Nearly seven months ago, I completed my Bachelor’s degree the University of Tampa. Though I am TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certified, prior to Indonesia I had very little practical experience teaching. November 25 is a national holiday in Indonesia — Hari Guru [Teacher Day] — and during the celebrations yesterday I was momentarily bewildered: Wait, when did I become a teacher? I wondered to myself. Somehow, in the last seven months, I have found myself sitting on the other side of the desk.
Hari Guru is (ironically?) a day off for teachers nationwide. In the morning, teachers don the black and white batik of the national organization for teachers. (Hari Guru celebrates the anniversary of the formation of Persatuan Guru Republik Indonesia (PGRI) [Indonesian National Teachers’ Association] on November 25, 2015, as explained in this article.) Teachers from all schools then gather for Upacara Hari Guru, a scripted ceremony that follows the same format as the Monday morning flag-raising ceremony but with additional speeches about the teaching profession.
Pangkal Pinang hosted two ceremonies simultaneously: one at Kantor Walikota [Mayor’s Office] and one at Kantor Gubernur [Governor’s Office]. Caitlin, my sitemate, went to the former with the majority of the teachers at our schools. I attended the latter with Ibu Kun (my headmistress) and Ibu Asro (my counterpart and one of the four vice principals at SMA3).
At Kantor Gubernur, students from each of Pangkal Pinang’s high schools were represented. During the entire ceremony, they stood in formation in the open field in front of the governor’s office. Before and after the ceremony — which consisted of raising the Indonesian flag, speeches, and a musical performance that mixed Malay and Chinese influences in Bangka — there was plenty of hand-shaking and selfie-taking.
After the ceremony, we (Ibu Kun, Ibu Asro, and me) returned to school where I was told there would be no students. But as we pulled through the entrance archway I saw a few dozen students sitting on the ground along the road. They were baking in the sun, without the protection of shade, which is something that almost every Indonesian avoids at all cost. They watched as we pulled in and began to stand, following our car. We parked and as we got out they surged at us, singing and clapping and carrying balloons that they somehow had hidden from view just ten seconds prior.
Not for the first time I was struck by a surge of love for my students. Balloons are an apt analogy; I felt those warm-fuzzy-feelings ballooning up in my chest. Their smiling faces and cheerful clapping needed no translation. From inside the main building, another student appeared carrying a large tray piled high with yellow rice. Something to the effect of Selamat Hari Guru ke-70 [Happy 70th Teachers’ Day] was carved out of carrots and arranged along the top. The singing continued as Ibu Kun, the headmistress and person of highest ranking present, was given the honor of removing the crown of the rice pile and taking the first bite.
She then gave a short speech about how great our school is (of course!), teachers and students included, and then cut a bouquet of helium balloons loose. Perhaps this is to symbolize the hopes and dreams of our students; may they always dare to dream.
And of course today is yet another holiday, but one that is only celebrated far far away from here. I am talking, of course, about Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving has been mostly a non-event for me this year. I mentioned it in a couple of classes but there wasn’t time to go into detail because testing starts for students next week (which means holiday for me!) and we have been scrambling to catch up on lost time.
Outside of school, I have celebrated by:
– going to karaoke with some friends in the afternoon and showing off the effort I have been putting into learning how to sing Indonesian songs. I’ve got “Pasti Bisa” by Citra Scholastika and “Bento” by Iwan Fals down, with many more on my still-to-learn list.
– doing Thanksgiving-related activities with the neighborhood English club instead of continuing our lesson about clothes. We made hand turkeys and the kids wrote what they are thankful for on the inside. More warm-fuzzy-feelings ensued when some of the kids wrote “Miss Kelly and Miss Kate” for the things they are thankful for. We then taught them the Chicken (Turkey) dance and fed them brownies. Maybe not the conventional Thanksgiving but definitely enjoyable.
– eating dinner with Caitlin in what has been perhaps the most low-key fashion. She made a bunch of nasi goreng [fried rice] that will turn into lunch tomorrow too.
Celebrations will continue in Jakarta this Saturday afternoon because all of us Fulbright English Teaching Assistants have been invited to dine at the U.S. Ambassador’s house to celebrate the holiday. Only a handful of us are going but it promises to be a nice mini-reunion.
NOTE: Many thanks to Ibu Evi for always sharing her photos! Any photo with me in it (plus several others) are credited to her.