Friday, October 30, 2009

Week 5: Open House, A cappella, Cooking...School

This week, Indonesia is feeling very normal. I've become more than accustomed to the food (which I love more each week). I fill my plate or bowl at every meal, mix everything together, add alot of sambal (a chili paste), and eat everything in about 4 minutes.

I'm doing an open house thing on Tuesday nights, inviting the boys to come hang out while we play music and chess and cook American food. The first one was this week. I made pasta with eggs and stir fried broccoli and green peppers, in a bolognese sauce. Students stared at the map of the USA, played guitar while blasting All-American Rejects, and were generally contented to "party," as they called it. "Let's having a party!!!" was frequently spoken throughout the hour or so that students were hanging out. Here's some pictures:

I also had the first two rehearsals of an a cappella group, whose name is yet to be decided. I chose 10 students who showed some promise out of a group of 25. We have 6 boys and 4 girls, or more accurately, 6 baritones and 4 altos. But we're making do. Rehearsal is slow going, but the students are talented and they sound great. They just aren't used to reading music or singing in parts this way. I had them choose some songs last week. They selected 1, 2, 3, 4 by the Plain White Tees, a song by Avril Lavigne about missing you, and that song When You Believe about hope being frail but hard to kill. So over last weekend I put together an easier 4-part arrangement of 1, 2, 3, 4 and we got started. We've sludged through most of it this week. I want to find something even easier to introduce next week just to work on the concepts of chords and tuning.

I also realized this morning that I haven't written a whole lot about my actual job of teaching. I teach 20 hours per week, the maximum allowed by the Fulbright program here in Indonesia. I teach two classes on Mondays, one on Tuesdays, three on Wednesdays, and four on Thursdays. I teach 8 classes once and one class twice. These classes make up the entirety of the tenth and eleventh grades at Dwiwarna.
Whenever I'm teaching, I'm really working with another teacher as an assistant. I assist three teachers: Ibu (meaning mother, but used as something like Mrs. here) Cucu (pronounced choo-choo like a train whistle), Pak (father, but again used as something like Mr.) Aris, and Pak Rezki. They are each assigned different parts of the English curriculum. Pak Aris teaches grammar, Pak Rezki teaches things like narratives and showing sympathy, and Ibu Cucu teaches things like introductions, invitations, and announcements.
Each class period runs about 80 minutes broken into two 40-minute periods. Generally, the other teachers will go into their bit, with occasional modeling, visual aid, explanation, elaboration, or other assistance from me, followed by some time where I get to "do my thing," whatever that means. This week, it meant having the students write letters to Barack Obama, talking about their hopes for Indonesian-US foreign relations and their wants of him as president. After I received the letters, I read them through and we discussed about common points that students brought up. Many students asked Obama to help the poor, to end war (especially in Palestine, as they strongly empathize with the Muslims there), and to (correspondingly) bring about world peace. We talked about links to Islamic values evident in the Dwiwarna student letters. I think they enjoyed it and it was interesting for me to see what they had to say.
Each week I'll do some activity or game akin to this with goals of getting students to speak in class, have fun, and share or engage cultures. And that's pretty much my job. I've been enjoying it enough that I think I'll pursue teaching high school students next year in the US.

I brought Tuesday night's meal to the kitchen again for lunch today. This is what Friday morning usually looks like for me - good food, some guava juice, and my trusty computer. This is home for 7 more months:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Week 4: Eyang's Birthday, Botanical Gardens

This past weekend was Eyang's birthday! I decided to try public transportation to get to Pejompongan this time instead of using a taxi. It was pretty easy - I just walked out the Dwiwarna gates, hopped on an angkot to Pasar Parung (Parung's market), walked across the street and got on another angkot to Lebat Bulus (bus station), then hopped on the busway to ITC Permata Hijau. This put me within 10-20 minutes drive of the Fathony's house. An angkot is a bus with no door on the side of it. They drive regular routes and usually have a sign on the bag saying where they run to/from. You just hop on and yell kiri, or left (they drive on the left side of the road so left here means something akin to 'pull over'), when you want the driver to stop. Each angkot ride is 2,000rp. That's 20 cents. The busway ride, on a new, air-conditioned and comfortable bus, was 3,500rp, or roughly 35 cents. Even with a short taxi ride (~$1.50-2) from ITC Permata Hijau, that's a total cost of less than 3 bucks for about 2 hours of travel. You can see me and the fam in the above shot, and below. In both shots the birthday girl is seated in the middle of the couch:

The next day we left for Bogor, to go to the famed botanical gardens. It was a sunny Saturday morning as Nina, Herul, Sabina and I departed Pejompongan. We managed to see most of the massive gardens and get out just before massive rainfall came. Check out some of the shots:

Herul climbing like an orang utan:

This tree was really big:


These things sort of look like beehives, but they are just masses of millions of bees. There were 5 or 6 of these groups at the top of this massive tree:

These guys are supposed to be power rangers or something. I have no idea what this was about, they were just there as we drove through part of the gardens:

In the Orchidarum:

One tree released these cotton-like things that I am told are used for bedding:

An orang utan in my own right:

Week 3: Taman Safari

After a full day at the farm Saturday, I went to Taman Safari near Bogor, again with Christine (fellow ETA station in nearby Depok) and one of her students. His family drove us. We stopped at Cimory, a dairy farm, on the way there. Talk about segar! (fresh) The milk and yogurt were some of the best I have ever had.

Then we got to the so-called safari. Imagine a zoo that you peruse from the comfort of your car. Now pretend you are in Indonesia. Basically, the animals had no cages or fences. They had areas that they were sort of confined to (by guys running after them and guiding them back, or by big gates that closed off one area from another - especially around the tiger/lion/grizzly areas). So they run unhindered up to your car doors, where you yield a tasty treat - a carrot! The elephants were especially good at this game. If you gave them a carrot, they would eat it. But if you gave them money, they would hand it to the guy on their back. Elephant trunks are so weird.


Where's Waldo? What jungle animal is hidden in this shot:

it's a leopard and you can barely see its face right at the bottom of the frame about a third of the way from the left

What personality. A face only a mother could love. Or a face for radio:

The student's father said, as we approached the zebras, "zebras are from America, right?" Right.

This guy's from America though:

The heartbreaking part of the whole endeavor was the "Baby Zoo" at the end. They had a bunch of little gazebos with baby animals where you could pay an extra fee and get your picture taken with them. The animals of course had no interest in being there, but they were forced to go back and forth onto someone else's lap for shot after shot. The guys who handled them would force their faces to look toward the camera each time, too. It felt like what should come to your mind when you think of 'zoo consumerism.' This little fella bit the guard's hand right after this shot took place:

The Indonesian student insisted that we get a picture with this guy, an orangutan (from Indonesian orang, person, and utan, forest). I couldn't even smile in the picture. Here's the guard moving him off one person before going on to the next customer:

Week 3: The Fathony's Farm

Last weekend I made plans to finally get out and see the Fathony's farm. Christine joined me, and on Saturday morning we left with Sabina and Herul for Jongol - in the direction of Bandung from Jakarta. It was a sunny and bright morning.

The drive takes about two hours. As you get closer to the farm, things look more and more like the sticks:

Here are some ladies handpicking peanuts:

By the time we arrived at the farm, I was beyond pumped. The scenes from the car en route felt more like the Indonesia I had dreamed up in my head before going. This has mostly to do with the prevalence of space in our country. Jakarta, Parung, Bogor, and all the roads in between are packed with warungs (food stalls) and other shops and stores. There is no open space that isn't really used for anything (except overgrown buildings, which aren't space I guess). To see large open fields and mountains and low population density was extremely refreshing.

The farm sits on a beautiful 6 or 7 hectares of hilly land in Jongol. After meandering down the entrance path, you arrive at this main structure, which has a bedroom, bathroom, and sitting areas down overlooking the pond. Herul likes to fish from this comfy spot:

After a siesta in the hot Saturday sun, we left for the grand tour. They have about 70 chickens, thousands of trees (both timber and fruit), and two bodies of water for fish and a third under construction. Here's a bridge that Herul built. Did I mention that he also built the house back at the beginning? The pond under construction is visible on the lower right:

The farm also has some stunning views, with jagged mountains overlooking the scene. After weeks in Parung, it's hard to imagine these pictures are from the same island:

This is a close-up of the primary timber crop Herul is growing. It's a tree that grows very fast. He's growing some 5 or 6 thousand of these. With any luck, they'll bring in a billion! (rupiah...)
Note the ant crawling down the trunk on the bottom left. Those guys are the nasty kind:

Here's one of the functional ponds:

Fruit grown here includes durian (the king of fruit), mangoes, jackfruit, oranges, and yes, pineapples:

After the grand tour we went to a nearby Chinese graveyard area. It's pretty beautiful there as well. When we walked around near the graves, I made a comment about how the arrangement of gravesites with big mounds of grassy dirt, along with the pleasant view of the mountains nearby, would make it a perfect place for a golf course. Graveyard Golf. Need all the help you can get with your game? Tee off over the spirits of your ancestors! Almost immediately, an enormous crack of thunder erupted from only several kilometers away. Needless to say we took it as a sign and quickly left:

While he showed us around the farm, Herul picked up some wasp nests and crickets and put them in his pocket for the fishing he did later:

One of the coolest parts of that day was killing our dinner. I had never seen chicken killed before, or even been around chicken much for that matter. Christine, rather admirably I thought, insisted on getting the opportunity to do the killing herself, as a matter of philosophical consistency with eating the meat. In what was an emotional experience, she cut the first chicken's throat and had Herul's help cutting the second. We then took out the feathers and grilled them over a fire with bamboo sticks. It was the freshest chicken I have ever had:

This one is from earlier, Friday night, playing chess at the Fathony's place in Pejompongan, Jakarta:

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Week 3: Classrooms, Rain, American Football

Each night after dinner, Dwiwarna puts loaf after loaf of the above sandwiches along with boxes of Milo for a night snack in the boys' dormitory. The 'sandwiches' are always heavily buttered and filled with chocolate paste and chocolate sprinkles, cheese, or some kind of flavored jelly. Students and security guards alike take the sandwiches and peel them slightly apart before adding loads of Milo. I'm not sure what Milo is, but it doesn't exist in the US and they absolutely love the stuff here. It's a chocolate type milk sugar powder made by Nestle. When I eat it I get visions of men in labcoats designing addictive chemicals to add to the chocolate powder for kids. The security guards and students dump piles of the powdery mystery onto their already smothered sandwiches.

During orientation, we spent alot of time discussing the larger classroom sizes in Indonesia and their attendant difficulties. At Dwiwarna, however, classrooms remind me of my private high school. All of them have air conditioning. 12 students or so is the norm. They have Smartboards, which are advanced enough that I had never even heard of them before coming here (basically they are giant touch-screens that if you have the right software you can use as a touch-screen computer projector). I have only seen them used this way once or twice at this point so it seems like one of those features that is more about bragging rights than actual usefulness, but who can really say. All I know is I (and even moreso the students) am extremely privileged to be at this school:

I miss the seasons for sure, but I love the rain here. It is almost always accompanied by massive thunder and lightning. And it rains HARD. The kind of rain you can just sit for a half an hour and watch and listen, not doing anything else. Hopefully it will keep me mesmerized for 7 more months. Also worth noting is the weather pattern with rain isn't like in the Northeast. It is almost always sunny in the morning. If it rains, it usually rains in the afternoon and maybe on into the night. Here's a picture of the main school building area in the downpour:

There is a large group of students at Dwiwarna who love American football (even though they don't really know what it is). They will even get together to play it after school - but usually only in the pouring rain. Playing football in a torrential downpour with massive thunder and lightning didn't seem like a good idea at first, but it really grew on me. Here's the main area, much of which is covered in little ponds of water, where we play football:

Monday, October 12, 2009

Week 3: Ab's Departure, More DW Shots

Ab had been stationed in Padang, where the 7.6 earthquake destroyed part of his school and much of the city's infrastructure. He was laying over at Dwi Warna with me last week before AMINEF could find him a new school. So, Sunday morning Ab left for Tana Tauraja, Sulawesi. The school and I will dearly miss him! But I'm sure he is happy to finally get settled.

I didn't have anything to do Sunday, so I wandered around campus and practiced some more shots with the new camera. Enjoy - these took FOREVER to load on the Indonet:

The canteen, where I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They don't have food selection here. There is one meal. Fortunately, it has so far always been decent and sometimes delicious:

The basketball court. The covering sort of protects it from rain, but when it really comes down, the rain comes sideways and the covering is as the students tell me, "useless." I spend a couple hours of most afternoons here:

The swimming pool, just below the basketball court. From the above shot, you would turn to your right and walk 20 feet:

The gorgeous mosque, or masjid, where students pray five times each day:

Artsy shot of a blooming flower outside near the classrooms: