As I write this it is Saturday just after 11 PM somewhere near the border of East Java and Central Java. I am on a train headed to Bandung, West Java with about twenty other Peace Corps trainees. We landed in Surabaya one month ago and we will be sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers in one month. It is amazing to think how much I have learned this past month and daunting to think of how much more is left to do. PST has been exhausting while simultaneously exhilarating. This past week in particular has been challenging because it was our first week of teaching practicum. I have woken up at 4:30 or earlier each morning this week and often don’t make it to bed until 9:00 in the evening. Despite how grueling this week seemed there was a special motivation to trudge onward. Site announcement and site visit.
On Friday, after practicum all of the trainees met at STAIN to find out where we would be spending the next two years of our lives. We sat through brief session about the process that Peace Corps Indonesia goes through in determining where to place volunteers, how they choose host familes, and some other logistical details, none of which were anywhere near as interesting as what we knew was going to be coming next.
We were meeting in a gymnasium-type building, and on the floor was drawn a very large map of the island of Java. District capitals were marked for reference. Peace Corps staff would call a trainee’s name, the trainee would come forward to receive a couple pages about their new site, and then the trainee’s regional manager would walk the trainee to wherever on Java he or she would be. The event was exciting and somewhat emotional.
One of the more interesting aspects of site announcement is the push and pull it exerts on existing relationship dynamics. Many people have developed a close circle of friends, or maybe just one or two good friends, and site announcement draws to attention the thought of how difficult it will be to maintain some relationships. For ID10 the adjustment to being torn asunder from the familiar is likely even more challenging since we had nine days in Los Angeles that were almost exclusively for developing relationships with our fellow trainees.
After about two dozen trainees had their names called, and were taken to their place on the map, my name was called. I took my papers and saw that I would be placed in West Java, in the district of Sumedang. On my paper I saw that I will be in desa Buahdua and that my school is an SMKN (public vocational high school) with focuses on motorcycle engineering, computers and networking, marketing, accounting, and autotronics.
As I was walked over to where I would be on the map my new regional manager told me that Sumedang is known for their tofu. Also placed on Sumedang was Austin and Alex. Haven’t gotten to know them really well during PST because neither of them were in my link group, but both of them are very cool.
After everyone was walked to their place on the map, the new geographically formed groups of volunteers met with their regional managers to discuss details about traveling to site the next day. We texted our host familes and our new principal to let them know we would be coming and that we’d need to be picked up from the nearest transportation hub. Funny story: when I texted my principal he didn’t text me back because he thought my name was like a girl’s name since it looked similar to “Michelle” like Michelle Obama. He contacted my community liassion to voice is disappointment because they had requested a male volunteer but my CL was able to explain that my name was indeed a boy’s name and it was like “Michael” more than Mrs. Obama’s first name.
The train ride will take 14 hours to get from Kediri to Bandung. In Bandung there will be some current PCVs to help us make it to the next leg of our trip. When I get to Sumedang the principal of my new school will pick me up and take me to Buahdua to meet my new host family. Traveling tip for when you’re in Indonesia: bring an eye mask for overnight train rides. They leave very bright lights on for the entire journey.