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!!