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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

What my host family wants

Okay....phase two and I don't think this is over yet.

At school today I agreed with my vice principal, who talked to Peace Corps that I should give my host family $40 and buy all my food on the street "outside" using the other $40. This seemed a little unrealistic but I have decided that I don't want to move again and I will do whatever "they" tell me to do - Peace Corps, vice principal, host family, etc. And Peace Corps wants volunteers to give every family $40 per month even if they do not provide food. So be it.

I printed out my schedule showing what days I will be away from site: 23 of the remaining 99 days - the last of my annual leave and Close of Service Conference and final check out days, medical, dental - all that is done away from my site where I am living.

This afternoon the vice principal and I sat down with my host parents. My vice principal did most of the talking. My family saw how many days I will be gone and they said they will take all the money and if they don't feel like cooking they will give me a little bit back so I can go on the street and buy and some food. So they get $80 and I get $0. (Well I have my pocket money.)

I didn't ask, "How much is a little bit?"

Here's my attitude: I don't care what happens. I know I will not starve. I may be hungry. I may have to eat street food that I don't like at inconvenient times where ever my family tells me to. But it's only for 99 - 23 days. I can pretty much put up with anything for that short of period of time. (Please God, don't test me on that statement!)

I figure I gave in on everything - I won't cook. I won't put stuff in the frig. I will give them all my money. I can't plan in advance for when I should try to buy some vegetables or fruit or other food that I prefer. The one thing they agreed to was that I am allowed to bring the food back and eat it in my room rather than on the street.

You'd think they would be pleased. But they weren't smiling. I think they really don't want to cook anymore.

Day 99 and counting....

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentine's Day

14 February, 2012

Dedicated to my wonderful family and friends, who care about me, even when I write long, crazy blogs.

When I arrived at school this morning my vice principal told me that he had talked to my ibu-mama and she doesn't want to cook my food any more. He asked me if starting in March if I would eat all my meals "outside" meaning at small food stalls on the street and the canteen at school. (The canteen is 5 food stalls in a row at the back of the school.)

I asked him to please clarify that they do not want the $80.00 each month that I give them for food.

Then I called Peace Corps. I wanted to talk to Betsy, who is the boss of my boss (Mifta) Yesterday Mifta came to my house. As far as I know they did not talk about food. He was there for 15 minutes and took pictures to document where I live and all the conversation was in Indonesian, but I thought I understood most of it. (Yes, Mifta confirmed, they did not talk about food.)

The reason Mifta came is because a week ago I met another Peace Corps staff person at a location 2 hours from my house and we went to look at some schools where future volunteers may live. That man, Wawan, the newly promoted Regional Manager asked if Mifta had ever come to visit my house and I said “No.” Now the policy is that someone from PC is supposed to visit your house every time you move. I moved to this house a year ago.

So for the past year I have been living in my "new house" with my "new family" About 2 months ago I started making oatmeal for breakfast, buying the oatmeal and milk out of my pocket money and still continuing to give my family the $80 ($80 is a huge amount of money here. A new teacher told me that she only gets paid $50 a month to teach almost full time at the school.) Since I have been living there my family has acquired a refrigerator, a washing machine, a new TV in my host family bedroom, built a new bathroom for the boarders at the front of the house and purchased and had installed a gigantic new metal fence with a sliding gate. That's fine, I want them to use my "food" money however it works well for them.

Betsy, my best contact at Peace Corps said that I need to be able to have access to the kitchen and the refrigerator. So far, my host mother has never let me light the stove. I do keep a bottle of water in the frig. I told Betsy I could eat a raw food diet for the next 3 months and supplement it with street food that is cooked, but she said No, that she would ask one of the Indonesians on staff to talk to my vice principal and maybe my host mother to clarify what is going on.

In addition to my "food" money I also give my family $20 a month for internet service. My family may be able to negotiate this lower, but $20 is the published rate and it's totally worth it to me for them to handle this as a part of their telephone bill. (Other families of volunteers regularly go to the telephone office and get their bill down to the "special" rate of $10 a month, so I know it's possible, but I don't know if my family negotiates or not.)

And my school gives $30 a month to my host family to cover the actual cost of me renting a room and electricity and use of other utilities. The first month they only gave $20 but I asked the school to please give them $30 because that is what they gave my previous family and they agreed and my new family was very happy. The amount every school gives is different based on the local price of letting someone live in your home.

So here's my Valentine's day dilemma:
Do they really not want me here? Do they not want to cook because they are tired of cooking? (the reason they told my Vice Principal) Do they not want me in the outside kitchen where the gas burner and the wood fireplace are? Do they not want me to put food in the frig? Do they not want me in the inside kitchen where we wash the inside dishes? (We wash the cooking pots outside.)
The market where I can buy fruits and vegetables in a 45 minute walk away – one way. Do they not want me to keep food in their house? Can I keep some food in my room? Do they really want me to eat ALL my meals “on the street” including the oatmeal I have for breakfast? Can I keep fruit in my room?

Okay. Wawan, the newly promoted Regional manager just called me. He talked to my Vice Principal, and now I need to go to school tomorrow to have my vice principal come back with me to negotiate the price I will continue to pay - I will now give $20 per month if they let me use the stove and frig, kitchen and dishes. (So the family will have a total of $50, 30 from the school, 20 from me - not counting the internet which is a totally different deal.) I really don't want to eat all my meals on the street!

I'll let you know what happens.

Sometimes Peace Corps life kinda sucks.

I wish I could go out and eat a hamburger and fries and have a chocolate sundae to celebrate Valentine's Day. Instead I know what it will be – the same food that was on the table at lunch that I didn’t finish – the tail end of a fish, white rice, green vegetable soup and a banana.

I'm so worried about how I'm going to eat for the next 100 days I forgot to tell you about the RAID.

A male teacher and 2 student council members came into my classroom (and every classroom) and had all the students stand at the front of the room then they searched every desk and back pack for valentines, chocolate, candy, hearts or flowers. Thankfully the class I was in "passed" with no contra band Valentine's Day items.

The Muslims at my school, at least, are convinced that Valentine's Day is a Christian holiday and really an excuse for free sex.

Life as a Peace Corp volunteer! ....99, 98, 97.....