Alumna Blog: On Assignment in Indonesia
by Lauren Ebersole '07
A day in the life of me during Ramadhan: I begrudgingly set my alarm the night before for 3:30 am so that I may drag myself out of bed for sahur, which means supper. At 3:30 am my alarm sounds and a few minutes later a voice comes over the loudspeaker of the mosque three doors down: "Sahur, sahur", the voice says. "Bapak-bapak, ibu-ibu, anak-anak, sahur sahur", it continues. The village is awoken so that all will eat before the sunrise. I walk out to the kitchen, rubbing my eyes, and fill my plate with as much rice as I think I can stomach at 3:30 in the morning. Every few minutes the voice returns to the loudspeaker with a countdown of the time left before eating and drinking must cease. I eat and drink as much as possible and by 4am I am back in bad. My family stays awake for Subuh, the 4:30 prayer. At 5:30ish, I am back up to get ready for school. I dump as much cold water over my body as I think I can tolerate
at 5:30 in the morning. When 6:30 comes, my host sister and I leave for school together.
At school I am greeted with the usual "Good morning miss, how are you?" Often this is followed by "Masih puasa?" (Still fasting). I answer in the affirmative and am then usually told that I look thin. The school day is short, and I am finished teaching by 11. I send a few emails and check the news for the day and then head home, usually on a len filled with students. The afternoons are quiet, as most people seem to be sleeping in the heat of the day. I read, sleep, or plan lessons, counting down the hours until I can eat and drink. At 1 pm, my stomach screams for food, but with a little patience that feeling passes. From 4 pm on, time seems to move backwards and I think 5:30 will never come. I take another bath to kill some time and finally Maghrib, the 5:30 prayer, has arrived, and with it buka puasa, literally open fasting. My host family and I eat some snacks and drink before they go to pray. When they return we eat
a hearty dinner. At 6:45, I am left alone for about 45 minutes while the family goes to Taraweh at the mosque. I quickly change the channel from Indonesian soap operas to the only thing I can find in English, old episodes of the show Early Edition. By 9 pm, I am usually headed to bed, preparing myself for the same routine the next day.
When I started fasting, I did not originally intend to fast the entire month, but only to try for a little while. Now, for some reason, I feel like I must continue, although I am not Muslim, nor has anyone pressured me into fasting. To the contrary, my host family continually says it's really ok if you want to eat. I suppose in my hard head I have turned this into some kind of competition, where if everyone else can fast for a whole month, so can I. And now with only a little over a week left, I am actually starting to like the challenge. I also enjoy the fact that people cannot force food into my hands, which is the usual state of affairs. I look forward to Eid or Idul Fitri or Hari Raya or Lebaran, whatever you'd like to call it; the end of Ramadhan because the preparations have been extensive. People buy new clothes and new household items for the holiday and there has been a constant flow of neighbors bringing food over for at least the past week. One of the
most enjoyable parts of fasting is buka puasa bersama, or gatherings of people to eat and drink together at the end of the fasting day. Usually I just buka puasa with my family, but last Wednesday, my neighbor invited me to eat with her, last Saturday, I joined my sister's extracurricular school group, today Miranti's whole class will come to the house, and on Friday, I'll break fasting with a teacher from my school.
School still brings its frustrations, but in true Ramadhan fashion I am trying to not get angry and work on my patience. Instead of dwelling on the frustrations, I am taking my cue from other volunteers who have made lists of 100 things they are grateful for/happy about. Because I am neither as insightful nor as diligent as many of my fellow volunteers, my list is going to be about 10 or so.
So here are my small victories:
- My ibu introducing me to people as anakku, my child
- My host sisters falling asleep on my shoulders
- The len drivers (public transportation I take everyday to school) knowing where I need them to stop on the way home from school
- People grabbing my arm or hand to cross the street, just to make sure I'm safe
- Small children running down the street to meet me, calling Miss Lauren, Miss Lauren
- My neighbor, Novi, stopping by the house to pick me up for volleyball
- The volleyball women letting me play on their team, even though I play poorly
- Es anything ... es literally means ice, but it is the name of a dessert with many variations. The basic components are water, some kind of syrup, and then a variety of fruits. I cannot explain it properly, but it is so delicious and refreshing and I'm pretty sure I could eat it everyday for the rest of my life.
- My ibu letting me try on her clothes so that I could find a style of shirt for the fabric I had been given, then taking me to the tailor and explaining what the shirt should look like
- Making people laugh with my incorrect pronunciation and my odd facial expressions
- My host sister, Miranti, answering my frequent requests of "Mir, what does this mean?" with patience
- Inquisitive questions about America
- My first host family in Malang telling me that their door is always open whenever I want to visit
- Packages from America, especially ones that include M&M's and letters
- On more than one occasion describing tampons to women
- The ability of people to transport goods on motorcycles, including such things as bicycles
- The surprised look on my family's face when I take a bath before anyone else. Like my family in America, my host family here has already learned my distaste for bathing.
- Sate, rawon, soto ... three of my favorite meals
Look at that, I made it to 18.
Other random news/events: I taught an English course for students who were taking a test from Australia, called ICAS. The test was extremely difficult, with very high-level vocabulary and reading comprehension; hence it was also very difficult to prep the students for the test. If nothing else I think I left them with these pearls of wisdom:1. Don't stress too much because in the big scheme of things this test doesn't matter all that much and 2. If all else fails, guess C.
One of the geography teachers at school is very interested in recycling and making things from recycled products, so she asked me if I had any ideas. I, being a diligent recycler in America of course offered to help, but also as I am not crafty, I immediately went to the Internet for help. As of now, all we have done is talk about ideas, but hopefully in the future we will have made some items out of plastic bags, bottles, or newspapers.
School will go on another holiday starting on the 5th. I'll have two weeks off and will be headed to Bali with the other volunteers for a few days of relaxation and American food.
As always, I hope all is well.
Much love, Lauren
PS. This is not a call for packages, just information on my address:
My school address:
SMA Negeri Mojoagung
Jl. Janti No. 18
My home address:
c/o Mr. Zainul Arifin
Subontoro Barat Gg. 2 No. 56
Mojotrisno Mojoagung Jombang
PHOTOS: On Assignment in Indonesia