Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Wow, okay, let me get my mind around this... It's been only one week since I started teaching...?! How is that even possible... Maybe it's because I still haven't created a rhythm and a schedule or maybe it's because every MOMENT is a new adventure, but woah.. All the emotions and happenings in the last week could comfortably fit in the time span of a month and I would not think life was boring. Where to even start....
Monday, October 18, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Saturday, October 09, 2010
Saturday, October 02, 2010
Today as I was wandering around Anda Baru (“baru” means new, and every shop here seems to have it in its name) mourning all the things I had thought out carefully to bring with me and now realize can easily be bought in about any grocery shop here (specifically what triggered the thought was seeing moist towlettes for sale) and all the clothes I did not bring with me because I was planning on buying 3 cheap Bangladesh saris that I’d wear everyday when I got to my assignment, I decided it was time for a blog post on the ails and graces of being reassigned to a different country within days of leaving for SALT year. And by days I mean 2 days.
First, after talking with Nathan, an MCC Bangladesh worker visiting Indonesia for a few days, I realize I packed my single suitcase absolutely perfectly. For Bangladesh. For Indonesia, not so much.
I brought Toblerone chocolate because I heard Bangla has no dark chocolate. As luck would have it, I got to Indonesia only to find that the single western chocolate bar available here is Toblerone. Sad fail.
I brought enough cosmetics and higene products to last a year and realized upon arriving that they sell them all here. And, they are considerably cheaper then they are in the states.
I brought about 4 western-ish outfits for vacationing in Bangla and then got here and realized I was reassigned to a university teaching position that requires professional, conservative dress. While MCC has been gracious enough to cover the cost of a small work wardrobe, it’s been a trip trying to find clothes that fit (and when I do, buying an XL when I’m a medium in the US is a mental war) and will be modest enough for a Muslim university but cool enough for the out-of-this-world heat of Kudus.
I brought my hiking boots, expensive water purifier, French press, transformer and international drivers license all of which I have not used yet and may never because there will be no 4-day trekking through Nepal, the natives drink bottled water so it’s available anywhere, I live on an island called Java – French press uncritical, I realized that all my machines needing to be plugged-in can handle 220v, and last but not least we’re not being given motor scooters like we would in Bangladesh and bicycles don’t require an int’l DL.
Second, the mental trauma of being told what you have been preparing yourself for throughout the last 6 months…
all your readying, praying, planning, researching, expecting, $75 postcard making, putting 7 hours and $25 into making a website, telling the three hundred people who now think you are going to one place and now you're not… Was a little numbing.
I think subconsciously I decided to not traumatize myself by thinking about the hours and efforts lost to preparing for “Bangla year” (see Julianashepherd.com) and just focused on what was ahead, and now that I have time to think about it, I am pretty glad that’s the mindset I had because wow- that was a pretty huge turn of events.
Oh my goodness where to start. I think there was remedy in the fact that I was still going to go SOMEwhere, we just didn’t know where. There was an adrenaline that came from the uncertainty about my immediate future and sometimes I feel like I’m still running on it. When you have no expectations, you can’t be disappointed. And like I mentioned in a past blog post, once I got over the initial disappointment it was go-go-go. I was so busy with thoughts about how to be effective (or just survive) in Indonesia and what this country was all about anyways that there was no time to be disappointed. I felt a little like I was on that TV show where people race against time to get to a certain international destination and they never know where the next clue will take them and what experiences lie ahead… The Amazing Race, I think it’s called. But this was real life, no cameras, and no one who knew where that end destination was going to be.
Still, it was a struggle the first couple of nights when I went to bed and my mind calmed down and started being rational and processing the realities of the day. Luckily MCC orientation and fellow SALTers puckered me out enough that I fell asleep before I could think too much about the bigness of what was going on and before my pillow got too wet (not tears of sadness as much as tears of overwhelmedness).
Third, now that I am here in Indonesia, I am seeing that it is hard to divorce my expectations for Bangladesh from my experience in Indonesia and be completely comfortable with my surroundings. Indonesian life is easier than Bangladesh life, plain and simple: My living conditions here are much better than they would have been in Bangladesh. Every house I’ve been to/stayed in has a helper/maid, and they usually wash my clothes for me. I brought with me baby packets of Tide thinking that I might be washing my 3 outfits by hand in a bucket in some dirty river. I brought with me these little paper cups called “urinelles” that facilitate relieving ones self sanitarily in wilderness-like circumstances as well as a ton of moist towlettes for extreme bathing and here I am with a western toilet and the option of a warm shower.
In short, the challenges I was expecting for life in Bangladesh were mainly in the area of physical survival, sanitation… living in poverty. I was mentally prepared for that. The challenges I will actually be facing now that I am in Indo are more intellectual. The thought of teaching college students when I myself just graduated a year ago is super intimidating.
Also, I thought the issues I would be directly addressing in my work would be poverty relief and women’s development, but here in Indonesia I can only work to change those things indirectly. My work will involve motivating the students I work with to care about poverty and peace, about non violence and the respect of humanity and the care for what we’ve been given to be stewards over. The challenge for me will be seeing the big picture of poverty and need, and seeing how I am giving indirectly, but still giving something important and valuable. This maybe will be more of a challenge then living with mud floors and washing my clothes in a river.
Being reassigned also involved a number of graces.
There was something weirdly life giving about being reassigned without much say in the matter. It was like for once in my life I had no choice. When everything in life from college to career to simply dinner involves a myriad of choices that you have to decide between and then live with the consequences of that choice hanging over your head, to have one choice be made for you, it’s a bit… freeing. I do believe God is sovereign over our choices but there is something about me not having the opportunity to choose that reminds me that God is truly sovereign and we are really just men. He, being sovereign over life circumstances, decided this with no input of mine, so it is not vulnerable to my sabotaging. Make sense?
Also, MCC showed a lot of care and concern about getting me reassigned and in so doing showed me grace.
Not having expectations makes it easier to not be disappointed. Expecting a lower quality of living makes me appreciate the warm water, tiles floors, and good, healthy food.
The fact that my spirit is still strong and my heart is at peace here is the hugest grace I’ve received. You make plans based on what you think is right for you aka. what will lead you to a sense of peace. When things become out of your control, but you still end up in a place where you’re at peace… what a gift!
I don’t feel I’m becoming passively resigned to a life where I don't try, and just let things just happen. I feel like I’m learning to embrace the curve balls and use them to the best of my ability because no one, as well as they might plan, will be able to forever avoid a change of plans that is out of their control.