Wednesday, October 14, 2009

random pics

with a bunch of students at a housewarming party afterschool
i spoke in indonesian and they in english
big, hearty belly laughs at miscommunication and lots of high school gossip

my bathroom. i have no sink, but i have clean water. bonus.

my room! [notice my motorcycle helmet on the bed] :)

the head master, his wife, me, science teacher, and ibu zulfah (my counterpart/awesome english teacher) at halal bihalal [big lunch to ask mutual forgiveness week after eid]

halal sprite.

color conscious

after two weeks of observation (october 9, 2009):
the first few days i walked around in the school, i received many double takes.

let me share a conversation i had at least fifty times in my first week at SMAN 3.

Random teacher (to Ibu Zulfah): *nodding at me* siapa? ('who is that?')

Ibu Z: Oh! that is vidhi! she is our new english teacher from america. dari america, ya.

*Random teacher cautiously steps towards me and examines me from head to toe.*

Random teacher: cantik, ya. tapi hitam. orang india. ('very pretty. but black. she is from india)

Ibu Z: No, no she is from America. She can speak fluent American English.

Random teacher: *stares suspiciously* nga. orang india! lihat! ('no. shes indian. look!')

Me: saya dari america tapi orang tua dari india. saya tinggal america. ('i am from america, but my parents are from india. i live in america')

Random teacher: Ah. Tahu BOLLYWOOD? DANCE, YA? wooo, dance! show dance! bisa bahasa indonesia, seperti 0rang indonesia, bagus! (' can you dance like a bollywood? dance! you can speak indonesian! you are like indonesian! great!)

Me: sorry, i cant dance like a bollywood star. yes, i am learning to speak indonesian. *slightly amused smile*

end scene 1.

i am not exaggerating. this very scenario happened fifty times. the first time, i laughed and was very amused. by the 49th time, i was over it. in the end, when i divulge that my parents are from india and i was, indeed, born in india, the teacher's eyes light up and they point at me as if they have figured me out. puzzle solved. boxed, packaged, and sold. they were "right" all along. i always smile and try to explain that i am of both worlds but my sharp nose and slightly slanted eyes seem to speak louder than my words. and then the bell rings and i must go to class to answer more questions for "observation."

its very frustrating to never quite fit into a place. in india, i would never be considered indian enough. my walk is too western, my dress too modern. my ideas drenched in "corrupted american ideology." in the states, i am initially identified by my cultural background. my skin and face giving me away before i am ready to share. i find myself, especially here, reevauating my identity and what components are relative in creating an identity. sure ethnicity is one part--a genetic piece of the puzzle. but i dont think i even know what race is anymore. however, i love blending in whenever i walk down the road.

regardless of the frustrations, i feel that i am fulfilling my duties in being a cultural ambassador. many of my students have asked why i am not white, and this gives me a great platform where i can start talking about cultural diversity in the u.s. and although the teachers give me a hard time about being non-white, they have accepted me as a sister and "one of them." they love that i am darker and tell me i could be indonesian. they tell me i am "hitam-manis" ('black-sweet'), which means i am pretty and sweet even though i am black and tell me that they think i am much nicer than other bules 'foreigners' they have met.

no one knows very much english at all. the men at school love to tell me i am beautiful and ask me to go to the movies with them. (they are all married and innocent, so it is just funny and flattering). i randomly hear "i love you, miss vidhi" in the halls from the boys and the girls. sometimes i feel like i am teaching in a middle school as opposed to a high school. the women always compliment me on my figure, hair, and face. and everyone, EVERYONE, will always go up and over and around the corner out of their way to help me.

i have learned that a smile, even when youre really pissed off or tired or cold, can go a long way. talk about universal language =D the best thing about the indonesian smile is its genuine nature. you can tell that when they smile back, they really mean it. its the best.

smiling is great, even by myself.

the other day i was taking a shower at four in the afternoon when the power went out. this meant the water also stopped dripping (to say 'stopped flowing' would be a horrible misrepresentation of how fast the water comes out of the nozzle). i was all soaped up in my cockroach infested bathroom with nowhere to go. now i could have gotten really upset, but i decided to start laughing, just as my fellow indonesians have taught me to do, and the situation rectified itself in ten minutes or so.

i would really like to be fluent in indonesian. now. it is a slow and arduous process. i am learning but there are just so many words, haha!

today was my first day of actually teaching on my own in the classroom! i will write about the students and afterschool life next time.

til then, be proud of whatever color you are..purple, blue, brown, yellow, orange, red, black, or green. and yes. even white.

no more big yellow school buses

first day of school (september 28, 2009):
i woke up for my first day of school like every other first day of school: ridiculously groggy and disgusted by the chirping alarm being emitted from my cell phone at 5:30 am. i took a shower and put on my very best first day of school outfit. long black dress pants and a navy blue longsleeved button-up dress shirt. ibu zulfah was supposed to pick me up at 7:00 am. she arrived promptly at 6:45 am. i quickly gathered my things and we were off on her motorbike to the high school.

my very first day at SMAN3, was the first day back for all the students and staff; they were off for Ramadan, a month long religious holiday and the school's state appropriately reflected that it had been vacant for a some time. so it was a pseudo first day for everyone. to begin the week, every week, there is a flag ceremony. during this ceremony all 1400 students stand, grouped by grade level in the courtyard and face the flag. the teachers stand in front, next to the flag. this week was obviously no exception.

after some student leaders recited the national anthem, the headmaster started speaking. during his speech, a teacher nudged me and said, "five minute speech, ya? you new. some indonesia some english, ya? ok. ya. it will be ok, ya?"

uh...sure id love to speak in front of 1400 students and 100 teachers on my very first hour in my very first day at your school.

so not like any other first day of school.

the headmaster finished his speech, and i was shoved towards the podium. i stepped over the chords and squinted into the sunlight to see a wave of fresh young (profusely sweating) faces. i gave a short speech half in indonesian and half in english. everyone cheered after each indonesian sentence. i felt like a rockstar. a really really sweaty rockstar. after i finished, the students and teachers applauded and whistled. i walked backed to my former position under the shade and then waited in line with the other teachers as each one of the 1400 students came up to shake our hands.

except the handshake isnt a typical handshake. it is like the following:
in order to show respect to teachers/elders/those in authority, the students take the teacher's right hand with both of their hands and put it up to their forehead or cheek and bow.

this takes a while since there are 1400 students.

did i mention it was only 8am?

after the greetings and the handshaking, i went to my first observation. for the first two weeks at our school, we were only supposed to observe the teachers and their interactions with the students. only in the third week were we to start teaching. this idea sounded great when AMINEF told us about it back at the Novotel in bandung...except it didnt really happen.

definition in english of observation: sitting and watching to receive knowledge of how something or some task occurs or is performed

definition of observation in indonesian english: giving a speech about yourself to each class and every class and subsequently answering the barrage of questions that a speech about yourself and then praying for your time to be up because no one is asking questions because no one can speak english and no one has understood a single word you said.

so... i spent the whole day running from 45 minute class to 45 minute class (the teachers here switch classrooms, not the students) answering questions and telling the students about myself. after about midday, the heat really started to get to me. there is no air conditioning and most classrooms don't have fans. some classes were really alert and asked many questions. others stared blankly and giggled after every word i spoke. while i was in the classroom, many teachers would walk out or zone out into indonesian teacher dreamland. it was frustrating because i know many of the students just didnt understand what i was saying, and i could have used some translation help. although about half of the english teachers cant really speak english i guess it would not have helped so much. between 7th and 8th period i realized how hard my job was going to be...but how excited i was to be here.

i finished my day at about 2:00 pm and ibu zulfah dropped me off back at my home. i was exhausted (who knew talking about yourself for 7 hours straight could be so tiring). i took a mini nap and went to explore the city on my own in the evening.

definitely the most unique first day of school. ever. and i didnt get picked on (in english, anyway...). score.

Friday, October 2, 2009

quote i love to live

"I will not be just a tourist in the world of images, just watching images passing by which I cannot live in, make love to, possess as permanent sources of joy and ecstasy."
-anais nin.

hell yeah anais. i have had my first week in medan! so much to share...i will update sometime this weekend. also, there was a tragic earthquake in padang, sumatra as most of you know. over 1000 people have died and many are still crushed beneath the rubble. please send your love and prayers to those suffering. there was a fulbrighter in padang, but he is ok. everyone i know is safe and well. thank you for all your e-mails and messages. love.

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