Black History Month at the US Consulate

I forgot to post this but I took part in a panel for Black History Month. Check out the videos below. It was really great!
Part 1:
Part 2 (where we connect with US video participants):
Part 3: (question and answer and conclusion)
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IGLOW Bogor Bekasi

IGLOW Logo

Hey, so it’s been a very long time but I’ve been very busy. I put on a camp, Indonesian Generations Leading Our World (IGLOW), and that took up so much of my time. Also, it’s very difficult for me to write. Well, here is a video showing some pictures of the IGLOW camp we did that had sessions on Gender Roles and Respect, Stereotypes and Beauty, Reproductive Health, Career Panel, Leadership and Teamwork, Environmental Awareness, Self Care, Goal Setting, and Share the GLOW (how to share the information they learned at the camp with their schools). We had 8 schools from Bogor and Bekasi with 6 boys and 6 girls (12 students) from each school for a total of 96 students. We had 12 counselors (6 woman and 6 men) from local universities here to help us with the camp. It was a lot of fun and my students still keep asking me when will we have a meet up. Please enjoy the video below.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y2j0e9oqLTQ&feature=youtu.be

 

 

INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL

My classes were so happy when my counterpart (CP) and I announced that October 11, 2015 is the International Day of the Girl. They all started to cheer! We discussed how we wanted to celebrate the adolescent girl and write how they are powerful. Some of the girls had a difficult time thinking of how they are powerful. We gave them some examples and I really enjoyed seeing them thinking about what makes them unique. Many wrote they are powerful because they were patient, caring, and independent. The boys were feeling left out until we explained they should write about how an adolescent girl is powerful. I said they can think of a friend or their sister. I shouldn’t have been surprised that they asked if they could write about their girlfriends. I got responses like “She is powerful because I love her” and “She is powerful because she is caring.” It was really sweet.

I really enjoyed this activity since many of the girls got to think about how they are powerful and the boys got to think about the influence their friends have on them. Enjoy their responses.

 

XI Science 1 – A lot of shy pictures from this group but great signs.

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XI Science 2 – Many students wanted to make their signs colorful to highlight their power.

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XI Science 3 – of course I had to jump in some pics since its a requirement in many of my classes

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XI Science 5 – They were extremely excited and wanted to take a bunch of pictures

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XI Social 1 – The guys were really eager and had a lot to say about their sisters and girlfriends.

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XI Social 2 – Many of my students wanted to write a paragraph about how they are powerful. Love the confidence!

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HIJAB PRIVILEGE

Hijab Privilege

Pics with Students

So I’ve been thinking about writing this for about three months or probably more. Slowly over my service here in Indonesia many things have come to my attention about the privilege that comes with wearing a hijab. Coming from a place where I had very little privilege, the privilege I gained stood out to me immediately. When any Peace Corps Volunteer arrives in county you become a celebrity. You are new and amazing and people are interested in you. I experienced that but I also experienced a sense of relatability because I wear the hijab. Many of the people in our training community felt that we came from the same culture so they had an affinity towards me. For example, during training, if a trainee said they were going to visit someone their family wanted to know who they were, who they live with, etc. If they said they were going to visit me or going somewhere with me the family was relieved and less worried. Other volunteers began to tell me this as we went through training. Trainees’ families in other villages knew about me and would comment about how it was okay for them to visit me or hang out with me with no worry. When I heard these stories my first thought was about those stories told many times about how a Black person’s white friend’s family was concerned about them hanging out together but if they hung out with a white friend, even if they were bad influences, the family was less worried because they know that person. Really what that is, is institutional racism where you are more comfortable with people like you and are more concerned or suspicious of people who are not like you. I’ve been the Black friend in this scenario before but I’ve never been the white friend who, no matter if the family knows you or not, is the trusted and safe choice. It’s an odd thing being thrusted into privilege unexpectedly but it does give me an advantage over those who were born and raised with this kind of privilege since I was able to recognize it pretty quickly. To understand better what I mean about having hijab privilege in Indonesia, below are some tales of my hijab privilege.

Another early moment in which I realized my hijab privilege was during training and other volunteers being told by Peace Corps staff that they needed to change their clothes to be more conservative while that only happened to me once. We were told wearing jeans was not professional so we couldn’t wear it. I wore jeans and nothing was told to me while my friend wore long, loose pants and was told she had to change because they were hiking pants and that wasn’t professional. They were solid color and looked like slacks but apparently they looked to rugged to be worn in the classroom. Volunteers were told not to wear too form fitting clothes and were told they needed to change their clothes, I would wear a tight shirt, tight slacks with a hijab and they would never say anything to me. I was told to change once when I wore leggings. I would joke with my friends that they should just wear a hijab and then they could come out in whatever. I even joked that they should show up to school on their last day in a bikini and a hijab and it should be fine. Perhaps this is a very distasteful joke but it’s hyperbolic to point out the disparity between wearing a hijab and not. This reminded me of the many times when Black people, especially Black men, try to enter a club near college campuses or those that are frequented by college students where the clubs’ dress codes were specifically targeted towards young Black men. There are so many instances where white patrons can walk in with shorts and flip flops but a Black patron is told they have to wear slacks and closed toed shoes, but not sneakers. In many of the cases about dress code here in Indonesia the reality of being at permanent site varied significantly with each volunteer so during training they choose the most conservative requirements to prepare volunteers for this possibility when they arrive at site but it doesn’t excuse the disparity in how I was treated versus how other volunteers were treated. I spoke out the times other trainees gave me permission and encouraged them to talk about how I dress to staff as well.

Here is a time my hijab privilege protected me from sexual harassment. My friend invited me to her site to go biking to a waterfall with her counterpart and some of his friends whom we didn’t know. So I show up and her counterpart said he couldn’t make it but that we could still go with his friends. We decided to go with his friends and were the only women among like 20 guys. It was cool because part of my hijab privilege is that I rarely encounter sexual harassment and thus I rarely feel unsafe in Indonesia and besides I’m pretty sure I could take any of those guys since I am a giant at 5’ 7”. Anyways, so we were having a good time, the guys were really nice and helpful since we weren’t hardcore bikers like them and were struggling on the hills. Well, I started to get the hang of it and ended up in the front. About 10 or 20 minutes goes by and my friend is far behind me so I stop with the counterpart’s friend to drink some water and chat. His English was very good so he started asking me about taxes in the U.S (I have no idea why). We got into a long 20 minute conversation about taxes, comparing the two countries, and I learned quite a bit about the values of the Indonesian government based off of how it allocates its money. Well, my friend finally arrives and we continue on our ride. The final stretch is up this very steep hill so we have to walk most of the way. Apparently, I walk too fast since I got in front of her again and was practicing my Bahasa Indonesia with another guy while my friend talked to the taxes guy. I get up ahead and decide to rest and wait for my friend. When she arrives she tells me about their conversation. The same guy who was very serious and talked to me about taxes asked her if she liked big cock and whether she was a virgin. Needless to say, I was shocked and comforted my friend letting her know that guy was a douche bag and we shouldn’t deal with him again. I still wish I called this guy out on his inappropriate behavior.

There are two parts to this story that I want to emphasize. First, I immediately took my friend’s side and didn’t try to question her about it by saying maybe he was joking. He was joking and that was the problem. He thought he could say an inappropriate joke to her because she isn’t Muslim. He just met her and didn’t know her, and he wouldn’t and didn’t ask me that because I wear a hijab. Understanding my privilege allows me to be more understanding of those who are experiencing things I have not experienced and maybe will never have to. I want to never be like the people who always question whether or not their Black friend experienced racism or if they are being “overly sensitive.” That is the worst feeling to have, the feeling of loneliness because the person you considered your friend, who knows you, turns out actually doesn’t understand you. You feel like no matter how long we’ve known each other that you don’t trust me to know what racism is and how to identify it and you never will. Whenever my friends tell me about the sexual harassment, sexual assault, discrimination, etc. they experience I immediately believe them and try to understand later because how they feel about the situation matters. For many people, unless they experience racism they won’t believe it exists but as a Black person knowing that I have some form of privilege I don’t want to act like that. I have empathy and I need to use it to understand people without actually having to experience what my friends or family experience.

The second part of the story is that he either doesn’t see me as the typical “Westerner” aka white person or he would never say that to a Muslim woman. Not being seen as a westerner has its privileges since people approach you differently but they also believe I am a part of their culture and those types of discussions would be inappropriate in Indonesian culture so I can say it to a non-Muslim woman without worry. My friends have told me that in some cases this is a positive because people feel comfortable telling or asking you things they would be too afraid to tell or ask someone in their culture for fear of being judged, it’s like going to a therapist. While, in this case, it can be very negative because they assume certain things about you, especially when it comes to women and their sexuality. I can’t tell you what that douche bag was thinking but all I know is that he treated me with more respect and consideration in our conversation than he did my friend and that is because of my hijab privilege. It’s kind of like those times when someone who has never been around a Black person before starts to so called “talk or act Black” and it’s really inappropriate. They feel like they have to talk to you differently because you are from a different culture. Just talk regular and don’t say anything racists, it shouldn’t be difficult unless you usually say racists things which means you are aware you shouldn’t be saying them.

Another instance of my hijab privilege is within the idea of beauty. In Indonesia if you wear a hijab you don’t just have privilege, it’s also seen as the best form of expressing your beauty. Crazy right! The hijab is supposed to be a way of being modest, a feminist affirmation that you should judge me by my intelligence and personality over my outer beauty but I have heard so many female volunteers tell me how people overwhelm them with compliments about how beautiful they are during the few instances when they are wearing a hijab. They have told me about how they have been told they should wear a hijab since they are so beautiful when they wear it. These volunteers receive a lot of compliments when they don’t wear hijab but it gets amped up when they do. Perhaps complimenting a woman on her looks while wearing a hijab is seen as a way to encourage women to wear hijabs more often, non-the-less it’s something that has been brought up to me numerous of times. Initially I was greatly offended by this because I see the hijab as a religious symbol and it felt like 1) my friends were being proselytized or 2) people were seeing the hijab as a fashion statement. Now to be fair, it is also a fashion statement and I do try to be fashionable with it and there are hundreds of blogs and YouTube channels dedicated to hijab chic, but in the context of being in a Muslim country that has people of other faiths, I thought it was unusual to encourage people who are non-Muslim to wear hijabs. Well, I talked to my friend, the same one from the bike story above, and she gave me some great perspective on the cultural understanding of Indonesia. The hijab is part of a religious symbol but like with any religion in any country, there are cultural adaptations to the religion that makes some practices apart of culture and for the hijab, in some cases, it is a cultural symbol as well. I should know this because 9 times out of 10 I can guess what country a hijabi is from based on how they wear their hijab. Every country has its own standard hijab wearing techniques. Perhaps I was feeling a sense of cultural appropriation but part of cultural appropriation is not understanding the historical and cultural understanding of certain things. For many Peace Corps volunteers, it is very different sense we live in these communities, a large part of our job is cultural exchange and understanding. Having that discussion with my friend made me feel better about volunteers wearing the hijab in general but I still felt they shouldn’t have to feel like they were being pressured into wearing a hijab.

To further explore this subject, as a Black volunteer in Indonesia it is difficult because being in an Asian culture you know the standard of beauty is white skin. There is a particular word for when people think you are pretty (cantik) and there is a separate phrase for when you have dark skin and “despite that are actually pretty” (hitam manis: Black sweet). That phrase is specifically for people with dark skin and cantik is not used. Many of my Black friends have experiences being called hitam manis instead of cantik. While for me, having my hijab privilege, I have been called both. I know Black volunteers who wore a hijab for a special occasion and noticed the change in language when people saw them. Now, with a hijab on, they were cantik, while without they are hitam manis. It’s these small micro-aggressions that wear on you over time. Many of my friends have experienced this and every time I empathized and listened to them, but because I am Muslim and wear a hijab I don’t have those direct experiences. That doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I don’t say they are being “sensitive” because it is their reality and I don’t have to directly experience it to sympathize. Often it is really hard for people to admit their privilege and even harder to give it up but coming from a meritocracy ideal that is not and has never been realized in America, the idea that you haven’t earned your place is difficult for many people with privilege to accept.

My final example is of my hijab privilege that I tend to enjoy way too much. I went to visit my friend at her site. We live on opposite sides of the island, so I was happy to visit her. Near her, there are volunteers, a married couple, that lives about two hours away so we went to visit them. I got to meet their host family and they were wonderful and so sweet. Every time I meet someone here they are so happy to see I am Muslim and to know there are Muslim Americans. We only got to stay for about an hour, but before we left their host mother handed me a gift. It had beautiful batik fabric (traditional Indonesian fabric that is used to make clothes) and a hijab. My friend was so shocked. She said she had been to their house a bunch of times and never received a gift. Pretty much everywhere I go I receive gifts like this. Batik shops I frequent always give me free hijabs and when I visit people for the first time they give me gifts because I am Muslim. All my life being Muslim has met me with suspicion, concern, worry, curiosity, confusion, otherness, you name it. This is the first time it has been met with gifts!

To go from having very little privilege, being a racial and religious minority, to all of a sudden being within the majority has given me so much more perspective on life. It has made me a more compassionate person, a much more patient person, and much more aware of the temptation that exists within people with privilege to resist that privilege being taken away in order to even the playing field for the rest of humanity. Since I don’t come from having this type of privilege my entire life, I do see the need to give up my privilege and to be an advocate for those without it because with great power comes great responsibility (RIP Uncle Ben). And with great privilege comes great responsibility. Back in the States I would call people on their white privilege and so I must practice what I preach and understand the necessity of having someone within a majority group be a true ally by listening, changing, and speaking out when they see or hear injustice. It’s not enough to know you have privilege, you have to do something about the lack of privilege others have. There is no such thing as a silent ally.

Clarity

Clarity

It’s amazing what being a Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) has done for me. In the past year there were days I would feel lost, days I would feel depressed, and days I would feel isolated and lonely, but then there were days and weeks and months I would feel a sense of belonging, a sense of community, a sense of knowing who I am and why I exist. Being a PCV has allowed me so much clarity into the life of others and into my life. It has increased my empathy, patience, and my understanding of others. It has allowed me to experience such strong emotions whether they are happy, sad, or anything in between. Living in the States made me feel a little lost, not sure of what I want to do, who I want to be, how I wanted to practice my faith, and who I am. It’s not that being in Indonesia gave me that clarity, its being a PCV that has given me that clarity. This is why…

Time, quiet, and self-reflection.

20150804_123314 Most people don’t tell you that a lot of your time as a PCV is actually, doing nothing. Maybe just hanging out with people or being by yourself with your own thoughts. Being a PCV gives you time to think. You’re not just working and/or studying and hoping to figure out your life. You actually have time to reflect on your life, where you want it to go, and how that can happen. Being a PCV allows you quiet from the voices and distractions around you.

The first few months in country you are so busy being trained on how to do your job, on Peace Corps policy, Indonesian culture and laws, and so many hours of language. During this time you are also busy getting to know other PCVs and the people in your training community. You really don’t have much time to think about anything other than worrying about whether or not you will be able to integrate at your permanent site, will you ever understand the people around you, will they understand you, and whether you will be able to actually accomplish anything. Most of training is worrying but you build a community with those who are going through the same thing as you. You build comradery with people who were complete strangers to you days ago but who you rely on so much for emotional support. That was the best part of training, building those lasting relationships that you will have for the rest of your life. You become so close to these people and then, you swear-in officially as a Peace Corps Volunteer and leave them and the training community you a built a relationship with to go to your permanent site where you have to do it all over again but by yourself this time.

 

At permanent site the loneliness and isolation kicks in with great force. Even though you may be surrounded by a bunch of people you can still feel very alone because you are the only person like you. Though being utterly unique may sound great initially but it soon becomes tiring to be the marvel of the community all day every day for months on end. This is your reality and you have to come to grips with the fact that you will never truly integrate. You will always be a marvel but it does get better and you start to build coping mechanisms and understand those around you more. You learn how to navigate the space and it leaves you plenty of time to think about your life. You start to question why you joined the Peace Corps or what you are doing with your life. You think about your life before Peace Corps and begin to idealize it but since you have so much time to think and do nothing while people are marveling at you, you think past the negative thoughts and realize this was a choice you made for a reason and you left that life back home because something was missing.

20150405_075121For me, what was missing was direction. I was just going through the motions. I started college two weeks after graduating high school. I had been working at the same job since high school into college and stayed there for six years because it was comfortable and easy. After undergraduate I went to graduate school because that’s what I was expected to do. Here I was in graduate school, still unsure what I wanted to do with my life. Finally, I spoke to my little sister and she suggested Peace Corps. I thought about it before I applied to graduate school and now it was coming up again. So I finally decided to take a huge chance and change and do it. It was the best decision I’ve made because it gave me what I was missing. I never had time to really think about my life, what I like, what I don’t like, what I want to gain from my work.

 

Now, this didn’t come immediately to me and what I want to do isn’t directly related to TEFL education so it’s not that being a teacher provided me insight to it. It’s just having time to think about everything, having some form of time off from what I considered the real world, just to think, really helped me. It wasn’t until one year and two months into my service that I realized I want to work with international development doing program management. Part of my dream is to eventually become a country director in Peace Corps.

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As a Peace Corps Volunteer I have been heavily involved in the Peace Corps program in my country. I was elected to the Volunteer Advisory Committee, which meets with staff to discuss questions, concerns, or issues volunteers have with any aspect of the Peace Corps Indonesia program and I really enjoy having that position since I get to maintain my close relationships with other volunteers while also further understanding Peace Corps in general. I am a Safety and Security Warden for my region in Indonesia and I’ve been a Resource Volunteer aiding in training new PCVs to Indonesia. I started to notice how much I enjoyed working with people, learning how we could improve our program here, and making sure people were involved in the development of our program so that it improves for future volunteers.

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I know this sounds like a brochure for Peace Corps but I have been really happy as a volunteer. Part of that happiness comes with now knowing what I want to do with my life. Having that clarity makes every day so much better and the little micro-aggressions that happen while being a foreigner in a country start to bother you a little less (only a little). This clarity also comes from being in my second year as a volunteer. Most PCVs will tell you that your second year is so much easier than your first and that it goes by really fast which is a good and bad thing. Your language is better, you aren’t as much of a marvel, people know you a lot better, and you know them better as well. I feel that difference and because I know what I want to do with my life it also makes it easier for me to understand exactly how I can benefit my community.

 

20150717_071316Part of my insecurity in my first year was all the learning I was doing, not knowing if I was offending people or not, and my fear of practicing Bahasa Indonesia and being laughed at for speaking horribly. With this clarity it has given me more confidence to make those mistakes and because of that I know how to be a benefit to my community. I know the school schedule so I’m not being surprised anymore by cancelled classes, holidays I didn’t know existed causing our school to close, or showing up to school just to find out that my counterpart is in another city so class is cancelled. All those times where I couldn’t teach or the people closest to me were far away, allowed me time to think and develop this new clarity but it also prepared me for what to expect in my second year. Now I have about eight or nine projects I’m starting before I leave in nine months and I have the time to dedicate to them along with support from my community to pursue them.

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My first year I worried so much about not having anything to do, not starting a secondary project, or not being integrated enough but I realize now that those times allowed me the freedom to develop as a person without distraction. I allowed the projects my community wanted to come to me over time without worry that I was imposing my own ideals and wants onto them. I also learned that I have to pace myself sometimes and not try to be busy all the time. For so long I believed the only way to live is to be doing something at all times. Peace Corps took that crutch away from me and forced me to stare at myself, cry, laugh, be unhappy, be happy, and then live.

 

I’ll leave you with this clip of Louis C.K. summarizing my point of view more succinctly then I could:

Smile Like You Mean It

Pics with Students

It’s the first week of school and I’ve been feeling really confident. So many volunteers have told me that the second year is easier and it also goes by pretty fast. Soon you’ll look up and realize you only have 3 months left at site. For some of us that sounds like a relief but at that time I’m sure it will be hard to leave. The relationships you build will be stronger by then and you will feel more at home at your site so leaving will become difficult. I’ve tried not to focus on that and just focus on my primary project while I am here. I managed to increase my teaching hours from 18 hours last year to 27 (possibly 29) hours this year. I found that I really enjoy teaching and decided I wanted to spend more time in the classroom. I’m also hoping to continue an activity I did last year with my students, journaling. I give them a topic then give them 2 weeks to write 1-2 pages at least. They got so creative with it and I really enjoyed reading their journals. I’m looking forward to seeing what my new students will come up with.

Student Journal #1 Student Journal #2

Student Journal #4Student Journal #1

I’ve just been observing my classes this week since I have 3 (possibly 4) new counterparts and 1 counterpart I am continuing to work with so I’m just sitting in on their classes seeing how they teach, how they handle class management, and where I can fit in with their teaching style. It’s been…interesting. I can tell my new counterparts are nervous about working with me and hopefully I can relieve some of that as I start to act silly in class. Many of them have spent the last year not speaking a word to me and one of them I didn’t even know was an English teacher until 6 months ago, and her English is impeccable. I understand their position since they feel like they are being judged and it doesn’t help that I’m observing them, but I need to in order to understand how to work with them. It has been great to get to know them and have a better connection. I understand the feeling of not wanting to speak in a foreign language because of fear that others will criticize you.

I often have a hard time speaking in Bahasa Indonesia because of that fear but I have been trying more. Living in a culture that laughs at every situation, sometimes maliciously, sometimes to ease a situation, sometimes out of anger, but mostly out of joy, it can be difficult to try speaking in Bahasa and have people laugh or make fun of you. It’s discouraging and made me not want to try. I had to pull myself out of my own cultural understanding of why they were laughing at me and realize it is just laughter and that they are going to do it no matter what because it’s natural to them. It is still hard and yes, sometimes I do just force a small but if I take it personally every time and continue to close myself off, what will be the point of being here? How will I engage in a cultural exchange? What will my service mean? Sometimes you just have to smile like you mean it.

Black is Beautiful

I went home to Texas for three weeks in June to start Ramadan with my family. I decided at around May that I wanted to go home and see my family. What made me make this decision was a number of things: 1) my trip to Vietnam was cancelled; 2) I didn’t want to stay in Indonesia for Ramadan; and 3) Even though I’ve lived away from my family before, I always seemed to show up at least once a year. This was the longest I’d been away from my family without visiting so I was getting the itch to go see them.

My visit was great. I got to spend a lot of time with my mom, little sister, and one of my older brothers. I saw friends and family in Texas and Louisiana, met up with some recent RPCVs (Returned Peace Corps Volunteers) in New Orleans while I was visiting my sisters. We went to Essence Festival and it was a great time to be in New Orleans. We were in a sea of Black people and it was amazing. I didn’t realize how much I missed seeing Black people until I was in the convention center surrounded by beautiful Black men and women of all shades of Black and Brown, some with permed hair, a lot with natural hair (so many twist outs, it was great), and some with dreadlocks. I missed the diversity in our hair, that’s how much I missed Black people. I loved being there and I found myself smiling too much at strangers, but being in New Orleans they just smiled back.

Essence Festival line

Now I am back in Indonesia just thinking about that experience. I didn’t find it difficult to leave the States again partially because I really enjoy being a PCV and I want to finish my service strong, but also because the experience I had being with Black people in New Orleans reminded me that we as Black Americans/African Americans have our own culture I want to share with my Indonesian counterparts. I’ve spent the past year and some months asserting my American-ness so now I want to share my Black American experience. For so many people in Indonesia the concept of a Black American was unusual until Obama became president and that is how they understand my being Black and also being American. Many of them are shocked to hear that there are Muslims in America as well but for now I want to talk about my Black-ness. I want them to know that the Western world is not solely made up of white people of who we all aspire to imitate in looks, intelligence, and wealth. I want them to know about the intelligence and wealth of the Black experience and to see the diversity even within those experiences.

I realize that this is a large task and I work at one school, but my goal isn’t to change all of Indonesia, all of the people in my town. My goal is to educate the willing on the diversity in the world and to understand the diversity within their country. This is an exchange and its best to explain ideas within the cultural context of those you are around. Indonesia is greatly diverse but paraphrase W.E.B. Du Bois, the problem with race relations in Indonesia is the problem of the color line. Colorism is a big thing here and in most places that value whiteness over everything. It’s hard to be a person of color in a place where people expect Westerners to be white and who see white as the only way to be beautiful. Part of my Peace Corps work is cultural exchange and my goal is to exchange that Black is Beautiful.

My sisters and I

First Trip to Jakarta August 2-3

After Cililin, I was home for one night and then departed for Jakarta. I planned to meet Jen there and we booked beds at the hotel Six Degrees. I’ve been wanting to see Jakarta since I arrived in Indonesia so I was excited. On the way there I met this really sweet lady who, 50 years ago, was in an exchange program with a high school in Connecticut. Her name is Ibu Sulma and she was actually on her way to see some of the high school students she did the exchange with. It was so odd that I would sit next to her on this crowded bus but I was glad I did. We exchanged numbers and talked until her stop…then a creeper sat next to me. I didn’t realize he was a creep until much later since I was still in a good mood after meeting Ibu Sulma. He told me he was going to Senen which was where I was going so he said he would help me get there. He spoke some English so we talked and I gave him my number like I did for Ibu Sulma, big mistake. Anyways, the whole time he’s talking about what he does, asking me what I’m doing and Indonesia, etc. I ask him about his kids and says something about his wife that I couldn’t understand. Later, he repeated it and that’s when I realized he was looking for a wife since he was divorced, gross. This dude has a daughter the same age as me! Anyways, I let him show me where to go and we ride to Jakarta together. He’s talking about he wants to meet my friend but I’m like, I’m not putting Jen through that so I manage to ditch him as soon as I see Jen. Unfortunately he still has my number but I ignore his texts. He even tried to call me once which I let go to voicemail. You live and you learn. Usually I’m much more cautious, I don’t even give my number to some of the teachers at school but dude caught me at a good/bad time

Anyways, Jakarta was fun. Jen and I check-in to the hostel, which was very nice. We were in a 10 bed room and met a German guy named Kim and a Polish girl named Lea. They were cool and the German guy actually knew where Lake Constance was, first person I’ve met who heard of it (instead reference for the fam).

I managed to convince Jen to go bowling since Jakarta has multiple bowling alleys. For those who know me, you know how excited I was to finally go bowling.

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I started out slow (as usual), which is why I say the first game is the warm. My scores: 87, 154, 137 (bowled first 2 frames left handed). After that we went to the Bee Hive Cafe in South Jakarta which was mentioned on a blog as having a cool atmosphere. It was in some obscure neighborhood and the taxi driver didn’t even know how to find it. We had to stop and ask for directions. We finally got there and the place was actually really nice with good pasta. It was a cool day and I was so happy to have bowled!

The next day we met up with Jen’s friend Afin who brought us to the Grand Indonesia Shopping Mall.  Apparently, Jakarta is known for its malls and I see why. This place had everything and was huge. It even had a Magnum Bar Cafe.IMG_20140803_152945

Afin was really nice and bought us lunch, gelato at this make your own gelato place and treated us to a movie. The movie theater had balcony seating with lazyboy chairs, blankets, and tables for food. It was ridiculous. Luckily, this was my fourth time seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (#DemApes!) beacuse I fell asleep in that comfy chair.

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Jakarta was a success, I just wish I could have stayed longer but the first day of school was the next day. Afin brought us to the bus terminal in Rambutan and asked what we thought of Jakarta. It looks like Boston, oddly enough, but apparently there are no tourist attractions there, just lots and lots of malls. Well, I had a good time and can’t wait to see more of it.

Cililin July 29 – Aug 1

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Hello again. I’m finally getting around to writing about my summer so there are a lot of posts coming. i hope this isn’t setting a precedent. Anyways, I visited my friend Trey’s site while I was in Bandung for Idul Fitri (Eid Fitr), which, in Indonesia, you get two weeks off work for since a lot of people mudik/puland kampung (go home to their village) so usually Bandung and Jakarta and many other major cities are completely shut down because no one is there. It reminds me of Christmas in New York City (or really anywhere) where the only places open on Christmas are Chinese restaurants. Any who, I mudik’ed with my Counterpart Iis to Bandung where she is from and where her husband and daughters still live. Before heading home I visted Trey in Cililin which is in the Kabupaten (district) of Bandung. His site is really nice and in the mountains so not as hot as my site. I arrived early in the morning so we went on a long walk later that morning.

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Those shorts…so blue, ugh!

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Rice fields

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This was odd seeing all these trees marked with a pink substance.

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Those shorts!

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The walk was great and I got to torture Trey a bit since as we were walking one of the teachers at his school was driving home and trying to get us to get into her van to go home with her (Strangers with Candy). We told her we were purposefully walking but she still looked concerned. We ended up going the wrong way and passing her house and so she finally got us to come to her house. The whole time I’m smiling because Trey did not want to deal with her and I’m thinking he’s crazy since whenever you go into someone’s house here they feed you. Like I thought, she brought out a bunch of food and this fruit drink with chunks of apple, papaya, and I think pineapple. It was cold and absolutely delicious. Of curse we had to take pictures for the price of food (most of the time we don’t get food for the pictures so at least we got something out of it). I understand why he didn’t want to deal with her because initially when you start working at a school in Indonesia there is a culture shock because you see grown adults acting like middle schoolers. I took me about two months to get used to it and adapt, now I take it as an opportunity to be less serious and relax. At the time, we just talked about how it was annoying to deal with giggling adults who ask you for a photo and to sing (not a Black thing, they ask everyone to perform). Anyways, I got to meet Trey’s family and since some of them were home for Mudik there were a bunch of them. They asked me to sing *side eye* but I relented since one of the kids was on keyboard and the other was on guitar and they said we could sing some 80s and 90s rock music: Bohemian Rhapsody-Queen, Crazy-Aerosmith, Don’t Stop Believin-Journey,Californication-Red Hot Chili Peppers, etc. They did get me to sing some Bruno Mars (When I Was Your Man) and Adele (Someone Like You), which the whole family sang thankfully drowning out my voice. They surprised me by saying they mostly knew 80s and 90s rock, I wish I could remember all the songs we sang because this went on for a good hour or hour and a half. They were awesome and the entire family came into the house and were singing and playing together. It was a lot of fun.

The next day we took a drive even further up the mountain to visit more family. Not sure the name of the town but it was nice and had even more rice fields.

Saw this sign with my sister’s name on it.

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The rice fields were gorgeous.

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We spent most of the day here, eating, and hanging with the fam. I stayed one more day in Cililin and got to fish in the pond with a stick and some string. Needless to say I didn’t catch anything bigger than my pinky which I wanted to keep but Trey’s uncle kept releasing it (I guess to allow it to grow, whatever).

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I finally went home the next day. Cililin was cool (literally) but I missed my bed.

I Lost Everything

10522022_10154546631400230_6603020489235529534_nSo I haven’t posted in a while because on August 24th I lost all my stuff. I was on an angkot in Bandung and I had my purse separate from my backpack. As I was getting money out of my purse leaving the angkot I left my backpack on the angkot. We started walking a bit and maybe 5 minutes later I realized I didn’t have it with me. We went back to the spot the angkot let us off at, got into another angkot going to the same place our previous angkot was going and tried hunting it down for maybe an hour but no luck. My laptop, kindle, camera, some clothes, school supplies, water bottle, umbrella, etc. was in the backpack. I’ve been slowly realizing all that was in the backpack as I try to look for it in my room and realize it was in my backpack, like my PC flash drive with all my lesson plans on it. I cried for two days but now I am over it. It has been really hard and expensive replacing this stuff but I wasn’t hurt and they were all replaceable. I now feel like a real PC volunteer. Keep me in your prayers and thoughts!