Wednesday, November 11, 2009

To Recap...

Okay, first I am sorry that it has taken me so long to post anything new. In my defense, I have been busy and I always seemed to remember my blog as I was going to bed. It is going to be a pretty long post. I started writing the day after I posted last and just bought it up to speed yesterday (now two days ago) while I was waiting after classes to go to the principal’s house for her birthday party.

So, I guess that is a good place to start and then I will go back. In Indonesia birthdays are quite different than in the USA. It is the job of the person having the birthday to treat others, not be treated by others. When some the teachers have had birthdays, they arrange for food to be available to all the others. But as the principal is the head of the school, the school had a shortened schedule and all the teachers went to her house for a birthday party. She had her front room open with plates of boiled peanuts for snacks—we sat on the floor as that is quite common here. Then there was a recitation of the Koran, prayers, and speeches. As it was either in Arabic or Indonesian, I didn’t understand any of it and just sat quietly—although I frequently pray while the others are too. After the religious element (religion is a central part of life here, regardless of the religion), it was time for the meal. It was quite a spread. As I was not very hungry, I just had bakso, which consists of meatballs (different than USA as there is flour mixed in) with broth over noodles. It is one of my favorite dishes here. Everyone received a small box with a slice of cake, fruit tart, and pastry to take home. These boxes are quite popular and it is quite common for food to be given to others to celebrate something or another.

So the blog I started the day after the last post goes as follows: On Friday morning (several weeks ago now), there was the monthly “coffee morning”—which does not actually involve coffee at all. It is a teacher’s meeting, while students have a reading day. So, there was a lot of speaking in Indonesian which I didn’t understand, so with my copy of the 10th grade class lists, I figured out the 10th grade demographics. For your information:

There are 343 total students in the 10th grade with 9 classes (eight with 38 students and one with 39). Boys represent 45% and girls 55%. And as religion is listed: 92% are Muslim, 5% Protestant, and both Catholic and Hindu make up 1% each. (I know this is not exact, but it is the best I could do with my limited math skills).

There are many female teachers and students that wear headscarves, but obviously not everyone who is Muslim chooses to wear one. Although I am sure there are parts of Indonesia where it is less of a choice, at least on most of Java it is an individual decision. I have never seen facial coverings here, but women that wear headscarves also cover most of their skin (although the clothes tend to be are very fashionable)—sleeves to wrist with tunics that generally come to at least the upper thigh with pants or long skirts.

At the malls and others places, many people dress in a very Western fashion. In fact, my first few days I was quite surprised by the amount of skin some women showed. Just goes to show what happens when you make assumptions.

My first experience teaching went pretty well. I taught all the 10th grade classes. I made table tents for the students, so I have some chance of learning their names. I brought in the folded paper and had them write and decorate their names. I made an example and brought markers for them to use. They seemed to enjoy it and I got several smiles when I explained it is called a table tent because it is folded like a tent and sits on a table.

After the table tents I explained the “if you can hear my voice, clap once” trick. So far it is working pretty well. I would categorize most of the students as high beginners with a few as low to high immediate and a few as basic beginners that understand almost nothing I say. It will be a constant challenge to engage everyone and not let them just sit there. For the most part, the classes are well-behaved and with only the usual talking and use of handphones (the Indonesian term for cell phone). But there are a few classes with disruptive boys that will try my patience.
It is culturally inappropriate to show anger here, so I will need to be careful. We shall see.

So far all my classes have gone fairly well with no major problems. I just need to find newer and better ways to engage the classes. Often I speak more than I should and I need to think of ways to get them to talk—I am working on it.

I have seen a few movies at the nearby theater. The movies cost $1.50 Monday-Thursday, $2 on Fridays, and $2.50 on Saturdays and Sundays. No change for movie time, only the day. There is assigned seating—when you purchase your ticket you pick your seat on a computer screen. It is similar in that when I got nachos and a drink, it cost more than the movie. It is a very nice theater and I enjoy going there.

A couple of weeks ago, two local ETAs slept a Thursday night at my house in Surabaya. On Friday morning, they went to school with me and after we went to visit the US Consulate. One of the other ETAs set up the appointment to discuss outreach programs and invited me and another ETA to join. The people at the Consulate were extremely welcoming and friendly. In fact, this coming Thursday we are going to the Public Affairs Officer’s home for dinner. Also, the Consulate General hosts a Thanksgiving party and invites local Americans, so I will have a nice Thanksgiving dinner.

We are now at the part that I just wrote in the past few days. I visited Madura Island a few weekends ago. It is just north of Surabaya with a new bridge that connects the two places. I believe the bridge is the longest in Southeast Asia—at 4 kilometers. We went to Madura to see the bull races. It was the championship where bulls from across Madura came to the capital city. On Saturday evening, there was a cultural concert with some awesome dances. The bull race was Sunday. We stayed in a hotel at a vocational school—obviously the students help run it—hospitality is an important part of the curriculum at vocational schools. The bull race was interesting, but it was difficult to see, very crowded, and very hot. There are two bulls yoked together and a long pole that runs down the middle of the yoke; the rider somehow stands on this pole and seemed to grip the bulls’ tails. I had no idea that bulls could run so fast.

I don’t think many foreigners make it to Madura, so it was like I was a celebrity. It was lots of fun at first, but by Sunday afternoon it was a bit wearing. Madura’s culture is a bit more forward than Javanese, so some people were a little bit more pushy in getting the foreigner’s attention. It was especially aggravating because a few times as I walked through the crowd people touched my arms—I didn’t like it, but it was fleeting, so I just kept walking. When my friend and I first arrived at the bull race, a private English teacher attached himself to us and would not go away. I stopped being friendly when he started talking about going to America by marrying a tourist.

It was my first trip outside Surabaya and I had a good time. Unfortunately the bus coming back was not air-conditioned and overcrowded to boot, so the ride back was less than comfortable, but its all part of the experience.

For Halloween, my Surabaya buddy (the other ETA here) and her counterpart (an extremely nice, young Muslim woman) went out to eat and to a restaurant/bar that decorated for the holiday. The only downside to the evening was a drunk local that “likes Americans” and would not leave us alone. When he bumped into our Muslim friend (she wears a headscarf and it is inappropriate for men to touch causally), my American friend had to firmly tell him to leave us alone. But is was overall a nice night.

The next day, Sunday, we rented a car and driver to visit a local safari park. On the way there we visited a Muslim boarding school where our Muslim friend use to work. We answered questions and took pictures. It was likely the first they had seen, not to mention, talked to Americans.

The safari park was awesome! Safari parks seem to be very popular on Java. The animals seemed well-cared for, so there were no guilty feelings. I have never been so close to so many animals. I touched a zebra, elephant, and a baby tiger and I held a baby lion and a pair of baby orangutans.

Unfortunately, I have experienced my first really bad case of stomach sickness. (I think it was caused by a cheeseburger, of all things, but it is hard to pin down.) When it was obviously not going away quickly, I took my supply of Cipro and it worked wonders and I felt well enough for my trip to Bali. I missed school the on the day before I was suppose to leave, so I was a bit worried.

I left for Bali on Friday afternoon, I have one Friday morning class. It was a less than 30 minute flight from Surabaya (and if not for the cost, I would want to go there all the time). It was one of my friend’s birthday, so that was impetus for the trip. Our hotel was at the end of a busy street, so Friday night we just moved from one restaurant/bar to another that looked interesting. Bali is gay-friendly, but the town we stayed in (Seminyak) is especially so and our first stop was a gay bar with a drag show—it was fun. Unfortunately, my favorite drink is nonexistent here (a fuzzy navel—peach schnapps and OJ—maybe because peaches are not common here), but my stomach could not handle much anyway.

The next day we hired a car and driver to take us Ubud which is further inland. First, we stopped to see a traditional Balinese dance which was really neat. As we came in, there was a woman dressed in traditional costume and a man taking pictures. On the way out they had plates for sale with the pictures on them. There were not many, but I happened to be one of them. I almost didn’t buy the plate—it is cheesy—but after walking away, I thought how often do you see a plate with your face and I went back and brought it.

After the play, we went to a store that had people making batik—batik is made by hand-painting wax on a design on cloth to control which parts get dyed certain colors. Unfortunately, they did not have the dyeing for us to see, but the rest was very neat. Next, we went to a jewelry store where I spent too much money, but got some great jewelry (so whatever).

Then we went to the Sacred Monkey Forest. It is not overly large, but monkeys move around freely. These are not warm, fuzzy monkeys, mind you, but macaques and can be quite aggressive. We chose not to buy the bananas for sale because the guide book warned to be careful. There was an American woman there that was stupid with the bananas and got bit. It was embarrassing as an American because she was quite loud and obnoxious (even before being bit).

My plane left Sunday evening, so a friend and I spent the day walking around and ended up at the beach. It was so beautiful and at least 10 degrees cooler on the beach. The water was also pleasantly cool. We walked in the surf and found some neat shells. It was an awesome weekend!!!

School is going well. Some of my classes are hit-and-miss, but I am still learning. The family I stay with is extremely nice and has invited me out with them several times. I am currently practicing a hula dance as my “Indonesian mother” is the MC of a charity Hawaiian party and I am part of the entertainment. Again, we shall see. The party is November 22. It is some type of hula love dance that I have to do with one of the helpers. I am trying to just embrace the ridiculousness of the situation. Well, enough for now. Later!

I will post a list of firsts soon--there are quite a few!!!

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