Official Peace Corps Disclaimer

"The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the U.S. government or the Peace Corps."

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Twas the Week Before Christmas

Twas the week before Christmas and all through my heart.
Were vision of my grandchildren: all so smart.
Talon can read and Kira can sing.
And Arlo can crawl. Imagine such a thing!
Today on my computer through the magic of skype.
I saw each one of them and the sparkle in their eye.
Oh I want to be with them! It just makes me cry.
Soon, I convinced myself. Soon it will come.
Soon you can hold them. Each and every one.
So I send them my blessings and also to you.
May this Christmas bring joy and worries few.
May candy canes dance and jingle bells ring.
It's a beautiful world. Well… most everything.
To my friends and the family I cherish so dear
May God bless you and hold you until we are near.

Oma Colleen

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Speech Contest

(And they all begin with some variation of this opening statement :)

Honorable all the juries, honorable the committee of this English Speech contest, respectable all teachers, unforgettable all my beloved friends and all my happy audiences.
First of all, let us give thanks to Allah who always gives us mercies and blessings so we can gather in this fabulous place on this happy occasion without any troubles. And secondly may peace be upon the greatest prophet Muhammad SAW, the noblest human being, who has guided us from the darkness into the lightness, namely the Islamic Religion. And peace and blessings upon his family, his friends and his followers.

Dear brothers and sisters, ladies and gentlemen, the title of my speech is…
(And you’ll get to read little snippets from each of these topics.)

Environmental Damage
Global Warming
How to Face Globalization Era
Islam, Science and Technology
Muslim Teenagers Condition at the Present
Save our Earth, Go Green
Self Cleanliness
Sex Education at School
Smoking is a Bad Habit in our Lives
The Impact of Cell Phones on Today’s Youth
The Importance of Islamic Education for our Life
The Importance of Protecting the Environment
The Internet Effect for our Life
The Responsibility of the Teenager Toward their Society
The Role of Religious Education for the Young Generation
The role of Technology on the Development of Traditional Culture
The Youth Responsibility

(Last week I was a judge / juror for an English Speech Contest. The participants were 55 boys and girls ages 12-15 from Islamic middle schools. The kids memorized a 3-7 minute speech in English and recited it for a panel of 4 judges. We also got a printed copy of each speech. The stack of paper in front of me is ½ thick. So here they are: golden nuggets of wisdom from an Indonesian English Speech Contest!) (I’ll put my own comments in parenthesis.) (PS I suspect that most of these speeches were copied from the internet.)

(And the winning speeches – based on content, pronunciation, fluency, expression and time management ….so remember it’s not just what you read here, it’s also how well they were able to deliver the speech.)

The Responsibility of the Teenager Toward their Society

Teenager is the young generation, the leader of the future. It is the most important phase in one’s life because it brings strong influence to the future. If they can pass it well it can guarantee that the future will be good, but if they cannot pass it well, they waste the time, it will be difficult for them to face the future. Teenager has a very important role not only for themselves, the family, the society, even the nation. It’s really a power than can make or change everything to be better or to be worse.
Dear brothers and sisters, teenager, youth or whatever the term is the one important elements of a family. They are the spirit of the family who are always enthusiastic. In a society, the youth is the heart that always beats. The youth is the most important element to gain success. In every movement, they are the expected power. Since on the shoulder of the youth, the burden of responsibility will rely on.
If the youth is the spirit of the family, they must have strong belief. If the youth is the heart of the society, they must be honest and dependable. If the youth is the ones who have responsibility to bear big burden, they must be strong and skillful. If the youth is the pillars of the chosen people, they must have the awareness of Islam.
My happy audiences, but how come the youth can develop their society if they have no capability and do bad things? As we know that, many teenagers are falling into the violation of the God law. They drink alcohol and consume drugs even become drug addicted. They continuously do immoral things like free sex even pregnancy before marriage, they do a lot of crimes. They really do not realize what they have done, they forget that teenagers are the expected generation, the leader of the future.
My brothers and sisters, it is never too late to change. We still have time, we must stop. We must stop it, let’s move to a better condition. If we want to build a good society, we must have the awareness of Islam, we must obey Allah and his messenger. Behave with Islamic character; be afraid of Allah by showing your noble character.
Remember! We are the leader of the future. We must do the best we can do.
Well, I think that’s all my speech. If I have some mistakes I do ask your apology. Thanks for your attention.
Wassalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarokatuh

Smoking is a Bad Habit in our Lives

My friends, As we know smoking is one part of the daily activities of the majority of Indonesian society. Most smokers know the dangers of smoking but they never tried to stop smoking. Because that, we as the younger generation must be convinced that smoking is bad habits in life. Smoking is a bad habit because of three factors, among others: 1. Contains poison substances. 2. Causing diseases such as cancer. 3. Expensive.
The first factor of smoking is bad habit is contain poison substance. We should not consume cigarettes because it is not good for health. I’m sure you know there are many substances in cigarette smoke is dangerous. For the example, nicotine substance. That substance is very dangerous and can cause various diseases. Not only dangerous for smoker, it is also dangerous for us if we near the smoker. So if there is a smoker near you. Say to him or her for stubbed him/her cigarette for a moment with good polite.
Next, I will talk about the second factor. That is, smoking cause various diseases like cancer, disorders of pregnancy, fetal disorders, and etc. one of the factor of many Indonesian people who died were smoking. The majority is a student!! Many students who died because of smoking and drugs. It was very disappointed! One of the young generation died with the wrong way! Smoking habit also produces behavioral effects that are bad for the smoker. And so many the negative effect of smoking.
Last, cigarette is expensive. Did you know? Cigarette price is 7 – 10 thousand rupiah (75 cents - $1.10) or more than it for one pack. Can you imagine a student or a smoker spent his many to buy a pack of cigarette every day and calculated every week, every month and every year? …. In one year 2.880.000 ($300) If just one pack for a day. If 2,3 or 4 packs a day? How many? So many money, for smoking. This is cause a family got economic crisis and a student can not use his pocket money for school.
Smoking is not positive activity for us, young generation. So Guys. From now, let we say “Go Studying, Stop Smoking!” And be the best student for our country and school. I think that’s all, thank you for your attention.
Wassalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarokatuh

The Importance of Islamic Education for our Life

Education plays a very important role in this life. Everybody needs education wherever, whenever and from whoever. We cannot live without education. It is so important that without education it will be too difficult for us to develop and make a progress even we will be illiterate.
Let us think about it, is it the same between one who has knowledge and one who hasn’t? It is very easy question to answer, right? Yes, of course not. There is a very significant difference between them. They are like a blind man and one who can see, the darkness and the lightness, live person and dead person, even like human and animal. So, education must be held as good as possible in order to produce a qualified person that have a good behavior and a good character and must be able to compete with others in this globalization era. In this case, we have already had the best guidance that is education based on our religion, Islamic education.
My lovely audiences, it is quite true that our religion, Islam has a very complete regulation that has arranged all aspects in human life. On of them is Education. Islam has a big concern about it because education is a must in Islam. And Allah has commanded for all Moslems without exception to search for knowledge as long as we live in this world.
Knowledge is a power to get everything you want. And Allah has stated his promise in holy Qur’an that (Islamic text) “Allah will raise up to suitable ranks and degrees, those who believe and who have been granted knowledge.”
That’s why, if we want to be successful in our life, the only one key is knowledge. Remember that knowledge here is science and religion. Both of them are important. We need science to develop and compete with other to get a better life and we need religion as our guideline to control and manage our life.
My lovely audiences, here I can conclude that Islamic education is badly needed in our life to get the happiness in this world and hereafter, the next life.
I think enough here my speech, if you find a lot of mistakes, I beg your apology. Thank for your attention.
Wassalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarokatuh

The Importance of Protecting the Environment

Plants, people, animals and the environment are interdependence….
Technology developed over the years become a tool that can easily human works. Even to support it many new technologies are born for example a computer. Unfortunately, the speed of current technological improvement not followed by protecting awareness of surrounding environment. Massive oil drilling caused by the human vehicle is increasing along with increasing human population from year to year….
The greenhouse effect caused by excessive carbon dioxide and caused warming makes the earth hotter. The next phenomenon acid rain, although it can prevent global warming but acid rain is more dangerous. The human are the main causes! Start from now lets keep environment for our grandchildren one day later. Because no matter how small work you do will be felt by our children and grandchildren one day later.
I think that’s all my speech. I hope this speech will be useful for us. Thank you very much for your attention.
Wassalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarokatuh

(And just a few choice tidbits to stretch your brain….)


People are always hanging out around the world with its luxury world of tech, luxury and practical.
The use of technology, mainly internet, could change, fade and destroy local tradition. It can also spread bad traditions to other country, such as pornography, drunk, smoking habit and many others.
People, especially children and adolescents can be adversely influenced by constant use the internet. They should use they time for positive activities, example: they can play with his friends football, hide and seek, fitness, study and help his parents.
Some people use internet to access porn sites. This is very dangerous! This sites can make people do as that scene….pop out rape, homicides, free sex and abduction incidents. (I didn’t know what “free sex” was before I came to Indonesia, and I still don't know what "pop out rape" is....)
What should we do in order to face the globalization era? First, build up and strengthen good characters based on the religion. Second, we must master technology in order to develop our country.
We can see it by ourselves how the effects that appear in the West after they declared that they are as the pioneers of scientist, war never stop everyday, the rivalry of modern weapon becomes their pride and soul of man has no value before their missile. (Sometimes I am really glad I am here as an alternative to the thought that Western scientists promote war and don’t value the souls of men.)


The smash up we’ve made of our beloved nature is the same as destruction to ourselves.
The environmental damage can be reduced by putting garbage in the trash bin, doing reforestation, and keeping our environment clean and safe.
We must not throw away rubbish anywhere which can disturb the flowing of the river water.
No one can say that they can exist and stand on their legs without need helps from others.
Reduce fuel consumption. We can on foot or cycling when go to school.
Awareness to save this world from the destruction of environment caused by air pollutions, water pollution, land pollution and even sound pollution. (Wow! I’m impressed that somewhere here in Indonesia the concept of sound pollution may be lurking behind the massive sound systems that assault you for weddings, circumcisions and daily calls to pray!)
Well, from this Qu’ran, Allah claimed that the environmental destructions are caused by human beings. Think it deeply!
There are some efforts which should be done by all people: 1. Not cutting down the trees of the forest. 2. Planting any kinds of tress in the barren area of the forest.
Biotic environment is everything around us which are live, for example plants, animals and human being. While a biotic environment is everything around us which are not live, for example stone, water, wind, land and etc. (This speech was very popular – I leaned about “a biotic” from 7 different speakers.)
Fuel efficient vehicles! Renewable energy! Protecting threatened forest! These common sense solutions won’t only reduce global warming, many will save us money and create new business opportunities.
Saving our planet is a program that was persuading the earthlings so that they would become more concern and care to their entire environment. (I hope you Earthlings are paying attention to this.)
(And I think the speech on Self Cleanliness might be a sub category of Environment…)
With lenses it shows how many unhealthy germs are there and how fast they can spread if a person is unhygienic!


There are 3 kinds of juvenile delinquency: drug abuse, free sex and fights between the students. The 2 causes are: identity crisis and weak self control. The 3 external factors are: family – parents divorce, or disputes between family members can triggers negative behaviors in teenagers, friends – that have not too good behavior and community / neighborhood is not good.
If we see our society deeply we will not see but sinfulness, we don’t smell but sinful odor, we don’t touch but violent relationship, we don’t tell but the bitterness of life, we don’t hear but slanders that spread out in every single.
We are prohibited to have faulty characters. (character traits) We are also prohibited to imitate the disastrous western ways of life!
If teenagers don’t behave with Islamic characters, they will certainly become contemptible people.
So be afraid of Allah and purify your heart and mind. If you do so, you will become people who are loved by Allah.
Youth are the hope of Islam religion who will strive for the sake of Islamic teaching in the next maintenance of the Islamic laws, who will safeguard the young Moslem generation at large from the influence of destructive western lifestyle.
And the most popular problem is free sex.
Teenagers must be given sex education especially at school. They must know about free sex life and sex crime. The teachers can describe sex for the students in order that the teenagers will avoid sex before married. (This is a popular stance here, I’ve heard it in many speeches – if students only knew what sex was really about they would surely avoid it.)
Initially I kiss, kiss. I finally hug, hug. I did not realize at the persuasion demons. I did not realize I was too far. Owww I got pregnant first. Owww already three months! (from a “forbidden/banned song” that a student sung as part of her speech and all the kids sang along with her.)
However, there are many teenagers have been depreved. (Misspelled in all 5 speeches) They run to drugs, commit suicide, free sex, drink alcohol, smoking etc. those are spreading in teenagers life. (4 students gave this same speech.)
In the modern era, the teenagers of Indonesia decide to be not continuing their study. They prefer to be a punker or a singer beggar to study in the school. They like wearing strange cloths, sleeping in street edge, robbing passengers, and leaving their home.
The education branch should accept all teenagers without looking how much their score, how naughty them and their status of parent.
In this huge world we don’t live alone because Allah knows that as human being we cannot live alone. We were not born from a stone, but we were born by a mother with all of her love and hope that we become a better generation for our family, our country and our religion in the future.
Many negative influences; from friends, mass media, and environment, try to drag us in. For any teenagers who don’t realize these, of course they will just follow the flow easily. For example, running away from school, stealing, doing murder, having drug, free sex, abused to porn reading or video and so on.
The last I want to say to all my friends who has many beautiful dreams “Lets back to Islamic morality then we will live successfully in this world and in here after. There are thousands of positive activities to spend our times.”

Religious Education:

Do we have to carry bamboo spear? Do we have to carry a gun? Do we have to bring a complete war equipment? No! The main provision to preserve the integrity of our state is a good character.
How many teenagers obey and adhere to their parents? How many teenagers obey and adhere to their teachers? How many teenagers who every prayer time always go to the mosque? And now, try to compare among the teenagers around us…. How many hundred and even how many thousands of teenagers who wander outside or hang out every night? How many young men who fight every month? How many teenagers who doing free sex?
Now holding the true religion is like holding fire. It’s very hard to apply in the real situation. Naughtiness of teenagers and adults is caused by lack of Islam education.
The children spend much of their time in the playground or common room, where children discuss the latest pop stars, films, actors and actresses, flootballers, idolizing them to the point of emulating them. No longer are Muhammad SWA and the Sahabah RA seen as the role models, but they have been replaced by the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Take That, Gazza etc.
Now lets consider a similar scenario as above. The child arrives at a school in the Islamic State and begins the day by greeting his/her colleagues and teachers with the greeting of Islam. The child has the first lesson, perhaps a science subject. It could be a selection of the experimental or pure sciences. It would be taught with the Islamic ‘Aqeedah / belief as the basis and an overriding guide. As the parent, could rest assured that ideas such as the Theory of Evolution would not be taught; humans would not be considered as advanced animals; the Big Bang Theory would not be taught as fact. These would be studied later in university along with their refutation.
In history, our children would be exposed to the rich Islamic history. They would study the different Akhulafa’a and their achievements; the famous scholars and the roles they played; the discoveries and inventions that were made; the conspirators against Islam and how they were dealt with; the positive influence of the Khilafah upon the world. Our child could show how the achievement of the Muslims of the Islamic State place them hundreds of years ahead of their contemporaries who were in the Dark Ages. They could give accurate accounts of the battle between Salahudeen and the Crusaders or the life stories of the Sahabah RA.
School break times and lunch times would be a time to enjoy the company of other Muslims with good etiquette’s, filled with conversations about famous Muslims: leaders, scholars, mathematicians, scientists and others who would be adequate role models. They would not learn to swear or learn of ill practices and would possess the most pleasing mannerisms. In the bigger school society there would also be education of Islam through the state’s media. Through television, radio and children’s magazines, only Islamic ideals and values would be passed.
All these measures would guarantee the nurturing of a fine generation that could be the leaders of the Khilafah. And your child could contribute to this.

(Wow! What really is my mission here? Well, it’s 3 fold –
1 To help the people of Indonesia meet their need for trained men and women – be an English teacher at an Islamic High School
2 To help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people of Indonesia
3 To help promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of all Americans.)

(In other words, I’m out to capture their hearts and minds and bring peace and understanding. And I’m out to capture your heart and mind too. Can you read about this speech contest and what young Indonesians are saying and find a place in your heart for peace and understanding? Just for today can you share a piece of your heart and not a piece of your mind?)

(And I have a hidden agenda. I am hoping that someone who reads these blogs will be inspired to become a Peace Corps Volunteer. It begins with a queasy feeling in the pit of your soul, a willingness to face the challenges that are unique to Peace Corps service and a willingness to invest time and energy into leaving an impression that will last for years.)

Well, happy audiences that I loved, that’s all I can deliver in this occasion. Hopefully, it can be useful information for you all. And the important thing is we can make it in our life. The last I say is

Wassalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarokatuh
(May safety, mercy and blessings be given to you.)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Oatmeal & Avocados

This morning my Ibu-mama told me that the papaya from the tree in our yard is not good because the rains have started and it no longer tastes sweet. We have no bananas right now. Instead she gave me an avocado to put on my oatmeal.

So here are my questions:
Do you know what is the name of the fruit on this page?
When you order banana juice or avocado juice – what do you think you’ll get?
Why do I keep a rubber band around my cell phone?
What really is a fruit?
Do you call tomatoes “fruits’ or “vegetables”?
How do you define what “normal” is?
If it tastes good in Indonesia will it also taste good in America?
Have you ever had green eggs and ham?

The fruit is called "rambutan" / "hairy fruit" and it tastes really good on oatmeal too!
You get something like a banana or avocado smootie.
I keep a little folded money attached to the back of my cell phone because I often go places without my purse but I always keep my cell phone handy.
And I don't know the answers to the rest of the questions.

My School Anniversary

My school turned 16 this year. To celebrate we had 3 special days with no teaching.

To begin the celebration all these balloons were released together – not individually passed out to separate students, just several large groups of balloons all heading into the sky at once.

On day ONE all the students and teachers went for a 2 hour healthy walk / parade through the village. We had special new “sports uniforms” to wear – a heavy duty cross between green polyester and canvas. Oh, the challenges of working at an Islamic High School in the tropics! When we got back all the teachers were given a meal – to help keep our strength.

Throughout day ONE and day TWO middle schools in my area sent students who competed against each other in volleyball competitions. My own high school students had soccer games – each class of 36-40 students has 8-10 boys and they had to come up with a 6 person team plus substitute players, to compete with the boys in other classes. Each class also made art out of re-cycled materials.

Day TWO was English day and students sang songs and recited stories, some in English, some not. It rained like crazy but they kept going.

Day THREE was a formal sit down in chairs under a big tarp event attended by the Mayor and other officials from our region. There were lots of speeches and then a battle of the bands complete with a band made up of teachers.

I got a little teary eyed thinking that this is my last big school celebration.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Student Assignment

I gave my 11th grade students an in-class written assignment. They got to choose a thesis and then write arguments to support their idea. The key words to be learned in both English and Indonesian were: topic, opinion, thesis, argument, point, elaboration and conclusion.

Thesis topics:
TV is good. TV is bad.
Teenagers today are good. Teenagers today are bad.
Schools in Indonesia are good. Schools in Indonesia are bad.
The internet is good. The internet is bad.
America is good. America is bad.
Facebook is good. Facebook is bad.
Sports are good. English is good.
Arema (a local football club) is good. Smoking is bad.
Hand phones (cell phones) are good Hand phones (cell phones) are bad.

They had some really creative ideas!

It’s sometimes challenging to teach English as a Foreign Language.
Here is what they wrote and what I think they meant.

Smoking – Ciggaret is as flying killer. (A cigarette is a silent killer)
It can make destroyed your heart because it has a poison. (can destroy your heart because it has poison)

Facebook – My money ought to need a important. (ought to go for something important)
You can get much friend. (many friends)
It to damage moral someone. (can morally damage someone)
It trigger measure criminal. (It can trigger you to be a criminal.)
Cause make funny to all people in the world. (It brings fun to all the people in the world.)

Internet – It make opium. (It can become a drug like opium.)
Because bad make brain. (It makes your brain bad.)
It can study with is good. (It can help us study well.)
It can forget study. (It can make you forget to study.)
It is cheat us. It cause wicked. Cause negative impact. (It can cheat us. It can cause people to be wicked. It can have a negative impact.)
Internet like many people. (The internet is liked by many people.)
Many deceit, many bad peoples that pretend good to our obvious, he deceive our. (Many people are deceitful. There are many bad people who pretend to be good. They deceive us.)

Cell phones – You can be lazy people. (a lazy person)
You delivered message for your friends but its not important. (send messages to your friends but they are not important.)
If you use handphones in place darkness its make your eyes hurt. (in dark places, makes your eyes hurt.)
You can refreshing with play game. (can get refreshed by playing games)
It makes you economic. (good economic sense)
It makes to disturb activity study you can’t acceptance studying with good. (It disturbs studying. You can’t study well.)

TV – It can stupid. (It can make us stupid.)
Because sinyal is bad, TV burnt, to swoop down thunder, anthena is bed, borter is damaged, secreen is damaged. (I guess all this would make a TV bad. It’s useful for me to see how much they really understand when I give them an assignment.)

Motorcycles – Make your vacation is fast. (You can go fast to your vacation.)
Help to we sport so healthy. (Help us to go to sports so we can be healthy)
They like to hang out is not benefit. (The motorcyclists like to hang out and it’s not beneficial.)
Disturbing other rider if the riders are crazy or the riders are drag racing in the street. (Sounds crazy to me, too!)
It cause disease often use motorcycle can make you sick lung cancer. (Using motorcycles often can make you sick with lung cancer.)
It release our depressed. (It releases our depression.)
They are often to collide regulation traffic. (They often have traffic accidents.)
You must buy sheeze every day. (I have no idea. Is sheeze: shoes or gasoline or cheese or some kind of parking permit?)

Schools – The teachers very confidential because Indonesian people are freanly. (teachers are comforting because Indonesian people are friendly)
Peoples in Indonesia can’t worthless times not ontime – often late. (People in Indonesia waste time. They are not on time. They are often late.)
Bad - School in Indonesia fery musle. (Schools in Indonesia are not very strong.)
Indonesia have achievement this proud and study process it’s very fun and good like that also Indonesian people is very joval. (Indonesia can be proud of this achievement. The process of studying is fun and good. Also Indonesians are very jovial.)
Schools in Indonesia is very disciplin. (are very disciplined)
The school is dirty because very much dirt. (Yes, well…..)
The students often have arrogant attitude, they don’t really to get science, they just want money and rich friends. (Some dictionary must have translated studies as “science”)
The school became to shape generation nation continuously. (Schools shape the next generation of the nation.)

English – Study hard to English. (learn English)
You can comutation with Oma. (communicate)
Study English is very happy. (Studying English can make you happy.)
It fun very happy nothing feel satifed to studing English. (It’s fun. You feel very happy. It feels satisfying to study English.)
Don’t boring to studying English. (It’s not boring to study English. That’s an understatement. Just look at how un-boring all these sentences are!)

Teenagers – They like drug because when they sad they like to drink drug. (Makes me sad just to read this.)
They like to do free sex, because they like hang out with friend when night. (Some insight into their world.)
Free sekx. They are to take turns couple. (Free sex. And I don’t have a clue what the rest of it means...maybe sharing partners rather than just having sex with your spouse.)
To wear narcotic. (To use narcotics – The Indonesian word “pakai” means both “use” and “wear”)
The teanagers is naughty you can see some teanagers rise in volt with his/her parents they can’t accept any advice. (Teenagers are naughty. You can see some teenagers revolt with their parents. They can’t accept any advice. – So true, every where!)
They usually doing some act trespeson social norms like doing making love under age - under 17th. (They are usually doing some act of trespassing social norms, like making love under the age of 17.) (Actually, I doubt that there is very much “free sex” drinking or drugs at my school. I live in a pretty conservative area. I think.)
Teenagers never surrender for pick up curiosity. (never loose their curiosity)

America – You can get look scinry very beautiful. (see scenery that is very beautiful)
Bad – It is many people of kristiany. (There are many people of Christianity.)
Bad – America doesn’t have many culture. (I think she means that Indonesia has a rich culture which she doesn’t think America has.)
There is a cold. (There it is cold.)
Good - Presiden Obama is handsome. (!!!)
Because a peoples of Amererican is too much smart peoples. (the people of America are very smart people)
American peoples can the work or anywhere with quickly. (American people can work anywhere quickly.)
Country is industrion. (industrious)

Arema football – Arema have player and sporter those is relation ship. (Arema has players and supporters who are in relationship with each other.)
It player is the best. (Their players are the best.)
It can give you a happy. (give you happiness)
The players is very handsome, for example: M. Ridhuan, Nooh Alam Syah, etc. (OK, handsome is good…)
In the fue your Arema group. (Maybe something like … the few, the proud, the brave?)

Sports – You can spared sick, and we can do it every day. (spared from being sick and you can do it every day.)
It is healthy spiritual and body you can spared stress and low fisik. (healthy, spiritual and your body can be spared stress and …?)
Because can health a body. (Because they can make a body healthy.)
Make durable young. (Makes you stay young.)
Lasting junior. (They can keep you young.)

Love and hugs from your durable, lasting, junior, senior - Colleen Young

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Money and Things at a Bird Market

Sunday morning I got up at 4:00 and walked to the train station. I paid 40 cents for a 2 hour train ride to Malang, the 2nd biggest city on my end of the island of Java. Then I walked over to the fanciest hotel in town and paid $10 for a Western style breakfast – eggs, bacon, and croissants – a small fortune! But totally worth it. To put these purchases into perspective I should tell you that my discretionary income is $4 a day and the majority of that goes toward school supplies and copies that I give my 700 students.

Okay, well back to the adventure. After breakfast I walked to a flower market and bird market. I also took pictures of baby monkeys, little hamsters, a squirrel and other things that were for sale, but those pictures didn’t come out very clear.

Then I walked to the town square and watched a man play a drum while his trained monkey (on a chain) rode a little bicycle and put a mask on his face and scared the Indonesians who had gathered around to watch. At various times the monkey would “play dead” and then spring back to life and attempt to grab people. The teenage girls shrieked. I put 20 cents in the bucket as a donation for the entertainment.

I met a woman who wanted to know where I lived so she could come and live with me so that I could give her private English lessons. The desire to have a private tutor is pretty common. This is the first time I met someone who insisted that I let her live in my same house. It is impolite to say, “No.” in Indonesia. I have learned many new skills in diplomacy and ways to gently ease myself out of difficult confrontations.

Then I went shopping in a huge department store and all I bought was an iridescent bug sealed in plastic for $1.50. I just thought it looked so neat and that maybe my grandchildren would think so too. I spent a lot of time at a big book store but didn’t find anything that I really needed.

I had lunch at McDonalds – cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate sundae. $4. When I lived in America, in Utah, I lived across the street from a McDonalds and I made a promise to myself that I would never go there on my own and I never did. But here, well…

Then I walked to a place that I had read about in the Lonely Planet guidebook and I got a 1 hour massage from a blind woman for $2.50. It’s in a tiny little corner of a shop and there are several curtained off rooms where you lay down on a padded table and the blind person gives you a fairly vigorous massage and you pay the man who runs the convenience store out front.

It had started to rain when I was getting the massage so I came out a light drizzle and walked back to the town square where I caught a little mini-van (25 cents) to the bus pick up area. Then I got on a big bus (80 cents) for the 2 hour ride to my town. It was crowded and I had to stand for the first 20 minutes or so. A young man came and stood near me, pressing his arm against my purse-bag which I had slung around my neck. I turned my back to him, facing the back of the bus because I was pick pocketed once and I’d rather that not happen again.

I got off close to my house, walked home and showed my ibu-mama and my host father my purchase. My host father shook the little clear plastic container and told me, “It’s dead.” He was amazed that I would spend so much money on a dead bug in plastic.

And so that’s how I spent 5 days worth of income in one day and all I had to show for it was a green and black shiny dead beetle and a smile.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Banana Blog

This is information for my partner school children in New Mexico.

Here is a picture of the house where I live in Indonesia and a picture looking out the door into the backyard.

1. A banana “tree” is more like
A a tree
B a flower
C a vine

2. A banana tree can have how many bunches of bananas
A one
B approximately 5
C up to 20 or more

3. After a banana tree bears fruit it
A dies
B keeps living for approx 20 years and producing lots of bananas
C will never bear any more fruit

4. Bananas were probably first cultivated in
A South America
B Indonesia
C Africa

5. Bananas are grown in
A over 100 countries
B approximately 20 countries
C only 3 locations

1. B. Banana “trees” are really more like giant flowers than true trees.

2. A. A banana “tree’ makes only one cluster of bananas.

3. C After a banana tree makes one bunch of bananas it will never make any more. The tree will keep living making more leaves but if you want more bananas you need to cut off the stem near the ground and it will grow another banana “tree.”

4. B Bananas were probably first planted and grown on purpose as a food source for humans in Papua which is the farthest East island in Indonesia.

5. A Banana are grown in over 100 different countries.

6. Banana leaves are
A about the size of a hand
B about the size of a finger
C approximately 8 feet long and 2 feet wide

7. Banana trees are how tall?
A Over 50 feet
B Approximately 5 feet tall
C Approximately 20 feet tall

8. Banana leaves can be used as:
A fans
B dishes
C wrappers for food

9. Bananas have seeds
A true
B false

10. Bananas are
A yellow
B yellow and green
C yellow, green, red and purple, stripped and spotted.

6 C Banana leaves are huge! The ones in my yard are 8 feet long and 2 feet across.

7 C Banana trees grow to about 20 feet high.

8 A,B & C All true! Food is served on banana leaves and food is wrapped in banana leaves before it is cooked. The cooked food takes on a greenish color and tastes really good. And any big leaf can be used as a fan.

9 A Yes, bananas have seeds. Most of the varieties we get in America have tiny black spots which are the seeds. Some of the bananas here have seeds as big as grapefruit seeds.

10. C Bananas come in lots of different colors. They are green when they are unripe, and that’s when they are shipped. As they ripen they can be yellow, red, purple, stripped or spotted.

11. In a large hanging cluster of bananas the individual “banana fingers” grow
A pointing down toward the ground
B pointing up

12. A banana flower is
A big and red and grows under the bunch of bananas
B so small it can’t be seen
C a small white delicate flower that smells very sweet

13. The top banana producing nation is
A Indonesia
B India
C United States

14. There is a banana tree outside my bedroom window.
A true
B false

15. Bananas are radioactive.
A true
B false

11 B The banana fingers point up.

12 A A banana flower is big and red and grows under the bunch of bananas,

13 B The top banana producing nation is India. Indonesia is number 5.

14 A Yes, there is a banana tree growing outside my bedroom window.

15 A It is true. Bananas are naturally slightly radioactive. more so than most other fruits, because of their high potassium content, and the small amounts of the isotope potassium- 40 found in naturally occurring potassium. (I got that information and some of the other answers from Wikipedia!)

Hope you have a banana-riffic day!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ordinary Day

Here's a picture of my 5 month old grandson, Arlo.

My life is not exotic or wonderful. I’m not a hero or a wonder woman. I’m caught in the middle of doing what I said I’d do and some times not loving it – just plodding along – trying to stay motivated from one day to the next. My days have become almost boring and routine. It’s hard to find the motivation to write a blog. Okay, I know there’s a story in there and I’m going to try real hard to pull it out and maybe learn something about myself in the process.

Monday morning.

I wake up at 3:56am with the Call to Prayer. I turn off the fan which is beside my pillow, blowing air on me all night so I can keep from sweating. I crawl out of the mosquito net, go to the bathroom and then lay down for another few minutes. I convince myself that I really do need to walk NOW because this is the only time when it’s relatively cool.

I put on my “modest walking clothes” - below the knee shorts and a t-shirt which covers my butt and goes almost to my elbows. Then I lean out the door to the backyard and wave at host mother who is up making a fire, take the key and open the front door and lock it behind me. It’s still dark when I sit on the edge of the step and put on my stretched out socks with holes in them. The good thing is they have become so long I can put the heel hole on the top of my foot and the ankle socks still go up several inches higher than my ankles. Shoes… cell phone with a little money attached with a rubber band… keys… a scrunchy to hold the hair off my neck – all set.

Last week I walked in a different direction. Then I looked on Google Earth and it appears that there’s a wide path or a road that goes through the fields Northeast of where I live. It’s dark as I walk across the busy road, just a few trucks out. I take the short cut to the new road; go past what looked like a school from the satellite image and it does look like a school. Then I turn right and I’m walking through a village where I’ve never been before. There are enough lights on to see the road. One man is backing up his car and looks out the window. I say “Mongo.” And continue walking. The village ends and it’s almost light enough to see. The side of the path is cornfields and tomatoes and chili and rice.

Hey, this is pretty nice! I can feel a smile on my face. I think about hiking in the mountains in Utah. I try to remember what a cool October day feels like. I listen to the frogs and enjoy the little breeze as the sweat begins to trickle down my neck. It’s a long path and I don’t see anyone for about 15 minutes – wonderful serenity! Then there are houses and I can see people who have come down to the stream. Before I came to Indonesia I had read: “Most rural homes on Java do not have indoor plumbing.” I would have to say that I think that’s accurate. People use the irrigation ditches and streams for bathrooms, washing clothes, washing children, washing animals, dumping trash and irrigating their fields.

I look up in the sky and see kites with blue and green lights. Some of the kites also have “noise makers” in them. The wind blows through and makes a whirring noise. Hindu people say these are like prayers for the gods. I think the kids here just like them because they sound really wonderful.

I take a few more turns that kind of make sense if I am remembering the mental map I made when I looked at Google Earth. Then I’m in another village area. There are lots of people out walking here. I smile and greet them and keep walking. Suddenly I come to a place where I have to turn right or left. Uh oh, I don’t remember this part. It’s okay; I still know where I am. Another turn. Now I’m not sure. I see a man in his 20’s. I tell him that I am lost and ask him the way to the big mosque. He starts to laugh. I realize he doesn’t speak Indonesian and maybe he is a little retarded. I smile and say “Mongo” to him too. And I keep walking.

If I keep the sun on my left I will be heading south and eventually I’ll hit the big road. I’m a little south of the equator so sometimes I get confused when I try to figure out the directions from the shadows but mornings are good because the sun still comes up in the East. I make another turn and things are starting to look a little familiar. Okay, there’s the school I saw in the dark this morning.

There are lots of woven mats about 3 feet by 6 feet tall propped up against waist high walls. The crinkly brown stuff on top drying in the sun is shredded tobacco. It mixes with the smell of cows and goats and chickens and people and burning trash.

Close to home a school bus honks and I wave. One day they gave me a free ride. I flagged them down not realizing it was a school bus and they invited me on anyway. There’s the teenager who always says Good Morning and the old couple who sit on their porch and play with their cat who has a string around its neck.

I’m home. Walk in the door, look at the clock – 6:00 – okay, this new route takes 1 hour and 50 minutes. Grab my towel, washcloth, underwear and school clothes. Say hello to my host father as I walk into the bathroom, strip and begin pouring dipperfuls of cold water over my shoulders. It’s shockingly awful and wonderful all at the same time. It’s been 19 months without hot water. My school clothes are a long sleeve shirt and long pants. Tan because it’s Monday and all the teachers wear tan uniforms on Monday and Tuesday; blue on Wednesday and Thursday; sea colored batik on Saturday and Sunday. Except for the 17th of each month when they wear black & white in honor of Independence Day and the 25th when they wear light blue for National Education Day.

I have a cell phone message from Nisha – another volunteer – it’s a picture of an angel and a reminder to take our Monday Malaria Medicine. I send her a quick thank you. She really is an angel to send out a super cute message every Monday.

Breakfast is something that used a lot of my negotiating skills. My host mother doesn’t want me to light the stove. But she keeps hot water in a thermos so that my host father can make coffee in the morning. I convinced her that I really am getting fat and it is because I am eating so much of her food because it is too delicious. But I do not want to get fat, so I need to eat oatmeal in the morning. It worked! Joy! I can buy oatmeal in the regional capital and get one good healthy meal every day. I put some cut up finger size bananas on top. I sit on the floor looking out into the little courtyard. She told me it looks like baby food and I asked her if she wanted some and she laughed. I really like my host mother.

6:30 – I put on my head scarf – jilbab, fasten it under my chin with a fancy jilbab pin, put on my closed toe shoes, say goodbye to my host parents and begin the 5 minute walk to school. The only thing that is showing is my face and my hands. I look like a good Muslim woman – which I’m NOT. I am good and I am a woman but I have no desire to become Muslim and I hate wearing the jilbab. It’s hot. I can’t hear well with it on. Gripe. Gripe. Okay, I have a lot of cultural reasons why I don’t like to wear it too, but I’m not going into that now.

On the way to school I say hello to 20 or 30 students who are walking at a much slower pace than I am. I go into the office, press my finger against the “sign-in” keypad – then walk into the teacher room and sign the paper forms that show I’m here for the day. The key pad automatically resets the time whenever the electricity goes off so it’s not necessarily accurate.

I press my hands together and bow to all the male teachers and touch the hand of each female teacher then touch my heart. The female students reach for my hand and then press it against their forehead or the side of their face. The boy students just yell, “Good morning, Oma.”

Monday 7:00am – flag ceremony. All the students assemble on the playing field standing in rows with the leader of each class to the right of their columns. The gym teacher yells into the microphone and they all stretch out their arms and make sure they are exactly the right distance away from each other. The leader of the students marches to the front. All the class leaders stand in front of their group and yell: Ready! Then they run to the speaker platform and stand in line again and formally announce that class 10 A is ready, class 10 B is ready, 10 C, etc. Then they all salute the leader of the students. Then the teacher in charge stands on a podium and all the students salute the teacher in charge. Then the announcer tells the flag bearers that the school is ready. The flag bearers march up with the flag and we all salute as it is raised on the flag pole and the glee club sings the national anthem. Then we all say a prayer and repeat the 5 points of the National Unity Statement and listen as students read the Student Pledge and 2 Other Important Things that I don’t understand. Then we stand “at ease” with arms behind our backs as the teacher in charge gives a speech about discipline. The teachers are lined up facing the students. I always stand in the back row because I don’t have a Monday uniform but my tan outfit blends in pretty good. Thank God it’s not a long speech.

40 minutes later all the teachers head back to the Teacher Room and students go to their classrooms. I have a bag with all the materials I’ll need for the day. Mondays I teach 4 different classes of grade 10, and 1 class of grade 11 with 3 student teachers and 3 regular co-teachers. I go to the first class – no student teacher, no co-teacher. I teach the class. It goes pretty good. I stand next to the boys (each class of 40 has about 8 boys) and tell them repeatedly to take out a pen. They say, “Yes, Yes,” but don’t do it. I walk over to a different set of boys and ask them, “Where is your paper?” They say, “Yes, Yes,” and keep fooling around and talking to each other and the boys finally make it 1/3 of the way through the assignment. 2 girls actually finish the whole set. It’s a matching game where they need to figure out which statements are correct.

My co-teacher tells me not to go to my second class because I need to go early to the third class because there are observers from a different school.

I watch a teacher from Angela’s school teach my students. She tells them to take out their dictionaries. This group of 37 students has 4 English-Indonesian dictionaries. She tells me that in her school she insists that the students have at least one for every two students. If they don’t have them she waits until they go to a different class and borrow them from their friends. I tell this idea to my co-teachers and they say: “The students don’t have enough money.” My co-teachers regularly borrow my dictionaries. I don’t even know if all of my teachers have a dictionary.

My fourth class of the day is a double (80 minutes long) with a new teacher. She had told me last week that she would be giving tests this week, so I didn’t prepare any materials. When we go to the class she decides to have them open the books and read a story instead. I read the story in English and she translates it. The students answer questions. It’s about a lion and a jackal and I tell the students about the time I was on a safari in Africa with my daughter and the jeep broke and we had to hike out of the area on foot, holding the little children on our shoulders so the lions and hyenas wouldn’t be tempted to go after the smaller more vulnerable “food source.” I’d call this a successful lesson. We repeat the whole performance for next class.

Then it’s 2:00. Time to go home and get some lunch. It’s so hot. I stagger into my room, pull off my jilbab and put on shorts (they still need to go below the knee) and a t-shirt. Lunch is fried fish - tail section, fried cut up tofu, white rice, green leaves in soup stuff that you spoon over the rice and some papaya. I eat, thank my host mother, go into my room and shut the door. I put the fan 6 inches from my face and try to cool off as I lay down on the bed. I read a novel for about an hour then I chat a little with the student boarders who also live at my house. I make an album of pictures of my new grandchild then sit down at the computer and try to figure out what I’ll be doing for lessons plans for English Club & English for Teachers.

Okay, what have I learned from this exercise?

My normal days often feel frustrating. I didn’t tell you about the part where I felt really angry with my co-teacher because she didn’t show up for class. I’m practicing just watching my anger and it took a huge amount of patience to hold my tongue. I saw her later and she said, “I have so many work that I have to do. Oma, I have to finish it.” Then she offered me some of her snack, “Oma, do you like it? I think it is so nice.” I didn’t like it. But I thanked her anyway. I don’t like admitting how often I just wish I were back in America where I could have a direct conversation with someone and know in advance what my co-workers are planning and make adjustments.

I also noticed while writing this that there really are a lot of times during the day when I feel happy. They are not usually the times I remember when I think about my day.

And I realized that the thing that makes me the happiest is my new grandson and the thought that I will see him in 7 months so I’m going to put a picture of him at the top of this blog. It will be like a little prayer kite – out in the universe. Keep him (and all of you, family and friends who read this blog) safe until I see you again.

Love, Oma Colleen

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Turtle Beach

There are some ingredients that make a good adventure: being with people that you enjoy, going to a beautiful place, facing a challenge and learning something about yourself you didn’t know before and having an unexpected surprise that brings a smile to your face. My trip to Sukamade beach on East Java had all these and more! I left the house at 4:00am and walked about an hour to the train station farthest up the tracks from my house. It’s a beautiful walk at that time of day, kind of quiet and there was a good moon so I could see where I was putting my feet. I like to walk to the up-tracks station, even though the down-tracks station is closer because the 5 am train is the economy train and there are no assigned seats. When I walk to the far station I board the train before it gets to my town where there are lots of people waiting to board. I have a better chance of getting a seat before the train gets really crowded. No luck. The train was already full. I put my backpack in the over rack above a peaceful looking family and stood next to them in the aisle. About an hour later the train pulled onto a side rail and stopped to let another train through that was going the opposite direction. When the train stops it gets hot quick. I was feeling a little queasy and squatted down in the aisle to rest my head in my hands. The father asked me if I wanted to share their seat. I thanked him and scooted my butt about half way on the seat. The seats are made for 3 people, but often 4 people sit on each one and usually there are children on many of their laps. So our seat now had 5 passengers but it was wonderful to actually be able to sit. I rode that train and chatted with the family for about 4 hours, then I got off and waited for the next train. I was kind of excited. This was going to my first time on the “exclusive” train! I had traveled to the train transfer point a little over a week ago so I could buy a ticket on this exclusive train. Because it was the school holiday season, the week after Ramadan, the fasting month, the trains were charging twice as much for an exclusive ticket. So the 4 hour economy train cost me 60 cents and the 6 hour exclusive train cost me $20.00. It was worth it! The train was air conditioned! And I had my own seat with lots of leg room and I could walk to a small compartment with a hole to the ground outside and “use the bathroom.” The space which had held 5 people in economy now held 2 people and the seats reclined! Okay, I was spending 5 days worth of my living allowance to take this train, I was totally enjoying it. My seat companion was a woman who wanted to know all about Peace Corps and my life. I showed her my map and she told me how I could get off the train a little early and I would be close to the main road where I could catch a bus to the next town. At least that’s what I think she said. One thing about conversations in Indonesian is that I’m never really 100% sure what people are saying. Sometimes they say one thing and mean something else, but I’m not culturally sensitive enough to pick that up. But it looked like it made sense on my map so I got off at a little station and was immediately swamped with guys on bicycle pedi-cabs trying to get me to go with them. I kept saying I want to take a bus to Jajag and they kept trying to convince me I should ride with them. I asked a policeman for help. He told me that the rickshaw driver would take me to the bus transfer point. I asked him how much it should cost. He said 50 cents. The driver was listening. So I got in the becak/rickshaw and the driver took me about 5 minutes away to a busy street with lots of buses going past. The driver told me it was $1.00. I told him no, it was 50 cents, gave him the money and thanked him for the ride. I don’t like it when people try to charge me more than the local rate but I understand – tourists have more money and with my white skin, I look like a tourist. It’s an occupational hazard for Peace Corps volunteers. We get enough money to live like a local person but in an economy where there are no fixed prices we have to figure out when to bargain and when to just take a deep breath and pay the higher price. I know some volunteers who totally think the hassle of bargaining is not worth it and always pay the full amount and others who would never ever buy anything without getting the price down first. I’m about half way between the extremes. A man in a min-van was rounding up passengers. I asked him if he was going to Jajag and he said yes so I go in with about 10 other people. Three of them were going to Jajag too. We waited about 5 minutes and then everyone started to climb out of the mini-van. The driver came running over. One woman told him, either you leave right away or we are all going to find another way to get there. He got in, started driving slowly and stopped 2 more times to pick up more people. It’s to his advantage to squeeze in as many people as possible. I asked the other passenger what we should pay for the 45 minute trip. They told me $1.00. I got a text message from the Peace Corps volunteer who lives near the turtle beach. He was with his host family, in a car, close to Jajag and could pick me up at the terminal. Wow! Great luck! I got out when the driver stopped and looked around. Sure enough, there was another white person about a half block away. I waved and started walking toward him. Yes! It was Ryan! Ryan’s family was really excited to have me be with them and insisted that I sit in the front passenger seat, the seat of honor. There were 8 or so people in the car and I couldn’t figure out who was who. Finally I figured out that they were talking about Mees-ter Ree-an! That’s what they called Ryan. My name, Colleen, is unrecognizable in Indonesian, and so I always go by the name, Oma, which is Dutch for grandmother. It’s what Indonesians would expect to call an old white haired woman with white skin. Kind of like a skinny person introducing themselves as Slim or a person with red hair saying, “Call me Red.” The trip to Ryan’s house took almost 45 minutes. I’m glad I didn’t have to figure out this part of the trip in mini-vans. When we arrived, Ryan’s family announced that I would get to sleep in his bed with the mosquito net and he would sleep on a mattress in the living room. I had met Ryan’s group of volunteers but I didn’t remember him specifically. He was more than generous and had even requested out-of-community days to come with me to the Turtle Beach. That night was peaceful: a great meal with his family and a chance to compare our different situations and just relax into the luxury of speaking English. In the morning everyone in his extended family was in the living room having a family meeting about what everyone needed to do, since Ryan’s host father had died 3 weeks before. It was an honor to just be sitting there watching as an Indonesian family talked about all the ins and outs of moving on with life after a sudden tragedy (motorcycle accident). The father was in his early 70’s but healthy, the leader of his village. The teenage grandchildren who live in the house with Ryan were instructed by their professional soccer player uncle to be more diligent about saying the Muslim prayers 5 times a day and helping their grandmother around the house. Remarkably, after he left to go back to his home on a different island, the teenagers did exactly as he requested! Ryan’s extended family gave us a ride to a town where would wait for the “Taxi truck” to Sukamade turtle beach. We got there early and were invited to sit on a little bench for several hours. 3 little girls about 8 or 10 years old were fascinated with us and watched every move I made. Ryan talked about how he has a lot more sympathy for Brad Pitt. It’s like living in a fish bowl here. Our presence is just an endless source of delight for people who have never seen a white person. The taxi truck looked like a dump truck without the dump part. We climbed into the back on top of 50 pound sacks of rice, cardboard boxes of instant noodles and canisters of bottled gas and an old tire. The lonely planet book had said that this transport would cost $2.00 each. Ryan had already been told that we would need to pay $20.00 for the 2 of us to go the beach. The driver asked if we were going to the beach house or the town house. When I told him the beach house, he frowned. The two hour trip was incredible! The road was so rutted, it would have been impossible in a regular car. As it was, I was wondering if we would loose a transmission on the rocks. At times we would stand up to see where we were going and had to duck as tree branches grazed our heads and our hands. We stopped at a little village and I bought some more water and cookies. I had a stash of beef jerky, peanuts, velveta cheese, crackers and we had brought a few apples and pears from Ryan’s house. The guide book had said that the beach was very isolated and you shouldn’t count on being able to get food there. The truck climbed a steep mountain and there were breath taking views of beaches and forests as far as the eye could see. Monkeys sat in trees and watched as we passed under them. Some of the trees were as big as giant sequoias in California. Vines and vegetation covered the ground. We stopped at a tourist registration point and Ryan had to write down a name and passport number. The driver told us that it would cost $30.00 total ($10 more than our agreed upon already high price) to take us to the beach house. I told him no. That it was only an hour walk from the town to the beach house and we would walk. He said $5.00 and I said no. Ryan told me he would have just paid it. We really didn’t know where we were going. We forded two rivers, maybe 2 feet deep and I was thankful that we were still in the dry season. I had read that in the wet season these roads were not passable and you had to walk across and then take your chances from there. The driver stopped at a dirt side road (Well, every road looked like a dirt side road) and took a stick and drew on the ground the way we should go to get to the beach house. We carried our backpacks and food stash and set off down the road. After a few turns we were there! The beach house is several cottages run by the rangers in the Meru Betiri National Forest. We got a room with 2 beds for $10 a night. The cottage had 4 sleeping rooms and 2 bathrooms. A woman showed us the room and put clean sheets on the beds, which were the only things in the room. In the hallway near the bathrooms there was a sofa and 2 chairs. The bathrooms had an Indonesian mandi – large tiled container with water and a scoop to pour water over yourself for a bath and a sit down toilet, which you also had to pour water into to get it to flush. That was an unexpected bonus. Home sweet home! We walked the 15 minutes to the beach and had a great feast of velveta and crackers, jerky, fruit and cookies. An Indonesian family asked to take a photo with us and later invited us to join them at the 8:00 night walk to the beach with the rangers to see the turtles. So we went back, sat on our beds for a while as darkness descended and then waited for the rangers in front of the cottages. Three people from Belgium were in 2 of the other rooms in our cottage. They had a jeep and a driver. The husband and wife had come once before and were excited to show their friend around. They planned on staying 1 night and hoped that a turtle would come to lay her eggs. At 8:00 two rangers showed up and the group of about 15 Indonesians, the 3 people from Belgium and Ryan and I followed the rangers. They told us to sit down on the beach near the entrance to the forest trail. We waited for about an hour and then the rangers flashed their flash lights and woke up the sleeping kids and we all quickly followed them to a place where there were tracks leading out of the ocean. The turtle was HUGE – about 4 feet across. She had crawled up on the beach and walked around a bit but was heading back down to the water without laying any eggs. The rangers explained that often they come up to look around and then go back into the water. The sea turtles are shy creature and if they are disturbed they won’t lay eggs. Because she had already made the decision not to lay eggs it was okay for us to touch her. They invited a few of us to touch her face too. Wow, it was kind of leathery! She paused for a few minutes and then headed back into the waves. We waited on the beach for a few more hours and then the rangers said that we should head back to the cottages. I slept well. That truck ride had been exhausting and I felt so honored to have actually seen a giant sea turtle. This one was green turtle, but leatherbacks and others sometimes come to lay their eggs at Sukamade. It’s one of most remote beaches and attracts 5 different kinds of sea turtles. The next morning Ryan and I discussed trying to find the town because Ryan needed to tell his host sister that we had arrived safely. We walked back to the fork in road and followed the tracks about an hour and a half to a little community of several hundred houses. We asked if we could buy breakfast, but no luck. We bought some cokes and cookies. There was no phone signal as we walked around the town, but Ryan asked a teenager and she walked us a block away to a place where 3 sticks were in the ground in the middle of the road. There was a rubber band around each stick. Ryan looked and sure enough he got one bar of signal right in that exact spot. It wasn’t enough to make a phone call, but was able to send out a text message. He squatted on the ground, put his cell phone in the rubber band holder and pushed send. Success! We stopped at an abandoned rubber processing plant on the way out of town. There was an amazing amount of ancient machinery and cement troughs running through the big industrial buildings. Then we started walking back and soon didn’t recognize which road we had taken. Many motorcycles from the village used the road, so our tracks were covered in the dust. We came to the river crossing and realized that we had missed a turn so we went back and took a road that didn’t look familiar but we could hear the ocean in the background and it seemed we were heading toward it. We met some people and when we asked where the beach cottages were they kept waving us in the direction we were going. At one point I really didn’t know if we should go right or left. Ryan said left, we went that way and Yea! We were back at the beach cottages, 4 hours after we left, tired and ready for a nap. That night we asked the rangers if we could buy some of their instant noodles and use their stove to cook them. They said yes, so we restocked on water and had a meal of hot noodles. I mixed the velveta in mine and it was really tasty. Ryan was a little skeptical of eating something which is supposed to be refrigerated and hadn’t been for several days. I figured that I hadn’t had refrigeration for so long that my body had acclimated to eating food left out for a long time. It was delicious and didn’t produce any gastric side effects. The rangers told us that the guided trip to the beach last night would cost us $10 but if we wanted to go again tonight it would only be $5. After a little discussion we agreed. They were many fewer people this night. We waited as before, the rangers called us and we saw another huge turtle who also had decided not to lay eggs. My heart went out to these gentle giants. It seemed to take so much effort to climb out of the ocean and walk the 30 or 40 feet to the edge of the forest. To then turn around and walk all the way back to the ocean seemed like so much effort. She stopped and rested every few feet and then finally vanished into the waves. In the morning I walked to the beach while Ryan was still sleeping and met the ranger as he was finishing the morning beach patrol. He had a bucket with 111 eggs. He said the turtle must have come much later in the evening. They looked like sandy golf balls. He took the eggs back to the compound and entered a locked and screened area. Each time a clutch of eggs was discovered, the rangers dug them out, carried them inland to this protected place and reburied them with a sign showing the collection date, species and number of eggs. The signs were arranged like miniature tombstones. It looked like they collected eggs on maybe 1/3 of the most recent days. I felt lucky to be here at just the right time. Ryan joined me and we waited for the ranger to return. We watched a huge domestic white rabbit hop around with monkeys scampering nearby. The ranger led us into the turtle hatchery and took out a black plastic bucket. He started scooping baby turtles into in. The babies were maybe an inch and a half across. He said they were about a week old. Then he handed me the bucket and told me to take them to the beach and release them! Oh my gosh! When my daughter was visiting I had watched a family release two little baby turtles into the ocean and I really wanted to do that too. She offered to buy one for me but it was expensive and I knew that the babies had a much higher survival rate if they were released as a group. And now I had a giant batch of baby turtles. I giggled. Thanks God, this is awesome! I give up one and get rewarded 100 fold! Ryan and I walked to the beach. I gave him his own personal baby to carry. We made guesses about how many turtles we had. I said, “Over a hundred.” He said, “No way.” So we counted as we released them. We sat on the beach and let the first 20 go. They walked down into the ocean and got tossed and turned over and thrown farther down the beach. We righted the ones on their bellies and kept a look out for birds because we had met a bird watching couple who told us that baby turtles were a favorite food for some kind of bird that I don’t remember. No birds. 20 babies successfully launched. Then we launched another 20. They ran on their little legs plunging head first into the waves, then proceeded to wash up even farther up the shore, then walk back down toward the ocean, they get washed up again. By the third batch, I was letting them crawl on my feet. They were so cute and so determined. Okay, I’ll spare you all the details. There were 157 baby turtles total! The ones at the bottom of the bucket were already exhausted by the time it was their turn to find the ocean. They had just survived 150 of their brothers and sisters crawling on top of them. They took a few steps, then paused, then took a few more steps. I put the last few closer to the ocean. When the water hit them, they revived and started swimming like crazy. We patrolled the beach, checking to make sure all the little guys made it. There were a few stragglers who had gotten washed farther down the shore, so we helped them into the surf. 157 Baby Turtles! All safe and sound in the ocean. What a successful day! That night we ate dinner with a young couple from The Netherlands. They had arrived with a jeep, a driver and a guide of their own who spoke English. They shared some of their fried fish that their driver had caught. We tried to buy some more water but the ranger told us that the cabinet was locked and they didn’t have the key. But we had a real dinner with white rice and vegetables. We never did figure out why sometimes the rangers cooked and sometimes they didn’t. That night we went to the beach and waited a long time. There were 4 Indonesian teenage boys waiting near us. At one point I got up and walked back to the forest and peed in the trees. When I was walking out 2 of the boys saw me and stood perfectly still. I said “Mongo’ which is the polite greeting in Javanese and I swear one of them almost jumped into the arms of the other one. I went back and lay down next to Ryan. I started laughing as I told Ryan the story of how I had scared the local kids. I guess you just don’t expect to see a white woman with white hair walking out of the woods in the night without a flashlight. Movies about ghosts are very popular here and I was pretty sure that’s what they thought they were looking at. I heard them laugh as they told their friends the story too. In fact it took me almost ½ hour to stop laughing! I really have no idea if they had stopped to unzip their pants at the edge of the forest – I kind of guess that’s what happened. We didn’t see any turtles that night. A little after midnight the rangers came and told us to all go back to the cottages. The next morning we got ready to leave, started hiking out, found the right trail and then back tracked from the river crossing to a spot where there was a little bamboo bench. A man told us that we should wait for a truck on the East side of the river. I’m really glad Ryan was there. In my old age I sometimes miss words that people say and I was glad he heard all the instructions. We took off our shoes, rolled up our pants legs and walked across the river to the other side and waited at the bamboo bench. A family with a father and 3 children took off all their clothes and “washed” in the river. Ryan was a little horrified that the boys peed in the river. I was a lot more worried about everything else that goes into a river. He had some soap and we soaped down our legs with the hope that all the mosquito bites and scratches would appreciate the anti-bacterial soap and not get infected with whatever was in that brown muddy water. We waited about an hour but no truck. We started walking up the road, but we knew that it was way too far to walk out completely. We had a little extra food but no extra drinking water because the rangers hadn’t been able to open the cabinet and sell us any. A motorcycle stopped and we asked him when the truck would come. He said in about an hour, so we went back to the bench. One more hour, no truck. Then Ryan heard a truck. But it seemed like the sound was getting farther away. He borrowed my spare sandals. His had come apart. Then he dropped his pack and started running toward the sound of the truck. I picked up his pack and walked after him. Ryan was in cross country in High School. I think he’s 24 now. I’m 63. I’m not a runner. I could hear the truck up ahead. They were shoveling rocks out of the big truck into holes in the road. Ryan said the man had told him that he didn’t want to take us but that he would for $30. (We paid $20 to get here.) Ryan told him yes. Then the man asked me if we wanted to sit in the front or the back. I said the front. It was wonderful! We sat on the seat, not in the back with the rocks. It started to rain a little. It was totally worth the extra money. I thanked Ryan profusely for running out, stopping the guy and getting this all arranged for us. Two and a half hours later we were at the big town near Ryan. We went into a little store and bought water, ice cream, M&M’s, Pringles, apples and a coke for Ryan and a yogurt drink for me. Then we sat on the street in front of the store and ate and drank almost all of it. There’s no regular transport to his town. We were looking at another 1 hour walk. But a man said he would take us there in his mini-van for $5. I said “$3” just as Ryan was saying “Yes.” So I said, okay, but we need to leave right away, no waiting around for other people. The guy took us to Ryan’s street. We walked to his house, took a mandi bath, ate some dinner, sat on his porch and Ryan played the guitar and sang and once again I got his bed. In the morning his family had arranged for a car-taxi to take me to Jajag. The driver had to touch two wires together to get his car to start. Then I waited an hour and a half for the bus. The bus took me not just to Jember, or Probolinggo, or Malang, but continued on to my town – 11 hours on the same bus! I set a new personal record. From 7:00 am – 9:00 pm without looking for a bathroom! So. Thanks Ryan! (Good friend) Thanks Sukamade turtle beach! (Beautiful place) Thanks world, for getting us safely in and out of there and finally home! (Personal challenges) And finally thank you to our own adopted 157 baby turtles! (Unexpected surprise) All in all it was a great adventure! And if I can upload this video you can watch me releasing baby #61 into the ocean - that was a very good number for me - it's how old I was when I joined Peace Corps!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Ramadan – One more day

I went to sleep thinking that my fasting was over. I woke up to lots of noise outside at 2:45am. I looked at my cell phone to check the time and saw that I had a message from a fellow Peace Corps volunteer.

“Turns out there is one more day of fasting. Gov’t just announced it. Dern.”

So I ate Sahur – the middle of the night meal from the left over food that’s always on the table, drank lots of water and went back to bed.

When I got up this morning my Ibu-mama said that they announced on television that the leader of the Mohammedan sect said that Ramadan ends today and the leader of the Nahdatul Ulama sect says that Ramadan ends tomorrow. The NU group is the largest in Indonesia and has over 50 million members here.

Ramadan ends at different times all over the world. It starts with the sighting of the new moon and ends with the sighting of the new moon. Each country has religious leaders who declare when it starts and stops. Indonesia is as wide as the United States. The moon rises at different times around the world and there is a slight phase change every day.

Every calendar here has August 30 and 31st listed in red. That means they are federal holidays. I assumed that it also meant that Idul Fitri is celebrated by 2 days of celebrations. I was wrong. It’s celebrated by a week of celebrations.

Okay. That’s the facts, as far as I know them and they might be right and they might be wrong. Here’s my reaction.

This is typical of my life here. I never really know what’s going on or why. It’s almost reassuring to realize that other people don’t know either.

My first reaction was, okay, another day – actually it kind of surprised me how easily I thought that. No resistance. I just climbed a super high mountain only to be shown that I’m not on the summit – I still have a ways to go.

When I was young and impressionable a young girl named Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbonize Liberation Army – a radical group in the US and I never did understand what they were protesting. She was the daughter of a wealthy man who owned many newspapers. Her kidnappers kind of brain washed her over the next few months and she assisted in a bank robbery and her picture was on television a lot with comments from psychologists. It seems that when you finally surrender to your surroundings in order to survive you do things that assure your survival in that group even if you normally wouldn’t do them in your every day life. When she was finally returned to her family she was released without any charges against her. She eventually married her body guard.

I expected Peace Corps to change me dramatically. It’s one of the reasons I signed up. Yes I wanted to save the world, one little piece at time but in the process I knew that something inside of me would have to change too. There are reasons why the Peace Corps slogans are “How far will you go to make a difference?” and “The hardest job you’ll ever love.”

Betsy, our Peace Corps Assistant Country Director here in Indonesia gave us a talk during our mid-service conference about “Changing behaviors.” She said that is what development worker do – their job is to change behaviors in countries where they are assigned. Something in me rebelled. I knew from some absolute place of truth that wasn’t MY job. She explained that you need to identify which behaviors the host country nationals want to change and what their resistance to the change involves and you go from there. All of that is very true and very acceptable and certainly something I would have agreed to do and certainly signed my name to when I first joined Peace Corps. And when I tried to look at what the heck was stirred up inside of me, I found that all my life I had tried to change people’s behavior, why was I upset about doing that now?

When we were still in the States we were given a little booklet called: A Few MINOR Adjustments. I’d describe it as a survival manual on cultural adjustment. Basically it says that the way we experience a culture is not as an abstract thing, but rather as the behavior and actions of people who have been conditioned by and respond in accordance with certain assumptions and values. It goes on to say that fist you learn to predict the behavior of host country nationals, then you accept the host country behavior and finally you change your own behavior. If you still do not like most of what the people around you are doing, you haven’t adjusted. The chapter ends with a section on Cultural Sensitivity and Can I still be me?

Two weeks ago when I had diarrhea and vomiting – at the same time – with no toilet (in the Western understanding of the word.) – something shifted. Actually, it had to. I had a slight fever and a little runny nose and I didn’t want to tell the Peace Corps Doctor because the last time I told him I had diarrhea he sent a car to bring me back to Surabaya, a 5-6 hour trip in a disposable diaper! It turns out, I talked the nurse out of sending me back, but it sure scared me enough to think twice before I shared my diarrhea stories again. But this time I was beyond miserable and when I went to school the next day I told my co-teachers what had happened and I went home a little early. (We weren’t teaching, it was Pondok Ramadan – Islamic teaching week.) I was home for half an hour in my room with the door closed; lying on the bed when my Ibu-mama knocks on the window and tells me the vice-principal was in the living room. Oh Shoot. I went out (without my jilbab headscarf and my calves exposed – I really wasn’t thinking very fast.) and sat down with the 2 co-teachers and the vice principal. It’s a Muslim obligation to visit the sick. The sick have the obligation to sit in the living room and convince the people that you really are okay. Now I was worried that PC would find out I was sick so I called the Dr. and all he told me to do was stop fasting and drink 3 liters of water with oral rehydration salts that day and 2 liters the next day and I’d be fine. He said it was viral. I think he meant something like a 24 hour flu bug. Anyway, it all turned out fine. The next day every teacher asked me about my diarrhea – you get used to this kind of thing – bowel functions are not a taboo subject here. While the teachers were here one of them said, “Oma, I think something is not just wrong with your stomach, something is wrong in your heart.” And I started to cry. It was true. Being sick absolutely made me realize how much I wanted the “comfort” of my own society, my own bathroom, my own control over what food I ate, my own little bed. I told them I wanted my family, that I thought everyone who is sick would naturally want to be in their own comfortable surroundings. They understood. They said yes, when you are sick you like your own family to squeeze and pinch your arm. (This is what people do here who love you and care for you – kind of a little massage. I prefer to be left alone. But they understood what I meant within their cultural context.)

Here’s where I think I am in all of this. Something inside of me has snapped. The rubber band has been stretched so far that it no longer can return to its original position. I live constantly with ambiguity. I really am not sure most of the time what people are saying, what they really mean (even if I can translate every word) or why they are doing what they are doing. I usually guess because that’s the way human beings work, we try to make sense out of our surroundings. But now I see that I’ve gotten pretty good at being able to predict what they will do or at least not being surprised when everything changes. I may not know why, but I see that there is a system of logic behind what people are doing – it makes sense to them. But the acceptance part, the changing my own behavior to conform to host country norms, the adjusting my own behavior so I don’t offend them, the behaving in a way they expect so that they become more accepting of me – that’s the hard part. I can see that part of me cracking apart. It feels like an invitation to surrender at a level deeper than anything I’ve surrendered to before.

Who am I? It kind of doesn’t matter any more. I’m a human being. I play the role of a teacher, a mom, a grandma, an American, a woman…..but who am I really? If I’m willing to live by a value system that I didn’t endorse, if I give up, “I’m right and you are wrong.” What’s left? It all becomes “This is the way we are behaving because we are in Indonesia and this is the way people behave in Indonesia.”

Now a little disclaimer. I am no way endorsing everything here. I don’t particularly care when students cheat or teachers cheat – I can see that’s what the system requires. But would I stand by and watch someone torture someone – I don’t think so.

An interesting side note – the more accepting I become, the more okay it is that everyone is the way they are, the more accepting I seem to be of myself.

You, sweet readers, who are still reading this incredibly long blog, may think I have cracked up. I may have. It might be only temporary. I don’t know. It might be the result of fasting for a month. Or totally unrelated. Or it might be that the person I have lived my life at being is no longer as important as I thought she was.

I’m kind of curious to find out what happens next. I’ll keep you posted.