On Fridays I get out of school early. All classes end at 11:20 because it’s the day of the week when Muslim men go to the mosque for (approx.) noon prayers. I just checked my school calendar which lists the exact prayer time for every day of the year. They now are at 11:45. They range from 11:18 in October to 11:48 in February. Usually the teachers and I wait around till all the men go to the mosque just to see if there will be any announcements. But today I was at school at 5:25 am and I’m hungry so I leave right away. I say goodbye to each female teachers and clasp her right hand in both of mine then let go and bring my right hand up to my heart. To the men, I just say goodbye in English or Indonesian or “See you on Monday.” to the teachers who are trying to learn a little more English.
Today is the first day I have worn my new teacher uniform. It took the tailor woman a month to get it made, but it is so worth it. I totally blend in. The shirt is a green, purple, blue and white print that maybe looks like the ocean or a field of shredded wildflowers. It has a little Neru collar that covers up my neck and it’s so long that it goes past my wrists and covers down to the bottom of my butt just like it’s supposed it. The black shirt is fairly form fitting polyester with a slit up the back. The seamstress specifically made that slit longer so I could take normal size steps. I can’t. I have to roll it up at the waist several times to bring the bottom – which touches the top of my shoes a few inches off the floor so I can have enough mobility to walk home. Also I wear a white jilbab with this outfit. About 15 people stopped today to tell me how beautiful I look in the traditional jilbab and the full "cover every inch of your self" outfit.
As I pass the crossing guard shack I lean inside and say goodbye to the guard. He likes to talk to me. I have no clue what he’s saying.
As I go around the corner to the next road, I take the jilbab off. It’s so hot. I fold it and put it in my backpack.
On the 20 minute walk home I pass the house where my 84 year old friend stops and chats with me. Her 7 year old granddaughter always runs away like I am some strange white giant out of a scary fairy tale. As I walk past the shacks where the food sellers have set up their stalls to sell meals to people, my friend Wati grabs me and pulls me inside. She wants me to have a free drink of something with her so I sit for a few minutes but I tell her I need to go home. When I walk past the hospital, my favorite parking attendant yells, “Good Morning, Doctor.” I smile and wave. At the place where the construction guys are building a new house I see there are twice as many workers today and some of them are pointing me out to the new ones. I say “Mongo” (Javanese) and wave at them too.
When I walk down the little alley to my house I can see there is a lot of water on the dirt. The pipes at Dr. Rina’s house keep spewing water into the alley. I walk past the house that processes chickens and see that 2 of their 6 cats are sitting in the sun watching the fish in their fish pond. At my house the gate is locked, so I ring the bell. My host father has been changing the chime sound. This time it says “Assalamuallicum” (Aribic prayer.) He unlocks the house and unlocks the gate and I walk inside and head upstairs and take off my hot clothes and put on shorts that cover my knees and a T shirt.
My ibu-mama calls out that lunch is ready and I go down to the dining room, lift up the plastic fly cover and see that it is vegetable soup, a fried fish (warm) and a fried egg (cold) and a plate with lettuce, cabbage, 2 tomato slices and 2 cucumber slices. And diet coke in a glass with ice. She leaves the coke open so all the bad bubbles will get out of there and she makes her own ice in plastic bags so I’m careful to strain it through my teeth so I don’t get any plastic in my throat. Also there is a pear that I take up to my room and set on my desk for later. When I’m finished eating I wash my dishes and walk through the house to find that my Ibu-mama is in the other kitchen cooking some more food. I tell her “Thank you. It was delicious.” Then I head up the stairs and lay on the bed and listen to the sounds of music blasting from loud speakers a block away. There is a wedding. People block off the road and set up a big tent and play loud music for 3 days. After 20 or 30 minutes I write out a list of things I need to buy and walk out of the house heading for the school supply store. When I’m there I find exactly what I want – a small white board that I can hold on my lap and write on when I am teaching outside to my small classes. I am thrilled. I also buy some red ribbon because I’m thinking I might do something for the teachers for Valentine’s Day. They loved the paper snowflakes.
I walk the 30 minutes home and open up my computer and re-read what I’ve written for our first semester evaluation that has to go to Peace Corps national. Because I teach 15 different classes I have to list each one individually and tell how many boys and how many girl students and how many have made improvements in several different categories. Also I list English club for students and English club for Teachers and The English Camp (campout) and The English Contest project that I’ve had. I have to evaluate my integration level into the community and my language assessment and tell about my challenges and success and lots of other stuff. I had written for several hours and saved it to my desktop and then found out that it had disappeared. I called the Peace Corps IT super hero and we tried a sample of saving it to a flash disk instead. That worked! So I check my numbers to make sure that boys and girls totals add up to the total number in each class and change some of my answers and finally push the send button and send it off to my Peace Corps supervisors. I eat the pear and throw the core off the balcony across the alley into the pen where the geese and ducks are.
Now it’s 5:00pm and time for a mandi bath. I take another set of clothes downstairs to the bathroom and dip water out of the bucket and pour it on me and wash and put on my 5th set of clothes for the day – nightgown, taking a walk clothes, school clothes, different walk around town clothes, post mandi-bath clean clothes. Around 6:00 my host dad calls out “Oma, eat.” And I go down stairs and have dinner, do the dishes, pause to say thank you to host mother, watch a few minutes of Indonesian TV, then head back upstairs. I feel like vegging out, so I play sudoku puzzles in a little book I have - Mensa Absolutely Nasty Sudoku- I can only get about ¼ of them but I figure I may improve over the next 2 years.
At 8:00 I’m tired. When I go to the bathroom I stop in the living room where my host parents are still watching TV and tell them “Good night.” It’s hot but not unbearable. I open the window a few inches, crawl in my bed under the mosquito net and fall asleep.
Saturday morning I wake up when I hear the call to prayer on the loudspeakers – 3:57 am. I lay in bed for a little bit, then get up, dressed and I’m outside walking at 4:30 am. It’s still dark and Mr. Muhl, the homeless man who sleeps on Dr. Rina’s back porch is asleep on the bench with his motorcycle helmet on. I walk quietly past him and go to the gate at the alley. It’s already open. The people who come to get the chicken from the chicken processors next door have already been down the alley.
I walk in the darkness, not looking at the steams and ditches at the places where I know people will be using them as bathrooms – giving them a little visual privacy. Most of the rural homes in East Java do not have bathrooms. Before it’s even daylight several people call out, “Oma.” I can’t even see well enough to recognize if someone is a man or a woman, how the heck do they know it’s me? I go past the open air traditional market where everything in the world is for sale but most people are buying food from farmers.
At 5:35 I’m home, take a mandi-bath, dress in school clothes, eat breakfast and walk to school. Today I’m there at 6:10 and I’m the 2nd teacher to show up. Yesterday we started the early classes for grades 11 and 12. 15 teachers are paid extra to show up at what the schedule says is 5:30 but my host dad explains that is “rubber time.” I go to the extra English class for 11th graders who are taking the science track – generally the smarter kids. I walk in, say the Arabic greeting prayer and teach the whole class (no books yet, so we have a discussion about why anyone would want to study English.) I pass out the colored markers and the students have to write one sentence on the board about English. English is hard. English is international language. English is fun. I like Oma English. I like to read English. I not like speak English. Etc. I let them write anything, as long as it’s in English. Around 6:30, the regular teacher shows up. This is what I have been waiting for. This is why I come to school early on Fridays and Saturdays. I get to have some personal time with just a few students. In both my early morning classes, there are 6 students who signed up for English Club, so when the regular teacher shows up I have them bring their chairs and come outside with me and we sit in a circle and I talk to them. Because I teach 15 different classes with 40 students an average of 50 minutes a week, I don’t get to know any of them well. I know very few names. So I love this special time with just a few students. We are working with a set of cards that are for kids age 5 -7 but are just right for my students. Simply understanding the instructions is hard for them. I put the little white board on my lap and write out any thing that I think is confusing. It’s much easier for them to understand something written than it is to understand something spoken.
At 7:00am (approx.) the bell rings and we begin regular classes for the day. My main objective on Saturdays is to find out what my two team teachers want to cover in classes next week. Over the course of the morning we have several conversations and I develop a tentative lesson plan with each teacher. The printer in the teacher room is broken, so I write the lessons up on my computer, put the pages to be printed on my thumb drive and go into the office and wait for the staff to have time to print out my papers. Then I take the originals to the co-op at school where there is a copy machine and if the electricity is working I wait, sometimes 5 minutes, sometimes a half hour, till it’s my turn – I don’t let students push ahead of me – and they will if you’re not paying attention – I talk to the copy guy and tell him how many copies I need of each paper. I pay for them out of my Peace Corps “pocket money” $4 a day – that’s what we get to live on after we pay our host families for food. I use my money for school supplies, usually one meal a day at school, snacks, transportation, clothing, internet access, and everything else I need.
Around noon on Saturdays I head home. Okay, I’m bored writing all this down. You don’t have to read this. Saturday afternoon it’s raining so I don’t walk to town. I study a little Indonesian from my Peace Corps text books, read my email – yea, my modum is strong enough to get a good a signal today and read the past month’s worth of blogs that my fellow volunteers have written. Same routine.. Take a mandi bath before dinner. Watch the chicken people deliver 30 live chickens to the house next door - they are sold by weight. By 4:30 the next morning they will all be slaughtered, spun in a centerfuge like thing to get the feathers off, hacked into random pieces and put into plastic bags. I go downstairs when my family says “Oma, eat.” Thank them for the food. Go to bed at 8pm.
Sunday morning I’m up and out the door at 4:30am. I walk around the neighborhood, going to the place where there are just terraced rice fields and no houses. I pass an old woman who grabs my arm and wants to talk and won’t let go. I smile and talk with her for several minutes then press cheeks with her while we both sniff. We’re both smiling when she releases me and I continue on my way. Sunday mornings are the “walking time.” There are lots of teenagers out on the streets. I usually speak to them in English. I speak Javanese to older people and with young families with babies I speak Indonesian. The older people had to study Indonesian in school, so they know a little but they feel a lot more comfortable in Javanese. (I just know a few greetings. I can’t carry on a conversation.)
I’m back home in time for the twice a day mandi bath (You stand up, get a scoopful of water, pour it on you, lather up, rinse off, dry off fast before the humidity gets you sweaty again and put on clean clothes) Then I go to church from 6am – 8am. I love it. We sing Onward Christian Soldiers in Indonesian and a song about Praise Allah, Alleluia. God, Father and Allah are used interchangeably. A family with a little baby who can crawl but not yet walk sits next to me. She likes to grab hold of my purse and try to eat it. I bring my English Bible which I got from Erika – thank you, Erika! And my dictionary and my contribution envelope and my extra money for the collection bag, my cell phone and my glasses so I can read the dictionary and the Bible. When church is done I shake hands with everyone, walk home and eat breakfast.
Then I do laundry. This takes several hours, washing, rinsing, hanging out the clothes on the balcony and ironing the things from last time. I take the sheets off my bed and wash them almost every week – it helps to keep the itchy stuff off my skin. We have a semi automatic washing machine. I dump in bucketsful of water and there is a mechanism that spins them around. Around 1:00 I run out and bring all the not yet dry things inside because it’s started to rain again. Just a little bit this time.
I get my fanny pack and my umbrella and head out to town to buy the things on the list that I wasn’t able to get last time. I’m almost at the first store when it starts to pour. I run down the street and into the shop. I take my time buying folders to hold papers , a pencil case, a little eraser and some black clips to hold papers together. When the rain lets up a little I go across the street and try to buy some regular flavor potato chips. No luck. There is chicken flavor, beef flavor, BBQ flavor, seaweed flavor and cheese flavor. I buy the cheese flavor, I haven’t eaten them yet.
On the way home I pass a family where I often stop and chat. They are butchering a pig! Wow, I didn’t know they were Christian. The father is slitting and washing out the intestines.
As I go past, I see that the streams are full to overflowing. All the trash that gets dumped in the streams and creeks and rivers is all flowing out to the ocean today. I stop by a new computer store and they have a protector sheet of plastic for my keyboard – the last item on my list. Yea! On the way home I stop and pick an orange and red flower from a bush by the side of the road. The flowers are like the purple verbena that grow on my land in the mountains in New Mexico. I put it in a little 3 inch high green bottle that I found washed up with the sea shells on my vacation. I’m looking at it right now. It’s in front of the box that holds all my envelopes and pencils and pens and the little hand held fan that I use when it’s too hot and the power is off. I have a picture of my kids taken when my son got married and a picture of the Dali Lama on the front of the box.
It’s Sunday evening. For dinner I had white rice, a 1 inch cube of beef, a hard boiled egg and some totally yummy tofu and cabbage in a hot peanut sauce, a plate of lettuce, cabbage, tomatoes and cucumber slices, the same bowl of spicy vegetable soup from 3 days ago and a glass of water.
It’s raining really hard outside. It’s 7:15 and I need to get my stuff organized for school tomorrow, figure out what clothes and jilbab, make sure I have my dictionary, then brush and floss my teeth so I can crash at 8:00 and get up at 4:00am. Welcome to my average weekend.