I am just back from a short trip to ParePare, the closest city of any note; I spent 2 nights there officially to unofficially help out at a local college (STAIN, pronounced stine/stein, basically stands for National Islam College). I say unofficaially because I’m not exactly sure if my contract allows me to do that, but I think it does because I didn’t miss any class. It should be fine because I accomplished more cultural exchange while I was there than I ever would have while in Rappang; it’s a lot easier to exchange culture when you can actually communicate with people! It proves difficult here since the majority of Sidrap seems determined to only stare at me and speak Bugis, rather than being accommodating and speaking slow Indonesian and actually communicating (mini rant over).
I don’t know how much I really did this weekend, but I had a great time actually getting to speak unhindered English and, gasp, having real conversations! The first night I stayed at the home of a retired American/Canadian couple that I had met previously. Justin and Diane are incredibly friendly people that have seen a TON of the world, especially Africa. As I gather, they’re basically unofficial missionaries, going to help out around the world, and while not converting, they are not shy about their beliefs. Even for someone like me who is, let’s say, not too religious, I have to admire their approach. They just want to help out (and seemingly have) and will share their religion with you, but not push it on you. Regardless of that, they make for very intriguing people to talk with, and they were incredibly friendly. In addition, Diane was happy to satisfy my yearning for home cooked western meals: steak, potatoes, green beans, chicken breast, ice cream, crepes, fresh salad and vegetables, whole wheat bread, spaghetti with ground beef, brownies? Check to all of those! I’m gonna have to gain some weight with all these people trying to fatten me up : )
As for STAIN I was supposed to be motivating students for an English Camp (a unique Indo thing that is basically people getting together to practice their English combing lectures with games and skits). I’m not sure how much I actually helped the participants, but I had a great time talking to the instructors and organizers! It was also interesting to get a look at college life in Indonesia. I was also able to give some insight to the older students on what America really was like (it scares me how little they know, but then I think about how little Americans know about Indo; that doesn’t make me any less scared (probably more so actually), but at least I understand then).
I also got to know Rahma pretty well. She is a graduating senior at STAIN that returned from 8 weeks in S. Carolina around the end of the year. She has lived with Justin and Diane for 3 or 4 years now and really is part of the family. I think my favorite conversation was with her talking about how neither of us knew what we were going to do for the next year, and that led to how much we loved travel. For the most part we enjoy it for the same reason, but more over we had the same discomforts with traveling and what we might end up doing. It was refreshing to see how much we had in common because after some experiences here, I was starting to question my long standing belief that all people are the same at our base.
All in all it was an incredibly refreshing (and filling!) weekend. And one of the last…the countdown is to 12 weeks!