Saturday, November 21, 2009

life in pictures...words to follow

pak dedicating a song to me during the school's annual bazaar on nov.21st...something about my smile, haha.

students advertising their bazaar table to raise money for their extracurricular groups.

our team competing in the poco poco competition at the bazaar with the entire school watching.

me with some students at the school.

me and k in bali on october 24th.
(kerry is my best girlfriend here--she teaches in jepara (on java) and is my travel buddy for the next few weeks...i don't know what i would do without her).

john, me, cici, and rez(a) at the top of gunung sibayak, after a long hike on november 7th . it was their (ci and za) first real hike, and they were exhausted. we found a teal sulfur lake.

me. i was really excited to find the lake.

with the kids on the way up to the top.

i acquired bamboochuck fighing skills on the climb up. indo ninja style.
dont believe me? come visit.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

"John, should I wear my fleece pants or jeans to go swimming in the sulfer pools?"

I apologize for being lame and not updating.
I am so busy its unreal. Well, actually its very real/apparent because I am tired and sleepy and slowly becoming fat. I am going to share some pics and then tell y'all about teaching and a local NGO I have become infatuated with.

Here are some pics from hiking in the Sumatran jungle / Lake Toba. I also have pictures from Bali but cannot currently locate that camera...will post those later.


Yogi making tea in the morning

Sumatran jungle crew in Sibolangit (village of the sky).

traditional Batak house from Samosir Island.

a really large banyan tree on Samosir, the island in Lake Toba.

the largest lake, Lake Toba, in Southeast Asia! (its the size of Singapore)

the quintessential Indonesian man (notice the cig in his left hand).

Teaching: I love it. I teach at my school, SMAN3, Tuesday through Friday and on Mondays I teach art and English at a KKSP (a local NGO that works with street children). Most of my classes at the school are around 40-50 students. That’s double a normal U.S. high school classroom. Also, my official job is “English teaching assistant.” In Indonesian, this translates as “qualified high school English teacher” because out of the 7 teachers I work with, 6 leave the classroom when I enter. Here, instead of the students changing classes after each period, the teachers change classrooms. This leads to restless students that are eager to learn anything that I have to say because I make them move around. This also leads to a very sweaty me because unlike most of the teachers, I like to get to class on time. I am also usually wearing a sweater and long pants. Did I happen to mention the trivial fact that I AM BASICALLY ON THE EQUATOR?? Each class I teach is about 45 minutes, but sometimes the teachers “forget” to come back and I end up making something up for the remainder of the time until the teacher returns. Teachers at my school (and apparently in Indonesia as the ETA meet up in Bali revealed) are notorious for being late and frequently leaving class. Most teachers also just stand at the front of the classroom and talk for 45-90 minutes. Students are basically in zombie mode by the time I get to them and cheer and clap when I enter the classroom because I don’t stand at the front and talk at them for 45 minutes. (I feel a little bit famous at school, its really strange) They are also very…uh…high school. They giggle constantly in class and there is clandestine handholding in the hallways. And most of them love to learn and readily soak up what I have to say. A power like that is both exciting and exhausting since I have to carefully craft my words all day, even when I’m not in the classroom. A few students have sent me messages after classes and have told me that they learned x, y, or z and/or are excited for the next class. Or they tell me that I made them wonder about x, y, or z. Knowing that at least one person has learned something from my constantly perspiring, confused 23-year-old self is enough fuel to keep me going for the next 6.5 months. (yes, its already been 2.5 months here!! )

At the NGO (KKSP) that I am volunteering/interning at (, I have decided to work with a group of 20 boys ranging from the age of 7-23. They all live in a shelter called Rumah Musik (House of Music), and they work on the street playing music for money. Most of them do not have schooling background and live, sleep, and chill at the shelter. Each person usually earns around 50,000 Rp. ($5 US) in a week.
They also smoke. Constantly. When I asked why they all smoke like chimneys, Y (age 23) told me that having an addiction is cheaper than buying his dinner every day.

Last Monday I hung out with them on my own. The first few times I met with them, Ali (their main coordinator from KKSP) was with me, so he could translate the difficult stuff. Ali is also the guy I went camping in the jungle with. He's a very chill laid back 30-year-old guy with a big heart and a passion for justice. This past Monday, Ali was still kickin it in the jungle, so I went to with Rumah Musik on my own. I was really nervous since my Indonesian is decent but shaky and I would be attempting to connect with 20 boys/men. At first it was awkward, and we just languidly stared at each other for a while. I asked myself who I thought I was and what on earth possessed me to come to Indonesia. Just as the butterflies in my stomach were starting to crawl up my throat, one of the guys picked up his guitar and started strumming. I have had a long-running love affair with the sound of an acoustic guitar and our romance continued in the dark open room of Rumah Musik. I started to hum and soon, everyone was playing either the drums or guitar and we had a drum/guitar circle going. They taught me one of their songs they wrote and I sung. I then translated it into English, and we created an English version of the song and harmonized. We did a quick English lesson, and I promised them next time we would do an art lesson. As I left, they walked me out to my motorbike and laughed as I forgot to put my kickstand up before I started the gas.

Heres part of the song:

seuma orang itu guru
alam raya sekolahtu
sejatralah bangsaku

'all the people are teachers'
'great experience is my school'
'in prosperous solidarity is my nation'

I'm surprised at how much I enjoy teaching. The high schoolers and the kids at Rumah Musik have reminded me of the simplicity of life--despite the seeming complications.

While we were camping, I was sitting staring at the mountains that surrounded us and Ali asked me why I was always smiling. I was taken aback by his question and didn't even realize this was the case. I laughed and all I could spit out was, "I'm so lucky."

During my fourth period class today, another one of my students asked me why I was always smiling. I had no idea that I have a smile glued to my face...but apparently the fact that I love it here and am learning so much shows.

This weekend I am going to the hills with some of my students. They have been excited about it for weeks, and I am looking forward to hanging out with them outside of school.

Thanks for all the love you have sent me. All the e-mails and messages really help ground me when I am having my lonely moments.

peace from the southeast.
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