Alumna Blog: On Assignment in Indonesia
by Lauren Ebersole '07
A belated Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving feast, filled with rice and chicken. If you close your eyes and imagine hard enough white rice still tastes like white rice. I was able to make the chicken taste like turkey, not that impressive of a mental feat. I did have a fleeting moment of Thanksgiving-ness. I went to a house warming party and I was sitting on the floor in a circle with a group of women from the village with a spread of food on the floor. For a split second I thought "Well this is kind of like a Thanksgiving set-up", but I was jolted back to reality by a very dense dessert made of cassava which reminded me nothing of pie. Anyway please do not feel bad for me, I survived and appreciate stuffing all the more. My very loving siblings did taunt me with leftover stuffing over Skype, discussing how much was leftover and how delicious it was. Now is the appropriate time to feel bad.
My first semester as an English teacher is quickly coming to a close. The middle of December brings end of semester exams, which also brings stress and headaches attempting to keep students from cheating. As I look back on the first 6 months of my work here, I know that I have learned much. Unfortunately I'm not sure how much I have taught. Seeing as how that is the main objective, I have some work to do. I have high hopes for the next semester though. Now that I understand more how the system works and the challenges I will face, hopefully I am more prepared to face them. I do feel as a teacher I am improving. I still have many classes that don't go quite as planned, but lately overall I feel like I'm having more successes.
It is amazing to think about all the things that are different here, little things that you wouldn't imagine being different regardless of where you are. I went to Surabaya yesterday with my host sister to see Harry Potter. The movie theatre was very nice, with comfortable seats. When we bought our tickets, we actually chose a specific seat in the theater. There was a screen that showed all the available seats, kind of like when you buy tickets to a concert or something. Second, and it's a little surprising that I never really noticed before, but I went to the bathroom and people wait behind a specific stall. In the US generally we just make a line and the first person goes in the first empty stall. So if you choose incorrectly you could be waiting awhile in Indonesia. It's kind of like when you choose the slow line at the grocery store.
A little more about the Harry Potter day. Turned out to be one of those days that don't go that well, but still ends up being a good day. After waiting for a nice bus for 15 minutes, we decided to just get on the next bus headed to Surabaya. Poor choice as it ended up being filled with rather grabby people, not grabby in a sexual harassment kind of way. We then opted for a city bus once in Surabaya. It waited for 25 minutes before leaving and in those 25 minutes I began very sweaty and very cranky. It left just in time to make us 10 minutes late for the movie. We bought tickets to the later show and then had a difficult time figuring out what to eat. The movie and the theatre were great. Unfortunately I left my phone in the taxi back to the bus station and we had to stand on the bus the whole way home.
I can't believe Christmas is only 12 days away. It doesn't exactly feel like Christmas time here, what with the alternating blazing heat and torrential rain. Maybe it's best that there isn't a Christmas feeling in the air; I'll remember less that I won't be spending it with family. I do have plans to go to Surabaya to meet the other volunteers and for New Year's I'm going to Solo with two of my host sisters to visit the third sister.
Dad wrote in his blog about contradictions a while ago. I have also noticed some contradictions, although not quite so deep or serious. First the weather. During the dry season it is, well, dry and hot. This causes extreme sweating at almost all hours of the day. The one up side is that the cold bucket bath can be somewhat refreshing. The rainy season brings some nice times of relief from the heat. Unfortunately there are torrential downpours of rain, leaving places muddy or flooded. The other down side is the cold bath is much more difficult to take if you haven't been sweating all day. Second contradiction is clothing. Wearing black attracts the most heat, but it also hides sweat the best. On the other hand, wearing light colors is cooler, but shows sweat and causes yellow pit stains that are impossible to remove.
I hear constant refrains of Miss, are you on a diet and Miss you are so thin. I think I have lost maybe 15 lbs. While I'm not sure my exact weight before coming here I know it wasn't the 122 lbs. the scale says now.
At English club a few weeks ago I taught students some slang. Now when I see them I expect them to say such quality things as what's up Miss, what's crackin', peace out cub scout, and see you later alligator. I also recently attended my first traditional dance class. The dances are pretty difficult, but I plan on being pretty diligent with my studies.
As I mentioned briefly earlier test week causes me great anxiety and as a result I have had a headache for the past few days. My host mother has been taking good care of me though with a neck and head massage and tea with ginger and honey. This morning we went on a family walk at 5 am followed by yoga. So the days that try my patience are usually balanced out by the days that rejuvenate my spirit to keep doing my best.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS! I hope everyone has a great holiday. Enjoy family and friends. I'll be thinking of you all half way around the world. I've been in Indonesia for 9 months; see you all in another 18.
Much love always,
PHOTOS: On Assignment in Indonesia