This evening, Jalan Melangir (my street) had its first power outage. With neither pomp nor circumstance, the lights on my block blinked out. Prior to coming to Indonesia, I was told that rolling blackouts were a common occurence and that I should prepare lesson plans accordingly. Thankfully, I haven’t had to deal with challenges posed by faulty electricity at school as the classrooms all have lots of windows and my weapon of English instruction is a dry-erase marker.
Also thankfully, my home came equipped with a blindingly bright, rechargeable emergency lamp just for this purpose. Guided by the glow of my Indo smart phone, I found the lamp and set it up on the water cooler in the kitchen. I texted my neighbor around the corner to ask if her lights were out and took a shower while I waited for her response. Turns out she is in Medan, a large city on neighboring Sumatra, for a wedding, but a glance out the front door confirmed that at least most of my neighbors were also left in the dark, so to speak.
I was standing at the front door — teasingly admonishing my neighbor via text to remember to bring me some oleh-oleh [souvenirs] — when the lights winked back on. “Alhamdulillah!” Praise be to God! A child’s voice called out from across the street. Praises indeed. Nothing like a taste of life without taken-for-granted luxuries to remind me of my many blessings.
Besides staying home and pondering the miracle of electricity, I have been quite busy both at school and out and about town. Today is technically my day off, though Indonesian schools still operate on Saturday. Students are expected to exercise first thing in the morning and then, from what I can tell, they are supposed to have class for a few more hours in the morning. Exercising consisted of hundreds of students, all wearing matching blue and white uniforms, doing aerobics to ridiculously fast songs.
When the music started I found myself in the company of my Science 4 class, and I think they got a kick out of watching me trying (and often failing) to follow along. I’ll get good at this though… It’s kind of like Zumba but with far fewer hip thrusts.
The teachers then had a “surprise” seminar, which I doubt was a surprise because they all brought clothes to change into. I excused myself from participating, citing the very real excuse that I wouldn’t understand what was being said. So I wandered about my school, selfie-ing with students and laughing with other not-actual-teachers until I was able to bum a ride from a teacher who had forgotten to bring clothes and thus had to go home and change.
I spent the late morning and early afternoon napping and running small errands, like picking up my uniforms from the laundry and buying more bread from BB Bakery down the street. I’ve already started to develop routines that make me feel like I belong here. Case in point: when I walked up to the bakery and smiled at Irma, the girl who always seems to be on duty. She smiled back and then immediately turned around to check if my favorite pastry (a bun filled with green Pandan cream) was in stock. “Habis!” All gone! Moments like these are the tiny stitches that are slowly but surely weaving me into life here in Pangkal Pinang.
Having spent the last week going out in the evenings with ever-changing groups of people, I have been “feeling the Bahasa” a lot more than I was in my last post. My language is getting better, and I continue to study by asking people for vocab at relevant moments as well as using workbooks provided at orientation and watching YouTube videos made by the Indo-famous SkinnyIndonesian24.
This afternoon I went shopping with Ibu Isnaini, my co-teacher, plus her sister and her niece. Her niece is in Grade 10 and speaks wonderful English, which was a nice surprise. It turns out we have similar interests and aspirations, and I hope that I can encourage her to apply for scholarships like the YES Program or AFS. After all, I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for AFS in high school (among other factors).
Tomorrow it would be nice to have a relaxing day at home after go-go-going all week, but alas there are plans. First: teachers from Caitlin’s school will come over at 6 a.m. to give us a make-over in preparation for a wedding later in the morning. Second: from what I can tell, the wedding ceremony is at 7 or 8 but the part we are invited to is at 9 or 10? No matter what, I can almost guarantee that there will be lots of sitting, talking, eating, and picture-taking: all requisite activities for any Indonesian celebration.
Then in the afternoon Caitlin assures me that we are invited to a gamelan lesson, which is incredibly exciting for me as THIS is what I wrote about when I wrote my grant proposal. I will be on my best behavior and hopefully this can turn into a regular gig. And of course at night the Bukit Tani English Club will meet. We are teaching the kiddies about body parts. Lots of adorable pictures to come.