A new job in a new country: my first week in Indonesia.

My new adventure has started. I flew from Bali to Surabaya, Java, on saturday August 27th, from where a taxi drove me to Malang. Not knowing where exactly I was going and where I would live for the next three months, the taxi dropped me at my new hostfamily. During the ride, which took more than three hours instead of less than two hours because of the trafficjam, I was thinking about my new home. In what kind of house would I live? Small, big? How many people would live there? Could they speak English? I didn’t have an answer for any of these questions, so I just had to wait until I got there. When I arrived, two girls came out of the house to welcome me: Raras and Rari, a twin. We went inside, where I met their mom. They showed me my room: a nice room with a doublesized bed: not bad for Asian standards is what I thought. They gave me some tea and a minute later grandma came out of here room. She can’t speak English, so she started to talk to me in Indonesian. I had absolutely no idea what she said, so I just smiled. And that’s what I did a lot during my first week, just smiling when someone started to talk to me in Indonesian. The girls and mom could talk English with me, but just the basics. So we had a short conversation, mainly about my diet. What does a vegetarian eat in Indonesia? Or, more important, what does a European eat in Indonesia? Rice three times a day didn’t sound very tempting to me, so I told them that I’m used to eating bread, cereals or oats in the morning/afternoon. They made dinner for me: rice with tempe (Indonesian food made out of soya, yum!) and when dinner was ready they told me that I could have dinner. ‘Are you not eating?’, is what I asked them. No, they didn’t eat together with me: guests eat first. Welcome to a new culture! This was the first difference I noticed. Back home we would all eat together, especially with guests, so that was a bit strange. But this is how it would go during all evenings the first week: I ate alone and when I was finished the family had their dinner. Anyway, they cooked delicious food for me for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I ate a lot of rice, egg, tempe and some veggies. I expected to eat a lot of vegetables and fruit in Indonesia, but until now it has been mostly rice with some kind of protein. They love rice, and they love fried food. The girls made some delicious breakfasts for me, like pisang goreng (fried bananas) and toast with egg and cheese: yumm that’s a good start of the day.

So, maybe you are wondering what my week looks like here in Malang as a teacher. I will try to give you a good impression of my first week.

My day at Gracia school starts at 7am, so I have to get up around 6am. That is very early, but the heat makes it easier to get up. It’s quite nice in the morning as it gets hot in the afternoon. Once I’m dressed, my breakfast is ready and the only thing I have to do is eating it and washing up my plate. Once thats’s done, I have to wait for the driver from Gracia school to pick me up. Sometimes he picks me up by motorbike and sometimes by car. It’s about a 10 minute ride. He doesn’t talk English at all, so it’s a very quiet ride. Maybe we can have some small talk when my Indonesian gets better, haha. The lessons at Gracia school start at 7.30am. I have to teach three different classes during the week: grade 1/2, grade 7/8 and grade 10/11. All combined classes: the school is only open since two years so each class is still very small. For example: there are 6 children in grade 7 and 7 children in grade 8, so I have only 13 children in my classroom. I’m teaching each class two lessons a week, one lesson is 60 minutes for grade 1/2 and 90 minutes for grade 10/11. My most important goal these few months is to give the students more confidence in talking in English. It’s very obvious that the students are shy to talk in English, they don’t feel comfortable and prefer to talk in Indonesian. That’s why the school wanted a ‘native’ English teacher (which I’m not, but they still call me like that): the students have to talk in English to me as I don’t understand anything in Indonesian. That’s the good part about not talking the language (and that’s probably the only good part about it). So I have six lessons each week, one each day and two on friday. The time remaining at the school is to prepare my lessons, and that’s what takes a lot of time at the moment. It’s very hard for me to get to know the English level of the students and the curriculum that I have to teach them. The school doesn’t have much information about what they have already learned and what I should teach them, so my first week was mainly finding out what works by just trying and improvising. And I must say that it didn’t go that bad. I really enjoyed teaching the higher classes: most of them understand what I’m talking about and they are motivated to learn English. The hardest part are the younger students: they don’t understand what I’m saying and their attention is gone in a minute. Finding activities that keeps their attention and something that isn’t too easy or too difficult is a challenge, but that will get easier in the next few weeks hopefully.

I finish at Gracia school around 1pm, so that’s when the driver brings me back home. The family has made lunch for me when I come home and I can relax for the rest of the day. Usually I am so tired because of the heat and the teaching that I need a little powernap in the afternoon. Luckily that’s what my family does as well. They are muslim so they get up around 4am to pray, when they are at home in the afternoon they just relax and take a nap if needed. Just like me, I’m already living the Indonesian lifestyle 😉

During my first week I have met some other interns/volunteers who came to Malang with Aiesec. We did a volcanotrip to see the sunrise on saturdaymorning, that was amazing! So beautiful, I have never seen a landscape like that before. Definitely one of my highlights this year!

So, that’s about it for my first week. I must say that I’ve experienced the culture shock for the first time, when I arrived here. I expected it to be very different, but it was kind of hard to be here on my own, in a new environment with nobody to talk to about my experiences and the differences back home. What should I wear? Usually when it’s 25 degrees or higher I wear shorts and a singlet: well, not here! It’s about 30 degrees, I’m wearing jeans and longsleeves/ a tshirt. With no airconditioning in the school, that’s kind of hot. But, that’s how they live here, so that’s what I’m wearing as well. How should I use the Indonesian bathroom? (yes, it’s very different! Google it if you want to know more about it ;-). What are they talking about? These are just a few differences that I experienced. It felt kind of lonely, but that’s when I realised how amazing my friends are. My friends and family from back home, as well as the friends that I’ve made in Australia . They showed me these few days that life is all about your friends. It’s so special to me that I have met so many amazing people the past 10 months at the other side of the world who support me during this adventure and where I can count on when needed. Thank you so much, it means everything to me!

I’ll try to keep you updated about my Indonesian lifestyle, there is so much to tell that this is quite a long story. Sorry about that, I’ll try to keep it shorter next time 🙂  Any tips, advice or suggestions: let me know!


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