Sunday, May 19, 2013

Holding Out For a Hero

I pondered moms when I was in nursery school. I remember feeling sorry for Ann McCleskey as we compared lunchboxes (mine was Garfield, hers was Mork and Mindy) because her mom wasn’t as pretty as my mom. I felt myself lucky in the mom draw. That was the only standard of measurement by which I gauged mothers when I was five. Now, my standards have broadened a bit, and I still consider myself very lucky in the mom draw. Thanks, Marge.*

Here, when I ask students who their heroes are, almost all, no matter what age, will answer "my mother and father". At first, this was mildly annoying as I hoped to garner some useful cultural knowledge from their responses. I thought I'd be able to identify the respected leaders, musicians, athletes, actors, reality show stars, etc. But, nope. Mom and Pops. Every time. 

It is pretty great if you think about it. Moms and Dads should be the heroes. Regarding Moms, I found myself lucky, not just the once, but multiple times in the mom pick. In the course of my time in Indonesia, I have gained two additional ibus, or mother figures, who have taken care of me as if I was their own daughter. These strong women have looked out for me, taught me, packed my lunches, shared their stories with me, cried to me, cried with me, and I can't imagine how I would have gotten through life here without their guidance and support. I want to give them some blog love in honor of Mother's Day week in U.S. They are only two of the many, many amazing Indonesian women who have inspired me in my time here.

Like Bonnie Tyler, if I was holding out for a hero, I need look no further....

Bunda (Sri Mulyanah) 
My bunda (mother) from Peace Corps training is a principal of an elementary school. Along with my ayah (father), she has raised three kids and put them through university. She values education, kick starts sing-alongs with the rest of the family in the living room, likes to discuss culture and ideas, coaches my Indonesian, and enjoys a nice Korean telenovela. In addition, she wakes up early every morning to pray, shop, cook, and get herself ready to go to school. 

She is the leader of the family and a force. 

Here, she is pictured with her best friend, who I call "Mama" who happens to be Christian. They really get a kick out of the fact that they are best friends from two different religions, and they usually meet up to celebrate each other's holidays. 

Bunda also enjoys grabbing onto me, as shown in photo. 

Bu Yun
My ibu from my permanent site is extremely patient, supportive, discerning, and funny. She tells a good story and does a mean impression of my brother, Mike, who came to visit me once. My friend, Trish, relayed this in an email home to my family:   
"Basically, we were sitting around the living room one day, Erin and the family were all speaking to each other in Indonesian so I wasn't really following much of the conversation.  Then suddenly some combination of Erin's Ibu's hand gestures, the change in her level of animation, and the fact that Erin looked like she was about to wet herself signaled to me that her Ibu was in the middle of an epic tale. Apparently the story involves running into Mike in the middle of the night on his way to the bathroom.  The high point in the retelling comes when 70-year-old, 5' Ibu breaks Indonesian for just a second to make a face that supposed to be Mike's and says in what I think is the only English I heard her speak the entire trip, "Uhhhhhhh, morning?"  It was amazing."

My ibu sells clothes at a market, so she wakes up at about 4am to shop, clean, pray, cook, and then she takes a bus to the pasar only to come back in the afternoon to cook and clean again. She never really seems to sleep except for the occasional cat nap (we actually do have a few cats who, at times, can be seen napping alongside her). My ibu, along with my bapak (father), raised her niece from when she was two years-old after losing their only son.**

Bu Yun enjoys Indonesian soap operas, battling mosquitos, caring for her new granddaughter,  and sweeping. She likes to play it straight in photos and in first meetings, but she's a good time. I could spend hours on the porch just hanging out and chatting with her.  
My current ibu is not much of a grabber. I am planning a hug attempt when I leave, but I am preparing myself for the very real possibility that this could go terribly wrong. 

Team Padangan - Bu Olif and Bu Yurike
From left: Bu Yurike, Bu Olif, and me
Bu Olif is a staple in this blog. As my bodyguard, my first friend here, and my general adviser on all things cultural, I can easily say that I never would have made it without her. She is quiet, strong, smart, extremely caring, independent, and a great teacher. 

As the first in her family to go to college, she guided her younger brother in his school choices for junior high and high school to make sure he could get into a good university. He is now a successful computer programmer living in Jakarta. To me, Ms Olif represents just how quickly Indonesia is moving. She got herself and her brother into college with no prior precedent within her family, and I am still amazed at how she did this.

Bu Yurike moved here from Bali this semester. Having a new counterpart so late in the game could have been disastrous, but thank the glories she has been a lynchpin in the Padangan English teaching team. She is confident, capable, strict. She drives a car (rare here), gets to the point, and gets things done. She is a leader. Watching her teach, she brings a fresh perspective of outside places and broad thinking to our students.

There couldn't be two personalities more different, but these two special ladies, each in their own way, show me every day what it means to be a strong woman and teacher. I am proud to have them as my friends.

Ila and Ayuk
Ila and Ayuk
My best friends in the village are 8 and 11, respectively. Most every day, for two years, I have looked to my quiet, respectful, fun-loving, helpful nieces to guide me through life, language, and culture here. They give it to me straight when I mispronounce an Indonesian or Javanese word and have my back when I need to cross the street or make a snack box. 

Ila, in particular, is my sidekick, and is the first to remind me of my American niece or nephew's birthdays or call me when I'm traveling just to check up on what I'm doing. She can bear a seven-hour journey crammed in a car with little-to-no breathing room with no complaints, and she has been my marketing director for recruiting kids to study English at my house.

Ila, Ayuk, and I hang out, do homework, sing One Direction songs, make crafts. It's the best of life.

I often tell my six-year-old neighbor Lia that she is one of my heroes. I'm not sure she believes me, but it is very true. 

She rides bikes five times her size, cartwheels across the jalan with ease, leads our Gang Dua (our street) kids in games, fruit-picking, and varying schemes. She's championed through hospital visits with typhus, and she has yet to learn of society-imposed gender roles (curse the day if she ever does). 

She generally embodies the spirit and fun of life. The girl's got spunk. I can't wait to see what she gets up to in her later years as it can only be good things. 

I hope I am like her when I grow up.  

From left to right - 
FRONT: Bu Olif, Bu Prapti, Bu Yurike; 
MIDDLE:Pak Cipto, me, Bu Ci'ut, PCV Mary, Bu Candra, 
Bu Indah, Bu Fitri, Bu Atik; 
BACK: PCV Liz, Bu Nisya, PCV Martine; Not pictured: PCV Alex Gems
The Women (and Men) of IGLOW
Facebook and these PC blogs have been saturated with references to IGLOW (Indonesian Girls Leading Our World). Sorry to add my trickle to the flood, but here, in Bojonegoro, a wonderful team of Indonesian counterparts and PCVs somehow successfully pulled off a 3-day camp for high school females. 

Thanks to their hard work, organization, presentations, and willingness to risk sleeping in a room rumored to have ghosts, our students experienced a rich weekend of making new friends and learning. Students attended sessions on women's health, goal-setting, team-building, leadership, and learned about influential women from around the world. 

The team pictured above and the 65 amazing high school girls of camp IGLOW Bojonegoro 2013 are all my heroes. 

The IGLOW Bojo girls are the future.
And they are on FI-RE!

Special Hero Shout Out:  to both gals and guys of PC Indonesia group ID7. Starting out on a new journey and carrying the torch of the Peace Corps Indonesia program - way to be! Thanks also for re-energizing me in my last days. You are my newest heroes. 

Welcome to the family, and let me know if there is anything I can ever do to help. I'll see you on the other side in T-minus 746 days (OK, yeah, probably not a good idea to count. Just focus on today, and you'll do fine).

I can't wait to see all you get up to here. PC Indo Love!
ID7 photo taken by Dwi Tjahjoko

*Most especially -  for planning my epic birthday parties and letting me eat the frosting right out of the tub.
**Several women I know have either lost children and taken on relatives children or have given their own children to other family members to raise if they have trouble conceiving. 

No comments:

Post a Comment