Dirty Dancing

Let’s start at the beginning of the week, shall we?

Matt and gaux

Matt and myself chillin like proverbial villains.

We finally purchased phones last Saturday after what seemed like a small eternity of being completely cut off from the world. I now have an Indonesian SIM card fit to my phone with an Indonesian phone number I can’t remember. I do have data on my phone but it’s pricey so I’m doubting I’ll be able to keep it for long. I’m enjoying it while I have it, but sparingly. Every minute I spend on the internet costs me a ton of money, so don’t expect anything crazy from this gal.

Sunday started off in the delightfully lazy manner that all Sundays should begin. I woke up and had some rice for breakfast (like ya do in Indo…). We had made a tentative plan to head into Batos to buy some batik shirts but my Ibu was nowhere to be found so I went about my business, enjoying a quiet moment. Eventually I found my Ibu and she convinced me to wash my clothes. We had previously discussed her showing me how to accomplish this seemingly impossible feat on this very Sunday. We set up the awesome clothes tub in the mandi (toilet/bathing room) and Ika (my Ibu’s daughter) showed me how to jerry-rig a length of hose to siphon water from the mandi itself to the tub on the floor. Think about the way you’ve seen people steal gas from cars in movies. That’s right, a mouthful of mandi water for the Gaux Gaux. Don’t worry, it gets better.

So, I put the clothes in the little tub, toss in a handful of powdered detergent and am instructed to let that all soak for 5 minutes. Great. Can do. So far so good. I come back in 5 minutes’ time and begin to scrub. Nothing out of the ordinary. Once I’m done with the scrubbing (my back is none too happy at this point) I walk out to try and find Ibu. To no avail. I wander around for a bit, vaguely akin to a lost puppy, until I find a neighbor who is more than happy to show me how to rinse my clothes. Let me take this moment to say, I’m not an idiot. I know how to hand wash clothes. I just wanted to make sure I was covering all my bases. And how was I supposed to know the tricky siphoning maneuver had I not asked? So, I am instructed to rinse the clothes, ring them out, put them aside, and rinse them again with clean water after I’m done. I, at this point, have gathered an audience of two. My small friends Dwi and Litia. I adore these small humans, so they were more than happy to stand by, offering moral support and instructions as to proper rinsing etiquette. Now comes the fun part.

I find Ika to tell her I’m done with the rinsing bit and I would like to know where to hang them up. She then proceeds to take me to her house (behind mine, in the back of the alley) and allows me to use her dryer. Which is next to her washing machine. I’m not entirely sure why I was not previously offered either of these amenities but I tried not to think too much of it. Otherwise my complaining back would make me want to go red in the face. Now, keep in mind, this dryer is not like the ones we have back home. There is no warm air or tumble dry. This is a pool dryer. The kind you stuff your bathing suit in before you leave to spin like a crazy person and get most of the water off. After this happens for 5 minutes or so I am handed all of my clothing to hang them on the roof. Which, wow. I mean, wow. I spent the first little bit not hanging anything, but looking in unabashed amazement at the view. I took a panorama but you can’t really have any idea how gorgeous it is. So, I’m hanging up my clothes when we get to the underwear. Let me preface this by saying, I have nothing to be ashamed of here. I’m also not “looking for a good time” here in Indonesia. Anyone who’s seen my socks knows I have an affinity for the brightly colored. That’s about all the detail I’ll go into here but let me tell you, my Indonesian lady friends could not get enough. Ika invited other women over to look. That’s right, there was a full on parade walking around the roof just to look at my underwear. I was bright red for an hour, at least.

So that happened.

Court getting ready!

Court getting ready to DANCE.

I thought anything would be relatively uneventful after that. Oh no. No, siree. Courtney came over (a fellow volunteer) per my request later that evening. You see, I had been playing cards with children 12 and under for a little over 4 hours. FOUR hours. Let me clarify. That would be 4 whole hours. 240 minutes. 14,400 seconds. I love kids. I LOVE kids. But after 4 hours of playing cards in a language you don’t speak a girl needs some adult English time. So, of course, I called Courtney.

We had been invited to a party to celebrate Celar Kartin which, I gleaned, was a day to commemorate woman being able to go to school in Indonesia. Can I get an amen for that one? Hell to the yes I will go to that. So Court came over, as we thought my family would be headed to this parade. They were talking about a pesta (party) so we just assumed they were headed where we wanted to go and hopped on board. Turns out we went to another wedding. Not the Celar Kartin parade. Oops. No big. We finished eating and left in about 30 minutes flat. It took us at least another 20 to extract ourselves from the over abundant love that is my little host family and head to Jason’s (another volunteer) house to get ready.

Now, when I was told to get ready I was in no way prepared for the outcome. We were surrounded by a gaggle of women in white powder and traditional Indonesian dance garb. Courtney walked in the door saying “Saya mau coket!” Which translates to “I want to dance!” Why, you ask? Well, because Courtney always wants to dance. And because we know very few phrases in Indonesian as of yet. That’s one she learned almost immediately. It’s a common thing to hear her say nowadays.

Our beautiful dance guru.

Our beautiful dance guru.

Coket we did. They found shirts and skirts to fit us all. We pulled our hair back and put on lipstick. We didn’t need powder since we were all so white already. We hopped in an angkot and accidentally left the boys behind. As we were pulling away in a small car packed with strangers, none of whom spoke English, headed toward we weren’t sure where, we started to wonder if maybe we had gotten ourselves into a little bit of a bind. We weren’t sure where we were going, if we had to pay, how long we would be there, what the dance steps were, or how we were getting home. We attempted to inquire in stilted Indonesian but got little in the way of answers. Eventually we discerned that, at the very least, if we stuck with these ladies we would make it home alright.

We get to Batos (the town square near us) and there is music BLARING. I mean, someone gets paid a lot of money to supply Indonesia with some speakers bigger than my life. We hop in line toward the back and start to sort out this traditional dance we know nothing about. It’s not exceedingly challenging so we stumble through to shouts of “Bule!” and random flashes of the camera from passers by. Cut to a kindly old man finding us in the back and insisting we move to the front of the parade of over 100 woman to lead the dance. We were moved forward and put directly behind the teachers. Well, why not? What else would you do but dance on! And dance we did. We danced all over Batos to shouts and astonished stares until we were returned safely home.

Our beautiful map of 'Merica! We just drew the important states.

Our beautiful map of ‘Merica! We just drew the important states.

After that start the week could only be blasé. It’s been language and TEFL training all day every day. The language is fine, we’re all doing quite well. Our teacher is outstanding and we have a lot of fun driving him off topic with tangents and inappropriate questions. The TEFL is dense and sometimes hard to sit through after walking for 25 minutes in the blaring Indonesian sun to get to Gunungsari for the class. It’s nice to see a larger group of people, but the cons tend to outweigh the pros of that particular endeavor.

Every moment of every day seems planned and jam packed into place. I don’t have time to sleep or breathe. I understand we have a lot to cover, but there’s barely time to let any of it process before the next thing is being shoved forcefully into my brain.

Me teaching the kidlets passive voice.

Me teaching the kidlets passive voice.

And then came Friday. Still jam packed and forceful but I set foot in a classroom for the first time since arriving as a teacher. Holy goodness, I can’t begin to tell you how happy it made me. I desperately needed to be reminded why I’m here, and sure enough, there they were. About 20 very good reasons all in one place. We teach these classes next week (I’ll be teaching three days and my comrades will be teaching for the other three). I’m so excited. I couldn’t ask for a better reminder.

Let There Be Rain

I cannot begin to truly explain to you all what this past week has been like. I can’t accurately describe the range of emotions I experience on a nigh daily basis. I will do my best, but know that anything I write here will be a pale comparison to the experience itself.

We spent the remainder of last week at the resort in spoiled style. We had a total of 4 days of language class (approximately 3-4 hours a day) to grossly under-prepare us for what was to come. I did spend those few days studying as best I could, but there’s only so much that can fit in this little mind at once. The numbers messed me up so badly I had to write them on their designated fingers. No. No, I am not too proud to admit that.

6 though 10 in Indonesian

6 though 10 in Indonesian

We begin with a relatively uneventful trip to Malang from Surabaya. It was a morning hotter than the unmentionable bits of Hell but the bus was air conditioned (the last bit of commodity I will have for some time). We arrived at the University Muhammadiyah Malang (UMM) in the early morning for a quick chat before we left for our villages in groups of 5 or 6. We piled our things into one car, ourselves into another and, with the help of our trusty Cultural Liaison (CL, a local who has offered to babysit the crazy Americans), we were delivered like little white packages into what would be our new homes one by one. I was the last to be wrapped and handed to my new family. Ary (our CL) came in to the house with me to initiate introductions and make sure someone would walk me to school in the morning. That’s right folks, you heard me right, I have a babysitter named Ary who communicated with my Ibu (female head of house/mother) to make sure I get to school on time. This is really happening.

So, here I am. The last one in the car. Sitting. Waiting. By myself. Watching Ary make sure it’s the right house and return to retrieve me. I am dropped into the midst of a sea of people that rivals even my own family reunions. But in Indonesian. I can understand nothing. Before I know it, Ary rises to leave me alone with these strangers in a strange house and a strange language.

This is the point at which I have my first “Oh, sweet Jesus. What am I doing with my life? Why am I here?” moment.

I regret nothing. Let me make that perfectly clear. This is freaking amazing. I am so happy I made this choice. My Ibu Mistin is one of the sweetest women I have ever met. Nanek (grandmother) Cami has been hugging me since I got here. There are at least 6 children running around peeking and giggling at any given time. I am hot and sticky and I have to shower with a bucket and seemingly ice old water but, oddly, I don’t mind.

I spent the rest of the evening in a distant haze of body language and stilted Indonesian. I was able to discern that there was some sort of party happening that very night and I was expected to wash and get ready to go. (Now imagine getting all of that information without any sort of spoken language. Yeah, exactly.) I shortly discovered that my family and that of a fellow volunteer were related when he and his host parents showed up on my doorstep ready to drive us to the party. They let us sit together and talk awkwardly as they giggled in the corner before shooing us out the door to show off their new American toys to all of their friends.

The wedding itself (I found out after I got there that someone was married. Alan’s Indonesian is really much better than mine. Thank goodness one of us understood something.) was quite uneventful. We went, we sat, we ate. We ate some more. We were told we didn’t eat enough so they fed us again after which we went to our respective homes.

As I reclined for my first evening in my mosquito net protected bed in a stifling heat I took a long, hard look at the series of choices that led me to that place. The overall conclusion of night number one? I am exhausted, I am overwhelmed, and I am way in over my head. I couldn’t ask for anything better than this.

My 6 year old Study Buddy.

My 6 year old Study Buddy.

The days got progressively easier as my Indonesian improved and I began to fall into a routine. I have a daily language lesson followed by either self-directed learning or TEFL training. This usually takes me from 07:30 to about 16:00 at which point I head home to be stuffed like a foreign pig. The first real Indonesian I learned on my own was “Tidak, terimah kasih. Saya sudah kenyang.” which translates to “No, thank you. I am already full.” or, more likely “FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME EAT ANYTHING EVER AGAIN” in the most polite way possible.

Over the last five days I have really grown to adore my Ibu Mistin. She is one of the kindest, sweetest, gentlest, and most patient people I have ever had the pleasure to meet. She is beyond what I could hope for from a host mother. She sits with me and makes sure I eat (which can be odd, but sweet), she sounds out words for me and helps me to study, she packs my lunch in a small adorable tupperware and asks me what’s wrong if I don’t eat enough. My Indonesian is sky rocketing (still not good, but I can have elementary conversations with people and understand a great deal) and I have a gaggle of adorable children wherever I go to help make sure I’m never bored.

We are starting to really get into the technical training which is exactly what I need right now. It helps to be reminded I’m here to be more than just a side show. I’m here to help and teach and work. I’m so excited to continue to works and to observe classes next week. I’m excited for my Indonesian to improve. I’m excited to get to my permanent site. I really think I got the luck of the draw coming to such a beautiful, open, and loving culture.

Apa kabar! (What’s Up?/How are you?)

Our little resort!

Our little resort!

Well, it would seem I’m living in Indonesia now. I keep waiting for the shock to wear off and for me to realize I’m in another country about to be thrust into a myriad of new and often uncomfortable situations. But it hasn’t. I’m tucked blissfully away in a little resort hotel and, until tonight, I hadn’t travelled outside the hotel without “adult” supervision.

We got here Tuesday (I’m pretty sure) at around 9am and were all basically zombies. My prediction was correct, the last leg of the journey was, by far, the worst for me. That two and a half hour plane ride seemed like it took a small eternity. You couldn’t keep me still. We were met with a warm welcome by some of the current volunteers. In their lovely batik fabrics and colorful signs, they greeted us as we came out of the airport with shouts and general merriment. Walking out of the airport was like walking into a wall of sound, smell, and heavy heat and humidity. I walked out of that small airport and into a whole new world. (YUHP, disney reference number 8 billion, just for you.)

We took busses to the hotel and were instructed to report to the meeting room promptly. We had our first day full of introductions and details and protocol. I can’t remember a single word. I’m grateful they did it, if only to keep me awake until 7pm, at which point I fell on my face in my pillow and didn’t move again until 5:30a.


Some of us on an Angkok!
But we cheated. Normally there would be a TON of people on this tiny bus.

Wednesday and Thursday have been full of fun training adventures. We started language class Wednesday which takes up the first 3-4 hours of each day. It seems as though they are trying to see how much information they can cram into our heads at once before we break. An interesting method, I’ll let you know how it goes. After language on Wednesday we were split into three groups and mine took a field trip to the Peace Corps office. All 16 of us were piled into 3 Angkok (the public transportation busses) and shuffled off to the office. We had an opportunity to meet the staff which was followed by a Diversity training before getting to the really good stuff: girl talk. They split off the girls and the boys and we were able to sit down with three of the current volunteers to ask all of the nitty gritty questions. How do you sit on the “Squatty potty”? How do you clean up? What can I wear to bed? How do I wash my hair? I have to say, being able to sit and giggle while one of the current PCVs did a (fully clothed) demonstration of how to use a squatty potty made me feel worlds better.

At this point I was feeling a little more like a human and a little less like a zombie, so I was thrilled when they told me there would be an additional optional dance class. My step father has often enjoyed reminding me how I can’t walk from one room to the next without falling on my face and traditional Indonesian dance is no exception. I may not have fallen on my face but it certainly took me most of the hour to figure out where my feet went. What better way to reward yourself for learning something new than with a nice game a Marco Polo? You heard me folks, about 8 of us opted to regress to the days of yore in the middle of Peace Corps training to unwind for just a moment with some poolside merriment.

A fellow PCV and myself posing for a selfie!

A fellow PCV and myself posing for a selfie!

The fun continued into today as my small language group grilled our poor teacher with digressions and superfluous inquiries. As a result I can now say Saya suka Anda, tapi lebih baik kalau Anda harap tenang. Which translates to: I like you, but it would be better if you be quiet. How many of you have I said that to in the States?? Well, fear not my friends, the legacy can continue. After language we had one of the most terrifying talks yet: Malaria and Dengue Fever discussion. The self proclaimed point of this lecture and accompanying powerpoint was to scare us into taking our anti-malarial meds and to wear so much insect repellent that we sweat it back out. I’m just going to warn you all now, I will probably get Dengue Fever (aka. The bonebreaker) before I leave. I will whine and complain and tell you all about how miserable I am, but I promise to take pictures of the hideous rash that follows after the fever breaks.

As much as I have enjoyed this government funded vacation, I’m worried about what happens in the days to come. I’m currently reclined in my warm bed with my A/C blaring with a western toilet and shower down the hall. Sunday we leave Surabaya at 6am to go to Malang where we will meet our host families and begin real integration into Indonesian society for the remainder of our Pre-Service Training. I’m thrilled at the prospect, every lecture makes me more certain this is where I should be, but I’m still holding my breath, waiting for the water to get to my head. But what’s the motto? Let’s do this.

Step One…

So, it’s official. I have made the shift from Peace Corps Nominee to Peace Corps Trainee. As I type this I’m on an airplane 9 hours from Japan somewhere off the coast of British Columbia, Canada.

We spent all of Saturday in a room together becoming what was frequently called a “Peace Corps family”. Most of you know that sort of attitude fills me with immediate disdain and leaves a dirty taste in my mouth, but I have to begrudgingly admit that it is true. After only 24 hours of knowing these people we have all become fast friends. We have taken over the plane with our raucous excitement and fervor (much to the chagrin of our poor flight attendants), enjoying the free beer and sake for the last time before we hit Indonesia.

More Disney references...

More Disney references…

It was interesting to be the only local in the group. For everyone else this dream became real by the time staging began. For me, it was still a pipe dream. I had gone home after a long visit in Santa Cruz, that’s all. I was just in some long meeting and at the end I would go back to my cute apartment with my cute roommate and my depressingly regular routine, right? Not quite. Turns out I really did join the Peace Corps. Turns out I really am on a plane to Japan. Turns out it’s really happening, folks.

I left my whole world behind and it didn’t really sink in until today. I wasn’t really gone until 3 hours ago. This wasn’t really happening until right now. I miss my family terribly already. I miss my sister. I miss my best friend. But I am surrounded by support and excitement. Adventure is out there. I’m going to find mine and the ones that matter support me in that. They will also be here to receive me with open arms when I come home. I’m not dead, folks, I’m just moving to an island on the equator.