Saturday, September 25, 2010

From Hokey Pokey to Hip Hop

Everyday is still an adventure here in Jakarta. Getting though the first week at Sebasa was fascinating all on it's own, but when I come home from work, everything begins anew! Here's a sampling from this week:

There are several programs throughout Jakarta and Indonesia that are sponsored by our State Department; teaching English, spreading diplomacy, and all that. One in particular is called the Access Program, and it's geared toward 14-18 year-old, non-elite/underprivileged youth. This sounded like a fun opportunity to get involved with a younger audience, so I emailed the director and was soon scheduled to go in and meet the staff and kids. On Tuesday afternoon, I was ushered into a small room of about 15 shy, giggly students. Their teacher, a wonderful Indonesian woman, prompted the students to ask me questions. We talked about everything from Ohio, hobbies, Justin Beiber, boyfriends and girlfriends (giggle giggle), more Beiber, to my thoughts on Indonesia. They told me about the latest YouTube-Indo craze - two girls lip-syncing to a song called "Poisonous Snail." Which you can check out here.

From what I've gleaned about the Indonesian culture thus far, the people here love to sing and dance (see the last blog RE: line dancing). There are karaoke places all over, and it's a typical weekend activity. I don't sing. I'm actually pretty awful at it, but how can you refuse 15 bright, eager faces when they implore you for a song? Luckily, I have a favorite silly song always in reserve that lasts about 3 seconds. I stole it from a made-for-TV version of Alice in Wonderland. The white queen (played by Carol Channing) sings the song to Alice: (youtube!)
Jam tomorrow,
Jam yesterday,
But never ever jam today. 

The song is short, but it's great because there are crazy hand/head movements that go with it. And, they learned what jam is, so....everyone is a winner ;).

In return for my performance, the whole class got up and taught me their version of the hokey pokey, which turns out to be very similar to our version, only much, much cooler. Seriously, you get to walk-like-an-Egyptian. I'm totally introducing it at my next American wedding. So, all in all, it was great fun to meet the kids. Hopefully, I'll be seeing much more of them soon!

Early in the week, Sebasa and I received an invitation from the US Embassy to attend an American-Muslim hip hop concert at the Hard Rock Cafe. The band, Remarkable Current, is from California, and they did a mix of rap, R&B, and reggae, including one amazing version of Amazing Grace. So, about 80 of us took up the offer and checked it out. What a night! It turns out that the students from the Access program were also in attendance, so I spent the night bouncing back and forth between the kids, staff, and students. It was hard not to feel like a celebrity with the amount of pictures we took. (everyone wants a picture with the bule!) Hopefully, I will be able to steal some of those from fb soon, so I can post them here (I know, camera failure #2). It was a ton of fun getting to dance and laugh with everyone.

Alright then, that's enough for now. I'm going to go rest and recoup for next week! Jam tomorrow...Jam yesterday...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Sebasa: Police Language School

Today marks the end of my first full week of teaching at Sebasa. It was exciting, nerve-racking, and at some points a little tough and exhausting, but I can't imagine a better fit for me. Sebasa is a Police Language School that offers courses in five languages (English, Arabic, Mandarin, French, and Bahasa Indonesia) to police from all over the country. The students have already completed the Police Academy and come from all ranks and divisions. They stay for three months, learning, eating, and sleeping on the Sebasa campus. Right now, we have sixty students from the Mobile Brigade (similar to our special forces/SWAT) and thirty more students from various departments prepping for various missions. So, yeah, it's kinda a big deal. :)

Part of my job here is to teach the Brimob (squish Mobile Brigade together...they squish words together a lot here). So, Monday - Thursday, I teach the two morning sessions from about 8-11:30. Class topics vary from day to day. One day I could be teaching a writing lesson, and the next day it could be a grammar lesson. All of the lessons are based in the context of policing, so I spend a lot of my time reading the two English newspapers (Jakarta Post and Jakarta Globe) to find police/crime related articles. Inevitably, though, I end up spending a good chunk of every class fielding questions about American police and American everything else. Since I don't have a heavy background in criminal justice (i.e. none at all other than those few speeding tickets), I spend a lot of time researching answers to questions about department organization, training, requirements, and even police relations with the military. I'm currently looking into buying some posters that I can hang in the classrooms to explain all these things better than I can. I'm open to suggestions if anyone has them! The students are hilarious and very sweet. They hail from  many different islands and countries and have all at one point or another offered a place for me to stay if I should ever visit their cities. Our ninety-minute classes zoom by without a thought. We have a lot of laughs over pronunciation (usually at my expense) and sometimes even fit some English lesson in!

I have to say that perhaps my favorite part of Sebasa, however, is morning PT...that's right - physical training. Every Tuesday and Friday morning, all students and staff get into formation at 7:00am. The ka. Sebasa - head of the school - addresses the students/staff while we alternately stand at attention and at ease. Most of this is in bahasa, but occasionally he'll throw me a bone and talk in English. As one unit, we stretch, yell, Yep. Silly me and my Hollywood influenced beliefs about PT. I thought we would get right into some push ups and sit ups. No, no, no. We finish stretching, and the music comes on. It's time to line dance. And, everyone loves it. So there I was, Tuesday morning, minding my own business and stretching my left hamstring when over the loudspeaker I hear: "Miss Jackie, come up and lead the dancing." There was no getting out of this. They were cheering my name. Gulp. Just go with it, Jackie. I walked up to the front of one hundred plus students and staff and helped lead the electric slide...Indo-style. I'm still working on my follow-up act. Perhaps some Cupid Shuffle...or the Cha Cha slide? Oh, the possibilities.

The other part of my job (besides teaching the police and leading line dancing) is teacher training. There are about twelve English teachers and about thirteen non-English teachers, and I am responsible for their professional development. My ultimate boss, ICITAP - the overseas branch of the US Department of Justice - wants me to move the staff into modern teaching theory and methodology. I've never done this before, so it's more than a little intimidating. Don't get me wrong, I believe I have enough experience to do it, it's just new and requires intensive prep work. Again, though, I couldn't be happier for the opportunity because it's allowing me to form my niche in ESL, namely teaching English for Specific Purposes to adults. Right now, I'm working with the non-English staff for three days a week. I will work with the English staff weekly to continue work on a curriculum development project, and we will have intensive training when the students leave in November.

So, there you have it... a typical week at Sebasa. Life outside of Sebasa is as equally entertaining...but that's for another blog. :) 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Good Life

This is what I learned today from my "Bahasa Indonesian Word-of-the-Day": Pria itu punya otak udang - That man has a shrimp brain. I love this language.

Life here ain't too shabby either. Today started with another trip to the Ragunan zoo for a run with the Jakarta Free Spirit running group. My new found friends (see pic below) picked me up at 6:00am, and we headed south to meet up with the mostly-expat running group. There are usually about 10-20 people there, and they all seem to be really great. One loop around the zoo is 5k. Today I tried two in preparation for a 10k race that's coming up Oct. 3. It's still a struggle getting used to the heat/humidity, but it feels so good to be getting back into some of my favorite hobbies.
(I'm second from the right...just in case you couldn't pick me out)
Yes, that's "hobbies" - plural. I found salsa dancing last Thursday night! There is a Ritz-Carlton Hotel in walking distance from my apartment, and within said hotel in a lovely little bar that has live "latin"music  (no brass, but let's not be choosey beggars, right?) and some pretty fantastic dancers. Aye, there's a rub; most of the leads are private instructors who are hired by students to both teach them and dance with them all night. Think Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing. This practice is called "booking," as it was explained to me by the main instructor. Harumph. Luckily, the instructor was very kind and not only danced with me, but also introduced me to some other women to chat with. As the night went on, I did get in a few amazing dances with some professional dancers (one of whom went to LA for their salsa congress). I even met a tall guy (seriously...the guy used to play professional ball...7' easy) who is a Zouk instructor. This is what I understand about Zouk: It's a dance from Brazil and the Caribbean that's a cousin to samba and lambada. Also, it requires the woman to have long hair, so she can whip it about in wild gyrations. Check out this video.  He also explained that he needed a tall partner to help him with instruction...would I be interested? Thank you, Jakarta...Thank you.

I should also mention...(I'm so incredibly spoiled) that while gushing today to my running buddies that I found a salsa joint, one of them exclaimed that she, too, loved salsa and used to perform and compete. Kindred spirits!

In other news: I tried Javanese coffee today - so powerful that I perspired, and I swear my teeth were vibrating for several hours afterward. I, along with all of the students and teachers at Sebasa, were invited to go see an American, Muslim Hip-Hop group at Jakarta's Hard Rock Cafe this Thursday. And, line dancing is acceptable physical training for police at the language school (more on this to come). 

Real work starts Monday, so I'm off to go create some lesson plans now. I promise...Bali reports soon!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Little America

Gah! So much to blog about! I want to relate the great adventures of Bali, but I'm waiting some pictures to illustrate (curses on me for forgetting my camera). I do, however, have pictures of my apartment and my address for those of you with sour gummy candy that you need to dispose of...just saying ;).

Here's said address (obnoxious, but true):
Bellagio Residence 26th Floor Tower B no 17
Kawasan Mega Kuningan Barat Kav E4.3
Kuningan Timur Setia Budi Jakarta Selatan 12950 Indonesia
(Yes...just like the casino)

When I signed up for this program and discovered I'd be moving to Indonesia, visions of grass-roofed huts surrounded by rice paddies danced in my head. There are no grass-roofed huts in Jakarta, at least none that I can see from my 26th floor balcony. I'm almost embarrassed to post these pics knowing what I know about some of the other fellows' not-so-distant-from-hut accommodations. But I promised pics, and they know who to call if they need an escape.

This does bring about a great internal struggle - if you will bare with me as I *gasp* complain about being put up in a brilliant high rise in the center of modern living. The biggest problem - I duck my head, hands raised in protection against the backlash from using words like problem in this context - is that it is located in the middle of modern living. I call it "little America." There is, no joke, a Mexican, Japanese, and Indian restaurant in my building. Also, you can find a Baskin Robbins and Starbucks in short order. I don't know the exact percentage of foreigners to natives in my building, but I would say we're on top. Nearly everyone speaks at least a little English. I really have to initiate speaking in bahasa Indonesian if I want the practice. (Although - quick anecdote - when my friend Nalini came to pick me up and asked about me at the front desk, their reaction was, "You mean the American girl who speaks bahasa?" - YES!!! Jackie -1, Little America - O).

Don't get me wrong. I'm so grateful to have such amazing accommodations. I know the objective is to do the best job we can while we're here and that begins by having our basic needs met. I know I will kiss my tiled floors when I come back from a losing battle at the grocery store or hug my flat screen LCD TV after being stuck in traffic for two hours. I know all this. But, part of me wonders how different my experience would be if I were situated in maybe a less swank house but surrounded by Indonesian neighbors, markets, and kids playing in the street. What would it be like to actually be submerged in the culture? Of course, I'll do what I can to make sure I'm not cloistered in my bubble; I'll find a compromise. But, I still can't help but wonder...maybe next year.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sorry for the lapse, dear friends. I was blessed with the opportunity to meet with a few other ELFs in Bali for a wonderful (though perhaps undeserved) vacation. We haven't started teaching yet, but most of us agree that just settling into a new life here in Indonesia is a worthy enough accomplishment. Either way, I had some of the best days to date in Indonesia, perhaps in my lifetime. A few things first: 1.) I didn't take my computer because I wanted to break my minor addiction to Facebook and all of his social networking friends (this to explain my delay in posting). and 2.) I didn't take my camera because I forgot it in my sleepy haze leaving the apartment at 3 am to avoid Jakarta/holiday traffic. So, I'm waiting for some stunning pictures to illustrate/prove our adventures in paradise. Meanwhile, a little anecdote from the grocery store that sent me slamming back down to reality.

I returned from Bali this afternoon rested, refreshed and energized by the amazing things I had experienced. I wanted to go to the store to finally buy all the essential "new apartment" things, so I could settle in and prepare for teaching. I marched confidently into Carrefour (Target of the East) with list in hand - dish soap, hangers, tupperware, detergent, milk, eggs, etc. I was feeling particularly smug because I hadn't taken any wrong turns in getting to the store. Most things were easy, but the dish and laundry soap hunt nearly induced my first break down. Do you know how frustrating it is to buy dish soap when you can't read the labels? Many liquid products in Indonesia are packaged in plastic bags instead of plastic bottles. I stared at a wall of such bags for nearly ten minutes. I would pick up a bag and stare at it, willing it to make sense. Is this one detergent, or is it softener...maybe bleach? Gah. All the while, I'm trying desperately to avoid eye contact with the three teen-aged girls who are stocking the shelf beside me. Me? Of course I know what I'm doing. Are you giggling about me?? I kept thinking if I stared at it long enough, the letters would magically rearrange themselves to make sense. With a crushed ego and tears welling up, I finally tossed a box of powdered detergent (I hope!) in the cart and headed toward the dish soap to start the process all over.

During the whole ordeal, I kept thinking about my refugee students back in Akron. As their teacher, had I prepared them for this? Did they stare at a wall of groceries in Acme forcing back tears? Again, I know in the scheme of things, having a hard time buying soap is not the end of the world, but for a moment there it stripped me of my confidence; it was scary, shameful, and frustrating. I walked home in the rain, a picture of misery and contemplation. It was a good dose of my students' every day reality. But it also supplied me with empathy that will fuel and shape my pedagogy and plenty of motivation to continue Indonesian language classes tomorrow...starting with "laundry soap."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Feel the different

C'mon...sometimes you just gotta laugh.

More to come soon. Promise!

Friday, September 3, 2010

So that's what it feels like...

First off, my apologies for taking so long to update. Between spotty internet access, trips to the immigration office, and beginning my bahasa Indonesia classes, I haven't had much time. A quick update: I've moved out of the hotel and into a temporary apartment until mine is completed. I should (fingers crossed) make my final move this weekend and finally stop living out of a suitcase. I will post pictures of the new place as soon as I can. Here are some pics of central Jakarta from the balcony of my temporary home.

I visited Sebasa, the Police Language School, for the first time on Monday. I was able to address and meet all of the English and non-English teaching staff (the school also offers classes in Mandarin, Japanese, French, Arabic, and Bahasa Indonesia). They are terrific folks, and I look forward to working closely with them all. I will be teaching the police - in particular the special forces this session - and providing teacher training and curriculum development for the English and non-English staff. Here's a pic from my office. On day one, I also had the treat of riding in my first bajai...if you were paying attention, those are the puttering, little orange cars. Here's a video from the inside of one! The lovely lady sitting next to me is Ibu Vero, one of the French teachers.

Now, the really important stuff. The generous staff at Sebasa is allowing my to hold off teaching for a few weeks while I take bahasa Indonesia lessons. I can't tell you how grateful I am for these lessons. Life in Indonesia will be so much easier if I can get about by myself.

The experience of being the one in the immersed in a new language and culture has been both challenging and eye-opening. I want to attempt a little metacognition and record my feelings as I pass through the stages of second language acquisition, if for no other reason than to empathize with my students present and future. There's intimidation - Why are they speaking so fast? (even though I know they're not); frustration - I'm never going to learn this (even though I know I will);  and above all, fear - I want to practice, but I'm sure I'll get it wrong, and they'll just laugh (even though I know they won't). As a language teacher, I can reason through these irrational thoughts, but it doesn't stop them from coming each and every day. The next ten months will be an exercise in facing and coping with these challenges. Then maybe someday I can pass on what I learn. If I can do it...