Act IV

Scene 1: (school; no classes in session, the students busily making preparations for an event in two days; chatter and bustle by students everywhere outside, by teachers inside as they prepare clothes and certificates for the students)

Me: So school has started – actually this time, and not just in name. This means of course that I have been teaching, and compared to last year, it is going quite well. I have already established a good way of teaching with my counterparts (more with on than the other, but that’s okay), and all of the teachers have leeway from the principal to teach as we see fit in the classroom instead of teaching to the final exam at the end of 12th grade, so things are going pretty well here.  A few weeks ago we had our mid-service conference which I think also went fairly well, giving us a chance to talk about various things and exchange ideas with our counterparts in the city (and allowed us almost a week of hot showers ad being in the city). Outside of school I have been asked to start two LESs. Mine are far less formal than I know other volunteer’s to be; the first is in my village with three boys in middle school who asked me for the lessons. The second was mentioned by my counterpart as she had some girls in middle school who lived near her who wanted one. Other than that things are going pretty much as they have up to this point.

(pause for a breath)

Me: But I have had more time to do other things lately, like think. Especially over the break where classes were not really happening, sometimes I would just put down my book or sit outside and think. And recently I have been thinking about words – or at least, one word in particular. It is a word all volunteers and most foreigners to this country are probably fairly familiar with. That word is bule. Now, according to various teachers I have spoken with, that word originally was used to mean albino, but has changed over the years to be more inclusive, and it holds also the meanings of white person, especially a foreigner. The reason that many of us know this word is because it is often shouted as we walk/ride/run/etc. past people down the street. It is not exactly a pleasant experience. This isn’t because of the word inherently being rude or unkind, but the way in which it is said; there are several similar words in English. I have spoken with many people, specifically my students about how it tends not to be particularly polite to shout it at people on the street as they go by and most of them seemed puzzled by this. Usually this discussion is held in larger groups, the full classes, but yesterday only two students had stuck around for class and we were able to have a more in-depth conversation. Since there were only two of them I forwent the regular lesson and told them to ask me any questions about anything, and mixed in with some history, language and math, this topic was brought up and they asked me why it wasn’t polite to shout/say to someone. I asked them if they knew what it meant, and….

(dramatic pause)

Me: They didn’t. They had just heard it when they were young as a word to refer to foreigners, had seen people shout it, and so copied the behavior. So I told them what it meant, and they still didn’t seem to understand so I turned them around and asked how they would enjoy it if, when they were on the road, the first thing people said to them was ‘Brown person.’ They laughed a little, uncomfortable, and said that they would be sakit hati (sick/hurt at heart). I nodded. I also asked if they would like it if people were always pointing out the differences between them and everyone else, commenting on appearance or really anything else that distinguished them and whether that would make them feel comfortable, and at home where they were; they said no, of course not. I nodded again as they understood. I am often asked here whether I feel comfortable, safe, and at home. Generally, the answer is yes. But I mentioned to these that sometimes, especially when people begin saying these things over and over again, that I don’t, that it makes me want to go home – either to my house here or even back to the states, and that this feeling is shared by many volunteers. I try not to take it personally, especially since I know it isn’t done maliciously, or even knowingly, but simply because, as my students asked after, what else should they call us? I asked them what they say when they see other teachers and that perhaps it would be better if that is what they called us too. That is what we are, after all.



They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul

      but also
              that you can drown in them

eyes are oceans, 	in which you can swim

                                          but they shine
shine like the moon

 the moon is just a 					reflection

so the shining of one’s eyes are the reflection 
                                of a reflection

the roadlike reflection 
                       of the moon on the water

                       but even a reflection 
of something roadlike

                      has to have 
something like a destination

all roads lead somewhere, 				after all

 moonlit road 			leading into hidden 
                                         the depths of the soul?

But 			if the road is just a reflection
then 	wouldn’t the road be leading


Act III (end)

Scene 5
Me: It feels like things ended. After Thanksgiving there was a little more school, and then my first semester ended. Christmas happened, which I spent in Surabaya with Stephanie and a few other volunteers who happened to be around. And the second semester happened, which contained fewer classes than the first, though it was much more organized. I hurt my back which has resulted in physical therapy up to now and a little further. My relationship with Stephanie returned to being just good friends. Half of my students left for their practicum in their various vocations. The 12th grade, which included some of my friends here at school graduated, the students moving on to working or attempting to go to university. My 10th graders remained and we deviated from the assigned curriculum so that I could help them with things that they needed. And then that semester too, was over.
(the weather has shifted; the nights have become cooler, the winds stronger, and the rain has started to fall only occasionally; the sun is stronger, the air drier, and things have quieted down)
Me: So an ending, but a beginning in there as well. The volunteers have arrived, survived their training, and been placed into their permanent sites. It almost feels like a burden has eased, one that I had not known was there. Those of us out here in West Java were the pioneers (kind of), living in a new place with a different take on the culture. There was quite a bit of pressure on us, both from the organization, from the government, and of course from ourselves. We all wanted to be here, and we became a fairly tight group. We met up in the city, told stories, and understood better what the others were going through; then we returned to our sites (somewhat) refreshed and restored and ready to do it again. Now there are new volunteers here. As far as I know, they were not given a choice to come here, but were instead chosen. Having met and spoken with them at the swear-in, on the train, at the principal’s conference, on the phone, I feel…hopeful. We had each other before, those of us in ID-7, but now that there are more here, I no longer feel quite as alone or cut off from everyone else. We have a group of a good size, with good people. Despite being here one more year, I feel that the burden has passed to these new ones. It is strange, but maybe once this break ends and school starts, it will feel like a new beginning. We shall see.

Act III (and another)

Scene 4 – Jakarta

Part 1

(after spending a few weeks at site, my sister comes to Indonesia)

Me: My sister came to Jakarta. We talked about it a great deal and I worked out places of interest and created an itinerary, and then the day before she was to come over, I went and spent the night at my principal’s house to make the journey easier the following day. We departed at about 4-5 in the morning, heading to the big city and to the place where I would catch my bus to Jakarta. That went without a hitch, and I had a nice trip over to the airport to meet my sister. I had not yet travelled in the north, so seeing the difference in the countryside was interesting. Especially since there was a toll road, paved and well-maintained, so the trip was even more comfortable than I would have thought. There was also no traffic luckily, mostly because motorcycles are not allowed on the road, so we shared the road with a few cars and other buses. It was pleasant.

(3 and half hours later, I arrive at the airport)

Me: So the only problem with this was that my sister and I hadn’t talked the previous night, so I didn’t really know where we were going to meet, as I was not expecting the airport to be as large as it was. I did eventually figure out what airline she was on and after a small snack, I waited until she arrived. When she did, we immediately headed off to the hotel to drop our bags and explore a bit. That first day we walked around Monas, the new market, a large church and just got a feel for the city, which is more like being back in the states than any other place I have yet been to in this country. There are wide roads, lots of traffic, constant noise. People are everywhere, going about their business, and foreigners are relatively common. To be honest, it was a little overwhelming at first, but it definitely got better. We ended up going to a mall nearby later and eating some western-style dinner, which was a nice change for me.

(after seeing various green places, with trees and parks, we ventured into the older part of the city where such things are rare)

Me: The next day we had breakfast at a restaurant in the old city called Café Batavia, which I would recommend to anyone in Jakarta and a good place to eat. It had a good ambiance, the food was tasty, and at night they offered live music, so I would think it a good time for anyone. After that we went across the way into the shadow puppet (wayang) museum. I must say, it was a little bit of a disappointment. I think my expectations were probably just too high, but it didn’t really educate me much on the art form, though I did get to see different examples of the puppets. We wandered a bit more after that (a fairly common thing for us to do). Aside from this, there were only a couple other notable things we did in Jakarta (the rest were also somewhat of a let-down). The first was Taman Mini Indah Indonesia ( the beautiful miniature park of Indonesia). It was pretty cool, as you got to walk around and see examples of art, architecture, and clothing from many of the provinces in Indonesia. they didn’t have examples of cuisine, unfortunately, but it was otherwise a good time. The other place we went to that is worth mentioned was another restaurant, this one recommended to me by Nate and Natalie. It was a Lebanese restaurant named Beirut, and I thought it was pretty good. It was small and tucked away, not obvious unless you knew what you were looking for, but it is worth checking out as well. Well, after 4 days, we returned to the airport and my sister flew off as I made the long trip back to my site.

Part 2

(return to site, return to teaching with my counterparts…for another 2 weeks)

Me: After only a couple weeks, it was time to head back to Jakarta, this time with the rest of the volunteers. As it was close to Thanksgiving in the states, we had originally been planning on doing our own things here and there, but we all received a very nice invitation from the Deputy Ambassador to come there and have a real Thanksgiving meal. So we went. This time, I didn’t head straight there – or from my principal’s house either. I went to Bandung first where I met up with Stephanie, Alex, and Siong who, since they had already planned on coming to the West, had also been invited but wanted to see a little of the normal big city before heading to Jakarta. We had a good day together, though it ended up just being Dan, Stephanie, and myself. We went to the movies, ate good food, and just hung out. The next morning we all met up for breakfast, then Stephanie and I hopped on the train for Jakarta.
(a relaxing 3 hour train ride later…)

Me: So most of our group was staying at a pretty cool hostel, but several of us opted for the comforts of a hotel room instead and that is where we headed to drop off our luggage. We arrived a day early so we could do shopping and sightseeing-like things before everyone else arrived and proceeded to do so. When everyone arrived the next day we met up haphazardly at the mall and did more shopping, then split up to get ready for the event. At the appointed time, we left our lodgings and caught a cab to our destination.

(short cab ride through an area I had not been through yet, filled with very luxurious houses and large trees)

Me: The actual event itself was really nice. The Deputy Ambassador’s home was spacious and open, but had places where we could sit and be together. There was a brief appearance by the Ambassador himself, newly arrived in Indonesia, and we had some good conversation before falling to the main reason we were all there: the food. There was turkey with gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, vegetables, mashed potatoes…pretty much everything you would expect from a Thanksgiving meal, that I certainly had not expected to get here. In addition to us volunteers, there were some people from USAID there who were RPCVs and I got to know a couple of them over dinner. It was a good time. After dinner we all headed over to the hostel to hang out and such, and it was a good time, I guess, though not the thing I go for. The night unfortunately did not end on the best note, and we left the next day, Stephanie flying back to her site and I catching a bus to the other city to meet up with Sugi and Margaux for a very long trip home.

Act III (still going, I promise!)

Scene 3: (back at site; I promise I went back after Bali and have not been gallivanting all over…much)

Me: So after that nice vacation, I returned to site and business as usual: going to class, teaching English, hanging out with teachers, talking to people in my community, building relationships, etc. That stuff.  Though I do admit an initial trepidation at returning back to site after having the freedom to do the things I was used to in Bali, I quickly re-acclimated. Which was good, because before too long, it was time to head out again, this time for our IST.  Since I knew that I would have a few days beforehand without class, I made plans to go to my old PST site to visit my host family there before going to IST. And for some other reasons too.

(travel to the big city passing through the mountains and all the gorgeous vistas to catch a plane to the opposite side of the country where I catch a bus to go to my old site; oddly nostalgic, reminding me of the first time I made this journey)

Me: Seeing my family again was pretty amazing. It actually worked out exactly the same as it had the first time I had arrived at site; when I got there, only my host sister and her husband were there and I sat in the kitchen and drank tea and ate snacks while we waited for the parents to arrive. There was much hugging and talking and excitement and my host mother made one of my favorite dishes and I slept in my old room and bed. The next day I met up with Alex, who knew that I was coming and also came late the night before. We traveled around with Moana, who arrived a little later, going to all the host families and just hanging out. It was a good time. After that though, I had made plans to stay in the nearby city for a couple of nights, meeting up with Stephanie and Dean later. We went to the mall, ate pizza (!), and visited Stephanie’s host brother who lives nearby, and then, when it was time, caught a travel (a rented car/van that will take everyone where they need to go) with Laura and Lu.

(returning to the big city in the east, but this time to a new place, with malls and stores nearby for enjoyment)

Me: After a pleasant drive, fairly uneventful, we arrived at the hotel and immediately ran into others. We chatted and settled in as a few other people joined us throughout the evening until everyone was there. After going out for dinner, we returned, went to bed and got ready to begin IST the next day. I am going to skip over this bit, as most of it was just going over things we had learned during PST while emphasizing some new things. The more useful and enjoyable part was going out for dinner, having starbucks, doing some shopping, and hanging out. After too short a time, those of us who lived in the West departed to do the second ‘half’ of IST back on our side of the island.

(one 12 hour train ride later, we arrive around 7pm)

Me: It was a fairly smooth ride all told, hung out with Courtney as she was my seat-mate and we listened to music and worked on the yearbook. Good times. Upon arrival at the train station we were met with drivers to take us to the hotel where we would be spending the next few days. It took us another couple hours to get there, with a short break for dinner. I was tired so I pretty much went straight to bed, but I know others stayed up to chat and explore. This hotel was sort of like a compound, with decently large grounds, but fenced all the way around with barbed wire at the top and located pretty far from everything, which was not something we were pleased about.

(awaken in the morning to music blaring out of a speaker in the ceiling – all attempts to turn it off or down are fruitless, so Matt and I get up)

Me: It was not a promising start, I must say, and some of the activities we began with could have been better. But it was good to see my cp and meet everyone else and we did ménage to impress upon the staff that there were certain things that we briefly covered that should be the focus of the day, so after derailing the original schedule, things got much better. The hotel itself in the light of day was…sketchy, to say the least. Every room was identical, which is normal, but each clock had a series of numbers and letters scribbled on them with permanent black marker. The grounds themselves looked to have seen better days, with the paths in poor condition and the plants overgrown. There was also little to no background noise despite being on a main road, which just added to the unsettling feeling. Personally, I thought it was kind of fun, but the accommodations were nowhere near as good as those we had had in the other place, so we were feeling understandably let down. Regardless, I spend most of my free time playing pool and hanging out, as we did before but without the benefit of going out for dinner all the time. The food at this place was not as varied or as tasty, but we all suffered through it together. Eventually, we finished, and at the end of it, I did think it had been worthwhile only because the cps had been able to see what and why we do what we do, and had a chance to make friends with the other cps.

Most people went straight home, but a few of us had to return to the city for various medical related things, so spent a couple nights there relaxing. And then…we went home.

Act III (cont’d)

Interlude – In Bali


Me: Of course, after a long hard week teaching, what do I need? A vacation.  Although, to be honest, it was planned several months ago in the last days of PST. Something for us all to look forward to after being at site and dealing with being shut in all the time. So after a final couple days early in the week, I headed on up to the big city, met up with my group of fellow volunteers either that night or the next morning, and flew out.

(from the plane, as we fly over the island, at first you can see green everywhere, with small bunches of villages; we ascend above the cloud level, and nothing is visible except for when there is a break in the clouds; as we near our destination, a huge peak peeks above the clouds, and then…)

Me: We arrive in the late afternoon/early evening. We hang around the airport for a bit attempting to find a taxi driver that won’t cheat us too much and Inge decides to get her first whopper since coming to this country. I am told it was quite excellent. Eventually we persevere and head out, arriving to the villa where most of our friends have already arrived. It is an excellent meeting and we drop off our luggage, ready for the night ahead. Well, at least dinner. It doesn’t take us long to decide what we want to eat, something that is as rare to find here as it is common at home: Mexican food.

(walking from the villa to the street is an interesting experience; tucked away as it is, there is none of the noise and light and life that surrounds as we move onto one of the busiest streets; it is a little hard to keep track of as there is so much to see: restaurants, clubs, hotels; people renting other various services; the buildings all show some influence from either western culture or the religion that dominates this island – Hinduism – which is a nice change from what has been the norm back at site; eventually we turn down a side street and pass stalls and small shops before arriving at the restaurant)

Me: Sadly, not everyone made it. At least at the same time. Some got a little lost along the way, though we were quick to call and help them navigate to the place, which gave them enough time to arrange seating for such a large group of us. The food was pretty delicious. Having not eaten anything comparable in about 5 months probably helped, but I would like to think that it could stand on its own merits anyway. It was a good time and after, people discussed what to do. I was tired enough that I just wanted to go back and chat and hang out, but of course, everyone else had other plans, so after briefly returning they all, or most of them, headed out as I headed to bed.

(cue waking up several times throughout the night as various people pass in and out of the place where I am staying, their uninhibited voices carrying to where I rest; sleep returns all but the final time, a little after 4 in the morning, when the final group comes back to go to bed)

Me: This final time I am pushed enough towards wakefulness that sleep completely eludes me. Giving in, I rise, grab my things, and take a wonderful hot shower. It is still early as I finish, get dressed, and leave. As I make my way to the main road, there some similarities with the scene of last night, but it is quieter, more peaceful. Still lit, but the sun has yet to rise, and in this place I hear no call to prayer. I ask a few people I see on the street, and eventually make my way to the beach. It is a nice beach, nicer than mine, with a long, gentle slope into the water. There are benches scatter here and there, and I take a seat, just in time to watch the sunrise. Or rather, the reflection of the sunrise on the water, as I am facing west and have no unobstructed view. But, honestly, it may even be better this way. I see the colors play on the water, changing, reflecting the sky but adding new tones. It moves through the colors before settling on a beautiful green that I have not seen before, the sky streaked with orange, red, and a few remaining hints of lavender and indigo. It is around 6:30 and some people have started coming to the beach: joggers, foreigners, some people like me, just content to sit and enjoy the view. I decide it is a good time to head back and get something to eat, but sadly, everything seems to be closed. As I return to the villa I encounter Siong, that magnificent man, who has also set off in search of breakfast. After asking around, we find that all of the more western restaurants are close for some time yet, but if we head to a small parallel street we will find some local food. We do so, and pass the time chatting about this and that as we find a small warung (food stall place), where he buys breakfast. I decide to hold out and get a western-style breakfast because it has been some time since I have had one, but after getting back, that changes. We run into Laura and she promptly invites me to the tour she, Siong, and a few others were going on. Someone else had originally been going with them, but dropped out so there was an empty spot for me, if I wanted it. I did.

(quick run to the convenience store to grab a snack of a meal, returning, leaving; we drive for a while, talking a bit before arriving at our first destination )

Me: Our first stop was a theater to see a traditional Balinese dance done during the day. It told a story, and was quite interesting, though a little difficult to follow. It was also kind of expensive to get in, so while we agreed that it as interesting, perhaps we could have skipped it. After a brief stop at an ATM, we continued our tour.

(the next part of the journey takes a while; we drive through various types of countryside, eventually going up a mountain; we stop by a temple by a huge lake)

Me: This place was pretty fantastic. I forget the name of it, but it was huge and beautiful, right on the lake. Excellent gardens, the temple was nice, and was just a good time. We spent a good amount of time there before leaving, having lunch at a place on the way back. Our next stop was nice, though a little disappointing for something called the royal temple. Our final stop made up for it though, as we went a temple on the coast, where we walked around and watched the sunset, before eventually returning to the villa. I grabbed a small dinner and met up with some people on my way back where we hung out for a bit before I headed to bed.


Me: The next morning I repeated on purpose what I had done not by choice the previous day: I got up at 4 to go watch the sunrise. I showered and got ready, but this time I did not go alone. I had mentioned doing this the previous day and Alex thought it sounded like a good idea, so she joined me. This time we stopped and grabbed water and a snack and made it to the beach in time to watch the moon set, and then the sunrise. It was just as beautiful as before, but nicer because I could share it. We returned to the villa where she went to sleep. I sat out by the pool to read as I didn’t want to bother anyone, which worked out well as I encountered Dean and Marjie as they finally arrived to the party. After dropping of his stuff, Dean and I went out to find some breakfast, which was pretty good, and came back to greet people as they finally woke up. We went out again after, just walking and chatting, keeping an eye out for any interesting places to eat lunch or dinner. I made a wide circuit, starting north, then going west the beach. We found a pretty nice mall where we made contact (by phone) with some people interested in having lunch together, so we headed back to the main road and after a bit, made it.

(a small café boasting an Italian(ish) menu, a comfortable place along the road to stop)

Me: It was a nice lunch and I had a pretty good lasagna. After, I joined the ladies (Stephanie, Amanda, Alex) as they wanted to do a little shopping before the wedding later that evening. I was already good friends with Alex, she having been in my village back during PST, but I hadn’t spoken much to the other two. Though after haggling to get shoes for Stephanie, I felt like we were friends. We went to a few stores then, looking for something for Amanda, and spent a long time convincing her not to get some hideous shorts. Eventually, she found something, and we all returned to the villa so people could prep. Maybe 30 minutes later, it was time. Thai and Lou wanted their wedding to be a beach, so I led everyone down the path I had found, faster than the one they had all been using, and we were there.

(we arrived just before sunset, a large group of foreigners clearly all traveling together; we attracted quite a bit of attention for what we were doing, though less than we would just walking around our sites in Java; different cultures, different expectations I guess)

Me: Sadly, I didn’t get to see the wedding itself. After a round of picture taking I went out to gather some people running late, and though one group was pretty quick, the second took a little while so that by the time we had met up, everyone was already at a restaurant for dinner. It was a pretty good time, I got to know some more people better and had an excellent discussion about philosophy and the philosophy of words. I also had an apple pie, which while not what I had expected, was still good. I said my goodbyes at that point, as I was ready to return though most people were still eating, and made my way back. It actually turned out to be a good time, as there were people at the villa who had been doing other things and hadn’t actually been able to make it to the wedding or even known when it was happening and thus just hung out. I joined them for a bit, but after an hour or so, I went to bed.


Me: As had become my custom, I arose around 4, got ready, and headed out to see the sunrise. I was supposed to have company again, but sleep was a little more tempting that getting up early, which I cannot fault. After getting snacks, I watched the sunrise reflected, and headed back around 6:30. I started to get a little dizzy on the way back, which while not completely unusual, kind of sucked. So I took another shower and tried to rest before giving it up and deciding to go for a swim. I had done so the previous day with Dean, and invited him out again. Most people were up and heading out to do stuff by this time, so in addition to Dean, Stephanie joined us and I attempted to teach her how to swim, which was fun. After, we showered and changed, and since Dean hadn’t had any yet, we went to get Mexican for lunch. For fun, Dean allowed me to choose his meal for him after deciding that he wanted a special that included multiple courses to choose from. My friends back home know I enjoy this sort of thing, so I had fun with it, and he was pleased by the result.  We went walking for a bit after and got some sunglasses for Dean, though he didn’t let me really haggle for them. After getting some gelato, which was pretty good, we returned to the villa and met up with other people. The previous day I had noticed a tapas place at the mall and told a number of people about it, all of whom seemed interested, and since some people wanted to do a little shopping in addition, we went there next.

(cut to the mall, situated across the street from the beach; it had a lot to offer, various stores and places to eat; first stop, Cold Stone)

Me: Others had gotten there before us, so we met them and talked, walked, and had a good time. A couple more people joined us, and we decided it would be more fun to go to the beach for a bit before returning for dinner.  We staked out a nice spot and relaxed, a couple people going to the water. After watching the sunset, we were all pretty hungry, so decided to head back for food. Unfortunately, there was a bit of dissent as the tapas place I found was judged too expensive. I was open to suggestions, and we walked around for a bit, many places turned down before half our party left to go somewhere else. Those of us left went to the food court, where everyone but myself and Stephanie had some dinner. We had already discussed it and wanted to go back to the tapas restaurant, which we did once they were all finished. Now sated, they had no problems joining us, with two of them ordering drinks while Stephanie and I chose what we wanted. Well, she chose to get paella and told me I could choose everything else, so I had a good time doing so. The food came out eventually and though the tapas were delicious, the paella was…disappointing. But there was good company and we had a good time, so it wasn’t a waste. We bagged the rest of the paella and figured someone else could have it if they could stand it and headed back to the villa. It was a little late by this point, though still early by most people’s standards. I had been planning on playing pool with a couple people earlier on in the day, but it didn’t happen so I resigned myself to not playing at all. However, those people were up for going as soon as I got back, so I played one game at a place down the street before returning and going to bed.


Me: I rose early, as usual, the next day. I was supposed to again have a companion to watch the sunrise but was again informed that it wouldn’t be happening. A little disappointing, but I didn’t actually make it out there either. This was our last day in Bali, and some people were leaving early so I decided to stay and bid them farewell. After they left, I managed to go back to bed and had a nice relaxing morning hanging with everyone. The next group of people headed back around 9 or 10, and I made my farewells and hung out for a bit longer. Had some lunch, went to beach, chilled with some friends before meeting up either all of us who were left for dinner. Returned to the villa, caught a cab and headed to the airport. I was exhausted by this time, which was unfortunate for me, though everyone enjoyed the comments I made. We eventually made it back to the big city, where we spent the…morning? having arrived around 1. Margaux and I left later that day to return back to site, and I think that was an excellent and needed vacation.


Tomorrows’ beginnings

Scene 1: (the sun rises and sets over the school several times before a poster appears with the words “Some Time Passes”)

Me: So I expected, once school started up, to teach. It seems like a reasonable expectation, does it not? I mean, there I was, coming every day to school, talking with teachers and deciding what would be done. But then the first day came, and…well, I sat in my office and there was no class. Now, I suppose I could technically have taught, but the reason I stayed in my office was because my counterpart had not come. What does that have to do with anything, you may ask. Well, it is kind of a big deal. You see, we (volunteers) are not supposed to teach alone. I know many of the others have taught sendiri (alone), but I had been fairly adamant about not doing so, and everyone had reassured me it wouldn’t be a problem. So I was…surprised, to say the least, and not a little disappointed. It was a few days (about a week) until someone told me why my counterpart had not shown up to teach, which I thought odd, until they told me they had just found out themselves.

(cut to inside school, the teacher’s room)

Me: It turned out that the week before class started, my one counterpart had an operation and was still at home recovering, and so would probably not be coming in for a few weeks yet. I of course understood completely and would not expect someone in that condition to return to school so suddenly, and made arrangements with some other teachers to go visit him later. So that was one mystery resolved, and it was taken out of my hands, so I was no longer upset by the situation, though my students in those classes seemed very disappointed that I wouldn’t be joining them anytime soon. That covers that teacher. But I have two counterparts.

(back to the first week of school)

Me: It was a different situation with this counterpart. He showed up at school on time to go to class, told me that since it was the first day we would probably just introduce ourselves and get to know everyone a little bit. I found this acceptable, but as we were getting ready to go to class we were informed that there was to be a meeting and the students all went home early because there were no more classes that day. It was a little startling, but I had no problem with it.  The next day was another class and my counterpart decided we would just do introductions and let everyone get to know each other. So we went to class. Or rather, we went to where the class was supposed to be. Out of a class of about 29 students only 3 remained. The other students had all gone home because their other teachers that morning had never shown up. My counterpart asked what I wanted to do, and I said I saw no problem with having a class with only 3 students, since all we were going to do was introductions anyway and it would be faster this way. We actually managed to pick up another 3 students from the class we were supposed to have the previous day, and it was a good, if very short, class.

(a nice weekend of hanging out ensues)

Me: This is when I found out about my counterpart and I enlisted the aid of one of the other teachers I was friends with to come to my classes with me so I could explain the situation and introduce myself. It worked out well, the students all assured me they were excited to learn English when class finally started. Two days of that, then a free day, then I met with my counterpart who came to school and we went into the class to introduce ourselves and what we wanted out of the students. The next day was sadly a repeat of the previous week, except that there were only 2 students this time, which we agreed was too small to do anything with. And lo, the end of the second week.

(another weekend of doing fun stuff at the beach)

Me: This week was very much like the first, in that I didn’t have class those first couple of days, still lacking a counterpart. However, that quickly changed.  When I arrived at school, I went around greeting my teachers as usual, and I was informed that there was a new teacher. An English teacher. Someone who would take over for my still-ill counterpart, and thus was my new counterpart. We met and she was nice, and seemed ready to work together. I joined her for one class that Saturday, though just for introductions and such. Since she knew that I wouldn’t and couldn’t teach alone, she thought it would be good to have the students finally meet me, as she wasn’t aware I had done so already. But it was good, and I looked forward to starting class with her on Monday.

(probably went to Margaux’s site. Actually, I definitely went to Margaux’s site; I think I needed pulsa)

Me: Alright, so on Monday, I had two classes with my new counterpart. And they were pretty fantastic. She introduced the topic, I went over a bit and there was some good rapport. Co-teaching at its finest. What was even more impressive was that she took notes when I taught and made changes based on what she found effective for the students. The next day I had four classes – two for 10th grade, a break, then two for 11th. After the first two classes, which were the same lesson from the previous day, we returned to my office. And found my counterpart who had been ill waiting there.

(dramatic pause)

Me: He was still recovering. That much was pretty obvious, but he had come in to school to teach, and since they were his classes, we went to teach together. It was…a little different, let’s say, and I shall leave it at that. On Thursday, my other counterpart came and we taught as we had the previous couple weeks, and it was good. I felt pretty unnecessary in those classes, to be honest. He had a lot of experience and was very good at explaining things clearly. He would always ask me if there were anything I wanted to add or something that I thought I could explain better, but this was not the case. I was content to watch him work, and take notes. So ends my first full week of school.

Scene 2: (Saturday)

Me: I found out on that Friday that one of the teachers at my school was getting married and I was invited to the wedding. I was picked up in the morning and shuttled over along with some other teachers who didn’t have to teach in the morning. It was a nice morning, a little warm, but as we sat outside and waited for the wedding to begin, I spoke with one of the teachers who had come with us. We spoke fairly often at school, as her English was pretty good (she was the Japanese teacher), so it was pretty comfortable. The conversation eventually ended up talking about the other volunteers and how they were doing and their feelings on being in Indonesia, especially Margaux as she was close enough that all my teachers knew her. Somehow it was brought up that Margaux has tattoos, and I agreed that this was in fact the case. I then asked her why it was that I didn’t usually see other people in the village with them.

(sun dims and everything freezes as I address the audience)

Me: Now, in general, the culture in Indonesia is conservative, especially in how it regards women. Being a mostly Muslim country, there are a few things that come from that, but mostly it is the culture of the country that decides what people can and cannot do. I was perfectly aware of how tattoos and such were viewed in this country, especially for a woman, but I wanted to see what the opinion of a fairly strong-minded woman would be.

(sun turns back on and time resumes)

Me: We went back and forth, as she said that it wasn’t a thing that women generally do in this country. I countered that I had seen plenty of women in the cities with such things. And she said of course, in the city, things are different. After I asked why, she took several minutes to think of an answer. The first reason she came up with was religion. I told her I though the religion was the same in the city and out in the desas (villages). She agreed, and I asked how that could be a difference if it were the same. Again she took a few minutes to think of an answer and said that she supposed that that wasn’t the reason after all. She said maybe it was because they didn’t see women with them and so didn’t know to get them. I said that might be plausible, except that most people have some access to the internet, and will go to the cities occasionally to shop, and would they not see such things then? She said that would be the case, and maybe that wasn’t the reason either. After a few more minutes of thought she said maybe it was because women just don’t do that in general here, because…they haven’t. So tradition? I asked to clarify, and she said, not exactly, just that it was not a thing that was brought up very often. So I asked about the other things, like clothing and its length, and was that not the way it was for the same reason? And she said, yes, exactly. And then again, I asked her, why? Why can they not do as they please, if those in the cities can do it without any sort of reprimand, what is different about living out here? She laughed, and I continued, asking if it wouldn’t be better for everyone to enjoy the same type of freedom no matter where they were, as it would cause fewer problems in the long run? She laughed again and said that I was very American. I agreed.




P.S. Those of you who know my course of study will be tickled that the name of my new counterpart is Hera. And yes, she is married.

P.P.S. Also, this has been going on for a while, I have just neglected to mention it, but in this country my name is often shortened to ‘Lan’. Those of who have read the same books I have will know why this amuses me.