Outside the Classroom

All Peace Corps volunteers are given a primary project – in my case that being teaching English as a foreign language to 10th and 11th grade students. However, in addition to our primary assignment, we are encouraged to undertake a secondary project. Secondary projects are found in a wide variety as they’re essentially dependent on the particular volunteer’s skill set and the unique needs of their site. So what have I been up to outside of the classroom?

Early on in the semester – maybe my second week here – my principal and counterpart approached me with the hope to establish an extracurricular activity to enhance student English conversation skills. Originally they wanted the whole school to participate, a place where each grade could meet throughout the week to learn the English language. I made it quite clear that we already had something like that established – it’s called English class and it meets everyday. Eventually, we agreed to cut down the club to a group of twenty highly motivated students who especially desired to improve their English proficiency. English Conversation Club has been underway for about a month now, meeting regularly with Bu Lilik and I for two hours every Friday after school to discuss topics of their choice. I’d say it’s been quite successful as only two of the twenty have missed a meeting so far (we adhere to  strict “3 strikes your out” policy).

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Another project I’ve set up more recently is a Cross-Country Running team. I won’t go into too much depth with this right now as I’d like to save it for a blog post of its own., but we’ve been meeting every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for two-hour practices for about 3 weeks now. Attendance seems to have leveled out at about 50 participants (which is about half the school) following the same “3 strikes you’re out” policy. As sustainability is one of the key principles of Peace Corps, I’ve taken this project on with a few assistant coaches: Pak Dedik (my host brother), Pak Sigit (Geography teacher), Pak Raha (Art and Religion teacher), and Pak Fauzi (Physical Education and former English teacher). More info on this later after I manage to obtain some photos that’ll do it justice – something the rainy season has made difficult.

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Although these projects do take up a fair bit of time and are certainly very rewarding on their own, the project I’m especially excited about is an idea that I introduced to my school and community during my second or third week at site –  an international half-marathon & 10k race to take place in the Tengger next Fall.

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Our goals are essentially to promote fitness & health awareness, increase tourism as a source of income, and encourage cross cultural awareness. Furthermore, all proceeds will go directly to improving the library facilities throughout the surrounding communities. I don’t want to delve too deep into what we’re working on right now as we’re still in the beginning stages, but I thought you’d might like to take a look at some of the footage from our tour of the intended course the other day.

With my bike and camera strapped to my neighbor’s jeep, we started early at about 5 AM, making our way to the desired course start – the Hindu Temple Poten near the foot of Mt. Batok and Mt. Bromo.

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About a quarter of our potential course runs through the Laut Pasir Tengger (or Tengger Sea of Sand) – a large desert area within the Tengger caldera.

IMG_4599 IMG_4600 IMG_4601Once out of the Sea of Sand, one comes across the Savanna area. Here we took a little pit stop for a cup of coffee while we went over the map of the course for the day.

IMG_4612 IMG_4617 IMG_4624 IMG_4618Moving up the savanna, one really experiences a change of scenery from the desert preceding it. I find that a diversity of environment is essential to an entertaining run.

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As you’ll see, moving up into the hills our dirt path turns into a bit of road. The climb goes on for a couple miles, but isn’t especially steep. Although as I’ve grown pretty accustomed to the  more radical inclines around my village, my perception of what is and isn’t steep may be a bit biased.

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Once at the top, the road thins out into a tighter trail. Although it’s certainly not suitable for the jeep,  it’s ideal for running, or in my case today mountain biking.

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The trail keeps you in the woods for awhile, which is another nice change of scenery, but after about two or three miles it takes you’ll emerge out onto the side peaks of the park for some pretty epic views of the surrounding landscape.

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After about 4 or 5 miles on the trail, we make our way back down to the caldera floor and continue on back towards Mt. Batok and Poten Temple – our intended finish.

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That’s it. If you’re interested, here’s a video I took of the course. Things get a bit shaky during the mountain bike portion, but you get the gist.

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