After In-Service Training, and the uncomfortable bus ride back to my site with my counterpart, I had a turnaround in my attitude towards almost everything. When I arrived and walked down the familiar alley on the way to my house and said hello to all the children gawking from their respected windows to then reach the welcoming porch where Harry and Sally were napping (RIP Harry), I felt at home. I was relieved. Not only just to be off the bus and given the opportunity to as quickly as possible peel the jeans off my body, but also relieved I was back in Haurgeulis. Back home.
IST was a godsend for my mental health. I had a good ole’ time seeing everyone and hearing about the hilarities that happen on a daily basis at their site. We swapped laughs, tears, beers, and cheap boxed wine and had some memories to boot. I am especially proud of West Java for taking charge of the last day of IST and coming up with presentations on classroom management and discipline, games, vocabulary enrichment, lesson planning, and cultural expectations. It was exactly what my counterpart and I needed. We became closer. I think there was clarity for what was expected of both of us as well as a better understanding of the other person as an individual.
Over the following weeks until Thanksgiving, I spent my time teaching, lesson planning (yeeeee) with my counterparts and helping my counterpart, Pak Handi, with our English competition, The Bondroe (nickname of our school) English Extravaganza. Basically, it was like Jeopardy. Each class had three students to represent them. The whole school competed and the 10th graders swept the finals!! I was so proud of everyone and I am so happy I have a counterpart like Pak Handi who, for a lack of eloquence on my part, is a boss. A big thanks too to Alex, Dan and Amanda who came to Bondroe to help out with the competition.
I also spent my time being both a cheerleader for the student’s sports teams and a player on the women teachers’ volleyball and soccer teams. I really have no clue how to play volleyball, but I enjoyed pretending I did.
I also was invited to play field hockey at an Islamic boarding school, Al Zaytun. The women on that team were so kind. I was thrown into a full field match and I remembered immediately how tough the game was. It has been about 10 years since I woke up early to go to Futures field hockey sessions or high school practices. I think I held my own, though.
What proved more enjoyable, was dusting off my soccer boots and getting back into the game. I truly felt like Mia Hamm when I played on the women teachers’ soccer team. “Bang Jali, Miss” the crowd (there was a legit crowd) would scream when I scored. So, I scored often because I too live for the applause (looking at you Lady Gaga).
Granted, I know it was a spectacle to see me play soccer here. Soccer for girls here is not as popular as volleyball, or field hockey. At least this is what I have gathered from living in a very small town. Perhaps in the bigger cities women’s sports education/training is more popular, but I suspect the term “soccer mom” does not even come up on the radar anywhere here. I just am wondering when I will stop being a spectacle.
Sometimes the attention is overwhelming. At events where there are lots of students and teachers and other people in the community, everyone and their mother wants a picture with you; a picture of you with their friends, a picture of you holding their child, etc. Most of these people I do not even know. The first couple of months at site were like this, and I expected it. But, now that I have been here for 6 months, I just wonder (hope) that people will just start to see me as a normal part of life. Just another person in the market, just another biker on the road, just another 25 year old who does not have the answers or a clue about how things go, just another person trying to make my way home.
Thanksgiving was a treat. Those in West Java were invited to the Deputy Chief of Mission, Mrs. Kristen Bauer’s home along with other embassy and USAID employees. They out did themselves with the Thanksgiving spread (all the Thanksgiving staples and then some) and endless wine. After I had two plates and some wine, I sat back in my chair and looked around the exquisite house and thought, this is probably one of my happiest moments here. I was so relaxed and I am sure the turkey, mashed potatoes, and wine had a lot to do with it. A big thanks to them for having all of us and I am glad that we all were on our best behavior.
Honestly, being away from home was pretty difficult, but at the same time, you don’t feel the compulsion to celebrate. There are no reminders of Western holidays (except for the Christmas trees in the malls in Jakarta), and it is 100 degrees here. Certainly not the weather I associate with the holidays.
And now for the best part of this whole spiel…
A lot of people always say to me “sendirian”, “masih sendirian”, which translates to by yourself, or still by yourself whenever I go to do something. I do most things by myself here, which is not abnormal for me anywhere. I suppose, though, that in a high context culture such as this one, that it is odd to be so independent.
So, then I started thinking about all of the things I do by myself and as I was doing that I saw a buzzfeed link to the worst “selfies” you can take. For those of you who for some reason do not know what a selfie is ( I mean, really?) it is a picture of one’s self, taken by one’s self. You don’t necessarily take the photo of yourself because you are by yourself, but I have noticed that most selfies are indeed taken during tasks that one does independently, i.e driving, gym, bathroom, etc.
Some of my favorites on the list were the “gym selfie” and “bathroom selfie”. Why we feel the need to take this pictures I’m sure has some psycho-social explanation, but what I wanted to know is what is the Indonesian selfie like? Where do Indonesians take their selfies?
What I noticed from looking through my Indonesian friends Facebooks is that Indonesians too have selfies. Theirs are in familiar places like the home, on a motorcycle, etc. But, I certainly haven’t seen an oversharing aspect to Indonesian selfies as I have with Western (specifically American) selfies. Certainly no “eating rice” selfies, or any other shots of mundane daily activities. I also want to say before anyone gets offended, I have no problem with the selfie. I was taking selfies before I even knew what they were called. I was taking mental selfies in the mirror when I was little and was fascinated by my face (still am), true story. Maybe, I too, am a little narcissistic.
So, I decided to take some selfies of the daily activities I do here in Indonesia. I am trying to combine the Western tradition of the selfie with my Indonesian life. I hope you find these as ridiculous as I do.
This is my “goodmorning/napping with Sally” selfie
This is my “Cooking anything but rice for breakfast” selfie
This is my “Teaching in the heat. Sure, I like to sweat.” selfie
This is my “eating mac n cheese from America. The blue box rules.” selfie
This is my “oops, gotta go…Look I’m on a squatty potty” selfie. ( I didn’t actually use the bathroom, okay..don’t get your panties all in a bunch)
This is my “running through the rice paddies. Oohhhh, it’s hot!” selfie
This is my ” I need to mandi. I just mandied. I do this 5 times a day.” selfie
This is my “gonna cut my hair. Oh, Lord.” selfie
This is my “facebook stalking” selfie
Finally, this is my “goodnight to you” selfie.
Just kidding, this is my “I can’t sleep” selfie.
As you can see, I am missing some very important selfies, i.e., the “on a crowded angkot” selfie and “riding my bike in traffic” selfie, just to name a few.