One of my counterparts explaining the lesson in Indonesian before we dive into English.

One of my counterparts explaining the lesson in Indonesian before we dive into English.

Indonesia is different. We’ve been over this. There are a lot of things here that take getting used to when you come from America. This, in no way, makes it bad or inferior, just different. Sometimes these differences frustrate or confuse me, sometimes they make me smile. It depends on the day, as my world has been changing on a nigh daily basis over here. I’m thrilled to report, however, that I think I’m the happiest I have ever been.

I finally started teaching last week. My week goes from Tuesday to Saturday starting at 7a every day except Saturday. Much like when I was enrolled in school, I have managed to find an extracurricular for every day of the week because, free time, what?

On Tuesdays and Saturdays I have Pencak Silat (Language Note: the “C”s in Indonesian are pronounced like “ch”). I had my first class this week and I LOVED IT. Most of you who know me are probably aware that I do have a background in martial arts, so I was obviously wicked interested to learn about the nuances of this Indonesian based style. I show up after a full day of teaching to about 150-200 students waiting for the lesson to begin. I did not begin to fathom a class this size; to my pleasant surprise half or more were female. After a brief hello, Pak Tata (the coach) split the group into males and females and had us begin the class by running around campus.


That’s right, folks, you heard me. I ran (well…jogged and walked quickly) around my campus barefoot to ‘strengthen my feet.’ I tried not to laugh as I recalled the days of old when my feet were akin to leather. After my face had turned bright red from running (jogging) in Indonesia, we ladies reconvened in the large school center to stretch and practice our basic fighting positions. It differs a little from the styles I’ve studied but it’s nothing extraordinarily foreign so I was able to gleefully follow the patterns of stances, kicks, breathing, and punches. I did, however, underestimate the added complication of doing this study in another language. I suppose I went in assuming it would be fine and I would just follow along with the instructor, but you depend a lot on the added vocal tips! It was a humorous process for all involved, with plenty of help from the girls around me. (Miss! Miss! Right leg!)

On Wednesdays I help with theatre club. That’s right folks, I moved across the world and I’m still doing theatre. It’s such a great group of kids to work with and the teacher is an absolute gem. We talk about the differences between Indonesian and American theatre while combining the practices into a really wonderful experience for these outstanding students. In fact, this week they will be performing a piece about transgendered issues in society. Talk about a well informed and open bunch! When Bu Diah told me about it I was absolutely amazed and thrilled to help.

The other sort of kid we have on campus. Just hanging out. Like ya do when you're a goat.

The other sort of kid we have on campus. Just hanging out. Like ya do when you’re a goat.

Thursdays are reserved for a project that has yet to begin, Study Club. It will be a smaller, more focused version of English Club in which the students get more individualized attention.

I was fortunate enough to already have an established English Club when I arrived (we have t-shirts!). This involves a room full (I mean, standing room only on a crowded muni train, FULL) of students who stay after school every Friday to play games with the crazy American English teacher. I’ve yet to perfect a game for over 60 students in one small room, but I will find a way!

Finally, we circle around to Saturday, my easy day. I don’t start class until 10a (which is basically afternoon here) and I only teach for a few hours. I then head over to the music teacher’s house to learn Sundanese songs for an hour or so. I can’t tell you how fun it is to be singing again, not to mention how much I’m learning about such a different kind of music! I had no idea they’re basic Do-Re-Mi was different than ours. This will also help me learn a little more of the local language (Sundanese) in a super fun way. Also, it makes everyone giggle, which is fun. After my music lesson I head back to Pencak Silat to get sweaty and (eventually) even spar!

Starting school was exactly what I needed. I’m exhausted and I’m happy and I’m finding my place. These kids are such an inspiration. I’ve met so many aspiring doctors, nurses, policemen (and women!), and even a few who want to be astronauts!

I think the part that keeps me smiling the biggest, though, is my name. Since I arrived in Indonesia I’ve been “Bule” or “Hello Mister”. In the past two weeks I have turned into “Hello Miss!” or Bu (the Indonesian equivalent to Mrs). My students still giggle when they see me, but now they come up and say hello (often in English!). I feel so welcomed and such a big part of a wonderful community. So, yes, Indonesia is different and that’s what makes it so special.

Duck, Duck, …What?

We weren't ready to leave!

We weren’t ready to leave!

Well, my friends, I have survived another week. This has not been just any week, either. This was a week of a week if ever a week there was. I had two more days of teaching on Monday and Tuesday (one of which was observed and critiqued. My favorite.) I gave a short speech in Bahasa Indonesia (like a BOSS) in which I was kinder than I have ever been in English. I think the Indonesian lifestyle is rubbing off on me.

We had Wednesday to prepare for English Camp on Thursday which we, of course, used to its full extent. At Iron Man 3. And getting supplies! Don’t give me those judgey eyes!

Thursday was inundated with approximately 60 kindergarteners. Let me say that one again. We had SIXTY children between the ages of 5 and 8 to entertain. We set up our camp in three stations of 20 kids, two indoors and one outdoors. Of the six of us, one was positioned at each station and then one of us stayed with each group to herd them like cats. I was supposed to be stationed with the blue group which, after we realized how much Indonesian was required to teach, quickly devolved into me staying with the outside session. I then spent the day outside. In the sun. In Indonesia. Which is, by the way, 7* above the equator. In case you were curious.

I started each session by teaching them how to play hopscotch. We claimed the educational value of which was to ensure they could count in English. The majority of the information I delivered, however, was in Indonesian as their vocabulary in English is still quite limited. Not too difficult, one would think, yes? They are but wee humans, they only know about 40 more words than me in Indonesian, right? Wrong. I quickly discovered the error of my ways when, for “Duck, Duck, Goose”, I attempted to request they sit in a circle only to realize I didn’t know the word for circle. Or Goose. So. That proved an interesting lesson for everyone involved.

Atop the mountain en route to the waterfall.

Atop the mountain en route to the waterfall.

We took a few days to recover from our exhausting endeavor and decided to award ourselves with a wonderful day at the a new waterfall. Coban Talun was the waterfall we were attempting to find last weekend on our excursion to Coban Rondo. Not the same. Not at all. I do not know if Coban Talun has an awesome story like Coban Rondo (cue my mother googling the answer) but I think it may have been more beautiful than the latter. To begin with, it is much more remote. We had to hike about 30 minutes to get there. We arrived after a long walk to find about 80 children on a field trip from Surabaya at the falls. Much to our chagrin. They had a bule with them, so we nominated Courtney to go ask her how much longer they would be around. They promised they would leave shortly and so we decided to wait it out. We made some adorable middle school aged friends and asked questions about the falls while we waited for them to leave. It really was beautiful. Some of us braved the water and took a swim. I was not one of these brave souls. I’ve watched too many episodes of River Monsters to choose to go neck-deep in murky water. I did, however, go knee deep. I was very proud.

Last night I saw the stars for the first time since my arrival. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen a glimmer here or there, but when we first arrived it was the tail end of the rainy season. I had a snowball’s chance in Hell of seeing more than a twinkle. Last night, after a rewarding day of waterfall activity, I saw the stars. For those of you who know me well, you know this is no small event. I stopped mid-stride and gazed. I saw the Southern Cross. Now I’m in Indo-freaking-nesia. I SAW NEW STARS. For all of you non Astronomy Nerds out there, this is huge. I have been looking at the same stars in the same sky my whole life. I know almost every story. I can recite the summer sky to you almost exactly. Stories, locations, major stars, even some major celestial bodies (nebulae, star clusters, galaxies, specific binary systems, etc). And now I have half a sky I have never seen before. I feel like a little kid at Christmas. Like I was just handed a candy bar after giving up chocolate for Lent. Like I found a $100 bill in my pants pocket after I’d forgotten about it.

I tried to tell some stories to my host family and ask them about new stories but my language skills aren’t quite there yet. Sadly, that will have to wait until I have a larger vocabulary. I am, however, going to need to brush up on all of the constellations I’ve ignored my whole life due to their position below the horizon. I’m really regretting packing up all of my star books right now…