Monday, July 30, 2012

Final Thoughts

So I have always said that traveling grounds me. It affords me an opportunity to step out of my everyday routine and to evaluate where I am at in life and where I want to be going. I always come home with a bigger picture of the world and my place in it. This experience has proven to do the same thing...perhaps to a greater extent because it has been such a unique experience in such a distant and foreign place. Here is what I have learned (or remembered):

1. The value of perspective and one on one exchanges. As a teacher I have devoted much of my career to helping my students understand perspective and to develop the skill of empathy. As I have interacted with these amazingly gracious and giving people in Indonesia I am reminded that peace and understanding truly happens one smile at a handshake....and that there is no room for negative stereotypes or broad inaccurate generalizations in my life.

2. That I can do hard things! This trip has been amazing and I have learned so much and feel more balanced as an individual...more full with experience and knowledge; however, it has stretched me and has been hard. But, I am stronger than I sometimes give myself credit. I can do 90 + degrees with 90 + humidity...every single day for two weeks. I can go to the bathroom using a squatter toilet. I can go most of the day without eating out of respect for Those fasting around me. I can sleep in a moldy room that doesn't have clean anything... Hahah! These are details that don't seem to matter anymore when you are growing and learning as a person.

3. Faith and prayer matter. I have been in awe to watch much of a whole entire country basically fast from sun up to sundown in this heat. No food or water.... I couldn't do it! I had to drink water and I had to have a cliff bar for lunch. I was amazed at students who had to get up around 4:00 am to attend morning prayers and to eat before sun up and who were still eager to learn and full of smiles as we taught them. I loved hearing the call to prayer ring out through the cities and even in the malls. A reminder to me each time that I too am called to pray and that I too value it, believe in it, and need it in my life. What kept them going all day in this heat while fasting? What keeps them praying five times a day? Simply answered? Faith and prayer matter!

4. Education matters. Education changes lives, changes societies...countries....the world! It is power and understanding and growth and experience. Learn all that you can! Soak it up! Never take it for granted.

5. Okay, so you all know that I love One Tree Hill, right?One of my favorite episodes is the season opener for season five. Peyton calls Brooke and asks her if she is happy and Brooke replies that she is sometimes. Peyton asks her what will make her happy and Brooke says "love"... And then she realizes she will find that if she goes home. Sometimes what we are looking for is already waiting for you at home. Sometimes we get caught up in all the expectations and pressures of life and you forget that you have it all. This trip has reminded me that I am amazingly blessed and lived a charmed life and that I am loved! I do have it's time to go home.....

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Catching up and Farewells...

Let me update you on the past couple of days. Cora and I said goodbye to the students on Friday and left for Palembang with Sri and her family. Imagine, yet again, The Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland for close to four hours. Enough said. I will try very hard never to complain about construction in Utah again....believe me you would not want the roads here in some parts of Indonesia. After we arrived in Palembang Sri's husband needed to go to Friday afternoon prayers so we all had some lunch. Basically we had rice and fish dumplings. Then Cora and I checked into our hotel and then went on a mission to find Songket! Needless to say I found some and I bought a lot of it! I love Songket and Batik. After that we went back to the hotel and had a look around the mall next to the hotel. Then Sri and her husband picked us up and took us to a floating restaurant, where we had a great dinner, and I even sang old 80s songs...don't ask!

Today we got to sleep in until 8:00 a.m.! Hahaha! Sri and her husband picked us up and we enjoyed a boat trip down the Musi river to Kamero Island. After that we had some lunch....we let the little girls pick and they chose KFC. Hahaha.... Then we went to a park with a little zoo of mostly monkeys in cases and just wild ones roaming around....yeah....scary! Then we did a little more shopping and came back to the hotel. Ran to the mall again, because when we went yesterday everything was closed because everyone was breaking their fast. Cora and I even got a pedicure.....the experience was kinda weird, totally unsanitary, but the girls were really nice and it was a lot of fun.

Right now? I am lying in bed, typing my blog, and thatching The Mummy Returns with Indonesian subtitles.

Oh!!! On the elevator tonight a little girl told her parents that we visited her elementary school in Sekayu! What a small world!!!

Enjoy the pics! (sorry this one is short...tomorrow's will be better!)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Lens Change...Paradigm Shift

Today I would like to post about three experiences: the open market in Sekayu, Q&A with SMA 2 faculty, and my walk through the jungle (okay, was a baby jungle)!

Cora and I went to the open market yesterday; in the mornings the market is larger and has fresh fruits, veggies, meat, and fish. I found the experience to be exhilarating and at time overwhelmingly different from my own shopping experiences back home. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

We had an opportunity to meet with the faculty today and explain a little bit about the American education system and to answer questions. It was very educational and interactive. The Indonesian teachers had a lot of questions about what education is like in the States. They also had some misconceptions about education that we were able to clear up. One thing that Cora and I noticed was that they do not have professional learning communities where they can collaborate and work together. This is something that some of them are very interested. I was particularly touched by Yuli who is a history teacher like me...she is passionate about her job and wants to network together in the future so that she can learn more effective student engagement strategies. The main method of classroom instruction is lecturing in Indonesia. It is clear to see that just like in America educators chose teaching not for the money, but because of their passion for teaching and desire to make a difference.

After meeting with the teachers Sri arranged for us to go into the jungle! Cora, my awesome colleague from Oklahoma, is a biology teacher and wanted to experience everything natural! So off we went. I sprayed myself down with an additional amount of mosquito repellant, borrowed some socks from Cora, and we were off. I have included photos of the adventure. The jungle or forest as Sri calls it was not too scary although I did manage to see a walking leech! True story!

This experience has truly altered the lens in which I see the world...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Mayor and a Governor...Oh My!!!

On the first day that Cora and I arrived in Sekayu Yuliansyah the Deputy Secratary of Sekayu invited Cora and I to dinner at the mayor's house for their breaking the fast dinner. Of course Cora and I were flattered and very excited to accept.

Cora and I got as dressed up as we could with scarves in tow out of respect for Indonesian culture and headed to the mayor's house. It is a very large house on a compound. There were lots of people invited to the dinner and the parking lot was full. We assumed we would be sitting outside of the house with the majority of the guests; however, when we arrived we were told to go inside the house. To our great surprise we were actually seated at one of four tables in the entire room. We were not only greeted by Yuliansyah, but the Mayor of Musi Banyuasin Pahri Azhari AND the governor of South Sumatra Alex Noerdin.

When it was time to break the fast we first drank water and then had several traditional sweet foods that we ate. They believe it is important to break the fast with sweet things. I was brave...I ate one, took a bite of the other, and left the jalapeƱo alone. Then everyone left to wash for evening prayers. In Indonesia the women pray entirely in white. They put on a white top, skirt, and veil over what they are wearing. It is very beautiful. When everyone came back from praying we really didn't know what was happening. A couple of officials' wives came and got us and took us to the buffet line. In fact they had us cut in line...those of you who know me know how awkward I would feel about that! However, they were trying to show respect for our attendance and we were grateful.

Indonesian food it very different from American food. They eat rice with every meal, which I quite like, but many of the dishes are extremely spicy. It has been hard to eat everything and I have tried to be careful about my food choices to minimize any stomach disasters I might experience.

After we were finished eating dinner we were asked if we would like a picture with the mayor and governor. We were delighted and had taken two small gifts to give them. After the gift exchange we had our pictures taken and then left because the officials had another event to attend. It was a magical that has greatly impacted my understanding and amazement of this beautiful religion and culture. I am constantly amazed at the kindness and generosity that I have been shown in this country. There is so much to learn from each other.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Touch a Child and Touch the Future

This title of my blog comes from a saying I was taught yesterday here in Sekayu. Touch an stone and you touch the past, touch a flower and you touch the present, touch a child and you touch the future.

Many of you have asked me what the education system in Indonesia is like. They have elementary school as well as junior and senior high school. There are private and public schools; however, in both schools Islam is present. For example, in the school in Sekayu students read the Quran each morning for ten minutes after their morning ceremony. They have each day divided in such a way that senior high students will have finished the Quran by the time they graduate.

As far as curriculum and standards go there are national standards for each subject. In other words the curriculum or standards are the same in each school and subject. The national curriculum requires English to be spoken and has a foundation in Islamic studies. Private schools usually have more emphasis on religion. For example, if it is an Islamic school they might also add Arabic to the curriculum. If it is a Christian private school then there would be an emphasis on Christianity.

Each school adapts the national standards to the history, culture, and needs of their community, city, and county. I found this to be very interesting. Teachers in the school work on this together under the leadership of one of the vice principals.

I have loved visiting the classrooms here in Sekayu. The school here is SMA 2 and it is a senior high school. The students wear uniforms even though it is a public school. They have four uniforms that they rotate through...each day they wear they same uniform. They attend school from Monday through Saturday and from 6:00 to 3:00 each day. I have been immensely impressed with their concentration and attention. As this month is Ramadan and they are fasting students wake up before 4:00 am each day for breakfast and then fast all day until they eat around 5:00 pm. The classrooms are extremely hot and this beautiful green country is humid humid humid...yet students are still eager to learn and are attentive.

Schools do not have names like ours. They are named according to their level and numbered based on how many of that level are in that city. SMA 2 is Sekayu senior high and the second senior high in Sekayu.

Hopefully this answers some of your questions. If you have any more please post questions and I will try and answer them or find the answer to them.

Hope you enjoy these pics!

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Cup Runneth Over...

When i think that this morning I actually had some pancakes and waffles for breakfast (along with rice of course) I feel like I have lived days in just this one 13 hour period. Our hotel was nice in Palembang, breakfast was lovely and we were in the lobby and ready to go at 9:00am. Sri's husband volunteered to drive us to Sekayu, which we had been told was about a three hour drive. Little did I know that it was going to be like the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland the entire time. I am not kidding.... It was really interesting to drive outside of a major city into the more rural parts of Indonesia. Sumatra is a swampy island....this is most likely why malaria is a problem. Oh by the way....our host Sri told Cora and myself that she had malaria two months ago. I honestly never thought I would meet someone who has had malaria in my entire life....looks like have. It makes me so grateful for the hard work of my Face to Faith students the past two years as they raised money to help stop malaria. Love you guys!

When we finally arrived in Sekayu I was actually expecting it to be smaller. It is a decent size town. Probably the size of Brigham City, Utah for comparison. We immediately went to the school and had a tour of the school. It is nice and all of the classrooms open to the outdoors. The students were very friendly; as well as the teachers. I am sure I will have more to report about that tomorrow.

After meeting the principal we were told that we were going to the education department's headquarters. Sekayu is the capital of the county Musi. So the county's education department is located in Sekayu. We met the deputy secretary of the department of education who was so warm and friendly towards us. Next we were told we were off to see the mayor. The mayor was actually in Jakarta so we met the secretary of the county sho invited Cora and I to dinner at the mayor's house tomorrow night. Hahaha! Each night of Ramadan after the sun goes down Muslims enjoy a big meal....we will share that meal with the mayor tomorrow night...who has also invited the governor. What do I wear?????

Next, we checked into our hotel..which is blog worthy; however, I am trying to stay no comment. Let's just say I am not in Jakarta or Palembang anymore. The end....

Sri and her family came and got us and took us to dinner. We ate in open bamboo huts next to rice fields. It was beautiful because the sun was setting and you could hear the call to prayer from the mosque a few streets over. Even the bats flying around were sort of part of the magnificence ambience. We ate rice, fish, calamari, and beef. We tried traditional Muslim snacks only available during Ramadan...even the stray pregnant cat roaming from hut to hut was kind of cute. It was a nice night.

After that we went to an night market and looked around. Everyone wanted a picture with me and followed Cora and I around. Hahaha....if I touched something then teenage girls would hurry to touch it, too! It was hilarious, but very uncomfortable at the same time. It is hard to have people watching you all of the time, even when they are being nice and are just curious. It is an excellent lesson in what it means to be a minority. If you have never been a minority in your life then you have much to learn about compassion, empathy, perspective, and justice.

Now I am back in my hotel is still hot in here even though the air conditioning has been going for hours...typing my blog. Tonight I feel very grateful to live where live. To think of all the times and places I could have been born and I was born where and when I cup runners over with gratitude for the blessings and opportunities I have been given. Traveling truly opens your eyes to what is important in life...a huge shout out to my friends, family, and students. Thank you for being part of my story...