Alumna Blog: On Assignment in Indonesia
by Lauren Ebersole '07
Based on responses to my last entry I feel a little pressure to keep up the quality. Prepare to be disappointed. I never should have led with squatty potties; I just can't top squatty potties. But here are some observations from the last week:
Working at KFC [Kentucky Fried Chicken] appears to be as terrible a job in Indonesia as it is in the US.
There is a fine line between being an amazing driver and being a terrible driver.
Dumping a bucket of cold water over your head as a shower is never enjoyable, even if you've been sweating for 18 hours a day. Actually Malang has a much better climate than Jakarta. Now, I'm usually only sweating when I'm moving. The nights I would even consider pleasant.
It is shockingly easy to become accustomed to using your hand as toilet paper. Save a tree, use your hand.
The two most important phrases in Indonesian are sudah makan and sudah kenyang. They mean I've already eaten and I'm already full. Without these phrases I think I would burst from rice consumption.
Always listen to your mother, even if she is not technically your mother. The other volunteers in my village and myself decided to take a walk through the rice fields after it had rained. My host mother told me I should put shoes on, but I was sure my sandals would be fine. Actually they were my host mother's sandals. Of course I slipped and got my pants all muddy.
I think my host family may be learning English faster than I am learning Indonesian. They are now trained to say "I don't know" whenever I get a certain look on my face; a look that clearly reads, "You are speaking too quickly and I can only understand every 4th word you have said." Even my 4 year old host brother mocks me with I don't know. I fear the look may become permanent, kind of like when your mother told you your eyes could get stuck cross-eyed.
Evidently, women do not really play soccer here, but that hasn't stopped me or the other women volunteers in my village. We actually have a pretty good team going and hopefully, we'll be able to play once a week in Batu. The Indonesians we played against didn't seem to mind playing against women, although I think they may have been surprised that we are good.
A few answers to people's questions: I will be teaching English after training. I'll be team-teaching with an Indonesian counterpart. We started a practicum of sorts this week, first observing a class and next week beginning to teach. The class I observed was quite impressive. The students were very enthusiastic and their English was quite good. They started class with an information/sharing session and one boy stood up to say that he was sorry for his bad behavior and that he was trying to become a better person. I was floored and couldn't imagine a 10th grade boy in America doing that in class.
At this point, the address to send anything is the University in Malang, but I don't really need anything yet. Once I'm at my actual work site I should have a more permanent address. I have four other volunteers in my village — all within about a 4-minute walk. The other 15 volunteers are in 3 villages close by. Everyone is living with a host family, all of which seem to be better than our original expectations. No straw huts or fetching water from the stream. A few people even have sitting toilets and one person has hot water.
Please continue to write back, ask questions, tell me what's going on in your lives — I get excited to see how many emails I have.
Everyone take care — Love always, Lauren
PHOTOS: On Assignment in Indonesia