My desa (village) during training, Manisrenggo, has been an excellent place to find my footing here in Indonesia. Everybody I have met has been friendly, hospitable, and generous. I never make it out of someone’s house without having been offered an array of delicious foods and plenty of water. Everyone is always very curious to talk about America and find out what the trainees think about Indonesia, the local food, the people.
Sure, not every aspect of living in Indonesia is cheery and pleasant. Many trainees have fallen ill with sicknesses much worse than diarrhea. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease has gone around some, there have been instances of scabies, and even a case of dengue fever.
I could also do without the mild, incessant heckling from the local children. Hearing “bule, bule, bule,” yelled every time I walk past a group of kids can be a little grating the fiftieth time it happens. I try to remember that for them my presence is still incredibly novel. It would be as if, in America, you have a penguin move into your neighborhood. A penguin that goes about his business much like anyone else in your town. Going to school and work, hanging out with friends. If I saw a penguin walking around in Oklahoma I would probably stop what I’m doing and say something like, “Hey, mister penguin!” Of course that penguin is probably really tired from the unbearable heat that is so unlike what he finds in Antarctica and could really use a nap under an oscillating fan.
Manisrenggo loves their volunteers, and as I’ve mentioned before, they are constantly a topic of discussion. Apparently the sounds I made in the mandi the first couple of times were “very American” in nature. Not sure how one can splash water onto one’s body that is somehow more reflective of one nationality over another, though I managed to do so. I’m pleased to say now that I now sound like a real Indonesian when I mandi.
My favorite moniker designated to me during PST has been orang rumahan which basically means homebody. I don’t think of myself as a homebody, but it is true that for the first several weeks of training I slept a lot. I explained this to my family by saying that tall people need more sleep. While there is currently a lack of empirical scientific information backing up this claim, I still think it’s probably true.
After five hours of language class in the morning and four hours of TEFL training in the afternoon, all of which was in buildings without air-conditioning, all I wanted to do, and all I could do, was eat dinner, write what happened that day in my journal, mandi, and go to bed. My usual bedtime was eight o’clock and I would wake up around four in the morning. This allowed me eight hours of sleep, which is what science says humans need! So I suppose if getting the recommended amount of sleep each night makes me an orang rumahan then I’m happy to be an orang rumahan.