Leaving Indonesia

My good friend and sponsor. At Mt Bomo

Ibu Yuni. My good friend and sponsor. At Mt Bromo

She kept me fed and was immensely kind.

Ibu Kusno. She kept me fed and was immensely kind.

My main class.  They taught me to relax as a teacher.

My main class.

Ibu Dila looked after me and answered my endless questions.

Ibu Dila looked after me and answered my endless questions.

non english major

Even the teacher in front seemed to be enjoying the classes by the end.  These teachers were great to teach.

Even the teacher in front seemed to be enjoying the classes by the end. These teachers were great to teach.

Farewell note from Prof. Dyah.  She gave me a cool PowerPoint pointer.

Farewell note from Prof. Dyah. She gave me a cool PowerPoint pointer.

My cottage in Ubud

My cottage in Ubud

Balinese offering

Balinese offering

Balinese picture

Balinese picture

Chilling in Bali . Neneh day one

Chilling in Bali . Neneh day one

Gamelan orchestra - Bali

Gamelan orchestra – Bali

Tomorrow I will fly to Bangkok from Indonesia after almost three months in Java and Bali and start the next phase of my year, but today I am still saying goodbye.

Finishing up in Bali has been a wonderful experience for me, especially because my daughter came and joined me for most of the time. In Ubud, where I have spend most of this Bali trip, there are many things that I will miss. Early morning walks in the rice fields, the endless offerings, the languid dogs, sneezing from spicy cooking smells (like now), the Balinese massages (of course), the music, art and dancing, and the beauty of the Balinese people in traditional dress.

I will also miss trying to get my pronunciation right (which is easier than it used to be now that I understand something about linguistics) and talking to some of the more advanced English speakers about how they learnt and, sometimes, giving them a new piece of information about English to incorporate.

I probably won’t miss the people begging, pointing at their mouths, near the Ubud temple, like the woman with the goitre. None of them got any money from me, as I just couldn’t work out what to do. Finally, I decided this morning to donate some $$$ to a local healthcare service.

So, tomorrow I will be back in Bangkok and, in another four days, at Yaowawit School. I am looking forward to the next phase and being able to publish my next post from Thailand!


Balandas and Bravery

Balanda  meaning N, People or person of European Descent. Balanda also refers collectively to the English speaking Dominant culture of Australia and all other ‘Western’ nations. Its origin comes the Macassan term ‘Belanda’ which is derived from ‘Hollander’ to describe the Dutch and is still used in Bahasa Indonesian today.

In Indonesia I am a Balanda.  When I heard the word I was surprised because I had encountered it before when reading about the Yolgnu people in Arnhem Land in Far Northern Australia in an amazing book by Richard Trudgen called Why Warriors Lie Down and Die. 

It has only clicked with me recently that the ‘Far North’ of Australia is actually the ‘Close South’ for Malaysia and Indonesia.

I haven’t seen another Balanda since I left the confines of the hotel in Jakarta. This has made me feel a heightened awareness of my Australian-ness, especially in the classroom.

Most native English speakers probably don’t notice the cultural nature of our language but language and culture are inextricably related. I have conducted a few very productive lessons with the English teachers that were explicitly about Australian and Indonesian customs, but mostly culture is integral to the language in every lesson and is more implicitly presented. For example, in most classes, amongst other activities, we have been working through Living in Australia, which is a very recent publication from NSW AMES.  The chapter is called ‘Now You’re Talking’ and the conversation examples are plausible and natural, and seem to be informed by discourse analysis. The examples of informal conversation are laden with Australian culture.

I have wondered at times about whether Australian English is suitable for these students.  For example should it be Global English, American English or some kind of combination of ‘Englishes’?  I have talked to teachers here and there appears to be agreement that, as our two countries are close neighbours, having an Australian teaching here is a good idea.

On bravery

I am pleased to report that the longer I teach here, the more relaxed the classes are becoming.  Sadly there are some people (teachers included) who find speaking in English in my classes too intimidating and so they rarely, if ever, attend. It takes a certain amount of bravery for Indonesian students and teachers to come to my English speaking classes even though I understand the challenges they face.  For those who are regular attenders, the benefits are showing. There is better communication, more smiles and laughter, and a discernible improvement in confidence levels. I feel better too, of course, as I observe the students understanding me more often when I am speaking and as I notice an increasing level of spontaneous use of English in class.

As I see the English Major students twice a week we have covered a lot of ground. They have examined and practiced the main elements of the informal conversations in the chapter and have now begun putting it all together in role plays.  It is demanding but they are clever, motivated students and so far the results are pleasing.  I am looking forward to seeing their progress over the next few weeks.

Instant Guru

Gajayana sign

Here I am in Malang, Indonesia.  Last Thursday night when I was on the first stage of my journey heading for Kuala Lumpur, a volcanic eruption about one hundred kilometres away from Malang shut down many of the airports in Java and extended my journey from Canberra by about three days.  However, last Tuesday I arrived on the train after being rescued by my sponsor, Ibu Yuni, who is also the Dean of the Faculty and the Director of International Operations when she isn’t trying to take care of me.

I knew I would be valued as a native speaker of English but I when I heard the students using the word guru to describe me at the markets I thought they were taking things a bit far. I have since checked and it seems guru is a just word for teacher here so I can relax.

This is of course a non-immersion English learning environment so every chance the students can get to communicate is precious.  My appalling lack of Indonesian is embarrassing but this is a student town and all students learn English, so the brave ones like a bit of a chat with me in English if they get a chance down at the supermarket or in the park.

I am being treated very well.  I see the students heading for the classrooms at 6.30 in the morning but my classes commence at 9.10.  I have two classes of General English students, one class of English Majors (twice a week), a class of Non-English teachers (with a few deans thrown in) and finally, a class of English teachers.

Last week was straightforward as I followed an interactive lesson plan which was based on introductions. As a keen movie goer, I included a  couple of questions about films and it seems that, while the teachers aren’t big on films, the students are crazy about the Twilight series.  I will watch one tonight.

The students all know everything there is to know about the Harry Potter books and films too, so he is now on the list for inclusions in some future lessons.

This week I will start to get serious about pronunciation and will also try out some Tiny Texts.  See my earlier post about these or, hopefully, follow the link.  However listening to Tina Williamson’s lovely Australian voice reading the texts makes me homesick! Everyone seems happy with learning about what how everyday Australian conversations are like so I am glad to have copied my regulation maximum 10% of a few of the Living in Australia texts.

So what’s Indonesia like?

There is so much that is new and different about Indonesia.  For a start, there are the calls to prayer coming from loudspeakers placed on mosques around the university.  They occur for at least twenty minutes five times a day and today, Sunday, I was woken at about 4am and then at about 6am.  The volume is very high and the sound is not coordinated resulting in a loud cacophony.

It is the wet season and I am starting to feel soggy.  My clothes, which I handwash, take days to dry.  Another thing for me to get used to is internet access.  I spend a lot of time in the  student WiFi hotspot so I can use my phone and MacBook.  Only senior staff have computers with internet connections, but I am allowed to go to the office if I want to and can access the web on the desktop computer and use the printer.

That is enough words for now. I am heading off to the office to do some fairly slow printing  and then to the WiFi hotspot with my anti-bacterial wipes (the students are pretty grotty) to finish downloading a Twilight (Eclipse) film.  So it’s going to be a big night in tonight. Maybe I should to back to the supermarket for popcorn….

ps. Twilight was awful.

Here I am, still in Canberra

In less than two weeks I will have finished my TESOL degree. TESOL is Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. Instead of finishing those final assignments, I can’t stop thinking about where to go next year. Definitely SE Asia, but I am still working out exactly where. The only thing I know so far is that I will start in Malang, Indonesia where I will teaching at a university for ten weeks starting in late February. This will be a formal practicum to help complete my qualifications.  After that maybe Thailand, Vietnam?

The other thing I think about is why. Well, I know that I am hoping to put all the learning from the last couple of years into practice. I also know that I enjoy teaching because I’ve been volunteering with migrants to Australia. But there is something else. Perhaps this quote by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (1990) helps explain:

Contrary to what we usually believe, … the best moments in our lives … are not passive, receptive, relaxing times – although such experiences can be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

Thanks for reading my first post.  If you want to follow my journey I hope you will use the “follow blog by email” widget on the right hand side of this screen.

Back to the assignments now.