Friday, April 29, 2011

You don't swallow the whole apple at once...

Click on the link for my:

New Videolog!

...which is about using the bathroom to shower know what. Also some commentary regarding the taboo on the left hand.

I've been over three weeks now. It seems a lot longer. This week we began our practicum. My group of trainees went to a vocational school that specializes in Broadcasting, Multimedia, and Animation. The school has about 300 students and is located sorta kinda in the middle of nowhere. And by the middle of nowhere, I mean it's surrounded by agricultural fields and a beautiful mountain landscape. We got our first actual look at an Indonesian high school and its operation. The morning we arrived, we saw the upacara bandera (flag ceremony) that is performed at all Indonesian schools on Monday mornings. All the kids were standing in formation out in the field around which the school is oriented. The three who were supposed to put the flag on the flagpole and raise it had a rather embarrassing moment though...the first time they attached the flag upside down. It was a funny moment, and privately I was pleased. I don't like military-style patriotism anywhere, so it was satisfying to see a hiccup.

After the ceremony and what I suppose were the announcements, I was asked to make a short speech for the students introducing us and letting them know (in English) a bit about what we would be doing at their school. It went over well, and afterward we got down to business. We spoke for a long time with the English teachers, observed classes, examined the teaching materials and school resources, and we got a sense for how an Indonesian high school actually runs. We also interviewed a handful of students to learn a bit about their interests and gauge their level of English. While observing classes, I was asked to help and then spontaneously to create an activity/lesson on giving directions for the last 10 minutes of class. I had one kid march another one around the room using directions. It was fun.

My energy level really increases when I'm at the school. I feel very natural in front of a classroom, and having spent some time there has put to rest most of my nerves about being in front of a class. I thoroughly enjoy it and I'm confident I will be a good teacher. But I definitely have a lot to learn. It's one thing to be a guest teacher a few times and another to manage multiple classes of 30+ students hours at a time for a year. We also did some lesson planning.

Language classes are sailing along. We're half way through our six-week course in bahasa Indonesia, and I'm feeling really good about it. Most nights I hang out with my family in the living room for a couple hours and we talk. Often, I actually get to use the things I learn in class the same day. Indonesian is pretty easy, but there is still a lot to learn. The last couple nights I've had some dreams in Indonesian, or that at least involved me speaking the language. After the course in Indonesian ends, we're going to have a test to make sure we're up to snuff, and then we get a two-week crash course in bahasa Jawa, or Javanese. Javanese is the language of the home of pretty much everyone here, and it's much more complicated than Indonesian. There are four levels of Javanese in terms of formality, and (as I understand it) the upper levels are not comprehensible to speakers of lower tiers. But those who know high Javanese can speak/understand low Javanese. It's weird, ancient, and crazy. I look forward to learning about it. If, in a few months, I become good enough in Indonesian to not feel insecure about speaking in front of a camera, I will try to make a video of me speaking Indonesian for you so you can hear what it sounds like. Or maybe I'll write an entry in Indonesian.

And while on the topic of writing blogs, I've been finding myself reluctant to write at all. I'm not the kind of person who journals compulsively. Writing my feelings/experiences down is not an integral part of my identity. Yet I love writing and I want to keep a record of my experiences here for myself and for all of you. So there's this tension. The scope of the change in my life/environment is really too big to encapsulate in writing. It's too big to talk about even. I haven't had a chance to process it mentally yet. But things which were exotic and extraordinary are becoming normal now, so the newness of it all is quieting down a bit. Nonetheless, I am not able to articulate everything that's going on. So I beg you preemptively, loyal friends/readers, not to pose general inquiries like:

  • "How is it there?"
  • "What's it like in Indonesia?"
  • "Are you having fun?"
  • "Tell me everything!"
It is simply not possible to answer those questions with anything resembling completeness or justice, and they would only vex me. Instead, if you have specific things you are curious about (e.g. "Are the people friendly?" or "What is a normal day like for you?" or "How do you get around in Indonesia?"), please ask. This is all a long way of me saying that my blogs and videologs are going to attempt to address specific, manageable facets of my life and experience in Indonesia. In other words, taking bites, not swallowing it all whole.


  1. Thanks Tim for sharing this with us. I think of you and feel very close. Judith