Creative Destruction

This is Felix. See that bag, there? It's full of tricks.

This is Felix. See that bag, there? It’s full of tricks.

I have a great many marketable skills at my disposal. I’m a good electrician, I can cook pretty well, I can sing on key, and I go big. Alright, so maybe that last isn’t really marketable, but my point is that I have developed a bag of tricks, so to speak. I keep adding to the bag as I get older, and now is no exception.

I have become quite gifted at the art of burning things down when I have decided it’s time to build something new. Well, folks, the time is nigh.

I’m coming home.

I’ve known for a while that this was an eventuality I was wrestling towards. It has honestly been one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I’ve come at it from places of guilt, of anger, of determination, and now of pride. It has slowly come to my attention over the last few months that I have not been happy here. Not just an inkling of displeasure but a genuine discomfort. Rule one is that if you are not happy you are the only person who can act to rectify that situation. So, I did. I acted. I changed the way I went to class, I added activities with local youth outside of school, I altered my workout regimen, I went through and systematically sorted through to try and squash this bug. But it didn’t die. I would leave my house in the morning and dread the ride to school. I would try and let off steam but the catcalls and comments would make me boil over. I was having arguments in my head before they could even became a reality. And finally the only thing I could see left to change was my environs.

No, but really. How could you not love this place?

No, but really. How could you not love this place?

I must take this moment to make it perfectly clear that I do, despite its quarks and irksome details, love Indonesia. I love it like the super annoying kid sibling that kicks you and laughs at your pain. Sometimes I want to strangle it, but even in those moments I have this deep and pure love for this country and its peoples. I have, generally, never been so completely welcomed by a group of complete strangers. My host mother took me into her home and treated me like her own child. My two best friends at school led me by the arm and made me feel included and welcome. My students grew to respect and love me as a mentor and teacher.

Despite all these wonderful and inspiring parts of my service, there is a darker side. I’m a big fan of lists and order. In any decision process you can generally pin me down and have me admit I made a pro/con list. I even broke up with a boy that way. And now, it seems, this list has come back to solve another relationship riddled with irreconcilable differences. There are a myriad things on the pros side of my list. As I mentioned, my students, my host family, my sheer will and pride, etc. However, on the cons side there were a few things and then this glaring singularity. It was this seemingly infinitely small thing but it was infinitely dense and could not be overcome. I no longer felt that the benefits outweighed the unwanted attention and outright sexual harassment to which I was being exposed.

Many of you may not know about this part. I’ve hinted at certain instances here and there but I try to keep it light in the blogosphere. This is not light. This is the heaviest of singularities. New universe, status. Peace Corps Indonesia is still considered an ‘adolescent’ program. We are no longer shiny and new with extra money at our disposal, but we’re still not a mature program with clean procedures and lines in place. To their credit, the staff have been working tirelessly to put these procedures in motion, however, one must consider the constant turnover in American staff (there are only ever three in country and they are required to change every 5 years or so) and the green nature of the program and, consequently, its local staff. We are only 5 years old. You can’t grow a program specific to a country in 5 years. You can have a damn good start, but it’s not a lego set with pre-printed instructions. It’s an ikea bookshelf with extra dowels leftover and directions in Swedish. So, with each group they listen to our feedback. They ask us questions and try to mold the program accordingly. Each individual’s needs will, of course, be different, and so unfortunately there is a requirement that they cater to the masses. In short: they’re trying to figure it out. Everything they learned from my experience will be applied to future groups and, indeed, already has been in some cases. I was able to help facilitate an open forum for communication about unwanted attention and sexual harassment in further trainings. They reached out to me and other volunteers to assist them in creating new sessions to ensure the continuation of important information to the volunteers to keep them safer and healthier. We are taking steps to arm every volunteer with the tools they will need to deal with the inevitabilities of these wretched events.

But that wasn’t enough to keep me here. Someone put it to my nerdy self in terms of physics. An object in motion requires very little energy to keep it in motion. It requires a great expenditure of energy, however, to stop an object already in motion. The easiest course might have been to continue my service and see it through to its terminus. The cons of such an action, however, were heavier than the pros, though the latter list was bursting. It was no longer a question of could I complete my service, but should I. And maybe that voice screaming at me to suck it up and carry on was coming from a place of hubris and folly.

My wonderful Ibu Haji Esin. I couldn't have done it without her.

My wonderful Ibu Haji Esin. I couldn’t have done it without her.

So. I made a tough call. I spent the last week in a living hell. I said goodbye to sobbing students and cried along with them as they told me how much I had changed their lives. I hugged my Ibu for the last time (for the foreseeable future) today. That woman who stood with me through everything and yelled at people on my behalf. I am leaving friends that I will keep for my lifetime to fend for themselves. I’m leaving my new home behind. This is not easy. But I’ve never been afraid of the tough choices before, and I certainly will not stand down now.

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.

Epic Nomad

Epic Nomad

I really want to be that lady when I grow up.

My mom has been hounding me to update the blog. It didn’t really seem like there was anything to update anyone about. I’m still moving all over, being an epic nomad.

Then I started getting a million people asking me the same questions. I still get “Are you nervous? Are you excited?” a lot. Yes. Both. Nervicited is what the other Peace Corps Volunteers and I have dubbed the sensation. Now I’m getting a lot of inquiry into what the hell is going on. People swear they’ve said good-bye to my at least five times and keep seeing me. Well, you have. Get over it?

I had my going away party a month before my actual departure because, for all intents and purposes, I was out of SF and not really coming back. Then I went to North Carolina to visit my dad and brothers for a minute. Now I’m back in Santa Cruz until I leave for good…sort of.

You see, we depart from sunny San Francisco (that was a joke, guys. Laugh.) on Sunday, April 7 at 12:50pm. Every Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) who is coming to Indonesia is meeting up in San Francisco before we peace out; even the Peace Corps spoils me. On Saturday, April 6 we then have a full day of registration, introduction, and general indoctrination. The Peace Corps is setting us up in the Radisson in the Fisherman’s Wharf for the night following registration. I can only imagine the other PCVs and I will need some quality bonding time after a full day of being told what heavy responsibilities and immense challenges lie ahead. I have, therefore, recruited some locals to show us where the best watering holes are in the area. Some PCVs will be arriving starting April 5 so I’m going to head up to my City in the sky on the 4th or 5th in order to be a one man welcoming party. That and to have a final City hurrah (…so, eat Indian food).

For all the visual learners

For all the visual learners

On April 7 we leave San Francisco to head to Narita, Japan (which will take roughly 12 hours of excruciating plane ride that might kill me). We have a two and a half hour layover in Narita with which we can do very little. From there we head to Singapore (a mere 7 hours) where we will have about 6 hours of layover in which we can romp around, kiss the ground, shower, nap, see the butterfly garden, or even get a foot massage in this supposedly massive airport. I might be more excited for Singapore than Indonesia, guys. After they rip us away from the airport we hop over to Surabaya, Indonesia. After the days of travel, the last 2 and a half hour flight might push me over the top and you’ll find me floating somewhere in the Java Sea after I dive from the plane in sheer exasperation. If I make it to Indonesia they’ll put us up in a hotel for about 5 days where we have introductions and begin training and get settled. They will then promptly move us to Malang where we will commence Pre-Service Training (PST). (If you look above, you’ll note I’ve added a new page called “Wait, where?” It has the mailing address for me during PST.) I will move in with a host family once in Malang and chances are good I will have very limited access to the interwebs. You’ve all been warned. I’ll be there until the end of May/beginning of June. If all goes according to plan, once I leave Malang they will send me to god-knows-where village to begin my actual service in my own village all by my lonesome.

So, apparently this is really happening. The plane tickets are purchased, the plans are set, my homework is due. I do believe I may actually be moving to Indonesia, my fair friends. This whole farewell process has been immensely interesting. I can’t say I expected it to be so hard. I don’t generally like people, so I didn’t expect there to be so freaking many that I will miss.

I also feel woefully unprepared. They keep telling me that there is no way to really be ready, but for those of you who know me well, unpreparedness just doesn’t jive. I keep feeling like I need to be doing a million things, that I’ve forgotten things or fallen down on the job or had a crucial plan malfunction. But it’s not so. There is no plan malfunction because the plan is constantly changing. Things are going to unfold as they will and I’m going to have to learn to be ok with not being in control at some point. It may as well be now. (All you stage managers out there, please cringe with me now in a collective “oh god, it’s my worst nightmare” moment. Thanks.) So it won’t be enough to simply become comfortable with being uncomfortable but also coming to terms with the fact that I am no longer in full control. I can’t plan every minute of every day for the next 2 years. I can’t tell you where exactly I’ll be in 4 months. It’s not even my decision. Let that thought rattle around your noggin for a minute and tell me you wouldn’t be losing your mind too.