It has been quite a long time since I’ve last written a post… and I’m sorry to keep you all waiting! First it was because I was sick for a week, then it was because I was finally getting really busy with school, later it was because I had too much free time on my hands (and new Wi-Fi in my dorm) but finally I have struck a good balance of busyness and downtime that I can reflect on the last month of adventures… and what a whirlwind of adventures they have been!
From my week of being sick: Although it was a bummer to be sick, I also feel like I’ve had pretty good luck since I’ve been here and was surprised that it took me until my second month here for some part of Indonesia to hit my body. While it was a week of binge watching all of the Harry Potter movies and spending little time outside of my dorm, it also showed me that I have people in my corner that are looking out for me.
When I texted Miss Alisa, my counterpart and go-to person at my school while I’m here, she immediately responded and before I could object, she said Pak Jemmy, the principal of my school, and herself were on their way to my dorm to pick me up and drive me to the hospital. While I didn’t think I needed that level of care it was really beneficial in two ways: I knew that my school and my main (well, only) community here was ready to take care of me and I learned how to navigate the hospital system so that in the future if something more severe happens to me (knock on wood) that I know exactly where to go and what to do. It also made me more aware of how lucky I am in both the school I was placed in and the accessibility of healthcare in Manado; some ETA’s have only seen their principals a few times since they’ve been here and have to travel very far to get to any kind of hospital.
From Halloween at school: Halloween used to be an exciting holiday when I was little: I vividly remember going with Berit to Play Time to pick out felt and other materials to make my penguin and Christmas tree costumes that I would proudly wear Fayerweather’s Halloween celebration and then out to trick-or-treat. But the last few Halloweens I didn’t put a lot of time or energy into making anything homemade and instead looked forward to what part of Hamilton’s campus I would go to drink cheap liquor with my friends.
This past Halloween, however, was unexpectedly wonderful. Even though Indonesia does not celebrate the holiday, part of my role as an ETA is to bring American culture into my classroom. So the day before Halloween I went to the store and bought over 2,000 pieces of candy to bring into school. I didn’t exactly know how I would celebrate it—if I would give candy to only the classes I taught on Monday or to all of my classes throughout the week or to the entire school. So I decided to buy more so I wouldn’t be caught empty handed.
I gave fun quizzes to the students where they would have to choose the correct Halloween-based answers to questions such as: A hollowed out pumpkin with a face cut in one side and a candle put inside is called a) Jack-o-lantern; b) Tom-o-lantern; c) Miss Pumpkin. Later, I sat in front of the classroom and told the students to imagine that the whiteboard behind me was my house. I then had them come up individually or in small groups to simulate trick-or-treating. Each student had to say, “trick-or-treat” and then tell me what (imaginary) costumes they were wearing before I let them pick out their treats. Many students came as Spiderman, other superheroes, witches, dogs, cats and characters from Halloween movies. It was really wonderful—the students had a lot of fun with the quiz and discussing with their friends what costumes they wanted to wear. I also had a really fun time seeing all of my students get excited about the activities. It reminded me of how I used to view the holiday and while my students are in high school, their unfamiliarity with the traditions made them view it as eagerly and innocently as I used to.
From the study tour with Benzar: Three weekends ago I went on a study tour (field trip) with all 300+ of the twelfth graders at my school as well as a dozen or so of the teachers. We visited a sulfurous lake, Bukit Kasih (The Hill of Love) and Lake Tondano, one of the biggest (if not the biggest) in North Sulawesi. It was at the same time one of the hottest, sweatiest days I’ve had so far here and also one of the most cultural and community building. I spent the day interacting with students, taking many selfies with them, and laughing and joking around with my co-teachers. I haven’t had a lot of chances to spend time with my students and teachers outside of school, so this was a wonderful and eye-opening experience as to how I can connect with my school’s community outside of the classroom.
From playing soccer with my teachers: Two weeks ago I went to an indoor futsal place to play soccer with some of the teachers from my school. Two of my co-teachers were there, as well as both of the sports teachers at the school, and three or four other teachers. All of the men wore their official indoor cleats and high socks with jerseys, while my co-teacher wore a long sleeve shirt and I had sneakers on. The first half an hour while we were waiting for everyone to show up, I passed and took shots with Miss Alisa and the sports teachers. One of them looked very professional, warming up by doing stretches along the sidelines, while I was so hot before I even started that I simply drank water as my warm-up.
When more teachers and a few students showed up, we split up into teams and began playing. It was such a wonderful way to laugh, joke, and exercise with my fellow teachers. Sometimes the ball would go right between Miss Alisa’s legs, or Mr. Farley would get super close to the net and then trip over the ball. Most of them were really good at the sport, which made it even more fun, adding a bit of playful competition into the mix. While the goals were pretty even during the first part of the match, soon my team started scoring left and right. It reminded me of how fun it is to play soccer on a team and that it’s one of the things that can transcend language barriers. I think the final score was something like 28-8 where I scored at least ten of them haha!
From living minutes away from island paradise: Two out of the last three weeks I’ve gone to Bunaken Island where Ive been snorkeling, fishing, and soaking in the beauty of the place I get to call home for the next six months. Since I’ve passed the three-month mark I sometimes forget that I can still be a tourist and do exciting things that are out of my usual routine. So a few weeks ago after making friends with some Indonesians, Megan and I took a boat out on the water to go fishing for the first time. I forgot what it felt like to feel those first little nibbles at the end of the line and then to feel the weight of the line tense as a fish hooks on. I caught a beautiful fish (I forget the kind) with yellow, red, and orange fins. The shape reminded me of an angelfish. I excitedly reeled it in as it put up more of a fight than I thought it would, and then proudly held the rod as one of the guys on the boat captured the moment. Later in the day I used a hand line to catch a few smaller fish, although I don’t think it was very fair because they brought us to a place that was better for snorkeling, where you could see the fish through the clear water and simply had to drop some bait in the pool of fish.
Yesterday, Megan and I had a friend from our program visit us in Manado who is teaching in Malang, Java. We all rented a private boat for the day from the same guys from the last adventure and they took us to three or four different places for snorkeling. All of them were so amazing: the deep shades of blue and the lines of teal in the water were stunning even before we dipped our heads underneath the water. I saw hundreds of fish of many different species, shapes, sizes, and colors. Best of all, I swam with seven or eight sea turtles at different times, each one with a unique shell; one had a large barnacle on its back, while another had two small fish swimming underneath it the entire time. It was such a magical experience to follow the turtles in the water, diving down a little to swim right by their side with no sound coming from above and only blue water in between.
We then headed to Siladen Island, but a different part of the island than I had been to before. It reminded me of the islands that contestants of Survivor are put on: nothing there besides beautiful twining trees, some shells and hermit crabs and a surreal view of the water. I felt like I was on my own private island for a little while, playing in the waves and relaxing on the flour-like sand. It really was a wonderful experience that restored my travel-bug a bit, pushing me to want to explore new parts of Manado that I’ve never been to before.
To moving forward: So yeah, tomorrow is my last day teaching this semester. It hardly seems real that I’ll have completed an entire semester of teaching already. While my classes got off to a slow start, they picked up considerably these last few weeks and I really enjoyed getting more time in the classroom and more one-on-one time with many of my students. While I’m a bit sad that I won’t be back in the classroom until mid-January, I’m excited to devote more time and energy after I have a (hopefully) relaxing and exciting month+ off , spending two weeks in Thailand and exploring more of Manado and North Sulawesi.