Welcome (Back) to Indonesia: Highs and Lows

Inspired by the Welcome to Indonesia: Highs and Lows Indonesiaful post, I’ll take my 2 month-iversary of Round 2 in Indonesia as a chance to share the top three things that can 100% make my day and the top three things that totally bum me out.

Starting with the GOOD STUFF:

1. Getting Mail!

Back in mid-September, my parents made the ballsy decision to send a full-on package to my new address. This bold move turned out to be a good one and I am the happy recipient of a ton of Halloween swag, well in time for the holiday. Thanks mom and dad!! If you would like to send me mail, I promise a response in return! My address is:

KELLY FITZGERALD

SMA WACHID HASYIM 2

JL. RAYA NGELOM NO. 86

KABUPATEN SIDOARJO, JAWA TIMUR 61257

INDONESIA

2. Making Connections!

Both at school and in the wider community, I’ve been making serious efforts to establish connections with different groups. Over the weekend I focused specifically on students, whose invitations to hang out at a cafe and meet their families I accepted earlier in the week. But I have also met the amazing AFS team for East Java, the cool kids who run Universitas Airlangga’s American Corner, a friendly and down-to-earth Peace Corps volunteer, a group of cool Indonesians who teach me cuss words and let me sing in their band on Friday nights, and I even had a rendezvous with my globe-trotting cousin Jake and his go-getter girlfriend Hyewon. This week I am hoping to meet up with the U.S. Consulate folks and spread the word about a potluck lunch I’m having at my house on October 22nd. In short, being alone is a choice. I’ve planted seeds for a lot of relationships, now all I need to do is spend time and energy to make them grow.

First English Club meeting of the year: Super Success. Can't wait to keep working with you guys!
First English Club meeting of the year: Super Success. Can’t wait to keep working with you guys!

3. Teaching successes!

Being in the classroom has its ups and downs, but for the most part I feel like I am doing MUCH BETTER than I was this time last year. My co-teaching relationships will always be a work in progress and teaching classes pushing 50 students per class can definitely be tough, but I feel that the lessons these first few weeks have gone quite well. We’ve been bringing in the games, games, games and the students have been very responsive. I’m PUMPED to continue to develop as a teacher and shake up the classroom. It is too early to give more details… stay tuned for the full scoop in a later post.

And now for the BUMMER STUFF:

1. Being a (white) foreigner.

I am blessed to have the lovely Miss Krupa Patel as my sitemate, and with her I am thinking more critically about skin color and our roles as foreigners than I ever have before. Ever since I was an AFS student in Thailand in 2010-2011, I’ve known it can be difficult to look different in an otherwise homogenous country. I dealt with this again as an ETA in Pangkal Pinang last year, and despite being in a more metropolitan area this year it continues to be a challenge.

I don’t like it when random people on the street shout “Bule! Hey Mister!” at me when I walk by.

I don’t like it when neighborhood kids take photos with me and when they look at the result, exclaim “Kopi dan susu!” [Coffee and milk!] and point laughing fingers at whoever is in the photo with me.

I don’t like it when my students make gestures with their fingers against their noses and laugh when I am in the middle of a lesson.

I don’t like it when a neighbor grabs my chin, turning my face in her hands while exclaiming at how “cantik” [beautiful] my white skin is and admonishing me for drinking so much coffee because it will darken my complexion.

I don’t like it when I go to the movies and a recent film features someone in blackface who is the butt of a string of horribly racist jokes.

I don’t like it when these things happen, but sometimes it is hard to know what to do or say when these situations inevitably occur.

2. Fielding other’s expectations.

I am the fourth ETA at my school and the fourth ETA to live in the same house. My school is quite good, and Miss Ony has been everything I could ask for in a counterpart. She is well-versed in intercultural communication and is teaching me a lot in the process while giving unprecedented support for me to be my own person. I have a lot of autonomy both in lesson-planning as well as in how I spend my free time outside of school, and for that I am ever-grateful.

But outside of school, I have a harder time fielding people’s expectations about how I should act, especially since I am falling in the shadow of another ETA who is long-gone but has achieved god-like status in the memories of everyone I have met who knew him. The kids ask: Why don’t you play with us like Mr. So-and-So? The neighbors ask: Why don’t you open a Les [private tutoring] like Mr. So-and-So did? The security guards ask: Why aren’t you good at Javanese like Mr. So-and-So? The man who sells bakso [meatball soup] outside the neighborhood asks: Why don’t you like bakso like Mr. So-and-So? I commend the previous ETA for the astoundingly positive impact he had on his community, and I hope people say nice things about me after I leave. But for now, I am working hard to find my own community (see “GOOD STUFF” #2) that doesn’t always harken back to those who came before.

3. Trying to stay healthy.

I’ve mentioned coffee a few times in this post and for good reason: it seriously is one of the main food groups in my diet here. Despite having a full kitchen, I have pretty much no food in my house. This is because a) I hate the harassment I get at the traditional market (see “BUMMER STUFF” #1) and b) I am sick of stir-fried vegetables with rice, which is pretty much the only thing I can cook for myself here. So I eat out for literally every meal… or sometimes I don’t eat at all. I would choose the latter every time when the only vegetarian options are gorengan [deep-fried things] or kue [Indonesian desserts which I am not fond of].

I also don’t exercise because I was told that the exercise classes in my neighborhood are for Muslims only… and I don’t walk anywhere besides school because of “BUMMER STUFF” reasons #1 and #2. Besides a poor diet and no exercise, I am also at the tail end of a sore throat that made cough drops a secondary food group for awhile there. In short, my health is not the greatest.

Now, having shared the good, the bad, and some of the ugly, let me reiterate: the good FAR outweighs the bad here in Indonesia. Yeah, sometimes I admittedly question my sanity at choosing to come back for another year. But mostly I feel incredibly lucky to be here, to keep working on my bahasa skills, and develop as both a teacher and an intercultural ambassador. Thanks Fulbright, and thanks Indonesia.

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11 thoughts on “Welcome (Back) to Indonesia: Highs and Lows

  1. Oh Kelly, we miss you. I’m so sorry we’ve been so lazy about sending mail. We will be better. Ezell and I had planned a trip to St Simmons Island this past weekend but a Hurricane came between us. So. No post card from there. On your health I Always say rest, diet, exercise. Maybe you can do stuff at home to keep you fit. Helpful aren’t I ? But, please eat🙏 it’s so important. Pasta? Perhaps your roommate could shop for you. We love you so much! What do your goals say?
    Love Uncle Dave

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    1. Hello Dahlink! Glad that it sounds like Tampa wasn’t too badly affected by the hurricane. It was making news over here too. Yikes! I’m trying to be healthier… it’s a daily concern. But as for goals: I will (hopefully!) have a post all about that up soon and I’ll dedicate it to you.
      Love,
      The Fraulein

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  2. Dear Kelly,
    I am very glad to hear that the good far outweighs the bad. You are working very hard at forming relationships. That will all pay off. Be yourself; Kelly is Kelly, not Mr. So and So. You have a lot to give, and will receive a lot in return from the people of Indonesia. I’m sure there are days when the stares, pictures and comments can be very disconcerting. You are a wonderful ambassador representing America. I love the picture of your first day of English Club, smiles all around.
    And I agree with Uncle Dave. Please make sure to eat. You will have not energy for anything if you’re not eating. Maybe an uber trip to a regular grocery to pick up some food stocks to have at home. Pasta, nuts, granola bars, canned beans, canned veggies. Please take care of yourself. Love, Mom XXXO

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    1. Hello Mumzie!! Thanks for the comment and love, as always. I’m in a better spot than when I wrote this post. The other “Love Letter” one was the start of the turnaround because prior to writing that I had ordered a FEAST for delivery. It was great and all thanks to Go-Jek. I just got some peanut butter at the grocery store so I’ll be adding that to my diet. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go to the traditional market to get some more fruit and veggies. It’s just hard to motivate to cook when the only thing I can make is stir-fried veggies. Food aside, I had a great weekend. Went out Friday night, slept through most of Saturday, then went to an awesome veg restaurant with Krupa followed by a massage and a STELLAR concert. Don’t feel bad for me anyone–I’m doing all right. 🙂
      Love you,
      Snooks

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  3. Hi Kelly, I thought I would drop you a quick note and say hello and let you know how much Scott and I are enjoying reading your blog. This posting was a bit bittersweet,  hearing of some of the low points of your experience. But I love the fact that you reach out to try to constantly develop new opportunities to change the negatives into positives and wish you great luck with your pot luck. Scott and I have been working on the initial planning phases of next years Krewe of Cavaliers Ball.  We’ve just book a great location in Saint Petersburg. More news on that in the future. We have a German themed Krewe Conclave tomorrow night.  Lots of lederhosen and bratwurst, I’m certain. Scott plans to wear his leather outfit. The one he wore with the picture he took with you.  I have a polo shirt, that I bought in support of Germany for the world cup a couple of years back,  I’ll be sporting that. We head next week to Atlanta for an Adele concert with Ed and Ivan, I am certain remember them from some of  David and David’s parties. I’ve shared your current blog posting with an old friend of mine. He is a retired teacher, who taught English to the Japanese after World War II. His name is Don Jones. You may hear from him. I am certain he has some experiences to share with you that would be common to what you’ve encountered. We will keep reading and promise to write since you’ve provided your mailing address. It never hurts to get a post from home.  Hugs Adrian and Scott From: Where in the world is Kelly? To: adpz3@yahoo.com Sent: Monday, October 10, 2016 11:16 PM Subject: [New post] Welcome (Back) to Indonesia: Highs and Lows #yiv7380524248 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv7380524248 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv7380524248 a.yiv7380524248primaryactionlink:link, #yiv7380524248 a.yiv7380524248primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv7380524248 a.yiv7380524248primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv7380524248 a.yiv7380524248primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv7380524248 WordPress.com | mskellyfitz posted: “Inspired by the Welcome to Indonesia: Highs and Lows Indonesiaful post, I’ll take my 2 month-iversary of Round 2 in Indonesia as a chance to share the top three things that can 100% make my day and the top three things that totally bum me out.Starting” | |

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    1. Hello Adrian and Scott! Thank you SO MUCH for this thoughtful comment! Don already sent me an email and it came at a very fortuitous moment. I hope the German-themed Conclave went well… With that Krewe I’m sure it did. Did you know that the Davids took me to a Conclave meeting when I was a wee 16-year-old visiting UT for the first time? I remember coming home afterward and telling them that it was “my first grown-up party.” How they roared! My own potluck is coming together. The menu isn’t totally fixed yet and I have no idea who is going to show up, but whatever happens I’m sure it’ll be fun. And after that we have Halloween to look forward to; who knows what kind of spooky surprises await?!
      Lots of Love,
      Kelly

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  4. Dear Kelly,
    I am so glad that the good outweighs the bad, but I’m sure some days are tough, even for you. You are doing all the right things trying to make relationships. No doubt soon you will have a full social calender. The students and community are so fortunate to have you there.
    Please eat and get even a little exercise Kelly. Your post made me worry about you. Put your blinders on and ignore the stares at the grocery store! Stare back!
    Love and miss you,
    Aunt Betsy

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    1. Hi Aunt Betsy!
      I’m feeling much better now than when I first wrote that post. I went to an AWESOME concert last night and I’m hanging out at my favorite cafe to get some work done, so life is much better. The bad days can be tough, but those rainy days make us appreciate the sunshine all the more. My sitemate (Krupa) and I are both vegetarian so we are facing the same struggle regarding nutrition. We are supporting each other, especially by meeting up for regular feasts at vegetarian restaurants. As for exercise: I am going to try to do a 5K across a bridge in a couple weekends–we’ll see if I can figure out the registration process! Otherwise cleaning my “mansion” is plenty of exercise too. I’ll try to do better though.
      Love you!
      Kelly

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  5. Maybe you can put on a burka or shroud of some sort like a devout Muslim to hide your Caucasian features so you can shop without the hassles. Just an idea. We would require a picture of that of course. Hope you keep your nutrition up-there’s not much of you to spare. Hate the idea of you losing weight. Sharing everyone else’s sentiment that you can become pretty depleted if you don’t get enough calories. I would be a huge hippocrit if I discouraged you from coffee. I’ll just keep my mouth shut on that one. As always we are quite proud of you. Uncle Scott

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    1. Hi Uncle Scott! Thank you so much for your comment–it made me smile. 🙂 Truth be told I do wear a hoodie with the hood up and a hospital-green mask when I am walking around near my house at night. My eyes give me away to people who look closely but generally it does help cut down on the amount of attention I receive. Wish Aaron a happy birthday for me!
      Kelly

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