Tuesday, March 6, 2012

I'm Bored. Here's Some Stuff.

The formula was valid a year ago.  I spent so many days doing nothing—just trying to make plans for the evening, looking longingly at my dirty clothes and wishing the pile could grow legs and walk over to the machine.  Days where I did nothing but wait for the Heat game to start at 7:30.  So much time just waiting for life to happen.  What’s worse is when you’ve been a sloth for so long that you actually start to fear and avoid activity.  Actually, no, Dad, I would NOT like to go to the store and pick up the groceries. Make JESSE do it.

Since the second semester began, I’ve been busier than ever (not counting the last two days, which have been depressingly empty).  I mean, I’ve been busy in my life before, but it’s usually been because of a large school workload and having to go to a job.  That’s not really chosen.  Here I have to choose my activities and fill up my time by myself.  I’ve started to get really antsy when there’s nothing do, which is a big change from before.  I used to thrive in downtime.  Now I don’t want it at all, unless I’ve earned it by tiring myself out with some kind of productivity.


·      I’ve had one-on-one English conversations with 56 students so far, and my counterparts have talked with another 17.   I’ve been surprised by how many kids have worked up the nerve to make appointments with me or a counterpart.  Once a few did it, more and more jumped on the train, and I think there will be no bottleneck issue at the end of the semester.  I learned not to make more than two appointments in one day.  My eyes begin to resemble glazed donuts after about 75 minutes.  I’ve also been keeping notes of all my conversations and entering them into a big document on my computer.  My “student conversation journal” now has over 30 full pages of information about my students—where they live, the makeup of their families, their ambitions, their likes and dislikes, my observations of their strengths and weaknesses, and much other information besides.  Priceless!

·      We’ve started the World Map Project at my school.  There’s been a lot of enthusiasm for it.  The project is painting a mural of a world map on a wall in my school.  It’s located in a really good spot.  I’ve been documenting the creation, and will continue to do so.  When it’s finished, it’ll make for a really good slideshow.  The students (and the principal) have been very enthusiastic about it.

·      There’s a new principal at my school.  He seems like a good fellow, we’ve gotten along well so far.  The farewell ceremony for the departing principal was perfectly Indonesian in its mixture of formality, fun, absurdity, and mishap.  I may write about this later.

·      Borrowing an idea from Truong, a PCV friend who’s done great things at his site the last two years, I started a conversation club.  Five students form a group, and that group must meet with an English teacher—probably me—three times a week for at least 20 minutes to speak English.  At the moment we’ve got three groups, but I’m hoping this will expand to five or six by sometime in April.  It’s been awesome.

·      That last bullet comes somewhat at the expense of the English Club, which has fallen apart due to lack of coordinated leadership.  Nobody was paying enough attention to it, and we weren’t promoting our activities, so kids weren’t showing up consistently at all.  We may revive this later on, but make it a biweekly activity.  It could work, but we’ve gotta do things differently.

·      Last week I helped a few students with speeches in English for a contest that my school held.  Justice prevailed in the contest, and the winner was the student who actually wrote his own speech, rather than copying one directly out of a book.  About 16 students participated, and three of them made exactly the same speech about the environment.  There were a couple other duplicates as well.  What really struck me about helping students to write speeches is that, more than learning how to use English correctly, the students need help in thinking logically.  They are so unpracticed at making arguments, it’s somewhat shocking.  I actually found myself discussing the Introduction-Thesis-Argument-Conclusion format.  Terrible flashbacks of FCAT days.  I had to pry specifics out of students who are only used to speaking and thinking in generalities (“don’t do bad things because bad things will make your life worse”).  Critical thinking…desperately needed.

·      New trainees arriving next month!  Yay!  I hope some of you are reading this, and if you are, you should know that I’m very excited to meet you all, and if you’ve got any questions or concerns you want to send my way, feel free.  I want to make it a point of my service to be helpful/useful to the newer folks, and I’m very interested in getting to know you guys. 

·      Next month will make one year in Indonesia.  You know, no big deal.  I’ve been thinking about stuff to do after these two years have been completed.  Part of me is considering extending service, if the conditions are right and the job fits—and if I can still stand it here in another year.  Grad school, as ever, remains on the table.  And then part of me really wants to do some sort of traveling or adventure in the world.  And who knows what sort of working opportunities might tempt me were I cool with staying in Asia?  So much to think about, but nothing yet to decide.