Culture article for my language and culture teacher, Teguh:
I am one of the Peace Corps volunteers from America who has come to Indonesia. I am currently studying Bahasa Indonesia and living in a small village near Batu. In 2 months I will receive my assignment and become an English teacher in a rural high school someplace in East Java. There are 19 of us who have made this 27 month commitment to bring peace and understanding to the people of Indonesia and be representative of America. At the same time we are also opening the eyes of American people so they can see through our experiences what Indonesia is all about.
Most of the volunteers are young people from age 22- 25. I am 61, so perhaps my insights are not shared by the others. I also am required to tell you that the contents of this article are my own personal thoughts and do not reflect any position of the US Government or the Peace Corps.
The most surprising thing that I have found is the level of technology here. I didn’t expect most homes to have electricity and I am shocked at the number of sepeda motors. In America I had an HP but I never learned to SMS. That’s something that Dea, the teenager in my Indonesian family has taught me.
I had come prepared to teach Basic English, assuming that most students had little exposure to a foreign language. I had collected approximately 50 childrens books in simple English but I had so many other things that I needed to bring that I left the books behind. My daughter promised to ship them when I reached my permanent location. Now I am thinking that those books are not nearly sophisticated enough. I will ask her to send more advanced material.
The final thing that I would like to discuss is difficult to explain. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to be so loved, so cared for and so treasured. From the moment I wake up in the morning and receive the greeting/blessing “Assalam’alaikum” from my host family to the gentle reminder, “Hati, hati.” (Be careful)as I walk out the door to go to school; from the smiles and “Selamat pagi.(Good morning)” And ‘Mau ke mana?(Where are you going?)” of the people in my village to the helpfulness of the boys at the warnet(internet house) when I try to figure out how to turn on the computer and find my files; from the ancient women with wrinkled faces and hands who stroke my nose and press their soft faces against mine and tell me that I’m chantik (beautiful) to the children who hold my hand and touch it to their cheeks. These are the memories that I will cherish. This is the spirit of Indonesia, the seed that has been planted in my heart, the sprout of life that I want to share with all my family and friends in America.
Thank you, people of Indonesia, says sangat bertrima kasih. (I am extreemly grateful.)
Oma Colleen Young