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Wading in the Mud (On Assignment in Indonesia)

Posted by Lauren Ebersole '07

February 15, 2012

Category: Alumni Blogs

indonesia.jpgWe are well into the New Year and I have not made resolutions because lets face it, it only sets you up for disappointment. I am trying to make my last few months worthwhile and successful.

I spent New Year's in Kuta, Bali which is, in reality, a terrible place. But for a group of 20 somethings who have limited access to normal 20something activities, it serves its purpose, i.e. I was able to eat four burritos in three days. There are more foreigners than Indonesians and for some unfathomable reason every other male is wearing a Bintang beer tank top. Sounds classy, doesn't it? Fun for a few days, but I hope to never return there for the entirety of my life.

Recently I have feared I developed some type of bipolar disorder, as my moods seem erratic. In one school day I have more emotions than I normally have in multiple months at home, and certainly more than I care to have. Tuesdays for example: I teach 9 hours (and remember 1 hour = 45 minutes in Indo time) and I start the day knowing it will be tiring, but still optimistic. The optimism then turns into slight annoyance when three students show up 15 minutes late to class. That annoyance builds into disappointment when I learn my students did not finish their assignment for class.  Then when I discover that fewer than half of the kids brought their English book to class that disappointment erupts into rage (or at least my version of rage). I tell them for the umpteenth time that sometimes books are helpful, as are writing utensils, and then I put on my stern teacher face and tell them if they continue to act like elementary school students that is how   I will treat them. Because my fits of rage are only calmed here by some sort of sweet I spend my break time eating. I have calmed down for the last class of the day and am then pleasantly surprised that all my students are on time and prepared and dive right into the work I assign. At this point I have forgotten most of the previous anxieties and think, "Wow I love this place, everyone is so great." And the mood swings are not the most disconcerting part, it's more that I can't tell if my reactions to situations are appropriate or not.

Back in December I helped out with a Youth Red Cross competition. Well I didn't really help; I just lent my whiteness as support. One morning we took all the students on a walk and passed by some women planting rice. I had wanted to try for some time so my friend walked down and asked the women if his foreign friend could help them for a bit. They happily obliged so I rolled up my pants and waded into the mud bog. The women used a stick with nails to evenly space the rice plants, at each nail shove some plants into the mud. Then once the row is complete move the stick and start again. I was trying to be very careful and sort of count how many plants I put at each spot. They laughed and said that is really not necessary, just grab some. They work 10-hour days hunched over in the burning sun so while I enjoyed my rice planting experience it is not on my list of career plans.

Marching is a pretty important activity here and my students recently competed in a competition. Round one is technical merit I think; each team must incorporate specific things into their march. Round two, however, is a march-off ala "Bring it On." Two teams battle each other with back and forth marches, taunts, step routines. I attended to show my support and my school cleaned up, 1st place in general and also best formation and best danton (the person who yells out commands). The kids were adorable and immediately started weeping.

I'm staying busy and time is flying and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't extremely excited to be home in a few months.

Much love, Lauren

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