First off we’d like to say thank you to everyone who’s been following our blog and for the comments we’ve received both on the blog and on Facebook. It means a lot knowing that you all are out there keeping up with this crazy journey.
It’s hard to know where to start with permanent site. I feel like we’ve done so much in a short amount of time. Maybe we start with a quick overview of what we’ve been doing.
We arrived here, as I mentioned in my previous post, last Friday after swearing in. The drive to Ngoro through the mountains was really beautiful.
When we got to site we went to our house, met our host family, and got our mosquito net set up. When we think about our living situation, it’s kind of un-Peace Corpsy. The house is big and there are two wings. The family lives in one side, and on the other side is our room, a sitting room (used only by us), the dining room, the kitchen and the bathrooms. Our sitting room leads out to the front porch and the entire house is gated in from the street, which means that people won’t be stopping by—good for privacy, bad for community integration. There are three bathrooms here—one is large with a bathtub, hot shower, and western flush toilet (no toilet paper of course, but a sprayer). One is a traditional squat toilet room with a mandi to scoop water into the toilet and wash yourself with, and one is more for bathing, with a larger mandi and no toilet. I’ve only used the hot shower once, and Will hasn’t yet, as the cold water is pretty welcome given how hot it is here. But it’s nice to know it’s there when you need it.
Our home also has a washing machine like my house in training, and my family employees a housekeeper who does all the cooking and cleaning. She’s a pretty great cook. The food is fantastic and they have been keeping us stuffed. There is always a lot of fresh fruit around too, and since we gobbled up the vegetables our first few days, she’s been making big bowls of veggies for us, which is great. I’ve continued to make my own oatmeal with peanut butter and apples or bananas every morning, and I’ve brought Will in on it too—and he’s digging it. We also have a refrigerator that we are welcome to use. So there you have it—pretty much every luxury a PC volunteer could hope for in a home, we’ve got. If I had one complaint it would be that our bedroom is pretty small and we don’t have anywhere to hang our clothes, so we are still figuring that out. But honestly we can’t really complain.
Our host mom is very friendly and seems pretty laid back. I think if I want to cook here it will be no problem, and it seems she has a lot of kitchen tools—the other night I noticed a big electric toaster oven.
Will and I have both visited our schools already, and we’ve visited each other’s schools. The first day I went to my school, I saw that they had put up a huge banner welcoming me to the school. See below:
The teachers at my school are really awesome. They call themselves a ‘keluarga besar’ (big family) and sort of remind me of characters from an ensemble cast television show. I’ve gone to two housewarming parties, a wedding, and on a field trip with the majority of my teachers already. One of the teachers who I will be working with a lot was what I had pictured in my head when I was picturing my counterpart: young, really nice, speaks excellent English and is a fan of the Twilight movies (okay so that’s just a bonus). She’s newly married as well, and her husband is also an English teacher, so I hope that Will and I can be friends with them. One of the other English teachers is about my age as well, really friendly, and has three adorable daughters. She lives really close to us and I know I will get to know her and her family well over the next two years.
Even though my school is a madrasa I’m not required to wear a jilbab (head scarf) or a skirt (like the other female teachers) and my principal said it was okay for me to wear three-quarter length sleeve shirts. I feel very grateful for these concessions and I try not to cut any other corners (I keep my clothes loose and the neckline high).
Here’s Will to tell you about his school:
My school is a typical public Indonesian high school with one exception (that I’ve seen so far): it has a swimming pool! Not the nicest or cleanest swimming pool I’ve ever seen, but I think it will be just fine. It is a community pool and we are welcome to use it whenever we want. The English teachers and the non-English teachers have all been incredibly welcoming and I’ve already been inducted into their cycling club. Also, my counterparts have pretty fantastic names. One is named Mr. Eko (fans of LOST will appreciate) and the other is Mr. Bagus, which translates to Mr. Awesome—or Mr. Good, Mr. Great, Mr. Really Great, etc. It’s a language with limited vocabulary. But, I’m just going to stick with Mr. Awesome.
Back to Amy:
So that’s the big practical stuff. You might be wondering how we are doing with the transition? As expected it’s hard at times and easy at times. It’s hard being stared at everywhere we go, getting used to a new schedule (when we don’t have a regular one yet), or working on making our schedule our own. It’s hard asking for the small things we need to make ourselves comfortable (like our own set of keys to the gate and house so we can leave early or come home late, or asking if they can make some less spicy food). It’s hard when communication doesn’t work and people wonder why one of us didn’t show up to something when we had no idea about it, or when my principal comes over at 6 a.m to ride bikes when we are still sleeping on Sunday because I got home from a school trip at midnight he night before, or when we think we are getting in the car with our host family to take our friend home, and it turns out we are driving 30 kilometers to someone else’s house and we are dressed super casually and I haven’t even brought my purse. That stuff is exhausting, and makes us feel like we’ve earned the right to watch a few episodes of Community in our room.
It’s easy because we are in a nice house, with nice people, we have friendly counterparts, we have plenty of great food to eat, we have nice bicycles to get around on, we are near several other Peace Corps volunteers, and most of all, we have each other. Oh and it’s so beautiful here—there are a lot of gorgeous sugar cane and rice fields all over the place—it makes for some great bike rides.
Having gone through a lot of transition in Batu during training, we know that we will feel comfortable here too in a matter of weeks. We just have to take things one day at a time, and laugh at the crazy stuff. When I feel frustrated at a situation, or submit to being photographed for the 36th time in one day, I just say in my head “You’re welcome America.” It’s critical that we keep in mind that we are here to make friends and provide the most positive representation of our beloved country as we can. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s a pretty great place to serve (sorry Mongolia).