A few days ago was my last day teaching, at least for the time being, and it was a bittersweet day. I am currently saying a temporary goodbye to Indonesia and exploring the wonderful country of for Nepal for the month!
Despite my excitement for this new adventure, it’s strange leaving Indonesia and to no longer teach here. I’ve spent the last three months in a little routine where I’ve been surrounded by hyper students, eager teachers, and dodging the same 2,476 potholes everyday (I could easily draw a map at this point of where they are all located since I’ve driven the same route over 100 times). I’m not entirely sad about leaving though because I’ll be back in May and the door to teach will always be open to me, for which I’m extraordinarily grateful. In that way, it doesn’t really feel like a goodbye as much as a see you later. Did that sound disgustingly cheesy to you, too? Regardless, it doesn’t reduce the truth it holds.
It will be odd (and wonderful) to not wake up at 5:45 AM to the quack of my alarm, and yes, my alarm is a duck quaking. Does that mean I wake up at the quack of dawn? It will also be strange to not have tiny people ferociously hugging me while screaming, “Miss. Caitlin! Miss. Caitlin!” It will be weird when no one asks me where I’m going or question if I am catching a flu if I dare sneeze or cough (two things I avidly try to avoid at all costs in case someone decides to bring me some sort of medicine or suggest a hospital visit). It will be odd, although no doubt relieving, when no one cares that I’m going to the bathroom. When I look behind me there will not be a parade of my personal pee-leaders cheering me on as they follow me to the bathroom and then dutifully wait for me to finish in order to follow me to my next destination. (I always half expect a round of applause when I leave the bathroom, but alas, it has yet to happen, though it would not shock me in the least if it did.)
Indonesia is a quirky place that spends half it’s time driving me batshit crazy and the other half absolutely endearing me. Some days I felt like my time would drag on in a painfully slow manner and that I would for sure legitimately go insane. At other points it flew by and I felt like I was actually doing a decent job of teaching. I’m lucky that my school treated me like family and I know that I always have a home there. The teachers were patient with me while I struggled for the right Indonesian words to express myself and helped me translate my lessons when necessary. Meanwhile, the kids impressed me with their ability to be completely obsessed with my existence for three consecutive months. C’mon, that’s downright impressive. Most kids have the attention span of a gnat and I was sure my novelty would wear off after a week and they’d get bored of me. Nope, never happened.
Aside from their infatuation tendencies, the students consistently amazed me with their palpable growth in confidence in English speaking and writing, their eagerness to learn, as well as their ability to laugh at just about anything, which was usually directed at me. Like the other day, for example, when I drew a gorilla on the board (the why is irrelevant…) and they thought I drew a turtle. Or how the last class I taught happened to build a pond for catfish and let me help feed them. I said, “Ooh, kucing-ikan!?” (“kucing” being the Indonesian word for cat and “ikan” for fish, you know, like “catfish”). I thought I’d made a logical deduction, but apparently I said the most hilarious, or ridiculously dumb, thing. The next 15 minutes played out with a lot of running around, laughing and shouting of, “Kucing-ikan! Kucing-ikan! HAHAHAHA! Cat Fish! HAHAHAHAHA! Kucing-ikan! HAHAHA!” Some beautiful child finally took pity on me and said, “Miss. Caitlin, catfish is ‘le-le’ in Indonesia.” Le-Le. Of course it is.
That’s basically how I’ve been learning the language and everything else needed to survive here, through trial and error. Though really it’s more like trial and error-error-error-laugh-error-error-semi-success. And bless Indonesia for it’s patience with me.
It’s the small things I’ll miss most- the little everyday things that make me smile. Twelve weeks may not seem like a long time to some (and to others it may seem like an eternity), but in that time I made meaningful relationships with the people here and finally feel comfortable navigating this strange land. In this short time, and the many times I’ve been here and the many times I’ll likely be back, I’ve gotten to know Indonesia fairly intimately. I’ve learned first-hand that being a tourist is easy, but that living here can be a challenge. I know what it is like to be the odd-man-out and to be stared at for being different, though luckily it is in the best way possible and not in a hateful way. I’ve learned how to successfully squat and balance while peeing. I’ve also broadened my taste in movies, which now includes the genre of not-so-great-and-mostly-mediocre American movies since it’s the only thing they play on TV. Who knew I’d actually like watching Around the World in 80 Days (staring Jackie Chan, naturally) or Rush Hour 3 (can you guess who starred in that one?). I’ve also learned to be a little more patient, though bear in mind that my patience has always been relatively low, so I’m almost at a basic human level now. I’m by no means a completely changed person, but it’s a start and my experience teaching and living in Indnoesia put a chink in my armor and some extra warmth in my heart. When it wasn’t driving me crazy, of course.
So, to the teachers, students and administration who may be reading, and there’s a high chance you are because I know how much ya’ll love the internet, then I want to say thank you (again!). You have all treated me with such kindness, love and patience and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to work alongside you. Also, thank you for all the Luna-related gifts, they made me smile! Terima kasih banyak untuk semuanya! Untuk anda kebaikan, cinta, dan kesabaran. Saya sangat berterimakasih. Aku tidak akan pernah melupakanmu!