Sweet Desire

I moved in with my host family last Saturday after saying goodbye to the friends I made during the staging and hotel days. It’s definitely weird to be alone after being with our group 24/7 for a week then suddenly left alone in a stranger’s home that is supposed to be my home for the next three months of Peace Corps Training (PCT.) Each volunteers are staying with a host family to help us engage in the culture, integrate in the Indonesian community, and practice our bahasa Indonesian. I have had host family before so this is nothing new, but still it’s a new different world. I did have some reservations staying with my host family because I wasn’t sure how they’d react to an American that is not Tall-White-Blond-and-Blue-Eyed. But all of those reservations went away the very first night I stayed with my family. 

My family consist of my Bapak (dad) Yon, Ibu (mom) Sri, my kakak (older sibling) Arii, his istri (wife) Nunuk, and little kids. They are really nice. The life they have here is nowhere close to how my life in the US is, but that’s okay because Peace Corps is what you make out of this kind of situation. I see this not as a challenge, but rather an opportunity to learn, grow, and be more compassionate. 

I have my own room here y’all. My bed is not the most comfortable thing BUT it’s big. I have to use a mosquito net every night as one of the Peace Corps policies, because mosquito yenno. My house does not have a western toilet, hence I must squat. This is one thing I am still trying to get used to. I still haven’t tried using a gayung, a “water scooper”, because it still grosses me out. The other volunteers have told me that it’s really not a big deal, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to do it. Ever since I have gotten here in Indonesia I have been using wipes to wipe my butt. By the end of my PST, I hope to be comfortable using the gayung. I am also running out of flushable wipes. 

During PST, we volunteers have a very rigorous and busy days. From meeting people in our villages to learning bahasa Indonesian. Mondays would be the longest because we have Indonesian language class from 7am until 5pm. THAT IS SO LONG QURL. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays our language class is from 7am until 11:30am. We have an hour break then we have to bike to our LINK, training consisting of different workshops, and get there by 1pm. The LINK session goes on from 1pm until 5pm. After LINK we bike home and rest for a bit. Fridays are our HUB day. It’s a full day of workshops with the whole volunteers. ***Today’s our first HUB day and it was definitely really nice to see other volunteers and hear what they have been up to.*** Usually when I get home I hangout with the other volunteers, I live nearby three other volunteers. We usually walk around our desa (village) attracting all sorts of attention. I come home from my jalan-jalan (walk) and eat dinner with my host sister, take a shower, study for a little bit, then I sleep. I often wake up around 3:30am or 4am. My day starts when I start working out around 4:30am. After that I take a mandi (bucket shower), eat breakfast, then get ready for the day. We also have language class on Saturdays from 7am until 11:30am then a one-on-one with our Cultural Liasons (CLs) from 1pm until 2:30. Sundays are our only “free time” throughout our PCT. 

This is what my first week looked like and most likely what the rest of my training weeks would look like. Well, let’s make a toast to Manisrenggo! The village of sweet desires. 

*Manisrenggo is the name of the village where I am staying and it means Sweet Desires. 

**Written March 25, 2017

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Cheesus Christ! 

And just like that, my first week of Pre-Service Training (PST) is done. There were so many events that has happened during my first week here. It’s actually kind of overwhelming, I am surprise that I haven’t had a meltdown…yet. As fun as this whole week is, it is also physically draining. Since I have arrived here in Indonesia, I haven’t had a good sleep and it sucks because I like sleeping! Everyone who knows me know that. But I already anticipated this so I am not surprised. Anyways, here’s a breakdown of what my first week looked like!

Sunday March 12

We arrived in Surabaya around 9:30 in the morning. After hours and hours of traveling, we were expected to be dressed up by the time we get off the plane. Everyone looked tired but at the same time everyone managed to looked business casual. After all first impression is important! When we got off the plane, we were greeted by Peace Corps Indonesia staff, literally the moment we got off. It was definitely overwhelming because they were so nice and definitely excited to see us! The weather in Indonesia is very similar to the Philippines so it wasn’t that bad. Nevertheless it is still very hot here! And I will complain a lot! When we got to our hotel we were greeted by delicious selections of food for lunch. I have three words for you my friend, Carbs; Carbs; and Carbs! After lunch we briefly met (yes, even after a long travel we still had to meet) for some logistics and expectations. It wasn’t bad because we got to know our Peace Corps Indonesia support system, but I was definitely sleepy! What’s funny is that even after that meeting I didn’t sleep right away. Instead I jumped into the pool! What can I say, I love swimming! After swimming I ate dinner THEN got a massage! That was a good deep tissue massage, and it cost me 250,000 rupiahs for an hour and half. So about twenty US dollars. I went back to my room, showered, and passed out ready to for the next day! (Time of sleep: 10:30pm)

Monday March 13

FIRST FULL DAY IN INDONESIA! Unfortunately I didn’t have a nice sleep. I woke up around 2:30 in the morning and was up until it was time for me to get ready. I wish I can say that we went sight seeing, but nope. This is Peace Corps (PC) after all, so we did what we do. More training! Although we’re packed with trainings, I must say that the PC staff made sure each session is fun and engaging. So that really helped! There’s nothing really I can tell you about this day because all we did was training after training! I don’t want to bore you with diarrhea and squatting toilet conversations we had–and there were a lot of them. What I did like about this day is that I got to see my friend Natasha! She lives close by so after work she came to the hotel and took me to a restaurant that specializes in East Java dish. YUM! Of course I asked her to check out the mall with me. I got two batik button up shirts for 300,000 rupiahs (score!) and my favorite donuts, J.Co (a bigger score!) 

Tuesday March 14

Why can’t I get a good sleep?! I slept at ten at night and woke up at three in the morning. SO LIKE WHY. Anyways, we traveled from Surabaya to Kediri where we would be spending the rest of our PST. On our way to Kediri, we stopped in one of the biggest muslim boarding school here in Indonesia where one current Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) is teaching. I must say that that was the best part of the trip so far. When we arrived at the school, each volunteer were partnered with a student. My partner was Luthfan–what a cool name! He’s really cool and was very excited to have his school host us even it’s just for lunch. The school literally put on a show for us. There were singing, dancing, and some sort of mime act on the stage. I don’t know, I was very confused about that whole mime thing. I left that school with a smile on my face and determination. We arrived in Kediri around 4:30 in the afternoon. Again, we met more welcoming PC staff at the hotel. EVERYONE WAS SO NICE! We got a tour of the hotel (very nice hotel btw!) and ate dinner. There was nothing to do and I was pretty tired so I just went back to my room after dinner. (Time of sleep 10:00pm)

Wednesday March 15 – Friday March 17

Two words: Bahasa Indonesian. From Wednesday to Friday that’s all we did. Intro to Bahasa Indonesia. From 7:30 am to 5:00pm. All day er’day. I don’t know what I would tell you about this one. Nothing really special. So I’ll keep this part short I suppose. Before the class started, we were grouped into fours and each trainee (we’re actually called PC Trainee, not quiet a volunteer yet) had to take an oral test. This is to see how well we’ll improve over the course of the next couple of days. Since Bahasa Indonesian is very similar to my native tongue, Tagalog, I didn’t have trouble during the pre-test. There were a lot of words that are similar and reading Bahasa Indonesian is just like reading Tagalog. Our guru, Johan, was more than excited to have us and is really funny! When he introduced us to the word “keju”, which is cheese, he went “Cheesus Christ”. At first I was confused but I literally busted out laughing because that was the funniest thing ever! The way he delivered it. Oh Johan. My guru. Anyways, on Friday, we took an oral post test. I have been studying for this. This test will determine which language cluster we’ll be put in. Each cluster is different level of the language class. I was not really worried about the language class because I have taken French, Tahitian, and Tagalog so learning a new language is not new to me. What I was really worried about is getting put on a cluster that’s different than my friends or that I’ll be far away from them. Hopefully I’ll be put in a cluster with my friends. Continuing on, the night of Friday surprised us with a heavy down pour of tropical rain. It literally was pouring, the type of rain that pounds the roof. It was during dinner when it started. After eating dinner, one of my friends walked me to my hotel room–my room is not connected to the meeting hall–because she has an umbrella and I really wasn’t trying to get wet. BUT for someone reason she and I ended up jumping into the pool! I guess I didn’t need the umbrella after all. It was so nice to swim and just relax in the pool. Enjoying the last night at the hotel. Enjoying the tropical rainfall. It reminded me of the Philippines. After swimming I walked back to my room, took a shower, packed my belongings, and then I slept. (Time of sleep 10:00pm)

Saturday March 18

Today is the day! I woke up at 2:30am today and I went straight to the meeting hall where there is wifi. Around this time the wifi is pretty strong because no one else is connected but me. I called some people letting them know that today I am moving with my host family. I am very excited to see them. I do not know anything about them yet because they haven’t told us what cluster or village we will be in. I am also nervous because what if my host family doesn’t like me? I am sitting here in the hall right now (3:20am) enjoying the quietness of it all. Soaking it in. This is it. Today, Indonesia will be my home for the next couple of year.
*Finished writing this post on Saturday March 18 4:30am.

It’s a still from a video. On our way to our next destination, Kediri.

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Leap of Faith

With warm hugs, sad goodbyes, swollen eyes, and some pixie dust (it’s Cookie Butter from Trader Joe’s), I said goodbye to Washington (my home) to depart for Indonesia (soon-to-be-home) to live there for the next 2 years of my life. Saying goodbye was/is never easy.  

Seeing my mom swollen eyes from crying the night before I left, hearing her shaky voice every time she would talk to me, and the fear of the unknown for her son ALMOST made not want to go continue in this new journey. Although my mom was never really happy with my decision to join Peace Corps, I know that she’s very proud of me. I know that she admires my courage and bravery for doing something that many would not do. I know that in time she will support my decision for such move. 

When I arrived in Los Angeles for our staging–a day when all of the volunteers get to meet each other and learn about expectations, missions, and goals–I kept thinking to myself “This is it Geo. Once you signed the papers, there’s no more turning back.” Then I saw the eagerness in the eyes and excitement from the voices of my fellow volunteers. That moment made me realize that this is exactly what I want. To be part of something bigger than myself. To give myself wholly with no expectations of returns.

During our staging, we talked about our anxiety coming to this trip. Some of the anxiety I had is being homesick, missing big events back home, having little to no access to internet, and bugs. But the biggest anxiety I have is the a part of my identity that I must now hide for safety reasons. I took me quite some time to get comfortable with who I am. It took a village to make me feel comfortable to be who I am. That it is okay to be who I am. Now, coming into a new land, new community, and new family, I have to put back the walls I’ve spent years breaking down. 

Although I have all of these anxieties, I have much more aspirations as to why I am doing this trip. Some of these aspirations includes getting to travel, experiencing and living a different culture than what is my norm, sharing my skills, learning new language, working with students again, having this experience on my resume, loan deferment, having this on my application for graduate school application, making new friends and family, and the list goes on and on. But like what Queen Bey said, “my aspiration in life is to be happy.” TO BE HAPPY is the biggest aspiration I have and overweights all of the anxieties I have coming to this trip. In the end of this whole adventure, I will ask myself “Are you happy with yourself?” And just like Queen Beyonce, I would say “Yeeehhs.” 

I know that if I didn’t go to this trip that I will forever regret it. Being with other volunteers who shares the same missions as I am already makes me happy. Leaving the familiar and welcoming the unfamiliar has to be the bravest thing I could do, and I am glad that I’m almost there! With lots of faith and some Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter (sorry, I just can’t shut up about this butter…) I am one step to becoming a better and happy person.

*This was written on March 10th 2017*

This is part of a video, but here’s a peace sign from me!

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