Trainee -> Volunteer

Pre-service training has come to an end which officially makes me a bona fide Peace Corps Volunteer. I’ll have you know I’ve arrived at site and it is absolutely stunning. Every day I open my backdoor to stand on the side of a steep lush mountain, watching the clouds and upland fog roll in over the endless line of peak to valley drops…but that’s for my next post…now is where I fill you in on the end of PST…

On our way to garlic bread…

Homesick Tastebuds
After a couple months in country, the longing for American food always hits – or, more importantly the longing for Mexican food. Thousands of miles away from either, we settled for Italian, cooking up a nice little feast at one of the other trainees’ house. With a table full of garlic bread and a variety of pastas to choose from (variety meaning two), my stomach got its fill of carbs that night and my taste buds relieved, ready to return back to makanan Indonesia (Indonesian food). Really I’m quite lucky to have been placed in a country with such delicious cuisine – Peace Corps Ukraine has got to be sick of potatoes by now.

Waterfalls Wave Goodbye
In other news, we had a farewell picnic last weekend at one of the many fields found on your way to Coban Rondo (a spectacular waterfall I visited with my family earlier in PST). PC Indonesia Staff and the cultural facilitator organized a variety of games for the trainees to partake in after lunch, although most of us ducked out early and went up to the waterfall instead, due to limited time. The one game I did watch consisted of several Krupuk (Indonesian rice cakes/crackers) being hung up on a string between two trees while trainees raced to be the first one to chomp one down without the use of their hands. I refrained from this event myself, as I’m not particularly drawn to that brand of Krupuk. The large squiggly ones just tend to be a little to stale and prawny for my taste, although there are plenty of krupuks out there that I find enak sekali (very delicious)…there is never enough krupuk in Indonesia….

Nothing like a good game of eat the krupuk off the string!

Hati hati!

It was nice returning to Coban Rondo on a Saturday this time rather than on a Sunday like before. On my last visit, the place was just packed to the brim with people…and monkeys, but this time was much more manageable. I was able to stroll up to the front, only having to take a couple pictures with gaggles of ibus. Although I personally decided not to drench myself this time, a couple of the more daring trainees decided to venture under the waterfall itself, no need to mandi later I suppose.

Family Time

On Tuesday, we celebrated Pak Suntari’s 40th birthday. Suntari, Fenia, Maryam, and I all went out to dinner at Warung Bambou again for a round of spicy grilled gurami. Sooo enak! And as the week winded down we slowly said our goodbyes and made plans for future visits once I has a little travel time saved up. It really was a bit sad leaving my host family as I’ve grown so close to them over the past couple months. When I told my family that I would be leaving Friday afternoon for permanent site, my ibus tears began to stream. There’s not much I could do except tell them I’d come back soon, many times reassured that I am part of their family now and I can always pulang (come home). I can’t begin to imagine how it’s going to be after two years.

They were smiling and laughing before and after the photo, but click the shutter and their faces are stone

Earlier that week all of the ibus from our village got together and decided

Out by the Kepala Desa’s house

they wanted to throw us a going away party. They went out to the market with a couple of the trainees and bought all of the ingredients for us to cook some of our favorite American and Indonesian dishes. Wednesday night we all gathered at the house of the kepala desa (village head) for a huge feast. Although as a dairy free pescatarian, my choices were limited, I had no problem hogging the French Toast…all the better if you use it to wrap up homemade chocolate cookie…

Kepala Sekolah (Principal)

Thursday morning, we gathered at UMM for the Principal Conference, a workshop designed to get to know the principles from our permanent sites and lay out an outline for the weeks to come. Principals, Vice-Principals, and even some Counter-Parts met us at the university and spent the day together playing the usual Peace Corps Hub Day games and ice breakers. I enjoyed it though; I learned a great deal more about my site and school, and more importantly about the personality of the principal I will be working with the next two years. Pak Nursalim (Nur for short) lives about an hour away from the SMA I’ll be teaching at and is…well…very principal like. He seems highly motivated and culturally aware and is excited to work with me in and out of school throughout my service. He told me I’ll be teaching four different classes, meeting with each one twice a week, adding up to a grand total of 16 in-classroom hours per week, leaving a solid chunk of time for lesson planning and extracurriculars with the youth (i.e. English Camps, Conversation Clubs, etc.)

A Sworn Volunteer
And last, but of course not least, was Friday -> swearing in. With my bags packed and waiting by the door, I left early that morning to head down to UMM for the ceremony. We ran through the whole act and counted down the minutes, hanging around with the other trainees, half of whom would be leaving that day for site. I won’t go into too much depth about the ceremony; I assume it’s pretty standard world-round. Songs were sang, speeches were spoken, awards were awarded, and vows were vowed. While the speeches and recitations of Peace Corps values were flooded by the bright lights of camera flashes, the Peace Corps oath itself was done quite privately in another room between the trainees, Ambassador of the American Embassy, and current PC staff/volunteers.

All I had to do was raise my right hand and say some words, then BAM! I’m a Peace Corps volunteer. Well minus the year-and-a-half application process, numerous medical visits, and 2-and-a-half months of intense Indonesian immersion packed to the brim with language, culture, and TEFL courses. But now I’m here at my site, typing up a blog of the past couple weeks while I look out over one of the more breathtaking views I’ve to experience. Not too shabby of a gig if you ask me…although I do have about 722 more days to go 🙂

To the left, my family and I after swearing in. To the right, a couple of the volunteers and I with our Cultural Facilitator Dimas – and the awesome gifts he gave us

4 thoughts on “Trainee -> Volunteer

  1. Great posting…funny to reading about the Mexican food…we did the same thing when our training came to an end and we got together for Thanksgiving at my site… a cultural event for local friends…Lucky you have sucha beautiful site…ENJOY!!

  2. It’s never too early to think about the Third Goal. Check out Peace Corps Experience: Write & Publish Your Memoir. Oh! If you want a good laugh about what PC service was like in a Spanish-speaking country back in the 1970’s, read South of the Frontera: A Peace Corps Memoir.

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