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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Answers to Student Questions

My partner school in the US is a gifted 4th and 5th grade classroom in San Antonito, New Mexico. Here are the questions that they sent me:

1. Do you feel odd eating food like bee and duck?
At first it's a little strange to eat something that you know is different. The bees were crunchy like potato chips on the outside and soft and gooey like toothpaste on the inside (the larva part) but once I started to think about it as food, it was easy to eat. My PC friends didn't think so and only ate one to be polite, but I really liked it. The duck had been cooked all day in a clay pot in it's own juicy soup. It tasted a lot like chicken and only when I was eating the meat from the head did I really even think about it being a duck.

2. Is duck a traditional food?
All meat is very expensive here. Because we are American and the families that we live with have been given extra money to feed us, we are given lots of meat. Some of our families are more wealthy than others, but I think that if we were not here, they would be eating a lot more tofu and a lot less meat. When there is beef or duck or chicken or shrimp, or fish, my family always wants me to take the first portion. They are just so loving and generous. Muslims are not allowed to eat dogs or bats, but in non-Muslim areas people eat whatever meat they can get so their bodies will have the protein. When the Japanese invaded Indonesia people had to sell their rice to Japan and mostly eat cassava and there was not enough food and many people died.

How do you carry a baby with one right hand?
I had explained to the class that the "right" hand is clean and the left hand is unclean. Mothers and older children carry the babies in a sling around their neck and back with the baby in the front. People sometimes use their left hand when they have to, but they say "sorry." If for example, you are handing out papers to the class, the teachers always carry the papers in their left hand so they can pass it with their right hand. Often I see children walking hand in hand on the street to school, but because they are side by side, one is using her right hand and the other her left. Once a baby is about a year old, the parents will set it down on the floor, but until that time, babies are always carried and at night they sleep in the bed with their mother. I asked my teacher when he started sleeping in a bed on his own and he said that he started when he was 7 years old.

Do you like it there?
Yes I do. I love it here. It feels like a wonderful adventure. But there are some days when all I want to do is close my eyes and pretend that I am still in America and everything makes sense and I can walk to the frig and get a diet coke and turn on the TV and understand the news and read a sign and know what it means. Part of gaining wisdom is having the courage to experience the hardship. Often it feels like I'm in the hardship phase, but I get little glimpses of peace and security and insight that make it all worthwhile.

Why do you think the 5 year old boy eats only sugary things?
Because his parents let him! I think maybe all kids love to eat junk food and unless someone makes them eat vegetables, or gives them some choices, they would just eat candy all day. I have seen him eat a spoonful or rice or vegetables when someone puts it in his mouth and then the grandparents stick a little piece of meat in while he is chewing the rice, so he does get some nutrition. Maybe you could do an experiment and ask the kids at your school: What do you like best - candy or apples? cake or carrots? chips or celery? What do you predict will be the favorite food?

What do you do that makes your body need to take a shower twice a day?
I love this question! At first, I thought the same thing. Why do we have to take a mandi twice a day? (Actually, it's kind of like a shower, but not really. You stand on a tiled floor and scoop water out of a bin with a plastic dipper about 6 inches across and pour it all over you.) It seemed like a waste of time and water. Now, I love it. It's so hot and sweaty here. Even at night, laying in bed the sweat is often dripping off of me and I love to just cool down. Sometimes I really am dirty and use the soap too, but often I just pour the water over me and feel the delightful cool feeling. I don't think any building in my village has air conditioning and pouring water over yourself is the only way to cool off. Electricity is expensive and water is cheap, because it rains every day.

Why do you want to teach Basic English?
I just want to teach whatever level of English the students can learn. Some Indonesian students are very smart and some are actually reading this blog! In English! However, some students are more like me. They know a few words and phrases in English (like I know in Indonesian) and they can put together a sentence so that you know the idea, but it doesn't really sound right. My heart goes out to them. Learning a new language is very hard and I want to help them in any way I can.

Why do you get diarrhea almost every day at your village?
I did at the beginning because my body wasn't used to the different food and the heat and the lack of sleep and being tired a lot and all the shots that we had to take to keep from getting Malaria and Dengue Fever and other things. By the way, I looked at what our medical officer said and last year 1/3 of the PC volunteers in Cambodia, the country close to Indonesia, got Dengue Fever and many of them needed to be med-evaced out. So it's important to take all the precautions and actually the diarrhea wasn't so bad and now it has stopped.

Why did you want to join the Peace Corps and come to Indonesia?
I wanted to make a difference in the world. I wanted the world to be better in some small way because I lived here. I thought maybe all my life experience could benefit someone who hadn't had the opportunities I have had. I didn't pick Indonesia. I said I would go anywhere Peace Corps wanted. Indonesia asked for English Teachers and Peace Corps thought I could teach English, so I said, "Sure, I'll do it." I hope that by being here, people in Indonesia will see that Americans are just people like them, not rich movie stars, just people who try to do good things and sometimes get frustrated and still keep trying. Maybe if everyone does just a little bit the world can become a better place. What do you think?

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