Thinking back on college, the boys and I threw some pretty outrageous parties out on Del Playa; Mechanical Bulls, Fire Dancers, Chilean Miners vs. Somalian Pirates, and always the strangers piling in by the hundreds. Yet I can say without a doubt that this was my first time in attendance to a circumcision party. One of the trainees had invited us to accompany him to this bloody bash. No I’m just kidding, they do that behind closed doors; although it doesn’t take much to tell which ten year old was getting snipped as he sat done up and frightened upon his throne. The party was pretty fun really, with the usual displays of unfamiliar food, wondering if my next bite was to be sweet, savory, or something totally new. Oh and of course I can’t forget the live entertainment – that being us as we were cheered or dragged on to stage to dance or sing for the laughing crowd gunning for their mobile devices to get a video of the bulehs on stage. I chose the latter, but either choice was equally embarrassing…and glorifying.
A Little Taste
In other news, we had the opportunity to visit sites of current volunteers last week. I, along with two other trainees, spent the three days shadowing a volunteer working at a madrassa. Our trip only took us about ninety minutes from Batu, which was nice as some of the other trainees had to travel to villages up to ten hours away. Despite the increase in temperature, sweat, and thirsty mosquitos; I had a great time. During the day, we were introduced to his classes, running through the usual Q&A; and in the evening we walked around his village, visiting his bapak’s fish farm, and crossing narrow rickety bamboo bridges which had a way of reminding you where you were. It was definitely a positive experience though. The volunteer I was assigned to was well involved in school and passed on a great deal of advice. I’m looking forward to using it at my own site…
Oh That’s Right, Site Placements!
Peace Corps kept us anxious last Friday as we waited until the end of hub day to receive our site placements. Finally, after our last lecture, they took us across the campus to a large courtyard – on the ground a large chalk outline of East Java and several regions within. On arrival they didn’t keep us waiting long as they called out our names and passed out packets of paper with brief descriptions of sites, schools, and host families to be. After we all took our place on the chalk map, looking around us to see who was near and far for the next two years; trainees began to mingle, moving from one to another to see where everyone had been placed and what their new village would be like. Standing in my square, I turned to see the site coordinator from my interview. “Okay, this is it” he said “This is the one we had talked about. It’s going to be hard. There is no transportation. But I really think you will love it there.”
I’ll be spending the next two years of my life in the mountains, or volcanoes rather, with a view of Mount Bromo belching billows of sulfur just outside my backyard. And if you venture a bit farther, you’ll find Mount Semeru, Java’s largest, and one of Indonesia’s most active, volcanoes. And although the cool mountain air may keep at bay the heat and mosquitos so characteristic of the rest of this country, I trade for an ice cold mandi. At least I won’t have problems waking up in the morning. As for my school, I’ll be teaching at in a fairly new SMA (Senior High School) that has just over a total of one hundred students. I’m excited to have the opportunity to get to know each and every one of my students as most of the other trainees seem to be teaching at schools ranging from 500 – 1,000. In the past, the school shared classrooms with the middle school, but just recently the construction was finished on their own building; so I’ll be teaching in its first year.
As for my family, my experience will be a bit unique, being the only volunteer living with a Hindu family, my village being 60 or 70 percent Hindu, and my school 50/50 Hindu/Muslim. My future bapak and Ibu are in their late 40s/early 50s and have a son the same age as I who studies in Malang, visiting home occasionally. The bapak is a farmer and next door lives my aunt, or some relative of the sort, who is also one of the English teaching counterparts I’ll be working with at the SMA – hopefully making lesson planning an easy task. Unlike some of the other sites, mine is more remote in the sense of its transportation capabilities. With no public transportation, the only way in out is to hitch a ride to or from the nearest town in the back of a farmer’s pickup heading your way – that nearest town being about an hour and a half ride. As much as I’d like to dive deeper into the details of my future home, there’s not much more else I could say before I get there that would be more than a shot in the dark.
Taking a Breather
The weekend after site announcements was pretty lax. Finished with practicum and Bahasa Indonesia, we finally got a little free time to unravel. Saturday, several of us got together for another bout of futsol followed by an extravagant lunch out at Pizza Hut. Next we made our way to Festival Malang, wading our way through seas of people, passing lines of food vendors, stages of traditional Indonesian Music, and hopping out of the way as horse drawn carriages shuttled past, just inches away. I don’t think it will be this busy up in my mountain.