Humans adapt. We develop routines. So here I am, still living in Java, subsisting off of nasi pecel, getting caught in thunderstorms on my bicycle, co-teaching classes, editing the volunteer newsletter, yada yada yada.
We’re still doing it. Teaching, talking, planning, and then hiding when the introversion takes over. But for the most part I’m regularly socializing beyond capacity. Often, that goes along with scandalizing everyone around me with the realities of US culture (particularly because it’s so easy to do). Same-sex marriage??? No rice paddies???? Your sister lives with her BOYFRIEND?!?!?! All in the name of cultural exchange, of course. But since the family flew back home in early January, things haven’t slowed down. Ramadan, where are you?? This girl needs a breather.
Indonesian Girls Leading Our World
In January we held Madiun’s first regional IGLOW. It’s a leadership camp that stands for “Indonesian Girls Leading Our World.” I took students to an IGLOW camp in Jombang, East Java last April. This year, we brought the program to my site and hosted it at my school, with the help of 5 other Peace Corps Volunteers and 14 Indonesian volunteers. There had been previous IGLOW camps in Madiun, but they were always linked to a single school. We planned this one differently, inviting students from 12 different schools in the region. Our planning committee included teachers from other schools, a guidance counselor, freelancers, and recent high school- and university graduates. This was a major team and the event was successful because of their work.
I even spoke at the beginning of the event, to help open it, which is something I would normally avoid at all costs. This was not an English language camp; the entire event was in Bahasa Indonesia. My principal promptly corrected my mistakes in front of everyone, it was great.
But let’s get to the main event. About sixty middle- and high school girls joined the camp, which lasted for two days and one night. Campers attended three workshops: 1) “Career Panel” with an entrepreneur, radio host, novelist, and Fulbright recipient; 2) “Self-esteem and Countering Bullying” led by a psychologist 3) “Reproductive Health and Women’s Advocacy” led by a doctor.
Campers also made batik with a local art teacher, did Zumba, and performed small group dances around a bonfire. I learned how to write a grant, we met almost all of our project indicators, and the campers gave positive feedback. It feels great to have that project behind us.
Saturdays at an Elementary School
I also found myself back at a local madrasah (Islamic) elementary school for several weekends the past two months. Sometimes things start joyously. A girl surprises me with a hug, or a boy gifts me a chocolate bar, and I think, THIS IS THE BEST. And then we do activities, and I remember why I cannot teach children. Thank god the full-time English teachers are there to manage everything. I’ve learned that I can move across the world, learn a third language, team-teach, run a marathon, and survive some pretty bizarre social interactions. but I cannot manage thirty—let alone 90—small children. Cannot do it. No sir. No thank you. But they’re cute, for sure.
Three weeks ago, my entire cohort met in Surabaya for Mid-Service Conference. I missed the group photo, and have received more than a dozen concerned texts along the lines of WHERE ARE YOU. I’m ok. Still alive, still doing all of the things.
My cohort has been in Indonesia for nearly a year and a half, with about 9 months left. Time is moving a lot faster than it was last March. Last week, I got to lead two after-school writing workshops to prepare students for a creative writing contest. Later in March, I’ll join a panel about writing, lead teacher training workshops, and take students to a speech competition. Every weekend is booked.
Before coming to Indonesia, I expected a slow pace of life and a lot of indirect communication. Neither of these have turned out to be true. Weeks fly by and although I’ve been here over a year, I still haven’t learned to cook Indonesian food. It’s something I assumed I would spend a lot of time doing, but the school schedule and Saturday commitments haven’t allowed for it. So that’s what I’m hoping to do these next months: spend more time in the kitchen, learning from my host family.