Returning from my vacation in Jogja was a little rough because I didn't want it to end and I had to start the beginning of the end of my grant. But I could not really think about this because as soon as I returned to my site, I went on a three-day retreat with the 11th graders from my school to Nyarumkop, a town three hours north of Pontianak. My school is Christian, so most of the sessions at the retreat included readings from the bible and singing gospel songs. During one of the sessions, the teachers split the students by gender and discussed dating. They talked about the appropriate age for dating, what you can and cannot do during courting, etc. But there was no discussion about sex. They practically danced around the topic. Sex is definitely taboo, and sex education is not included in most curricula here. As I was beginning to wonder more about this, a New York Times article shed some light on the situation. Outside of the sessions, we had a bonding activity in the mountains, which was a series of obstacles so that the students could accumulate points. We also had a great bonfire to close the trip.
Two teachers and I take a picture on the balcony of our guesthouse.
The view from the balcony with the tip of Gunung Poteng
(Poteng Mountain) in the back right.
First obstacle of the day.
The students had to comb through wet leaves and other
gooey things to collect coins.
They also had to crawl through muddy water.
It was very entertaining!
The students passed flour over their heads.
Then they washed off in a stream.
My plan was to stand on the side and watch them, but then the vice-principal started chucking water at me and I got soaked. So, I got in and we took this picture. In Indonesia, people go into the water fully-clothed unless they are in an area with tourists, where it is more appropriate to wear bathing suits/bikinis.
This was my first bonfire, and it was a lot of fun. We ate corn on the cob and sang songs. I do not have a video of it, but I sang a popular Indonesian song called Separuh Aku by the band Noah. My performance was well received by the students and teachers. Now, back at school, the 11th graders start singing the song's chorus whenever I walk by them.
On our way back to Pontianak, we stopped by the beach.
On 12 January, Pak (Mr.) Yudi, one of the music teachers at my school, had a wedding. The other teachers and I performed a song at his ceremony. Prior to the wedding, we practiced a total of three times…. Indonesians are very good at cutting it close. But the performance was really good.
We are such a great school family!
Pak Yudi's wedding reception - I have been to two wedding receptions here in Indonesia and they have turned out the same way: food is served buffet style and you eat to your heart's desire. Then, once you're full and ready to leave, you walk onto a stage where the bride, groom, and their parents are seated to shake their hands.
Exhibit A: These people have eaten and have decided it's time to go.
Sometimes, people will stop to take a picture.
My relationship with my co-teacher is the hit-and-miss type. Sometimes we are on the same page and can work well together, and other times he leaves me in the dust where I am left trying to figure out what he's going to teach in class, how he's going to do it, and if he is upset with me about something. We butted heads a lot last semester because he did not want to work with me. So, I suggested we have a meeting with the principal so that she could explain my role to him and how important it was for us to work together. After the meeting, lesson planning was a smoother process and the semester ended well. This semester it seems like he wants to backtrack and do his own thing. So, I have to constantly remind him that we need to work together for each lesson. I would handle this situation easily in the U.S. It's just that here, for the most part, the culture is passive aggressive. And sometimes, I feel like I'm walking on eggshells around this man. I have tried to create a relationship where we can provide each other with feedback and not take things as a personal attack. While communication between us has improved, I have realized that 1) I always need to be prepared, 2) I should expect the unexpected, and 3) I am here to support him and our students to the best of my abilities. I could have worked with the 11th graders and their teacher, who seems more than willing and eager to work with me, but I have learned most of my 10th graders' names and enjoy working with them.
A picture with some students from the adjacent junior high school.
On the night of 16 January, I was walking back to my house after refilling my phone with minutes when three girls on a motorcycle pulled up to a stop in front of me. They wanted to know my name, where I lived, why I was in Indonesia, etc - the usual set of questions. They wanted to practice English with me, so I waited for them while they drove one girl home. They came back with two other girls, and all five of us sat on a bench under a street light on the side of the road. We talked and talked and talked. The girls didn't know enough English to have a conversation that made sense to any of us so we spoke in Indonesian. I thought they were all sisters because that's what they kept telling me. But it turns out that they are all cousins. So, I had a mini lesson about the difference between the definition of sister and cousin. In Indonesia, a woman will usually call her female cousin her sister.
Then, all of a sudden they were all in a band and desperately needed my help for creating a band name. I was getting tired, couldn't think straight, and needed more time. But they quickly came up with a name and decided on 7 Icons. (There are two other cousins.) It had a ring to it and I gave them the thumbs up for my approval. It was getting late and I told them that their parents might be worried about them and that they should go home. I only remember one girl's name, Fuza. So, I usually refer to them as the 7 Icons. I enjoyed the spontaneous encounter and talking to them as we sat on the bench. So, I gave you the whole story. The Icons come to my house from time to time and are an entertaining bunch.
They usually come to my house while I'm napping and I can't focus at all so I have to turn them away. However, I let them into my house one day, and just one photo turns into a photo shoot.
Fuza is in the striped green and pink sweater.
January 24th was the Prophet Mohammad's birthday (Maulid Nabi Mohammad). So, due to the Islamic holiday, I had the day off. My plan was to stay home, but some time in the early afternoon I received a phone call from Devina. Devina is a student friend of mine. I met her in December and she's been to my house for English lessons. Her mother wanted to cook a meal for me. So, they picked me up and we went to the market place.
A while ago, I mentioned to Devina's mother that I really liked crab. So, we had to get crab.
Devina is allergic to crab, so her mother purchased some fish.
It turns out that Devina's mother wasn't really sure about how to cook crab and that all of it was for me to eat. So, I stood beside her in the kitchen and let her know when the crab was ready. They (Devina's mother and brother) also weren't sure about how to eat the body of the crab, so I showed them my approach to eating it, which was funny. We also had a delicious side of shrimp and green and red tomatoes in spicy sauce.
After dinner with Devina's family, I met up with Sofia, my yoga buddy, for karaoke. Karaoke in Indonesia is not what I expected at all. I thought we would be singing on a stage in front of a crowd at a restaurant or some other venue. But here in Pontianak, people rent a room with their friends and sing songs from the comfort of a couch. You can also order food and drinks, which are delivered to your room. I guess it's karaoke with class.
On 26 January, I was a cafe that I patronize frequently enjoying a coconut and browsing the web when one of the staff members started waving a newspaper in front of my face and said, "Look, it's Chous!" (The guys at this cafe can't pronounce my entire name so they call me Chous. It sounds like shoes.) I had been interviewed by some student writers for the Pontianak Post a few days before and completely forgot about it. So, it was pretty cool to see my face in an Indonesian newspaper. The interview was about the Fulbright Program in the U.S., the Fulbright Commission here in Indonesia, my role here and how I prepared for it, and my thoughts on the future of Indonesia. People always want to know my thoughts on the latter. I finally got a hold of the paper later in the week and cut out my article so I can have it forever! :)
During Friday evenings, some of the students play volleyball in the courtyard.
I decided to join them one day and got in some great serves, hits, and digs.
Doesn't this remind you of the sit-up tests you had to do in gym class?
One of the teachers at my school is Dayak (one of the indigenous ethnic groups in West Borneo), and always talked to me about eating snake and how it gives her smooth skin. (I haven't done my research to verify or reject the latter.) So, I thought I would try it. On the last day of January, I ate delicious snake, iguana, and turtle for dinner. It was quite the culinary adventure. Snake was the best. It tasted like meaty fish. The iguana, doused in a delicious and spicy curry sauce, was a bit tough, and the turtle meat was nothing to rave about. It kind of tasted like ham. The meal was memorable and I am very glad I branched out and tried it.