Reflections in Surabaya (February 2017)

This post was originally written on February 25, 2017. 

It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon. I’m at home, listening to the thunder rolling above and giving thanks that in Surabaya, heavy rain doesn’t necessarily mean that the power will go out. Bob Dylan is sitting on my love seat, crooning his timeless tunes from my JBL speaker. I am chewing on apple slices, the taste of peanut butter still caught in my teeth from the PBJ I ate before I sat down to write this. It is 88 degrees and I can feel the sweat forming below my many inches of bare skin (I wear as little clothing as possible in my own home), but not a single bead has been brave enough to emerge.

So I sit, wondering when the sweat will start and the rain will end. Just another day in Indonesia.

I have three months left here and I know it will go by quickly. The first half of the second semester was wonderfully undisturbed, so I was able to deliver lessons over the weeks about civil rights and racism. I even got to read hundreds of essays about objects that are important to my students. I feel closer to all of them now that I have read their stories and have had a chance to tell mine. Now they are halfway through two weeks of testing–one of the many disturbances that will disrupt the second half of this semester.

For me this means that I have a lot of time off.

The after-party from Krupa's WORDS was held at Pizza Hut last night. Krupa and I demolished an extra-large pizza by ourselves, much to the amazement of her students.
The after-party from Krupa’s WORDS was held at Pizza Hut last night. Krupa and I demolished an extra-large pizza by ourselves, much to the amazement of her students.

In a way this is good. Who doesn’t love a vacation? I’ve spent it mostly keeping to myself and writing postcards, (thinking about) doing job applications, and reading a lot. I haven’t been the gregarious creature I am usually known to be, but that’s okay.

I am also filling this free time with the WORDS Competition, an annual competition that every ETA must hold at his or her own school in February and March. The winners of these local competitions will come to Jakarta with their ETAs in April for the national competition. It is a lot of fun! I traveled during testing time last year to judge at an ETA’s competition in Medan, and I will travel again this year. Krupa and I already held our competitions. Wednesday I am going to Makassar on Sulawesi (a new island for me) and I am duly excited to see the ETAs there, meet her students, and check out a new city. Next Saturday Krupa and I will go to Malang to judge at yet another competition. Lots of travel: one of the many reasons these next few months will fly by.

But in the meantime I am still in Surabaya. Bob Dylan is now wailing about the hard rain that’s gonna fall and like a prophecy the rain rattles on my roof. I am hoping to make it to Royal Plaza (a mall near Krupa’s house) if the rain stops. I’ve been terrible at acknowledging birthdays lately, but two of the English teachers who mean a lot to me have birthdays coming up: Miss Nisa on February 29th and Miss Ony on March 1st. I want to surprise them with small gift baskets, which is easily done at the market at my fruit man’s stall.

The teachers of KTSP, the small office where my desk is, take regular naps on the floor. What would I do without you guys?!
The teachers of KTSP, the small office where my desk is, take regular naps on the floor. What would I do without you guys?!

I’m thinking about them, Miss Ony and Miss Nisa and Bu Ninik and Bu Aan and Bu Umi and Bu Mardiyah and Mr. Yoshi and Bu Arida who have seen every color of my emotional rainbow. They are the closest thing I have to a family here.

I’m thinking about the teacher, Mas Mujib, who showed up at my door with a cake this morning despite my protests. I had told him via Whatsapp that I don’t have food at my house thus I hadn’t eaten breakfast, so he took it upon himself to ensure that I was fed.

I’m thinking about my fruit man, who gives me a fair price and a smile and whose honesty keeps me coming back.

I’m thinking about Krupa, who has been nothing short of a blessing in my life here in Surabaya. Words can’t express what you mean to me.

I’m thinking about my students, especially the ones who joined WORDS, and how proud I am of their hard work and how much I want all of them to succeed and get everything they deserve in life.

I’m thinking about the students at Airlangga’s American Corner, some of whom have helped with WORDS, and I am wishing that I did more with them in the past few months. To make amends, I am going to an event on their campus tomorrow.

I’m thinking about the other ETAs in our cohort, who are on their own journeys. We all face some of the same challenges and experience the same highs. I am so lucky to be part of this big, kooky, scattered, loving family.

I’m thinking about my community in Pangkal Pinang, who I had the wonderful fortune to see earlier this month and whose joyous reunions I still have yet to acknowledge in my blog.

I’m thinking about my adopted cat, Rizqi, who I used to chase with a broom but who has insisted on loving me. He is always waiting for me when I leave in the morning and when I come home in the afternoon. Having a little furball to snuggle with at the end of the day has made a big difference.

I’m thinking about all of the people outside of Indonesia who mean so much to me: my parents, my aunts and uncles, my grandma, my professors and teachers, my family in Thailand, my friends across the world who have made me who I am. The more I move around, the longer this list of people will become.

Ah, all this alone time has made me quite introspective indeed. Even though I have not spent much time with people in the past few days doesn’t mean I don’t think about them constantly.

Bob Dylan plays on, and these anthems of the past have me in a deeper reverie thinking about all the good people in my life. I am so thankful for all of you. My thoughts turn you over and over in my mind, like a toffee in the mouth of a child, whenever I need a reminder of the goodness of people after I meet one of the many people whose words and actions make the world uglier. Your kindness reminds me to keep my chin up, to keep going onward and upward, and to not dwell too long on frustration and disappointment.

Now the rain has stopped. A few beads of sweat have made the brave first move, which means there will be more to follow. While typing this, I have also paused many times to pick up my pen and jot down gift ideas for Miss Nisa and Miss Ony on the back of a receipt. It’s time to make moves. I’ll bring my tablet to Royal Plaza so that I can sit at J.Co, a coffee shop like Starbucks, where I will hopefully keep chipping away at improving my resume and writing cover letters. It is almost March and high time I start making plans for what is to come after my time in Indonesia with Fulbright is finished. What’s the next step? I’m just as curious as you.

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