The past week has been an absolute blur of activity. I arrived in D.C. for pre-departure orientation just a week ago, where I met the cohort of wonderful American university students I will be sharing this CLS experience with. Some have been to Indonesia before, while others have never stepped foot in the country before this program. All are brilliant, positive people who I am excited to get to know better.
After a very long perjalanan (trip) to the other side of the world, we finally arrived in Malang, where we will stay for the next two months. After resting in a hotel for a night, we were loaded onto a bus and taken to Universities Negri Malang (UM), where there was a beautiful opening ceremony (welcoming dances will never get old, and I had forgotten how much I loved MCs in Indonesia). That day we took our placement tests (we will learn which classes we will be in on Monday), met our language partners (each CLS participant is assigned two native speakers with whom they can practice outside of class), and were then sent off to our host families. I was quite pusing (dizzy) by the end of it all, but my senyum (smile) never left my face.
As all of this happened on Friday, we were then free for the weekend. My time was divided amongst CLS participants, my two lovely tutors, my new host family, and some friends whom I met while I was an ETA in Malang. And thus, this new adventure began. Through it all, it is the idea of balance that has stuck with me most of all.
Living in Indonesia has always been a balancing act for me. Trying to balance the needs of hundreds of students while also my own need to engage with my community outside of school was always difficult for me as an ETA. Trying to balance time spent in the moment with new people, while also reserving time for friends and family in the U.S. and other places was always tricky as I moved to different areas of the archipelago over the course of the past few years. Harder still was adjusting to continually shifting newness with the flexibility and adaptability encouraged of those who go abroad, while also staying steadfast in whoever it was that I believed I was as a person.
Coming back to my first home in Indonesia, where so much began for me, has led me to reflect yet again on the balancing I have attempted in the past, and also made me think carefully about what is to come. This summer will require a new kind of balance, but one which is not dissimilar from the balancing act I have already become accustomed to.
I will, firstly, need to balance all of my various tugas (tasks) set by my program and myself. I will be studying Indonesian intensively, taking two extracurricular culture classes (we will decide on our topics during this first week of classes), trying to maintain this blog, and somehow also reading two books and a few articles to prepare for my upcoming semester at Stony Brook. But that’s the easy part.
I will also need to find a way to balance the various lives I have had and will create here in Malang. There is a whole cohort to get to know, as well as all of the tutors, and my host keluarga (family) of course. But I also have many teman (friends) from my time as an ETA whom I would like to reconnect with while I am here. Trying to balance time with everyone, while still leaving enough time for sufficient studying… is a challenge I am not sure I will immediately conquer, but one I feel so blessed to have been handed.
I head forth tomorrow with a backpack full of language-learning tools, a smile on my face, and my hands stretched out to each side, hands and heart open to whatever comes my way. One foot, then the other. Let the balancing begin.
Food of the Week: Bubur Ayam. This is a rice pudding covered in chicken and broth, which you can flavor to your own taste using kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and sambal (basically crushed chillis, which you put on basically everything here), and served with krupuk (a sort of cracker). Bubur and I had a bit of a rough start. I was first introduced to it when I was sick with typhoid my first year as an ETA, and so I hated it for the longest of time. But eventually I stopped associating it with illness, and learned that it is enak sekali (very delicious). While at Car Free Day (also known by it’s initialism CFD, during which one of the main roads in Malang is shut down so that people can jalan-jalan or exercise), I had some with my tutors, and it was wonderful.
Word of the Week: As classes have not started yet, I will return again to a word I already know: semangat. This is absolutely my favorite word in Indonesian, and it means something along the lines of “Keep spirit!” or “Fighting!” as you might hear from Korean speakers. As I go into this first week of classes, and am very unsure as to how I will balance everything, semangat will be the mantra I hold near and dear.
Person(s) of the Week: Shout out to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA) alumni who were unexpectedly a part of this past week. I was able to meet up with an ETA friend from my very first year in Indonesia (which, if anyone can believe it, began almost four years ago) who now lives in D.C., and it was wonderful to catch up, and also to reminisce about our own first time heading to Indonesia, after my spending all day with many people about to do the same. I also learned, just a week before the program started, that one of the ETAs from my second year would actually be in the program with me, which was really exciting to find out: it’s been lovely to catch up with her, and I can’t wait to share this new experience together.