Last week was among the busiest since I've arrived here. Up to this point things have just been status quo with teaching my classes but now the requests for my ELF expertise are starting to roll in, or so it's beginning to seem. Last week I was a judge for the speech contest and debates. I also got an invitation to speak on Communicative Language Teaching in Kota Baru, an island just off the eastern coast of South Kalimantan. It's exciting to think of going but we're still negotiating the amount of time they want from us. They want me to run a 3 day workshop.. and did I mention with me leading it. I don't think I'm quite ready to do that, not to mention I also need to focus on my classes here and with a 3 day workshop that ends up being nearly impossible for that week. So I told Nida that we need to ensure that we don't do more than 2 days which is still quite a lot, however they are flying us there and putting us up.
But all these duties and requests for my skills had come at a week that I could feel my energy waver. More specifically, the will power that I'd been using to adapt to the new environment and stave off homesickness AND suppressing my culture shock had been dwindling and exhausting me. I knew I had hit rock bottom when my computer didn't turn on one morning and I felt like a ton of bricks fell from my heart right into my stomach. Such a simple thing (and a typical American addiction) was the straw breaking the camel's back for all the feelings I'd been bottling up.
I'm recalling a scene the film "The Fellowship of the Ring," the first in the Lord of the rings series, where Sam and Frodo are leaving the Shire and Sam just stops. Frodo turns around to see Sam's wistful face then Sam says, "This is it. This is as far from the Shire I've ever been." I can identify. This is as far from home I've ever been and the longest I've ever been away and possibly the most different culture I've ever experienced. The time away from home hit HARD last week as I crossed the threshold of month two in Indonesia.
So what have I learned so far from this? If you reach out to people many will reach back. Like a fisherman, I cast my net to find as many people as possible both here and at home with whom I can talk, laugh or just find out what's new back home. From this, I want to share a wonderful evocative quote from my friend Jessica who responded to my question of how she maintains an upbeat persona. These words, even pulled out of the context of her email to me just seem to hold so much power. "And when you are in the middle of figuring it out, it is so very exciting and delicate." For me, it's the duality (or even multiplicity) of feelings while confronted with negotiating a change in environment and perception that's important to confront and understand.
In all the intensity of goings on, I finally got my Kitas and most of my visa situation is settled. This means I can continue to work here and I also can get the prices the locals get for hotels etc. I still don't have a multiple entry visa. I have to go to (or pass my passport around) a few more government offices and I think now we have to get one more letter drawn up and sent to Jakarta. They changed their long term visa rules this year and I half wonder if they are still in the process of changing these rules based on how new things pop up every week. Even Nida and the other teachers who have accompanied us to the offices say "why didn't they tell us this last time we were here?" Luckily we got the most dire portion of it over and done before my 60 day visa expired; otherwise late fees would have ensued. So far I've paid around $70 U.S. for the extended 10 month visa and likely more for the multiple entry stamp. I'm keeping all the receipts for the taxes and crossing my fingers. The sad news about the delays is I was going to try to go to New Zealand this week to see some family, including my mom, for a family reunion… Not gonna happen.
In addition this busy week, I had a site visit from the ELF coordinator, Jeff last Thursday and Friday. I found a new fabulous restaurant that they took him to last year. They'd been holding out on me! Puji and I vowed to go back… she didn't know about it either. It's called Wong Solo, and has Javanese style food which is like what I'd experienced in San Francisco at the restaurant Boroburdur. A group of us went out to Karaoke too, always a blast. AND then this entire weekend I've been creating tests for the classes I've been teaching. Although I had been good about keeping notes about what I taught, I found myself trying to recall the subtleties of how I taught things in order to make those test questions have a sense of validity and not be a total surprise to the students. Even with a review… it's hard to know if I did it or not. Cross your fingers for my students! Hopefully I'm not torturing them too much this week. Next on the agenda: tons of grading before next week. Busy, busy, busy.
I am counting my blessings being here and taking the time to recognize the great things around me, and acknowledging it's not always going to be great… but isn't that the same everywhere? I have a wonderful group of colleagues who are helpful and friendly. It is also the rainy season which means it's cooler more of the time and hotter less of the time. And I've got something to look forward to: Jacques got his ticket to come visit and will be here at the end of December.Oh and Happy Halloween! I am very sad to miss passing out candy. Someone will have to tell me what costume was most popular. And is the Castro still 'closed' this year?