them some significant grammar review, help them practice producing the language in a reading-based curriculum, make it fun and enjoyable, not over-plan or under-plan (which has been happening a lot), differentiate delivery and content as needed for the two different tracks, and design activities for my two students with exceptional needs. And I can’t explain things to them in English; their workbooks have no bahasa Indonesia, but how can we expect beginning English language students to understand, for example, the definition in English of past progressive tense?

On top of it all, my counterpart and I don’t plan in the same way and it’s gotten to a point where it’s easier, more efficient, and probably more educational for my counterpart if I make the lessons instead of if we collaborate. At this point, she’s not bringing much to the table except “we’ve got to stick to the curriculum” and answering my questions about the capabilities of the students, when she’s asked. She doesn’t contribute activities or ideas for the lesson plan itself, which is fine (I can’t yet expect her to do something she’s never really been asked to do). I’m satisfied—since this is still the beginning—to take the majority of the planning into my own hands and let her execute the plan after it’s demonstrated by me.

So, planning the narrative unit. I’ve decided to incorporate some heavy grammar stuff. When we were still in Malang, I didn’t think I’d need to teach much grammar since I thought that if students could understand and be understood, grammar wasn’t that important. However, I’ve learned over the past three months that the kids need grammar—they’ve got tons of English vocabulary but they can hardly put sentences together (and when they do, they’re riddled with grammatical mistakes that are usually so severe as to impede comprehension). It’s imperative to have grammar skills when speaking a foreign language, of course; I didn’t anticipate that after seven or eight years of studying English, my students would say things like “Her is sixteen” and “Him haves two sister.” I can understand what they’re saying but I think the source of some of their shyness is that they often know their grammar is incorrect but don’t know how to fix it; I feel much more comfortable speaking bahasa Indonesia when I know my word order and prefixes and suffixes are right and imagine the students feel the same about their English. They need to feel confident that they are correct and to achieve this we have to review (re-learn?) basic grammar concepts.

Last week we studied all sorts of different types of pronouns and how to identify antecedents; how can you expect readers to understand English without understanding pronouns? I’m hoping the pronouns stuff will help get them up to speed since it’s such a critical thing to understand. Before we went over pronouns, for example, Bu Heri would have a pair of sentences like “Anik went to Jogjakarta. She thought it was fun.” and ask the students who “she” was. In the advanced class, less then half of the kids sheepishly ventured “Anik?” I’m not chalking the lack of response up to a failure to participate, either—when the kids know something, they’ll not hesitate to say it.

So I’m using the narrative texts—three decent readings that I’ll have to orally correct with the kids before assigning them—as a vehicle for teaching grammar. I’m still focusing on reviewing material and concepts they have already learned; interestingly, they’ve studied almost every aspect of English grammar over the course of their educations. They’ve heard the words for all of the parts of speech and tenses and they’ve studied grammar rules and irregularities. Years of non-participatory learning, teachers not clarifying or providing examples or checking for comprehension, few to no real-world opportunities to practice the language, and workbooks with mistakes and insignificant (not meaningful) exercises have allowed the students to slip through their English courses with nothing much more than random vocabulary words. Luckily, they’ve got the vocabulary: I have no idea how I’d go about teaching huge amounts of vocabulary and the much needed grammar concepts at the same time (I’m still feeling green about TEFL). Theoretically, once they begin to understand the way the language works, they can plug in the vocabulary they already know and be on their way.

So, I’m doing simple past tense, past progressive tense, and negation—along with narrative—for the two weeks after the holiday. I’m hoping to show my counterpart that we can meet the students’ needs and still hit the curriculum standards if we’re creative about it and don’t work directly from the textbook.


In honor of traveling to Bali for a week of hanging out on the beach with my friends, I’d like to write a little bit about things in my life that make me feel the moniker of “Posh Corps” for Asian PC countries is rather accurate. I suppose you could describe this stuff as contradictions of expectations and anticipations I had about what the Peace Corps would be like.

  • My host family is wealthy enough to hire a maid (who—along with her daughter—happens to be my best friend in the village). I’m not allowed to help her sweep, mop, or do dishes, even if they’re my own. She feels bad if I help because she’s getting paid by my host mother.
  • We’ve got a much nicer house than the majority of people in my village, evidenced by our marble floors and expansive kitchen, clothes washing/spinning machine, and the fact that my host mother cooks chicken almost daily.
  • Since we’re the first group of Volunteers in this country, our financial needs have been over-estimated, probably in the vein of “better safe than sorry.” This means I am significantly wealthier than I’d like to be in comparison with most of my friends in the village and my coworkers at school. This makes me feel awkward and ashamed because I’m frequently asked how much I get per month from the Peace Corps and I frequently lie about it because it’s a completely ridiculous amount of money to divulge (“How much do I make? Gee, I don’t know! Just enough for daily expenses, I guess.”). Grand prizes on game shows are in the ball park of what we have.
  • I have to shower twice a day, dress up (in uniform) to go to work, and take an afternoon break.
  • Folks are happier if I don’t help them with chores or cooking, or if they let me help I’m usually allowed to try once, giggled at, then politely told to stop and just watch instead of being given the chance to try again. Unfortunately, I’m constantly worried about being polite so I don’t press.
  • I own a computer and can get near-daily internet access, while sending snail mail is a huge hassle (I’ve got to send my US-bound mail to Noel’s village, which is three hours away, so she can mail it from her post office).
  • I have to get permission for everything (this is loss of independence to me though it’s normal for unmarried Indonesian women my age).
  • I’m given and expected to eat way, way more food than I could ever possibly eat and it’s okay if food is wasted or thrown out.
  • I can buy anything at any time at a toko just down the street or in the town that’s twenty minutes and 3,000 Rp away (a little over $0.30).

So, it’s ok! Here are a few pictures of my friends down the street. These are my favorite tiny people in town. It was Tia’s 6th birthday and the kids were stoked that I brought my camera out. Enjoy!

my milk and honey


(For the record, neither Lauren nor I are opposed to the sale of Tim Tams at Target.)

Wow, it’s September. I can’t believe it. I can already feel that this month is going to be spectacular… I’ve had a weird time settling in to site, as you can probably tell from my posts, and I’m starting to feel the love again. In three days, the “settling in” period will be officially over, though I’m sure I’ll be developing my friendships and relationships in this community throughout my stay here.

There are things I’ve needed to face for a while and I can confidently say that the majority of my time is spent ready and willing to face them (as opposed to the majority of my time being spent moping or being self-defeatist). I’m feeling dedicated, inspired, and motivated more often than not, which is good. I don’t doubt for a minute that it’s because I’m starting to feel in control of my life again—people are slowly getting used to me, my strange habits, and my eccentricities. I’ve also decided to stop worrying about being excessively cautious in my relations with my host parents—if I don’t let myself be myself, I won’t be happy. I suppose this is as much a measure of my newfound comfort as a deepening level of acceptance and perspective. It doesn’t hurt that I’m fairly sure most everyone at school (and my little les children) is starting to love me not just because I’m an exciting, strange, pretty foreigner, but because I’m Tante (aunt), Miss, sayang (darling), or just Samanta. It was interesting in the beginning to experience the self-esteem boost of being immediately popular for not really doing anything but showing up but it’s infinitely more gratifying to be appreciated for… being me? Ugh, that’s cheesy, but it’s starting to be true.

I’d like to stop waxin’ and give you a little information about my school. I realized today that I haven’t said much about what it means that I’m teaching at an Islamic school and this is a fascinating experience. Of course, it’s the surface aspects of working at an Islamic school that strike one first—all of the women and girls (except me) wear jilbabs, full-length skirts or pants, and long-sleeved skirts. The boys aren’t allowed to wear shorts and often wear traditional Javanese Islamic caps called peci. There’s a mosque on the school compound, though we’ve outgrown it and praying students spill into the courtyard whenever it’s time for prayers, for which classes are stopped for about a half an hour, sometimes three times a day. We’ve also got signs around the school and above the classrooms that are printed in three languages (English, bahasa Indonesia, and Arabic), another surface-level quality, and each classroom has numerous copies of the Holy al-Qur’an (and not much else in the way of books or literature). Stuff that’s not on the surface: students study, speak, write, read, and pray in Arabic though only the Arabic teachers are fluent. The students take numerous religion classes on various aspects of Islam. History classes and the social sciences incorporate studies of Islam and the Arab/Islamic world. Prayer times involve wuduh or the ritualistic cleansing of specific parts of the body (hands, feet, forehead, mouth, ears, face, crown of the head…right, Diana?) with water fountains found scattered across the school compound, the donning of special prayer garments for ladies: silken, billowy skirts and head-coverings whose hems come to the knees and that hide everything except the face, and the call to prayer over the loudspeaker system. Really, though, the major differences (in comparison to my experiences at public schools in Indiana and Arizona) don’t come from the fact that the school is Islamic but that it’s religious, and Indonesian; if I may generalize, the kids are much more polite, respectful, and engaged than their US counterparts, tremendous considering the circumstances and difficulties of being a student in this country (and the greater opportunities—technological, economic—experienced by mainstream US students).


Animals that directly attack and onion until his mother died. That is the reward for people who are greedy.”

september trust


My host dad came home today from Jakarta. He had been there with my host mom and their ill daughter since August 5th, the day their daughter had a surprise Caesarean a month before full term. She somehow got a viral or bacterial lung infection shortly thereafter and was transferred to a different hospital while the new baby—her second—stayed in the ICU at the original hospital. A few days ago, their daughter was released. My host mom is still there and wont be coming back until after I leave for Bali, though her youngest daughter—who lives on Kalimantan (Borneo)—will be coming here on September 6th to celebrate the end of Ramadhan, Eid ul-Fitr (known as Idul Fitri in Indonesia). This is good news for me since Ibu Mama told me I’d most likely not meet either of her daughters since they usually don’t come home for the holidays.

Yesterday I took myself a-walk and afterwards hung out with a family that owns a toko near my school. The grandpa was there along with his son and daughter-in-law, the proprietors. They’ve got a cute ten-month-old baby boy who’s almost as big as some of the five-year-olds who live on my street. He’s smart. He makes mooing noises when you ask him what a sapi (cow) sounds like and pretends to slap mosquitoes between his hands when you ask him where the nyamuks (mosquitoes) are.

It was so nice to get out and do some walking yesterday. While I appreciate Ramadhan and am gaining some valuable insight about the holiday, about Islam, and about Indonesian Islamic culture, I’ll be glad to stop fasting so I can get out and about more. I’ve been dehydrated (as evidenced by my horribly chapped lips) and walking around sweating off water is a dangerous business, even if it’s in the name of integration into the community. I’m looking forward to doing some formal interviewing for needs analysis, which I’ll start as soon as I’m back from Bali, and continuing to make new friends and becoming a part of the community here, both of which are easier when following a normal sleeping and eating routine. The upside of the fasting is that I’ve gotten closer to my neighbors since I haven’t been walking much farther than what’s effectively the end of my street—depth over breadth these days, which is okay by me, but my village is on the bigger side if not just more crowded than I’d imagined it would be so I’ve still got lots of people to meet. Did you know Java is the most densely populated island in the world?


What a day! Went with Bu Heri to Magetan to get a ticket to Surabaya for the day my train leaves from the station there to Bali. Turned out to be almost 100% more expensive than usual because it’s the holiday. Oh, well!

After buying the ticket, Bu Heri and I went to a vocational high school in Magetan at which Bu Heri had taught for ten years prior to moving to our current school. I met some of her former coworkers and a couple of the students, the former being very proficient in English and desperate to get me to teach at their school or help them in some way and the latter being excited and shocked and thrilled by my presence. There are only five teachers at that school, so I invited them to ask permission from my principal (who will heretofore not be known as Mr. Miyagi, though if you imagine him as such it’s fine by me) to join the teachers’ English class. I also invited them to come and observe me and Bu Heri teach. I feel so badly that I’m not allowed to guest teach at their school if not because I think it would help them but because they’re so disappointed that I can’t. Oh, well!

Rode my bike to the warnet and goofed around for an hour or so, mostly looking at Tomatsu Shomei photographs and chatting with Lauren about making things out of plastic. A nice break during the middle of the day and a good way to pass the time since Ayah wasn’t home when I came back from Magetan.

Came home and crashed for half an hour before my herd of “les” students showed up on the front porch half an hour early for class (I don’t know what “les” means but it’s the word the kids use when referring to the after school English club I’ve been having at my house. By the way, les is the only time I’ve ever seen an Indonesian early for something, so I must be doing something right). It was insane today! We played Bingo again, by popular demand, and we’ll play it for our final meeting on Friday and hopefully I’ll get them down to once a month Bingo or something… after the holiday. The kids are spreading the word—I had over fifty students today. Last Friday I had 42, which was just barely manageable. Adding roughly ten to that number makes things a quite a hootenanny (especially when they all feel like they need to saleem me on their way out…I get scared my hand’s gonna get ripped off in the excitement). I split them up randomly for Friday’s class and after the holiday we’ll divide by age. Their homework is to start collecting used plastic bags that their parents don’t need and would normally burn; Lauren and I chatted today about recycling projects involving plastic bags and the two ideas I like the most for the kids are doormats and jumpropes. I’d like to get a group of folks to knit or crochet tote bags, too, but I might save that for a ladies group later on.

After les, my two favorite (shh) girls from the neighborhood and I made pizza. They were so excited to help me cook and were delighted to hear my half-truth about how yeast is like a tiny animal that likes to eat sugar and then farts to make the dough rise. I have only a limited vocabulary, so sue me if my rendition of “releases gas” is “farts.” Anyways, they were flabbergasted by the kneading process, absolutely loved preparing the tiny bowls of toppings (bok choy, fried tempeh, grated white cheddar cheese, marinara with garlic, shallot, and chili pepper), and very impatient during the long wait while the pizza was baking. I’ve never seen an in-home oven in this country and my current homestay is no exception, so in the style of my Ibu in Malang I set up a makeshift steam-oven with a wok, a small amount of water, a platform for the tart tin I used as a pizza pan, and a big silver bowl on top to trap the steam. Quite a success, though I was skeptical at first since it took nearly a half an hour for the dough to bake. I’m not sure if it was actually delicious or it’s just been a while, but that pizza blew my mind. So cheesy! So salty! So not made of rice!*

Then I hung out and buka’ed with Ayan (sort of) and watched Borat since I had a headache and needed to laugh it off. I then proceeded to get real excited about: Bali, my friends in Bloomington and thinking about how fantastic my family is, amazing big people growing amazing tiny people in their amazing bellies, the Flaming Lips, Diana’s massive brain, and realizing that everyone in this country is going to think I’m weird and strange no matter what I do so I might as well be my weird and strange self and get over it. And I may have wasted a couple minutes getting sublimely teary over Brian Eno and John Cale (and winter basements, belly dancers, and holding hands in coffee shops in the City).

*The pizza was a bigger success than last week’s no-bake cookies made with cereal puffs for lack of oatmeal. Ha.


Happy Birthday, Dad!!