20 February 2013

Another Fresh Start.

Gong Xi Fa Cai! | Selamat Tahun Baru Imlek! | Happy Chinese New Year! (2564) 

While I am not Chinese and this is my first time celebrating Imlek, I do feel like I tapped the refresh button in my life and have started another new year. In the last week, I have had a lot of time to reflect, learn more about my co-workers, and meet new people. Thus, February is treating me very well. 

The start of the Year of the Snake was 10 days ago on 10 February, but the Chinese in Pontianak have kept the party going strong. The school's principal, Bu Agnes, extended our five-day vacation to ten days. And it was glorious. The students and teachers returned to school this past Monday being a bit more relaxed and ready to tackle the rest of February. I had a lesson plan meeting with my co-teacher, which went very well. So, things seem like they are on the up and up. I had also just returned from an incredible trip to Medan (more on that in my next post). And upon my return, I visited the houses of co-workers and friends to celebrate the new year, which was a good experience. 

Esther and I clasp our hands to form pai. Pai is a Chinese greeting used to show respect. It is used during the Chinese new year when people greet one another with Gong Xi Fa Cai, or Gong Xi Gong Xi
A friend and I went to Mega Mall, one of the major malls in the city, for dinner last night and we caught a dance performance celebrating the new year. This was our view from the second floor. 

At the end of the performance, all of the dancers performed together. 

This is an ang pao. Ang pao is Mandarin for red envelope. During house visits for the Chinese new year, children receive an ang pao with money. The picture above is of an ang pao given during a wedding. The characters are different for a new year ang pao. 

Kue keranjang (Basket cake) is a traditional dessert eaten during the Chinese New Year. It's actually not supposed to be eaten until Cap Go Meh, a celebration which culminates the end of the new year celebrations. At my school, each teacher received two cakes. Freshly made, these cakes had not solidified yet and were very elastic. They were also very sweet. Since I arrived in Indonesia, I have not eaten much food with a lot of sugar and have become sensitive to sugary foods. So, I couldn't eat the cakes by myself and shared it with people in my community and my good friends outside of school. One morning, I had a small piece of fried kue keranjang, which tastes better than the un-fried version. 

As I stated previously, upon my return from Medan, I went on several house visits. The visits are called pai cia in Mandarin. We did five houses in one day! At each house, I ate delicious pastries. I had pastries with shrimp, fried onion sticks, langsat, durian cookies, durian cake, and a pastry with pineapple on the inside. The latter, which is called nastar, was my favorite. Bu Hui Hui, one of the vice principals, gave me a bag of nastar to take home. (Thank you Bu!) I had handfuls of it at every house. I also had my first Coke and Pepsi drinks in a long time. I had to pace my consumption at each house because I knew we had more places to visit. 

Bu Yanti hopped on the back of Bu Hui Hui's motorcycle as we all headed to another house. 

Bu Loli, the Biology teacher, is ready to go. 

Our last house on one day was Bu Hui Hui's house. I am in between her two sons, Niko and Peter. Her husband's parents are to my left, she is on my right, along with three staff members from our school. 

The students at my school made many red and yellow lanterns to celebrate the new year. 
They are currently hanging all over the school. 

We did some of the visits on Valentine's Day, and while the new year overshadowed the day for love, some of my co-workers and I got to talking about the holiday. More specifically, some of the younger male staff members wanted to know about my past relationships, if I was single or dating someone, and because I admitted that I was single, if I ever felt lonely. I explained my past relationships without going into much detail and told them that being single was not an issue for me. I told them that I never really felt lonely because I had books to read, I was active in the community at school, and I had girlfriends to hang with. Then, Billy, the driver, starting singing Michael Jackson's You Are Not Alone, and everyone in the car started laughing. He's right. I am never alone in Indonesia until I enter my house!  

On Fridays, I volunteer at the American Corner and lead the Speaking Club. On 1 February, we talked about introductions, and this past Friday, we talked about sports. I surprised myself when I realized how much I knew about American football. 

Some questions from the general American introduction. 

The very personal questions from the Indonesian introduction. The questions in boxes are a no-go for an American during a first encounter. (I wrote a lot about this in my Mau ke Mana, Miss? post.) 

Two Speaking Club members working together for the activity. 

Group photo at the end of the session. 

On 2 February, we had a yearbook photo shoot. 

One Saturday afternoon, I attended a futsal (Indonesian soccer) match with my students. 
I had fun cheering for our school. They won the match 3-1. 

Cheerleaders for our school's futsal team. 

The tail-end of the rainy season. 
The Fulbright Commission in Indonesia (AMINEF - American Indonesian Exchange Foundation) holds a national creative English competition, WORDS (no one knows what this acronym means anymore…), for the students at participating schools. The prompt for this year's competition is What can the youth of Indonesia teach the world? First, the ETAs have a local competition so that they can send a student to the national competition. I held my local WORDS competition on 16 February. I want to say that, overall, the process from start to finish, was "smooth." I spoke to all the 10th and 11th graders about the competition (the 12th graders are not eligible to compete) about a month and a half ago. Fourteen students expressed their interest and signed up. Seven showed up to the technical meeting. Two dropped out weeks before the competition. One dropped out due to the Chinese new year. And another withdrew TEN MINUTES before the competition via Twitter. So, if you kept up with the math, then you calculated three participants remaining. I was totally fine with it. That's the environment here - expected the unexpected. All I needed was one winner, anyway. Then, five minutes before starting the competition, I received a text from one student, Frida, who had dropped out due to the holiday, stating that she wanted to compete again. I told her to hurry up because we were starting soon. 

The competition was over in less than 30 minutes. The students performed a traditional dance, talked about discrimination in Indonesia, talked about and cooked a traditional meal, and the love they had for their country. (Frida came just in time for her performance.) The winner, Septrani, talked about rujak, a traditional meal made of peanut sauce, cucumbers, and green leafy vegetables. She and I will go to Jakarta in March for the national competition, which is sure to be an amazing experience for her and the other students. So, congratulations Miss Septrani! 

Frida gives her speech about her love for Indonesia. 

Septrani and Frida - I treated the contestants to lunch at a nearby restaurant. 

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