Friday, June 14, 2013

Bali. And a water sanitation project.

 Many people in Bali live in compounds that are surrounded by high walls and are entered  through exquisitely carved wooden gates like this.

Temples have gates too.  Here's one that opens onto the walking path along the sea in Sanur.
I went to Bali with another PCV in April for one week's vacation.  We stayed in Sanur Beach in South Bali and had a lovely relaxing time.  We walked or rode our rental bikes on this beautiful walking path along the beach almost every day. 
And here I am by another temple gate enjoying the sunshine on my face.  Do you notice the offerings?

Most compounds also have a family temple.
Inside the compound are individual might be a bedroom, another one the living room and that one's a kitchen, etc.

A Javanese statue welcoming you.
I loved the compounds we visited.  People really live outside when they are in their houses...the pavilions are mostly open and only have small private enclosed spaces.

One morning I went to the beach early enough to catch the sunrise.  It was spectacular.  What a great way to start the day.  Balinese people start their day with preparing small offerings of food and flowers and placing them their homes, on their desks at work, in front of their stores, and of course in their temples.

Sunrise on Sanur Beach

There's a little more pink.
Here's a small temple with one of those fabulous doors.

Sanur Beach is known for its lovely sunrises.

Bali is mostly Hindu and the island has a very different feel than Java, which is mostly Muslim.  However, many aspects of the culture are very similar....I am reminded of how diverse a country Indonesia is.....I have only seen such a small part of it.  Of course, no one would ever confuse LA with New York City either.

My current secondary project

Appropriate Projects is part of Water Charity and offers small grants to Peace Corps Volunteers who work with their local communities to improve water resources. I've just gotten a project approved and will start work soon. Check out the link to learn more.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2013 Indonesian PC Volunteers

Vacation trip with some PCVs at Christmas break
We spent two nights on a houseboat going up a river into the jungle in Kalimantan to see the orangutans.  Awesome!

The beach near where I live at my permanent site.

Some of the ID6 PCVs and staff at our picnic at end-of-training
On an excursion with the neighborhood girls and my host mom
Preparing a meal with my host mom for the neighborhood monthly get-together

On a picnic with my training host family

A bride leaves her house with her parents
My bedroom during pre-service training

Selamat datang!

My hand-washed clothes hanging to dry outside my host family's house during pre-service training
So this post is especially for you people who might be reading it who have been invited to be a Peace Corps Volunteer in Indonesia.  We understand that there are 70 of you who will be arriving in April, 2013, and this is a shout-out to welcome you from half-way around the world!!!
I'm known as one of the'll be an ID7.  I remember how every day I lapped up the blog postings trying to find out as much as possible about my new life-to-be.  Maybe you're doing the same.  We are really excited that you will be joining our little band of Volunteers!  Since there are only about 65 of us in total here now, you will be a huge infusion of many of us as can manage to be there will be waiting at the airport to welcome you ....I'm planning to be one of them!!!
I don't know where to start in describing what it's like other than to say that it's an amazing experience....and, of course, it's different for everyone.  So I think I'll just post some pictures....let them speak their 1000 words each.  Selamat datang!  (Welcome in bahasa Indonesian)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pre-service training in Indonesia (PST)

The ten weeks of training are completed and now I am at my permanent site where internet access is easier and I hope to update this blog more often.  This post will focus on the PST experience.  So.
Arrival in Washington, DC
All 47 ID 6 (6th group of Indonesian PC Volunteers since PC first entered country...we're also known as the 3rd batch because the first three "batches" were in the mid 60's and we're the third one since 2010.  Peace Corps was not in Indonesia during the interim) arrived at our hotel in Washington, DC, and spent the afternoon and evening getting acquainted with each other and the pre-training staff who are based in DC.  We were given some necessary information and then went out to dinner in small groups informally....our last night in the US.  We all had a roommate and began to learn a little about at least one of our fellow trainees.  Most everyone is a 20 something.  There are maybe 4 or 5 30 somethings, and 1 or 2 40 somethings, and then 1 66-year-old (that's me) and 1 73-year-old.  Everyone has amazing credentials and appears to be bright and energetic.
The next morning we head for the airport.
The Flight
It was long, uneventful, and delayed.  By the time we arrived in Surabaya about 2 days later,  none of us was bright or energetic.  On the plane I think I watched 7 full-length favorite was's been a couple of years since I last watched it and it is still one of the all-time GREAT movies.  We flew from DC to Tokyo to Bangkok to Jakarta to Surabaya.  We were supposed to be able to have about 8 hours rest in a hotel in Bangkok but we were delayed with weather in Tokyo and so we only had 2 hours.  I don't think anyone slept....we showered and ate and headed back to the airport.  I know know a lot more about my seatmates.  We were put into small groups of 5 or 6 and "held hands" with each other in the airport terminals while transferring planes so no one got lost.  It was the first realization that we're going on a real adventure.  No one from Peace Corps accompanied us on the flight....naively many of us assumed that there would be a "leader" who knew what we were doing....nope.  So we learned through experience that we could do just fine on our own.  Peace Corps did have Volunteers or staff in Bangkok and Jakarta to make sure we found the shuttle bus and made our transfers.
We stayed in Surabaya in a very nice hotel a few blocks from the Peace Corps office and began our training.  The focus was on understanding mostly general information about Peace Corps service,  an introduction to each other, the Peace Corps Indonesia staff, and learning what was going to be happening during the next 10 weeks during PST.  We were assigned a different roommate so got to know another trainee better.  The highlight for me was the Ice Cream Social held at the Peace Corps office in Surabaya where we got to sample some amazing ice cream made with wonderful tropical fruits whose tastes were delicious and unfamiliar.  We also got to see our very first squat toilet and have a brief demonstration by one of the seasoned ID 4 volunteers on how to use it....we also saw a video.  As I type this, using this kind of toilet is already second nature to me....I've gotten to prefer the Indonesian way to the American way.  No toilet paper, just soap and lots of water poured over one's're always nice and clean.  All bathrooms have hooks so you can remove whatever clothing might get in the way.  A clean bathroom in Indonesia means a wet bathroom.  Of course you use your left hand to help it's very bad form to eat or pass anything to anyone else with that left use your right one.  For example, a couple of times in the beginning I would hand money to a clerk with my left hand.....a look of horror would appear on her face and I would apologize as quickly as possible and shift the money to my right hand.  After four days in Surabaya, most of us were well on the way to recovering from jet lag and ready to take the bus ride to our new home for the next 10 weeks.
Malang, Batu, and our village
Peace Corps has a partner in Indonesia: the University Muhammadiya Malang (UMM).  We met once a week on the university campus, they helped find our Cultural Facilitators,  helped locate our host families, and also the schools where we did our practice teaching.  There are two big Islamic organizations who provide many educational and health facilities to the people of Indonesia: Muhammadiya and NU.  Most Muslims in Indonesia are aligned with one or the other....they often worship together in the same mosques, live together in the same neighborhoods, etc.  However, some of their practices are different.  NU people tend to also practice traditional Javanese worship activities, like making an offering in the field after you harvest or meeting once a week with the men (or women)  in your village for special prayers, conversation, and shared food, and other "mystik" practices.  Over the centuries that Islam has been in Indonesia, many Javanese practices that predate Islam have been integrated into NU.  Muhammadiya people prefer to practice a more uniform and modern form of Islam.  This is what I understand so far about the differences.  I will probably learn much more in the coming two years.  Both organizations have very many institutions throughout Indonesia which include elementary, secondary, and university educational programs, hospitals and clinics, and other social services.
Each trainee was assigned to live with a different family.  My family was wonderful.  The dad is my age, the mom in her 50's, a widowed daughter in her 30's and her 12-year -old son.  They have two married sons and another grandchild...a little girl toddler whom we saw often.  They gave me such warm support and encouragement and made me feel so very welcome.  We took several family trips.  I'm including 3 pictures:  one of a hike we took to a nearby small hill; one of our trip to the beach, and one of our visit to the tomb of Soekarno, the first President of Indonesia.  Every day we had bahasa Indonesian language class all day long and then our cultural facilitator would discuss the culture with us.  In the evening we would spend time chatting with our family and practicing our language.  We had six weeks of language training and during that time also held an English camp one morning in our village at a local school.  There were 6 or 7 trainees in each village and we met together for our language lessons.  On Mondays we met with a nearby village group to work on Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) skills and on Fridays we all met at UMM to cover medical, cultural, procedural, etc. information.  The other three days were all immersion language study.  Then we had two weeks where we practice taught in a local high school in the morning and had language training in the afternoon.  Then we had one week of language...most of us learned a little of the local language spoken at our permanent site...either Javanese or Maduran....and the rest of us had another week of remedial bahasa Indonesian instead.  I had remedial.....and I was so happy!  It's so hard at my age to remember the vocabulary words unless I use the word many times.  The kids hear a word once and they own it.....not so for me!
We then did some practice teaching at UMM with university students.  The last few days were a whirlwind and now we are official Volunteers and all in our permanent sites throughout East Java.  Three Volunteers who have decided to serve for a third year are opening up West Java for Peace Corps.  My next post will be about my site. 

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Invited to Indonesia

I have accepted my invitation to become a Volunteer in Indonesia.  Staging is scheduled for a few weeks from today.  This first blog will provide an outline of the application process which began in March of last year.  Future posts will follow my journey in Indonesia as a Trainee and Volunteer for the next 27 months.  I hope you will join me for the adventure.  Warning:  I've never done a blog before so bear with me and my all-too-probable mistakes.

So.  Why did I decide to apply in the first place?  After my husband died, I waited for a number of months to see how I was settling in to being alone for the first time in my life.  As the months went by, I realized that I truly needed to reinvent my life.  I wanted to find joy and meaning in my daily life again.  Last spring the idea of the Peace Corps came up as I was exploring various volunteer opportunities (like being a camp host for the summer at a remote California state park, for example.)  I was a teenager when the Peace Corps was established and I had always admired Volunteers but never really thought I could ever manage to get away from my "real life" for such an extended period.  Suddenly I realized that, in fact, I COULD do the Peace Corps service now.  Throughout the long and sometimes frustrating application process, the idea of being a Volunteer.....anywhere, it didn't matter where.....was the right one for me at this stage of my life.  It just feels so right.  I'm energized and looking forward to living in a new culture, meeting new people, and using skills acquired during a long and diverse career as a businesswoman and English teacher to help others.  So here's the timeline so far:
March 9, 2011 submitted online application (took about a week to complete)
March 24 received confirmation of application receipt and login info for the PC Toolkit
April 1 applications all received and interview scheduled
April 7 interview with Regional Recruiter at PC Office
May 3 Nominated as an English Teacher Trainer in Central Asia with March 2012 departure
May 10 Medical Packet in the mail to me.
May 31 Sent completed Dental Examination to PC
July 12 Sent completed Medical Examination and Forms (Completing all the medical tests and evaluations, at least in my case.....I'm a healthy grandmother.....took a lot of time and appointments)
July 22 Dental clearance!  Hurrah!
August 25 Send medical & dental reimbursement requests to PC
September 6 PC cut reimbursement check and sent.
September 14 Supplemental medical information requested from PC
September 26 Supplemental medical information sent to PC
October 4 Medical Deferment letter sent (Deferred because I had just started a new medication...needed to wait until doctor evaluated its effectiveness.)
November 16 Sent my doctor's evaluation that medication was effective
November 21 Received MEDICAL CLEARANCE!!!!!  A BIG hurdle jumped!
December 21 PC informs me that my original departure of March 2012 is all filled.  I will probably be considered for an April or May departure.
January 13 Placement contacts me for a telephone interview
January 18 Toolkit update!  Congratulations!  You have been invited to serve.  Your invitation is in the mail.
January 23 My invitation arrives.  It's Indonesia as an English teacher leaving in April, 2012.  EXCITING!
March 2 Staging email arrives
April 1 Staging in Washington, DC
April 2 Departure for Indonesia

So.  Just as all the Peace Corps literature states, it took me about a year from application to departure.
I'm renting my house, so I am busy getting ready to leave.  I had a big party two weeks ago and cooked some Indonesian was delicious and fun!  It was also wonderful to see so many friends at once and say goodbye.  I'm studying bahasa Indonesian online with a Rosetta Stone program which is helping reduce my insecurity regarding learning a new language at my age.  I'll just do the best I can.  Well, that's all for now.  Next post will be from Indonesia.  Oh, a last thought.  The Peace Corps stresses flexibility and patience as key traits for a successful Volunteer experience.....they have already trained me in both those areas during the application process.  I know a lot about Central Asia now that I didn't know a year ago....but I'll probably never get there.  But thanks to the Peace Corps, I was motivated to immerse myself in that area of the world through my reading.  I was thrilled with the idea of serving there, but I'm equally thrilled with Indonesia!  I guess that's flexibility.  And the year thing.  That requires patience.