my milk and honey

9.1

(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).

*

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

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