The bathroom is a great place to find contrasts between America and Indonesia. Besides using the squatty potty, Indonesians don’t take showers. At least, not showers as most Americans know them. In the stead of shower they mandi. Mandi literally means bath or shower, though what they actually do is better described as a bucket bath.
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.
Ramadan is a torpid affair. Not much happens. For my cohort and me the vacuous schedules of our various schools gives us very little to do for our first month at our permanent site. All this free time is great for picking up new hobbies, exploring the desa, meeting the community, planning for lessons, or considering secondary projects to take on over the next two years. Unfortunately, I have done practically none of these things.
Pre service training, or PST, is essentially boot camp for Peace Corps volunteers. Traditionally PST is three months, twelve weeks, in length. Peace Corps Indonesia normally has a ten-week long PST; unfortunately for my cohort (ID10, my “class” of fellow volunteers) our departure from the States was postponed for ten days due to a delay in obtaining visas— a fun and telling welcome to the Peace Corps for sure.
This past Wednesday, the first of June, my Peace Corps class concluded pre-service training and was sworn in as official Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). The start of our two years of service officially began. We received our Peace Corps pins, and most of us said goodbye to Kediri, our first home in Indonesia.
On the eighth, and end of the seventh, week of pre service training we taught at a middle school for eight days. We returned to the same middle school we taught at for our first week of practicum on Friday May 13th and worked at the school until Saturday May 21st on all days except the 15th. I still taught with my teaching partner from the first week of practicum, Sonam, and we continued working with our counterpart from the first week.
Today was our Language Proficiency Interview, or LPI for short. Every volunteer has an interview at the start and close of their service. The first interview happens near the end of PST and is to gauge each volunteer’s skill with using their primary language and to see if they are ready to start learning a secondary language. In order to be sworn in one must complete the interview with a level of at least intermediate low. The LPI that volunteers have at the close of their service is to gauge how much they have learned over the previous two years.