The past two weeks back in Wonosari have been eventful—filled with adventure, teaching, frustration, laziness, coughing, naps, and homemade smoothies.
My time in the classroom was met with mild success. I co-teach ten 80-minute, roughly 30-student classes each week. Six of them are tenth grade classes, and the other four are eleventh grade. My eleventh graders were taking a test the first week, so I only had the tenth grade students. I had them all make nametags so I can at least try to learn their names. I also had them all introduce themselves to me and bribed them with American permen (“candy” – chocolate and fruit flavored Tootsie Rolls that traveled spectacularly). Hopefully that’ll give a little encouragement and take away some of the fear of talking in front of/with me.
Their English isn’t too great and only about 30-50% of the students will go to college. This plus the whopping 17 classes every student has to take (the normal smattering of history, math, science plus a handful of religion-based courses like Arabic because I’m at an Islamic school) adds up to very little motivation to learn English and very little time to practice it. Trying to find a way to actually make a difference in the classroom when I see the students once week (if I’m lucky) has been one of my greatest struggles. I haven’t been here too long yet, so I’m cutting myself some slack. But I am at a bit of a loss for how to approach the situation.
By far one of my favorite moments was when I asked one guy what his favorite colors are. He responded with “black and yellow. You call me Wiz Khalifa.” I was impressed and am very tempted to oblige.
This past week was my second week of classes, and it was rather short. We had off Wednesday and Thursday for the Muslim holiday Idul Adha (some celebrated it on the 23rd, some on the 24th), and then we had off Friday because the students were hearing some sort of presentation from local universities (???). This means I only met with two of my classes. One of them at least was an eleventh grade class, but I’ve still not met three entire classes (and I won’t this coming week because the students have midterm exams so no class).
My Monday eleventh grade class was a bit of a hot mess. To quote Miley Cyrus, “I came in like a wrecking ball”; or, since the lesson was on passive voice, maybe “a wrecking ball was what I came in like” would be more appropriate. Is that actually passive voice? Who knows! I’m sure my students don’t (through no fault of their own)…
As an English Teaching Assistant, my job isn’t really to teach the intricacies of grammar, but to get the students speaking and to act as a cultural ambassador, showing them pictures of all-American things like Eagles and hamburgers and Beyoncé. But I, along with my co-teacher, attempted to teach everything about the passive voice in 80 minutes. We treated the first bit like review because we thought they’d already learned passive voice (mistake #1). For the first activity, we had them paired up and identifying the passive voice in various passages. But they were on things like earthquakes and clouds and tulips and used very big, veryspecific vocabulary (mistake #2). Walking around trying to help students I
realized that I could barely tell which sentences were passive and which were not (mistake #3). In frantically trying to clarify the structure of passive voice, and ensure lots of learning was indeed happening, I spoke at a slightly-flustered-Bryan pace. My default speaking pace is sprinter-with-caffeine, so this was more like sprinter-with-caffeine-being-chased-by-cheetah (mistake #4). We ended with a game where I played music and they tossed around a blow-up globe and whoever had it when the music stopped had to go up to the board and change a sentence (no earthquakes, clouds, or tulips this time) from active to passive voice. This went over well, though I doubt the passive voice was learned by the students.
My tenth grade class was a little better, but that’s not saying much. I made the mistake of thinking class was over twenty minutes earlier than it was and so our entire lesson plan was awkwardly short. We were talking about intentions (“What will you do for the Idul Adha holiday?”), which sounds easier enough. But there was a lot of floundering. I tailored the globe game for this class, so that was a positive.
Shoutout to all the teachers I know for being awesome. I understand now.
The first night I got back to Wonosari, I had nasi and ikan (fish) for dinner, and learned the proper technique behind eating with one’s (right) hand. You pick up
some food using all five fingers like a small, obedient arcade crane, and then bring your hand to your mouth and, using your pinky, ring, and middle fingers as a plate, push the food in with your thumb. Do not open your hand until you are positive all food has been shoveled in or you will end up with rice all of your face, your lap, the table, and your dining companions. I am not a Jedi yet, so it will take many more meals for me to figure this one out, but I’m on my way.
Often when I’m dining with my Ibu, I will have a small mountain of food in front of
me. Often, I will feel full and be unable to eat everything. My Ibu’s fave phrase has become “Finish it.” When she says this, her normally warm and affectionate voice takes on a steely tone and she becomes a mob boss who wants her lackey to off someone. This frightens me. The end result is that I immediately devour anything and everything in sight. This has led me to eating mysterious pieces of goat meat, at least three tons of rice, and chugging a coconut.
(this section contains brief and slightly graphic explanation of animal sacrifice)
A Muslim Festival of Sacrifice, Idul Adha is a holiday commemorating Abraham’s obedience and willingness to offer his son, Isaac, as a sacrifice at God’s command. Just before Abraham did so, God intervened and stopped Abraham, saying that was good enough proof of Abraham’s willingness to follow His word. God gave Abraham a ram to sacrifice in Isaac’s place, and all was good.
In observance of the holiday, Muslim neighborhoods gather together and sacrifice animals (predominantly cows and goats from what I saw) in honor of Abraham’s deeds. They then butcher the animals and divide the meat into parcels for every family. It sounds bloody and cruel, but it is neither. I did not see the sacrifice itself, but the Islamic faith mandates quick and humane slaughtering practices (to ensure
that the meat is halal [which is a similar concept to Judaism’s kosher mandate]), and there was very little blood on the ground when I got there. The butchering itself, too, was extremely fast and efficient. The men in the community worked together with amazing speed and dexterity to divvy up the meat and organs.
All around was the buzz of life—families looking on, talking, celebrating. As odd as it may sound, the feel was similar to a lively yet reverent neighborhood barbecue in the United States (only instead of cooking burgers, they were making them). I was welcomed at the celebration with open arms. I realized later when a knock came and I received a bag of my own very fresh meat that I was welcomed to the community with open arms as well.
Wonosari is known for its many (banyak) beaches (pantai), and after the Idul Adha ceremony, I was finally able to visit some of them! Bu Mul and myself piled into the car with her daughter, brother, sister-in-law, two of her nephews, and one of her nieces, and headed south to check out some beaches. (Note: I’d visited Bu’s village the day before and met her entire extended family and dozens of neighbors—it was exciting and I got to practice my Bahasa Indonesia and eat food, and it was also exhausting. Meeting people is hard enough when you both speak the same language).
The first beach we went to was Pantai Baron, and it was covered in colorful wooden fishing boats and tourists. There was a tide pool area, so lots of people were hanging out in the shallow waters there. The water was warm and delightful and I wanted to go in, but no one else did so I thought better of it. I wore sneakers, which was foolish.
Next we moved on to Pantai Kukup, which has a cliff-ish spot overlooking the water and some coral reef. There were people everywhere on the reef with plastic buckets and little fish nets scooping up the many little creatures that live in the reef. We ate a lunch of rice and goat and chicken and beef (and my first coconut!), and then the younger group went down to try our luck on the reef. I was terrible, but it was a lot of fun.
After that, we went to Pantai Sepanjang. This beach looked the most “tropical,” with a line of little grass huts along the roads selling coconuts and food and hats and everything else. This one was really just a pit-stop so everyone else could pray, but it was pretty nonetheless.
The final beach we went to was Pantain Indrayanti, which I’ve been told is the beach to go to. It was definitely the most crowded, and featured a little reef like Kukup. There was also a large rock you could climb, so a few of us went up and enjoyed the view. Again, I wanted to go in, but I didn’t have a change of clothes and only Bu Mul’s little nephew went, so I just relaxed a little on the beach. It’s odd seeing the beach culture here, which is very different from the Jersey Shore’s. We beach-hopped, and it seems like that’s what most people do—you don’t camp out all day lazing around at one beach. People here also don’t really swim the way we do in Jersey. Instead of going out to the deeper water with waves (and dangerous currents), they huge the shore and go under by just laying flat on the sand. No beach towels. No lifeguards that I saw. Very small beaches with large rocks/cliffs on the sides.
Beach attire is also very different. Because Indonesia is predominantly Muslim, almost all of the women had jilbabs covering their heads and pretty much everyone, men and women, were fully clothed. No bathing suits (except mine), no skin showing (except the chests of a very small number of younger guys), jeans, sleeves, everything. It was strange to me, especially in such a hot place. Neat to see though!
Other experiences these past two weeks:
–Went to an Indonesian concert—Ebeit G. Ade who plays the acoustic guitar and sings great, melancholic songs.
–Went to the immigration office in Jogja for the first of what I’m sure will be many, many painful times. It was awful and is one of the circles of hell and is worse than the DMV trust me and you don’t want to go there ever but they rejected me so I’ll be back real soon and I cannot wait.
–Went to a tailor (penjahit, not to be confused with penjahat, which means “criminal”) and had my very own batik shirt made out of the school’s new Thursday uniform fabric.
–Tried chicken feet.
–Tried goat liver. And bladder. And just lots of goat in general.
–Met a new frog friend who hangs out in a damp corner of my kitchen and, no matter how many times I move him (or her) outside, always finds her (or his) way back. Considering kissing it and see if royalty pops up in my kitchen (I do live in the Special District of Yogyakarta which is ruled by a Sultan, after all).
–Began riding my bike a lot to explore the neighborhood and Wonosari, and just to get some exercise. I wasn’t a huge biker back home, but here it’s much more convenient and allows me to zoom past people with a smile and a selamat sore (good [late] afternoon). When I walk, I have trouble making it ten minutes without being stopped, and people often call out to me. It’s never in a mean or offensive way, but my otherness is very apparent and I haven’t gotten used to or comfortable with it just yet.
–Started Bahasa Indonesia tutoring sessions with one of the teachers at school! I was kind of dreading beginning this because I’ve been lazy and exhausted and sweaty and hot and just want to sleep most of the time, but it was absolutely wonderful. I picked a few exercises in the first lesson of a Bahasa book that the
grant administrators in Indo, AMINEF, required all of the ETAs to get. I chose activities (dialogues and pronunciation work) that I felt hit at the areas I need the most work in (speaking in full sentences and not sounding like one of the goats that lives next door when I attempt Indonesian). My tutor, a Bahasa Arab teacher at school who’s about the same age as me, was very patient, took what the book gave and extended it to be more relevant, and used Google Translate with me like a champ (Google Translate is my life, my everything.). He also taught me the slang word jomblo, which is a term for an unmarried, single individual (male or female). We’re both v jomblo.
–Struggled with electricity. For a four day stretch I couldn’t use the air conditioning, fridge, and lights at the same time or I’d trip the breaker. This was particularly frightening when it first happened because it was night and dark and the breaker is outside. Quickly overcame that fear and was glad I brought a flashlight. After many visits from various electricity professionals, we finally fixed the problem (still unsure what it was). I never realized how much the lone bedroom airconditioner meant to me.
–Learned how to pay the water and electricity bills!
–Went into Jogja with Bu Mul and three students to cheer the students on in an Indonesian constitution competition.
–Learned how to take the bus to/from the big city!
Until next time which will hopefully be much sooner,