Alumna Blog: On Assignment in Indonesia
sepa bola dan pantai
by Lauren Ebersole '07
Much has happened in the past week. Two Saturdays ago, I went to an Arema soccer game with a group of fellow volunteers. Arema is the team from Malang and also the best team in the Indonesian Super League. The stadium is outside the city in an absolutely beautiful spot with a mountain rising up behind the stadium. Not a great game of soccer, but a wonderful atmosphere with constant singing and dancing from the crowd. My favorite part was the manual scoreboard, haven't seen that in the U.S. lately.
On Sunday, Sarah's host mother [Sarah is another volunteer] planned a walk around the village. Like many things here I had the completely wrong expectation. The five volunteers in my village thought we were going on a nice walk with Sarah's mom to see more of the village. Instead, we walked out of the house into a crowd of 30 village women all wearing matching bright blue walking outfits. Evidently there is a walking club in the village. About 5 minutes into the walk, it started to pour so we waited on the porch of a few nearby houses. I somehow got separated from the rest of the Americans so I was trying to hold a conversation in Indonesian with about 15 women. I was quizzed on body parts and when I didn't know the word for breast, one woman told me susu, which means milk.
Also this week I started teaching in the classroom. I am teaching with another volunteer and we are matched with an Indonesian teacher as well. Our first lesson was on descriptive words. We had them describe us and then passed around some pictures for them to describe in groups. The students were surprised when they saw the picture of the Catawba soccer team and very interested in the photo of my sister Courtney's wedding. All in all it went well for a first lesson, however lots to work on in the next few months before I'm actually put at my school.
On Friday we taught another class, but that was more of an introduction of ourselves and a Q & A session. We are teaching at one of the best schools in Malang, but nothing is scheduled well and I'm not convinced the teachers know what is going on. Most of the English teachers didn't teach on the original days we were supposed to go to the school and some of them don't have many classes now because 12th graders are done for the year. Many of the teachers aren't providing much direction and are sort of just sending us into the classroom and saying do whatever you want. Luckily, I was matched with a great counterpart who is very helpful. She told me some interesting Javanese superstitions, so here are a few:
- Women should not stand in doorways because it keeps them from finding their soul mate.
- Women should not sweep at night because it is unlucky.
- A pregnant woman should step on the foot of the person she wants her baby to look like.
- If you dream about a tooth being pulled out it means someone in your family is going to die.
My host family lives in a very nice house on top of their store. For anyone who wanted me to live in a straw hut, it's not happening. I have my own room with a big bed, a wardrobe, a small table, and a fan. The house is very colorful and has tiled floors in every room. There is a TV that usually has something in English, although frequently it seems to be a Jean Claude van Dam movie. I wash my clothes by hand, which is not quite as fun as it sounds. My host family is Muslim, along with 90% of the country. They are not super conservative, but my mother does wear a head covering whenever she leaves the house and I'm pretty sure they pray five times a day, although I haven't actually seen them.
There are numerous mosques throughout the village. The 4:30 am call to prayer is a good wake up call. My 13 year old host sister seems much more mature than I was at that age. She is often left to take care of things in the store if her parents need to go somewhere. I spend a fair amount of time at Sarah's house; her mother and my mother are sisters. Our host grandmother has been sick, so for the past week I've been eating most of my meals at Sarah's house. Indonesian culture is extremely collectivist. The other day, my host brother was at Sarah's house while Sarah's host brother was across the street at another volunteer's house. The saying really is true here: It takes a village. Like other Asian countries, you take your shoes off before entering a house. We also take our shoes off when we enter a classroom, no shoes while teaching is kind of relaxing. Indonesians eat many things with their hands, but if they use utensils, a spoon is used
in the right hand and a fork in the left. They don't use knives to eat, only for cooking. Rice, tempe and tofu are staples in the diet. Much of the food is fried and Ienjoy most of the food I've eaten, with only a few exceptions. Bakso for instance is not my favorite, kind of this weird ground up not sure what kind of meat ball. A favorite hobby of many people is to compare skin color, evidently white skin is favorable.
All 19 volunteers [one volunteer went home] went to the beach this past weekend. It was nice to get away for a bit. The beach was primarily a fishing area, with many boats docked on shore. We rented a boat to take us to a nearby island where the water was this beautiful blue green. The water waslike bath water, well bath water in the US, not bath water here. And here's the real kicker, we actually saw dolphins swimming about 20 feet from us. Even with my SPF 50 sun block I still got burnt, so now when my family compares skin color they say merah instead of putih, red instead of white.
Random observation: There is no limit to what you can fit on a motorcycle or how many people you can fit into a van.
Hope all is well.
Love always, Lauren
PHOTOS: On Assignment in Indonesia