It’s been a while since my last post. The first six weeks at permanent site were a difficult adjustment, but more on that soon.
First – Swearing-In!
Swearing-In is a big day for Peace Corps Volunteers. There are a lot of steps and hurdles in becoming an official PCV, but the biggest is definitely Pre-Service Training, PST, the 10 weeks of language, culture, and job training in-country.
I actually really enjoyed PST. All of my new friends were within biking distance, my host mom was the best, and most days I was thoroughly engaged with my Bahasa Indonesia class. However during those ten weeks I am not yet a volunteer, but still a “trainee.” Swearing-In is the emotional day where that all changes. Think of it like college graduation, but with 4 years crammed into 10 weeks.
Some things never change and I was one of two volunteers who ended up on stage to give a speech in our new language as a way to celebrate our collective promotion from trainees to volunteers. Writing and preparing the speech was by far the most frustrating and most informative experience of PST. For me it was the part of training that actually gave me the best insight into how the next two years will challenge me.
Well, technically I volunteered to speak, but I was also selected by the staff. Similar to how applying to join the Peace Corps works. Technically I volunteered, but was also interviewed and selected by staff.
The directions I was given for preparing the speech seemed to change daily. Nothing is permanent in Indonesia, except eating rice three times a day.
The speech was in two languages because despite the speech being for the volunteers, it was also for the fancy Indonesian government partners. I wrote it in English so my peers could read and appreciate it on projector screens. Then I had to personally translate it to Bahasa. Nuance is still very hard for me in this new language, so that was incredibly frustrating and still heavily dependent on Google Translate. But then all the Bahasa was changed, for the better, by one of my Bahasa teachers. Finally I struggled to practice all these new alien words while also delivering them with feeling and emotion.
While working here I will always be stuck between two languages. My job is to teach English, not learn Bahasa, so in a funny way the less Bahasa I speak at work, the better. But I still need Bahasa in order to be understood daily and actually feel like a member of my new community. However my language skills will probably never develop to the level of nuance I would like because I’m not actually in a full immersion situation.
Huge shout out to Jacob, my new fellow PCV boyfriend, who was a supportive cheerleader and helpful editor throughout the whole process. I would’ve broken down in tears if it weren’t for him.
Voilà! The final product:
And if you’ve made it this far, the speech in English:
On March 9th we began the epic journey that brought us here today. We said goodbye to our loved ones at home with trepidation. On the Super Shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel in Los Angeles I overheard a stranger talking about moving to Indonesia. I turned around and introduced myself to Terrance, my first new Peace Corps friend. Later that day I met everyone else. We suffered through our first exhausting day of training together. Many of us hadn’t slept and had traveled for several hours. Peace Corps began to fill our brains with new information. That process did not stop, but we survived PST and we are ready. Thank to you to everyone who helped us get here.
First, I’d like to thank the families. You invited us into your homes when we were strangers and now we are members of the family. The Ibus worried about us the same way our moms worry about us back home in America. You took care of us when we were sick. The Bapaks helped fix our bicycles, drove us around town, and took us to mosques.
You made sure that we always had our lunch boxes filled with delicious food. A special thanks to Bumanis, my Ibu, for cooking the most delicious food in all of Indonesia. I already miss you Bumanis! And Pak Nur – you showed up out of nowhere last week, coming all the way from Papua! I’m so happy I got to meet you!
Our brothers and sisters helped us with our homework and families were patient with us as we struggled to learn a new language. We spent a huge portion of our training time lost and confused as we navigated a new language and a new culture, but you always made your best efforts to communicate to us and for that we are all grateful. You were patient with us when we were tired and grumpy. We have all had days when we were not our best, but that didn’t stop your care.
You took us on adventures around Kediri and East Java. Many trainees got to visit beaches, mountains and the tourist spots around Kediri. We were all very thankful to have those adventures to take our minds off of the stresses of PST.
I’d like to say a special thanks to Pak Fauzan for all the adventures. One of my favorite adventures was visiting your krupuk factory! Like many experiences during PST I didn’t understand exactly what was going on until it was happening. So when I hopped in your car that morning, Gabi thought we were going to get coconut water. I thought we were going to your factory. We both agreed that we weren’t really sure what was going on, so we accepted our fate on the mystery car ride! After a short drive we arrived at your factory and got a tour of the place. Y’all – krupuk factories are fascinating! After the tour we stopped for coconut water. So both Gabi and I were right. It was a great Kediri adventure.
Second, thank you to the staff. You all worked very hard to make PST happen and be a success. Because of you we are now ready to serve in Indonesia. Thank you for all of your patience during our frustrations and exhaustion. You worked long hard days away from your friends and family during these past 10 weeks and that effort does not go unnoticed. A special thank you to Puji. Puji you spend most of your year preparing for these three months and I am in awe of the amount of work you do. Also, thank you for always being available to us. I think I speak for everyone when I say that you are like a second Ibu – you are approachable and kind, a very important comfort during the chaos of PST.
Thank you to the CLs for always getting us from point A to point B on time. For keeping track of our schedules and helping communicate with our families. Thank you for showing us how to go to the bank and how to buy pulsa. Thank you for helping with bicycle problems, broken laptops, and finding the best martabak in town.
To all of the ID 10s who are joining us today – Thank you! You’ve been helping us since before we even arrived. Thanks to your advice we knew what to pack and what to leave at home. What to worry about and when to let go. We could not have survived PST without your wisdom. Sushma – you are like a second mom to this group, even though you and Vineet are preparing to move to Kupang. We look forward to joining you all with the official label of PCVs.
Finally, let’s celebrate all the trainees. We’ve made it! We survived the ups and downs of the chaos of PST and we are now officially joining the ranks of Peace Corps. Collectively we miss America, but we also love Indonesia. I’d like to think that we all feel a little bit Indonesian now. We’ve even integrated into the Indonesian social media scene. From Kurt being the King of hashtags to Liz with her special account just for the cats of Indonesia.
We listened to each other vent and celebrated each other’s accomplishments. We blew off steam by going to the karaoke bar, dancing with Andres and Lee (Alby, your dance moves rock any party) and riding bikes through the fields. We explored Kediri together – from the mall to Panties Pizza to Seven Sides. We enjoyed the comforts of home at Pizza Hut and McDonalds.
We shared our tips, tricks and discoveries. Thank you to RJ for forming a special bond with Pak Erfin, our favorite angkot driver. Also – thank you RJ for always taking the worst seat on the angkot and still smiling through the whole ride. Together we all got a little closer as we fit 18 bules into an angkot. And Gabi, we’re still sorry we left you behind that first weekend.
As we prepare to move to our new homes we will all miss our Kediri families. We will miss the staff and we will miss each other. We are all filled with anticipation for the next phase of our Peace Corps service and we are all committed to doing our best. But I know that we all have a great big new family supporting us and we are all ready to make Indonesia our home for the next two years.