I am at Starbucks right now. I have no shame. When I first heard there was a Starbucks in the BLT, I turned up my nose at the thought of ever setting foot in the megacorporate, neoimperial establishment. In spite of that, here I am ,sipping on my Grande Es Latte, happy as a clam. After a week of family visits, nenek (grandma) posses, crying toddlers, constant supervision, and seafood breakfasts, I was struck by intense pangs of homesickness for WiFi, Espresso Drinks, Pristine Corporate Cleanliness, and Alone Time Without Scrutiny.
My return from Orientation last Sunday night marked the beginning of my ***real life*** tenure as an ETA in Bandar Lampung. In the 5 days before orientation, I spent my time being enthusiastically fed by crowds of teachers at school, awkwardly crutching around the SMK 2 campus while trying to ignore the calls of my nakal (naughty) students, and being carted around town by my counterpart, Ibu Halima. Over the past week, things have settled down a lot. Thanks to the incredible instructors from Wisma Bahasa at Orientation, my Indonesian is now passably conversational in the most basic of situations. I’ve explored a tiny bit more, gotten comfortable with my students, nakal and sopan (polite) alike, and entrenched myself with the “arts society” at Universitas Lampung, or UniLa. I am excited to get closer to some of the wonderful characters I’ve met there. I can almost say that I’ve developed a routine, but I still have a lot to figure out here in the BLT.
Indonesia is really big on the posse. The posse is basically how life works here. You walk to school with your posse, you do your homework with your posse, you jog with your posse, you live with your family posse. That’s just the way it is. So, when I want to, say, walk two blocks to UKMBS (the University arts club) by myself, the response is, overwhelmingly, “By yourself, Miss??? Miss, are you sure?”. Although I do dream of one day having my own friend posse, right now I’m just trying to get people to understand that, in my culture, it is perfectly healthy to want to walk a few blocks by myself. Even without a friend posse, I still have partaken in some posse activities.
My counterpart and her husband have been out of town since Thursday, so two neneks, a brother-in-law, a cousin, and an uncle came to stay and keep the two kids company. Also, various other cousins, nieces, nephews, and other relatives come to visit on the daily. It’s been great for my Indonesian, since no one around me at home speaks English. It has also been a lot of fun. The neneks stood by with much consternation as I cooked up a batch of “Mie Rebecca” (Rebecca Noodles) a few days ago. They wereELFIE! Appar concerned about the lack of rice, and the presence of too many varieties of vegetable in one dish.
I’ve also been invited to jalan jalan (lit.: walk walk, but it can mean any sort of recreational activity outside the house) with the fam on a handful of occasions. I’ve concluded that approximately 90% of outings in Indonesia are undertaken solely for their memfoto (picture-taking) potential. When you go somewhere, you don’t think about things to do so much as places to take good pictures. We took pictures at every suitable location at Lampung Faire (a celebration of the culture of Lampung Province and an opportunity for hordes of vendors to push their goods on the people of Bandar Lampung), and also at a “nature tourism site”.
I was pretty nervous about my first forays into teaching, but somehow I managed to pull off a mildly successful first week. I think the first step was accepting the fact that my students treat me like a rock star, and using this to my advantage. With a bit of last minute planning and a lot of spur-of-the-moment adaptations, I made it through my ten weekly classes without being torn to a million pieces by my students.
I’m still terrified of the overwhelming task that lies before me: memorizing some 350 student names, along with those of all of the teachers at SMK 2. In a (perhaps misguided?) attempt to make this daunting task more manageable, I decided to take pictures of students holding up name cards. The first time I did this was in a class that I presided over alone, since Ibu Halima was away in Jakarta. Because my VISA does not allow me to teach alone, I just played hangman with the class, tried to play their favorite Sam Smith songs on my cell phone speakers, and made my best effort to curb the mayhem. When I asked to take selfies with only two students at a time, the class went insane. I suppose I’ll have to try again next time. Later, in classes I taught along with a co-teacher, my efforts were much more fruitful.
I’m slowly figuring everything out, getting better at expressing myself in Indonesian (even though I’m pretty sure my grammar has gotten worse…), and starting to feel more at home here in the BLT. My housing situation is still in the works. I’m not entirely sure when I’ll be moving to the kosan, but I’m looking forward to finally unpacking my suitcases and having a bit more freedom. It should be within the coming week. I’m also very excited to spend the upcoming holiday (Idul Adha, celebrating those who have completed the Haj) with Ibu Halima’s whole extended family. Right now I’m in the teachers’ room at school (didn’t have enough time to finish this at Starbucks!) To be honest, I’m getting tired of writing this while surrounded by other teachers trying to chat with me for the 1000th time about which foods can be found in both America and Indonesia. So, I think this will be all for now.
UPDATE on WiFi: I now figured out that there is Wifi in the teachers’ room, so I’ll definitely be updating more regularly, albeit more distractedly.