Thursday, March 6, 2014

Culture Club. I'll Tumble 4 Ya.

Below is a write-up on a presentation I did for Peace Corps Week. I wish I was this cool in high school.
On February 26, 2014, I had the pleasure of presenting about my experience in Indonesia to about 20 students of the Culture Club at Somers High School in New York. The club at my niece's high school meets weekly and chooses various countries to study in their extracurricular time after school. They had chosen Indonesia as their most recent focus of study, and when a 10th grade student in the group learned I served there as a Peace Corps volunteer, she eagerly invited me to attend.
In the course of about 45 minutes, we briefly discussed the goals of Peace Corps as well as various topics of interest about Indonesia including Geography and Environment, Religion, Village Life, Education, Dress, and Food. The students had already studied about the general history of Indonesia with their adviser and history teacher, so I presented on each of the areas above through pictures and stories of my family, community, and school in Padangan, Bojonegoro in East Java.

The students were very engaged in participating in an "Indonesia in Numbers" game where they had to run and stand next to numbers I had posted around the room to answer a question asked about Indonesia: "How many languages are spoken in Indonesia?" or "How many days a week do students in Indonesia go to school?" The American students were very surprised to learn, for instance, that my madrasah students in Indonesia studied up to 17 subjects in the course of one week. The students also were excited to wear sarungs I had brought from different islands of Indonesia, and we closed the presentation with snacks of fried tempe and dried mangoes I brought.
My students in Padangan, Bojonegoro also made video greetings to the Somers High School Culure Club.
I was inspired by these amazing high school students in both Somers, New York and Padangan, Bojonegoro, by their joy of learning and their desire to connect cross-culturally. I was thrilled to be able to participate in this Third Goal activity during Peace Corps week and share my love of my Indonesian home with students in the U.S.  

Friday, November 29, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving For You!

About a year ago, I walked across the futsal field with Ms. Olif to enter our regularly scheduled English class in XI IPA1. As I opened the door, I was assaulted by screaming teens throwing chopped posterboard bits of confetti that stabbed me in my eyelids and immediately caked onto my sweaty, sweaty skin.

Yes, this is celebrating Java teen-style. Thankfully they skipped the egging and dousing with water. 

My students didn't know what Thanksgiving was until I explained in an earlier class that it was my favorite holiday in the US, and I was a little sad I'd be missing it with my family for the second year in a row. 

Naturally, my class took that as a cue to take over our next English lesson and throw me a Thanksgiving party, complete with handmade cards and pizza. The pizza was drawn on the whiteboard, of course, but it was my own enjoyable version of a cartoon jelly bean and popcorn feast!
As I listened to Luluk's thank-you speech in English and took video of Sundari singing me a song, I caught myself thinking to a future time when I'd be eating mashed potatoes and endless desserts around the family dinner table once again.

But, little did I know,  back in that moment surrounded by students going out of their way to make me happy - that on Thanksgiving Days to come - while sitting around the dinner table I once couldn't wait to get to...I'd be thinking back to that day and missing them.  

And occasionally still finding bits of that deadly confetti in my bag.  

I'm so thankful today and every day for all of my students, family, and friends in Padangan. "This love will last forever." 

Selamat Hari Pengucapan Syukur!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Series Finale

As I approached the end of my Peace Corps service, as usual, I turned to television legacies to relay my thoughts and feelings. I pondered the best final episodes of television sitcoms.

Would I have a Newhart show ending where I wake up and realize I just dreamed the last seasons of my life? Would it be a Family Ties ending where the entire cast comes onstage after I say my goodbyes as I leave my village? Or would it be a Wonder Years tearjerker where the audience has to grapple with the fact that things sometimes just don’t turn out the way they thought they would… and realizing that’s OK?

In the end, it was a little bit of all three.

How Do I Feel?
My handling of the end has been odd, I must say. In the final weeks at site, it seemed my sadness manifested itself by way of not eating or sleeping, but I shed fewer tears than I expected. I will chronicle a few moments where I did break, however:
1) One of my brightest students, Luqman, gave me his pramuka (scouts) sash, his school cap, and a note telling me I was the best teacher (lie, but it got me right here).
2) My friend, Peni, a Muslim student, gave me a set of Rosary beads with a message saying "God Bless You".
We did it, Peace Corps. Bringing it all together.
3) My class X-1 wrote notes for me to bring home to America, and in Tiara's she wrote,"I and all friend very sad if Mrs Erin return in Amerika. And I would in the future if I have livelihood, I would tell my family about Mrs Erin teacher English from Amerika and teaching in MAN Padangan."
The thought of one of my students telling her kids about me just never would have occurred to me. It was more than I could handle.  
4) I gave yet another speech to my fellow teachers and friends and tried to explain that, while I might have had a lot of experiences traveling to different places, leaving this place would, by far, be the hardest thing I'd ever yet done in my life.

5) My ibu (host mom) uncharacteristically shed tears in the final moments before I was getting in the car to leave my home for the last 2 years, and this made me also momentarily lose composure.


6) Walking up the same road I strolled in those first days in Indonesia in Beji, my training village, I wondered when/if I'd ever get back there. I said good-bye to the family who first took me in and made me feel like Indonesia was my home. Then, I temporarily and unexpectedly lost it in the back of my host dad's car as he drove me to the bus.   

My thoughts turn to 27 months ago when I was driving in my aunt Sr. Tesa's minivan on the way to JFK. While passing the site of Ebbet's Field, I got a text from my pal, Christine, asking, "Leaving do you feel?"

My answer: "At peace. It's time."
Feels about the same now.
What I Learned
I originally had pegged my last entry to be a summary of things I had learned, but I think you’ve had enough of my nonsense for two years, and it might be time for me to start closing up emotional shop to prep for my next moves in life. But I’ll share a couple of things:
A) PC showed me that I can be kind of an asshole.* And we’re all probably more selfish than we care to admit. And that cues can be taken from other cultures on how to remedy this.
B) We’re made of some tough stuff – all of us. So far, my ranking, with the most grueling being a 1, is as follows:
1)     Suffering through the ordeal of getting over a long-term relationship
2) Peace Corps service – and all that entails
3)      Studying for the Series 7 exam while working 60 hours a week
4)      Marathon running 
If I ever experience childbirth, I'll update this accordingly. 

The Thanking**
Family. When I discussed applying to Peace Corps the first time more than ten years ago with my mother and father, they didn’t seem exactly overjoyed. This time around, when I actually went through with it, I think they swallowed some of their feelings because they knew it was something I really wanted. As did my brothers and sister when I traveled to each of their houses to break the news that I not only applied, but that I would probably be leaving the country in a couple of months.

Thanks for making me who I am (it is sort of your fault I ended up doing this in the first place). And for letting me find out that not only could I do Peace Corps, but that it was something I could be good at and love.  
My PC friends. You’re da bomb. It was never my plan to make friends with volunteers here, but it is almost sickening how close I feel to you after two short years. I suppose it might have something to do with all the poop talk and bed sharing. You each have taught me so much – just by being who you are. And through your kickin’ dance moves. ID4, IDFLY, ID6, and with ID7 continuing the legacy – thanks for building such a rad and accepting community – one that I am very proud I will belong to for the rest of my life.


My village communities. I distinctly remember in my first few weeks at site riding bikes with kids in my village. Two of them, Ratih and Ayuk, were laughing and trying to hold hands while riding alongside each other as we passed the pasar (market).

I was riding behind them, and I couldn’t believe they let me, a stranger, be a part of this moment – along with so many other moments. I couldn’t believe I could just come in out of nowhere, plop down into these people’s lives, and they would accept me. Just like that. I knew right then how amazing this is  - and would be - getting to do this.

There is no way I can ever properly thank an entire community for all they have given me these past years, but here’s a go:
Ini adalah sesuatu yang istimewa, sebuah kehormatan, dan sebuah kebahagiaan untuk menjadi bagian dari keluarga MAN Padangan dan Desa Padangan untuk dua tahun terakhir. Terima kasih banyak dari hati yang terdalam.
I also passed out about 750 copies of these to my village:  

I’ll be thinking things over. I’m also doing some traveling on my way home to catch up with some old friends. You can follow the ridiculous-ness of my travels here, once I get it up and running:  I Got Nothing Else Going On

I don’t know what the future will bring, but I can only hope there will be butter. And I know that when I hit the duka (downs), as happens no matter what country I happen to be in, or if I am rindu-ing (missing) my home and friends in Indonesia, I can take comfort in knowing that the sun will always come out tomorrow…

A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. – George Moore 

It has been a pleasure processing my thoughts with you watching. Until the next adventure...

*Another nice Peace Corps memoir read: I Joined the Peace Corps to Keep From Becoming an Asshole (It Worked, Mostly) 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Failure is a Friend of Mine

   Brianna: "Congrats on finishing the year! How does it feel?"
Me: "Sort of like failure."

This text exchange occurred between me and my PC pal on our last day of school last year. After a year of teaching in an Indonesian high school, I certainly had made some strides, but I still battled with planning with counterparts, figuring out curriculum, handling cheating, and effectively assessing students. There were definitely moments of futility and disappointment. A lot of them.

Some days I couldn’t get anything right - even in my down time. One night I planned to watch Short Circuit as a treat for getting through all of my classes, and halfway through the movie, I realized all the scenes I looked forward to watching were actually from Short Circuit 2 – which I didn’t have. Fail again, Erin. 

I had discussions back in pre-service training about what it would feel like when we finished service. Would it feel like we helped at all? I certainly did not come with any naive expectations of changing the world, but I am surprised now to feel I’ve had a lot more successes than I would have originally thought.* My expectations were pretty low, mind you, but I am grateful I will leave PC service feeling like we did it. (WE DID IT!) 

Fall Hard, Fail Frequently**
However, I can’t help but be reminded how important it is to sit with the failures. If there is one thing Peace Corps taught me – it’s how to fall and fail. Hard. 

Let’s take a look at some of the fails:
  • English speaking groups with students and teachers sort of fizzling by the end of my service
  • Feeling like I could've gotten closer with more of my students
  • Never making it to several local schools as I planned
  • Never made my elementary lessons after school sustainable by getting a local teacher to continue them after I'm gone
  • A fellow teacher telling other teachers how I failed because after 2 years she still couldn't speak any English (in my defense, this teacher talked to me about 5 times in all my two years and never attended one teacher's English club)
  • Never made that world map painting with my students
  • Feeling like I could have generally spent less time in my own head or in my room and more time with my community than I did
  • Never did any environmental projects
  • Not doing more with the runners at my school
  • Didn’t spend the night in the pesantren, or Islamic boarding house, like I planned
  • Never got my students to learn about or connect with kids from the SLB (special education school) as I hoped
  • Never got the elementary school English teachers in my village together to talk about ways I could help them with resources
  • Didn’t get as many books for the library as I wanted
  • Didn't get all of our teaching lessons posted onto our teaching blog as planned
The icing on the cake came one week before completing service: a teachers’ group I helped create was deemed “illegal” by the local office of religion. It felt as if I was “shot right through the tomato” (for you Wonder Years reference lovers). This might have been my worst PC moment. Got it in just under the wire.

Embrace the Fail
In motivational speeches I would often ask why people were afraid to speak English, and they’d say they were afraid of making a mistake. To which I’d say, “Yes. You will. You will all fail.” 

This wouldn’t exactly get me a round of applause. And probably wasn't exactly the motivation they were looking for. But I tried to explain that once they accept that they will fail at speaking like a native speaker and their grammar will probably never be perfect - so what? Failure will come. There should be no surprise. With failure as common an occurrence as it is, why should we fear it as we do? In a way, doesn’t the regularity of it kind of make it less daunting to try? 

Peace Corps not only helped me learn this, but to embrace it. After some time in my school and village, failure became my safety net. Before entering class with Ms Olif, my pre-class pump-up saying was, "This could be a complete disaster. Let’s go.” 
The Fail in Full Effect
For some reason, a few volunteers*** and I thought it'd be a good idea to run a marathon in Bali after service. Here's a tip: you should train for marathons. Having not run for a good two months prior due to the wave of departure preparations from my village, I was forced to look upon this self-inflicted disaster as more of a "reflection experience" than a marathon.

Each 10k represented a semester of service that I could reflect upon whilst subjecting my body to excruciating torture. It was a chance to relive each friend/family visit, PC training, vacation, teaching success, and new connection made. It was also an opportunity to sit with and reflect upon every illness, loss at home, host family/community difficulty, and teaching/community failure. I made a chart that is forthcoming, once I figure out how to load here. 

In the end, I ran probably a total of 26 km collectively, and I used the remaining time to reflect on my service, cheer fellow runners, make friends, take pictures (see below), and lie on the ground periodically in pain. I strolled across the finish well after I should have - had I actually trained for this thing. But it seemed like a perfect way to end...picking up my failure, accepting it, and carrying it for 26.2 miles.

And now I'm geared up for the next disaster. Thanks, Peace Corps!

Pre-race meal (Liz, you better eat that bread, or I will)

I mean, this outfit could run this thing itself.


John did not fail, and as such, he was entitled to enchiladas and tacos after the race.  


1)The general increase in confidence levels on the part of students and teachers, to me, has been worth the effort. Even if my students are not fluent in English, they are definitely more confident to try - and more confident in interacting with someone different from them. My counterparts have stretched their ways of teaching and are so much more open to searching for new ideas and are more confident in their own abilities. 

2) My school, family, and community definitely understand more about America and that Americans don’t all look like me. 

3) Breaking ground in my area on some new events like English camps and camps for girls.

**Inspiration for this post is from another PC article here: What the Peace Corps Taught Me About Failure. Favorite quote: "Americans are immature when it comes to honestly accepting failure and maybe that's why so many of us lack the emotional depth to make sense of it."

***In other news, fellow PCV Shane (pronounced Shawn) brought 10 of his high school students to run in the races. This was pretty fantastic since this was the first time they'd been out of their village, and they had only started running this past year. Here are the amazing whipper-snappers:

Friday, May 31, 2013

Perpisahan, or Parting

The following is my closing speech delivered in Indonesian at graduation a couple of weeks ago. Here is the English version:
I first came to MAN Padangan 2 years ago. I remember driving here with Mr. Bleg, Pak Yas, Pak Syaiful and Ms. Olif. I remember I learned the word “bergelombang”,* and I remember I had my first yellow watermelon. We don’t have any in America. And I remember looking out the window at the passing rice paddies, warungs, schools, and markets and wondering if the time would come when I would travel this road and it would feel like my home. 
Before I left, I was used to my life in New York. It was comfortable and predictable and easy. Maybe like class 3 in MAN. You now have teachers and friends who know you, with whom you are comfortable, you understand how things work here. Thinking of leaving can seem really hard.
When I was in NY, I felt the same way. Comfortable. Why would I ever leave? For me, I had a dream that I wanted to join the Peace Corps and experience living in another country. Doing this would force me to move from my life that was comfortable, predictable and easy to one that was initially uncomfortable and full of change and difficulties.
When I left for Indonesia, I was scared. I came to MAN Padangan - a person with different skin, different religion, and from a different culture - I was far from my friends and family. I often felt confused. It was difficult. Life now had many new challenges. Often I thought about how it may be easier to just go home. 

That may be true. 

But if I never left NY or if I chose to go back when things were difficult, I never would have learned Indonesian. Or how to say “siip"("cool" in Javanese) or “wis bar”("finished" or "already" in Javanese). I never would have learned to long jump. I never would have tasted jus alpokat (which has changed my life). Most importantly, I never would have met and learned from all of you. 

We want life to be comfortable and easy, of course. But it is important to remember that without challenges - without difficult times or adversity - we can’t grow. 

So, class 3:
– if you are scared about what will happen after today 
– if you are confused about what you will do 
- about missing or losing friends 
– about living in a new place 
– about being alone 
– about studies or work being too difficult 
...remember that these are opportunities. They are opportunities to GROW. 

To try new positive things: 
– to make new friends and deepen current friendships 
– to discover how to survive in a place other than your home
– to learn to be confident in yourself and to be independent and to know you are stronger than you think 
– to learn that hard work and discipline can help you stretch your mind beyond what you thought you were capable of.
Difficulties and discomfort and change, if you approach them bravely, with diligence and with faith, they can help you grow. 

Today, you are no longer a student of MAN Padangan, and in 2 weeks, I will no longer be a teacher of MAN Padangan. But together we must remember that "the start of something new can bring the hope of something great". We will forever be connected to MAN Padangan and the experience we had here. 

It is my hope that one day – maybe 2 years, 5 years, or 10 years from now, I will be able to travel that road from Kota Bojonegoro to Padangan – the same road I traveled that first time over 2 years ago with Pak Yas, Pak Syaiful, Mr. Bleg, and Ms. Olif – and I know that when I see the rice paddies, warungs, schools, and markets that were once so new to me - I know I will feel – that I’m home. 

It has been a privilege, an honor, and a pleasure to be a part of your family for these past 2 years. Thank you and good luck to Class 3!

*This means "bumpy" as it might be one of the worst stretches of road in East Java.

Indonesian Version: 
Pertama kali saya datang ke MAN Padangan 2 tahun yang lalu. Saya ingat ketika Mr. Bleg, Pak Yas, Pak Syaiful dan Ms. Olif menjemput saya dengan mobil dari Malang. Saat itu, saya ingat saya belajar kata “bergelombang", dan makan semangka kuning untuk pertama kalianya. Tidak ada di Amerika. Dan saya ingat ketika melihat keluar jendela, saya melihat sawah, warung2, sekolah, dan pasar dan saya ingin tahu apakah waktu itu akan datang ketika saya akan melewati jalan ini dan itu akan terasa seperti rumah saya. 

Sebelum saya tinggal di sini,  saya terbiasa dengan kehidupan saya di New York. Itu nyaman dan dapat diprediksi dan mudah. Mungkin seperti kelas 3 di MAN. Kalian semua sekarang memiliki guru dan teman-teman yang mengenal kalian, dengan siapa kalian merasa nyaman, kalian mengerti bagaimana semua berjalan di sini. Dan berpikir meninggalkannya akan terlihat sangat berat.

Ketika saya masih di NY, saya merasakan hal yang sama. Nyaman. Kenapa saya meninggalkan NY?  Bagi saya, saya punya mimpi bahwa saya ingin bergabung dengan Peace Corps dan mengalami hidup di negara lain. Melakukan hal ini akan memaksa saya untuk pindah dari kehidupan saya yang nyaman, dapat diprediksi dan mudah ke tempat yang awalnya tidak nyaman dan penuh perubahan dan kesulitan. 

Ketika saya pergi ke Indonesia, saya takut. Saya datang ke MAN Padangan - orang dengan kulit yang berbeda, agama yang berbeda, dan budaya yang berbeda - saya jauh dari teman-teman dan keluarga. Saya sering merasa bingung. Itu sulit. Hidup memiliki banyak tantangan baru. Sering kali saya berpikir tentang bagaimana hal itu mungkin lebih mudah jika pulang saja.

Itu mungkin benar.

Tapi kalau saya tidak pernah meninggalkan NY atau jika saya memilih untuk pulang ketika segalanya terasa sulit, saya tidak akan pernah belajar bahasa Indonesia. Atau bagaimana mengatakan "Siip" atau "wis bar". Saya tidak akan pernah belajar lompat jauh. Saya tidak akan pernah merasakan jus alpokat (yang telah mengubah hidup saya). Yang paling penting, saya tidak akan pernah bertemu dan belajar dari kalian semua.

Kita ingin hidup yang nyaman dan mudah, tentu. Tetapi penting untuk diingat bahwa tanpa tantangan - tanpa masa-masa sulit atau kesulitan - kita tidak bisa tumbuh.

Jadi, kelas 3
- jika kalian semua takut apa yang akan terjadi setelah hari ini 
- jika kalian bingung tentang apa yang akan kalian lakukan  
- tentang hilang atau kehilangan teman 
- tentang hidup di tempat baru 
- tentang menjadi kesepian
- tentang belajar atau bekerja terlalu sulit….
……ingat bahwa ini adalah peluang. Tantangan-tantangan itu adalah kesempatan untuk TUMBUH. 

Untuk mencoba hal-hal baru yang positif
- untuk mendapatkan teman baru dan mempererat persahabatan saat ini 
- untuk menemukan cara untuk bertahan hidup di tempat lain selain rumah kalian 
- untuk belajar menjadi percaya diri dalam diri sendiri dan menjadi mandiri dan mengenal bahwa kalian lebih kuat dari yang kalian pikirkan 
- untuk belajar bahwa kerja keras dan disiplin dapat membantu kalian memperluas pikiran kalian melampaui apa yang kalian pikir kalian mampu. 

Kesulitan, ketidaknyamanan, dan perubahan - jika kalian berani mendekati mereka, dengan ketekunan dan dengan keyakinan, mereka dapat membantu kalian tumbuh.

Hari ini, tidak lagi siswa MAN Padangan, dan dalam 2 minggu, saya tidak akan lagi menjadi seorang guru MAN Padangan. Tetapi bersama-sama kita harus ingat bahwa "awal dari sesuatu yang baru dapat membawa harapan untuk sesuatu yang besar". Kita akan selalu terhubung dengan MAN Padangan dan pengalaman yang kalian punya di sini.

Ini adalah harapan saya bahwa suatu hari - mungkin 2 tahun, 5 tahun atau 10 tahun dari sekarang, saya akan dapat melakukan perjalanan dari Kota Bojonegoro ke Padangan - jalan sama yang saya lalui pertama kali dengan Pak Yas, Pak Syaiful, Mr. Bleg, dan Ms. Olif - dan saya tahu bahwa ketika saya melihat sawah, warung, sekolah, dan pasar yang dulunya begitu baru bagi saya - saya tahu saya akan merasa – bahwa saya telah berada di rumah.

Ini adalah sesuatu yang istimewa, sebuah kehormatan, dan sebuah kebahagiaan untuk menjadi bagian dari keluarga MAN Padangan untuk dua tahun terakhir. Terima kasih banyak dari hati yang terdalam dan semoga sukses untuk Kelas 3!!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Search is Over…

One of the things that would lift my spirits on down days was to check the search keywords that people used to reach my blog. As this blog will come to a close soon, here is a list of some of my favorites over the past two years for you to enjoy: 

  • leah remini facts of life  (of the interesting search hits, this was the most popular) 
  • horn implants in head
  • dolly parton nude
  • weird people
  • old American girl
  • f bomb bikes
  • african american girl with bubble wrap
  • vietnamese gang
  • girls machete blood
  • peeing in the shower
  • ralph machauo sack of suds (preserved original spelling from search)
  • granny fanny
  • alyssa milano facts of life
  • deep please 1
  • terrible rash pregnancy
  • nun's habit/muslim
  • mum motorcycle
  • badminton headband men
I can only hope I brought a little bit of unexpected joy to the person searching for information on an "old American girl". If so, my work here is done. 

Here is a picture of our baby, Nia (my host sister's baby, actually) just because she is super cute, and no pictures fit this theme.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thanks to My Family

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!
Love, Erie

*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.