It’s that time in my service. Time when I write a reflective piece about how I’ve been in Indonesia for a year but still have one year to go. I’ve been putting this off for a while because I was not sure what there is to reflect upon; but this past weekend the new group of volunteers (ID11) visited their permanent sites and hearing about them making that trip provided some perspective on this topic.
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.
The Javanese word for please is monggo. In Sundanese people say mangga. In both Indonesian and Javanese mangga means mango. So to say mango in Sundanese people say buah manggah, which literally means mango fruit. Explaining this somewhat trivial difference in language was always one of the first things people in Kediri would do when I told them I would be moving to West Java.
The fifth week of PST was centered around attaining experience teaching at an Indonesian school. Each trainee was paired with another trainee to teach in a school around Kediri. Some schools received up to five pairs of trainees. My partner, Sonam, and I were placed at SMP 4 along with Hilary and Abby.
Something that I have alluded to in my previous post is the obsession it seems all Indonesians have with foreigners, especially white foreigners. A constant fascination with the “bule” seems to be a cultural cornerstone.
Explaining the experience of being an absolute foreigner is very difficult. In America anyone of any ethnicity can walk down nearly any street in any town and draw minimal to no attention. That’s not to say that race is not an issue in America, but that most people don’t see it as novel, strange, or unique to have an uncommon skin tone.
Sunday the tenth of April was our first real day off after arriving in Indonesia. The first day without anything scheduled for us to do. Nonetheless I still woke up before five o’clock in the morning. My host family wanted to show me around Kediri so we left walked to the main road around seven-thirty to catch a bus to Dhoho street. On Sundays Dhoho street is closed down to cars so and turns into a market. The street was very crowded with Indonesians and me being the only bule (fair skinned person) in the area was quite a novelty. Being stopped to take pictures with the more daring Indonesians was very common. In fact, one young Indonesian girl even interviewed me for a class assignment of sorts.