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So this is the end.

I am sitting in the Singapore airport where we have an 8-hour layover. Given this ample amount of time, I thought it would be a good idea for me to write one last blog post–a farewell. Thank you to everyone who has read this blog. I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing Indonesia through my eyes for the past 2 months.

Bali was amazing-beautiful-gorgeous-fantastic-relaxing and all around stupendous. I could give you a really long description about the awesomeness that is Bali, but that will take too long, and I am exhausted. See pictures at the bottom of this post.

For my last post, I will try to some up some of the major lessons I’ve learned in Indonesia. I’ll keep the list to the three biggest ideas that I am taking home with me.

1. English is hard! I came to Indonesia thinking that everyone I would be working with would speak English, and for the most part that was true. However, not until I spent time with the students and staff did I come to appreciate what a feat it is for someone to learn English. Struggles with pronunciation, emphasis, synonyms, grammar and mechanics for the past 2 months have just made me more appreciative to have grown up in an English environment. Kudos to the Sampoerna kids for learning as much as they have in such a short time!

2. Different doesn’t mean wrong. This was a tough lesson to swallow. It makes sense in theory. As educators, we are taught that every student has a different background and therefore a different perspective. Every student brings something different to the table, and there are infinitely many ways to approach any problem. Yes, it makes perfect sense. In practice, it’s a little tougher. Only when I was thrown into a culture, a way of life, that is completely different from my own did I really come to appreciate this idea. I found myself saying things like “why on earth would they do it that way?!” or “what the heck?!” in so many different situations simply because something was not done the same way as I am used to. Just because some person/company/group approaches something differently than I would (even if it is incredibly inefficient), it doesn’t mean they are wrong. It just means that we all see things differently, and we can certainly learn from one another while celebrating our differences.

3. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. In Indonesia, “rubber hour” was perhaps the most frustrating thing to deal with. When someone says “7 pm” that doesn’t necessarily mean “7 pm”. It could mean 7, or 7:30, or 8, or maybe not until 9. The lack of urgency was down right aggravating at times. In Indonesia, there’s no such thing as a waste of time. So when your about to board a plane without a crucial document, leave it to the flight attendant to joke around with his friends and wonder around a bit before giving you necessary instructions on what you must do before you can board. AAARRRRRGGGGHHHH!!! But, there is also an important lesson to take from this. In Indonesia, there is no such thing as a waste of time. Sometimes we are in such a hurry to reach our destination that we forget to enjoy the ride. By the end of the trip, I found myself thinking “well, we will get there when we get there.” Who cares if the car ride took an extra 5 hours, we got there eventually didn’t we? Does it really matter that dinner was an hour later than expected? We still got to eat. For someone who generally likes to know the schedule, I am coming back to the US so much more flexible and patient, and I have Indonesia to thank for that.

Well, that sort of sums everything up. Thanks again for reading! Enjoy the Bali/Gili T pictures below. We certainly had a great time!!

The beach at Gili Trawangan (or Gili T as the cool kids say) is amazing. White sand and aqua blue water... magnificent!

Gili T at dusk was so blue. It was amazing!

We ate at a seaside restaurant at dusk... gorgeous view!!

You should go see this for yourself. It's fantastic.

Fishermen work in the evening during low tide.

Notice that mountain in the background? It's Indonesia's tallest volcano, Mount Rinjani. Bali provided spectacular views!

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As of today, I am officially done as a student teacher. Wow. I guess that means I can in fact call myself an actual teacher now? Wow. I’ve had a heck of a week, and leaving is bittersweet. I’m so excited to be home, but I’m going to miss everyone here so much!!

Some students from grade 11 and my cooperating teacher gave me this gift to remember Indonesia.

This week was interesting because my cooperating teacher was gone. I was the sole math teacher for grade 11 all week. On Monday, a couple students came into our office bearing gifts from their homes. The parents of one these students gave us traditional “clothing” from Papua, their homeland. The “clothing” is called a koteka. Google it. I am honored to have such a traditional, Indonesian souvenir that is extremely important in the field of anthropology to take home. Tuesday, I was happily surprised at the end of class. The whole class, on some sort of cue that I did not notice, just started singing! They were singing their “happy birthday” song to me. I was thoroughly confused because my birthday is in December, and the students know that because they’ve asked me. When the song was over, they told that they know it’s not my birthday, but they wanted to give me a present. Then, I was presented with a smallish box and a handwritten note that they had all signed. I opened the gift to see a Barbie doll. Again I was confused, why did they want to give me a doll? After further inspection, I realized that it wasn’t a normal American Barbie, it was an Indonesian Barbie dressed in traditional Indonesian clothing. How cool is that?! They wanted to give me something that would help me remember them and Indonesia, and they couldn’t have picked something better. I had to hold back tears as I read the note and said goodbye. Saying goodbye to students that I’ve grown to love is something I know I will never get used to as a teacher. The students here have captured my heart, much the same as my 7th and 8th graders did in my first placement at Colo-NESCO. Here is what the note said. Please bear in mind that these students are still learning English, so it’s not perfect. It is, however, one of the most wonderful gifts that I’ve ever received.

Dear Becca,

The essence of maths is not to make simple things complicated, but to make it become simple.

It was lovely to have you as our teacher. Well, maths turn into a very exciting lesson and easy to be understood.

Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than ones with all the facts.

We believe that you’ll become a great teacher in the future :-) We love you so much <3

We’ll miss you.

Ibu Erma (the principal) invited us onstage to say some words to the students.

Since today was our last day, the principal brought everyone into the hall and presented each of us with a signed photo of all the teachers (they had written nice notes on the back) and then we were asked to share some words with the students. I was pretty emotional (big surprise) and had to hold back tears as I thanked everyone for a truly amazing experience. As I was called to the stage, I had one of those Sally Field moments (they like me they really like me!) because the students of grade 11 started cheering and shouting BE-CCA! BE-CCA!! I am going to miss these students so much! After the assembly, one of the sections of grade 10 wanted to throw us a going away party. They presented us with gifts and sang to us. Once again, it was hard for me to keep from crying. Have I said how much I’m going to miss the students? I’m going to miss the students so much!!!!

One of the sections of grade 10 threw us a going away party.

Tomorrow morning (Friday), we board a plane bright and early to Jakarta (the capital of Indonesia). In Jakarta, we will attend the Emerging Leaders Conference where we will speak about educational issues and American strategies to rooms full of international educators. After the conference, we head straight to the beautiful island of Lombok for our last hurrah. Lombok is situated right next to Bali, and is supposedly even more beautiful than the famous tourist destination. We’ll spend a full day there on the beach swimming, snorkeling and relaxing. Then we’ll head to Bali. In Bali we plan on seeing some of the cultural things (traditional dances, temples, etc.) and just enjoying the beautiful scenery.

Tuesday night, we’re back in Palembang. On Wednesday, we have one last day to pack our things, say goodbye, do any last minute things we couldn’t finish before, and then we’re off! At 6:15pm we board a plane to Singapore and our long journey home begins. Thankfully, the flights back home are slightly shorter than the flights here. Coming here took about 40 hours, and going home will take about 34 hours. Our flight is scheduled to touch down in Des Moines around 4pm on Thursday, May 5th. I have graduation ceremonies on Friday and Saturday, and then it’s over. After that, I am officially no longer a student of Iowa State University. In a little over a week, I go from ISU student to ISU alum. Wow.

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My first beach!

The past week has been a whirlwind. It’s starting to sink in that my time in Indonesia is coming to an end—I’ll be home in a little over a week!

Last Thursday, my cooperating teacher came into our office and asked “Becca, what would you like to do for Additional Math today?” My reply was something like “uhhh, well, ummm, uhhh…” I have yet to teach this class (these are the truly gifted math students who can do mental calculations faster than I can do paper ones), so I was caught a little off guard. I had about an hour to plan a lesson that was challenging enough for some of the brightest students in the school. Challenge accepted! It ended up being okay! We did a lesson on division of polynomials, remainders, and factors. The students picked up the material very quickly (they’re basically geniuses), which was good because my cooperating teacher suggested I take it easy on them. They had just taken some practice IGCSE exams, and they were very stressed about the results, so we wanted to give their brains a bit of a break from the extremely complicated topics they have been dealing with. This coming Thursday, we are going to dive into some calculus material, which I am very excited for! The students in this class are the type students that many math teachers dream about teaching–they love math, they love to practice math, they’re good at math, and they want to learn as much about math as they can.

There was no school on Friday because in was Good Friday. Out of about 190 students at Sampoerna Academy, only 8 are Christian. Even though this is an extremely low percentage, the school still recognizes the Christian holiday because there is so much emphasis on religion in Indonesia. All students take a religion class at Sampoerna Academy. Anyway, since we had the day off, we used our 3-day weekend to visit the coastal region of Lampung. Several of the teachers are from this province, so the ISU crew, along with several other people from the school hopped into a couple cars and we were off!

It took about 18 hours to get to Lampung, so we were ecstatic to get out of the car when we arrived. The scenery was absolutely gorgeous! Our little bamboo bungalow had its own dock that faced a beautiful sunset. On Saturday, we woke up early to go on a dolphin tour. Kiluan, the area of Lampung where we stayed, is on the southernmost tip of Sumatra, and there are dolphins that live right off the coast. It was so amazing to be surrounded by tons and tons of dolphins as they swam around our little fishing boats. They are fast little guys, so it was very difficult to get pictures. You’ll just have to take my word for it—if you have the opportunity to observe a bunch of dolphins in the wild, do it!

Next came the part of the day that I was most looking forward to. We hopped back into the small fishing boats and headed to a small island nearby. When I arrived in Indonesia, I realized very quickly that I have never been to a real beach before. I’ve been to a lake, but that hardly counts. I’ve even been to Nice in France, but there’s no sand there. It’s beautiful, don’t get me wrong, but the beach is all rocks. My first beach experience was amazing. White sand and turquoise blue water…wow…it was fantastic. Our day on the beach included swimming, snorkeling, more swimming, and more snorkeling. It was perfect! And I only got a little bit sunburned!

We arrived back in Palembang very late Sunday night/early Monday morning just in time to get ready for our LAST WEEK OF TEACHING! WHAT?!! I cannot believe that this is my last week as a student teacher. The time has flown so quickly!

This was the view from our bungalow's dock.

Indonesia is so gorgeous. You should probably go there if you have the opportunity.

There were so many dolphins! They're fast little guys, though, so they're difficult to photograph.

Yep, I'm a tourist. I felt obligated to write my name in the sand and take a picture.

My first real beach trip was definitely a success!

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Kuala Lumpur is best known for the Petronas Twin Towers which are some of the tallest structures on Earth.

This weekend provided another opportunity for travel, which we gladly accepted! Joe, Elisabeth and I headed to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Friday after school. We arrived without incident, and were surprised to find out that the airport is quite far from the actual city. It took us about 45 minutes to reach our hostel. Once we got there, we

Joe, Elisabeth, and I were excited to be in Malaysia!

were absolutely exhausted and went straight to bed. This was my first experience staying in a hostel, and it was actually pretty fun! Yes, it was a little dingier than a hotel. No, there wasn’t a maid to make our beds and give us fresh towels. No, the beds weren’t super comfortable. But, we had a private triple, we got hot showers, a towel, free milk and cereal for breakfast, and best of all, I paid about $25 for two nights. In the morning we woke up and headed out early… without much of a plan. The woman who works the hostel gave us some great tips, but we didn’t really have any idea what we wanted to do or where we wanted to go.

I love seeing cities with beautiful, tall buildings!

Following the advice of our “concierge”, we took the monorail to the Petronas Twin Towers. When you Google “tallest skyscrapers in the world” these towers show up as being pretty darn tall. It was cloudy and rainy, so we didn’t try to go to the top because we wouldn’t have been able to see anything. We did try to go up to the bridge that connects the two towers, but no dice. Apparently, you have to queue early in the morning if you want to go up because they only sell a limited number of tickets. At 10am, they were completely sold out! We weren’t too disappointed, though. We dinked around in the gift shop for a little bit to avoid the heavy downpour, and I bought a souvenir cup (what can I say, I’m a sucker for souvenirs), then we headed back out to see the city.

Joe and I posed in front of the massive skyscrapers while it rained.

This pelican wanted to be my friend.

After the towers, we headed down some street that seemed like it would be cool. We figured out very quickly that none of us are the kind of people that like to wonder around without a destination in mind. After a little frustration (we didn’t really know where we were or how to get anywhere) we stumbled into the Central Market. We wondered around there for a while looking at various stalls that sold everything from clothing and fabric to souvenirs to jewelry to figurines. We ate lunch and went back out into the city. This time, we decided that we would visit the bird park and flower gardens nearby. It was nice to finally have a goal. As we walked, we came to a rather large hill. That’s part of being a tourist, I thought, sometimes you have to walk in order to see the things you want to see. It wouldn’t have been so bad except the sidewalk is made of tile–slippery tile. Don’t forget that it was raining. Here’s a simple math equation simple enough for everyone to understand: rain + tile = death. After several near death experiences, we finally made it to the aviary where we walked around and mingled with the birds. The birds aren’t scared of people at all, and they walk right up to you! We left the aviary and headed to the Orchid and Hibiscus garden nearby. It sounds lame, but it was actually very pretty and relaxing to walk through. The flowers were gorgeous, and while we were there, the sun started to come up. I had a good time playing around with the settings on my camera and ended up getting some pretty cool photos.

Since the sun had come up, we decided that it would be cool to see the city from high up. We headed to the KL Tower, which is one of the tallest communication towers in the world, and we got some great views of the city! The tower is very close to the height of the Petronas Twin Towers, and we were able to see pretty much everything—including the Twin Towers. As someone who likes looking at buildings, I really enjoyed myself!

Arguably, the best part of the weekend came next. We asked a guard for a dinner recommendation. He showed us to a street where we found tons of restaurants with all different types of food. We decided to eat at an Irish place. I know it sounds like a copout… we were in Malaysia, why didn’t we eat some Malaysian food? The answer is simple. We didn’t want to. I’m sure Malaysia has many things to offer in terms of cuisine, but in the 6 weeks that I’ve been in Southeast Asia, I have been pushed out of my comfort zone

The views from the KL Tower were incredible.

the most with food. I think we all wanted something reliable that we knew we would like. The restaurant we picked couldn’t have been more delicious. The french fries were the best I’ve ever eaten–seriously–and our meals were to die for. Seasoned ground beef, perfectly cooked fried fish and a yummy club sandwich were just what the doctor ordered. The winning dish definitely goes to Joe’s cheeseburger. It was perfectly seasoned and juicy, but the best part was not the meat. On the burger, there was a fried egg, cooked over-easy. I’ve never tried eggs on burgers before, but it was so mouth watering that I will definitely be doing it when I get home!

Since I’ve been in Southeast Asia, I’ve been to Palembang, Singapore, and Kuala Lumpur–all great places! This weekend we are headed to the region of Lampung, where white sand beaches and dolphins are the norm. Yes! I’ve been waiting for white sand beaches since I got here! After that, we have one more week of teaching, then we head to Jakarta for an international teacher conference where we will prepare a presentation. No pressure or anything…!^#%^!@#*?!&#$%??!… After the conference, we’re headed straight to Bali (YES!!!) and then home! Traveling these past two weekends has been a blast and I can’t wait to do some more!

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This past week was a little bit different than other weeks. Grade 11 (the only students I teach) were taking practice IGCSE exams all week. This meant that we had a different schedule than usual. Teaching here is making me a more patient and flexible person. We found out on Monday morning, during the routine morning meeting, that there would be no formal class for grade 11 until Friday. Alright, I said to myself, I’ll just go with it! I was relieved to know that I would have the opportunity to plan a unique lesson for Friday that didn’t have to conform to any specific standards or content area.

One of the IGCSE subjects that students were preparing for was English. Their English exams include a written test that covers reading and writing and an oral conversation test. The students were most anxious for the conversation test. See, they’re great at studying, and they are more than willing to work hard, but finding someone to practice conversing with in English (that can actually help you with pronunciation and other stuff) is hard to find in Palembang. Lucky for the students of Sampoerna Academy, there are 4 enthusiastic, native-speaking bule who are more than willing to help! Joe had the great idea to put up a sign-up sheet for students to choose times to come and practice speaking English with one of us. It was an tremendous success! We normally go home around 3:30 every day, but we were completely booked until 5 every day! All we did was practice conversing. Their real oral exams were on Friday and Saturday, so we knew that we weren’t going to help them learn more English in 3 short days. Our goal was to simply get them talking and help them be more comfortable and confident with the skills they do have. I felt like I was actually doing something to help the students. I wasn’t teaching math, but that’s okay. I was using a skill that I happen to have (speaking English) to help students succeed. That’s enough for me!

On Friday, we had normal class. We didn’t have specific content to cover, so I had free reign. I decided that I wanted to play a game. The students had a stressful week with their exams, and I thought that it would be fun to take a break from the normal math class with a little friendly competition. We played Jeopardy because then it was easy for me to work in practice SAT and ACT questions. The students and teachers have wanted us to help them prepare for American university entrance exams, so this was a golden opportunity. My Jeopardy categories included trigonometry, polar and Cartesian coordinates, algebra, SAT practice, and ACT practice. The students here LOVE competition… that’s probably an understatement. The LIVE for competition. We broke into teams, and off we went! I could tell the students enjoyed the game, so it was a lot of fun. I’m going to use the same lesson this coming Tuesday with other other section of grade 11. Hopefully, by the third time I do the lesson, it will be perfect!

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Elisabeth and I were excited to see a new city.

This weekend, Elisabeth and I traveled to Singapore. BEST DECISION EVER! We left Palembang on Friday afternoon for the big city that’s also an entire country. We couldn’t find a cheap direct flight, so we had a layover in Jakarta. We had some minor…okay major…difficulties. Not only is the Jakarta airport tricky to navigate (not much English and very confusing), but there are very strict rules regarding documentation you must have with you before you can board an international flight. I’ll keep the story short and just say that I definitely got my exercise. Picture a movie where the main character has to race through the airport in a life or death situation… that was us. We literally had to take off our shoes in order to sprint faster. It was a frustrating start to the trip, and our struggles continued when we touched down. Our plan was to take a taxi from the airport to where we were staying. We’d been told that credit cards are accepted everywhere (including taxis) in Singapore. We got in the line for a taxi and when it was our turn, the driver said that he didn’t accept credit cards. Having very little Singapore cash, we were frustrated, and since it was late at night, we were also tired and grumpy. However, our frustration ended here. A young gentlemen saw our disgruntled faces and asked where we were going. “Commonwealth MRT,” we said. He responded with “Oh that’s near my place, we’ll share a cab.” We entered the cab, and he refused what little money we had. He said “No no, we share. You don’t have to pay.” He was so kind, and from then on, our trip was nothing but awesome.

 

We were blown away by the city from the moment we arrived.

 

Visitors to Singapore should research fines ahead of time. Signs are posted, but not every fine is listed.

The first thing you notice about Singapore is how incredibly clean everything is. It was a stark contrast from Palembang, where we’ve been living for the past month. While Palembang is chaotic, cramped, and to be honest, a little smelly (it’s an industrial city, what do you expect?), Singapore is the definition of order. Everything is tidy, neat, and efficient. There are clear maps and diagrams to show you where to go in Singapore, while in Palembang, I have yet to see a city map. There are signs posted everywhere warning people of all the fines. Some include no smoking, no chewing gum, no littering, no jaywalking, etc. For a full list, consult Wikipedia-there are A TON of fines… hence the title of this blog post. Hey, they have to keep the city clean somehow!

There were some cool things to look at on our way to the Flyer. This wacky ball thing was cool looking.

Our taxi dropped us off at the apartment where we were staying. We were very fortunate to have Sara, Elisabeth’s sorority sister studying abroad in the city. She volunteered to house us for the weekend and show us around. She met us on the street and led us to her apartment where we were given beds, water, and most importantly for Elisabeth, milk and cereal. The next day, Elisabeth and I had a lunch date with an ISU graduate. The meeting was set up by Elisabeth, who happens to be friends with Dr. Geoffrey, the president of Iowa State. Dr. Geoffrey set her up with the graduate’s contact information, and he volunteered to take us to lunch. We were treated to the finest wine I’ve ever had, tomato soup, prime rib, vegetables and potatoes. During lunch we talked about everything from our personal histories to mathematics to international experiences and more. It was great to talk to someone who came from Iowa State as an engineer and has become so successful on a global scale. After lunch, he took us to another club where we had wonderful desserts that reminded me of home. It was a great start to the day!

We enjoyed seeing the city from aboard the Singapore Flyer.

After lunch, we met up with Sara, and headed back to her apartment to change. We’d been wearing dress clothes because the club we were at required collars and didn’t allow jeans. I was so happy to put on a pair of shorts to walk around in! Despite the heat in Palembang, I haven’t been able to wear shorts or tank tops because the city is very modest and conservative. Sara took us to Arab street where we found a cute little aromatics store. Elisabeth and I both bought some perfume (super cheap, too!) and we had dinner at a Turkish restaurant.

Singapore is one of the most gorgeous places I've ever been.

After dinner, we headed downtown to the center of the city. We decided to ride the Singapore Flyer, which was amazing. It’s a giant ferris wheel where you can see wonderful views of the city. The big wheel is always moving. From far away it looks stationary, but when you get close, you see that the glass capsules are just moving very slowly. The whole ride took about 30 minutes, and it was well worth the S$30 we paid to do it. (1s$ ~ $0.75) Once the ride was over, we walked around for a while and just enjoyed the beautiful city. I was so grateful to be in a western city for a little while. This trip was exactly what I needed in order to finish strong. I’m feeling great about the next few weeks, and I can’t wait do some more traveling in the coming weekends! Next stop: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia!

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oh-OH! Livin’ on a prayer. Thank you Bon Jovi.

Yep, we’re over halfway done with our experience. Where has the time gone?!

Last week was certainly a good one. Our Iowa State supervisor spent a few days with us, and we couldn’t have had a better time.

 

These are for me?!? (Hooray for math books! – April 5)

I'm so happy to finally have resources in English!

I was in class when she arrived, but when I returned to our office it was like Christmas. She’d brought me presents! There, on my desk, was a huge stack of math books. I have never been so happy to see textbooks in my entire life. Plus, I love math, so math books are always fun to look at. Thank you to my former professors who sent them! Anyway, I’ve been teaching from a curriculum that is written completely in Bahasa. These books will be so helpful for me and for any future student teachers who come here to teach math. My cooperating teacher is even excited to look through them. This was definitely a great start to the week!

 

You want me to sing?! (Dinner/Karaoke – April 5-6)

The principal and I are rockin' out to "I Will Survive".

On Tuesday, we had dinner at a fancy Japanese restaurant (on ISU’s dime) with our supervisor, principal, Pak Ade-the head of Education in South Sumatra, and some teachers. I really liked the sushi, but I know it’s not everyone’s favorite. We had a great time just talking and joking around with one another. Wednesday’s dinner was a bit of deju-vu. Pak Ade took the same group to the karaoke restaurant we’d eaten at only a week before. After dinner, of course it was karaoke time! Daryl went up there with our Principal and called Elisabeth to the stage. I reluctantly followed after much persuasion. Those of you who know me know that I’m not exactly what you would call a good singer. I held my head high and we performed “Dancing Queen” by ABBA. After that one, Daryl suggested we do a reprise of “I Will Survive”, so Joe and Nick joined us for an enthusiastic encore of the Gloria Gaynor hit. After us, others took turns and then the ISU crew went back to the stage, this time with our supervisor. We sang “Can’t Help Falling in Love” because it was the only other song we knew from the selection. All in all, it was a phenomenal night!

We had a great night eating, chatting, and singing!

 

All I want is a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup (Post Office – April 7)

I am truly blessed to have wonderful friends. On Thursday, one of the teachers came into our office with a note. It was for me from the post office. It said I had a package!!!!!!! I was so excited to go pick it up. A couple teachers took us there and I was so happy to see a wonderful care package from my best friend in the entire world and her family. Special thanks to the Frandsens for being AWESOME! The box contained Reeses’s (my favorite candy ever), jelly beans, magazines, Glee CDs, cheetos, and other fantastic items that absolutely made my day. It’s been a week and I’ve already listened to the CDs multiple times, eaten half the cheetos and dug into the Reese’s. What a great gift!

 

Pi? Pee? Phi? Phee? Like cake! Squirrel!!! (Class – April 8 )

In class on Friday, we were going over polar coordinates, and that involves using pi (the number – 3.14) quite a bit. Since we are on the other side of the world and the students speak a different language, sometimes we don’t all say things the same way. Here’s a transcript of how the whole thing went down. I swore I heard them all saying “fee” instead of “pie” last week, so I wanted to make sure we were all on the same page.

First, a bit of clarification. The Greek letters pi and phi are used in math quite often. Pi is pronounced like “pie” and phi is most often pronounced like “feye” although it is sometimes pronounced like “fee”. Alright, now for the conversation.

Becca: How do you pronounce this symbol? Writes the symbol “pi” on the board.

Students: Pee!

Becca: Like fuh-fuh-fee? As in fun? That’s a different letter in English. Phi looks like this. Draws the symbol for phi.

Students: How do you say that letter?

Becca: “Fee.” Okay, I’ll try and say it your way, but if I mess up, when I say “pi”, I mean this symbol. Points to pi.

Students: We say PEE!

Becca: Oh! You say pee! Like puh-puh-pee! As in people?

Students: Yep!

Becca: Alright, instead of switching all the time, are you guys okay if I just use my word, pi, from now on? I don’t want to forget and then confuse you.

One student: Pi! Like cake!

Entire class (including Becca): Yummmm…. giggles.

Becca: Alright, so we know that an entire circle is “2 pi” radians, right?

Students: giggle giggle giggle

Becca: What’s so funny?

Students: Shhhkweeeeerrrreel!

Becca: Wait, what?

One student: SQUIRREL!!

Becca: Squirrel? What are you talking about?

Same student: Squirrel! “tupai” means “squirrel” in Indonesian!

Becca: Like, (Pantomiming a squirrel) squirrel?

Students: YES! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Entire room (including Becca): HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

So I’ve learned a new word in Bahasa, and I’m sure that I will never forget it. Tupai(pronounced like two pie) is the Indonesian word for squirrel. If you ever find yourself in Indonesia, feel free to use this bit of knowledge in whatever way you see fit.

It was one of those times when I actually felt connected with the students. We all had a great laugh, and we were all in high spirits as we finished the lesson. Little exchanges like this are what this entire experience is about. I’m learning from my students as much as (I hope) they’re learning from me. I’m looking forward to more interactions like this one!

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Where were we?

It’s been 2 weeks since I last posted. Sorry friends! I’ve been wrapped up in resumes, cover letters, and job applications. With any luck, I’ll find a job for next school year. It’s been difficult to try and get everything done while overseas, so I’ve been relying on my loving father and Cindy to print and mail things. Thanks guys!

Okay, I’ll do my best to recap the past couple weeks without writing an entire novel.

 

And the bule will provide the entertainment. (Boot Camp – March 28-30)

I taught the students how to dance to the Cupid Shuffle.

The admission team at Sampoerna Academy has been very busy going through applications for next year’s new cohort of students. About 1000 kids applied for around 100 spots. They narrowed the field down to about 200 students, and invited those chosen few to campus for a “Boot Camp”. During boot camp, potential future students were put through tests (psychological and academic) and had an interview with a panel of judges. It’s quite a rigorous process. Throughout the day, the students have some down time. Our principal came into our office and told us that the new students were in the hall. “Go entertain them,” she said. Alright? So we arrived in the hall just in time to be introduced as the bule (“foreigner,” remember?) who come from America. After we introduced ourselves and told everyone what we teach, they asked us to do something with the students. Elisabeth led a camp song (a tooty-tah for all you former campers… it’s a good one!), then I taught the Cupid Shuffle, and we ended with Elisabeth leading a stomp. The students had fun learning some American dances, and we had fun teaching them! On Wednesday, Boot Camp ended, and the future students left. It’s very sad knowing that some of them came so close, but will not be able to attend Sampoerna Academy. On the bright side, it’s wonderful to know that 100 of them will have the opportunity to get a great education!

 

At first I was afraid, I was petrified. (Karaoke – March 29)

The prawns were gigantic, so naturally, Joe and I had to take a photo.

Ah yes, this is indeed a reference to the famous Gloria Gaynor song. More on that later. During boot camp, a bunch of people from the foundation were at school because they are the ones who interview the students for admission. We all decided to go out and have a fancy dinner. The restaurant definitely didn’t disappoint. We had fish and crab and prawns that were so fresh, they must have just been caught in some pond nearby. The gentleman who did the ordering asked if we would like a “bird”, so we said sure why not. When the “bird” came out, they told us it was quail. “Alrighty!” I said, “I’ve never had quail, so I’ll try it!” Turns out, it wasn’t quail. Yep, it was definitely pigeon. Hmmm… it wasn’t bad, but I think it’s safe to say that I’ll never order pigeon in the future. Definitely glad I tried it, though.

The ISU Crew with the help of Daryl sing "I Will Survive" to much laughter and applause from our audience.

After dinner was over, Joe (the ISU student who teaches music) got guilt-tripped into doing karaoke. It didn’t take long for all of us (the 4 ISU students) to go up there and do a song together. Can you guess which one? Yes, we belted Gloria Gaynor’s famous hit, I Will Survive. It was one of the only songs we recognized from their selection. About halfway through our “performance”, Daryl, the Australian gentleman from the foundation joined in with us, and it was quite the show. It’s safe to say that we had a ton of fun just being ridiculous. When we were done, we told the people in charge (we’re talking about important people in Indonesian education) that it was their turn. So we got them to go up there and they sung a wonderful rendition of some Indonesian song that I’ve never heard. All in all it was a great night, and I had a lot of fun!

 

Oh yeah, we have school! (Class – April 1)

On Friday, we had normal class. All I did was go over the answers to a quiz that the students had taken 2 weeks prior (before the jungle camps and boot camp). While going over the problems, I made a mistake on the board. Whoops. I tried to make it a teachable moment, asking a student to explain why my method was incorrect, and it sort of got worked out. Obviously the culture here is very different than in America. Here, when you make a mistake, someone tells you that you’re wrong and then you change your answer. As a teacher, I don’t think there’s any instructional value in that method. I’m learning to adapt to a different school and a different working environment which I know will make me a better teacher in the end. It’s certainly been a challenge, but I’m looking forward to learning more and improving my skills as an educator!

 

Miss Becca, would you like to play volleyball with us? (PE Day – April 2)

Every Saturday, the students have PE and sports clubs. We decided to go and join the clubs. When we arrived, the students were doing calisthenics, so we joined in on that. We had fun practicing some aerobic bollywood-type moves with the students. I was really looking forward to the clubs because the students told me that there is a volleyball club. When I first arrived at Sampoerna, I told everything that I love volleyball, and they invited me to come play with them right away! Side note, I don’t think I’ve mentioned this yet, but students here call teachers by their first names. Strange, right? I’d just gotten used to hearing “Miss Fillbach” and now I’m Miss (or ibu – pronounced ee-boo) Becca. I had a ton of fun playing with the students!

Students play sports during PE once a week.

 

You want us to WHAT?! But we don’t even know them! (Wedding – April 3)

The bride and groom are seated front and center for everyone to see.

Last Sunday, we had the opportunity to go to a wedding. This was maybe one of the coolest things that I’ve seen since I’ve been here. The couple getting married are friends with several of the teachers here. Indonesian weddings are more of a community event than American weddings. Anyone and everyone is invited. We were some of the first people to arrive, so we sat near the front. As we entered the tent (yes, it was outdoors), we were immediately sent into shock . Up front, sat the most ornate, majestic scenery that I have ever seen in person. The bride and groom sat in plush chairs with their parents on either side. We didn’t get to see the actual ceremony (it was at 8 am that morning), so we were there for the

Performances from traditional dancers and these modern dancers were a highlight of the event.

“reception”. This included a grand entrance (a parade complete with a drumline) by the bride and groom and their families and then photos of the couple with all of the “important” guests. We were shocked to find out that the happy couple considered us, the bule, important guests, and therefore we were brought on stage and asked to take a photograph. Wow. All of this aside, for me, the most interesting thing about the wedding was the headdress that the bride wore. It was a beautiful golden crown-like hat. What’s interesting is that she has to wear the headdress all day. Oh, and it weighs up to 10 kilos depending on which region of Indonesia you’re in. For those of you Americans who don’t speak metric, there are 2.2 pounds in a kilo. 10 kilos times 2.2 pounds per kilo = 22 POUNDS!!!!!!!! That’s 22 pounds on your head ALL DAY LONG. Talk about being exhausted on your wedding night…

 

Alright, that pretty much wraps up week 4 of my 8 weeks of teaching. Stay tuned. I’ll recap week 5 tomorrow. Thanks for reading!

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Important Visitor

On Thursday, we met the Vice Ambassador to Indonesia, or “Ted” as he introduced himself. No big deal, right? He stopped in Palembang to see Sampoerna Academy. He told us about the American Embassy and how it is their goal to increase exchange between Indonesia and the US. He was pleasantly surprised to meet us (especially to hear we were from Iowa State) because he had no idea we were here. One thing he mentioned is that Putra Sampoerna (the founder of our foundation) has negotiated a deal with Iowa State University so that students from Indonesia may be eligible for in-state tuition if they choose ISU. Pretty cool, right? Anyway, the highlight of his visit was a traditional Palembangese dance performed by 5 students. Many regions in Indonesia have traditional dances. You may have heard of Balinese (from Bali) dancers as they are the most famous. I wish I had video to post, but you’ll have to make do with pictures. :-)

 

 

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To the jungle and back

We hiked through the brush for about 30 minutes to get here, the student campsite.

Well, it has been a heck of a week! We had the opportunity to supervise the students’ leadership and survival camps for the past few days. After several days in the hot, humid, mosquito-infested Indonesian jungle, I am quite covered in mosquito bites but only slightly sunburned. Oh well, such is life… the experience was certainly worth a few bug bites!

We started off on Saturday at survival camp for grade 11. The goal of this camp is teach the students to survive in the worst conditions possible… literally in the jungle, living off the land. As we drove to the campsite, it was clear that we were in a new part of Indonesia. The roads were no longer paved (yes, we saw the stereotypical dirt roads) and they were littered with holes and puddles. When we arrived, the students were in the middle of outdoor orientation where they were not allowed to speak. It was truly amazing to see a group of 40 11th graders completely silent and engaged in what they were doing.

Teachers stayed in much nicer accommodations than students. We ate fresh fish from the pond in the back.

After orientation, we walked about a mile and a half to the actual campsite. The students were busy learning how to make their personal tents out of ponchos, so we sort of just hung out. We were sitting around (trying to stay in the shade) when we realized that we had no idea where the other teachers were. Teachers weren’t in charge of the camp, there were guides who were running everything. All of a sudden, one of the teachers came and found us and told us that we didn’t have to stay at the campsite with the students. All the other teachers were about a 10 minute walk away, staying in a house. WHAT!?! You mean we don’t have to sleep on the ground with only a poncho as our tent?! So we walked over to the house where the other teachers were staying where we found a house, a hammock, shade, and delicious food and water. I was so relieved!!

Students and teachers join together for evening prayer according to Islamic tradition.

After feasting on DELICIOUS fresh fish, we headed back to the student campsite. When we arrived, it was a very interesting experience. Guides were yelling at students, criticizing them and breaking them down. I have never been in the military (nor do I ever have plans to join), but I can imagine that it was something like what boot camp is… an intense exercise in conditioning that strengthens both the mind and the body. Students were building their tents. Essentially, they were taught how to use a poncho, a couple sticks, and some twine to build a one-person tent. They would be sleeping on the bare ground with no blankets, pillows, pads or anything. Talk about roughin’ it! After tents were finished, the students and staff who are Muslim–which is most people–took time for their evening prayer. It was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Muslims pray five times each day facing Mecca, and it was truly wonderful to see this done outside, at dusk.

Students ate with their hands from banana leaves. Meals consisted of rice and noodles with some assorted canned meat.

After prayer, it was dinner time. Students were given only a small amount of food and water that was to be rationed over three days. They were split into groups of 8-10 students and cooked their own food using one pot. They were required to eat all food off of banana leaves and were not given any utensils except for one spoon used to stir their rice. As they ate, they were instructed not to waste a single grain of rice. Quite a feat if you ask me! As students were cooking, we walked around and talked with them. One of the highlights for me and the students was when Nick decided to perform a song for everyone. He rapped “Ice Ice Baby,” and it was completely hilarious. The students provided backup vocals (dun dun dun duh duh dun dun – duh dun dun dun duh duh dun dun) while Nick recited every word to the song.

All students were required to take a mud bath after the first night in the rain. This small group said it was fun!

It was time for bed, so we headed back to the house. Then, the rain came. It proceeded to pour (like torrential downpour) for about 6 hours. I was safe under a roof, but I can’t say the same for the students. They were stuck in their tiny little poncho-tents sleeping on the bare ground. When we met up with the students that morning, I didn’t hear one complaint–not one student whining. It was honestly inspiring to see their discipline and strength of character. However, I’m not sure it’s fair to require a group of 16-year-olds to adapt to such harsh conditions. In America, that would never fly. In fact, I’m sure there would have been a lawsuit if such a situation arose in the US.  I know I would have made myself sick if I had to sleep in those conditions. It was certainly an eye-opening experience for me, and the students of Sampoerna Academy must be so proud of themselves for making it through the whole camp–I’m certainly proud of them.

Students competed in team relays all day. In this game, they had to transfer water to a bottle at the end of the line while pouring it over their heads.

We only spent one night with grade 11, then we came back to Palembang early Sunday evening. On Tuesday, it was back to the jungle (further away this time) for grade 10′s leadership camp. Once we arrived there, it was a whole different atmosphere. The main goal of this camp is to build confidence and improve teamwork skills. Students are split into houses with different animal names. I become the “house mother” for the eagles (we fly high!) during camp, and they were awesome. Their house cheer consists of an acronym they made from “eagle” which is “Enjoyable, Amazing, Gorgeous, Lovely, Educated. To end the cheer, they

Teams had to fill the pipe with water while plugging the holes with their hands.

say “we fly high!” and make eagle noises while flapping their arms like birds. It’s awesome! I had a ton of fun watching them complete various team challenges and group games. One of the hardest challenges took place in the mud and water. Each team had to fill a large pipe that had holes all over it to the top with water. All team members had to get in the water and plug the holes while a couple team members used small cups to fill the pipe. It was very messy, but I think they had a lot of fun! The only downside to these activities is that they were all outside in a completely open space with no protection from the sun. I managed to limit my sunburn to my face and arms, so I was pretty lucky. It took me less than an hour to start turning pink. Sunscreen is definitely a necessity when you’re this close to the equator!

All students and any teachers that wanted to had the opportunity to ride the zip line during camp.

On day two of leadership camp, students were to participate in the “high rope” activity. When I heard this, I thought that meant they were going to climb a high rope or do a ropes course or something. It turns out that they were going zip-lining! How fun is that?! We got to do it once the students were done, and it was a great time. It was a little scary jumping off the side of a tall building, but it was totally worth it! I highly suggest that anyone does it if they ever have the opportunity!

Another highlight of the leadership camp was this random elephant that was in the field where we were doing activities. We managed to get pretty close (it had a chain around it’s legs), and it was a lot of fun. You don’t see random elephants just hangin out in the US!

We ran into this guy near the campsite. Indri and I managed to get within touching distance!

For those of you who are still reading this, awesome. I know it’s been really really long… sorry about that! There was just too much information, and I didn’t want to split it into two posts!  It’s been a pretty intense week, but I’m glad I’ve been able to do everything that I’ve done. The students here surprise me every day with the courage, and I’m learning so much from this experience!

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