Monthly Archives: September 2015

Eid al-Adha

Number of times in my life that I have rolled out of bed and seen a cow slaughtered: 1

But for Muslims in my neighborhood and all across Indonesia, it’s once every year.

Today is Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday that calls for sacrificing cows and goats and sheep, because Ibrahim had sacrificed his son as affirmation that he loved God above all else.

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Members of the community who are able to donate a cow will receive a third of the meat, and another third will go to friends, family, and neighbors. The last third goes to the poor. Charity is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and Eid is a time of great community engagement.

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These animals are well-fed, and respected. Cutting the jugular is swift and performed with a very sharp knife for the least amount of pain. The one who cuts is usually a religious leader in the mosque, Imam Masjid, and will recite “Bismillah Allah Akbar” before cutting. This verse makes the sacrifice halal, and then community members can begin skinning and preparing the meat.

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My apologies if these pictures are gruesome for anyone, but I thought they really captured the essence of community collectivism that I witnessed this morning. All hands were on deck, and men, women, and children were all present and very much a part of the process.

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Everyone helps, and everyone benefits.

The Festival of Sacrifice is a beautiful tradition. The respect the community had for these animals made their death seem natural, and as the cows and sheep bled out into a well of blood in the ground, I never felt like I was watching something terrible. The people in this community cherish what these animals mean, and I left the mosque very much in awe of this special Muslim tradition.

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Hari ozone

“Tomorrow, we will sort garbage.”

That’s what my co-teacher said to me yesterday, and after some follow up questions I found out that my co-teacher, my roommate (also a teacher), and I were to compete against other teams of teachers to see who can sort garbage into organic vs inorganic…the best, I guess. Details were fuzzy, I wasn’t sure why we were sorting garbage on a random Friday instead of teaching class, and I had no idea how 60 something teachers sifting through garbage was going to go down, but like everything else that’s unclear and confusing in Indonesia, you kind of just clap your hands, say alright! and run with it.

So, today I came into school at 7 am mentally prepared for some competitive garbage sorting.

A lot of the teachers kept saying it was some kind of special day, and after a couple of times I finally realized that they were saying OZONE day – “hari ozone.”

Very similar to Earth Day, today was a day of recognizing the environment and thinking about ways to be environmentally conscious. The students had a day of making projects and posters, and the teachers had their game faces on. Not really. They were still laughing and joking like Indonesians always are.

Right off the bat, the teachers and I all filed out to the yard for the big game. Turns out the bins of “trash” were actually baskets of colorful balls labeled with items you might FIND in a garbage.
What a pleasant surprise. Except the balls were all labeled in Bahasa. Realizing very quickly that I would be the weakest link in my team just from not knowing what the items were that needed to be sorted, I dove into the basket and began speed-memorizing vocab. “What’s this one? What’s this one? What’s this one?” Lord help me.

Rules of the game were as follows:
Three teachers on a team, each person can only take one ball at a time, and you need to sprint to the other side and put the ball in the organic or inorganic basket. The team with the most correctly sorted balls after three minutes wins.

I don’t think I’ve laughed this hard in a while. Seeing teachers run is hilarious, but seeing them try to read something on a little ball while running is even better. Turns out, I learned enough Bahasa in the last two weeks to last me three minutes of ball sorting (Thank you Wisma Bahasa). My strategy: pick the fruits. We learned the names of all the fruits in Bahasa class last week.

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Getting ready to rumble.

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Some teachers’ sprints were more like taking a walk in the park but hilarious nonetheless.

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The “garbage”

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Team JUSTAMI. (Julia, Isti, and Ami) hahaha

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The chatty ibus. Listening to them chirp chirp chirp during the game was oddly soothing.

After a final tie-breaker, a winner was hailed (my team was quite far from winning lol), and we all went inside to join the students.

What ensued was a series of me getting mind blown over and over and over again.

First, we walked around to see all the projects the students had been working on while we were outside playing “Sprint and Sort.” They were working with recycled materials only. Just take a look at some of these:

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Plants in a bottle.

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A tissue box from recycled newspaper

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A broom made of bamboo and stripped plastic from water bottles.

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A functioning CLOCK from newspaper and a CD.

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A toy tank from cardboard!

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Watering can.

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A bunsen burner from leftover palm oil in a light bulb.

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Pencil holder weaved from newspaper.

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My all time favorite and the first prize winner. A flood alarm that rings when the water level rises and brings one buoyed spoon in contact with the other, completing an electric circuit and causing the popsicle stick to spin like a helicopter that repeatedly hits a little bell off to the side. Amazing. Just. Amazing.

I had never seen this artistic and creative side of the students before, and I was completely awestruck.

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1st-6th place winners!

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I even got to see a student band perform. They sang an Indonesian song first, and I was super impressed. Then they busted out Uptown Funk and I was beaming.

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Each class also made environmentally themed posters with poems, short stories, insanely good drawings, and even jokes. I asked for a translation of one of the jokes and it went something like this:

” Why is Indonesia so hot nowadays?”
“Because there are too many Matahari shops.”

Matahari department stores are everywhere. I got the impression that it’s sort of like the Macy’s of Indonesia, and the word Matahari means “sun.”

Get it?

SMAN1 is a very green school to begin with – they have won awards for their environmentally friendly methods of handling waste.

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Trash is sorted from the start.

Compared to the rest of the community and even the rest of Indonesia perhaps, this is a very special effort. In my own neighborhood a couple streets down from school, there isn’t really any concrete established way to dispose of your waste. No garbage trucks, no one picks up items for recycling. As a result, a lot of littering happens, and people turn to burn their trash in the street. School seems to have the only working system of proper waste disposal, and my roommate and I bring our trash there.

Things like this reinforce the positive reputation that SMAN1 has in the community, but today I got to see a completely different side of my school. In my fellow teachers I saw the playfulness and good humored jest that comes with field-day type games, and in my students, I saw so much innovation and creativity and it was so so so inspiring.

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To Bandung and Back

These last two weeks, my fellow ETA’s and I stayed in the squeaky clean, utterly pristine Sheraton Hotel in the city of Bandung, West Java (a very much appreciated respite from blistering heat, ants and mosquitos). Our days were spent in a pleasant bubble of Indonesian language learning and teaching workshops, and our nights were filled with angkots, music, and Bintang.

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The Sheraton Hotel

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Angkots are these colorful vans (at least on the outside) that circle the city with their door open so that anyone and everyone can hop in and ride it to wherever they need to go.

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The city square of Bandung, with architecture leftover from periods of Dutch colonization.

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Karaoke karaoke karaoke.

Going into orientation, I was definitely most looking forward to learning Bahasa Indonesia, the national language of Indonesia, and language class turned out to be exactly what I could have hoped for – super chill teachers from Wisma Bahasa and extremely useful phrases and vocab that have gotten me very very far since I’ve returned to Jogja. (Very far being I can make small talk with teachers at school and taxi drivers, and… deliver an impromptu speech at school…in Bahasa).

Learning Bahasa was such a pleasure because unlike the years of unmotivated Spanish classes I’ve taken in the past, Bahasa class was simply a group of adults looking to navigate a language that we absolutely need in order to survive in the coming year. Having spent a week at our cities already, we were each able to learn in our own context, and that made all the difference.

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Playing telephone in Bahasa.

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Team Ermita 😇

Wisma Bahasa gave us plenty of context too – from homework assignments that required us to interview hotel staff in Bahasa to bargaining at the local market.

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Overwhelming amounts of fabrics and motifs at Pasar Baru.

Orientation may be over, but my language learning is not- I most definitely want to continue with Bahasa classes in Jogja. Because I’m Asian, Indonesians can’t tell that I’m a foreigner at first glance, and I get a lot of rapid fire Bahasa at first interaction. My goal for the year is to see if I can carry a conversation for as long as I can before they realize I’m not from around here.

On the topic of goals, if there’s one thing I took away from the many hours of teaching lectures we received in Bandung, it’s that my goals for teaching this year are not grammar-focused, but speaking focused. Our Indonesian co-teachers were able to join us in Bandung for a part of our training, and bringing Indonesian teachers from all over the country together was no small matter.

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My co-teacher, Bu Ami.

Aside from being able to practice teaching with our co-teachers in one of the high schools in Bandung, one of the activities I found most productive was sitting down afterwards and goal-setting with my co-teacher. Together, we agreed that our aims for this year are to shy away from reading/writing exercises and to incorporate as many speaking and listening activities as possible instead. Indonesian students are shy, and all the grammar and vocabulary in the world won’t help if it’s never used to communicate. If I can get my students to just be more comfortable and confident in conversing in English by the end of my grant, I’ll feel pretty good about the year as a whole.

How am I going to do this? Games.

Games games games.

This week’s lesson plans consisted of Jeopardy, picture prompts, and some spin-off of musical chairs that I made up to get students walking around to some Maroon 5, and then frantically running to grab a conversation partner when the music stops. The objective was simple – learning how to give various expressions of congratulations in different situations. The secret objective? To get them excited and talking to each other naturally without realizing it.

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The exit ticket for this week was to write something you learned and something you’d like to do for next week’s class.

Now that I’m back at school for the long haul, I’ve started looking into extra-curriculars at my high school. There is a beautiful collection of gamelan instruments displayed in the lobby of our school, and I finally got to take a swing at it this Monday with the other teachers. I sat down with the easiest instrument, a giant mellow xylophone (saron), and it wasn’t hard to pick up at all, but the collective tones of all the different instruments together is a pretty mystical/magical sound.

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I also sat down with the debate team. They have a competition coming up next week, and one of the topics they’re preparing for is whether Indonesia should pay fines to neighboring countries for their forest fires. Forest fires in Indonesia are often a product of the slash-and-burn techniques to clear massive areas of land very quickly, used by farmers but also by rubber, palm oil, pulp, and logging companies, some of which aren’t even Indonesian companies (think Singapore and Malaysian companies operating on Indonesian land). Smog from these fires gets carried over to countries that are downwind from Indonesia, like…Singapore and Malaysia. Throwback to when I worked in Singapore two years ago and walked to work wearing an N95 mask, eyes stinging and unable to see across the street for a whole week. What does Indonesia owe to the international community? It’s up to three 11th grade students to debate. In English. Heavy stuff.

So.

Having returned to Jogja conversational in Bahasa and with clearer teaching goals in mind, I’m very ready to buckle down for the long haul and get to the heart of this community. Feelings after having gone to Bandung and back? Glad to have experienced the big-city feel of Bandung alongside 34 fantastic humans that make up the ETA cohort, grateful for a crash course on Bahasa that has already done wonders for my independence in Jogja, and positively excited to be teaching over 300 of the most enthusiastic students I’ve ever encountered.

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