That being said, here is how this entry will go:
HERE ARE THREE INTERESTING THINGS THAT HAVE HAPPENED TO ME RECENTLY:
- I taught my first Spanish class (at the request of students) with a huge turnout of overwhelmingly enthusiastic and engaged estudiantes, and while I am following in the Senor Chang/Peggy Hill line of Spanish teachers (having studied the language only briefly about thirteen years ago), I would venture that it is definitely the best (re: only) Spanish class in my district.
- I saw a man who speaks no English and has heard the song maybe six times in his life mumble/shout/yowl through ‘Mustang Sally’ with a pretty solid backing band. The experience was transcendent.
- I traveled 21 out of 28 hours over a Saturday-Sunday after a week of very little sleep and learned that this is a sure cause for absolute and total exhaustion.
Let’s talk about my new home by talking about my old one first. (Sounds reasonable.) I recently took a week back in East Java for meetings with government partners, training for the newest batch of volunteers, and a trip back to my old school. The visit was the highlight of my month, though I was immediately (and a bit awkwardly) aware that while this homecoming was important to me because I’ve moved, I haven’t been away for very long and things keep going without me; it’s a school, their whole deal is moving on and moving on every year.
It was incredibly heartening to see my former co-teachers and other partners at work, excitedly talking about the activities and practices they’ve continued and improved upon and made their own, to meet new students and pop in on old ones. I didn’t get to see everyone I wanted to because of the whirlwind (and exhausting, as noted in the travel stats above) nature of the visit, but it was both comforting and comfortable, helping me better contextualize my work in West Java (not comparing too fondly or too insensitively with East Java, or even comparing at all) and, not to contradict the previous statements about exhaustion, reenergized me for the coming month.
West Java is difficult for me to explain. It is a place in Indonesia, very similar to the other place in Indonesia where I lived before. Both are provinces in Java, this one’s just further west. Can I direct you to a wiki perhaps?
I can’t help but compare West Java to East Java, and that makes explanations particularly difficult for those without such context. This part of West Java is not actually ‘Java’; it’s on the island of Java, yes, but is home to the Sundanese ethnic group, while East Java puts the Java in Javanese (or, more correctly, is the Javanese from which Java comes). Questions about ‘when I lived in Java’ threw me during my first couple weeks in west.
Sunda (not to be confused with the Sunda Islands or Sudan or Sudetenland or Sumba or Simba the lion) people are friendly like Javanese, though not as emphatically so, welcoming but not quite as outgoing and warm (to be kind to the Javanese) or as ‘all up in your bidness’ (to be somewhat less kind). Still, while East Java often felt overwhelming because of this exuberance and closeness, it was also preferable for learning about and making relationships in my host community. And it’s the kind of thing that becomes almost-but-not-quite commonplace for an émigré so that only when you move do you recognize it again, the kind of thing that you long for only after you’ve been gone.
Moving venues has, most importantly, given me a greater perspective on (what I perceived to be) Indonesian people, culture, behaviors and ideologies—that while there are constants across the country, many of the things I assumed to be Indonesian were actually Javanese, or even more specific to particular regions, villages, and families. To be very superficial, I had no idea (because I found them everywhere, even traveling) that all of my favorite foods were particular to East Java, and so was disappointed to not find them over here on the west side. Lalap (raw veggies eaten with the meal), are a nice change, but no substitute for a big bowl of rice and greens with peanut sauce and a few hunks of crispy fried tempeh. In what I assume is direct recompense for a lack of pecel, at least it is markedly cooler here, living up on the side of a small mountain with a nice second floor balcony where I can read and enjoy the afternoon breeze while watching the trucks up the peak transport sand and rock down from the quarry (our main industry, followed by ‘producing dust’).
A third year is undoubtedly different from the first two. I have the cultural and technical skills and knowledge developed and honed over two year securely in my back pocket, and coming into a new community and school was a thousand times smoother and more efficient, although perhaps without the charm of the spontaneity and foibles associated with being tossed ‘fresh’ into a new home. It was both more methodical—I know exactly how to integrate into the community and how to work with you to determine and meet your needs and goals so let’s get started—and more relaxed—less worry or stress associated with the learning-curve, leaving more time to build relationships. It was amazing how easily some things got off the ground. Still, some of the same challenges and set backs exist (anticipating and knowing how to deal with or just accept them is the key), and more than that, I find that I have to step back and take things slower with my teaching counterparts. I forget sometimes that we haven’t been working together for two years, that I’ve done this all before (with someone else) and they haven’t.
All this is to say that work is going well, if slowly. Plateauing job and personal growth, coupled with a sudden death in the Peace Corps staff, lower coworker motivation, and a dissatisfaction with the ‘more’ I hoped to accomplish compared to the first two years (in school, community and Peace Corps) led to a few low weeks from which I’m just now digging myself out. But things are turning a corner, and I’m looking forward to upcoming projects (Spanish club, teacher training workshops, participating in site development and selection for next year’s volunteers, working more closely with government partners to give teachers an avenue for feedback/involvement) and to my first trip back home to the states. I've got an exciting and busy three weeks ahead of me, so it's an all-out sprint to November 19.
Glenn and Dad visited Indonesia in August and you can see tons of awesome photos here.
Sri Lanka photos are here.
I have not yet taken a single photo at my site. Apologies.
|Noel and Glenn in Bali, 2012|
|Noel and Glenn at the Farm, 1995|