Alumna Blog: On Assignment in Indonesia
puppetry and prayer
by Lauren Ebersole '07
What follows is a random series of events that have happened since the last email.
SCHOOL: The first month of the new year is almost over and like the last 10 has flown by. I’m zooming toward the one-year anniversary of stepping foot in Indonesia. Since the holiday I have been spending my time teaching and getting acquainted with my new students. I am teaching 5 new classes this semester. Three grade 11 and two grade 10. I teach my host sister. On the first day of class she wouldn’t look at me for the first few minutes, but now it’s fine. She tells me on a continual basis that I am a mean teacher. I think that stems partly from the fact that I don’t allow them to cheat and when they copy work I make them redo it. I’m not sure that qualifies me as mean, just different from the usual. The students seem to think I’m funny; mostly they laugh at my pronunciation of Indonesian words. I do my best to keep class as relaxed as possible.
RUWATAN: Last week we had a village Ruwatan, a combination of puppetry and prayer. The only combination better than puppetry and prayer is chocolate and peanut butter. It is a ceremony to ask for safety for the village in the coming year. The after Isya (the 7ish prayer) start time was a bit ambiguous, but I went with my family around 7:30. After 30 minutes of waiting followed by 2 hours of prayer and opening speeches, the wayang (traditional puppet show) began. Wayang can last for hours, it is a test of the puppeteer’s strength to continue for hours and hours. I left after about an hour because I had to teach the next day. Probably however, it didn’t end until the wee hours of the morning 4 or 5am. One of the special guests for the event was a humanitarian from Surabaya. And she had a friend with her, from Hawaii. I introduced myself and sat up front with them for the opening of the ceremony. The woman from Hawaii was a doctor who
comes to Indonesia every so often to help with humanitarian projects.
DIKLAT: A few weeks ago I went on an extracurricular ‘retreat’ with about 100 students and 10 teachers. We went to the mountains to a sort of Outward Bound type thing. Cabins, zip lines, and other activities. The weekend took a bit of a downward turn when we found out a teacher had passed away. But we continued as planned and the students had a good time. I led a few games and a reporter came to talk about photography and journalism. I lent my camera out so some students could practice what they had learned. I really appreciated having time with the students outside of school. An interesting Indonesian transportation system: for school trips that are not too far away students are loaded into the back of dump-truck like vehicles. And right now it is the rainy season so about 20 minutes into the trip it started to pour and the kids had to be covered with tarps, like farm animals or vegetables.
SPORTS: My current schedule is filled with an array of sports. On Thursdays I do yoga and Fridays I am learning traditional Indonesian dance. Prepare to be impressed. This Saturday I played tennis for the first time with some teachers and went swimming in the afternoon. Sundays is futsal day. Swimming was tons of fun. As you can imagine I draw some looks wherever I go and this was no different. Lots of little kids were having swimming lessons and they all first got quiet then started shouting hi, hi, bule, bule. Every opportunity they had they waved from across the pools. On their break they swarmed me and we played for what seemed like a long time. They would crowd around me in their inner tubes and I would swim away so they had to chase me. Or I’d push them around in the tubes and bounce them up and down. At one point I led a train of children around the pool, using a kick board as a steering wheel turning left and right. It was great,
but the next day my body was pretty sore.
ENGLISH CLUB: English Club meetings are somewhat scattered, but a few weeks ago I had a great one. Not much English was taught or learned, but it was great nonetheless. I sat in a circle on the floor of the teacher’s room with 8 students. We played a game, which I am incapable of explaining in writing, but the basic point was they were naming cities or countries using the English names. The loser in each round gets powder on their face. They were all covered and I was completely clean, having a slight advantage in knowing English names of countries, so at the end they attacked me.
My best friend from college, Kelly, is coming to visit in February. She will arrive in the middle of the month, stay at my site for 10 days then head to Bali. I’ll meet her in Lombok a few days later for a week vacation. Then we’ll come back to my site for a few more days before she continues her adventure in China. Very excited. Plans are also being made for my parents to visit in June.
Hope all is well.
Much love, Lauren
PHOTOS: On Assignment in Indonesia