Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Meeting

Rapat. It is a standard happening here in my life. I am not sure PCVs were adequately prepared for just how many meetings we would sit through. I have probably clocked in a solid 80 hours of various meeting types up to this point conducted all in Indonesian. 

I am still learning to appreciate the intricacies of the formal gatherings, but, so far, here is a recipe for if you want to throw your own: 

  • If you designate a start time for the meeting, make sure you begin at least 30 minutes to 3 hours later. 
  • Get yourself a microphone and speaker system – even if you are in a small classroom with few people and everyone can plainly hear what you are saying without it. 
  • If possible, have the speaker sit at a formal table with a placard or banner indicating the person’s importance. The speaker, in general, may not stand up or move about the audience.
  • Listening is not required from the audience. In fact, all can continue on with personal conversations or take that long overdue nap. Participants may even allow their kids to run around the room if they desire. 
  • Powerpoint. The key is the allure of just having a powerpoint. You don’t need to put anything in there that people need to follow, and it is actually best if you have a partner who fiddles with it constantly throughout your presentation offering a distraction from what you are saying. 
  • Interaction is not necessary and sometimes discouraged, but allow for a strictly formal Q&A session at the end, even if it is only a gathering of 10 or so.  
    • Questions from participants must be preceded by a “thank you” and followed by a formal apology for anything that could have offended.
    • The questions from one individual must be listed (there should be more than one question if you are taking the time to ask) and jotted down by the moderator.
    • The moderator will respond only after all questions from participants have been asked. No dialogue. 
  • You should provide snack boxes and Aqua water cups. 
  • If you are an elected official, you should provide presents. Male teachers at my school received shirts and female teachers were gifted purses after one event. 
  • Karoake following or preceding is optional, but recommended.

For the most part, I really enjoy these meetings. 

In the beginning it was a chance to test my focus and see how much I could understand. I have far to go in my language learning, and it is a good gauge for how I am progressing (or if I am at all). At times when I can no longer focus on what is being said or when I know it is not important for me to listen, it then turns into time when I can study my vocab notebook or jot down ideas for my next blog entry. Along with long bus rides, these meetings provide prime pondering time. Sometimes I catch myself drifting and thinking about other things like candy bars (oddly, I’ve found this takes up a significant amount of my pondering time), where I will live when I get back to New York, or broccoli (I’m pretty sure I am suffering from an iron deficiency). 

And I have grown to respect the formality, even if it is not my personal taste. It’s what people know. It’s seen as the most polite way. It’s how things have been done. I do question sometimes: How do people really feel? Do they like the way these things go? Wouldn’t it just be quicker and easier to hash these things out over a quick cup of java (pun intended) at the old warung (street restaurant) and scrap all the red tape?

And after hours of a meeting, I am often left wondering – “Wait, what did we decide? What is the action?” But then I am handed a snack box, and all questioning of effectiveness and efficiency, and all thoughts of broccoli step-ball-change back to the recesses of my mind to make way for a more important focus: carefully wrapped, fried sugary treats.  

Here are pictures from a university graduation I attended with one of my counterparts and his family a few months ago. The ceremony portion accounted for about 4 hours of my aforementioned meeting time tally. During this 4-hour span, my counterpart's daughter spent most of the time playing games on my cell phone as his wife slept in her chair.

PCVs are not allowed to ride motorcycles which makes travel difficult sometimes here. I had to ride in a horse and buggy to the next city with my CP's wife and daughter as he rode beside on his motorcycle.

Please note one trumpet player is standing on another trumpet player's shoulders.
I tried to get a pic of the intricate jilbab styles that go with special occasions.The mortar boards are also 5-sided instead of 4-sided. Menarik!

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