DAY OF DEPARTURE: Friday, August 21st, 2015. My departure from the U.S. was hectic and chaotic. On the day I was scheduled to leave the country, I had no visa and no passport. I was up by 3:30 AM to make a desperate flight to Los Angeles to retrieve my travel documents from the Indonesian consulate, thanks to the gracious help of Mr. Napitupulu, the Indonesian-U.S. Immigration Officer. Later that day, I attended a beautiful wedding ceremony for one of my oldest friends, Emily (congrats to Emily and Daniel!), before running back to the airport to board a flight to Indonesia. A big thanks to my parents for all their help and good humor.
My first layover was at the San Francisco airport where I ran into a few of my cohorts that will also be teaching English in Indonesia. Andrew, Dalton, Jared, Sam, Sean and I celebrated the beginning of our journey in a small cafe before our flight across the Pacific. Fifteen hours of flying later, we arrived in Hong Kong where we collected even more of our cohort group! I can’t express how excited I was to meet up with everyone in our group. Needless to say, the time passed quickly as we boarded our flight to Jakarta and began what will be a memorable year.
WELCOME TO GORONTALO! Monday- Friday, August 24th -28th, 2015. After one extremely jetlagged night in Jakarta it was time to travel to north-central Indonesia. Grace, Clare, and I were headed to three schools in Gorontalo. We left Jakarta, had a short stopover in Makassar, and four hours later arrived in Gorontalo. At the airport we were greeted with much enthusiasm, flower lays, gifts and legitimate paparazzi. I could not believe the pomp and circumstance; it was so exciting! Several teachers from each of our schools were there to greet us and to show us the warmest welcome. Soon after arriving Trisna, Cica, and Hartono, faculty members from the school MAN Insan Cendekia, took me to the Golden Fish and treated me to an elaborate dinner.
Trisna is the mother of three and teaches English at MAN Insan Cendekia. She looks out after me and is introducing me to her school and her culture. She has made me feel very at home here. I cannot thank her enough!
On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to attend some Grade 12 presentations at my new school. One student wrote a report comparing the story Hunger Games in English to the Indonesian version in the Bahasa language. The analysis showed how literary meaning may be lost in language translation and speculated about greater cultural implications. Very impressive!
On Thursday, MAN Insan Cendekia threw a most wonderful welcome ceremony. I’m honestly still overwhelmed! The choir sang, the headmaster spoke, a few students performed, I was even invited to join in and sing. I sang #EEAAA, an Indonesian pop song by Coboy Junior, with a couple of the students. I was also lucky enough to be serenaded by a student singing Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.” It was all too good.
EXPLORIN’ GORON: Saturday, August 29th, 2015. At 7 AM Trisna and Cica and I met up with Grace and her counterpart, Pak Musta’in, and visited a beautiful site with several pools filled with natural spring water. We had a light breakfast of yellow rice and fried bananas, which Cica generously treated us to from food stands we passed along the way.
pre-breakfast.Cica on the left, Grace second from left, Trisna in the middle on the phone, and Pak Musta’in is on the right. The little packages contain our yellow rice feast! Throughout the meal, we were accompaniend by local wildlife, a multitude of chickens, a very vocal rooster, several cats, and a black dog.
Grace and I climbed on a big rock while we explored this spot. As we are in the midst of “dry season,” the water level in the spring was exceptionally low, so we were able to hike around more than what would be typical.
Afterwards, Cica and Trisna took me to a traditional market. The minute I stepped out of the car, “BULE, BULE, BULE” (an Indonesian word for foreigner). I not-so-secretly loved sticking out like a sore thumb… but anyways, the market was amazing. Everything was so fresh; I swear I’m still wearing a little fish juice.
When we returned to the school, the Grade 12 students were having a poster presentation in the multipurpose building. The presentations ranged from making noodles out of orange rinds, improving access information for travelers wishing to visit Gorontalo and tips on making candles to help ward off mosquitoes.
…and tonight, Trisna and Cica are taking me to a traditional Indonesian wedding! Selamat selamat!