So, yesterday I met some of my new colleagues in Bintan’s Tunas Bangsa school. Dina, the principal of the primary school, is young, energetic, calm, bright (can I come up with more adjectives!?!) and an amazing hostess. She picked me up at the ferry terminal and then escorted me all over the “township” area of Bintan to help me get oriented. This area is mainly where the resort workers live, and is quite small and easily walkable. That doesn’t mean I didn’t manage to get lost on my own later – just that it’s small enough that you can only get 1-2 blocks “lost” before you figure it out. Refreshing!
After the ruckus and “you need motorbike!” shenanigans in Vietnam, this little island in the far north of Indonesia is a paradise of tranquility. Home to several mega-resorts catering to the wealthy from around the world, you would never know it from the township, which is a couple of kilometers inland and about 1 square kilometer.
It was the last day of school for the students. This was fantastic luck because I got to meet some of them and actually taught/ modeled a little ESL mini-lesson with a group of eager, bright-eyed fifth graders (while students in other grades peeped through the windows of the classroom!) The students know a lot of English already but were a little shy about interacting with me, the alien being:) I was happy for this opportunity as it helped to break the ice for the students, teachers, and even me.
Dina and I got to work pretty quickly after lunch, going through the week’s agenda and changing/ expanding, and tweaking where necessary. It seems that here my style of collaborative, participant-centered training is an incredible fit, as we fell into a natural question/ compromise and give and take conversation about the details of the workshop. She has a great sense of humor and we even had some good laughs.
After lunch we went to meet the kindergarten teachers who will join us for the training. Apparently they were a little worried about speaking English with me; I worked hard to put them at ease, emphasizing that I’m there to help, not to “judge” their English. We talked and Dina translated – again, they seemed so collaborative, open – happy to have me there. Compliments about my “long thin nose” were peppered into the conversation during which one lovely young teacher said that she hoped her unborn daughter would be as beautiful as me. I melted, laughed, and blushed simultaneously. Are these women for real? And did I mention how beautiful they are?
Our day was winding down. There is so little stress and pressure here that it honestly didn’t even feel like work. Before I knew it we were finished and the night’s agenda was disclosed: after dinner Dina and some marketing people from Bintan Resort were going to take me to the Bintan Cultural Festival to watch some traditional Indonesian dance. The venue? Club Med.
That’s right, folks – there’s a Club Med in Bintan, and the cultural festival is being hosted there this year. We were picked up from dinner and headed out to the beach. This Club Med is much like the one in Copper was, albeit on the beach and a little, shall I say, less like employee housing?
The traditional dance was beautiful, enjoyable, and a great way for me to get a brief taste of the variety of cultures in Indonesia. Participants showed great pride in their dancing and cultures. I had no idea how culturally diverse Indonesia is until this night.
Then we were invited to enjoy the expansive Club Med buffet dinner. I had pizza and mashed potatoes to get a little “taste of home.” The pizza tasted EXACTLY as I remembered it from Copper – apparently food is consistent across Club Meds around the world.
And THEN we were invited to the Club Med after dinner show: Latin!
Let me just say that by this time I was having so many Club Med flashbacks that it was difficult to discern fantasy from reality, and I was blown away that on my first night in Indonesia, I was at Club Med. Surreal.
Once I got home from this extravaganza, I collapsed into bed and slept a solid six hours of dream-filled and much- needed sleep.
Today I had the privilege of working with the kindergarten teachers and principal in preparation for training, which begins tomorrow. This work was remarkable as well, and again turned into an amazing collaboration/ give and take discussion about their needs and how we would work together to meet them.
I have a lot more to write about all of this, but it’s time for me to join the group of teachers for the meatball-eating celebration in honor of one of the school’s teachers who is leaving tomorrow to re-join his family in Jakarta.
Here’s the gang: