Peace Corps has been sending out lots of information. My group will be Jakarta for 5 days – during the same time that President Obama is there! You can see the totally posh hotel they are putting us in by going to www.cemarahotel.com I expect to have access to email during those first few days.
Then it looks like we take a 10 -12 hour train east to Surabaya, where the Peace Corps Indonesia headquarters are located. From there we head south to the city of Malang, which has cool mountain breezes and a most interesting blogspot:
http://www.eastjava.com/tourism/malang/index.html Check out the top and bottom items on the list – a bridge to an island with a temple and the birds and flowers market in the city. For the next 11 weeks our group of 20 will be spread out in 4 little villages near Malang. Although the pictures look inviting with lots of tourist spots, this training will be an intensive time of living with our Indonesian host families, and lessons 6 days a week in language, culture, safety, health concerns and the skills, attitudes and behaviors we need to partner with our Indonesian colleagues and achieve the English teaching project goals. My target is to be able to update the blog and access email at least once a month during Training.
We’ll be receiving support and information so we can purchase cell phones for staying in touch with the PC office from our sites. We only pay for outgoing calls and it’s too expensive to call home, but at some point I may be able to receive cell phone calls from the States. I’ll let you know in an email.
Based on how well we all do during Training our Swearing In, which is contingent upon satisfactorily learning all we need to know, the official day I become a Peace Corps Volunteer will be the 3rd or 4th of June.
The Swearing In Ceremony will be attended by our host families, our Indonesian counterparts (fellow teachers) and the US Counselor General to Indonesia and Indonesian Government representatives. After that we go to our teaching sites. The plan is that we will be housed with local families during the 24 month teaching assignment. Under a section titled “Meals” it was noted: “You should be prepared to be flexible and learn how to adjust to what your host family can provide. You may have some challenges meeting your nutritional needs within the family and should be ready to independently supplement what is provided.”
The information from Peace Corp made a special point to tell people that sending packages and letters can be a frustrating experience because of delays and heavy customs taxes. Even cookies and candy can be taxed! The PC office in Surabaya is undergoing final construction and renovations and we have been informed to tell friends and family to not send anything until we arrive in Indonesia and are given a proper address. Generally padded envelopes get through without being opened. From other sources I’ve read that packages are opened, inspected and sometimes the contents get “shared” with the postal workers. All expensive items are not worth sending because of the customs fees.
Another point they made was
“Volunteers often enjoy telling their “war” stories when they write home. This is one of the exciting and adventurous elements of serving as a Volunteer. Anecdotes in letters might describe recent illnesses, lack of good food, isolation, transportation challenges, etc. While the subject matter is good reading material it is often misinterpreted or exaggerated on the home front. There is a Peace Corps medical officer at the Peace Corps office in Surabaya, Indonesia. In the event of a serious illness, the Volunteer is sent to Surabaya and is cared for by our medical staff. If Volunteers require medical care that is not available in Indonesia, they are medically evacuated to the nearest medical hub site or the United States.
And there was a warning about using alcohol. Indonesia is a Muslim country and it’s not appropriate to drink in homes and many other situations. At this point in my life that seems fine. I do have to admit that 27 months without candy or cookies from home seems harder than 27 months without a drink.
So, I promise I won’t whine or beg for goodies!
I want to write just a bit about my World Wide School. Paula Michel’s 4th and 5th grade gifted class at San Antonito School in New Mexico has agreed to be my partner in the Correspondence Match program. One of the students has a grandfather who was imprisoned by the Japanese on Java during World War II. So they will be sent this blog and we’ll stay in communication with each other. I’ll tell them things about Indonesian students and answer any questions they have. I met with them last week in New Mexico and told them that it’s impolite to let your feet point at another person. They wanted to know what to do with your feet when you are all standing in a circle looking at each other. Good question! When I find out the answer I’ll let you know.
My purpose in writing this blog is to share Indonesia with the people in the United States, my family, my friends and my special school partners. I’d like to invite all of us to open all our eyes to a different way of looking at the world. I’ll let you know about the things I find fascinating and challenging. I’ll share a little corner of the world with you in the hopes that all our lives will be enriched. And secretly I hope that one or two of you will want a Peace Corps experience for yourselves!
Thank you all for being my support group as I begin this adventure.