Sunday, September 27, 2009

Surabaya--I Made It!

I meant to post this Morning evening (morning for you), but of course after checking my email the internet went all wonky and I spent the next hour of my life trying to get it back. Seems to be working this morning, so here you go. Love, Cassie

It seems like my pattern is to write on blog on Sunday, but feel too tired to get it online. So if you are looking for my blog on Sunday and is not up, I’m sorry—there will likely be a new post within a few days. Again a busy week.

We had Tuesday off because of the holiday and my friends and I decided to visit a volcano as it would be our last opportunity before leaving Bandung. Although Idul Friti was on Sunday, the holiday and celebration lasts for over a week. Many schools are still closed. A group of ETAs had visited the volcano the first weekend we’re in Bandung. It took them one hour to get there—it took us over 4 hours because of the traffic. The car was suppose to take us to the top, but there were so many cars that we got out and walked. It was steep and within minutes my calf muscles locked up. It was not too far to the top, but there were so many people—masses and masses—it was difficult to get through. It was neat to be at the vocano, but after the long ride and crowds, we were ready to go. However, we had already left our driver who was going to meet us at the end of the hiking trail; we were not really sure where to go. I started talking with a man selling sourveirs—turns out he was also a guide. The group that came before us said it was a nice, easy hike down. Apparently, I have very different standards. Although most of it was downhill, it was extremely uneven and not always stable. I felt like an ill-equipped mountain goat. Fortunately, our guide was very nice and helped me for most of the trek down. (Saving me from disaster at least 3 times). Once we made it to the car, it took over 2 and half hours to get back to the hotel. I am glad we went, but it was quite a day.

On Wednesday, our counterparts (the Indonesian teachers from our assigned schools) arrived. My counterpart is a man named Supratman. He teaches the 12th grade, but I will be teaching the 10th grade. ETAs are not allowed to teach the 12th because the primary focus in this grade is passing the standardized test at the end of the year and AMINEF does not want to waste native speakers on students concerned chiefly with tests. There are nine 10th grade classes at my school with about 38 students per class. I am teaching each class once a week. And for those unable to do math in their head (like me, who totally used a calculator to figure this out) that is around 350 students I will be teaching each week. Table tents with names are mostly definitely a priority.

I am in a senior high school (which is grades 10-12) with 850 students total. The school is renovating and there is a shortage of classrooms. Grades 10 and 12 go to school in the morning and grade 11 in the afternoon. The plan is for the building to be finished in January for the 2nd semester. We shall see.

Class begins at 6:30 am and I shall be teaching at least twice a week at this hour (pause for gasp). There is normally not school on Saturday at my school, but there is now because of the renovating. Also, I will only have to work in the mornings because that is when 10th grade class meets at this time. When the renovating is done, if I am still here, there will be a different schedule. The other the duty I have is the English Club, but I am still not certain when that meets. There is also a chance that I will be teaching the teachers English. The school is trying to obtain an international standard, which in Indonesia means that at least two subjects (outside English) are taught in English—generally these are science classes.

On Saturday, I traveled to Surabaya with my counterpart. I am living with a very nice (and wealthy) family. There is a large house—rather like a compound, in that there are different sections and a locked gate. I am living in the guest section and there is a swimming pool I can use. There is a grandmother that is my “Indonesian mother.” I am living in her son’s house with his three children. The eldest just started university, the second just started senior high school, and the third (and only boy) is 8. I am still feeling my way around as the culture in Java is polite to the point of saying you may do things that they would rather you not do. Hopefully, I come across the boundaries gently without any major faux pas.

There is a very nice mall within walking distance with a movie theater, trustworthy drug stores (prescriptions are not required in Indonesia and in some of the stores, you are taking a chance in what you are getting), a grocery store, and an English bookstore. I have not yet gone further than the mall (which is about a 5 minute walk)—we shall see how quickly I set out on adventures.

Today (my Monday) the other ETA in Surabaya came to see me with her counterpart. They are about an hour away by public transportation (called bemo here)—which I have yet to experience here in Surabaya, but I hear it is just like Bandung with the little buses. My counterpart will take me to school for a few days and then one of the servants (from now on I will be using the word helpers, because servant is just too strange for me) will help me figure out to get to school on the bemo.

My school starts classes on Wednesday from the holiday break for the end of Ramadan. There is a teacher party tomorrow (my Tuesday) to which I have been invited. I found out today that I need to cover my hair for the party, so I have to borrow something from my host mother because I have nothing suitable. There are 72 teachers at the school. Already I am having trouble with remembering and pronouncing names—I hope that I do not make a fool of myself, but when I do (and I do) people just laugh. At least I am amusing.

Cassandra’s Firsts:
1) First time to drive an angkot (the public transportation in Bandung)—my friends and I were the only ones on the angkot and we were talking with the driver and his friend with our limited Bahasa. The friend asked if we wanted to drive and one of my friends said yes jokingly—turns out he was not kidding and they let us climb over and steer (the driver was still there and we weren’t in complete control but we could turn—it was fun).
2) First time to sing Karaoke. I never did it in the States. It was a blast. A couple people put it together for our last night in Bandung. I sang “Barbie Girl” and “Old Time Rock ‘n Roll” by Bob Serger—not by myself and not well, but fun.
3) First time in Surabaya.
4) First time to eat jack fruit. It is different. I don’t not like it, but it is not an instant favorite.
5) First time I walked in Surabaya by myself. A helper walked me to the mall and I walked back by myself. Like I said, it is not far and I only got slightly misplaced. The helper wrote down the address for me and I showed it to one of the guards in the neighborhood and he pointed me to the correct street.

Well, I think that is all for now. Next week I should be able to tell you about my school and the students. I have two weeks to observe before I am required to teach, but on next Monday during the flag ceremony (not sure exactly what that is yet) I am introducing myself to the school. Keep me in your thoughts and/or prayers.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Getting Closer to Surabaya

I have survived yet another week of extensive language and teacher training. I have picked up a few words of Bahasa but have not studied enough to be comfortable speaking. The teacher training (while not exciting) went will. I have taught a group of my peers without embarrassing myself.

Yesterday (my Sunday) I went hiking into an area outside of Bandung that has caves the Japanese used during WWII and then hiked up to see a waterfall. It was beautiful but I can feel all those hills today.

Yesterday was also Idul Friti (holiday celebrating end of Ramadan). On Saturday night, a group of us went to Dago Tea House for dinner. It had private huts with a platform to sit with a low table. I had sate ayam (which is grilled chicken with peanut sauce--very tasty). It was located on the top of a hill and we could hear all the city's calls to prayer. The eve of Idul Friti is very festive and we could see lots of fireworks that people set off and the drive back to the hotel was though streets full of families. While I normally see motorbikes with an abundance of people, on Saturday most of the bikes had entire families as people travelled to be with extended family. All night I could hear music and fireworks from my hotel room (don't worry, it didn't keep me awake).

Now, a little more on culture. As I mentioned in an earlier blog, religion is a key component of life in Indonesia. There are five recognized religions: Islam, Judaism, Christianity (both Protestant and Catholic), Hinduism, and Buddhism. One's religion is listed on ID cards and while it is not entirely clear, I am pretty sure if you live here, you must be one of these religions (at least officially). Now, if you were living here, you can simply list yourself as whatever and no one checks up to be sure you actually believe such and such. There is also no civil ceremony for marriage here--all marriage must be performed by a religious official and only people of the same religion can marry. We asked what happens when two people of different faiths fall in love and were told that does occasionally happen. The couple must travel outside the country to marry (Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, etc). So, obviously, if you are not fairly wealthy marriage outside your religion is not an option. Conversion is possible, so I guess that is an option.

I didn't do a lot this week (we do get the mall pretty frequently), but here is the continuation of Cassandra's Firsts:
First time I participated in a traditional Indonesian birthday ritual (apparently, children here throw eggs and flour at the birthday boy or girl [it is a ritual for kids only, I think] to celebrate birthdays, I am not sure about the purpose, but one of the guys had a birthday and thought this would be fun, so some of the others did it, I only watched). First time I peer taught (like I said earlier, it went fine and I am pretty sure I can handle a class of Indonesian teenagers, if I say that enought I may actually start to believe it). First time to do "dining in the dark" (A local resturant called Blind offers this experience. We ordered and then were taken to a completely dark dining room. My chicken came pre-cut, so the eating part was not too difficult. It was a neat experience, but not one I would want to do frequently.) Finally, first time I did an Indonesian tongue twister.
For your amusement, an Indonesian tongue twister:
Kuku Kaki Kakak-kakakku
Kaku-kaku Kena
Kuku Kaki Kuda
It translates as:
Toenail Older Sibling
Stiff "Gotcha"
Horse Hoof
I know it makes no sense, I don't think it is suppose to. But there you go. Oh, another interesting piece of language trivia--the slang term for breasts is "buah dada" which means, wait for it, chest fruit or fruit of the chest.
We have tomorrow (Tuesday) off. Idul Friti was originally thought to be on Tuesday. I have not gotten a clear answer on why the date was uncertain, but Idul Friti was not definitely on Sunday until Saturday. Perhaps the moon has to be in a certain position because the Muslim calendar is lunar, but I honestly have no idea. But we still have Tuesday off, so whatever. On Wednesday our counterparts (the teachers we are assisting) arrive in Bandung. We have a couple days of seminars with them and then we travel with them to our sites on Saturday morning.
That's all for now. Have a great week!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Check Back! Sorry.

Okay, so once again it is late on Sunday night and I am too tired to blog. I went hiking today and while it was beautiful and I saw a very nice waterfall, I am exhausted. I will try again tomorrow, so check back Monday morning (if it is not there, check on Tuesday). I promise I will get it posted. Cassandra

Monday, September 14, 2009

New Post Below Ma'af Post

I did post a new blog, but because I started the draft before posting the explaination of why it was delayed it shows up below the Ma'af entry. Do not despair if you are looking for it, just scroll down. Thanks, Cassie

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Ma'af (Sorry in Indonesian)

I have written my blog post, but I am too tired to type it all. I will post it tomorrow night--which will be Monday morning for you. I found a site to watch the one TV show I didn't want to miss--Sons of Anarchy (a show on FX, not for everyone, but I love it). But the connection was so bad that it played for 3-5 seconds and froze for 3-10 seconds. A 45 min. show took 2 and half hours to watch. So I studied Bahasa and wrote my blog while watching it. Sorry for the delay and now I am off to bed.

Orientation in Bandung

So, quite a busy week. We have had a full week of language classes and teacher training. While I realize that these classes are important, I cannot say that I enjoy them. We begin at 8 am (I get up at 6 am to get ready and have breakfast and anyone who knows me realizes how unnatural that is for me), break at 12 pm for lunch, restart at 1 pm, and go again until 4 or 4:30 pm. It is all in one room for me with no windows (the room is nice, but sunlight would help to keep me awake). All together that equals monotony.

The one really interesting activity of training was a school visit on Tuesday morning. We were split into groups based on the type of school in which we will be teaching. I will be in a state high school (students compete to get into state high schools because it has little cost--private schools do not necessarily have high standards). I Googled my school and it seems like a very nice school (fingers crossed). Others will be in religious, vocational, or private schools.

I was pleasantly surprised by the school I visited. The grounds were pleasant and the people friendly. The lady that guided us though the school told us there were 1500 students with 40-45 students in about 30 classes. Generally, in Indonesia students stay in one classroom and the teachers move from class to class. Just as an interesting aside, no religion is not an option in Indonesia. Religion is a required subject in whatever religion you worship. If you happen to be a minority in your area, a teacher will be found for you (or so we were told). Secularism is a foreign concept here.

We had been warned that English teachers frequently graduate without actually speaking English. So, often English classes consist of no more than learning grammar out of a textbook. I was afraid that the students would speak no English, but in the classes we visited they did well.

The classes were shorter than normal because of Ramadan and the majority of the students and teachers were fasting. There were students practicing for the Haji (the trip to Mecca that all Muslims are called to perform if able). This is only practiced during Ramadan and is not a usual activity. I had never thought about people practicing for the Haji. When traveling it is amazing how much you come across that you had never even considered before.

Ramadan began on August 21 and ends in about a week. It is the holy month for Muslims and is a time of fasting. (Ramadan falls at a different time every year as it is celebrated on the original Muslim calendar, not the modern calendar.) The celebration at the end of Ramadan is the equivalent in many ways to Christmas. Ramadan has not really affected us too much because we are not expected to fast. It is considered impolite to consume food or drink in public, but we are in the hotel were it doesn't matter as much. Restaurants will cover windows to be polite. Muslims eat and drink before sunrise and then break their fast at sunset. On Thursday evening, AMINEF arranged for us to celebrate the end of the daily fast with a speaker and buffet. The speaker was an extremely interesting Indonesian woman who just returned a few months ago from teaching in the States on a Fulbright grant (the Fulbright has many different programs). She discussed the purpose of Ramadan--people fast to understand the plight of the poor and have empathy for those who are hungry--and her experience as a Muslim woman.

On Saturday we visited Suang Angklung Udjo--a foundation that provides musical training and gives performances of traditional Javanese music and dance. Part of the show consists in teaching the audience how to play the angklung--a traditional instrument made of bamboo. It was a lot of fun.

Bandang is a nice city but there are many things that take some getting used to: the smell and lack of crosswalks are right at the top of my list. Motorcycles are everywhere and are often the family vehicle. Today I saw one with a dad, mom, toddler, and baby. (And just to be clear, these are not large bikes, mostly mopeds). Driving around (even as a passenger) is nerve-wrecking as cars, people, buses, and bikes swarm everywhere. Distance between cars is non-existent and the most aggressive wins.

Now to the featured part of my blog: Cassandra's Firsts
First time to eat grilled rice (I didn't like it because it had coconut and I am not a fan); first time to try durian (previously mentioned in the blog, it is a very pungent fruit--I gagged, no more need to be said); first time to eat a mangostein (we learned about this fruit in language class and our teacher kindly brought some in for us to try--not related to mango, taste reminded me of a peach although it looked very different); first time to sing a song in Indonesian (called Lupa-lupa Ingat, its an extremely catchy song about forgetting lyrics but remembering the chords--here is a link to the YouTube video http://http// --it is a fun song, but as a heads up, the band's look is best described as a funky Kiss--our language teacher told us that to be famous you need to be beautiful or crazy, you can see which one they chose); first time to try Hookah (never did it in the States--it was okay); first time to play an angklung (fun!). Since my blog is a day late, I can add two more things from today. I tried snake fruit (so called because of its scaly peel, once you start to chew the taste is fine, but I can't overcome the initial waxy texture of the fruit). Finally, first time at a coffee tasting (I do not drink coffee, but some of us had been invited by one of the hotel employees to a local Starbucks where a friend worked--I tried the two coffees offered, but I was not converted to the coffee drinker club).

Well, that's all for now. Wish me luck with another week of training.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Life in Bandung

I have decided that I will try to blog every Sunday evening (which is Sunday morning for those in the States). My life is simply not exciting enough for a daily airing of my going-ons--even 10,000+ miles from home. We shall see how I stick to my self-imposed schedule.

So, I am now in Bandung. We arrived early Friday afternoon. Due to leave at 9 am, we were rounded up at 8:30 and told to get on the bus. While the Indonesians have the phrase "rubber time," surprisingly, we ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) have to be prepared to jump when Nellie (the person in charge of wrangling us) calls. The hotel here is as equally wonderful as Jakarta (better for me because I had ants in my bathroom there, bug-free here).

Saturday morning saw the continuation of orientation. We spent over an hour setting up the cell phones AMINEF provided for us--it took some doing. The phone wanted to know my religion--not sure why. We also had a briefing from the doctor on all the very many diseases one can acquire while in Indonesia. The worst one, in my humble opinion, is an anembe (not sure on spelling, but a parasite), the medicine seems almost as bad as having a parasite. Not to mention diagnosing requires at least three stool samples that you most collect and deliver to the lab yourself. (I am sorry if this is TMI for a few, but this is a concern for me and right at the top of my "Please God, Do Not Let This Happen to Me" list).

Tomorrow we start a full schedule of language classes in the morning and afternoon and teaching training in between. We have full days Monday-Fridays and half-days on Saturdays with Sundays free.

Today we went shopping. It was fun. Basically we take a taxi somewhere and start wandering. It is an adventure. A lot of the clothes are American brands--often made in Indonesia.

One of the adventures I have experienced is the public transportation--angkots. They look like VW vans and are all over the place. The vans are different colors to indicate routes. We have gotten in the wrong van twice, so far. Well, the second time was it not really wrong, we just got on the van on the wrong side of the street and took the loop. The driver was slightly confused, but we made it to our intended destintation. During this ride, there was 19 people in the angkot at one time--that may not sound like a lot to you, but I will put a picture up soon to show why this was impressive at the time. Most rides on the angkots are 2,000 Rupiahs (which is about $0.20), much cheaper than taxis.

The second, least fun adventure is crossing the street. There are stripes in the street for crossing but no one pays any attention. It is a not fun game of chicken. Sidewalks are obviously not a part of city budgets and I am often walking in the sidewalk area with motorcycles whizzing by with inches to spar. There are also open drains around the sidewalks with grayish water with floating garbage that stinks to high heaven. Despite these little hiccups, I am having a great time traversing the city and meeting some neat people.

To continue my list of firsts: first time to eat chicken bacon (Jakarta hotel served it for breakfast, it was tough and not very good): first time to eat Thai food (I had Pad Thai), this also includes another first, I tried tofu (it tasted the same as the Pad Thai and wasn't too bad); first time in a Angkot; first time in a resturant with lounge seats where you remove your shoes (we went to a resturant called Atmosphere on Friday with this set-up, took me while to get comfortable but fun); first time to hear the call to prayer (for some reason, I never heard it in Jakarta and I have only caught it twice here, it is lovely). Well that is all for now. Have a fabulous week!

P.S. Wish me luck learning Bahasa (that is what the locals call Indonesian) and figuring out how to teach English without boring the students to tears or confusing them.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

First Week in Indonesia

So, I was not going to blog. But then I started to realize how many emails I was going to have to write in the next nine months if I didn't have one spot to inform people about my life here.

In case anyone out there is unaware, I received a Fulbright scholarship to teach English in Indonesia with a very nice stipend and travel expenses. After orientation, which is currently going on, I will be in the city of Surabaya. Surabaya is the capital of East Java (the country's capital of Jakarta is in West Java) and it is the second largest city after Jakarta.

I left the States on August 28, 2009. First, I flew from Indianapolis to Chicago. In the Chicago airport I was able to find a group of Fulbrighters and we chatted before the plane ride to Hong Kong. I lucked out on the 15 hour plane ride. In the last row there were two seats that I got all to myself. It wasn't the greatest 15 hours of my life, but I didn't want to shoot myself either. I left the states at 10:20 am and arrived in Hong Kong at 4:30 pm on August 29.

In Hong Kong, we waited for our connecting flight to Singapore--which is a three and half hour ride. Arriving in Singapore late in the evening, we were taken to a nice hotel for the night. The next morning, it is back to the airport for travel to Jakarta.

There was a brief moment of worry when the Indonesian airline could not locate our luggage. The bags had been checked through to Jakarta. But bags were apparently found and we boarded the plane.

As a piece of information you may or may not wish to know, no Indonesian airplanes are allowed to fly in the EU or US. So, the one point in the trip I forget to take Dramine, I seriously regretted. While climbing to cruising altitude, butts flew out of the seats and there was some serious rocking. But all is well that ends well.

It was amazing to finally be Indonesia. The hotel that we are in is very nice and the staff is extremely friendly. AMINEF (the American Indonesian Exchange Foundation) is in charge of us and has provided for us well. We have had orientation the past few days with general information on security, health, and the importance of our mission here. We have mostly had our afternoons free, so I have seen a great mall, a wonderful zoo, and a neat amusement park that was loads of fun. (I will eventually get the photos posted to Facebook).

It was been a fun few days and I am looking forward to the continuing orientation in the city of Bandung (we travel there tomorrow, Friday, Sept. 4) for language and teaching training. Through the orientation I have become aware of the great potential that lays before me. English is a great skill to possess and I may be able to help someone better their life. I am excited and nervous about teaching, but I will have a better feel after we receive some training.

Well, here is a list of firsts: first time in Asia, first plane ride over 9 hours, first time using chopsticks (not as hard as I thought), first time using a squat toilet (harder than I thought, this could be a blog topic by itself, needless to say I will have to practice my squatting techinque), first time seeing a mouse in the mall (that was in a rather yucky mall we visited), FIRST EARTHQUAKE (didn't realize it was an earthquake at the time), first time on a simulator theater ride (just never did it in the States, but it was really fun), first hot dog pizza (sausage here is really similar to hot dog, it looks and tastes the same, so a sausage pizza tastes like it has hot dog on it), first time I took a 1 million anything out of the ATM (the conversion rate is 10,000 Rupiah per $1, so 1,000,000 Rupiah is only a $100), first time I placed a call over the internet (Skype is amazing, I called my mom, grandma, and dad and talked for almost an hour combined for only a little over a dollar--if you have or get Skype, you can find me with my name), first time I have eaten dragon and passion fruit (they are different), first time I have had to have my bag checked and walk through a metal detector everytime I enter a hotel (it is fine, I feel safe here). That is all that I can think of right now, but there are probably one or two I can't remember.

I hope you enjoy my ramblings on my various adventures. I will blog again when I have 1) internet, 2) time, and 3) energy. Selmat Tinggl and Selmat Malam. (That's Good-bye and Good Night).