Rabu, 26 Maret 2008

The Home Stretch

"A teacher affects eternity. [She] can never tell where [her] influence stops."
                                         ~Henry Adams

Today I officially started the last term of the 2007-08 academic year. It’s the home stretch for us teachers and students. There are things to look forward to: literacy week, the school play, finals, graduation, and then, the summer holiday. Last night I arrived back in Jakarta at 1 am from my holiday in Thailand and had to wake up four hours later to go to work. (By the way, I attended my brother’s wedding last week, March 15, 2008, and I now have a beautiful sister-in-law.) All teachers seemed to benefit from the spring break. Everybody smiled and greeted me with a warm welcome back. We agree that a week off was short, but we are still in good spirit because summer is near.

Today I got to rehearse a couple monologues with my students—Bea, Patrick, and Ella-- to prepare them for the characterization contest. One monologue was by Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The other was the famous “All the World’s a Stage” by Jaques from As You Like It. I thank Mr. Shakespeare for his works that have enlighten and tickled the fancy and possibly puzzled the minds of students of literature for centuries.

Today two of my students, Johnathan and Maria, brought me gifts for Easter. John is a troubled kid who doesn’t seem to care one bit about his academic achievements, and many teachers like to roll their eyes when talking about him. But the kid is brilliant in music, loves to crack jokes and usually is the life of the party like when we went on a field trip for instance. I’m a firm believer that academic excellence isn’t the be-all and end-all. We had a verbal spat in class once, and he could be hyperactive one day and extremely lethargic the next, but through it all, I see him as a kid with a good heart who’s starving for love and attention. John told his class advisor that he likes me, and that means a lot. Then there is Maria who doesn’t seem to have any friend. She talks to me more than any of her classmates. I think I’m her only friend besides her sister. Once she invited me, and not one of her classmates, to watch a Saturday performance where she played a Chinese musical instrument. In all honesty, I can’t stand traditional Chinese music, but I had to go. The next day I told her that I was there, and I saw a hugh smile splashed across her face before she shied away. 

Today I watched Patch Adams with my ninth grade class. The dismissal bell rang at the end of the day, but all their eyes, including mine, were still glued to the movie. Some students held up their four fingers and tried to see beyond what was in front of them. Hunter Adams fought to love his patients despite the strict rules and regulations; and in the same way, I have to fight to love my students. God has revealed something beautiful about each one of my kids, and I’ve definitely grown attached to them. I’m going to miss them so much when I leave. I know being a foreigner in Indonesia and dealing with the school bureaucracy have not been easy; but at the end of the day, my students are worth fighting for. I wrote in an earlier blog that teaching has taught me to think about others and not myself for once. For once, I learn to suck it up and endure so I can be there for these kids. I hope that I’ll remember this valuable experience and lesson one day when I have my own kids. The idea of happiness can be illusive, but one thing I know is that to sacrifice for others is painful but, at the same time, brings the kind of joy that words cannot describe…

Senin, 24 Maret 2008

Out of My Element/ A Culture Clash

"In this proud land we grew up strong
We were wanted all along
I was taught to fight, taught to win
I never thought I could fail...
Lately I've been thinking a lot about how optimistic I was when I started out on this journey around the world. But I must say that being in Indonesia is definitely out of my element and it exposes who I am--the good, the bad, and the ugly. It's true I had asked God to help me grow, but nothing could have prepared me for Indonesia and the reality of living in a third world country where much western comfort is stripped away (Indonesia makes me appreciate Thailand a whole lot more. Even though both are considered "third-world", there are degrees of differences), of living in a place where sharing one's feelings is a novelty and expressing one's opinions is absurd and borderline tabooed; and better yet, fighting for one's rights is almost unheard of and the people of the republic say "Rights? What rights? You do what you're told. Don't be so bold, just do what you're told."

...Got to walk out of here
I can't take it anymore
Going to stand on that bridge
Keep my eyes down below

That rivers flowing
That rivers flowing...

I know there's a time and place for everything. It's not like I can just air my opinions anywhere in a western culture either. Nonetheless, the West values people speaking up, but here in Asia, or more specifically I feel in Indonesia, you are looked down upon if you do so, considering its history of hundreds of years of colonization by Japan, Britain, and mostly by the Dutch. (Speaking of which, shouldn't the West take the blame for this, but I won't go into it cos that'll just lead to a post-colonial debate of which I'm not an expert in the area.) All I know is that Indonesian people, for the most part, still like being told what to do and aren't encouraged to question things with the exception of certain media like the Jakarta Post. And it's too bad for me because I look Indonesian; therefore, many expect me to act like one. (Don't get me wrong. There are many good things here as I have mentioned in previous blog entries.) This section is simply my own experience toward an appreciation, or the lack thereof, in individuality and individual rights. A first-hand experience in a minute part of Anthropology 101--a collective culture. Again, it's just my opinion and you are welcome to disagree.

A whole new world. A whole new set of values.

"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men." ~Abraham Lincoln

"In giving rights to others which belong to them, we give rights to ourselves and to our country." ~John F. Kennedy

The moral of the story is this: I'm more American in my head than I look. I had lived in a country where people celebrate the men and women who dare to stand out and speak up for what they believe in. However the American way isn't the only way to live. The East has its own values that, although I don't feel comfortable with, I must adapt in order to survive.

...Don't give up
'cause you have friends
Don't give up
You're not the only one
Don't give up 
You still have us
Don't give up now
We're proud of who you are
Don't give up
You know it's never been easy
Don't give up
cause I believe there's a place
There's a place where we belong."
                               ~"Don't Give Up" by Peter Gabriel