I’m back in Manado! And I am happy to be here. Of course I miss everyone and the comfort, but I really am happy to be back.
Manado is beautiful, it really is. From the top of my kost I can see out to the ocean and up to the mountains. I can see the Lokon volcano which spewed ash into the sky three weeks ago and even a distant tiny Flying Jesus (excuse me, Blessing Jesus, as Sam and I have learned). Manado, like most sizeable cities in Indonesia, is of course fairly polluted and in general pretty dirty. It is common to find trash piles burning on the sidewalks and holes in the sidewalk open up to nauseating gutters of sewage and trash. But for the most part those things are just a fraction of the Manado experience. I think the Manado experience (so far) is more encapsulated by friendly yet fairly direct people, extremely warm temperatures (oh Bandung, I miss your highlands), and spicy Minahasan (the local native ethnicity) food. The Manado people take a lot of pride in their food–as my counterpart says, they are “good eaters”. This means that they eat anything and everything and a lot of it.
Anyway here I am at my kost. A kost is like a boarding house and mine happens to be just a 10 minute walk from SMK 1 Manado. I live in one decent sized room that has a bed (+ trundle!), a desk that comes out of the wall, a closet with shelves, a mirror, a TV on the wall, and a bathroom. The room also has a bathroom! The bathroom has a toilet, a drain, a faucet (+ bucket and smaller hand bucket), and shower head. A shower head! I honestly don’t mind bucket showers, but it is really nice to have this luxury. Especially since the faucet seems to provide only a half-hearted trickle so the bucket is pretty useless. Well… not entirely. You may have noticed that I have just about everything I need except the kitchen sink. Or the bathroom sink, as it were. Like actually, I don’t have a bathroom sink. So I do end up using the little faucet for teeth brushing and hand washing (though the high-pressure toilet hose thing that I presume people use to wash themselves if they aren’t using toilet paper is also great for that).
I’ve finally started to make this place feel like home but putting up pictures, unpacking everything, and filling my closet with snacks and instant noodles. The things that were weird at first–like constantly having to go to the Indomaret to buy water because nothing is potable here–are starting to feel familiar.
The kost is nice. There are always people around if you want to hang out with other people, or you can just stay in your home and relax in solitude. Well “solitude” as much as you can block out the common occurrence of music played through a tinny phone speaker wafting up through the stories of the kost. Downstairs there is usually a gathering of 2-6 people (all of varying degrees of being involved with running the kost) along with the occasional infant or toddler (young children abound everywhere in Indonesia). Downstairs there is also a small kitchen area furnished sparsely with the necessities: a sink and two gas burners. I don’t have a fridge but Sam does which means cooking is a possibility! And upstairs on the roof you can see most of Manado, the Flying Jesus, the local volcano, and even out to the ocean.
I am also getting a lot of Bahasa Indonesia practice because there aren’t many people outside of my school who speak much English. The main person I interact with is our guard/he has other jobs too. His name is Sonny and he is nearly incomprehensible to me because I think he speaks exclusively Bahasa Manado, which is a dialect I haven’t quite mastered. But he’s helpful when we need things and we get by with half-understanding. We have neighbors who are also new to the kost–Shirley, her daughter Geby (I think she’s about 12?), and her son Kenzo (8 years old?). They are from Ternate in the Maluku Islands (the Spice Islands) and the father works in Jakarta most of the time. They are very sweet and very patient with our broken Indonesian. And by “sweet” I mean that the father was in town the other night and, through a combination of their incredible kindness and our inability to successfully refuse anything, the family took us out to Pizza Hut, bought us pastries from BreadTalk, bought our household supplies, and then took us to a warung for saraba and pisang goreng.
Warung = food stall
Saraba = a delicious hot ginger and milk drink that basically tastes like the liquid version of gingersnaps
Pisang goreng = fried banana that comes in so many types because they have bananas out the wazoo here in Indonesia. My favorite are the raja (king) and sepatu (shoe) kinds.
In return we help the children with their English homework. Ternate wasn’t super big on English so Geby feels kind of behind in class, so we try to help as much as possible. I mean we are English teachers, right??
Not Being Alone!
We, we, we–Why do I keep saying we? Because the best part of this whole living situation is that Sam and I live together! Or basically together. Our rooms are across the hall from each other which is the best part of living together without actually having to be roommates. Not many other ETAs in Indonesia get to live near their site mate. I know that two other site mates live in the same house together, but we might be the only other ones living so close to each other. Honestly, living near Sam is a godsend. We have a very in-it-together attitude about experiencing Manado (which, when I write a post about our various social activities, is quite comforting). When thinking in Indonesia becomes too tiring, when you’ve been dealing with the immigration office all weekend, or your classes have been particularly rough, a lot of solace and comfort comes from just seeing your site mate and having someone to talk to (in oh-so familiar and comforting American English) and complain to and know that they understand.
When you’re a bule in Indonesia you are always “on”. You’re always on display, always available to talk to in English, even more available to talk to in Indonesian. But having a partner, a comrade in arms, lessens the intensity. When we go out with our Indonesian teachers and friends we can tag-team the attention, allowing the other one to tune out of the Indonesian conversation for a moment. If one of us doesn’t understand something, the other one might and we can parse together some comprehension between the two of us. And, if nothing else, we simply get to experience things together, which always makes things better.
Knowing that you’re not alone makes all the difference. I have Sam, but I also have 32 other ETAs across Indonesia. Our cohort of 34 ETAs stays connected through Facebook, texting, WhatsApp, group messages, Instagram, Snapchat. We are in the age of connection and information! Internet is incredibly cheap here so there is really no excuse for not being connected if you want to be. We keep each other updated and stay connected through Snaps of our students singing in class, or posts of the jaw-dropping smoke in Kalimantan, or short videos of our daily lives (or when we give into Starbucks). I’m very grateful for my cohort.
I’ve written two pages and I still haven’t gotten to the job that I’m paid to do here. It’s kind of because I don’t really feel like I’ve started. I’ve been here over a week certainly I’ve been teaching. But I am currently on a 10 co-teacher schedule. Having a co-teacher means that ideally I would spend at least an hour with each co-teacher to lesson plan how our next class will go. Ideally this means we plan out what we will cover, who will talk when, who will teach what, what activities we will do, and how we will do them. Ideally I would have 2-3 co-teachers so that I can spend my time and energy developing strong teaching relationships and getting into a groove with my co-teachers. Ideally. Indonesia does not always do what is most ideal.
Simply put, 10 teachers is an outrageous number of co-teachers. I understand that they want to be fair and they want all 10 English teachers to be able to work with a native speaker, but it is simply not feasible (nor does AMINEF allow me to have 10 teachers). Last week I gave a proposed schedule with 4 teachers (ideally no more than 3, but it was the only way it would work out in order to fulfill 20 hours without working on Saturdays) but since then I have not made much progress in actually getting that schedule implemented. That being said, I have gotten to practice my Indonesian a lot via explaining, reiterating, and insisting to the curriculum department that I am not allowed (and thus cannot under any circumstances) teach with more than 4 teachers. Anyway, this has resulted in a smattering of lesson planning with maybe half of my co-teachers and the more common phenomenon of me asking the teachers what is going to happen in class 10-20 minutes before class starts. So when things have settled down, I will write more about the co-teaching experience.
As far as the students go–they are energetic and excited in general, though sometimes shy with talking. This is no surprise and I hope they will open up as I get to know them more and as I open up to them. Outside of class they all love to say “Hello Miss!” and “Good morning Miss!” and “How are you Miss!”. They love selfies and taking 4 pictures in quick succession and asking me if I have a boyfriend and what I like about Manado. I knew this before I came, but it is even more clear now that the students will be my motivation at times when everything else is getting me down.
In Indonesia the teacher-student relationship can be much more close than it is in American schools–especially American public schools. Students being friends with you is totally acceptable, as is friending you on FB, texting you on Line (or whatever application you have), and hanging out at your place. In fact, students make up a pretty large proportion of my social life as they are always excited to go out and take you places or even just hang out in your room and listen to the latest pop trends. It seems a little odd to me and I think I will have to make some boundaries between school life and not-school life so that I don’t totally get sucked into All School All Students All The Time, but it is also nice. It is fun hanging out with kids who are enthusiastic about getting to know you regardless of their English level.
A lot has happened this past week/end and I have a number of thoughts to express about things like gender conventions (aka my total lack of knowing whether or not something is okay), religion (aka my adventure in being Jewish in Indonesia but also in that one super Christian pocket of Indonesia), appearance (aka being bule, being mixed, white skin, and being told I look like a number of not terribly beautiful TV characters), alcohol, and the Polisi and the Preman.
But, again, I think I’ll put those in different posts.