Email sent to my U.S. family on January 17, 2013:
Ila, my host niece, just left my room after trying to email Annie and my friend Mary Ellen in another village. We're trying to build her email chops before I go home. I was flipping through my Bon Voyage picture book* from you as she was waiting forever for the email to load (we used up all the pulsa skyping with the Stamford Fitz's the other day). Anyway, it's nice to have that photo book.
Earlier, I went home with a couple of my students. Every day, they walk about a mile from school to the river here, and then they take a little boat across. I went to their houses, which were much simpler than mine with dirt floors and fewer rooms. I sort of wished this was the life I had been living all this time - more similar to my students'.
The other day I was running along the train tracks and met another one of my students walking out to the rice paddies. He was going out to help his family in the fields after being in school all day. I've been chatting with some ladies who work the paddies in the afternoon, so they said they'd let me join them and give me a few pointers one day.
It's weird that I've been here so long, and sometimes I feel like I am just getting in on how things really go. If I wasn’t such a horrible teacher or have any of you at home, I might have actually considered a 3rd year just to continue figuring out life here. Luckily, those two things do exist, so there has been no doubt in my mind on coming home.
Other family is also constantly coming through on their way from other places, easily settling in as if this was their own house, and just plopping down to sleep wherever, whenever they like. Last night, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and my ibu, bapak, aunt, uncle, cousin, and a 2-yr old were all crammed onto a mattress on the floor. There are other bedrooms and places to sleep, but they prefer being close to one another. While I'm glad I don't have to endure Annie's nightly kicking (Ila comes in at a close second, btw), there really is something safe and comforting about just being around each other. Being so far away from all of you and seeing these values of family and community so prominently and simply displayed, day in and day out, make me long to be on one of your couches. Or learning the latest Dance Revolution routine. Or keeping your kids up late as we pick out our favorite Jonas brother.
I know while I've been away, a lot has gone on that I've missed and haven't been around for. I am really sorry for that. I am forever thankful for all the support you've given me and the understanding you've had about all this. And for all the cookies and candy you've sent. This week, during the nightly maghrib prayer when everyone closes up their windows and settles into their house to pray, I have been sitting in front of my fan, plowing through cookies and chocolate. My only answer to stopping these binges is just to finish it all in a few sittings. I probably only have a couple of days left.
Anyway, thanks again for all you do. Miss you all, and I can't wait to be near and jobless in a few short months. Get those couches ready!
*My family sent me off to Indonesia with a Shutterfly book of pictures of them. It was perused frequently and closely studied by my host niece Ila. You can see it on my desk below beside my princess bed. Yeah, not exactly where you thought a Peace Corps volunteer would sleep, did ya? And you thought I had it rough.