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.

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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?

 

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