CLS Weeks 7 and 8: Trying and Failing and Succeeding and Learning

When I predicted that CLS would continue to be jam-packed with learning, I was not salah (wrong).

5994df73-6a87-4748-ac46-0382a7c19bceThese past two weeks (the last “normal” weeks in the program before we move into our week of finals and closing ceremonies), have positively flown by. Class has really begun to get fun now that we have covered most of the key grammar points, and we even got to dabble in some  poetry this week.  The highlight, though, was a drama we put on as a class and performed for a few of the other classes.  It was ridiculous and insane and even though I hate performing for a crowd it ended up being so much fun because it was done alongside my classmates, who are some of my favorite people in CLS.

IMG_5611I also got to experience a particular kind of sukses (success) this past week as far as my language learning goes: I was published in the local koran (newspaper)!  Our teachers had everyone in my class write short articles on the topic of our choice and submit them to the local newspaper as a way to practice out written language in an authentic way, and I wrote mine on our batik class, since that is always the highlight of my week.  Writing is what makes me most nervous in Indonesian, as I have really never written in Indonesian prior to the CLS Program, so it was really neat to see my own writing in print.

But if getting my article published was a highlight, a lowlight was my Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI).  All CLS participants have to complete an OPI towards the end of their program; it is essentially an interview over the phone testing your spoken proficiency in the target language.  What is cool about the OPI is that we will all receive an official score and certificate because we have participated in this interview.  What is not so cool is that we have to take it very late at night (because the test givers are calling from the U.S.), and as the connection on a call from the U.S. to Indonesia is not the best (making it very hard to understand everything the interviewer is saying).  We also took a pre-OPI exam before beginning with CLS, and I feel very confident that I performed better on this most recent exam than I did my first, so even if I was not being tested under the best of circumstances, I do believe that I will show some signs of improvement from one test to another, and that is enough for me.

Elective classes continued to be challenging and fun.  Things are starting to get more complex in dance class, which is both intimidating and exciting, and in batik I actually got to start designing my own batik piece!

I also got to meet up with a bunch of past students over the course of these past two weeks, which was possibly the highlight of the past two months in Malang.  I met up with some students from SMAN 10 (my Malang school) at the alun-alun (town square), which was not only wonderful because I got to catch up with them and chat about life post graduation, as they both graduated in 2016, but also because the students I met with were actually from two different campuses from that school, and so I was able to introduce them for the first time too.  I was also finally able to meet up with my students from Gorontalo who are going to be starting university in Malang very soon.  I wasn’t able to visit Gorontalo while I in Indonesia this time, something which makes me quite sedih (sad), as Gorontalo is one of my homes in this country, so being able to connect with some folks from Gorontalo, especially from my school, filled my heart in a way that I believe nothing else could.

Two weekends ago we had our final Saturday class excursion, which this time focused on Topeng.  Topeng are traditional masks made only in Malang, and there is even tarian topeng, a traditional dance from Malang which incorporates the masks into the performance.  We learned about the history of topeng, watched a beautiful dance performance, and even got a chance to paint our own topeng.  The mask-making place which we visited was a little outside of the city, tucked back into the trees atop a hill, and spending the morning painting out masks and breathing the cool air was a peaceful and wonderful way to end our class excursions.

0f498bca-2f1d-441a-bfd4-40cc224687b3During our final full weekend in Malang, a group of mahasiswa CLS visited Gunung Bromo (Bromo Mountain), a volcano outside of Malang.  I did not have the chance to visit Bromo while I lived in Malang before, though I did have the opportunity to see a few other mountains, and I have always been told that I missed out, so I was determined to find time to go while I was in Malang again this summer.  Going to Bromo means leaving the city around midnight in order to catch the morning sunrise, and we left the same evening that I took my OPI, so I was worried that I would be too exhausted (both physically and mentally) to really enjoy the trip.  But Bromo was spectacular, and no amount of exhaustion could take away from that.  We watched the sunrise from a mountain nearby called Bukit Cinta (Love Hill), and seeing the sunrays dance across the sea of fog surrounding the crater below us was one of the most magical sights I think I will ever see.  After breakfast on top of Bukit Cintai we were able to go down to Bromo itself and climb up the crater, and I have to say there is nothing quite like standing next to an active volcano.  All in all Bromo was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in Indonesia (and I have had my fair share of those), and I am so grateful that I finally had my chance to go.

Our time with CLS is quickly drawing to a close, and I am already bracing myself for the goodbyes.  But I know that there will be plenty more adventures during our final days, and I can’t wait to see what this next week brings.


Word of the week: This week’s word of the week is luar biasa (extraordinary).  I have uttered this word so many times in the past week, as this experience, for all that it has both ups and downs, has truly been luar biasa.


Persons of the week: As CLS is quickly approaching its end, I am thinking about all the people I will miss when this is all over.  And some of the people I will miss the most will 100% be Kelas Manggis (Mangosteen Class).  I am one of four students in the class, and we have three fabulous teachers who try to help us navigate the twists and turns of a foreign grammar.  I spend a minimum of 20 hours with these folks every week, and I am never bored of them.  They are funny and supportive and clever and kind, and I feel so lucky to be in the same class as them.  (Also, we totally got matching t-shirts.  Do please be jealous.)

CLS Week 5 and 6: Quick Visits, Rice Paddies, and Badminton Games

In these past two weeks, I feel that I have finally begun to adjust to using formal Indonesian, and most of the Indonesian that I used to know before returning to the U.S. seems to have returned.  I still make silly mistakes quite regularly, such as calling the koran (newspaper) a kurban (grave), but as I tend to do the same in my native language, I am not too worried.  Formal Bahasa Indonesia has also started to come more readily to me, and I am not forever dropping all of my imbuhan (affixes), which is certainly encouraging.  I still slip into my informal habits sometimes, especially when I am nervous, but learning does not come right away, and if there is one thing that I learned during my three years living in Indonesia before, it is that I just need to be patient with myself, and all things come with time.  I even managed to survive my mid-term exam without being too gugup (nervous), which was accomplishment enough in my book.

Elective classes continue to be a lot of fun.  Though I am always exhausted for Kelas Menari after our weekend trips, I do appreciate the exercise and the challenge of trying something very new.  I won’t pretend that I don’t on occasion find myself merasakan frustasi  (feeling frustrated), as it is extremely sulit (difficult) to remember all of the positions for the various parts of my body (the only dancing I have really done prior to this is line dancing, for which I only needed to concerned with my feet), but I am always able to convince myself to semangat (keep spirit) and try again.  Batik continues to be my favorite elective, as I find the simple act of applying warm wax or bright colors to fabric to be exactly the kind of relaxing creative-but-repetitive movement that I need by Wednesday.  We added colors to our batik tulis pieces during our second meeting, and then we got to try our hand at batik cap (stamp batik) during our third meeting.  Our hands were stained for a week after making the batik cap, but we had so much fun.


Though the schedule during the week remains packed, I have managed to continue to have some fun during tutorials.  On of the highlight was going to Kampung Warna-Warni (Colorful Village) with my tutors and several other CLS students and their tutors.  This is a kampung that I used to pass quite regularly when I taught in Malang, but at that time it was just an ordinary kampung.  Since then, a university student took on the project of painting some of the houses’ rooftops, and the project was so well received that a company which makes house paint funded an expansion of the project.  Many of the streets have different themes, but they are all colorful and fun, and though I didn’t sit down with any of the residents of Kampung Warna-Warni, from what I have heard from other Malang residents it has benefitted them economically and they are proud that their community has become a local tourist destination.  Kampung-kampung are usually looked down upon by people who live in cities, as they are often alongside the river and the residents are usually much less wealthy than those who live in the surrounding areas, and in my optimism I hope that Kampung Warna-Warni will change some of that.

I also learned during these past few weeks that many of the teachers and staff of CLS main bulu tangkis (play badminton) every Thursday, and I have started joining in.  My first year in Indonesia I also played badminton quite regularly, and it was actually one of the places where I learned the most Indonesian, and so it feels so appropriate that I am now getting back into it as I am part of an Indonesian language-learning program.  The exercise relieves much of the stress that comes with being part of an intensive summer program, and the shouts of “Mantap!” (Awesome!) and “Bagus!” (Great!) that folks so cheerfully shout out as the shuttlecock is smashed back and forth bring forth my most genuine of smiles.

The past two weekends have also been particularly eventful.  The first was our one free weekend, in which we did not have any Saturday excursions.  I took advantage of this free time to go to Jakarta, where I lived and worked from 2016-17, right before I returned to the U.S. for graduate school.  My weekend was a whirlwind of visiting friends whom I have not seen in about a year, and though I might have only been able to see them fleetingly, getting to catch up and speak with them in real time made flying out for a mere weekend 100% worth it.

The second weekend was spent in Blitar as part of our second weekend-long CLS trip.  The ultimate destination was the grave of Soekarno, the first president of Indonesia.  It was an austere place filled to the brim with nationalism, but also strangely peaceful, with the fountains leading to the grave itself and the quiet rows of pictures depicting the various stages of Soekarno’s life.  But as interesting as Soekarno’s grave was, it was the rest of the Blitar trip that I loved.  We bounced around from fisheries to fruit orchards to candi (temples) to coffee plantations, and I felt right at home walking alongside sawah (rice paddies) and kebun jagung (corn fields).  No matter what language you are communicating in, there is an underlying language of farming in which I will always be most fluent, and I relish the chance to wrap my smile around familiar concepts like crop rotation and animal husbandry.

CLS has been a fast-paced adventure, and it shows no signs of slowing down.  In some ways, I have already done more in the first half of this program than I did in a full nine months in Malang as an ETA, and I am fully prepared for the second half of the program to continue along at a break-neck speed.  But even as I am sometimes overwhelmed, I am always learning, and as that is what I wanted out of this program, I am grateful for it all.

Persons of the Week:  Each CLS Indonesia student was assigned a pair of tutors in order to practice Indonesian outside of class and to have help for homework assignments and class projects.  My tutors are Mbak Bela and Mbak Viva, and they are 100% two of my favorite people in this program.  Mbak Bela is studying to be an Indonesian teacher, and Mbak Viva to be an English teacher, and so as three teachers we always have plenty to talk about, but even if we didn’t have that I think we would get along just fine.  They are sabar (patient) when explaining more complex points of Indonesian tata bahasa (grammar), they crack jokes like they were born to do so, and they a simply some of the most santai (relaxed) and lovely people to be around on a regular basis.  It was probably only by chance that we ended up together, but I am so glad that we did.

Word of the Week: This weeks “word” of the week is actually an example of a peribahasa (proverb) in Indonesian, which I learned this week: Tak ada gading yang tak retak (There is no elephant tusk that is not cracked).  It is essentially the Indonesian equivalent of “Nobody’s perfect,” and it is a message that I have really been trying to take to heart in these past two weeks.  I have always been a bit of a perfectionist, but I may have done myself in a little during the first few weeks of this program as I attempted to cover all of my course work, connect with folks I knew before, and also be fully engaged in the social aspects of the CLS program.  But all of that is two much for one person, and I was slowly but surely destroying myself.  I have accepted now that I might not always submit my best work, and might sometimes need to pass up an impromptu excursion with friends for the chance to go home and rest.  I am still engaging, and I am still learning, but I am also learning (slowly) to take care of myself.  It is a process, and I don’t have it down just yet, but hey, tak ada gading yang tak retak, right?