Saturday, May 29, 2010

Elizabeth Gilbert said it all in Eat, Pray, Love:
"The only thing more unthinkable than leaving was staying; the only thing more impossible than staying was leaving."

On my way home...

Friday, May 28, 2010

Pomp and Circumstance

Yesterday afternoon there was an official ceremony for the teachers to bid me farewell. It was a 2.5 hour affair completely devoted to celebrating me. I'm pretty sure my face has never been so red ever. The event started with me seated in front of a room full of teachers and office staff listening to Ibu Ema translate speeches that people gave about me into English so that I could understand them. Then, it was my turn to give a speech. In a mix of English and simple Bahasa Indonesia I thanked everyone for adopting me into their lives, letting me teach their students, and making SMK N1 Magelang my second home. Then there was a long exchange of gifts. I officially gifted the board games to three student representatives. And was presented with a hoard of presents from the school. Then we had a completely vegetarian feast. All the Indonesian foods I like were there: veggie nasi goreng, lotek, cap cay, kupat tahu, etc. Everyone joked that if I was going to eat vegetables so were they. Then they agreed that they could never be vegetarians. Finally, we had a photo shoot. We took photos inside, outside, in pairs, in small groups, a whole group photo, etc. It was long, it was hot, it was embarrassing; but it was nice, sweet, and heartfelt. It gave my school closure and that was nice.
This morning I woke up at 6:00 to loud knocking and shouts outside my door. In a daze and my pajamas I opened the door to see one of my classes. They had come to give me some final presents and they sat in my house for a few minutes before saying a final goodbye. It's time to go now. I'm not a fan of these long goodbyes. There's no closure when you say goodbye to people constantly, but then keep seeing them again and again. Tomorrow I'm going to Yogyakarta to begin the trip home!

Me and Bu Mila Pak Heru, the principal, and the English teachers

The English teachers: Pak Hari, Bu Dyah, Bu Mila, me, Bu Rina, Bu Ema, Bu Aning, Pak Sugeng
Bu Dyah, Bu Ema, Bu Rina, Bu Mila, me

Thursday, May 27, 2010

When It's Over...

Today I cried. I stood in front of 36 fifteen and sixteen year old boys and cried. Before you start envisioning me sobbing publicly, I should clarify that it was only 2 tears. But still...I cried and that was something I did not want to do.
Today I taught my last class. It was my favorite class, 1 MB. 1 MB is the only class that I've taught from the beginning of my time here (I've switched classes three times). So, we've gotten close. I've done some extra projects with them that I didn't do with my other classes. For example, they keep journals. Every week at the end of class they write in their journals for 5-10 minutes. I collect the journals and write a response to each of their entries. Their journals are ongoing private conversations between the students and me. The journals demonstrate the immense improvement in their English abilities and they also have really given me more of a relationship with each of the boys. Every week I look forward to teaching their class. They make me laugh. We're comfortable with each other and they understand what I'm talking about more often than my other classes.

1 MB

To be honest, I was not looking forward to class today. I knew it would be difficult. I truly am excited to go home. That said, I will miss Indonesia. I like the teachers I work with, I love eating manggis and bakmi godog for less than $1, I enjoy living in a country where when I wake up in the morning I never know what's really going to happen during the day; but when I think about leaving all these things behind I don't feel much more than a prick of remorse and sorrow. When I think about leaving my students...I'd just rather not think about it. They are what I will miss most.
So, this morning, I walked into class and announced, "Today is our last class together. This is my last class EVER." And was gratified with a loud, "AHHHHHHHHHH!" Then we continued with our normal class. The lesson went well. The bell rang at the end and I thanked them for a wonderful 9 months. I turned my back to erase the whiteboard when they said, "Wait, Miss! We have some presents for you." And from under their desks they retrieved 4 wrapped packages. Packages obviously wrapped by boys. Packages wrapped with an absurd excess of tape. Packages wrapped in paper that said 'baby' and had pastel animals and rattles on it. That was when I cried my two tears. And while it was only two tears, my hands were shaking enough that I had to have them open the presents for me. And after lots of thank yous and another round of photos and handshakes they reluctantly left to go to their next class and I erased the white board and pulled myself together again.

Zarkasi, Danang, Anton Permana, Ma'ruf, Anang

Febri, Fajar Uut, Ricky, Dwi Cahyoko

Fahrul Umam, Nur Hasim, Azhar, Nugroho

M. Arifudin, Sarwo Edi, Saputro, Nurrohman

Andrianus, Fikri Yahya, Rifqi, Nurochman

Juni, Nurul Hadi, Imam, Imam

Willy, Fahrurrozi, Nurdiansah

Slamet, Firman, Illgner, Arif Mukti, Fatoni Imam

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Students' Last Words

This is perhaps a very self-involved post. For that I apologize. But I think my fellow ETA Christine said it perfectly when she wrote on her blog, "I never really knew how much I impacted my students. I didn't realize how closely they paid attention. They remember everything--events and lessons that happened my first month as a teacher. In fact, they remember the first day they met me."
Her realization came when she read her students' goodbye letters. My goodbye postcards led me to the same conclusion. I mean, I always knew that the students look at me closely, but I don't think I really believed that many of them actually listened and thought about what I said. But they remembered and wrote about things that I said that I forgot I said until I read their notes.
So, without further ado, a selection of my students' goodbyes:

"When you watch my class play soccer I am to be a goal kepper and you say to me god job!"

"Miss Sarah introduced us about America and many fun things. I enjoyed them. Thank's Miss Sarah. I will miss you!"

"[Remember] my smile and my first shake hand with you." [This deserves some explanation. 99% of the kids I teach are moderately conservative Muslims--by which I mean they observe the 5 times daily prayer, the girls wear jilbabs, their activities are fairly gender-segregated, etc. I have one student, or perhaps more that I haven't noticed, who is very conservative to the point that he never touches women EVER. Not even for an Indonesian handshake, not by accident, not ever. It's not that I'm in the habit of touching my students, but when I arrived I did shake all of their hands and have them tell me thier names. This boy would not touch my hand. No big deal, I respect that. We bowed to each other. On the last day of class, I gave each student a penny and I shook their hands again. Well, I came to this boy and I carefully handed him his penny making sure to sort of drop it into his hand. And I started to do the little head-bow thing when...he stuck out his hand. Rather awed, I shook his hand. It was weak and only about half our hands touched and it lasted only around 2 seconds, but it happened. I don't know what conclusion to draw, but he's correct: I will always remember that I was his first real handshake.]

"Your grand mother known an Indonesian who live in America."

"I learned about your culture. I learned about Amerika. I played American's games with you and with my classmate. So happy to study with you. We'll miss you. I hope we can meet again. With love, M----"

"Miss Sarah, with you I'm became know about America and your family, my class became fun class and happy class. With you Im can more understand."

"My class is very noisy. My friends are fuzy. I thing my class is trouble maker."

"You make us laught."

"When your family came to Magelang, I am the person who gave the question about BOSTON Tea Party to Neil." [Remember him, Neil?]

"My quality is polite and merry."

"I learn about parts of human body, sports, many verb and positive thinking."

"And thank you Miss Sarah for you goodness. In my class, and SMK N1 Magelang. And for your forbearance."

"I'm taller than you but you are cleverer than me."

"FYI, don't forget that me and some of my friends ever played UNO with you. I won't forget when you say to me 'You wear jeans when you're in the church?'...Well, I'll miss you so much...Don't forget Bakmi Jendralan and Mrs. Rion as the owner of Bakmi Jendralan...Believe it or not but you make get new spirit. Spirit for learning languages. Well, before I finish. Do you remember when we talking while we watching soccer in SMK N1? You say that Indonesian boys are very cute and short, but I said to you that they seems like 'POCKET.' And finally, I can make you laugh at the same time. I like your smile, Miss. I'll miss it... I think it's enough. Thanks for your chance. I miss you, and nice to meet you. Adios, amigo!" [Everyone knows I eat at Bakmi Jendralan...and I know they all know because SO many of them wrote about it.]

"I am the boy that my leg is hurt (not sick) hehe."

"I proud, I can know Ms. Sarah and her family."

"I am a silent. I am fat. And I am veiled."

"If you still remember, I am your match when matching a question with the answer like [drawing of a broken heart] the color of the paper is purple...In your lesson, I have studied many things. They are about America, expression for answer our condition like 'how are you?' 'I'm super', parts of body, sing many songs. And there are eight rules in the first class It my pleasure to study with you. I'm happy. Thanks for your lesson. So long, my lovely teacher."

"I hope I can visit in America actually in Vermount because I ant to meet you again Miss Sarah."

"I think you can't call my name correctly."

"About my country, here, everytime the sun shine brightly, and it can make your skin change into brown."

"And I want to say to you that I really missed you if you back to America."

"I will always remember Miss Sarah because she nice, friendly, and teach us with games method."

"New things and games you've given us. You're my 1st English teacher who brings a lot of changing in English lesson."

"I'll not forget when in my class there is Miss Sarah because she is very beautiful."

"I am very friendly and crazy. I love you and I will always remember with you. Miss Sarah will unforgetable in my heart."

"I am not handsome but I am is funny."

"English is my life."

"It's me. Spike hair, good eyes, always come late to go to class, I'm shy boy, I always smile when you look at me..."

"It's me: Take me out Indonesia (The name you called to me)...I am very happy when you here but you must go back to your country. I wish you succes there. I hope we can met again." [Actually, I called him 'Take me outta Indonesia"...long story.]

"I learn about jokes in America. We learned by Miss Sarah about that with match two pieces of paper."

"I know 1MA is a well class in the meet firs student always absent, but now student no absent in your lesson and student become diligent and smart."

"I'm slim and tall like is coconut tress."

"The lesson of Miss Sarah always be color full with games and I like."

"I am the mustache and beard boy."

"I learn about Valentine's day, sports, plants, and game."

"I learn speak English. Now I am can speak English."

"I love my teachers, included you Sarah."

"Miss Sarah is very peatient."

"If I to meet Miss Sarah, my class very fun. Many game, smile, song, etc."

"She like telling a story and singing together. I like Miss Sarah."

"I like Miss Sarah because she is cute and smart."

"Miss Sarah always make ours happy."

"I think study is must for me. So, if I study I feel very happy. Miss Sarah is one of the teacher with very good for me. She has says 'you are cute students.' So, I feel very interisting if I study with her."

"Learning English with Miss Sarah is easy."

"Goodbye Miss Sarah. Nice to meet you! We love you! 1EA, SMK N1 Magelang, and Indonesia will never forget you."

"Miss Sarah is teacher fun."

"May you not forget we in Indonesia."

"I am like if Sarah angry Miss Sarah can lion."

"English is adventure to me."

"I'm so funny study with Miss Sarah because she is confidant and she like to lough."

"Happy moment play a game."

"I learn about respect." [WOW!]

"English is my favorite lesson."

"Miss Sarah give me many education."

"I like Miss Sarah because the studying is happy. Miss Sarah is energetic. Many game with she. So, I'm not bored."

"I'm small and I'm black sweet. I'm cute and enough handsome."

"I like Miss Sarah's lesson when the event of Halloween's party."

"Miss Sarah is teacher profesional."

"Miss you so much my teacher! You will always be in my memories!"

"Miss Sarah is a joker. She often make me laught. I love her so much. She is also friendly teacher, good teacher, and the teacher which full of smile. I like her so much!! If I may to say honestly...I will saying...I really really really really really really really really REALLY LOVE you Miss Sarah, you are the one cute teacher I have till the day I die. You will always in my mind!!"

Will you remember ME?

1 EB
1 LC
1 EA
1 MA

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Do you love we fourever, Miss?"

This week was my last week teaching 5 of my 10 classes. Next week is primarily devoted to tying up loose ends, packing, eating my fill of tempe, and generally saying goodbye to everyone. Still, I felt that if I didn't teach at all I would go crazy with an overabundance of free time and decided to teach half-time.
As a final small assignment I gave my students each an index card and asked them to write me a "postcard." I asked them to write down one thing they hoped I would remember--and share with my family and friends in America--about them, their class, their school, and Indonesia. Then I asked them to write one thing that they learned from our time together either about English or about the US. Finally, they could add any last questions or things they wanted to tell me.
I got a very wide range of postcards. Some of the students wrote that they wanted me to remember that they were a boy...not likely that I will forget that obvious detail. Some got the point and were detailed enough that I know exactly who they are: "I am is a boy. I am tall, fat and brown skin" or "I'm not clever, but I'm very funny, likes drawing on the table, and a little handsome." They urged me to remember a variety of things about their school and country including: beautiful places like Bali and Bunaken, delicious food like tempe and kupat tahu, traditional dances, that SMK N1 has the international standard ranking, that there are many trees here and lots of rain, etc. They claimed to learn a lot about American holidays, games, and food in addition to how to ask questions in English, how to pronounce "th", how to sing many English songs, etc. They asked last minute questions about verb tenses, about special tricks to learning English, about my contact information, and many questions about my leaving. Those about my leaving are the kind of questions that are the hardest to answer and the ones that make me not want to leave. "Why you want to leave us anyway?" Well, I have a life in's my home. "You come back when?" I don't know...probably not for a very, very long time. "Do you love we fourever Miss?" How could I not?
2 OA
1 LA
2 LB
2 MB
2 MC


This Wednesday was the graduation for the third class of SMK N1 Magelang. I don't teach the third class and I only know a handful of those students personally. Still, when I was invited to attend the graduation ceremony I was game. I was interested to see what the event would be like. Long, hot, and not that interesting turns out...similar to US graduations.
It was around 4 hours long and took place in a stifling room jam-packed with 2,000 people. Most of the time I concentrated mostly on not letting myself pass out. Each of the 550 or so students was called on stage and had a sort of medallion put around their neck. There were several long speeches in Bahasa Indonesia and lots of different academic and industry awards were presented. The girls from the first class sang 4 or 5 songs--all of which were lovely. The ceremony ended with a flashback to Halal Bi Halal and my own personal nightmare--a handshake line of the teachers so that the students could all shake our hands in farewell. Released back into the fresh air, I could breathe again and hold a smile on my face for all the pictures people wanted to take. I'd been told to dress up and my 'fancy' dress and mascara were a big hit.
Ibu Mila, one of my teaching partners, is the cutest little woman. She's currently about 5 months pregnant and incredibly self-conscious about her newly protruding belly. Ibu Murwani and some of the graduates.
The female graduates wore traditional Indonesian kebayas. They all looked absolutely gorgeous. Although, I can't imagine they were very comfortable in their hot clothes and towering heels.
Augustine and Ibu Mila. Augustine is one the graduates that I do know fairly well. She studied in the Electrical department. Her English is very good and she is a sweet girl. She is one of the few students from SMK N1 who will be going to college next year.