Host Family

What is living with a host family like?

So far, it is super. Honestly. I am sure I will have moments where I want to run screaming for total independence, but right now, I am enjoying the fact that I have delicious meals made for me, I have a cartoon character lunch box packed each day, the bills are all paid, and I don’t have a landlord who stalks me at work for no reason. Because of this, I can focus my time on how the heck to absorb everything in a brand new culture in a brand new language.

I stayed with one family during PST, and now I have a new family at site. 

My host family: 
I have a host sister, Anna, who is an assistant to a midwife. She was recently married, and her husband Eka, who is a nurse, also lives with us now. I was curious as to where they would live after the wedding, and whenever I asked, my host ibu said,"Terserah" - wherever they like. It was interesting that a place to live was lower on the list of things to think about than how many snack boxes would be needed for the wedding events. 

The night of the wedding, I anxiously awaited to see where they would sleep, and looks like I have a new roommie! I’m not exactly sure I’d want to spend my honeymoon in my parent’s house with a weird American chatting with her fellow teachers in the next room, but different strokes, I guess. 

My bapak is really enjoyable as can be seen by his love of eating ice cream and giving speeches at a neighbor's wedding below. He is retired from working for the department of forestry, and now he sells scrap metal next door to the house. It is pretty awesome because he can nap or hang out throughout the day and then people just come to the door asking him to open up the shop. He can sleep anywhere, and I've often caught him sleeping sitting upright, which I find admirable. 

He likes to bring me home "hamburgers" when I am sick or buy me Oreos and bread for when I go on bus trips somewhere. My bapak also invited an entire orphanage to my sister's wedding and slipped them all a little spending money for their trouble.

He teaches me Javanese and knows more English than he lets on. My ibu once asked me in Indonesian if we had peanuts in America, and he broke out with the fact that Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer.

My ibu allows me to take the amount of food of my choosing which is enough to make me jump up and serenade her with a round of the Partridge Family's "I Think I Love You". She is extremely patient, and even though she doesn't speak any English, she takes the time to explain meanings in Indonesian or Javanese to her slow, white daughter. She 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. Actually, 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). She enjoys Indonesian soap operas, battling mosquitos, making snack boxes, and sweeping. 

I think she is very beautiful, and I often marvel that she does not have one gray hair on her head despite being in her 60's. She is also a mean bekel (like jax) player as can be seen below.

My niece, Ila, is a constant at my house. It took a good 3 months to get her to open up, but now she is my trusty sidekick who particularly enjoys waiting for me everyday to come home from school, peering through my window when I take naps, and getting a kick out of the weird things I do, which apparently are many. Her favorites so far, in addition to my Indonesian and Javanese errors, are the fact that she witnessed me fall off my bike once (in my driveway, no less), how I always mispronounce the title of a favorite Indonesian soap opera we all watch, and my random whistling which ladies usually don't do in these parts.  

She also enjoys pointing to photos on my wall and naming each of my nieces and nephews and telling me when their birthdays are. "Bulan depan, ada ulang tahun kakak dan keponakan Ms Erin", or "Next month are the birthdays of brother and niece Ms Erin". She's good to have around in that way as I am trying to make a conscious effort to actually remember birthdays this year. 

We like to sing songs, ride bikes, and walk to the bank or the Indomaret together. She can now do various softball cheers in English as well as kick back with a nice game of PIG, Go Fish, or UNO. Soon, we move onto puzzles! 

Below is Ila on her birthday (which usually aren't a very big deal here, but you wouldn't know it from the plethora of birthday pics on this page) with her parents. They live down the street and also sell clothes at the market. They recently opened a toko (small store) at their house, so they are my new Oreo and shampoo suppliers. 

Below is the fam along with my brother, Mikey, who came to visit:

Introducing my PST family: 
I have a wonderful sister, Nanda, who is a university student and speaks excellent English. She was working on her thesis when I lived there, and she put up with me when I asked her stupid questions like, “What side of the street should I walk on?” and “How often should I wash my sheets?” Occasionally, she actually let me do the dishes, but I usually had to run in the kitchen before she realized what I was doing. She has since moved to Malaysia to help teach kids in a village for 2 years. She said she was inspired by me. This makes me heart her and miss her more. Her boyfriend, Dida, was also over each night. As I no longer had my brother, Mike, or my Brooklyn neighb, Christian, close-by, Dida was my go-to technical expert. He is patiently awaiting Nanda's return in Jakarta.

I have twin brothers, Bintang and Lintang, who are also university students. My objective was to be their BFF before my 10 weeks were up, and I think I succeeded. Aside from the awesomeness of their names (although I call them Fafa and Dodot), they are also pretty good for making funny poses in pics. Occasionally, when I came home, they were either skillfully playing a musical instrument or tending to the array of pet birds hanging in cages on the front porch.

My bapak, or ayah (father), spent years working at a textile factory in Solo (really far away) and would come home on the weekends. The first day I came to live here, I said I needed to buy a converter to charge my camera battery. He started stripping wires and within 20 minutes, he had rigged some sort of device that allowed me to safely charge my electronic devices. Of course, with the language barrier, he first presented me with a light switch, but we worked it out eventually. 

Peace Corps requires me to sleep under a mosquito net – even though there are few mosquitoes here. The second day, I told my host dad I might need help setting the net up (after just saying “to heck with everything” and sleeping inside it like a sleeping bag the first night). By the time I came home from class that day, he had rigged a support system around my bed and the net was already hanging.

Aside from his MacGuyver-like skills, occasionally I would also catch my host dad strumming the old guitar beautifully on the couch. Currently, my ayah is working 9 hours away from home and only comes home once every couple of months so he can pay for all the college educations.

My Ibu (mother) loves me. She also tells me she thinks I am cantik (beautiful) and loves that I am so putih (white). So, obviously, we are good as gold. My host mom is an elementary school teacher and also studies on the side to become a school administrator. In addition, she wakes up early every morning to pray, shop, cook, pack my lunch, and get herself ready to go to school. She claims she doesn’t speak English well, but some days I would come home, and she would pop out something perfectly like, "I have been thinking about the American education system."

She didn’t say exactly that, but because I don’t take the time to write things down, I forget what she actually said. Oh, and her favorite TV shows include “Little House on the Prairie”, “The Bionic Woman”, and a Korean telenovela called “Cruel Intentions.”

Naila. I am still getting to the bottom of how exactly she is connected, but I think her grandmother (who lives next store) is my host mom’s aunt. She is 5, and she is in love with both boy PCVs in my village even though she already has a 6-year-old boyfriend. She is also very particular about her shoes.

She has been a good test of communication without language because I think when I came, she knew neither English nor Indonesian. She spoke only Javanese. So we would play Memory, Connect Four, or Dominoes with the only words we had in common:
-   sama (same)
-   tidak sama (different)
-   lagi (again)
-   di mana (where is)
-   and numbers from 1-10 in both English and Indonesian.

We also play Hide and Seek sometimes, but, usually, this consists of only her hiding, and it is always the same hiding spot in the prayer space right behind the chair. The challenge is long gone, but the yucks were still plentiful.

Anyway, yesterday we tried out UNO, and I was struck by how much progress was made in understanding one another. I don’t know if she is learning more Indonesian now, or if she was speaking it the whole time and I had no clue with my total lack of language ability – but I was able to explain an UNO Wild card, and she was able to tell me that she would see me tomorrow because it was time for her mom to pick her up. So, we are moving right along.

She mostly seems obsessed with my nose, though. One thing that has never even crossed my mind as being a “thing” is what kind of nose someone has. I have a hidung mancung (pointy nose). Indonesians have hidung pesek (flat nose), although if you asked me to pick them out of a line-up, I am sure I would fail.

They help me draw and color posters for English camp!
So, this is the fam. What exactly is it that I bring to the table, you may ask? When I figure that out, I will be sure to let you know.