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Monday, June 20, 2011

English Camp at my school


That’s the theme of the first ever annual English Camp at my school!
And the motto is “Diligent and Show It” during which the students salute (diligent) and then put their fists to their hearts (show it)

Yesterday the kids began setting up the 9 sleeping tents. This morning when I arrived they had been decorated with potted plants and elaborate latticework arbors leading to the entrance of the tents. Some of them have decorated their front tent pole with fabric. Inside the tent is a sleeping area, and a lounging area. My co-teacher commented that each tent should have a little table with food and flowers to make it more hospitable. Each group has a name: The Sweet Smart Girls, The Cherry Blossoms, D Boyz, Dream Light…..

There is a stage set up with our “theme message” proudly proclaimed on a banner and a huge sound system to blast songs in English.

It’s raining, just a light sprinkle, but no one seems to mind. It has been relatively cold for the past week – no rain, temperatures in the low 70’s – that’s really cold by Indonesian standards. My fellow teachers have told me that many people have stomach aches because it is so cold.

Later on I need to sing a song and give a speech. The trick is to make it all in simple enough English so that the students can understand what I am saying. I’m going to sing:
“If all of the raindrops were lemon drops and gum drops
Oh what a world this would be
I’d stand outside with my mouth open wide
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah
If all of the snow flakes were cookies and cupcakes
Oh what a world this would be
I’d stand outside with my mouth open wide
Ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah ah”

I learned the first verse at Girl Scout camp and my wonderful sister, Pinky, made up the 2nd verse.

I’m also one of the judges (the jury) at the speech contest and also a jury for the movie activity. Each tent has to participate with at least one member giving a speech and the group together has to come up with a reasonable ending when the movie stops. They also get points for the games and “orienteering” activities.

The campfire tonight is scheduled to last until 11:30 and gymnastics start tomorrow at 5:30am, but I told the teachers that I will walk home and sleep in my own bed. Being 62 years old entitles me to some privileges and I’m not really that excited about spending a sleepless night on the ground in the rain trying to keep track of teenagers in tents.

There are 83 students who are attending English Camp and 14 of these students are the “committee” who organized all the games, activities, schedule, equipment, campfire activities, etc. This is out of a pool of 575 students in grade 10 and 11 who were eligible to join English Club. I’m pleased that so many students are interested in English. When they signed up for English Club at the beginning of the year, the campout was just an idea that they wanted to do. In December my students were invited to the English camp at the school about an hour away where Angela, another Peace Corps Volunteer is serving. We sent 17 students and a team of 4 teachers who were there off and on during their 3 days English Camp. That experience was enough to launch the official request that the students and teachers needed to come up with – the budget and proposed agenda that the Principal of my school had to approve. The proposal document is 11 pages long and includes all the necessary signatures from all the school officials. I’m impressed that they are willing to jump through so many hoops to accomplish this English Camp. All $300 for the funding came from local sources: the students each gave $1.50 and the English club provided some from its activity funds and the school donated about $200. The money goes for the large stage and sound set up, the badges and certificates and prizes.

We started with the official opening ceremony complete with marching and saluting and the address from the principal of the school. He mentioned the rain in English! He called it “rain: dot, dot” which I think is the literal translation of light rain, just a little more than a mist. Today it has gone from rain: dot, dot to rain: big drop, big drop!

The speech contest consisted of a representative from each tent who gave a 5 – 7 minute speech in English and answered questions from the jury. I think all the speeches were taken from the internet except for the boy’s tent which was only a 30 second speech. The topics were: Follow your Dreams, Education in Indonesia, The Importance of Adolescence and why Ramadan is important to Islam. When I asked the students – What is the title of your speech and why is it important? They had a difficult time answering. They would scan through the written speech and try to find the answer. My students are very good at reading written English but have a much more difficult time formulating their own ideas and getting the courage to speak in English.

I was given a badge with a smiling star to show that I am part of the committee too! Or maybe the kids just thought I’d look good with a smiley star on my jilbab.

The movie was the first 30 minutes of “Barbie and the Three Musketeers.” The students enjoyed it and asked to watch it again so that they could come up with a good ending.

The Neighborhood Exploration was a blast. For 3 hours the kids followed a route through the back streets and rice fields near my town and found their way to various “posts” where they had to do charades in English, or compose an English poem, or answer riddles or complete other quizzes.

The campfire was 5 feet tall complete with a ball of rags soaked in kerosene and put on a string so that at the significant moment it could be cut loose (from 15 feet away) and dropped onto the candle in the middle of the bonfire which caused a huge flare up. Disclaimer: this is my own personal observation: Indonesian kids and adults are pyromaniacs. They loved the sparks glowing 50 feet up in the air. And they kept adding more little baggies of kerosene to make the fire more dramatic. I think it was test of my patience related to all years that I worked with the fire fighters in the National Forests in America. I know it’s different here. Everything is so wet, it’s probably impossible to start a forest fire.

The students also stopped all the activities to pray 5 times a day. And they all took a bucket bath (mandi) twice a day so that they wound up changing clothes many times.

For the final closing ceremony they were dressed in their school uniforms, all standing in rows and saluting and listening to the closing speeches – so polite. In America they would be impatient to hear the results of all the competitions and receive their prizes.

What amazed me the most was that all the activities were directed by the students on the committee. Teachers were judges, but the MC and all the organization was done by the students themselves. This year’s participants will be expected to put on the program for next years students.

1 comment:

  1. wow Oma..that's great. They are gorgeuous :) remind me with my Junior school.
    and it's me the girl you met in the bus from Malang btw. I miss you oma :)