Monday, November 30, 2009

Next year

So I feel as though I should mention here that I just found out that I’ll be doing Teach for America next year in South Louisiana. Hopefully (Insuh allah) I’ll be in the city of Baton Rouge with my brother Kris, Ellen and Eliza!! It will be great to be near them. But Teach for America is really going to be hard.

You see I first applied for Teach for America last year. I began the application after I had finished my Fulbright application, but before I knew that I was going to get it. However, when the final interview for TfA came around, I already knew that I had gotten the Fulbright and was going to be in Indonesia the next year. My friends, parents and mentors all told me to finish off the application because it’s always good to have another job waiting for me after Fulbright. Due in large part to my relaxed demeanor at my final interview, and the fact that I’m a mathematics major, I secured a spot on the 2009 Teach for America Corps! It was very exciting for me to have been accepted into a movement that does so much good and is so competitive.

I was originally placed in Baltimore in the 2009 Corps. I had put Baltimore down as a top choice for placement because it is near my brother John and his wife Karen. Not to mention I would get to see my two nieces grow up. It really seemed like a good place for me.

But when I got my assignment to teach in Baltimore, Baltimore seemed like a lot more than just a city close to my brother and his family. It’s big, and a pretty scary place for a girl who’s never spent more than a weekend there. I knew from Sociology class that Baltimore has the highest murder rate for any city in the U.S. That fact, which was just a curious fact when I was in Sociology class, seemed very real and scary when I realized I would be living and teaching in this rough city. But then, someone’s got to do it. And would I be that bad at it? Would the students listen to me? Most of the time - no. The trick is to not take it personally. At least that’s what they tell me.

Well, I’ve never been good at not taking it personally. Ask any of the orchestra conductors for whom I sat first chair cello. I seemed to take every comment directed towards the section very personally; assuring them that I had not held that G out too long, I had been certain to keep it short. So, maybe I couldn’t do it. Maybe I can’t do it. My opportunity to test myself has been delayed however, for another year and another place – South Louisiana.

So I wrote to Teach for America last year upon my acceptance to request a deferral. They granted me a deferral after I wrote a persuasive essay convincing them that a Fulbright was an adequate enough reason to defer Teach for America. It was then that they told me that I would not have to apply again, but that I would have to resubmit my list of preferred cities.

That is how I came to be reassigned to South Louisiana. I did not put South Louisiana first in my choices, in fact it was third. I put Atlanta first, Philadelphia second, and South Louisiana third along with about 3 other cities that I know can’t remember. So, I really wanted to be in Atlanta, with so many of my wonderful friends from college – Erica, Mira, Cara, Trica, and maybe Maya and Allison if they are still going to be there. I love Philadelphia, and still want to live there again someday. But Teach for America did say that they really need teachers in South Louisiana. I guess I’m needed more in South Louisiana. I just hope this all works out for the best.

I would be lying if I said I was not sad that I won’t be in Atlanta. Living here in Indonesia has really made me miss the city, and I find myself daydreaming about walking around the streets of Decatur and buying candy from Greene’s. But something tells me that I will fit in to Baton Rouge soon, and living near my brother Kris, some of my family, might be just what I need right now. It might be what both of us need. I know he wishes he was closer to family, and I think I miss it more than I’d like to admit.

Here’s to the Red Stick!!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

November 10, 2009
As you’ve been reading my blog, perhaps you’ve been wondering why it’s titled ‘Mangos for Breakfast.’ Before I give that away, let me tell you that I considered naming this blog 37 minutes or 0 degrees and 37 minutes, or Teaching in the Doldrums (which it was actually temporarily called). I debated over a number of names that I’m not even listing here, even enlisting my friends’ help for idea titles. In the end however I settled on a title of my own.

The title comes from an unwritten list that Alexa and I have been making of things we are not supposed to do according to our very kind and helpful friends here in Indonesia. The Ibus (read women with maternal instincts) especially like to tell us what things we must not do and why.

Here’s the list thus far:

1. You cannot eat mangos for breakfast. Doing so will result in an upset stomach (pronounced with a hard ch)
2. You must eat rice for breakfast. You can eat other things as well, but rice must be a component.
3. You absolutely should not take a shower in the afternoon. According to the Ibus this will dry out your skin considerably and turn your lips purple.
4. Washing your own clothes yourself will make you sick. Anna did so and came down with a fever. Don’t tell, but she’s still washing her own clothes. (For those of you who don’t know, Anna is another ETA here in Indonesia who is stationed in Manado. I love her. She makes me laugh, and reminds me of my sister-in-law Shaela).
5. Using hot water from the hot water dispenser for your instant noodles will make you sick to your stomach. You should always boil your water (i.e. Sarah stop being lazy).
6. Generally you should not eat just fruit for breakfast, it will, as many other things, make you sick. I tend to agree with this one, since I notice that sometimes in the US if I eat a lot of fruit for breakfast and nothing else, I get a little sick. Just thought you all might want to know that.

For now, that completes the list, as far as I can remember.

So, the idea of eating mangos for breakfast sounds both delicious and daring. Mmmm. Doesn’t it also somehow sound so Indonesian? They have so many mangos here, a tree in half the front yards, that you really could have a mango for breakfast every morning. And best of all, you can’t beat the price. If you do have to buy a mango, then it won’t cost you more than 40 cents I’d say. But because our Ibus know that Alexa likes them so much, we often get mangos just given to us. It’s glorious. And wouldn’t you too be tempted to eat a nicely ripe juicy mango for breakfast? I know I’m tempted while living in this tropical paradise.

So now you know. Mangos for Breakfast. Delicious.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November 4, 2009
I remember an ETA (English Teaching Assistant) telling us while in Bandung that we need to realize the great effect we have on many Indonesian’s lives. I recall them saying that often we don’t realize how deeply and significantly we touch people’s lives, and here we affect some people we don’t even remember meeting.

This is due in large part to our celebrity-like status here. I was warned kindly beforehand that because for many Indonesians I will be the first Westerner they will see or meet, they will be transfixed by my appearance and shocked to meet me. Literally every single day I am here people clamber to get a picture with me, shy to ask, but once I agree they almost fall over each other to get a spot in the picture. (I should mention that 70% of these pictures are being taken on camera phones…just thought you’d like that image).

Alexa (my house mate) and I have really started feeling like celebrities. I’ve started actually expecting people to want to take my picture. A young lady joked with me at the beach, after I took a picture with some children, asking me if they had wanted my autograph. With no change in expression, I just told her that, “No, they just wanted a picture.” She burst out laughing, and then I realized how ridiculous a question that had been. Of course they didn’t want my autograph! I’m not actually a celebrity. But the fact that her suggestion didn’t even faze me is really pretty concerning.

So, yes, I do have an effect on people’s lives, but until today, I did not realize to what extent.

Today was like any other day at school for me. I had two 10th grade classes that I taught and I ate a delicious meal of chicken and rice prepared for me by one of the kind teachers at my school. As I was finishing up my meal, a teacher came into the language teacher’s lounge and told Ibu Anti, who I work with, that one of the teachers had just had a baby!

I was so excited! I had seen pregnant Ibu Fatma every day at work, and had thought she looked like she was ready to give birth any day now. Ibu Anti realized that I had a break from my classes, so we could go to the hospital right then and see her.
We hopped on a bentor (think motorcycle with seat/cart in front for passengers) and headed towards the close-by hospital. On the way I thought of Ibu Fatma and how she would ask me to touch her belly every day, hoping that by touching her belly her child would have a nose just like mine. She so badly wanted her child to have my thin, small nose. I never thought of my nose as small until they mentioned its small size every day.

So we arrived at the hospital and began to walk down an open-air walkway towards one section of the hospital dedicated to births. Just as in any home in Indonesia, we took off our shoes upon entering the hospital and crossed the threshold. No sooner had I entered then I heard a child screaming. I turned the corner to find a naked 2 year old boy crying in pain on the floor. No explanation was given, so I only have my imagination to know why this was the case.

Ignoring the boy, we turned into the first room on the right to find a group of about 7 women sitting on a rug on the floor. One of them was holding a newborn baby girl. She was beautiful. She almost took my breath away. I had never seen a baby that small - that young. She was born at 3 am, and as it was 1pm, she was only 10 hours old.

I saw five or so men against one wall, and then the exhausted new first-time mother lying on the only furniture in the room - a single bed. As any new mother she looked exhausted, but happy. I kissed her, and then began cooing at the baby.

Then they told me her name - Sarah. The mother had named her after me.

I looked at her, my eyes filled with tears, and I beamed. What an honor. I was overwhelmed, and still kind of am.

I held her and they remarked how beautiful the scene was. All I could see was this beautiful little baby girl whose life is now forever changed and has been forever affected by mine.

She will always hear about the ‘beautiful’ American Ms. Sarah that she was named after her. And I will forever be grateful to know a baby girl was named after me. They said every time they see her, they will think of me. She will be a remembrance of me to them. I almost cried.

I hope this girl doesn’t feel overwhelmed, like she has a lot to live up to. I know I feel that way sometimes, and it’s no way to live. I’m working on it though.