I have now been at my site for a little over a week, though time has flown and it feels only like a few days. I have bounced from office to office with one of my co-teachers, the superhuman Bu Tri, in order to complete the paperwork which will allow me to work in the classrooms legally, and been introduced to more people then I can possibly keep track of.
I have not yet begun actually assisting in the classroom yet: the students are taking tests and preparing for their midterm exams next week, and I have been told I will be able to start in the classrooms once those are over. Having studied education as an undergrad and volunteered in youth programs for years, I am of course impatient to be in the classroom working with young people again, but I have been trying to make the most of the time I have now to familiarize myself with the English curriculum, and, of course, the school itself.
SMAN 10, the school at which I will be working for the next eight months, has two campuses. The ETA who was here last year only worked with campus two, but I have been told that I will work with tenth and eleventh graders at both campuses.
Campus one is within the city of Malang itself, and closely resembles what American’s might consider a traditional public school. Any student can attend, and the student populous seems to have been determined largely by geographic location in relation to the school. The classes at kampus satu are quite large: I have not observed a class there with fewer than thirty-four students, which is far larger than any class I have taught for any extended period of time. As someone who prides herself in being able to learn student names quickly and swoop into a classroom in the second week having already built some solid relationships, the sheer number of students in my classes are going to be challenging, but the students seem really lovely and I am sure this will help me get to know them fairly soon.
Campus two is located outside of the city’s limits, surrounded predominately by rice, corn, and sugar cane fields. This campus is more selective, and students must pass an exam in order to attend. Students who attend this campus are not limited to Malang, but come from all over Indonesia. I have personally met students from Central and West Java, Bali, and even as far as Papua, and I know there are students from other parts of this vast archipelago as well. A program through the Pertamina Foundation, run by one of the largest oil and natural gas companies in Indonesia, provides a scholarship to students from Papua to attend SMAN 10; from talking with students and teachers, there does not seem to be any scholarships in place for students from rest of Indonesia, and so the families of those from other parts of the country must be able to afford to send them here. In general, classes here are smaller, with the largest class I will work with having around twenty-five students. Kampus dua is unlike any school I have ever worked with, and I am looking forward to taking a closer look at its inner workings.
In part because many of them come from outside of Malang, and in part because the school wants to create a more encompassing and enriching academic experience for students, most of the students who attend classes on campus two live in one of the two dorms on campus. I too, will live in beautiful Building A while I am here.
I have been placed in a small apartment of my own within the dorm, complete with a small living room, efficiency kitchen, my own bathroom, and a bedroom complete with air conditioning. Being able to take my belongings out of my suitcase and put them in an actual living space after two weeks of hotels and airports was immeasurably wonderful. I hung my clothes in the closet, blew up my inflatable globe, and decided it was good enough to call home.
My apartment also has a balcony, which offers a beautiful view of the farmland just beyond the walls of the school; every morning, I start my day with a cup of tea here, and I have therefore been privileged to watch the sugar cane harvest, happening right before my eyes. It is new and exciting, as I have never seen a sugar cane field before, but also reassuring and familiar, as I know it is time for the corn harvest to begin at home.
The best part of my placement, thus far, has been the people. The teachers at my school have been more than welcoming, and are constantly ensuring that I do not feel lost or lonely: even those who do not speak English do their best to work with my limited Indonesian and get to know me. They have laughed at my missteps, called my brown hair red (the Irish girl in me is secretly pleased), and fed me more food than I could stomach: Indonesian hospitality knows no limits.
The students, especially, have ensured that I could never feel homesick here. At campus one, though I am not yet in the classroom, I try to spend time with the students during their free periods, talking about traveling and culture and the grand nature of what it means to merely be people.
On campus two, if I go to wander about campus after school has let out, they invite me to sit and talk with them, and I have more than once had students come knocking on my door asking, “Miss, can we talk to you about America?” which results in our sitting on the floor amongst the photographs I brought with me, swapping stories and enthusiasm. Anytime I leave campus, either to go to campus one or the grocery store, students ask me, sometimes leaning out of their windows to do so, “Miss, where are you going?”
This probably stems in part from Mau ke mana? (Where do you want to go?), the Indonesian equivalent of “How’s it going?” And while I sometimes have a destination required of me, I am never happier than when I can answer their question with “Jalan-jalan” (Just out for a walk), and then ask them where they are going, and if I might be able to join.
The next eight months are going to be filled with more challenges than I can now fathom, but already I can see that, here, in this place half a world away from everything I know, I will be able to find friends, and maybe even a kind of family.