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News from Indonesia

Posted on Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Jane Erickson '07, a Colorado native, received a highly competitive Fulbright Assistantship in Indonesia last year and is completing a 10-month assignment there, teaching English to high school students. Of 22 public schools in the city, she says there are five with educational standards and resources above the rest. "I am lucky to teach at the best of them (SMA2), and there is a sense of pride regarding this that is imbued in both teachers and students, making me feel like I am back at Douglas County High School during homecoming week," says Erickson. The following are brief, edited excerpts from a communication she sent to her friends back in the States to let us know how she's doing (we've picked some topics and arranged them alphabetically): Anwar: Anwar is the security guard at school who has been permanently assigned to “Jane” duty. He picks me up daily at 6:45 and brings me home around 3:30. (I ride side-saddle on his motorcycle, as my mandatory skirted attire is not conducive to the safer full-on straddle. I am actually so used to riding a motorcycle this way that I often find myself automatically assuming position, regardless of my clothing restrictions.) He fixes my sink, takes me to the post office, and gets the most in-season fruit for me. While we may not chum-chum around on the weekends, he is most certainly one of the most consistent fixtures in my life here. Christmas in Japan: Going to Japan for Christmas and New Year's was rejuvenating in every way possible. They call Niseko, the “powder capital of the world,” and although it pains a Coloradoan to admit it, the snow was unprecedented. Communication (or attempts at it): I have often called the head of my school, Kepala (head) Sekola (school), “Kelapa Sekola,” or “Coconut Head.” And my ojek [motorcycle taxi] driver got a good laugh when I said “Saya Terlambat! Cakep! Cakep!” instead of the correct “Cepat! Cepat!” I suppose “I’m late! Handsome! Handsome!” is a good substitute for “I’m late! Faster! Faster!” Fifi: Fifi was the first student I was introduced to at Smada, and has remained one of my favorites. She is in year 11, and standing at about 4’ 10”, has a sharper mouth than most New Yorkers. I met her after she gave an impeccable speech in an English debate competition about the necessity for mandatory sex education to be incorporated into the Indonesian senior high school curriculum. Needless to say, I was immediately flummoxed and drawn to her, and am constantly inspired by her quirkiness. IndoMie Telur: Or Intel, as the students call it, is my 4,000Rp (40 cent!) daily lunch. It consists of ramen-like noodles, a hard boiled egg, veggies, very hot spices, and very hot water, all consumed in a very hot room. So hurtful, but I always find myself coming back for more. After consumption I look like I just broke the 100 yard dash record at Louisiana State University in August. SECC: SECC stands for “Smada English Conversation Club,” which consists of about 20 to 30 students that meet one a week to, you got it…. converse in English. I am hosting a dinner gathering at my house in three weeks for all members, with the only rule being that the second you step foot in my house you can only speak English. (I am thinking the menu will include chips and guac, mac and cheese, a salad of some sort, apple pie, and my mom’s Della’s rolls. I am sure mutiny will break out when they discover rice isn’t on the menu.) Traveling: Geography has seen to it that every island and culture is drastically different than the next, and I am continuously astounded at how truly varied every aspect of this country is. Highlights include: • World-class scuba diving in Bunaken; • Acquisition of a hand made 24-inch machete from Flores (which made it past airport security in my carry-on luggage!); • Summiting the second highest volcano in the country, Gunung Rinjani—and then rafting across its crater-lake to climb the budding caldera in its belly; • Touring an Indonesian teak furniture factory in Semarang; • Visiting a Balinese traditional healer in Ubud who detoxed my aura—after five hours of leaves, oil, blessings, massages and ingesting questionable substances, I was a new woman (or at least a justifiably post-liberal one). Valentines: The week of February 14th was easily one of the best I have had in Indonesia. As the capstone lesson to a unit on creative writing, I brought in Valentine making materials and had each student compose an acrostic poem in English surrounding the theme of love, and construct their card around this. Women's Group: Catherine, the other female Makassar ETA, and I began a women’s conversation group in early November. We meet every Sunday for about two hours. A different woman hosts every week, and she gets to choose the topic. (And make lunch! We have been able to try home cooked versions of all the Makassarese delicacies…and I introduced them to macaroni and cheese!) Thus far we have discussed everything from sex education, to family planning, to politics, and free sex (this is the common term for pre-marital sexual relations in Indonesia). We have plans to go to a female pesantren in April to talk to the girls about English, and put on a workshop exploring undergraduate education options.
 


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