Indonesian schools are very different from schools in America. Adjusting to the Indonesian education system has been, perhaps, my greatest challenge so far. My American expectations of professionalism in schools, how teachers should interact with their students, student conduct, and school administration have not meshed seamlessly with the Indonesian reality.
For better or worse, I have never been an anxious person. I rarely stress about anything. From tests, to doctor’s appointments, to sporting events I can’t understand what makes people worry or fret. Occasionally, this habit to ignore the gravity of upcoming events, which might require preparation, works against me.
I really like running. So much so that a couple years ago I managed to cause both the tibia and fibula in my left leg to develop hairline fractures because I was running too much—about thirty-five miles a week. Ever since then I have wanted to get back to that level of performance but haven’t quite been able to manage it. Still, even though I’m not able to run the distances I was once capable of, I think of myself as a “runner” before many other things.
I think most Peace Corps volunteers who maintain a weblog eventually write a post explaining why they decided to serve. Putting into words what motivated me to leave everything behind in the United States and live in Indonesia for two years is difficult. I can barely explain to myself why I wanted to join the Peace Corps; so explaining “why” to others is especially difficult—nearly impossible in Indonesian. I may not be able to say exactly why I came to Indonesia but I can say why I didn’t come to Indonesia: I didn’t come here to ‘help.’
“What do Indonesians eat?” This is a question I oft fielded after disclosing that I had accepted a Peace Corps assignment, and would be living in Indonesia for two years. Well, the short answer: rice. Indonesians eat rice. Lots and lots of rice.
The Sunday after Idul Fitri began like any other day from the past month. I woke up around five, mandied, had breakfast, and continued to read my book on the history of the United States Postal Service (it’s fascinating). At some point midmorning my host family niece (I think, the family relations are still uncertain to me) asked me something. What she asked specifically, I do not know. But she used the words ambil, ikan, and kolam. Something about taking a fish, but I couldn’t understand whether they were asking if I had taken a fish, if I would take a fish, if they should take a fish, or some other equally odd question. Eventually, and after some helpful charades, I remembered kolam means pond. They were inviting me to a pond with them to go fishing.
Idul Fitri is the Indonesian name for the Islamic holiday: Eid. Indonesians also frequently refer to Eid as Lebaran. Eid falls on the first day of Shawwal in the Islamic calendar. Shawwal is the month immediately following Ramadan. This holiday is celebrated throughout the Muslim world. Eid festivities and traditions vary by region, but they typically consist of lots of food, praying, reading the Quran, and gatherings of family.