English Language Fellow Orientation 2012

by Tabitha Kidwell

17 of the other English Language Fellows (which can be shortened to “fellow” or the adorable but vaguely demeaning “ELF”) and I just spent 2 weeks together for In-Country Orientation. With 20 fellows (2 arrive later), we are the largest ELF group in any country in the world, ever! As such, we got a more extensive orientation than many of our fellow fellows around the world, some of whom are the only ELF in their entire country. Eran, our Regional English Language Officer (RELO – our boss in terms of approving and reporting our work, but who will rarely explicitly tell us what we should be doing) and his hard-working colleagues Dian and Ayunda planned a great orientation for us! We spent a few hours every day learning Bahasa Indonesia (or remembering all the Bahasa we forgot over the summer), and spent most of the rest of most days sharing practical information about how to be an ELF in Indonesia: set-up of university classes, the educational system, cultural information, partners we could work with, scholarships we could recommend, etc. We also got out “into the field” a few times to try our hands at school visits, teacher training, and group presentations. We assisted with the Shaping the Way We Teach English teacher training at the @America cultural center in Jakarta. We visited the Access Microscholarship program, which provides English classes to talented high school students who couldn’t afford it themselves. We visited a lab school at the National Education University:

We also did a teacher training after working with the kids

We helped with the monthly RELO round table discussion for Indonesian Educators:

We also overlapped with the tail end of the orientation for the Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs), who will teach in high schools in a similar teacher exchange program. We did a very little bit of teacher training with them, but also networked and started thinking of possible regional collaborations between the two groups…

…and we performed an Indonesian-Themed version of “Call Me Maybe” in the ETA talent show:

Second place! (though that may have been a mercy vote)

We also attended two formal dinners for us and friends of RELO to meet each other and network. They were planned by these lovely ladies:

Dian and Ayunda, perhaps the hardest-working women in Indonesia!

So they kept us fairly busy during the days… but we still found time for fun at night. We were in Jakarta and Bandung, arguably the two most cosmopolitan cities in Indonesia, and there was no shortage of places to go! We ate some delicious typical Indonesian food:

And some less-typical Indonesian food:

Look how crowded it is! An international phenomenon… from Columbus, Ohio!

We went to a beautiful restaurant overlooking Bandung to celebrate my birthday:

Liz, Tabitha, Jackie, Deidre & Kate

We visited Barack Obama’s elementary school:

There’s little Barry!

We hung out in our luxurious hotel rooms:

Playing “Cards Against Humanity”

We went out clubbing:

Maybe we should switch…

And we sang Karaoke:

In short, we had a blast. We have an incredible group this year – everyone is laid-back, friendly, fun. We get along great and have a really good support system for when things might get rough this year. We had an awesome two weeks together, but by the end, I think everyone was ready to get to site and get to work. Fancy hotels, fine dining, night life, and American fast food are part of Indonesian culture, particularly in big cities like Jakarta and Bandung, but most of us didn’t come to Indonesia to continue doing the things we used to do in Brooklyn, Baltimore, or Boulder. Our last evening, in the pinnacle of Bule-ness, we hung out by the hotel’s rooftop pool and ordered delivery pizza. The club next door was pumping house music, but you could just barely make out the hum of the evening call to prayer coming from the hundreds of Mosques down on the ground. Even if we were living the high life at the moment, real Indonesia was calling us – and we were thrilled to meet the call! Now my 17 friends and I are scattered across the archipelago, from Aceh in the Northwest, to Lombok in the Southeast. We’re moving in, learning to get around our towns, meeting our students, and getting ready to start teaching next week. Now the real fun begins!

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