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.
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.