Archive for ‘Training in Bandung’

September 15, 2012

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!

August 30, 2011

Indonesia 1, Tabitha 0

by Tabitha Kidwell

I have been on such a high the past month or so – to start out, my friends threw me an awesome going away party. Then, I was super excited to finally get to Indonesia and meet people in my program and go see my town! And then, I was really into learning Indonesian and was really feeling like I was picking it up well. I was getting around town on my own, feeling really happy and comfortable here, drinking cobra blood, figuring out the country…

… and then I fell into a hole. Literally. A hole in the sidewalk. We were walking from one part of a restaurant to another at night, and I was walking along the path when the ground suddenly was not where I thought it would be. Luckily, it wasn’t full of water (or anything worse), but it was deep enough that I skinned my knee on its top edge. It was really painful right away, but I was really hungry, so I ate dinner. When it was time to walk home, I was definitely having trouble walking, but I was tired and couldn’t fathom going to the hospital at that moment. So, I took an angkot home, put some ice on it at the hotel, and slept with it elevated on three of the plush hotel pillows, hoping it would feel better in the morning.

It did not. I went to Bahasa Indonesia class but then was having more and more pain with walking. I was worried that it might be broken. I’ve heard there’s not much you can do for a broken foot, but I just wanted to go and see what was going on so I could get it healed as quickly as possible. I need to be able to walk in this country, and a lingering foot injury is just not something I’m interested in. So I asked Astrid, one of the Indonesian people organizing the training, and Iris, a fellow ELF, to come to the hospital with me.

The hotel drove us there, and as soon as we walked in, they put me on a bed and had a triage nurse come examine my foot.

Then we waited.

Then they wheeled me over to radiology and took some x-rays.

And we waited.

And then a doctor came with the x-rays and gave the good news: no broken bones!

Though he did tell me I had fat bones – a little insensitive at a time like this. I felt a little silly that I had dragged everyone to the hospital and couldn’t even produce a broken bone for their trouble, but I was glad it was just soft tissue injuries. Some was lost in translation, but what I understood was that I sprained both my inner and outer ankle and bruised the 5th metatarsal bone (just above the base of my little toe). I think I must have landed on the outer side of my foot, twisted my ankle that way, then I must have fallen to the other side of the hole, skinned my knee, and twisted my foot the other way to sprain the inner ankle. Quite a showing on my part.

So now I am hobbling around, feeling embarrassed and silly. I have been shown in no uncertain terms that I am NOT the rock star I thought I was, and that I have a lot I still need to learn about life in this country. Like looking at the ground when walking at night. And asking for help when I needed it. It literally brought tears to my eyes to say the words “I need help” to my friends. I like to think of myself as an independent person who can take care of myself, but I would have had no hope of getting to the hospital and communicating anything about my condition. Ok, I could have said. Saya jatuh. Saya bodoh. (I fell. I’m dumb.) but that would have been it. Even though I would have known exactly what to do in the US, I am back at square one here. It’s been a humbling experience, but I guess if you are at the top, you have nowhere to grow.

August 28, 2011

Cobra Blood

by Tabitha Kidwell

Drinking cobra blood is the kind of experience you should probably do if given the chance. Apparently, it is a very powerful source of vitality in Chinese Medicine. So my new friend Megan and I went with a bunch of the Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs) to a Chinese restaurant in Bandung to do just that. First, they got out some snakes just to show off:

a king cobra…

and a python, which they let us hold…

Then we started going into the back a couple at a time for them to take the snakes out of the bags they were stored in…

…and chop off their heads.

Then the Chinese people drained the blood, cut out the stomach bile ducts, drowned the ducts in vodka, and brought it out to us.

And we drank it.

And were revitalized!

I know this sounds and looks disgusting, but it really was not that bad. The blood had almost no taste, and the hardest part of knocking back the bile was the vodka it was floating in. I don’t know if I would do it all again, but it was definitely an adrenaline-producing experience. I was all nervous before then all giddy and shaking afterwards. Maybe next time I’ll just try skydiving or cliff jumping. There’s less gagging when you tell those stories.

August 27, 2011

Wild Bule Chase

by Tabitha Kidwell

I had my first Indonesian adventure the other day. For a session in our training, we visited the “American Corner” at the university. There is a very special phenomenon in Indonesia called “jam karet” – rubber time. Nothing quite starts on time. Except, apparently, for the trip to the American Corner. We were supposed to meet at 8, but I got to the hotel gates at maybe 8:06, and everyone was gone. One of the staff members put me in an angkot (mini-bus) and told the driver to let me off at the university. I assumed this meant that it would be easy to find the American Corner as soon as I got off.

In short, it was not. I got off the angkot and walked in the direction the driver had pointed, then stood around looking lost until a lady sitting on the side of the road waved frantically to me, pointed behind her, and said “teman anda ke sana!” (Your friends went that that way!) I must have been right behind the group of 50 or so Americans all headed to the American corner. Clearly, since I was a bule (foreigner), I would want to follow all the other bule. Not always a correct guess, but in this case, very useful. Every 50 meters of so, I would stop and look confused, and another friendly Indonesian would see me and point me in the right direction. I got there just moments after the program had started! This is only one of the ways that I have been continually amazed by the kindness of the Indonesian people. I can’t wait until the next adventure comes along and I am again able to rely on the kindness of strangers.

August 26, 2011


by Tabitha Kidwell

I came to Indonesia ready for anything: I had my headlamp, my macaroni n’ cheese, my leatherman, my hiking boots, my sour patch kids, my bike helmet, my clif bars and bug spray and suncreen. But none of this prepared me for three weeks of training! We just finished our first week, and it has been rough!

Look where we have to stay:

And what they serve us for breakfast:

And how I have to spend my evening and weekends:

Okay, I’m done with the sarcasm. Clearly, it is not rough whatsoever. Actually, I can’t think of more than two or three times that I have stayed at hotels any nicer than this. We’re here for two more weeks, and the luxury lifestyle is pretty nice. Us 14 English Language Fellows (ELFs) are here with the 40 Fulbright English Teaching Assistants (ETAs). The two programs are operated out of the same office, but this is the first time they have worked so closely together. We are all working on our Bahasa Indonesia, and since we ELFs have all have masters degrees and teaching experience (and the ETAs mostly don’t), we are helping with the teaching training side of the training.

Both the ELF and ETA programs have pretty high standards, and I’m pretty in awe of all the brilliant people at training with me. My piddly teaching and traveling abroad pales in comparison to the people who speak Arabic, Nepalese, Mandarin, and who knows what else, or the ones who researched theoretical linguistics, mathematical biology, or the sociology of genocide. Everyone is interesting and intelligent and full of crazy stories about their travels. Being around so many cool people is directly correlated to how long it has taken me to getting around to blogging! I can’t bring myself to sit up in my room with my computer when there’s fun being had by the pool!

So it is going to be a bit of an adjustment for us to get deployed all over Indonesia and have to cook and clean and go to real work. But let’s not think about that now… i’ll make the most of these next two weeks, and then at least I’ll have my sour patch kids and macaroni to keep me company!

August 25, 2011

Bahasa Indonesia

by Tabitha Kidwell

In a recent article in the New Yorker (which I love), David Sedaris (who I love even more) wrote:

“On a recent flight from Toyko to Beijing, at around the time that my lunch tray was taken away, I remembered that I needed to learn Mandarin. ‘Goddammit,’ I whispered. ‘I knew I forgot something.’”

That is how I felt on my flights from DC to Tokyo to Singapore to Jakarta to Semarang! I had received my placement in Indonesia in April, and I immediately googled “learning Indonesian.” This led me to the aptly named, which provides 48 audio lessons with accompanying study guides. I downloaded all 48 and thought to myself “OK, I’ll just do one ten-minute lesson a day, I’ll be finished by May, then I’ll get a book out of the library and really study some grammar, and I’ll find an Indonesian person in town to give me lessons, and I’ll try to watch the Indonesian newscast online and…”

Let’s just stop there because none of that ever happened. I did get through all 48 audio lessons, but I rushed through the last 8 or so on that looooong plane trip. The audio lessons are led by an American named Sean and an Indonesian named Cici. They have a comforting and reliable format:

Sean: Selamat Datang, everyone. I’m your host, Sean.
Cici: Halo samua, saya Cici. Apa Kabar?
Sean: In this lesson…..
(Sean and Cici present and have us practice pronouncing and using 5-10 new words)
Sean: That’s it for this lesson. In the next lesson, you’ll learn to… Thanks for listening! Terima Kasih!
Cici: See you soon everyone! Sampai Nanti!

Their faithful adherence to this script meant that I totally mastered “Selamat Datang” and “Sampai Nanti.” I also learned many other useful phrases like:

Ibu saya suka makan nasi goring. (My mother likes to eat fried rice.)
Laba-laba ini lebih besar daripada anjing itu! (This spider is bigger than that dog!)
Ya, orang America adalah gemuk karana makan banyak sapi. (Yes, American people are fat because they eat a lot of beef.)

In truth, I also learned many phrases that have actually been useful. I thought I wasn’t remembering very much from Sean and Cici, but since I’ve been here, I keep remembering things they told me. I think it gave me enough of a base that I actually have something to build upon when talking to people and overhearing conversations here!

With this base, I was excited to start Indonesian classes this past Wednesday. Indonesia is so important to US foreign policy that they have decided to provide three weeks of language training to all the fellows (we are the only ones to receive this world-wide!). My (not-so-) diligent studying got me placed in the intermediate class, but I am hanging on for dear life. Every two-hour session leaves my brain feeling like agar-agar (jelly). It’s 120 minutes full of straining to understand every one of my instructors words, looking some them up on google translate, writing them down, trying to remember words I wrote down two days ago, etc. The pace of my language learning has really sped up. It’s like I’ve gone from the pace of the kid pedaling his bicycle loaded with 100kg of rice to the pace of the angkot (a public transport mini-van with up to 20 people stuffed in) speeding by him! I’m exhausted at the end of the day, but it’s better than not being able to speak! Soon, instead of just commenting on the canine proportions of a spider, I’ll be able to say something along the lines of “get that spider the f*** out of my house!”