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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Marching Parade

These are two of my fellow teachers, Ms. Cois (Joyce) and Ms. Nikmah. Cois is the newest teacher at my school. Yea! Not me! And I helped her learn the names for the other teachers and showed her around a bit. Ms. Nikmah is my team teacher for English class 11 - so 7 times a week we go together to teach an hour long class and then she stays and teaches the students English for another 3 hours each week.

These are 11th grade girls from my school in 100 degree heat and maximum humidity, marching for 2 hours with no break for water or to stand "at ease." Teachers had been assigned to go with the students who were in different groups - boys first, then groups of girls. ALL of the teachers rode motorcycles, following the students, except for Cois and I. She walked almost 3/4 of the way before accepting the motorcycle ride. I walked the full way, because in Peace Corps we're not allowed to ride motorcycles and because I wanted to see what was happening and because I CAN. I mean, I really can walk and lots of people here simply aren't able... well it is hot and I did have to wear my jilbab and long skirt and long sleeve shirt because this was a school function, but it was so fun.

My group of girls was awesome. This idea of wearing their father's Muslim hats on top of their jilbabs with the red and white ribbon (the flag of Indonesia is a red stripe over a white stripe) was a brilliant idea and they really did look great! The students at my school have been practicing for days to get their marching really snappy. A leader gives a command, the 2nd in charge marching at the back repeats it and exactly 4 steps later, they all in unison, turn, or stop or move slightly to the side or fan out into a wing shape. It's impressive!

My town held the 17th of August - Indonesia Independence Day activities early because Aug 17 is during Ramadan when almost everyone will be fasting and not drinking water from prayers before dawn till prayers after dark.
Here's the information from the last Peace Corps newsletter:

About Ramadhan…
- Fasting. Observant Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from sun-up to sun-down. It is not compulsory for non-Muslim Indonesians to fast, but it is considered respectful to not eat or drink in front of fasting friends or colleagues. Sexual contact, being angry, gossiping, cursing (in any language!), and smoking is also forbidden/frowned upon during the day.
- Why? The act of fasting is said to redirect the heart away from worldly activities, its purpose being to cleanse the inner soul and free it from harm. It also allows Muslims to practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy for those who are less fortunate; thus encouraging actions of generosity and charity. Fasting is meant to teach the Muslim patience, modesty and spirituality. During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds.
- Common customs:
• Greetings: "Selamat Berpuasa!" This means the opposite of Selamat Makan, something like "enjoy your fast" or "enjoy your faith." This is said throughout the day.
• Exceptions. Men and women who are sick or travelling may choose to not fast. This goes for women who are menstruating, nursing, or pregnant also. Usually they'll make up the days after Ramadhan is over. Children up to the age of about 12 are not expected or required to fast a full day, though they may try -- with their parents' encouragement.
• Break Fast. "Berbuka." It’s the best time during the day, and is signaled by the setting sun, sirens, television programs and a call to prayer. Everybody will really prepare for it, making and consuming a delicious meal after a long day of fasting. At breakfast, the greeting is "Selamat Berbuka Puasa" which essentially means "enjoy your food!"
• Midnight wake up call. It can be quite disturbing -- bells, loudspeakers, banging pans -- usually from 2 am until sunrise. It is not compulsory to join sahur (that’s the meal time before sunrise), but many join in because it makes the fasting day easier.
• Sleepy & irritable. Everybody (especially students) will feel sleepy in class as a result for waking up in the middle of the night, and having an altered routine. You may find that people have short tempers as well -- part of the fasting challenge :) -- usually a result of fatigue and hunger.
• Fireworks (kembang api). For your own safety and everbody elses, avoid playing with fireworks of all kinds. Especially "petasan/mercon" (the ones which make loud noise). These two are extremely dangerous and every year people are actually killed or hurt by them.
• Television. Families often have the TV on in the late afternoon as they prepare their berbuka, and into the evening when there is special Ramadhan programming.
• Night prayers. About an hour after fasting break, people often will go to the mosque to do Sholat Tarawih. These are special prayers, done only during Ramadhan. Some people, will stay in the mosque to read Koran after Tarawih.
• Charity. In the last days of Ramadhan, you may see people giving rice or money to the Mosque for distribution to the poor.
• Idul Fitri. The big celebration at the end of Ramadhan begins with early morning prayers, visiting one another to ask for forgiveness of past wrongs, and more food! Parents and other adults often give small amounts of money to children who come to visit.

I plan to fast as well. At least to the best of my ability. I may need to drink a little water in private (in the bathroom at the school.) The teachers have told me that we do reduced time periods so the students go home early to rest and during the last week of the fasting month there are no classes and some of the PCV's (and me too!) are planning a trip to Bali then. Our 3 months of mandatory "stay at your sites, do not travel, integrate into your communities" time will be over and quite honestly I am longing for a hamburger and a conversation in which I understand everything that is being said and I want to see some of this beautiful country that I've assigned to. Walking can only get me so far!

Just another little bit of update. I am not allowed to teach in the pre-school near my home. Peace Corps supervisors came and visited my site. Playgroups & pre-schools in Indonesia are real schools and in our agreement at the National level we are only allowed to teach in the one school to which we are assigned. Yes, you did hear a sigh as I wrote this. Oh well. Do what they want me to do and see what happens. Sometimes I have to trick my mind into acceptance. It goes something like this: Maybe by not teaching the little ones, I will be free to do something else which would be even more satisfying! So I just need to keep my eyes open for the even better idea that the Universe has in mind for me!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

English Textbook - back cover

The Tips to be a Rigid Person

(Printed on the back cover of our English “text book” – which looks like magazine.)

Use the network of support you have.
A happy and rigid person have not to face to problems alone, but he tends to ask help.
Everytime and everywhere, if it possible spend your days with laugh and humour to see something from different view in order always to be positive.
With all your efforts, learn from the past experience, don’t think again about what can’t be changed.
Implement the useful thinking strategy and do what you can do for better wish and feel optimistic for the future.
Don’t feel sad in a long time, but make it balance in facing a problem.
Take care your health and make sure you have enough sleep and rest.
Please, accept the fact that nothing perfect in the world and always accept the changes.
Don’t walk over the aim, direction and goal of your dreams.
Don’t stop trying to gain your goal.
Try to study more about yourself and keep focus on positive things you and the world have.

(Note from Colleen: With this kind of good advice - in English - is it any wonder that the job of the English teacher is a little challenging!)

Preschool - my secondary project?

All of us Peace Corps Volunteers have our main job. Mine is teaching English at the local Madrasah High School. But we also have secondary projects – something that we enjoy doing that helps the community in some way.

Today I took a stab at my secondary project. Well, at least I had a blast and I hope this continues being my secondary project. I went to the little pre-school near my house and asked if I could help by teaching English songs and games. The kids there are 4 and 5 years old.

The headmistress was thrilled. (Thank goodness. When I offered my services at a local orphanage at our training site they were not wanted.) I met with 2 teachers and their classes and the parents who wait in the play area while their kids attend 3-4 hours of pre-school. One mom was very pregnant and giggled and asked if I would touch her belly. First I stroked my nose and touched her belly, then I measured to show that I was tall and stroked her belly, then I said “No white hair.” She laughed and said ‘Yes, white hair.” But I wouldn’t stroke her belly for white hair. The other parents got a kick out of this. I think they all know it’s superstition that if someone beautiful touches your belly, your child will also be beautiful, but they all like the game. People in Indonesia think I’m “beautiful.” I have explained that in America I am just an old lady, but they don’t believe me. When I taught introductions to the High Schoolers, I had them make a list. Oma is a mother, a teacher, a grandmother, 61 years old, from America, etc. and they always want to add the word, “beautiful.” If you want to see yourself through someone else’s eyes – join the Peace Corps! There are some definite benefits!

I was VERY impressed with Indonesia pre-school. My little school is called Sweet Children Indonesia. I think it’s some kind of a franchise. The children all arrived dressed in identical little T shirts and shorts with the school logo. They played on the slide and monkey bars and teeter totter while their parents sat together and chatted.

The headmistress was very happy that I was there and I explained that I would like to come on Wednesdays and Saturdays, if I didn’t have to go to Surabaya or some other commitment. (I teach at the High School on Mon, Tues, Wed and Fri.) I explained that I was from Peace Corps and that I was a volunteer and wasn’t allowed to take any money. She told me that when she saw me at church (It’s the auditorium which is a part of her property.) she wanted me to come, but didn’t want to say anything. I had seen that she had written English” as one of the subjects that was taught on her banner. She really wants me to come as much as I can.

One of the teachers rang the bell and then all the students stood outside their classrooms. (I went in 2, but I think there may be 2 other classrooms.) One little girl was the leader of my class. She had the other kid’s measure so that they were all standing in line a uniform distance from each other. One little 4 yr old was disruptive, so the teacher had him stand in the back of the line. They marched into the classroom, stopping to take the teachers hand and pull it to their face, as a sign of respect and then each child put his back pack away and sat down in his seat. The teacher led them in several Indonesian songs with clapping and a Christian prayer, where they all bowed their heads and did “prayer hands.” Then I had them stand up and we sang “Head, shoulders, knees and toes.” Everything was taught in Indonesian, not Javanese (which is their first language.) with little bits of English sprinkled in. I then went to the 2nd classroom and the teacher was a little more hesitant. When I asked the kids to sing, she didn’t lead them, so they did the gestures, but didn’t really learn the English. Then I did “Ring around the Rosie” but instead of falling down, we all found seats like “Musical chairs.”

I went back to the first classroom, sat on a little 4-5 year old size chair and attended the class with the kids. These pre-schoolers knew all the upper and lower case letters and could read some simple words. The teacher was teaching a lesson on “hard” fruits and “soft” fruits. The banana and apple were clearly identified in the book as “soft” and the pineapple, selak and rambutan (local fruits with tough exteriors) were identified as “hard” The teacher called each child individually and they came to the front of the room and received their work book (with their right hand – one little boy reached with his left and she waited to release the book until he used the right hand.) walked back and sat in their chair, then when she gave the instructions, they all went to their cubbies and took out their pencil cases (with erasers and pencil sharpeners – I was impressed, I finally bought a mechanical pencil because I’m so used to electric ones, I couldn’t get my mechanical pencil sharpener to work right.)
The kids traced letters and drew lines to the right words. Then they brought their workbooks back to the teacher. She then taught a lesson on reading the words: balloon, guitar, racket, ball and doll. (In Indonesian) When the children could read them well from the white board she handed out a different workbook – individually to each child, like a special gift. They got to trace the letters in the words and color the pictures. When she gave permission they went to their cubbies, took out their colored pencil boxes and every single one of them slid the colored pencils half way out of the box so they could see the colors but not all the way so that they would spill on the table. They very carefully stayed in the lines and colored the pictures. When they were finished they brought the page up to her to approve and then put it away in the right spot. The first little girl done asked if she could erase the board and was told yes, she carefully erased the letters one by one, just like she was writing them. All the students were given enough time to finish their coloring and then it was time for recess. She called each child individually, they walked to the front, wrote their name on the board and then went stood in line. When they were all ready, they walked outside together, washed their hands in the little kid sinks and got money from their parents to buy snacks. Mostly they bought little 10 cent packages of chips and semi – sweet things that look like Trix and drinks in plastic bags with straws. They played outside with the parents only mildly supervising for about an hour. One little boy got a bloody nose and came into the canteen – snack selling area and sat on his mom’s lap. The teacher cleaned the blood off his face and then stuck a rolled up leaf in his nose. He sat quietly on his mom’s lap for about half an hour with the green leaf sticking out of his nose!

My pre-school also has a turtle aquarium! One of the parents told me that the three big turtles (each one six inches across) started out as a 1 inch turtle and the kids have watched them grow. They were red eared sliders, like Tilly, the turtle I had in New Mexico.

After recess we went back in the classroom and the teacher had them take out their piggy banks and each child put some money in their individual piggy banks. Then the teacher had them copy some information into their homework assignment books. (These are 4 and 5 year olds!) Date: 24/7/2010 name=…., age=…, home=……, father=….., mother=….. They put their homework assignment books into their back packs, sang a final song and said another prayer and waited till the teacher called each one by name, calling the quietest ones first to come to the front of the class. Each one said goodbye to me and to the teacher shook our hands or pressed our hand to their faces and then went out to where their parents were waiting.

The head mistress gave me some bananas from the tree in the yard. I told her thank you, Ibu (to her), thank you to the tree and thank you to God for the bananas. She was happy. Me too. It’s Kira’s birthday today. This project is helping with my “grandma sadness.”

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Teaching - What's working well

Topic: What I’m doing at school that seems to be working well.

I just finished teaching my third day of classes (17 hours of the 20 I teach each week) and I like it! I just made up my mind that I would try to do whatever they asked and observe what happens.

The vice principal wanted me to teach every 10th and 11th grade class in the school. I said okay.
This means that I teach 15 different groups of 40 students.

Class / Grade 10: 5 classes get me for 2 “hours” (hours are 40 minutes long)
3 classes get me for 1 “hour”
Class / Grade 11 7 classes get me for 1 “hour”

All the students get 4 “hours” of English every week. I team teach with their regular teacher for either 1 or 2 of their 4 hours.

So in Class 11, I’m the guest lecturer who gets to do fun things, play games and sing songs and engage them in English conversations while the teacher helps to translate what I am saying and doing. We’re both fine with this. We don’t have text books yet. Once we get them I’ll take whatever topic we have for the week and set up the fun conversational stuff around that topic. My co-teacher for grade 11 classes has only been at my school for a year and is more into establishing routines and giving lectures so it works out well that I get to do the engaging, brain stimulating stuff. She did insist and I learn 2 very long Arabic prayers that I begin and end each class with. Okay, sometimes I forget all the words, but the students help me out.

The Class 10 English teacher and I team teach the 2 hour sessions with her starting with a basic topic and then every 10 or15 minutes or so switching off so that the other one takes over the class. The kids love it and so do I! We get better as the week progresses because we then know what the other one is going to do next and can do a better lead in for them. She suggested we do “introductions” for this first week. Sounds great to me, because in class 10 we don’t have text books yet, either. So sometimes I introduce her, sometimes she introduces me, sometimes we introduce ourselves, sometimes we have the students do the introducing, sometimes we both just make it up on the spot. And we have fun with each other! For the 1 hour sessions, we condense it down to mostly the conversational part, with me doing most of it.

I said that I wanted to teach a song to each class – to help with their English pronunciation. (Ha. Ha. I love to sing! That’s the real reason I suggested singing.) So far all 17 of my different classes have learned the chorus to: It’s A Small World After All. And they like it! They don’t think it’s dumb! After they sing it through well, saying “world” instead of “word” I change it around and make them remember when to skip some words. Then we do races to the board to see how many hobbies they can list and then they have to guess which one is my team-teachers favorite hobby. When ever they ask how old I am I make them guess and begin with a question: Am I 15 years old? Then I say older or younger depending on what they guess and by the time we’re done, they all know what older and younger means. (Most don’t know when we start the age guessing game.)

I also taught a class of English for teachers. Every week for 2 “hours” the students go to “Personal Development” English club, sports club, health club, journalism club, sewing club, religion club, etc. I was really looking forward to this but the vice principal told me that every other week I would hold mandatory English Club for Teachers during this time. (On the alternate weeks they go to mandatory Religion Club for Teachers.) In keeping with my motto of: Try to do everything they want and see what happens I said Okay. So last night I went to the grocery store and bought 25 or so different small snacks and drinks that had English words on the package. We began the session by letting every teacher pick out a snack and read the English aloud (into a microphone that I was asked to use and I carried around the bag of snacks and the microphone to every teacher who was present at the teacher meeting). The teachers liked getting the snacks and the requirement of reading a few words of English was worth it! I had 100% compliance! This is while they wanted to do their chatting and smoking and getting ready for the rest of the days activities. I had copied a page from the manual Lukasz had – that Peace Corps copied for us – describing what words are hard to say if you are a native Indonesian and Javanese speaker. I chose the page which started with “This bed is bad.” We read them aloud and I would pause and make them repeat. I had chosen this page because the last example is sacks and sex. When their attention started to wane I held up 2 sacks and had them say ”sacks” which they all promptly pronounced as “sex” I laughed and told them “Please, please do not ask for sacks, you may get something very different.” We went around the room and each one asked for sacks or sex. Some of them said “socks.” I have no idea if they really can say it correctly but they honestly were trying. I think I may have even inspired them to try using some of this English in other situations!

I ended the session a little early. The vice principal liked it! The pronunciation was challenging even for him and the others who can speak English and the simple reading of English words was challenging for the non-English speaking teachers.

Then I rushed off to find where English club for students was being held. English club was packed. The room has 40 seats and I counted 120 students! The 2 English teachers had taken the manual. If you read my post about suggested topics for English Sessions you know exactly what they had planned to teach. By the time I got there they had selected a club pres, VP, sec, asst. sec, treasurer, asst. treasurer and had talked about visiting our sister Madrasah School in the city 30 minutes away and also a possible trip with them to Bali. (I have no idea if this is possible.) Anyway, I began speaking to the club, before they opened the book of suggested topics for English Sessions and brought up the idea of doing a TV show with commercials and news and a “Take me out” dating program and other things. I hadn’t talked about this is advance with them. They did translate a little, but they told me they thought this would be way too difficult for our students to do. I told them that I had seen a similar program at a big school in Malang and a little tiny school in a rural village and that both groups could do it – of course at the village school the English wasn’t very clear, but the students had fun writing the scripts and we would get to censor or correct the English on the scripts. And it meant that the kids had to do the work, not the teachers doing everything. Well, I have no idea if the kids will get to do this fun stuff or not. But keeping with my new philosophy of: Go with the flow. Watch and see what happens. I gave up trying to have my way. If it works, fine. If we do English club out of the English Sessions book, fine. If I wind up missing almost all of English Club for students to do English club for Teachers, fine. The 2 teachers of English club for students already know my style of teaching and who knows what will happen.

And tomorrow I have the day off! Yes, every Thurs. there is no English taught at my school. The vice principal who is also the 12th grade English teacher is in charge of the curriculum set it up so that English teachers get every Thurs. off. AND – okay, I know I’m spoiled, but since he let me make up my own schedule, I figured out a way to teach all my classes early in the morning from 7 till 2 each day AND get Saturday off too! Yahoo!

I want to go to the little play school next to where I live and offer to teach the little kids songs and games in English. It may work. I have been going to church at the school and know the head mistress and I saw that they have a new poster saying that they teach English! How could they refuse a Free Native Speaker who wants to come and entertain their kids? But going with my new plan for life: Whatever way it turns out will be fine - I’ll just show up, offer my suggestion and follow their lead.

I’m thinking “Follow the Leader” “London Bridges Falling Down.” “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.” And maybe I can get my High School students to write simple English “books” for these kids. I stop every time I see a little kid and practice a few English sounds with them “Baa, baa, baa” “Da, da” etc. It’s just so hard to stop being a grandma!

This Saturday my grand daughter in America will be 3. I can’t quite type these words and keep myself from crying. I love you, Kira! I know you can’t read this yet. But maybe someday you will read all about Grandma’s adventures and know that the hardest part about going to Indonesia was leaving you and Talon behind!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Today is the first day

Today is the first day of the teaching and learning process.

The day begins with the Monday morning assembly. All the students stand at attention and salute when the leader of the students directs them. They salute the flag, the principal and the teachers (I think.) All the teachers are standing in a row, partially shaded by the trees. It is so hot. I see one student swoon and she’s helped off the field. I begin to wonder how long we need to stand there. My legs are tired. I’m dreaming of water. The principal gives a big speech and the students and teachers laugh at his jokes. I think this probably would not be so painful if I really knew what he is saying – something about eating apples and going to the bathroom, as well as studying and attendance.

After an hour we are all dismissed and I go to the teacher room to find out that the teacher I will team teach with is not here today. She had to go to the hospital for a check up. So the three grade 10 double classes that I had planned to team teach with her, I now have to do alone. (An hour and a half worth of teaching to each group.)

No problem. I already figured out that teachers buy their own magic markers and bring them to class and then take them back with them. I have my magic marker, my topic in mind: introductions and a song to teach.

I go to the first class and find out it’s not there. I ask around and the room has been moved. After asking 5 different people I find the class and go in and they are thrilled.

I greet them (and every class) with the long form of the Arabic greeting:" Assalamu alaikum warohmahtullohi wabarokatuh." "In the name of Alloh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Alloh, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the World, Who has created everything in the world for human beings." They say the answer, in Arabic, then I say ‘Good morning, class.” in English.

I have them practice simple things like everyone please stand, this row please stand, please sit down, etc. I ask them what they want to know about me. It’s hard for them to formulate questions. If I hear something that sounds remotely like “name” I ask the student who said it to please take their desk mate and go to the front of the room and write the question on the board. I can read their writing a lot better than I can understand what they are saying. They ask my name, my age, where I come from, what are the things I like, where do I live here. I have the whole class read the question and then I answer it. I tell them about my children and grandchildren. I write the word daughter and the word doctor on the board and try to get them to say them correctly. Then they say one and I guess which one they said. They get better at distinguishing the two sounds. Two different teachers come in and take attendance. This is good. I’m not supposed to sign my name to anything official and EVERYTHING requires an official signature here. I try to repeat each name as the teacher says it and the kids laugh. My pronunciation is so off, they can hardly tell I am saying their names.

I teach them the chorus to it’s a Small World After All. They love it. They can sing it well after just 1 try. I have them practice the word “world” which they pronounce like “word” Together the class and I roll our r’s and unroll them, add and subtract l’s.
Then another teacher comes in. I ask him to go ahead and he explains that he is going to teach now. I didn’t hear the bell ring. The school is adjacent to the train tracks and there are bells that ring all the time. I figure I better have the kids tell me when it’s time for each class to end.

I find the next class I’m supposed to teach and this time after the directions game, I take out 3 by 5 cards with information about me. My name is Colleen Young. Please call me Oma. I like to eat nasi pecel. My favorite snack is ice cream. I was a bus driver in America. This always amazes them. Bus drivers here are all men and fearless. Big busses rule the road. I have only seen them give way to construction trucks. Everyone else knows they are supposed to get out of their way. Each pair of students reads a card aloud and then the whole class repeats it and I repeat it and then the class says it again. I figure my main job here is to get them to speak in English so that’s the point of this whole exercise: Please do what I ask you to do and please speak in English. So far it’s working well. I say everything slowly in English, mangle a Bahasa translation, and then repeat it in English until I can see that most of them understand.

I teach this class the Small World song and we practice singing it by omitting the word “small.” I have a lot of fun. But it’s good to take a break.

The next two classes are cut short for prayers. I am informed that yes, of course, there are prayers every day. As I look around the teacher room is deserted except for 3 women teachers (out of 52) I assume they are having their periods and are not assigned to take care of the girls who are also having their periods, who sit on the steps of the mosque.
There must be some regulation that each class period is 40 minutes long, even though everyone knows that approx.11:30 – 12:00 is prayer time. Actually the prayer times vary. There is a schedule posted on the yearly school calendar. It has something to do with when dawn occurs, but it’s not symmetrical. In July, August and Sept it ranges from 11:23 till 11:39 as the time for beginning the 1st prayer. The prayers that are said before dawn belong to the previous day.

Okay, I think I better get some lunch. So far, I’ve gone with other teachers to the canteen. I’ll see what they are doing today.

No teachers are eating lunch. I buy a cold vitamin water drink. It doesn’t list calories; it lists “energy” as 80kcal. The vice principal who also teaches English to 12 graders tells me he doesn’t think 2 years will be long enough and I need to stay longer. And he also tells me that he likes the song we sang for him when he came in to take attendance and it would be good for me to teach many songs.

I go to the third class and they are smart. There is something they need to fill out, but I don’t understand what. I just tell them to go ahead and finish the papers and then they give them to one boy. I assume he is the leader of the class. Each class appoints their own leader, assistant, sec, asst. sec, treasurer and asst. treasurer. In this class a girl walks around and collects1000Rp (10 cents) from each student. There is an announcement on the loud speaker so I’m quiet so the kids can hear. I have no idea what is said, but the boy who collected the papers looks nervous so I ask him if he needs to do something and he says yes and I give him permission and he walks out of the class with the papers.

I repeat the whole introducing myself, having them ask questions and teaching them the chorus to “It’s a small world after all.” I also ask them how they got to school. One person says she walked (I have found out that there is a dormitory when students spend the night!) and one boy said he rode his bicycle. Approx. 30 students rode a motorcycle and 8 rode a little micro bus. I ask who has a computer in their house and 2 students raise their hand. I have them translate so the whole class understands and yes, 2 students have a computer at home. I ask who has ever been to a warnet and 1 other student raises his hand. I ask them what they want to be when they grow up. They come up with the answer: teacher, and doctor. I ask “Who wants to be a farmer?” (This is the occupation most of their parents have listed on the school application form.) They all say no. I ask who wants to be a mother / father? I translate and about 90% of the class wants to have children someday. I ask who wants to be a business man / woman and 2 students raise their hands. I ask what time will this class be finished and look at my cell phone. Man, this is a long class. We have 5 minutes to go. I hand the marker to a student and tell him to write an English word on the board, then run back and hand the marker to his desk mate, who then runs to the board and writes an English word.. We make it through 10 boys and finally the bell rings.

I am hungry. I need to figure out a better solution to the eating lunch dilemma.

In the teacher room, I see the teacher I was supposed to team teach with. She told me she had to go to the hospital for a heart test. I ask her if she is okay and she says, “Yes. Never mind. And Maybe.” Last week we had a long discussion about “maybe.” When ever I tell her she looks beautiful, she tells me she doesn’t believe me. I told her that “maybe” would be a better answer. That way she can make up her mind about whether she wants to accept my compliment or not. Maybe means maybe I am beautiful and maybe not, but right now I will not choose either way. I tell her that for her to say “Maybe.” Is a big step and I am proud of her for not answering automatically: I don’t believe you.

I have no idea why she tells me “Maybe, the test is fine.”

I say Goodbye and grasp hands with every woman teacher and join my hands together and bow to every man teacher. And head out the door looking for food.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A fish story

This is a true story. Maybe you know more about fish than I do and it won’t seem amazing to you. But I learned a lot! Erna and her husband had taken me to visit his aunt. She has a koi fish farm in her yard. When we were getting ready to leave she asked me if I liked fish grilled or fried. I said I like both, but I like grilled best. She then told us to come back later and she would give me some fish.

We went to the city to run some errands and on the way back, stopped by her house. She lives in a beautiful rural area where I often walk and in fact I had marked her house on my map before I even met her. It’s the house with the perfect lawn.

So we stopped by her house and she gets a big net and fishes out a giant gold fish that is black on top and is maybe a foot and a half long, plus 3 other fish, the smallest of which is about 10 inches. She scoops them up and puts them into a double plastic bag and ties the top shut (4 fish inside, no water, no air).

We thank her profusely, take the still wiggling fish and drive 10 minutes to my house. Erna and her husband insist that I take all the fish. This is a lot of meat! I’m wondering what my ibu mama is going to do with it.

We go inside, she takes out a pan of water, slides the fish in and this is the amazing part – the fish are alive! I’m shocked. I always thought fish could live maybe a minute or two outside of water, but certainly not TEN minutes. We get a baby bath tub and put the fish in there and they are swimming around! Okay, not really vigorously, but definitely swimming.

My ibu mama asks me which one I want to eat and tells me that the gold fish is expensive. I can believe it – there’s a lot of meat on it and I think if it was a gold color on top, instead of just on it’s belly, they could get a lot of money for an 18” huge decorative oriental fish. I tell her “Now, fish happy. I want fish happy.” She looks at me like I’m nuts and says “You want fish swim.” The word for swim is just one letter off from the word for happy. This is good; she actually understood what I said and is correcting me. In her mind there is no such thing as happiness for fish. Fish are food. I see what she means. So I agree. “I want fish swim.”

At my house we have 2 huge fish ponds. They have black water and all I’ve seen are a few mouths come out of the black and eat the pellets they sprinkle on top. Ibu mama and my host dad talk a lot and laugh about how I want the fish to swim. I explain. “I know fish is for food, but these fish are now my friends. They were dead and we gave them life.” They agree these are valuable fish and they need a better home than the black fish ponds.

My house is meticulously clean. I mean, we could eat off the floor. There is not a speck of dirt anywhere. But theses fish ponds are disgusting. My host dad sets up a drain system and we drain the water down in one of the tanks. All the little fish in there are now flopping around like crazy in the low water. I start scooping them out and putting them into a big bucket. Some of them jump onto the ground and the concrete and I have to catch them and put them back in the water. We keep this up for several hours until the 20’ by 3’ tank is totally empty of fish. And ibu mama gets out a scrub brush and scrubs down that fish tank. There are maybe 150 fish in there from 2 to 4 inches long. When the tank is clean we refill it and put the giant fish in and the finger fish. The giant fish are now swimming around with a lot of enthusiasm. We call it quits for the night.

In the morning when I get back from church, they have already started with tank number two. We drain that one down and it has 6 mamas and papas maybe 8 inches long and several hundred babies from under an inch to the size of your baby fingernail. We catch the big fish with a net and put them in the clean tank. The little guys are hard to catch. They will stay in the muddy goo and just flop around until my host dad scoops out the muck and then pours it into a strainer that I am holding and I manage to get every single little baby one and put them into a bucket. This is big success. I transfer the fish to the baby bath tub with cleaner water and my ibu mama and host dad get all the muck scrubbed out of the 2nd tank.

My host dad and mom talk a lot in Javanese. I can tell my host mom thinks that if we put the tiny babies in with the giants that the giants will eat them. My host dad prevails and we put the babies in the clean tank.

After tank two is scrubbed clean, we refill it and my host dad catches the biggest of the fish and puts them into the new clean tank. Now he’s exhausted. And rightly so. He had a stoke a few years ago and does only limited activities. I’m pooped too. Catching fish and scrubbing fish tanks is hard work. He goes inside and lies down. Ibu mama tries to catch the 8 inch fish and just as she tries to scoop one up it flies through the air and lands in the water 3 feet away. We laugh like crazy. I’ve never seen a fish jump that far. But my Ibu mama has a plan. She gets a sheet of rigid plastic about 3 foot by 3 foot and blocks off the tank so that the fish are concentrated in one area. I help hold the barrier and she gets two nets and manages to corner the fish and one by one she either gets them or sometimes they outsmart us and get past the barrier. They try flying through the air, but the barrier stops them. They seem to intuitively know the shape of the tank and want to get to the other side of the barrier.

We’ve chased them from one end to the other. The last 8 incher is a challenge, but Ibu mama scoops him up and put him in with his friends in the other tank. She scolds him before she puts him in and tells him that he’s naughty. I laugh. They thought I was nuts, now she’s talking to the fish!

The end result is that all the big fish are in one pond and all the little fish are in a different pond and both ponds are clean and I learned how to grab fish, how to clean fish ponds and how to save fish from dying. Of course, we are going to eat these fish. We eat fish almost every day, that’s what fish are for. But secretly I know that for right now these fish are “happy”(senang) and well as ‘swimming” (renang) and I sure had a lot of fun (bersenang senang.)

PS Hi Teguh (my language teacher, in Malang, I know he reads these) I remember the day you taught us the two words for swim (renang) and bathe (mandi). I needed a big mandi after playing with these swimming fish!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Opening Ceremonies at my school

What I love best is that I blend in so well, you probably can't even find me! I'm standing with the women teachers. I asked what was the meaning of the two students who marched forward and then the principal put a hat on each one and a sign around their necks. I was told that this only happens at our school and the materials in the hat are all made from nature. Then I looked up what the sign on his neck said: Taufiq - God's help and I think the sign on the girl said: Tauhid - the doctrine of God's oneness.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


These are the materials that have been used for the optional English Club that students at my Madrasah can attend. My plan is to incorporate the respectful tone and make a club where the students can practice English, maybe doing songs, plays or games. I thought we might do a TV program with news, commercials, game shows, etc. I found this material fascinating and wanted to share it.


Excellency, Mr.… is our Director, and his wife. Unforgettable Mr./ Mrs.…. As per teacher….. Honorable, Mr./ Mrs. / Miss….. is our chief of meeting program. And well happy audiences.

In the name of Alloh, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Alloh, The Cherisher and Sustainer of the world, who has created every thing in the world for human being.

Our expectation, my Sholawat and Salam, always to present to our prophet, Muhammad SAW, the last Messenger of Alloh, who has saved the human’s life, from destruction to safety, that is the God’s favor, namely Islam is our true religion.

Okay ladies and gentlemen.

Standing / sitting in front of you all, I am as Mister /Mistress of Ceremony, would like to bring the agenda in this meeting. For the first time allow me to read the programs in this meeting, one by one.
The first program is opening.
Reading Holy Qur’an, and English translation, are in the second agenda.
And as the third agenda, are some speeches by some speakers.
Then being followed by corrections by some correctors (a corrector)
I n the fivth agenda, we can be happy because the fivth agenda is resting program
And will be continued by the announcement.
Then as the last agenda is, closing.

Well my loved brother and sisters.
Those are our programs in this beautiful meeting today. And now, let’s open our meeting today by reading “BASMALAH” together…… Thank you very much. And may our meeting be able to run well from opening to closing.

Okay, happy audiences. Now we step to the second agenda, namely reading Holy Qur’an is going to be read by Mr/Mrs/Miss … then English translation will be read by Mr./ Mrs./ Miss… the floor is yours.

Thank you so much for two readers, may we always get guidance from our God. Amiin.
And now, the third program, namely some speakings by some speakers. Okay, for the first speaker. I’m gonna call Mr./ Mrs. /Miss … as the deputy of …. Class, okay Mr. /Miss come forward please.

Thank you Mr./ Miss… may your speech be useful for us. Amiin. And for the second speaker, I would hope Mr./ Miss as deputy of …. Class, okay Mr. /Miss… I please you to speak in front of us..

I say, thanks a lot to Mr/ Miss… Well, ladies and gentlemen, now will be the next speaker, who is he (she?) Okay, in this time I want to call the deputy of … class, dear Mr./ Miss, go forward, please.

Ouch, how interesting your speech is! I say thank you and my congratulation for you.
Well, happy audiences, we have just listened some speakings from some speakers. And now we can pay attention to the following program, namely correction by two correctors, who will correct the grammer. Here I should like to please introduce Mr./ Miss … as the deputy of… class, the time is given for you.

Thank you very much for your corrections. And the second corrector, I should like to inform Mr./ Miss…. The time is for you.

Dear brothers and sisters. Waited and waited and now will happen, what is that? It is resting program. In this meeting, we are very lucky because this resting will be fulfilled by our good singers/ our best actors / our best actresses. Okay now I hope to the deputies of … class to make us happy. Okay, show up in front of us please.

Thank you, thank you very much.

Waow, helo audiences, are you very glad of it? Thank you and this resting is very nice, isn’t it? Of course.

Then the following is announcement. In this occasion will be given by our chief of meeting program. Well, I please Mr./ Miss to give us announcement.

To be said, thanks a lot. Happy brothers and sisters. Now, let’s pay attention to listen our teacher’s announcement or even advice. To Mr./ Mrs./ Miss… I give this valuable occasion for you.

Suggested topics:

Islam is the true religion.
Prayer is the pillar of religion
Please respect the parents

From “Love”

In this good opportunity, let us pray and thank unto Alloh SWT. Because right now, we all can enjoy our enjoyment in this world, till we can attend and gather in this meeting. It means, our god still loves us very much. Al-Hamdulillah. Sholawat and Salam, we hope them given to our loved prophet Muhammad SAW. Because of his love, so we are able to differentiate between allowed and forbidden.

And I will never forget to say, thank very much to the handsome/beautiful MC, because of his/her love also, now I can show up in front of you all as the lover. Thank you.
This loving lovers are sitting in front of me. In this beautiful occasion, I feel, that I do love you all, so that, I do like to speak about: LOVE. Do you agree? Ouch, thank you.
Dear my love brothers and sisters. Really, love is very beautiful and very handsome, isn’t it? Because, as we know that this time being, we can live in the world it is caused by love of our God. And the existence of the world is caused by love too. Alloh has said in Hadits Qudsi
(Colleen note: some Arabic text follows)

So, if it isn’t caused our God loves our prophet, namely His last messenger, our God will not create the world. From this Hadits, we can understand that how beautiful love is, and how nice love is. But we can see also, that there are many people are broken heart, brutal even stress or crazy, because of love too. Sometimes, we see the loving lover and the loved lover can not enjoy their love well. Even they always get sin because of their love. Some, the mistakes is not caused by love, but the mistakes or the sins are caused by the lovers them selves.

Well, the loving lovers and loved lovers are listening my speech.
According to clever man, that love is like knife, so we may not blame the knife if we get injury, or the knife injures us. Because, actually knife can not do anything and if we know someone being killed by using knife or sword must we hold back the knife or the sword! So, if we know the lovers do something bad, crazy loving his/her partner, kissing each other and anything else. So will we be angry with love?

Must we stop every body to have love! Alloh. Now, I invite you all to be careful in loving. Don’t make love bad. Don’t contaminate love with your bad attitude. But let’s keep the love’s name as well as possible. And please have love, main point; we must be in love by holding on to Islamic teaching. And don’t be more in love, even in loving every thing.

These are my speeches, may we be able to be in love as well as religion’s teaching. Amiin. In the end, I do apologize to you for all of my mistakes. Wssalaamu’alaikm Wr. Br.


In this nice meeting, let’s say, thank God Al Hamdulillah for all he does, His all Guidances and Blessings, till we can stay in the world nicely, and we are able to read many kinds of books to get some sciences or knowledges. Then, let’s deliver our sholawat and Salam to the messenger of Alloh prophet Muhammad SAW, who had come by Islamic teaching for human being. Till we can understand, THAT Alloh has commanded us to read every thing in the world.

And, thank a lot to Mister/Mistress of Ceremony, because you have had me to speak in front of the studying students.

Happy brothers and sisters.
As we have known, for the first time, Alloh, said in Holy Qur’an by sentence
Iqro” In meaning, we are had by Alloh to read, because Alloh has said in our holy book, Qur’an. And then, why has Alloh had us to read? And is reading very important for us!
Dear young Moslems share the same fate.
We know that every thing needs reading, even to get science, because, it is very difficult in looking for science without reading. Although we can get it from our teacher’s explanation, but it is not enough yet for us really. So we have to add by reading. Because the scientist ever said, that reading is the key to get science.

Well audiences are respected by Alloh.
Speaking about reading, really we can read not only the writing; even we are able to read the situation, condition or the others.
For example, when we were studying, then there is some one cough, or play foot, “streck-streck” so the teacher can read, that the student want to go home quickly, is it all right?
My loved brothers and sisters in studying.
From the verse above, we can take conclusion that we all must be able to read many writings, not only Indonesian writing or the Arabic one, even though Chinese, English or another. Because, at present, the enemy’s of Islam don’t attack Moslem by the sword or bomb but now they want to destroy Islam by many new methods, but we can not realize it. So it is not impossible if they use magazine, TV or another to influence us, as Moslems.

Happy ladies and gentlemen.
I think, that’s all my speaking in this occasion, and before closing my speaking, I should like to invite you all, let’s read more and more, in order that we can get many knowledges. And we can see how the world in this time is? And during speaking in front of you all, I am sure, I have had many mistakes. So I do hope you all to forgive me not to forget me. Finally Wssalaamu’alaikm……

Thank you to our loved teacher, for his/her announcement and advice. May we all be able to practice it? Amiin.
Dear all audiences are respected by Alloh.
Happy brothers and sisters in studying, we have just enjoyed program by program, and then now, we are going to be on the last program. It is closing program. But before closing this meeting today I realize that I have many mistakes, so I am Mister/Mistress of Ceremony do hope me being forgiven by you all, and now let’s close our meeting program this time by reading HAMDALAH together…
Finally, Wassalaamu’alaikumWr. Wb.
(Colleen note: shorthand for Warohmatullohi, Wabarokatuh.)

I’m really pleased to be in this first Peace Corps group in Indonesia. As the most populated Muslim country in the world, our presence here can have a large impact. In fact, Indonesia was targeted as one of the key places for Peace Corps. I am one of two volunteers who were requested by their schools to wear the jilbab. By entering into this Muslim environment, I have an opportunity to experience and influence a culture very different from America. I’m excited to participate in this adventure.

Beach time with Angela (dark hair) and Andrea (blonde) and their counterparts and families! Angela lives about 45 minutes from my site and Andrea is an additional hour past her and the beach is close to Andrea's site.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wedding in Indonesia

This is a wedding I attended in Indonesia. I'm dressed in the lacy white jilbab. My host mother is in orange and that's our front porch. (I know, I live in an upscale place! Better than what I had at home!) My host father is sitting next to her in my living room. And her daughter and husband are the couple standing with her outside the wedding tent. The older woman in yellow holding my hand is an extended family member who raises koi (decorative oriental fish) and I'm pretty sure I randomly met her before this wedding. It felt like it was over 100 degrees and humidity at the maximum, but there really is no way of telling. Thought you might like to contrast this with the nice cool dresses the women were wearing at my son's wedding in America. The bride and groom here are dressed in green. For weddings in Indonesia you block off the street in front of your home, set up a big tent and play loud music from early in the morning till late at night and lots of people come over and eat food, which your family prepared weeks in advance. People file by the wedding couple and get their picture taken and leave an envelope with money in. And family and friends hang out and gab. I got a nice pottery napkin holder to take home as a party favor and a decorated container with cookies. For formal photos people do not smile. I had to specifically ask for smiles the few times I got them and I think they were laughing because the idea of smiling was so strange!

Friday, July 9, 2010

How I stayed in Indonesia AND attended my son's wedding in New Mexico

I skyped! That's me in the computer which is doubling as a serving tray for Godiva chocolates! And I talked on the phone. And my children and brothers and sisters sent me pictures from their cell phones. And they posted pictures on facebook which I was able to download. Not EXACTLY real but definately WONDERFUL! I love you, family! As my brother, Eric, said, it's the going away that helps you realize how important they are to you.

Wind comes in

Masuk: To come in, to enter, to be part of, be present, attend
Angin: Wind, breeze
Masuk angina: to catch a cold, to feel unwell,

Indonesians believe that wind coming into you makes you sick. Believe isn’t a strong enough word. The KNOW that if wind comes in you will get sick, the way we know that if you let a child touch a hot stove, he will be burned. On buses where it’s so hot and stuffy people will not open a window because they don’t want to catch a cold and get sick. I try to be considerate of others and not open my window too much, but I have to tell you there’s a limit to my cultural sensitivity.

I have a fan. On really hot, sweltery days nothing feels better than to just turn that fan on and sit directly in front of it. Often as I’m working on the computer I will turn it on. My ibu is horrified. This is just another example of how ignorant I am. Like looking in the wrong direction for the traffic. (People drive on the left side of the road here.) Like accidentally picking up food with your left hand. Having the fan blow directly on you is in her mind, a dangerous health hazard. She walks by and pushes the switch so at least it’s blowing all around the room and not constantly at me all the time. My bapak too. They really want me to stay healthy. How can you argue with the truth? I tried explaining that Americans don’t get sick from “wind come in.” But “wind comes in” IS the sickness. They know Americans catch colds and its crazy in their minds to invite that wind in. Whenever they leave I put the switch back to the full position.

There are 2 places in my town that have air conditioning. They are both grocery stores. I LOVE to go there. I’ll stand in front of the snacks that I think taste yucky and look at them for 10 minutes, just so I can feel that AC! I always buy something, usually an ice cream bar for 30 cents and then go sit outside in the heat where the other people sit and eat their food. At least I can look inside and have that recent memory of the cool air blowing on me.

Wearing the jilbab to school takes an enormous amount of endurance. I look at the women students and teachers with complete admiration for their ability to withstand the heat. When I go to school I don’t wear it correctly. I leave my neck and ears exposed. I need to for mental and emotional as well as physical reasons. My head is covered, my arms are covered and my legs are covered. I’ve got to have a little space to let the air in.

This is in weather where we would consider a tank top and shorts to be appropriate attire. And it probably would be better to wear a bathing suit. Speaking of which, Indonesian bathing suits for women are very different than American bathing suits. They are more like modified wet suits. I’ve found that I can fit in by wearing a T-shirt with sleeves and some loose fitting shorts over top of my bathing suit while I am swimming. This is approximately what most women wear.

I am, as far as I can tell, the only person in my school of 750 students and 60 staff who walks to school. I have seen 3 or 4 students with bicycles and the principal and 2 teachers own cars, but ALL the rest of them drive motorcycles. The two teachers with cars usually drive their motorcycles instead of bringing the car. It’s only a 15 minute walk from my school to my house, but it’s hot walk.

My island is a few degrees South of the equator. That means the sun is in the North. I had gotten off the bus in a different city and was trying to orient myself on the map and I asked some kids which way was West. Everybody know which way is west because that’s the direction they pray to 5 times a day. As soon as I asked I laughed and said in Indonesian, “Sorry, I forgot the sun in the North.” If the sun is shining, you know the directions, all the houses and buildings are laid out so that one wall faces West, When I was learning the Indonesian words for North, South, East and West, my family thought I was nuts for pointing up for North. They corrected me: That direction is up, not North. North is North, a specific wall in every room.

Since being able to connect with Google Earth, my life has changed. I can go to the satellite image and plot my walking journey and feel pretty confident that I won’t have to back track to find my way home. Today I was 15 or 20 minutes down a dirt road I had never been on before and someone called out, “Hello, Oma.” It may be hard going back to America where I no longer have “rock star” status and I’m just another gray haired old lady on the street. I like to walk. I figured out I walk approximately 2 ½ hours every day. After they ask me where I’m going and I respond, “Walking.” there are two things people always say: “Healthy.” They know walking is healthy. They just only do it in the cool of the morning on special days. And, “Alone.” They always comment that I am alone. If they are out walking, or standing on the street they are always with someone. No one would WANT to go walking alone. I’ve tried various responses: My children are in America, God is with me or a variety of other things, but they just look baffled. So I’ve settled with, “Yes. Alone.” And I smile. The smile seems to work.

And a little Bahasa Jawa: the local language. They expect me to know Indonesian, but are beyond thrilled when I say my few words in Javanese.

Okay, I’m hot. It’s time to go bring out the fan and invite in the wind and fight the cultural tide. But sometimes I wonder,
‘Who am I to go against the wind?”

From a Paul Simon song and Oma Colleen

Sunday, July 4, 2010

4th of July

My son, David and his new wife, Anna, in the wilds of New Mexico. Sent to me by my sister, Pinky, from her cell phone. I hope this picture goes all the way into your heart - from America to Indonesia to you!

It’s a little after 4am. I just got out of my mosquito net bed. I put it up yesterday with just rope and no hooks. One end is attached to the curtain rod; the other is tied around my cabinet that has clothes in it. The weight of the net pulls the lines tight enough for the net to stay in place. I was really proud of myself for figuring it out. A few days ago I had asked my host father for a nail and he looked in several places and found one and I hung my calendar but I am hesitant to keep hammering nails or hooks into the plaster walls.

I remember Katrina tried several different solutions to the “getting the mosquito net to stay up” project when she was in Africa. The idea is to keep the mosquitoes out and not have the net touch your skin. It’s impregnated with some chemical that helps keep the mosquitoes from wanting to sit on it and use it as the landing spot to stick their probes through into your skin which has accidentally touched the net. But it’s hot. It limits air circulation. During the day I sometimes lay on my bed to read. I’m pretty happy with this solution. I can pull the net off to the side for the daytime and to get in and out.

And if it’s a really hot night, I do have an electric fan and mosquitoes are not strong fliers and with the fan blowing on me, they don’t usually attempt a landing, so I can pull the net off to the side rather than having it blown into me. Any way, that’s my current strategy.

It’s my son David’s wedding rehearsal right now in America. I just texted with my son, Peter. Yesterday I was able to skype a little with the family. It keeps cutting in and out so that we sometimes have pictures and sometimes don’t but I was able to see them for a while and talk to them for a few minutes at a time. Then the signal would disappear and it would take a minute or two for my computer to go from a blank screen with numbers and letters to powering up the computer and starting everything all over again.

I just realized it’s the 4th of July! For me in Indonesia, I mean. It’s only the evening of the 3rd of July in America. I am remembering some awesome 4th of July parades – Monument, CO and Centerville, TX and Placitas, NM! And I’m feeling homesick. I wish I were there at the wedding rehearsal, sharing this time with my family.

There is a funny clucking noise which I often hear outside my window. I don’t know if it’s a lizard, or a bird, or some time of grating thing done with a noise maker to tell people that a seller is outside. There are many different “sellers” who push carts or pedal bicycles with attachments or ride motorcycles outfitted with frames where they hang vegetables and fruit and meat and homemade crackers. Some of them sell homemade food complete with dishes and a spoon for you to eat the food. Some have a propane tank attached so they can cook the food. It’s pretty ingenious. At my training site, I got to know which sounds went with which seller. Occasionally one would have a bicycle horn, but often they use a wooden grate or a particular calling noise that they make.

Okay, back to day dreaming about being at my son’s wedding. This was a hard decision. Peace Corps actually gave me permission to go. Usually, we are not allowed to leave our sites for the first 3 months to ensure that we bond well with our new community. Without even asking they just offered out of the blue to let me go. But I didn’t like the idea of the first words out of my mouth after meeting my new principal, being a request to leave the school and go back to America. Plus it would take 3 days to get there – one on a bus to the airport, 2 days flying, 2 or 3 days at the wedding, then 3 days to return. So now the trip becomes closer a week and a half. And the school didn’t have a schedule then, and it looked like the 1st week in July was the first day of classes. And it would cost $2200! A lot! Half of our re-adjustment allowance.

Now I know that I am totally on vacation for a week and a half. I tried to go see my counterpart and found out that he has left town for a different city to visit his family (or Bali, the neighbors told me two different stories. Maybe he went to both places.) And most teachers go someplace during this vacation, so it would have been totally appropriate to go. And the $2200 seems like such a little bit in the greater plan of being able to see my family.

So, God, Great Spirit of the Universe, why did you lead me down this path? I have no clue why. I’m resisting. Maybe the reason is just to feel the resistance. Maybe it’s good to just know that life goes on, with me or without me. Maybe this is a little preparation for the time when I’ll be asked to let go of life completely. It feels like some kind of spiritual lesson, because it’s too painful to be anything else.

I really do believe that everything leads to growth, so what happens when I just take a deep breath and get curious about what kind of growth this will lead to. Actually, that helps. Okay, I got a tissue and blew my nose. They actually do have toilet paper in Indonesia. They put it on restaurant tables or in a decorative container in living rooms. It’s for wiping your fingers or noses. You dispose of it in trash containers outside of houses. I have a 6 inch high trash bag in my room and I’ve been filling it with trash for the past month. Wow! I’ve been at my permanent site for a month! All scraps of paper, like receipts, I save to write notes to myself or my host family, if I go for a walk while they are all napping, I like to let them know.

The plumbing system isn’t designed to handle toilet paper. Boy, that’s an understatement. I think for Indonesians, it’s no big deal, but it always surprises me to see someone with their pants down in the stream beside the road. Washing your butt off with your hand – funny, I really did resist writing – washing My butt off with My hand. Okay, even though I’ve been doing that every day for 4 months now, it’s still hard to write it in a letter to America. For all of you who are planning to visit me, don’t worry, it’s not that awful. I’ll teach you little tricks: get your hand wet first, use the scoop to pour water into your hand, make sure your hand is really clean with just water before you use soap, use a lot of soap, scrub both hands together, tilt the scoop up to pout water in both your hands at one time, use the sniff test to make sure your hands are clean. It’s really not so bad. That may be more information than anyone wanted. But I want my children and my sister and my family to visit! 220 million (maybe 240 million, I forget) Indonesians have been doing this for centuries – I guess it’s safe to say the majority of the world has been doing this for centuries, I guess we pampered Americans can do it too.

Daylight is coming. I’m usually out walking at this time, but I want to stay here, just in case I got a skype call.

Love you guys lots. And miss you lots! Oma Colleen

It’s 9:00am. I went to church. And printed in English on the little booklet they gave me is:
“Each step will be a miracle.” And on the back:
“Victory kids.”
Now, if God would just send a code book to tell me what it all means, that would be great, but in my limited understanding I think it means something pretty positive and maybe even wonderful!

I don’t know what kind of church it is, but they say the same creed in Indonesian as I am used to saying in English and I like the music and every week there is a different person who talks for about an hour and I usually get the flavor of what they are saying. Today I brought my dictionary and that helped a lot. There are about 50 people in the church. It’s the big room of a little playgroup school for pre-schoolers. There is playground equipment outside for the kids to play on and it’s on the road right next to my alley.

And my daughter called after the rehearsal and I got to talk to her! And she sent a picture of my granddaughter with her flower girl dress!

It’s shaping up to be a great day!

(I wonder if all these emotional lows and highs are related to the mefloquin anti-malaria medicine? I find it hard to believe I’m as unstable as I sure have been feeling since I came to Indonesia. It’s a little reassuring to think that it’s a side effect of the medicine and not me just periodically becoming an emotional basket case. I’ll blame the medicine. Crying and hunting for Kleenex is not my typical behavior pattern. Sure this is a stressful time, but I’ve had a lot of stressful times in my life and I walked through them with a lot more confidence. Maybe I’ll never know. Embrace the ambiguity.)

6:00 pm on the 4th of July.
I just had an excellent dinner of boiled eggplant and onions, white rice (at every meal, it’s not a meal unless you have rice) shrimp with little black eyes and tails that really do look like shrimp, a piece of beef like what comes in a bowl of beef stew, lettuce, tomato, and cucumber slices and a glass of warm milk. I get warm milk every evening. I don’t know if it’s an Indonesian thing or if my ibu’s daughter who lived in America told her mom that Americans like to drink warm milk before they go to bed. Actually, I have to say this was a great meal! My host father explained to me that eggplant is good if you have a stroke. He had one 2 years ago and has recovered so well – he gives thanks to Allah every time he talks about it.

This morning I walked to Erna’s house. She’s my ibu’s daughter and lives about a 20 minute walk away. I had a pile of sewing that I wanted done. I cut the lining out of a pair of too hot pants and used the material to make cut-out ready to sew pockets. I have 7 different skirts and dresses that need to have a pocket. I like to keep my cell phone close and I like to keep a pen handy for school. So I took clothes pins and pinned where I wanted each pocket to go. And I put clothes pins where I needed extra stitching. Some of my skirts have a small slit at the bottom and I’ve been told that’s not appropriate at my Madrasah. One day they had me turn a skirt around so I wound up sitting on the buttons all day. My skirts come down to within 5 or 6 inches of the floor, but I needed to get those slits sewn too.

Erna and I walked around the corner to the house of a woman she knows who does tailoring. It turns out that the tailor has a son who is in grade 11 at my school. So I left my whole wardrobe (Actually I have a few more things at home.) with her to fix and she promised to have them done in a week so I could wear them when school starts.

Then Erma’s husband suggested that we all go swimming. They have a 1 year old son and a boy who’s about ten. His cousin who is about his age also came. What fun! A swimming party on the 4th of July! Actually that is exactly what my family will be doing in a few hours when it’s the 4th of July afternoon in America! We went to a swimming pool about a 25 minute drive away and I had a blast with the boys and also with the baby.

And Erna insisted that I take two outfits that she has that don’t fit her anymore. Wow!

So here I am at the end of the 4th of July. It’s hot. I have the fan blowing on me. I wait till an hour after sunset before I open the window. This is the bad mosquito time. And tonight at 10:30 it will be 9:30 in the morning in America and I’ll try to skype again with my family while they are having breakfast together. The wedding will be at 7am my time tomorrow morning.

Not such a bad day. Actually a pretty good 4th of July. I’m thinking back and out of the 61 years, I can remember about 20 different 4th of July’s in different places including several fire camps. I think I’ll remember this one too!

I know my schedule!

Okay, the title is a lie. I really don’t know my schedule for sure. But I’ve gotten some clues. I think I’ll be teaching:

Mon. 7am – 2pm
Tues. 7am – 2pm
Wed. 7am – 2pm
Thur no scheduled classes – maybe for attending English teacher meetings.
Fri 7am – 11:30 (School ends early on Fridays for Mosque attendance.)
Sat 7am – 2pm
Plus some afternoons for English club for students
and twice a month afternoon English club for teachers.

School starts July 12. we get
2 weeks off in Sept (end of Ramadan 2010, fasting month)
1 week off at the beginning of Jan,
1 ½ week vacation June 30 – 11, 2011.
TOTAL 4 ½ weeks off during the year!

AND during some of the vacations teachers still need to come to school to do written testing and verbal skills assessments for new students.

Now that’s not exactly true because I do get 24 vacation days a year from Peace Corps and there are 12 scattered single National holidays. But still, there is a reason why all those Asian kids in school were so super smart. They LIKE to go to school here! Even on days when only the teachers need to report for duty – for working on reports and attending mandatory meetings, (The letters are stamped with the official seal from the headmaster.) there are lots of students around, dressed in their uniforms, just hanging with their friends, reading whatever notices the teachers post, finding out from the teachers who in the class hasn’t completed each particular assignment and making lists of things to tell the students who aren’t there.

Actually the schedule is for the 2 women English teachers who teach 10th and 11th grade. They know exactly which class they will teach at what time next year. I will tag along and be a “team teacher.” The idea is that I pass my skills on to other teachers so that when I leave there’s more sustainability. None of the English teachers (my two friends plus the VP in charge of curriculum who teaches English to the 12th graders) have classes on Thurs. That might be because Thurs. is reserved for inter-school English teacher meetings most weeks or maybe I get a day off!

Mrs. Sulis teaches 37 class periods each week. Mrs. Nikmah teaches 33 class periods. Peace Corps has requested that each volunteer teach only 20 hours per week – that would be 30 class periods (the class periods are 40 minutes each.) And per the agreement with the Indonesian government agency, I’ll be teaching grades 10 and 11.

10th graders get 4 periods of English each week. (often two sessions are back to back)
11th graders get 4 periods if they are specializing in Social or Science and 3 for Religion
12th graders get 5 periods for Social or Science specialties.
The Religion specialty might be new. We don’t have any 12th graders doing it this year.

Teachers pay for their own photo copies. I saw the new schedule on someone’s desk and asked if I could have a copy and one of them graciously offered to photo copy it for me before I understood about the paying for your own photo copies. (They’re cheap – 1 cent each copy. But I need to remember that for any copies of things I want the students to have.) I saw teachers hanging around after a meeting and saw that they were getting the school calendar for next year from the VP in charge of curriculum. He was installing it on their thumb drives, so I waited and asked for it too. Then I stopped at the internet on the way home and got it printed in black and white for 5 cents.

The internet place is a shop with maybe 8 computers in little cubicles and teenage boys with head sets are making loud noises as they play games on the computers.

I’m excited now that I know this really is vacation time. I didn’t go to school today for the first day since I got here (except for Sundays) Peace Corps wants us to “integrate” into our communities so they don’t want us hanging out with other volunteers. To spend the night anyplace other than our home we need to get permission in advance from Peace Corps in Surabaya. And we need a good reason, because we’re not allowed to take a vacation day for the first 3 months. And we need to tell them 48 hours in advance where we plan to go. At least that’s what I think the handbook is saying.

This past week I did meet up with the 3 other volunteers in my area. We met to make sure we could reach our Emergency Action Plan destination. I took a bus, but the other 3 volunteers were driven there by their families and counterparts. The counterparts and families all wanted us to go to an ancient temple about 20 minutes drive away, so I went with another volunteer and her counterpart. The counterpart was INSISTING that I spend the night with my friend and then go to the beach all together the next day. This is from the PC manual: “ Failure to notify the Peace Corps office prior to spending the night out of the community will result in disciplinary up to and including administrative separation.” (Home to America!) One thing that’s good here is that “Thank you” can simultaneously mean “No, thank you.” And “Thank you, I will later another time.” And “Thank you, yes.” So I kept saying, “Thank you.” And smiling. Every attempt at explanation was met with a very reasonable way around each explanation!

So, during this long (10 days – we had meetings Mon – Wed) vacation period before school starts I need to figure out things to do here at home. I would love to go to the beach – there’s one on the map 15 -20 miles away – and just see what it looks like. The problem is that public transportation only goes to big cities, not remote beaches. Most Indonesians drive (or rent) motorcycles and we are forbidden to ride a motorcycle. I need to go there and be back before dark. The 10 miles to the city center on a bus took 1 ½ hours. I can buy a bicycle with PC money but the traffic is so horrendous and the main road I need to take for everything is the primary road to Surabaya so it has lots of trucks, buses and fast vehicles (as well as a few horses, cows, becak – bicycles pushing people in a little cart like thing attached to the front) Anyway, I just question the safety. I’m either getting up some nerve or talking myself out of the bicycle – I haven’t figured out which yet. Also the map shows I need to go through a kind of mountainous area and the main road only goes part way to the beach.

I think most volunteers here are so restricted by their families and counterparts – they are afraid to let them take public transport by themselves. But since I established early on that I could get to Surabaya (5 hours away – 6 ½ coming home) all by myself, I earned some respect as a fearless traveler. I don’t think any teacher in my school has ever gone to Surabaya by themselves on public transport. They were shocked that I was being instructed to go there by myself.

Enough. The world is waiting. Love and hugs from Oma Colleen