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.
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.
The city square of Bandung, with architecture leftover from periods of Dutch colonization.
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.
Playing telephone in Bahasa.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.