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.
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.
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.