My heart is so ridiculously happy here in east Java, it doesn’t even feel real… Settling down in one place (not to mention one tiny farm village) for several weeks definitely wasn’t part of my plan when I left for this backpacking adventure in June, but I am so thankful for the way God has guided my path to end up here.
As for life here… I teach English classes, beginning at 5:30am and ending at 8:00pm each day, with a long break in between. My students range in age from 14-28, and all have varying levels of English ability. I have two classes that I teach alone - One is an "expression" class, where I teach idioms and American slang (so fun!). The other one is a speaking and cross-cultural class, where I have a lot of freedom to choose topics and teaching style. A few days ago, we talked about American politics. Last night, we discussed what makes healthy relationships. Tonight, my students will be presenting a research project (all in English) about the culture from a country of their choice. In addition to the classes I lead, I help in grammar, vocabulary, and pronunciation classes.
During free time, my coworkers, students, and other friends I have met in town have been taking me exploring – to caves, temples, markets, etc. They have also been teaching me a few new skills – chopping up coconuts with a machete is the most recent of these. I also often visit other English schools in the area, where teachers and students are happy to have a native speaker for conversation practice (and I love making so many new friends!) I have kept the name friends in Japan gave me, Emi, in lieu of Elisabeth, as it's easier for people in most Asian countries to pronounce. I am now known around town as Ms. Emi, the English teacher from America who is also half Korean (that part always needs to get added in... everyone here is so confused as to why I don't "look" American, haha)
I am the only foreigner in this village, and I love having the opportunity to experience everyday life in a place that hasn’t yet been “westernized” or filled with tourists. I am staying with two sweet Indonesian girls, Lily and Jannah. The three of us share a room, where we sleep on a thin mattress on the ground. We don’t have blankets or sheets, so we wrap up in long skirts when it gets cold at night. I have yet to find a western-style toilet or toilet paper here… there are just holes in the ground and buckets of water… haha that has been a “learning experience” for me…
The food here is yummy, but VERY spicy. I have literally cried a few times from the chile peppers that are put in everything… I usually love spicy food, but this is REALLY spicy haha… I drink fresh coconut water with just about every meal to help soothe the spice! Also, people eat with their hands here, even in restaurants. I have been made fun of a LOT for how terrible I am at eating rice with my hands... I can't decide which is more difficult - eating rice with my hands here or the metal chopsticks in Korea.
My transportation here is nearly always riding on the back of a motorcycle – which is so much fun, although slightly terrifying when we go outside of town where there is a complete lack of road rules… I’m slowly learning to drive one myself, but it is definitely a work-in-progress, especially since they drive on the left side of the road here!
I’m picking up on the language pretty quickly, thanks to my English students. We have fun testing each other on vocabulary and grammar in English and Indonesian. It is a fairly easy language to learn, in my opinion so far. Indonesian uses the same alphabet as English, and there are no verb conjugations!!
The major religion here is Islam, and nearly all of my students are Muslim, so I am learning a lot about their faith. We have had a lot of good conversations about Christianity and Islam. I am happy to share about Jesus and also to learn about their religion.
…and the PEOPLE here… the best part of Indonesia! I have been welcomed into such a beautiful culture by the most warm-hearted people. I couldn’t be more thankful for how kind, patient, and friendly Indonesian people have been to me since my arrival here. I have made many new friends and even a few "younger siblings."
Last weekend, I visited Bali with some coworkers and students. It was beautiful, but a little too touristy for me… and after even just a few days away, I was already missing this little corner of the planet that has quickly become “home.” I haven’t decided when I’ll leave to continue backpacking yet… At first, I was only going to come volunteer for a few days, but then ended up staying and teaching for a week….and then extended to two weeks… and last night I agreed to stay a few more days on top of that… so we will see, I guess. I plan to return to Myanmar at the end of August to see friends I made there before catching a flight to Kyrgyzstan. So either I will travel around another country in SE Asia (Thailand??) or continue teaching here in Indonesia for the rest of the month until I head back to Myanmar.
I guess I’ll see where the wind blows me when the time comes… for now I am so insanely happy and thankful for this experience and these wonderful people. I feel so loved by the people here, but even more by God, who knows my heart so intimately… How wonderful is it that we have a God who cares deeply about our passions and desires…. <3
I believe in God's grace through Jesus. I love to learn, in a variety of contexts - reading God's Word, interacting with people from diverse backgrounds around the world, and as a student of Linguistics and Foreign Languages at Western Washington University. Pages of My Passport is dedicated to sharing this journey of learning through written and visual content.