The last three weeks in Indonesia, August 30th-September 21st

After spending a week in Gorontalo, Indonesia at my school, I traveled to West Java for several weeks of orientation. 

Leaving Gorontalo…

All of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) travelled to Bandung on August 30th to begin orientation. My site mates in Gorontalo are Clare and Grace. The city of Gorontalo has a population of about 100,000 and the entire province has a population of just over 1 million people. Here are my site mates, Clare (on the left) and Grace, at the Gorontalo airport:


At the Gorontalo airport, you board the plane by walking out of the terminal, straight on the tarmac and directly to the plane. It is a little surreal to be surrounded by mountains and open sky while strolling out to the plane:  IMG_1799

Arriving in Bandung…

From Gorontalo we flew to Makassar and then directly on to Bandung. The trip took about 4 and half hours. In total there were 34 ETAs that gathered for the orientation training. Our time in Bandung was action-packed. Every day we attended sessions at the Sheraton on Jalan Dago (Dago Street) from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM. The sessions ranged from meeting government officials to safety in a developing world country to teaching methodologies.

All of us are working hard to try to improve our speaking skills in Bahasa Indonesia. I studied for several months before arriving, but it is still difficult to follow conversations. At orientation, we were placed into classes with a Bahasa Indonesia teacher. We were able to learn more about the language and practice using the language; we also performed skits in Bahasa Indonesia in friendly competition with the other classes. On the last day, we each gave a ten-minute presentation speaking entirely in Bahasa Indonesia! Here is a photo of my Bahasa Indonesia class with our teacher Moko! Moko took us to eat at a traditional restaurant. (From L to R: Stevenson, Camille, Kendra, Jared, Hilary, MacKenzie, me- Kelsey, and Moko).


This crash course in Bahasa Indonesia prepared us for various ventures which we pursued in Bandung, like bargaining at a traditional market, asking for directions, and having (brief) conversations with willing locals.

The traditional market was bustling, lined with booths and packed with crowds of people. There were 7 or more floors of jewelry, clothing, jilbabs, fabric, shoes, etc plus two basements filled with every type of food, dried, frozen or fresh, imaginable. Here is a photograph of the entrance to the market:


Next here’s a picture of Clare, my site mate, bargaining for scarves at the traditional market. Clare says, “Berapa harganya? Boleh kurang!?” (How much is it? Can it be cheaper!?)


During our time in Bandung, we also met the US Ambassador to Indonesia, Robert Blake. Below is a photo of our entire ETA cohort group with the US Ambassador to Indonesia (front and center) along with the Executive Director of AMINEF (American Indonesian Exchange Foundation), Alan Feinstein (front right).


Every evening we explored Bandung, from various eateries to markets to the night scene! We traveled most places in angkots, which someone described as “an aluminum can on wheels.” As you can see in the photos below, safety is not a factor in angkot rides, but it is always exciting to pack as many people as possible into the van as you go rattling down the streets of Bandung.



Above is a picture of us in an angkot after shopping for batik one evening. From left to right, Mark, Ramon, me- Kelsey, Clare, Grace, Izaak, Shalina, and Kelly.

While at the Sheraton, we were VERY well fed, food followed us throughout the day, a pop-up buffet everywhere we went. We also enjoyed pool time and even had a chicken fight in the pool one day. We had the day off on Sunday, a week after we arrived, so many of us went on hikes. The group that I hiked with is pictured below along with a couple of photos from the hike (in the group picture from L to R: Jared, Clare, Caitlin, boy Sam, Dalton, Julia, tall Sam, and me- Kelsey). We explored Tebing Keraton in Taman Hutan Raya and walked through caves that were built by the Dutch in 1918. We took an angkot from the Sheraton to get here. Boy Sam (in the red shirt) was an ETA in Bandung last year, so he knows the area well and suggested that we go to see the caves!

IMG_1918 (2)



However, THE MOST IMPORTANT part of Orientation had to be the three-yurt/pod basket-like dome-shaped houses positioned next to the pool. They were a favorite of ours. Most of our cohort group logged many hours in what we called “The Pods.” Here is a photo of “The Pods,” and below that, a photo of the hotel at sunset:



Near the end of our two-week orientation, we welcomed our co-teachers. I was happy to see Trisna again after being away from Gorontalo for 10 days. We had a big welcome dinner together on the night our co-teachers arrived. Here’s a photo of everyone who is going to be on the island of Sulawesi. We have quite a bit of Sulawesi pride!


Below is a picture of the Gorontalo Girls from the welcome dinner in matching batik!


Each of us had a chance to practice teaching with our co-teacher at the BPI School in Bandung. It was thrilling to get up in front of a class and to teach together for the first time! Trisna is an exquisite teacher, and I am so excited for this opportunity to learn from her. Here are some photos from BPI:


Above- Another ETA, Hilary, and me with a group of students.


Above- Trisna and me after our first class! Below- another photo of Trisna and me.


As we were on the bus pulling away from the Sheraton in Bandung, the hotel staff all came out to wave goodbye to us (see photo below). They were very kind and patient with us as we looked to them to practice Bahasa Indonesia everyday. They even gave us parting gifts, a lanyard with a USB filled with pictures from the two weeks we spent at the Sheraton in Bandung.


I would say that the biggest take-away from our time in Bandung was to get to know one another and to develop friendships. The 34 of us will have each other to rely on throughout this year.


Now that I am back in Gorontalo, I have finally begun teaching at MAN Insan Cendekia! I cannot express how amazing this school is. The respect that the teachers, students, and staff have for each other is inspiring. The kids are incredibly hard working and it is an honor to be part of their learning process. Also, the energy level is high and there is always much laughter in class while we practice English.

I am learning so much from Trisna. She relates to the students on many levels. I feel very fortunate to be able to learn about teaching at one of the top schools in Indonesia. Plus, the community here has embraced me and made me feel like I am part of Insan Cendekia… if you can’t tell, I am super enthusiastic about IC. I am trying to learn the school song!

Here are photos of the students illustrating their interpretation of “Imagine” by John Lennon:



This past weekend, I spent with Trisna and Cica, two teachers at Insan Cendekia, and Clare and Grace, my site mates! We went to karaoke on Saturday night. Here is the group of us post-Karaoke:


Then on Sunday, Cica, Trisna and I visited Clare’s site and had breakfast with her counterpart, Ibu Mut. Here is a photograph of Ibu Mut’s daughter and me:


Next, we stopped by Cica’s Father In-law’s house for some pisang goreng coklat (fried chocolate bananas). Later in the morning, Cica and Trisna took me to a welcome ceremony for the newborn baby of another teacher at Insan Cendekia, Ibu Silva. Here is the photo of the baby with the traditional Gorontalo nose rub:


After the ceremony we picked jambu fruit! (see the photos below). Jambu is pink, tiny, crunchy and bitter. You don’t need to peel it, and can eat one in one bite! It almost tastes like an apple, but not quite as sweet.



On Monday, I attended Pak Yopin’s daughter’s 2nd birthday party. Pak Yopin is a staff member at Insan Cendekia and was so kind to invite me to the festivities! There was SO MUCH FOOD and of course, I had to sing… Singing is a big part of Indonesian culture and as a rare “bule” (foreigner) in Gorontalo, I am beginning to realize, that I need to be prepared to sing at any time. I am not usually one to sing in front of a crowd, so I sang a little bit and then decided to drop the mic and dance. Since dancing isn’t as popular as singing in Gorontalo, they found it entertaining to see the “bule” behaving bizarrely. Here is a photo of Pak Yopin, his daughter, and I.


Sampai nanti! (Until later!)


3 thoughts on “The last three weeks in Indonesia, August 30th-September 21st

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