Alumna Blog: On Assignment in Indonesia
Selamat tahun baru - 2010, A Year in Review
by Lauren Ebersole '07
2010 has been one of the more interesting years of my short life, filled with more emotions than I usually care to feel or acknowledge. So here's the review of 2010:
A year ago I was working at STAR Community, a residential home for developmentally disabled adults. While there I met and worked with an amazing group of people and learned that I might be capable of doing things I never imagined I was. In February I got a call after many many months of waiting and the call went something like this: "Would you be interested in becoming a TEFL volunteer in Indonesia and could you leave in a month, and oh yea could you decide by tomorrow?" With the full support of my family and friends I left in March to start 27 months of Peace Corps service. I met 19 other people who on short notice also agreed to come to Indonesia. People I know count on for advice and support. I have recounted most of what has happened from March until now through emails, so I'm going to give you all a quick review of some things that happened and the accompanying feelings:
- March 15 - say goodbye to family - tears and sadness, some excitement
- March 18 - arrival in Indonesia, excitement with a touch of nervousness
- March 23 - arrival at my home for the next 10 weeks, nervousness with a touch of excitement
- May - making strides on feeling comfortable
- June 4 - taken to my permanent site where I realize the safety net of other volunteers is gone - panic and doubt ensue
- June 27 - on the long bus trip to Bali my host sister falls asleep on my shoulder giving me an odd sense of comfort
- July 17 - first day of teaching- panic and doubt again ensue
- Aug. 11 - first day of Ramadan and my first day of fasting- hunger and thirst ensue
- Oct. 9 - a student confides in me about problems with a friend - feeling needed
- Oct. 11 - IST with the other volunteers, two whole weeks of comfort- happiness and frustration relief
- Oct. 25 - back to school after IST, students and teachers tell me they missed me- contentment
- Nov. 11 - shook hands with President Barack Obama - self-importance ensues
- Dec. 25 - Skyped with my family and did not miss the Cajun Night Before Christmas - happiness and longing for home result
So that was 2010 in a nutshell. I'm sure 2011 will prove to be just as interesting. And it seems like that should be the end of the email, but here are few more random stories that happened between now and the last time I wrote.
I went to speak at a middle school in Jombang. I do not necessarily look forward to these speaking engagements; mostly because I don't consider myself to be a great public speaker. They usually just add stress and greater amounts of perspiration. I had prepared some ideas on differences between education in Indonesia and America and a few words on motivating students to speak English. Arriving at the school I was immediately blown away. To greet me at the door was the headmaster, an English teacher, two students, and a video camera. The students proceeded to welcome me to their school in impressive English. As I entered the main part of school a group of students were playing gamelan, a traditional orchestra of Java. I sat and watched for a few minutes before being led into the meeting room, obviously first walking past the banner reading "Welcome Miss Lauren to SMP 2 Jombang." The MC, the headmaster, and a student all gave
short introductory speeches in English. I then spoke and answered questions. They had two sessions planned with two different groups of students. In between sessions I again watched the gamelan and then was allowed to try my hand at playing. The second session was much like the first. I was incredibly impressed by the English ability of these students and their thoughtful questions. The usual range of questions I get are: Are you married, what's your favorite Indonesian food, and what do you like about Indonesia. These 13 and 14 year old students asked things like: technology can have a positive impact on us, but also distract us from our studies, do you have any advice on how to better use technology. Or there was the question about my opinion on building a mosque next to the WTC. Or the question about what kinds of problems school counselors help with and how they help. Before leaving, each class of students gave me a gift so I left with 3 batik fabrics, a shawl, 5 necklaces,
4 bracelets, 3 brooches, a pair of earrings, and a figurine of a Javanese dancer. I was honored, amazed, and humbled by their interest and generosity.
Many of our students were finalists in a recent college sponsored competition to make useful, creative products from recycled goods. One of our teams got third place, but they all really impressed me. Some made clothes and bags out of plastic, others made furniture out of an old oil drum, Styrofoam and bottle caps. It was great to see them put so much effort and thought into their work.
I went to church at the invitation of some students. I went mostly for the experience, not so much for the church. It was a Christmas program and parts of it I recognized; the tree, the manger, the singing, all seemed familiar. The gamelan, the group cheering by village, the dance numbers were not exactly what I remembered from Catholic midnight mass. Granted I haven't been to church in awhile so maybe I'm not remembering correctly. For Christmas all the volunteers met in Surabaya to exchange gifts and celebrate. We had a small paper tree made by one of the volunteers, paper snowflakes for the windows, and gifts placed carefully around the tree. One of the Peace Corps staff invited us all over for dinner, so I had a homemade meal of salad, garlic bread, lasagna and cookies for the holiday. The best part may have been the cheese, real cheese as an appetizer and real cheese for the lasagna. Oh how I love and miss cheese.
For New Years I took a trip with two of my host sisters to visit the third one in Solo in central Java. New Years in Indonesia is similar to that in America, large crowds of people, fireworks, food, and noise makers. The differences are less drinking and more motorcycle engine revving.
The new semester starts today and I will have a whole new schedule with all new students, one of which will be my host sister. She doesn't seem too excited for that. I have high hopes for improvements for my own teaching and also my relationships with my co-teachers.
Wishing you all a wonderful 2011.
PHOTOS: On Assignment in Indonesia