Tuesday, September 29, 2009

This will be an amazing 8 months

And so begins the biggest and greatest (I hope) adventure of my life. A little melodramatic I know, but I don’t think it will prove to be a hyperbole.
I've included some snippets from the journal I've got going, so things might not be in context all the time.
I arrived here in Sidrap around noon on Sunday, and to be honest was borderline horrified. I think mostly due to the little sleep, the need for some food and water, and the REALLY sweaty and long trip up from Makassar, I was freaking out a fair amount. Remote is an accurate description and the pesantren’s condition is a HUGE change from the 4 star hotel I’ve been staying in the past month. For instance, I’m pretty sure at least one of the girl’s dormitories is a converted barn; which reminds me there are sheep and or goats wandering freely across the entire place; the cows are confined to a pasture and the chickens seem to be pretty much confined to my back yard!
My living situation, while probably more basic than just about anyone else’s, is significantly better than my surroundings. I have AC (I cannot express my joy for this), a water cooler, a refrigerator, a TV, and a second mattress; those are all things that I didn’t fully expect (and they’re also listed in their order of importance to me). In addition to that I have a western toilet and shower, but no heated water (not as big a deal considering the temperature here, or at least that’s what I keep telling myself) or sink. In reality it seems I might be a mix of home stay and on my own, as it looks like I'll be getting most of my meals from the headmaster, Irman (nice guy, studied Islamic law in Egypt, and after 9.11 has been to the US several times; seems to be pretty influential and important both in his community and to some extenet Indonesia), and his family. In addition, his home is the only place with Internet. He's been very open and helpful, but I feel a little bad depending on him for everything, and I don't know how much I should do myself or help out. I've offered to pay for some of my food, since I'll otherwise eat him out of house and home!
I kind of hate to ask for anything because it is so obvious how much they have done for me to be here, i.e. a lot of the stuff still has price tags or packaging on it. That being said, this is, I’m pretty sure, one of the most primitive placements (I talked to Jimmy today and it sounds like he may have me beat, as he doesn’t even have a shower, I think the two of us will have to stay in contact to help each other).
As for the teaching:
No doubt about it, this is going to be difficult, but also incredibly rewarding. Monday was the first day of school, but not really class. It was, as I understood, meant for the students to clean the campus after the long break. I thought everything would start at 7:30, and I was supposed to have breakfast with Ustas Irman at 7. Of course as with everything here in Indo, plans are only meant to trick you!
All this week I'll be just observing the teacher, Daya. I'm supposed to observe for the first 2 weeks, but I can't keep myself back that long!
My schedule looks to be pretty light (each one of the classes meets 2 times per week for 80mins each, meaning I will be in the classroom 11hours/week), and my only complaint was that they had me teaching Saturday morning, but I asked if I could change that to, hopefully, Thursday morning, if that is the case, I will have class only 4 days/week with Friday-Sunday free! That would be awesome!
Already the people here have been very nice and accommodating, especially my counterpart, Yusran and of course Irman. All of this will of course take some serious getting used to, but I think that I will enjoy it a great deal, but I'm already not sure how much traveling away from Sulawesi I will be doing. It's way too early to tell, but it takes such a long time to get to the airport that it's kind of a task. I don know I have the whole last week of November off so there will have to be a fairly major trip then!
Ok I'll cut this off here, and open it up to have people ask anything I left out. I won't be on the Internet a whole lot so be patient!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sidrap here I come

It just got very real in a hurry! I leave tomorrow morning for Sidrap (actually I have a one night stay in Makassar as well), and the last few days have been spent talking and planning with my counterpart. Yusran, is a 26 year old guy that comes from a family of teachers. He apparently taught himself English, and also attended the same Pesantren where he now teaches Economics. As with several things, I'm not exactly sure if I will be working with him or not. He's a very nice guy, but he 'yes's me a lot; meaning he says yes or gives me some answer even if he doesn't know or understand what I've asked. This is a very common thing in Indonesia culture, but it's very frustrating when I need to figure out a lot of things.
I do know that I will be assisting a female English professor; this was a bit of a surprise as I didn't know the school was co-ed, but apparently there are actually more female students than male. That being said there aren't that many students: for 6 grades (Jr and Sr. High schools) there are somewhere around 250 students, meaning that when I teach 10 and 11 grade I will have about 30-40 students in a class that meets 2x a week for 1hr45min each. This obviously doesn't add up to the 20 hours I'll be teaching/assisting; which is kind of confusing because initially there was talk about me having to work 6 days a week (there is school everyday, but Sunday); we've changed that though b/c I've signed a contract that says specifically 5 days. Yusran and I decided to wait and set my exact schedule when we return to Sidrap so that I/we can speak with the other teacher and perhaps the headmaster (who apparently went to university somewhere in the US).
I really cannot believe that this will be my last night to say goodbye to all of the other ETAs (though I will be travelling with some tomorrow). It's been a great 4 weeks, and I will definitely be missing my fellow 'bule's.
After talking to Yusran the Pesantren doesn't sound as remote as I was imagining (phew!), and I think I will have a little better Internet connection than I initially feared.

Sampai jumpa semua temanku!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Idul Fitri in Bandung

Selamat Idul Fitri semua! (happy Idul Fitri all) Today is the first day after Ramadan (i.e. the first day that Muslims are allowed to eat (or drink, or smoke, or ...) during the day. Last night the city was pretty electric with people celebrating: lots of fireworks, people driving around in the back of trucks banging on drums, etc.
Then today the city seemed pretty empty (most people spend this day with their families; think Christmas day I guess), but I didn't see that as much as a bunch of us went hiking outside of Bandung. We started off seeing some bunkers (basically just man-made tunnels into the mountain side); there were WWII Japanese bunkers as well as some Dutch bunkers. After we wandered through those, we covered the 5km to a waterfall. The waterfall itself was pretty nice, but all of the garbage really detracted from it. The wild monkeys (i.e. still afraid of people, not running towards us looking for food!) did add to it however. I took a bunch of pictures (couldn't catch the monkeys though), and when I get a chance, I'll put them in this ongoing album:

Let's see what else has been going on? Yesterday after getting in a nap after lunch (the night before we celebrated one guys birthday) a couple of us took an angkot (short hand for public transport, but not quite the buses you might be thinking; more minibuses with bench seats placed around the outside...interesting, but cheap) to go do some shopping. Easy enough right? Unfortunately we took the angkot going the wrong way and ended up taking an hour to cover what is basically a 20-30 min walk. Anyways we eventually got there. I ended up getting a pair of legit Abercrombie $40 shorts for $10, a $30 T-shirt for $3.50 and two pairs of Clairborne slacks for $5.50 each!
After that I met up with some people for dinner, but first I had a strawberry juice. I bring that up to highlight all the delicious juices I've been having here. The 2 odd ones (at least to the US) are avocado (plenty of added sugar makes it more like a milkshake) and a green bean juice (again plenty of sugar). Both of them are amazing! While on the topic of fruit, I've added to my list of foods while here: durien (smells absolutely disgusting, rotten garbage and eggs, but I like the taste), snakefruit (surprising texture, and very unique flavor, but pretty good) and mangostein (again surprising texture, but very good flavor)
While on the topic of food, last night I ate at a really good duck restaurant, but the more exciting experience was when we ate at a place called Blind. As you might be able to guess, the calling card for this restaurant was that you ate in the dark. When I heard this I assumed it was just a little dark; oh, no! Pitch black, get led to you table and have to shovel the food into your mouth (or at least I did!) dark. It was interesting, and I'm glad I went, but I don't think I'll be going back any time soon!
Ok that oughta be enough for now. Hopefully I'll get another posting in before I leave for Sidrap (next Saturday morning).

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

More from Bandung

I haven't been very good with emailing or skyping people so I thought I would try to make up for it with more blogs. Unfortunately you probably shouldn't get used to it as I doubt that I will be able to post all that often from Sidrap.

Our time in Bandung is flying by, and in a week and a half I will be in Sidrap. I'm actually pretty excited to finally get to my location. The orientation has been helpful, and I've met some very nice and interesting people, but I signed up to get out into Indonesia!

Speaking of orientation, it has started to drag some now. We've been putting in 7-8 hour days learning language and practicing teaching, and to be blunt, a lot of that time has been a waste. Everything we've done has been a good idea or somewhat helpful, but a lot of the activities go on for too long. For the teaching, all of our sites are so different, and we know so little about them, that it is hard to know what to get out of each lesson or how applicable it will be. My main gripe on the language is that we haven't been pushing it hard enough. I've learned quite a lot of the language and am already able to get by pretty well, but I think a lot of that is due to my own initiative, not the hour we spend singing songs.

Ok just had to complain some!

Below I've posted some videos I took of a music performance we went to here in Bandung. All of the performance was by young students who attended this music school in addition to their regular school. I was really impressed with how great the little kids were, and the whole performance was really interesting.

I haven't really been exploring that much, as the classes are surprisingly tiring, and it's been nice to just chill out for a while. It seems kind of dumb, but I've actually been watching a lot of TV since there's no way I'll be doing that once I'm at my locale.

I think that's about it for now. Hopefully I'll get a chance to post some of the few pics I've taken so far at some point. Until then, enjoy the videos!

P.S. Congrats to No.1 UR: 2-0 beating Duke last week and Delaware this past weekend!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

What do I know about teaching English?!

If the title of the blog didn't tip you off, I had a mild 'What the hell am I doing here?' moment today. Our time in Bandung so far has been spent in large part on preparing us to become English teachers, which is mildly hilarious because sometimes I can hardly speak the language, and now I am in charge of imparting my knowledge to 80 or so high school boys (I found out more about my pesantren, but more on that later). It will be quite a challenge to be up in front of students and to be happy, energetic, and confident enough to truly make an impact with them, but as has been mentioned to us (the ETAs) many times, our primary goal is to simply create a friendly environment where the students are able to practice conversational English. This week has done, and the following 2 weeks will do, a great deal to prepare us, but it certainly will be a challenge unlike any other I've faced.

As part of our preparation was to visit schools here in Bandung. That was very interesting, and as not all the ETAs went to the same schools, highlighted just how different the various schools can be here (the Indonesia school system is quite a jumble of possible paths, organizations, school types, and funding availability). The result is that my situation will be entirely different from many (if not all) of the other ETAs. My position is particularly interesting because of its location. As I mentioned earlier the school is about an hour from the nearest ATM (of note because that is my only way to get money), but that might not be too big of a deal because I won't really have anything to spend my money on because by the sound of it the school complex is completely out on its own (i.e. not in a village even). I'm not positive of this, but at the very least it is pretty remote. As for the school itself, I think I will be teaching roughly 80 boys. I think that I will (due to necessity and my own interest) become very involved in my school, which should be incredibly interesting.

One thing that will make this much more possible is that we've also been taking Bahasa Indonesia courses since we arrived here in Bandung. The classes haven't been all that informative to be brutally honest, but they've provided me with the motivation to start studying more. I'm quickly gaining words and how sentences are put together, but as is normal for me, having significant problems hearing and understanding the spoken language.

Bandung is a pretty interesting city, and certainly MUCH nicer than Jakarta (cleaner, less humid, we're better located, etc.). I've done a fair amount of walking around the city as I've been looking for some more clothes (things are definitely cheaper here, but not the dirt prices I was actually expecting, unless you really hunt). This is really a city of malls and shopping; which also means food courts which is a good, safe way to get some cheap food. I mention safe because I've been dealing with some stomach issues for a week now. I think I'm just now getting things sorted out (I was trying to wait it out, and I think I got two different bouts). Unfortunately, that has kept me from doing some things: I missed out on hiking in a volcano on Sunday, but other than that just some hanging out drinking with some of the ETAs. There hasn't been a whole lot of partying by us, largely due to Ramadahn going on (tonight we took part in a breaking fast dinner: enak! (delicious)).

Other than that things have been pretty mundane; still getting to know the group here even better: it's quite a diverse group, there are people from all over the country (Florida to Vermont to California to Oregon with a bunch of the states in between represented).

I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot, but that will have to do for now and hopefully I'll get a chance to write more later. If people have any questions about anything feel free to send them on to me because I don't remember what I have told to who and I also don't know what you all might want to know.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Official Indonesia welcome

If there was any doubt I was officially in Indonesia, it's gone now! I've gone through my first earthquake with no issues whatsoever. To be honest the quake seemed pretty minor to me. It was certainly less scary than the take off of my Singapore-Jakarta flight.
Officially the earthquake was a 7.0 and about 160km SSE of Jakarta deep below the ocean. Here in Jakarta we definitely felt the earthquake, but it didn't seem too bad at all to me; in fact I wouldn't have left my room after the shaking (which went for quite a while) if it hadn't been for all of the people out in the hall. I did end up going down the emergency stairs and waiting outside for a while with everyone. Eventually the building was declared safe and another aftershock (there was one around 5 something immediately after) was said to be very unlikely.
So all in all, the 'quake was not a big deal at all. The news I've seen seems to be a little over the top to me, though there were some people that freaked.
Just another story to add to this big adventure!