Sukabumi Part One!

On 15 April 2017 I left Kediri to visit my permanent site for three days. A Site Visit will allow each trainees to assess their future site (community and school) with the help of the host families and school counterparts. My site is in West Java, far far far away from Kediri. When I received my site placement the day before, I was not very thrilled to find out that I will be in West Jawa. It’s far from the friends that I’ve made–everyone is my friend, but my close ones are all going to be in East Java. I’ve heard so much about the west that I didn’t really want to be placed there. All these conceptions (later I found out were all wrong) scared me about being in the west.

I rode a “kereta api” (fire train) to the city of Bandung along with other relawan (volunteers) that got places in West Java too. Once we got there, we were welcomed with warm SELAMAT DATANG and “American” food by current volunteers who live nearby. It is always nice to see current volunteers, catching up with them, and hearing the ins/outs and dos/donts of being a volunteer! Their presence at the train station really made an impact on me and really got me hyped for my site.

After a late breakfast with everyone, four trainees (I myself included) rode a bus to our future site. My site is in the region of Sukabumi. It’s a mountainous region with an amazing view and cool (well, as cool as it can get here in Indonesia) air. My bus ride from Bandung to Sukabumi was about 4-5 hours. Honestly it’s not that far, it’s just really traffic in every corner of this country! Throughout my whole travel my future host family and counterparts were texting me, making sure that I am okay and comfortable as much as I can get. When I got to Sukabumi Bus Station, I was picked up by three of my counterparts. They welcomed me with warm smile and Sundanese greetings. My counterparts then took me to a restaurant where I’d meet my host family too. After dinner, my counterparts drove me to my house so that I can rest. My counterparts dropped me off, helped me settled, and then left me with my new host family. 

My host family consist of my Pak Sudrajat, Ibu Devi, adik (younger brother) Dafa and Arkan. They’re all nice. I was already playing with Arkan (10yrs old) during my first night! My Bapak is funny and wouldn’t stop talking to me in broken English, my mom too! I met some other family too like my uncles who loves English! They are all really eager to learn English! It’s funny. My first night, I also met the head of the village, Pak RT and Pak RW. I had coffee with them while they smoke. I just felt right at home! I slept so well that night thanks to my nice hotelesque bed and pillow, and of course cool air temperature.

The next day I walked to my school (about 7mins walk) to meet with my counterparts and look at my future school. My counterparts introduced me to the student body (a total of about 1100 students) during an “upacara bendera” (flag ceremony.)

“Selamat pagi semua!” I said while my voice shakes on the microphone. I never liked talking on a microphone.

I was greeted with scream and Indonesian hellos. I introduced myself in English because my counterparts wanted me to speak in English to the students. I was probably babbling about myself in front of the students for about seven minutes. When I said “I will be in school all day today. If you see me, please say hi to me.” The girls (I SWEAR) started screaming. I definitely felt like a member of One Direction. LOL. After introducing myself to the students, I went to a faculty meeting where I introduced myself to the teachers. The teachers were all excited to have me over. they had a lot of questions for me and plans for me. I am really excited to start working with this school, community, faculty and staff, and of course the students. I also met with different heads of the six vocational programs the school has. While walking around the school, the school would say “I love you mister” or “Mister you’re so handsome” which made me laugh, because in America this would never ever happen! They would also “salim” (grab the back of my hand and touch their cheeks) me when I walk past them.

​***Part 2 soon***

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A Month to Remember! 

I cannot believe that it has been a month since I have left my beloved Pacific Northwest crisp cool air in exchange for hot humid tropical weather. Though I have only been here for a month I feel like 744 hours was already a lot! 31 days here in Indonesia (as a Peace Corps Trainee) felt like getting hit with a nerf gun on your face; it’s fun but it hurts. It hurts emotionally. It hurts physically. It hurts mentally. 

Okay, so I said that it hurts emotionally. You are probably wondering how. Well, during Pre-Service Training (PST) us trainees are kept busy EV. VERY. SING. GLE. DAY. We are kept busy with our language class, workshops (LINK and HUB), and other family related obligations that we really barely have any time for ourselves to kind of reflect and process everything. Ever since I have gotten here, I have not cried once. Yes I have been sad, but I’ve not cried. At this point (honestly though!) I feel like I have all of these bottled up emotions that I want to let out but I have no one to really talk to. Yes, there are 55 of us trainees but I am sure we all have things to worry about, so why share mine? I wouldn’t want to burden anyone with that! However, this isn’t all bad! You see, I learned that I am strong (even though it hurts) for even coming here knowing the circumstance that I’d face. STRONG: “of great moral power, firmness, or courage.”

Secondly, I am still hurting physically. I mean it’s not bad BUT this whole squatting business, not the business! My knees be crying for help whenever I’d stand up from doo-dooing. Also did I tell you that I bike almost everyday? Riding my bike hurts because my seat is so low that I’m hella hunched. I need to get a massage, but I cannot because we are not allowed by the Peace Corps Medical Office. I don’t know why though. I am physically hurting because I haven’t done routined exercise! We lack of sleep here too. What I learned from this though is PERSEVERANCE. It is steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement. 

Lastly, mentally. Peace Corps gives us a very extraneous daily schedule. The only time we get to be free is Sunday, and sometimes that can be taken away from us too! So far we probably have had around more than 100 hours of Indonesian language class. That is a lot I feel like. Fortunately it’s a bit easy for me because of its similarity with Tagalog. It hurts mentally because we have been attending workshops and has been given many many materials to read. We are to retain these information so that we can use them when time comes. What I learned from this about myself is that I am a sponge. SPONGE: a person or thing that absorbs something freely. That is me! I take all these information. Try to squeeze me and I’ll give you information.

My stay in Surabaya and here in Kediri has already taught me so much about myself–and that’s only one month! I still have about 25 months to go. They say that 27 months will come fast, days will be long but that our service will be fast. In Indonesia where being wet is the only constant thing, I’m going to add “learning” on that constant thing. Living in Indonesia to Learn. Learning in Indonesia to Live. Here’s to Indonesia, a place where I’m constricted yet given with so much freedom.

*PS: I don’t know where this post was going, but here it is! LOL. I just need to jibber-jabber I guess.  

Me enjoying the warm rain!

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Meet my host family! (Well sorta)

As a Peace Corps Trainee, I am required to stay with a host family to help me integrate in the community, practice my bahasa Indonesian, and get accustomed to both culture and religion here in Indonesia. This isn’t the first time I am staying with a host family; I stayed with a host family during my study abroad in French Polynesia back in 2014. So I kind of had an expectation of what it would be like. Of course living with host family will always be scary at first, then you get used to it and love it. Well in some cases maybe hate it.

I am not the first Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) that have stayed with my host family. Last year another PCV, ID10, stayed with my family and he said that he enjoyed it. My host family here in Kediri, our site for our Pre-Service Training (PST), is nothing alike to my family back in the States. It’s very interesting to see the similarities and differences between my Indonesian family and my family back home. 

Both of my host parents here are retired. My Bapak (dad) used to be a driver before retiring four years ago while my Ibu (mom) is a house wife. Although both of my parents do not speak English, I really do not have trouble communicating with them. They use a lot of hand gestures and basic household bahasa Indonesia verbs, so I can understand them (for the most part.) The trouble comes when I have to reply because I am still having trouble with my sentence structure when it comes to bahasa Indonesia even though the language is SO similar to Tagalog. My Ibu however do not speak bahasa Indonesia. She speaks Javanese, a different dialect. She understands my bahasa Indonesia but when she replies it’s in Javanese and I’m always dumb founded. Haha. I honestly think that the main source of her happiness is to see me really full. She loves cooking for me and 90% of my interaction with her is her asking me if I’ve eaten, if I want to eat, or what I want to eat. The 10% is her asking me if I want to shower. 

Another member of my family that I have a daily interaction with, and whom I talk to regularly, is my host sister-in-law Nunuk. Nunuk works as a pharmacist at a police hospital here in Kediri. She lives with Bapak and Ibu. I eat breakfast and dinner with her most days. Nunuk helps me practice my bahasa Indonesia since most of our conversion is in bahasa Indonesian. She speaks English too! She’s not fluent but it’s enough that I can understand her when she speaks it. Nunuk’s husband, my host brother is only home during the weekends because he works in Surabaya (about 4hours drive from Kediri) at a factory. It’s nice to have him home because he’s another person I can talk to in English and he’s funny. He cooks too! I also have a younger sister who also lives in Surabaya because that’s where she attends college. She comes home every other weekend. Although she attends college, her English is very limited so my interaction with her are mostly in bahasa Indonesian. 

So that’s my Bapak, Ibu, sister-in-law, brother, and sister. I have two kaponakan (nephews) that are always in my house. Firman is two years old while Azam is five years old. Obviously they do not speak bahasa Indonesian. Firman is still scared of me, but Azam says hi to me whenever he sees me. Oh and laugh at me whenever he’s with his friends. Honestly I could not ask for a better host family. They make sure I am always fed even though since I got here, two weeks ago, all that they’ve been feeding me is fried tempe, fried tofu, sautéed vegetables, and krupuk. And when I say “all they’ve been feeding me” I meant every word of that. EVERY. MEAL. EVERY. DAY.  I told them I don’t really eat rice too so they thought that was very bizarre. Apparently over here, you have not eaten unless you’ve eaten rice. So according to them, I never eat! 

I cannot wait to get to know them more! Tomorrow, Sunday 2 April 2017, my Ibu is going to teach me how to make peye! My favorite Indonesian snack! I can’t wait!

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