I went through a rough period in December. There were lots of reasons why: the excitement of my initial few months back had worn out; I was sad about missing the holidays at home; the semester was winding down, so I was busy doing the boring parts of teaching (grading) and not the fun parts (you know, inspiring young minds); the rainy season had started; mango season ended. It was a combination of all those things (but mostly the mangoes). I just felt really bored and tired of my life here in Indonesia.
But luckily the activities of the past few weeks have helped get me out of my funk and remind me why I came back for a second year and why I love teaching and living in Indonesia. First, I spent a week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia helping to train the incoming Fulbright English Teachers. Their program has expanded in the past to years, from 12 ETAs to 75 (!) and this was the first time they had included teacher training in the program. Some of the ETAs had taught before, but most had little experience, so they were very motivated and ready to soak up any advice we gave them. They were an incredible group of trainees and were so excited to learn how to be effective teachers. Their fresh perspective reminded me how exciting and terrifying it can be to get in front of a classroom, and how far I have come since I was in their shoes. After almost a decade in the classroom, I can plan a lesson in a couple of minutes and feel pretty confident that it will go well, even if some kind of crazy discipline problem comes up. It was really exciting to share some of the knowledge I have gained, and to get fresh ideas and energy from these beginning teachers.
I left KL last Monday and flew directly to Bali, where I met my friend Erica. Erica and I met while leading the youth group at church, and we bonded over teaching (she taught high school English), running (we did the Cincinnati marathon together) and skirts (for the entire month of March 2011, we gave up pants to raise money for women’s issues as part of an event we called March is No Pants Month). We spent 3 days in Ubud, Bali, eating delicious organic food, shopping, running through rice fiends, drinking cocktails, getting massages, and climbing enormous (and very steep) Mt. Agung. Then we went to Kupang to help lead an English camp for access Microscholarship students. Access is a program of the U.S. State Department that provides extra-curricular English classes to talented high school students in under-resourced or remote areas. Kupang is a fairly big town, but its location on far-flung Timor Island makes it feel a little bit like you are on the edge of the world. The students were so fun, and Erica, who now works as a balloon artist and children’s entertainer, connected with them instantly. Now, we’ve flown back to Java, where we’re going to explore temples, paint batik, and pop into Salatiga for a little bit of work before heading back to Bali to go scuba diving.
The best part of having Erica here is seeing Indonesia through fresh eyes. She is delighted by the monkeys in Bali, shocked by the children precariously balanced on the backs of motorbikes, and overwhelmed by the huge menus of delicious juice options. She is impressed by the potted plants and neatly swept steps in front of even the tiniest houses. She is puzzled by the impulse to shower in the afternoon and amazed by the variety of options at the spa. Traveling with her reminds me of what life was like when I first arrived here, when everything was exciting and new.
After a rough December, these past few weeks have been a breath of fresh air. I have less than 6 months left here, and I feel re-energized to make the most of them! January really is a time for new beginnings!