Alumna Blog: On Assignment in Indonesia
I like spaghetti more than rice
by Lauren Ebersole '07
Much has happened since the last email so I'm not exactly sure where to start, what to tell, what to leave out. You don't want to read a 4-page email so I'll hit what I consider to be the highlights.
February 11th: I taught two grade 12 geography classes. Turns out I am even less successful at teaching geography than I am teaching English. It was fun though and the students were interested, pictures always help that. They seemed to know more about US geography than their peers in America would know about Indonesian geography.
February 15th: Happy Birthday Prophet Muhammad. Celebrations for Muhammad seem to last weeks. In my village we celebrated on the 14th with the usual combination of things: large tent, snack boxes, prayers, speeches, dinner. I attended the festivities, covered head and all. The men sat in chairs up front and the women and children sat on the floor of the mosque. I have been in Indonesia for almost a year and I am still not able to sit comfortably on the floor for more than 20 minutes or so. Indonesians seem to last for hours, sitting in contortionist like positions. After 20 minutes I feel like a 90-year-old woman, massaging my aching muscles, moving to a new position every 40 seconds, wishing I had a comfortable chair.
February 18th: My friend from college, Kelly, arrived on the 18th, coming from a month in Malaysia. She stayed at my site for 10 days and came to school with me each day. The most common comment was "Wow she is tall like a real bule (foreigner). Miss Lauren you are not a real foreigner because you are short." For months I have been telling everyone I am not tall, but it took Kelly coming for them to actually believe me. Kell said she feels like a giant here. She introduced herself to all my classes and answered questions. A few boys fairly immediately said they loved her. She also came to my English Club and helped with games and activities. The English Club students really like her and I think will miss her when she leaves. The weekend she arrived we went to Malang to visit my first host family and a few friends. My host mother was cooking food for an army, actually for a belated birthday celebration for Muhammad. Many donuts were
eaten. On the 28th Kell left for Bali where she met her dad for a few days of relaxation.
February 26th: My counterpart and I took a few students to an education fair in Surabaya about studying in the US. They got to attend a special reception and meet the US Ambassador and Consul General.
March 4-11th: Vacation for me in Lombok!!!! Ordinarily I would not write about a bus ride but this one was amusing. I unfortunately got on a packed bus to Surabaya, standing room only, which did not leave much space for my backpack. Usually on the buses there is a constant flow of sellers walking up and down the aisle. My backpack provided an interesting obstacle, so I was frequently leaning into the personal space of other passengers. After awhile a seat opened up and I took it, I'm sure much to the relief of the woman who had my backpack in her face. Now relaxed I could better smell the less pungent, but reminiscent smell of Clear Spring History Club sandwich making day that was wafting throughout the bus. For those of you who have never experienced History Club sandwich making day, it is not pleasant. Imagine a hundred or so high school students and a few hundred pounds of meat in the confines of a school cafeteria. Anyway I made it to
the airport and unsurprisingly my flight was delayed. After about an hour delay I made the short flight, meeting Kelly for a week of fun in Lombok.
We spent two nights in Gili Trawangan, a small island off the coast of Lombok and another five nights in Lombok. The basic theme of the trip was "I want to eat as many non-rice based meals as possible." Mission accomplished - I had sandwiches, pizza, pasta, nachos, enchiladas, tapas, bacon, wine, sangria, cocktails. Lombok itself is beautiful: look left and there are rice fields as far as you can see, look right and lush vegetation covers the slopes of mountains. Farmers till the land in the shadow of towering Mt. Rinjani. One day we hired a car and driver to take us around the island. The drive was long and winding, with flooded, damaged roads and beautiful views. The highlight was hiking to two waterfalls. We went swimming at both in very chilly water. At the first waterfall we were two of the four people at the falls. But in a matter of seconds Kelly and I were surrounded by some funny Indonesians, all running around the water, splashing
each other, splashing us. At the second waterfall our guide climbed up the side of a rock and jumped it, then led us to a small cave behind the water. On the way back we waded through a dark, underground tunnel maybe used for irrigation.
On Gili Trawangan there are no cars, so the transportation options are bike, foot, or horse cart. Not exactly a Central Park carriage ride, but good enough. Our hotel was off the main tourist stretch and pretty much empty, save us. That allowed us to float around the pool, drinking our wine undisturbed. Tapas on the beach were a lovely way to end that evening. Good thing Kelly was there though, because as we walked back to our hotel I was convinced we were walking to the wrong place. Turns out we were not.
Our hotel in Lombok was beautiful and the owner and staff were so helpful. We went on an early morning bike ride with the owner and stopped along the way at a traditional market to pick up some vegetables for the restaurant. Most days we took things at a slow pace, reading by the pool, strolling along the beach, shopping for dresses and jewelry, watching the sunset cocktail in hand.
March 12th: Back to reality and it didn't take long to remember that reality is often frustrating. Saturday was the last day of classes before exam week starts. I played tennis as usual, quickly took a bath and changed for class. Funny thing, no one mentioned to me we weren't having classes that day until I picked up my books to go to class. The reason classes were cancelled: students needed to clean their classrooms so then the desks could be arranged for the exams. After year one I am still confused by such things.
Oh well, I'm still usually loving life and here's to year two.
Also thanks to everyone for the wonderful packages and letters over the past few months. They are a great reminder of home and loved ones.
Much love, Lauren
PHOTOS: On Assignment in Indonesia