We have so much to update and report on with this blog post. Will and I just completed our first full week of pre-service training near Batu (near Malang). Our group of 46 was split up into eight small villages for language and cultural training. As you can imagine, our group of six has grown pretty close in our one week together—I can’t imagine what it will be like after ten.
Our first week was full of surprises. As we had expected, Will and I were not going to be staying with the same host family, but we soon discovered that we were staying next door to one another. Then on my first night, due to some local politics (it follows us, I won’t go into details here though) I had to move in with Will. Then it was all resolved a few days later and I went back to my original host family next door. We weren’t sure how long we were going to live together, or if it would be permanent, so I will say that we were pretty bummed to split up again during a week of so many changes and adjustments. But now it’s like we have two families, and we can see each other whenever we want!
Now onto the details!
We study language from about 8-3:30 every day with breaks for leg stretching, cultural discussions and lunch. It’s actually really fun, and our language teacher, Frans is a fantastic teacher. We are all amazed at how far we’ve come with the language in such a short amount of time. And by amazed I mean I can put together a few complete sentences. In addition to Frans, we have a cultural facilitator dedicated to our group of six named Ido. Ido comes to class everyday and is there to answer any and all questions we have (What are they saying at 4am during the call to prayer? How many scoops of water should I put down the toilet??) as well as nicely tell us what sort of cultural faux pas we’ve been committing (no standing up and eating, no showing the soles of your feet toward others, wear sunglasses if you want, but know that you’ll be perceived as an outsider). Ido is also full of energy, hilarious, and a fan of boy bands. Our class is about a five minute walk for Will and me and it’s in the village office. It’s a beautiful setting with views of farms and mountains. I would post more pictures but it takes a while to upload, so I’ll do that more later.
The weather in Surabaya had me questioning how much I could take. The weather around Batu is nearly perfect. I was later told that Surabaya is about the hottest place in Java. Phew! Still, our permanent site is sure to be much hotter than Batu.
My host family is two young parents (36 years old), a grandmother, three sons (11, 4 and 1) and two nieces (12 and 19). There are always other family members around or people visiting for village business. Will lives with an older couple. They are empty nesters and have three grown children and four grandchildren. Pretty much all the kids on Indonesia are too adorable for words. They take great care of us, keep us well fed, and are patient with us. Some things seem really different, but other things are pretty much the same. That’s probably another blog post.
That’s probably the biggest difference. Bathrooms and kitchens. All bathrooms have what is called a “mandi” which is also the verb for “to bathe.” A mandi is a big tub of water, which is always full. You don’t get into it…you scoop water from it to bathe yourself and you scoop water from it to wash yourself after using the toilet (since they don’t use toilet paper in this culture). I know, I know. But we actually came to terms with this months before we left, and it’s really not a big deal. I’m not saying I’m used to it yet, but I’m not bothered by it either. Bathing is pretty scheduled here and a pretty big deal. You take one bath (by throwing cold scoops of water on yourself, unless you are Will who’s family has a hot water heater) in the morning, and another bath when you get home before you eat dinner. It’s pretty awesome. I love taking baths…even cold ones. The bathroom is basically a wet room. You throw water on yourself, on the toilet, on your clothes…it’s just always wet. They must use bleach pretty often to clean to prevent mold. My family also has a washing machine in their bathroom which I used for the first time on Sunday. The water from the machine just runs onto the floor too! It was great not to have to hand wash my clothes though. After the machine washing they went out onto the clothes line and they were dry within hours.
Rice, tempe, tofu, chicken, vegetables, rice, sweets, rice, chili sauce, rice. That’s pretty much what we eat each day. So far so good! Also, all of us Americans have had to ask our host families to serve us coffee or tea without sugar because they serve it suuuuper sweet here. Will and I have actually graduated to making our own coffee. It’s Turkish style here with a scoop of finely ground coffee in your cup filled with hot water. The grounds settle and you drink up! If the coffee is too hot, you can pour it into your saucer and drink from your saucer. I think it’s an East Java thing.
So those are the basics. We’ll go into more detail on this stuff in future posts but I wanted to give an overview. Our lives certainly look much different than they did a month ago. Will and I have given up a lot of freedom to do this, but knowing that it was our decision and knowing that we can go back to our old lives whenever we want makes it less frustrating and pretty easy at this point. We just got cell phones this weekend and calls are really cheap, that that helps us feel connected!
Yesterday was Sunday and our first day without a big schedule. We spent the morning sitting under a sun umbrella in the yard doing homework and catching up on e-mail with a view of the mountains. Our fellow trainee, Matt came by for a while to hang out. We really don’t have much to complain about!
We are thinking of our loved ones back home, and wondering how you all are. More updates to come!