Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Courtney in Malang

I am sitting here at school – where I’ve been for the last six hours – and I haven’t actually done anything constructive. The students are all testing for the next two and a half weeks, so the teachers are all hanging out in this big multipurpose room/teachers’ lounge for the moment. They are all laughing and speaking Javanese (a language I have not yet even begun to grasp; very different than the Indonesian we were taught in orientation) and continuously feeding me.

Day 5 at SMA 10 Malang, the senior public high school where I will (eventually) be teaching.

The thing is, despite moments of frustration and depression, this whole hanging out at school thing has become a lot of fun. When people talk to me we often speak English and they teach me a little Javanese. Thus, I am actually accomplishing one of my goals. And if the teachers’ English improves, so will the students. Also, I am having serious bonding time with everyone at school even before I teach the students. Hopefully this means they’ll help a girl out when I inevitably have some issues in the classroom. As of now, I am not sure about any of the students’ language abilities and am afraid my fast-talking, slang-filled English might go right over their heads. I am practicing talking a lot slower with the teachers and using hand motions. They do the same back when they are explaining something in Indonesian. It’s a lot like Tarzan-speak back and forth.

In any case, since lunch is cooked at school and it’s FREE, I have tried lots of Indo food… curries with coconut milk, fruit salads with peanut sauce, lots of tofu/tempe, fried bananas, fried EVERYTHING. I bought frosted flakes at one of the more Western grocery stores and stopped eating them every morning when my fellow teachers started leaving plates of donuts on my desk and motioning that I eat them all. The eating never stops, so I started giving any extra food that I am given to the stray cats who hang out at the school. One actually just had kittens and they are living in a box filled with school papers in the administrative office. A lot of Indonesians are afraid of cats so when the mother first brought her kittens into the office one of the English teachers screamed and jumped up on a chair. I am trying to make her promise that she won’t shoo and kick the cats away anymore but it’s tough going. Animal cruelty is hard for me to handle over here, even if it is cultural. Stray cats are everywhere, and so many of them are maimed and hungry. Apparently cats with long tails are bad luck so Indonesians capture cats and cut their tails off. It’s sad just to think about and I’ve already cried to one of my neighbors about a cat on the street who couldn’t use his back legs after he got hit by a motorbike. No one really takes cats to the vet since many Indonesians can't themselves afford to go to the doctors, so I can't really lecture them about the animals. I don't know what to do except help some of the cats around my 'hood.

Anyway, besides school and those poor cats, I am exploring Malang as best as I can. So far I’ve been to a lot of the old colonial landmarks including Toko Oen, this Dutch-style café with wicker chairs and waiters that look like they’re circa 1930 who serve you European pastries and every kind of juice you can imagine in a big open room. Even though it’s a bit rundown, it has great views of the Dutch reform church across the street, and the McDonald’s right next door (haha). I have also been to the Tugu Hotel, a boutique hotel/old colonial residence/museum located right next to the city hall. Google it. It’s probably the nicest hotel I have ever seen. Everywhere you look there are amazing Indonesian and Dutch antiques. A fellow ETA, Carrie (my closest friend here, both literally and geographically) went to eat there and we sat in the courtyard right next to the pool in this enclosed garden area…. I can’t even explain it. If anyone comes to visit me we should spring for one night there and use the pool. They also have a spa and a big tea ceremony on one of the terraces from 4 until 6. Heaven is Tugu Hotel.

Anyway, time to run. I am going to visit Carrie in Pandaan to observe one of her classes since mine are not in session yet. I will definitely blog more soon. About my house, about where I’ve been so far outside Malang, etc... Bali this weekend, so that should be an interesting topic for discussion, right? Stay tuned.


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