Sitting in my western style hotel room, sitting in a comfortable bed sipping coffee and watching CNN, I might think I’m at home in America. Then I hear the faint strains of the morning prayers broadcast outside, and am instantly clear that outside this window is a completely different world than what I’m used to. Teaching teenagers in Indonesia is opening up my ways of thinking.
Systems in Indonesia
After only 76 hours in Indonesia, I’m beginning to understand some of the systems. The Indonesian people are all about hospitality and helpfulness, even when they don’t speak my language. I’m having a hard time learning Indonesian phrases – for some reason, they don’t hit my ear correctly and I cannot memorize even the simplest words. Teenagers in Indonesia aren’t really all that different than teens in America – but the schools are. Gender separation, strict uniforms, and forcing the teachers to move rooms instead of the students are unlike U.S. schools, but the goals and interests of Indonesian teens are amazingly similar.
What NOT to do in Indonesia
I’ve learned not to take photos in a grocery store, to use my hand in a downward flat palm position when I need to push through a crowd (personal space is very limited), and that cold Bintang beer tastes great after a day hanging out with a Komodo dragon in the 91-degree humid weather.
I’ve learned that teachers in Indonesia worry about many of the same things we do in the US – how to celebrate and teach diversity, how to engage students who are more interested in social media than school, and how to preserve their cultural identity, all on a salary of $150-$300/month.
Learning from each other
Today I begin teaching in a religious boarding school. I’m hopeful that I make easy connections with the students and can understand what we can do to make our world a little bit better by working together. I know the Indonesian people are as eager to learn from us as I am from them.