Sunday, May 15, 2011

5 Weeks In!

It’s 9:30pm. Way past my bed time. Considering I took a nap during bahasa Indonesia class today, I should be taking advantage of free time to hit the hay. Alas, there is a loud, live concert outside my window for the second night in a row. Last night was dangdut; tonight is gamelan. So tonight when I called my grandma in Long Island for her birthday, I think it was legit when she said she couldn’t hear me. Other times, I think she is just making it up so she won’t have to talk to me.

This morning, as I was trapped inside the size S batik shirt the high school students from my practicum gave me, it struck me that I have been here for 5 weeks already. 5 weeks sounded like a long time to me, and as I was struggling for air, I started thinking about how far I’ve come.
  • 5 weeks is long enough so that I can now sometimes have full conversations in Indonesian if we stick to the 6 topics I know.
  • It is long enough for some of the village kids to call my name when I walk by.
  • It is long enough for my PC village cohorts (aka Beji Bros) to be well-attuned to my inability to hold onto material objects. Some items left behind so far include: money, lunch box (lost twice, and recovered twice), water bottle (recovered) camera (recovered), ATM card (recovered), not to mention the 3 trips to the warung (store) it took before I actually had all the components needed to put pulsa on my modem.
  • It is also long enough to feel like I already rely on the other PCVs a considerable amount. I rely on them to confirm directions when I haven’t paid attention or to take the bullet and answer a question when I just can’t understand what my language teacher is saying. I rely on them to cover the angkot (small van) ride when I don’t have small bills, and I rely on them to provide me with a peanut and butter and jelly sandwich when I need it most.
But in those 20 minutes struggling inside my batik shirt, I also had to put in perspective that, let’s face it folks, 5 weeks is ridiculously short.
  • It is short enough to still have no idea how to successfully negotiate eliminating the pound of sugar in my drinks.
  • It is short enough that I still rank "reducing the amount of time I spend in the mandi (bathroom)" as a high priority. 
Aside: Mandis are done Kramer-style, maximizing space and time by accomplishing many things at once – washing hair, brushing teeth, washing underwear, etc. I have not tried washing lettuce, but who knows how far we can take this thing. Anyway, I take forever.

  • It is also short enough where I wonder if I will ever be able to feel a part of this culture. Will my host dad ever completely understand me when I tell him what time I will be home? Will I ever be able to interpret exactly when an event will happen? Will I ever be able to get a true gauge for how people really feel about things when they don't say it explicitly? Will I ever think Opera Van Java is funny?
Only time will tell. In any case, I am making every attempt to savor the next half of Pre-Service Training...and I have made special note to avoid purchasing any size S clothing while in Indonesia.


  1. What are the 6 topics you can speak to in Indonesian?

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  3. 1) where I am from 2) bargaining at the market 3) directions 4) descriptions of people 5) items in a classroom 6) bodily functions

  4. i felt compelled to share that i once wrote a college paper on the gamelan. those 10 years of student loans really paid off!