CLS Week 9: Kembali Lagi (Return Again)

My watch stopped during my last week in-country with CLS Indonesia, and the quiet but constant reminder that my seconds in Indonesia were quickly counting down ceased.  I had been praying to the universe to slow down, to give me just a little more time in the country I had called home for three years, to have just a few more moments to reconnect.  The universe responded, though perhaps not in the way I might have anticipated.

The last week of CLS was a whirlwind of activity: if I had thought we were on the run for the first seven weeks, I had no idea just how crazy life could get.

Our UAS (ujian akhir semester or final exam) was on the Monday of our last week, and while it certainly had it’s challenging points, I found it to be a an overall positive experience, as I was able to see just how much I learned in a few short weeks: even after three years of informally picking up the language, such an exam would have been absolutely impossible for me before CLS, but after all of the intensive learning we were able to participate in, I found most of it rather clear and simple, and there was certainly a feeling of accomplishment in that.


I actually have a recording of my presentation (without subtitles, sorry!) which you can watch here.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent on presentasi akhir (final presentations).  My own was on kain tenun (traditional weaving) from across Indonesia.  This not only gave me a chance to talk about fabric (as someone who crochets when at home in the States and who was probably more excited about batik class than anything other part of CLS, fabrics are kind of my favorite thing), but it also provided me a platform on which to talk about cultures outside of Java.  As CLS Indonesia is in Malang, East Java, much of the cultural learning that we did alongside our language learning focused on Javanese culture.  In many ways I wholeheartedly setuju with this approach, as I do feel it is important to learn about budaya lokal (local culture), wherever one might be, but at the same time I had noticed that many mahasiswa CLS (CLS students) were beginning to conflate Javanese culture with Indonesian culture.  As someone privileged to have not only traveled to many places across the Indonesian archipelago but also spend a year living outside of Java, I felt it was in many ways my tangung jawab (responsibility) to talk about something non-Java related, and so I chose fabrics as a way to do so.  I was terribly nervous for my presentation (as I always am when I have to speak in front of anyone other than my own students), but I managed to get through it without stumbling too much, and even was able to include pantun (a type of short traditional poetry) at the beginning and end of my presentation, something that was well-received by the Indonesians in the crowd.

Alongside of our final presentations, we also had to write a final paper on the same topic.  As my listening and speaking skills were much stronger than my reading and writing skills coming into CLS, I was much more nervous about this esai (essay) than I was the presentation.  But with a lot of hard work and some editing sessions with my guru-guru (teachers), I was able to complete an over 2000-word essay.  Considering I had not written anything longer than an email in Indonesian prior to CLS, and considering I didn’t know a single word in this language four years ago, printing off that essay was one of the best feelings I have had in my academic career.

In addition to my formal CLS Presentation, I also presented on Fulbright opportunities for both my fellow CLS students, as well as the Indonesian staff.  The Fulbright commission in Indonesia usually is able to send someone from the office in order to do so, but this year they were not able to.  As I spent two years teaching with the Fulbright ETA Program and a year working directly with the commission, I felt comfortable delivering this same presentation in their stead.  It was certainly a bit of a surreal moment, as all of my various experiences in Indonesia collided together, but I was very glad to get that information out to as many people as possible.  I have benefited greatly from my time with Fulbright, and I would love for more people to have the same opportunity.


Presenting on Batik.

Thursday was the closing ceremony for CLS, and it was with this that the goodbyes began.  The formal penutupan (closing ceremony) was in the afternoon, and it included performances from all of the kelas elektif (elective classes).  All of our batik pieces were on display, and it was the first time that I got to see the piece that I designed myself: peta dunia (a map of the world).  I was given a batik map of Indonesia my first year in Indonesia, and ever since I have wanted a world map to match, so when we were given the option to create our own piece, I jumped at the chance. included several traditional batik motifs, to represent the many budaya across the globe, as well as the bunga sepatu (hibiscus) motif, which when used in batik is a symbol for peace.  I won’t say that my piece was sempurna (perfect), by any means, but I was still quite bangga (proud) of the way it turned out.

The dance class also performed, which was certainly an adventure.  We were done up in somewhat-traditional dress, complete with costumes and hair and makeup, which was certainly a lot of fun.  I will admit that I was far more gugup (nervous) for this dance performance than I was for any other part of finals week, but it was over in a flash and it was (of course) not the train wreck so many of us were convinced it would be.  Though I don’t know that I will be signing up for any dance classes in the near future, I am glad that I went out of my zona nyaman (comfort zone) to give this a try during my CLS summer.

(I actually acquired a recording of the dance performance, which can be watched here.)

More fun than performing, of course, was getting to see all of the other elective classes perform.  There was gamelan (a traditional instrument found on Java and in Bali), pencat silat (a traditional martial art), dangdut (a type of Javanese pop-esque music), and kuliner (cooking).  Everyone did a wonderful job, and I hope they are all bangga of all the hard work that they put in throughout the summer.

Following the formal penutupan, to which all of the host families were invited and friends could attend (some of my own students even came to watch me perform), there was a second penutupan, set up by the tutors, teachers, and staff of CLS.  There was music, a drama performed by all of the tutors (not to brag, but one of my own tutors was the female lead), and a compilation film of all our adventures together put together by the documentation team that had us all in tears.  We as mahasiswa also had the opportunity to recognize all of the CLS staff and present them with small gifts that we had put together for them. While we might see our tutors and teachers far more often, the fact is that nothing would jadi (happen) if we did not have the help of all of the staff, and it felt good to recognize all of the hard work they do.  Similar to the fourth of July celebration, the night ended in fireworks and dance, and it was a beautiful way to close the program.


Lining up for a race.

We did have one last day in Indonesia before we flew back to the States, and as it happened that was Hari Merdeka (Independence Day).  I spent the morning trying my hand at permainan tujuan (Independence Day Games) alongside some of the other college students who live in my kos (boarding house).  It was a great way to spend some time with my host family before leaving, and it was also just a lot of fun.

I spent the evening hanging out at the building where we study with my tutors and some other folks I’ve gotten close to throughout the program, drinking wedang uwuh (wedang means drink in Javanese, and uwuh means trash; the drink gets its name from the fact that there are so many different spices inside it), which is my favorite wedang, and just chatting.  It was a quiet last night in Indonesia, but I learned during my time with Fulbright that that is my favorite way to end these experiences: surrounded by close friends, partaking in something completely mundane for Indonesia, but which I won’t be able to do once I am back in the States.

Then on Saturday morning we all met at Universitas Negri Malang (Malang Public University) one last time, to board a bus together to go to the airport.  Before we left, all of the teachers, tutors, and staff lined up and we each individually said goodbye to them all.  Even though I have experienced leaving Indonesia before, and I knew this was coming (I actually bought a pack of tissues for the occasion, and went around handing them to everyone who needed them), it was still an emotional roller coaster.

And with that we were gone, and it was on to new/old things.  After a long perjalanan (trip) back to the US and a brief three days at home on the farm, I returned to Stony Brook, Long Island, where I will be finishing up the last year of my Master’s degree in TESOL.  I had a mere week between arriving back in the States and the beginning of the new semester, which was long enough for me to get over jet lag, but not enough time to reflect fully on everything I learned throughout the whirlwind two months that was CLS Indonesia.

This I do know: this will not be the end.  When I left Indonesia in July of 2017, after three years of living and working there, I was worried that it might be a long time before I was able to visit again.  That I was able to return so quickly after leaving gives me confidence that it will not be long before I return again, and I also feel confident that I will be in touch with the lovely folks (both American and Indonesian) that I have met through this program.  CLS is just the newest chapter in my ever-expanding relationship with Indonesia, and I can’t wait to see where the plot goes next.

I have a new battery in my watch, and I am no longer afraid of the tick: it just means I am that much closer to whatever adventure is around the corner.



The woman on the left is the wonderful Bu De.

Person of the Week:  Speaking of behind-the-scenes people that could easily be missed, the person of the week is Ibu De.  She is technically the pembantu (maid) in my kos, but in many ways she feels like my actual host mom.  My host parents frequently work outside of the city, as my host dad works for the Indonesian government and my host mom is a professor and also in charge of developing the new national Indonesian textbooks for middle schools.  So often it is just myself and Bu De in the house.  She sits with me during every meal I eat at home, and is the one who knows the most about my successes and failures within the CLS Program.  She holds a very special place in my heart, and I hope that I will get to see her again.


Word of the Week: This week’s word of the week is pulang (to go home).  The joy of having spent so much time in Indonesia at this point is that I am not sure if my pulang occured at the beginning or at the end of CLS.  The answer is probably both.  And both is beautiful.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s