Three weeks ago, only recently revived from a medicated stupor, I left Philadelphia for Bandar Lampung with an enormous backpack, about twice my body weight in poorly selected personal effects, and a very sad and heavy foot made out of fiberglass. I was, quite understandably, pretty bummed out. I still am, a little bit. I never imagined my maiden voyage in foreign living would begin with a month of hopping around (and, occasionally…dancing) on one leg.
So, uh, yeah, not the best time to break an ankle in a bike accident, but I wouldn’t let an enormous, swollen, bruised right leg keep me from my HOPES and DREAMS. I will admit that it has made the past few weeks a bit frustrating at times.
I guess this is where I start to chronicle the events of the last couple of weeks. The whole blog thing is very new to me. I hope it’s funny enough. Let me know if you get bored. I’ll try to keep it focused, but, as all of you know, I am quite possibly the most distractable storyteller in the world.
After spending one night in Jakarta, I was shipped out for my first week in Bandar Lampung, along with my fantastic sitemate, Ramon. After the 20 minute flight (shuffle in on crutches, sit down, take selfie with very touchy feely older Ibu, get fed, disembark), I was greeted by my counterpart, Ibu Halima.
Counterpart=the person at my school responsible for my well-being and safety.
Ibu=literally, mother, but actually more like Mrs. It’s what you call any woman who is older or more important than you in Indonesia.
Ibu Halima was essentially my mother for the following week: taking me to school, feeding me, introducing me to people, helping me go grocery shopping, carrying stuff for me. Considering my legless state, I don’t know if I could have even survived that first week without her. I’m staying with her and her two hilarious kids (ages 5 and 3) until my kosan (boarding house) room is ready. Two weeks ago, cement dust was raining from the bathroom ceiling, but it will be brand new and shiny in a few days, apparently.
So, the three-legged bule (BOO-LAY-foreigner) arrived in the big BLT (Bandar Lampung Town, a term Ramon and I coined). After eating McDonald’s for dinner, I promptly passed out at around 8. Ibu Halima would not believe that I could tolerate Indonesian food, much less prefer it to McDonald’s. I convinced her otherwise in the following few days by eating makanan pedas sekali(SPICY food) and failing to have a fatally upset stomach.
I woke up dark and early to the sound of approximately 923749 calls to prayer, one of which was about 20 meters from my window. It was 4:30am. Ibu Halima was already awake and cooking. By 6:45 I was well-fed and showered (eee-yaaaaah sudah makan. Sudah mandi. Sudaaaaah.) and ready for my first day at school. I met the headmaster and about 10 other officials, introduced myself to a rowdy classroom, and spent the rest of the day hanging out in the teachers’ lounge and the principal’s office. Everyone was very tickled by the fact that I already spoke some bahasa Indonesia, but I still had to drop out of approximately 99% of conversations because I had no idea what was going on.
I have no idea how much of a spectacle I would have been without crutches, but, let me tell ya, I was comparable to a moose or unicorn as I crutched around the SMKN 2 campus. Everywhere I go, I’m greeted with “hey, miss”, ” how are you miss”, and “miss you are so beautiful”, by the predominantly male students. Some brave souls come up to me and press their heads to my hands. Apparently this is a very respectful greeting, but they usually don’t do it for their other teachers. My wonderful Bu tells me they’re just doing it because I’m the exotic newcomer. All of this was pretty overwhelming, but I’m hoping it will die down a bit/I’ll get better at not being shell-shocked as I get to know the students personally.
The teachers’ room was my daily hang spot. It’s always full of food and lively conversation. Everyone’s favorite thing is teaching me 3 or 4 regional languages in addition to the national language, bahasa Indonesia. This is an especially cruel endeavor of theirs because I can hardly speak Bahasa, let alone try to learn Javanese, Batak, Lampungese, and Sundanese.
Later in the week, I gave a speech in bahasa indonesia for my entire school at my own welcome ceremony. observed English classes, met the regional director of education (I think it’s like an extra fancy superintendent?), and went to a “gamelan Lampung” (more details to come!) rehearsal. On my last day in Bandar Lampung before heading off to Bandung for orientation, my wonderful Ibu and her family took me to the beach.
Then, I went to Bandung for two weeks! Free WiFi, endless pastries, fancy fruit juices at all hours, beer at the restaurants, karaoke (involving crutch damcing), banyak (lots of) american bules, and hours upon hours of learning about the coming year. If I hadn’t waited a gazillion years to write this post, I probably would have written more about orientation. It was fun, the hotel was luxurious, I learned a bunch more Bahasa, and I may have a bit more of a clue about teaching now. All good stuff! Also, I got my cast off during orientation, so now I’m hobbling around in a walking cast. It’s a whole new life!
Right now, I’m back in the BLT, about to go to sleep waaay past my 9:00 bedtime. I’m happy to have left paradise Sheraton world and returned to my real life. I am so excited to go back to SMKN 2 with two legs, meet some of my new students, and start teaching ASAP. I’m ready to do some exploring, too.
Ok- until next time, all.
P.S. next time there will be jauh lebih banyak pictures. I have no WiFi, so I wrote this whole thing on my phone. I promise I will talk about all the important and exciting things like eating and bathing next time. Spoiler alert: I do both of those things an alarming number of times every day. Find out more next time.