you know pak puji?


a quick update before a two-week sojourn in surabaya, in-service training… hopefully a week full of learning and not just discussing things that cheese us off.

every time i sit down to write lately i draw blanks. i’ve been very busy and drained, but excited and hopeful about my activities, teaching, and progress.

what haven’t i told you about? teachers’ english course is fun and enlightening. my principal is on board with me using the course as an avenue for teacher training; i’m planning to teach my coworkers activities and methodologies by incorporating them into my lesson plans for the course and giving ‘homework’ wherein teachers can test out new techniques in their own classrooms and reflect on results. planning to teach them how to use popsicle sticks for encouraging student participation this week and am looking forward to teaching them jeopardy when we’ve finally learned enough english to warrant a review session. lots of other ideas in the works, still taking baby steps. i’m taking on a leadership role that’s putting me quite a bit out of my comfort zone, but that’s what i’d hoped for when accepting this assignment. it’s hard being a youngster in charge of teaching a whole mess of folks who’ve been teaching since i was in grade school.

peace day project will be awesome once it’s finally done, hopefully by tomorrow. we’ve made a banner and gotten pledges in the form of signatures to commit to peace; the big photo shoot is tomorrow. can’t wait to share the pictures i’ve already taken and those that have yet to be snapped. the kids and i had a blast running around campus today, describing our project and taking pledges; the seniors were stoked to have a special project with me (they’re bummed that i’m not teaching them everyday) and to be able to teach their underclass fellows about it.

the juniors’ letters to mrs. mccracken’s kids… my students blew me away this week with their honesty, their openness, and their creativity. they are genuinely interested in making friends with laura’s kids and have done an excellent job writing about their culture, religion, country, family, and selves… reading their words and seeing the kids diligently and painstakingly prepare some top-notch creations has been really inspiring. it took us three class sessions to draft, edit, and make the final copies—that’s about two and a quarter hours. i’m so proud of them and i hope the kids in indiana are as energized to reply as my kids were to start the exchange. our opportunity here to foster positive relationships between americans and indonesians is enormous; i haven’t yet started dreading checking the news in america but misrepresentations of muslims and the highly contentious portrayals they receive in the media is more than enough motivation to do everything i can to ensure this little penpal program works, and works well. so far, it’s been a breeze, thanks to my students. count me amazed.


10.8.2010: Maxwell Stands Alone, Or: Tiny Black Biting Ant Infestation

T-minus one month to the (maternal) parentals’ thirteenth wedding anniversary. They’ve got big world travel plans coming up; voyages across the ocean halfway to Indonesia this fall, the probable purpose of which is to prepare them for their epic 2011 sojourn to my new home. I’ll drink (Crystal Light lemonade, thanks family Bleumling) to that.

So, one step forward, two steps back, right? Okay. Go with the flow.

Stopped in at the post office in Magetan with one far-fetched hope that I’d be able to send my package to Laura without paying with my first born. They tried to charge me $46 to send a parcel weighing one kilo. The same saucy lady that tried two months ago to charge me $13 to send a letter had the pleasure of waiting on me; I don’t doubt that she secretly relishes dashing my hopes against the wall and turning me out like a pauper. Really, I can’t afford that shit.

The English course for teachers was cancelled today, and BBI for seniors was cancelled yesterday. This makes empty afternoons, not ideal considering I’m counting down the hours to Surabaya. I especially disdain the fact that things get cancelled about ten minutes before they’re supposed to start so I can’t even plan anything else to do in advance. The flipside is that I get more time to goof around with the neighborhood kids.

Tried to get the high school kiddies to make a human peace sign yesterday and it absolutely did not work! Mismanagement and poor planning on my part are mostly to blame. Learning lessons, learning lessons—it’s alright! We ended up making a circle instead. Halfway there…maybe next year.

And I was goofin’ around on Facebook yesterday and stumbled upon a picture from about four years ago of Mike and me and our old gang, taken outside the auditorium before a show. My heart still hurts.

Chug along, onward ho.

To cheer my spirits and hopefully give you a chuckle, I give you…installment one of Interesting Things Bu Heri Has Said To Me Lately:

  • “HEY! We can play Bingo!!”
  • “You can’t write with money.”
  • “Not all fat men are strong. You know Pak Puji?” That’s her husband.

Word on the street is that we’ve got plenty of free internet opportunities awaiting us in Surabaya; folks who wanna Skype, stand by.


Miss Martin


the day i mistook blind joe for you

accepting my expertise.

i am a teacher, trained, with some experience in difficult circumstances. i survived my first year of teaching—in middle school–more or less. i made it through the public education system in america with a good grasp of what makes a good teacher and what makes an awful one. even though i hadn’t taught my language as a foreign language before coming to this country, i know the nuts and bolts of things and at least can make, execute, and reflect on a lesson plan. i’ve also been known to show up for class. on time. i didn’t get into this program for nothing; just because i’m new in town and my bahasa isn’t as fluent as i’d like it to be, i’m not some bum off the streets of bloomington with nothing but a native tongue in my head. i am qualified.

i’ve been doing observations this week at school. it’s been a whirlwind. i don’t know if i’m ready to go into all of the details yet, but… a short anecdote: after having a week’s notice to prepare for her observation, the 10th grade english teacher came up to me as her class started and said she didn’t have a lesson planned because she was lazy. i observed and told her i’d observe again the next day and that i expected a lesson plan. today—the next day—she was absent from school. d’oh.

my seniors and i are having lots of fun doing after-school listening practice for the national exam. we learned all about western weddings and had a laugh looking at pictures of giant wedding cakes, weddings in arizona and underwater, african imerican and indian american as well as mixed-ethnicity wedding couples, people throwing rice on newlyweds, and couples smashing their wedding cakes into one another’s faces. great!

i’m getting ready to start my penpal exchanges with mccracken’s kids and hope’s kids (the former in indiana and the latter in south korea). peace corps is giving me a little extra money to send stuff to mccracken thanks to the world wise schools program, and i’m very excited to get that package all put together and sent off. i think it’s going to be very, very interesting and educational for those hoosier kids to get some muslim penpals, what with this day and age and all and their proximity to kentucky (i’m only hatin’ a little bit—i had a student last year who refused to take a confederate flag sticker off her binder no matter how many times i explained to her its significance, both historic and current). i’m going to have some photo shoots and hopefully send along individual pictures with each letter. also great!

in-service training is happening in about a week, which means two weeks in surabaya with the gang and our lovely staff and trainers. i can’t wait to see our language instructors again and get some educatin’ with the new tefl trainer, zhana, freshly transferred from bulgaria to help us out.

taught my first sections of the teachers’ english course at school today. it was a blast. i thought they’d feel pressured into taking the course or maybe that they’d not really want to take it (the principal has requested that everyone attend), but they seem truly interested in learning english and studying with me. that’s great news. i think friday’s going to be my new favorite day of the week.

started the kids on their letters to laura’s students in indiana. they are pretty excited, almost as excited as i am.

overall, a good day…stood up to ibu mama’s harassing me about going to the internet cafe and told her i get no news from my friends or family if i don’t go there; she repented and i’m hoping she’ll ease up. now i’m about to head home and try to avoid being fed again!


ps: i’m trying to upload a bunch of sweet new pictures but for some reason the computer’s not responding. here’s one for now, of my kepala desa and a couple of his buddies at the double wedding our family had last week. i like the peeking guy: