Sunday, March 26th
Today marks the end of my second week in Indonesia, but the end of my first week with a host family – when the real adventure began.
I stepped off the plane in Surabaya, Indonesia on the morning of March 12th. With great precision there were Peace Corps staff members at every single step of the way. I don’t think at any point in the airport there was a moment where we couldn’t see a staff member. Our official passports were collected by staff, visa stuff, we didn’t even go through customs and before I knew it our bags were on trucks and we were on our way to the first stop.
Sitting on the bus and looking out the window I was immediately struck with a feeling of being home. I’ve traveled a lot in Asia, so some stuff is already familiar, heck I’ve even traveled to another part of Indonesia! But even though a Peace Corps placement officer selected Indonesia for me I feel like I made the right choice. That feeling of home hasn’t left me since I’ve arrived.
We spend three days in Surabaya in and out of info sessions. For the first three months here I am not officially a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) I am a Peace Corps Trainee (PCT) completing Pre-Service Training (PST). Peace Corps (PC) is BIG on acronyms. During PST our time is highly structured from 7:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Today is the first time I’ve actually had a day off. After lots of info sessions in Surabaya our suitcases were loaded and we were on buses to the next stop.
We made a brief site visit at a current volunteer’s school. Every PST was paired with a student and we were given a tour of the school and there were lots of performances for us. In general Indonesians are very excited we are here an give us an extremely warm welcome. Then we were back on the bus and on our way to Kediri, where I spend the 3 months of PST.
We spent three days at a hotel in Kediri taking all day Bahasa Indonesia language lessons alongside more info sessions. I was feeling pretty confident in my ability to communicate after my three days of intensive language classes. Before I knew it the fourth morning we had our host family assignments and we were loaded onto buses once more.
A brief side note, we started with 57 volunteers so the logistics that go into multiple small groups sessions and moving us all around is mind-boggling. There are staff members here who spend the whole year preparing for these three months and I see why.
Before I knew it I was dropped of on a porch in Wonorejo, my desa within Kediri. My host mom, Ibu, was waiting for me. I somehow immediately forgot all of the Bahasa I learned in the last three days. I got a tour of the house then sat down to unpack. I don’t know if unpacking has ever felt so good. I’ve been on the move since I left Atlanta February 27th. I’m no stranger to travel and living out of a suitcase, but seriously, unpacking last Sunday felt incredible.
I spent the first two days with Ibu feeling terrible. I couldn’t seem to remember any of my Bahasa and I was struggling to say more than, “I eat” “I shower” and “I go to bed”. Thankfully the language classes are non-stop. By day three I could communicate more and more. I’ve found that it’s really useful to have Ibu help me with my homework. It is something I have the vocabulary for, it means she knows what I’m learning, and it gives us something to talk about. Now I’m at the point where if I bring my dictionary, offline Google Translate and my class notebook to dinner we can have a conversation, slowly and steadily. And my Bahasa is getting better every day!
This week was full of Bahasa classes in the morning and info sessions in the afternoon. It was so nice to sleep in till 8:00 this morning. The alarm has been for 5:30/6:00 every day up till now. Earlier in the week I told Ibu I wanted to buy some batik, the fabric produced here in Indonesia. So today we piled into a car with another volunteer and her host family. The first two stores were disappointing, but third time was the charm. We asked to buy it by the yard and then we hit the goldmine at store #3. I went hard and bought three different patterns. Next step is to take them to a tailor! It’s very common to have clothes made for you here. I can’t wait! I’ll post pictures once I have the clothes.
When we got home we sat on the porch and watched a rain storm roll in. I was struck with the same sense that this is going to be just right. The kids stop and stare at the foreigner and I holler at them in Bahasa.
Until next time!