As I write this I am sitting on a bus on my way to Bandung to catch a plane that will whisk me and thirty other volunteers back to Surabaya where we will get on yet another bus to take back to Kediri to continue our PST training. Normally Peace Corps doesn’t fly volunteers when traveling at post; but because of our delayed start to PST, and this weekend being a holiday weekend, West Java volunteers will be flown back to East Java.
West Java trainees arrived in Bandung this past Sunday around nine in the morning. Several ID9s were waiting for us at the train station to help us along to the next leg of our journey. Talking to the ID9s was one of the best parts of my site visit. It was hard to believe that one year prior they had been visiting their site for the first time. They were so well composed, knew exactly how to get around the city, what means of transportation each trainee should take, how much it should cost, and spoke to locals with incredible fluency. Fathoming the connection between their ability to navigate through Indonesia and the my own indeptitude was beyond difficult.
After a nice break in Bandung hanging out with the ID9s we split up further and went with our site mates to our next stop. ID9 Lisa guided Austin, Alex, Sofia, and myself to Sumedang to where we would go the last stint of our journey alone. Sofia is actually not in Sumedang but her itinerary had her taking a somewhat circuitous route to her site.
I was fortunate enough to have one of my counterparts, Arin, come with my principal to pick me up from Kota Sumedang and take me to Buahdua. On our way to the school we stopped for lunch at a warung. Apparently in Sundanese culture it is very common to eat with one’s hands. So we ate our lunch of fish, which was surprisingly good, with our hands.
We stopped by the school for a little bit to meet some of the staff and so I could see the grounds. Everyone was welcoming and excited to meet me. After the brief school visit we walked to the house where I would be staying. My bedroom faces Mount Tampomas and has a spectacular view. My new bapak and ibu don’t speak any English and very little Indonesian. They speak Sundanese. It was a little disheartening to find out that I’ll have to learn another language to communicate with my new host family and many of the people in Sumedang but a challenge I am eager to face.
On my first full day in Buahdua there were no classes at my school. My counterparts took me to Bandung so I could watch them shop. Apparently they needed something to wear for graduation and Bandung has all the latest fashions so I tagged along with them. Despite being a little bored occasionally it was an interesting experience getting to see more of Bandung. We went to a mall of sorts called Pasar Baru Trade Center. It was seven or eight floors of nothing but clothes and textiles.
On Tuesday I was able to observe my first classes. As is to be expected in almost all Indonesian classes the students were very shy and hesitant to speak up. Asrie, my other counterpart, taught with a traditional Indonesian style in which she delivered the lesson information and then immediately asked students to put it into practice without much explanation beyond that. Peace Corps suggests a very different teaching method. I was able to speak briefly about the changes I’d like to make and my counterparts seemed very receptive to all the suggestions. They are both young and still open to trying new things which is much to my advantage.
On Wednesday I went on a trip to Surian with Asrie to a recruitment event at an SMP. The road to Surian was very poor but the views of Tampomas were incredible. Surian was nice and the students were very interested in why I was there. I can’t help but think perhaps I was encouraged to attend this trip as a sort of recruitment tool. Nonetheless it was a lot of fun and great to see more of Sumedang.
Overall, my experience during site visit was a terrific one. I am excited and eager to return to Buahdua and start my service in the Peace Corps.