I started my Sunday morning by reading a short article about irony. In her words, the author describes that showing who you are is scary and makes you vulnerable, but anything else is a waste of time. The author quotes,
“we’re living in an age of irony; when we’ve made a bold claim, we’re quick to disown it , and when there’s something we truly enjoy, but feel it’s frivolous, we call it a guilty pleasure.”
But why? This makes me really think of how sad it is that people in this day and age become so unbelievably offended by absolutely everything, which in turn makes “real” people such a rareity. People are too afraid to be direct and to speak their minds in case they might make someone upset. I won’t get into this because I’ll never stop rambling, but all in all, the message I got from this article was that I should never be ashamed of who I am and to own everything I do.
The only way to reach another person deeply, is by speaking and acting from the depth of your heart. What even is depth?.. in case you were wondering, depth is the profundity of thought; deepness, wisdom, understanding, intelligence, sagacity, insight and brilliance. There are too many people who are unable to speak from the depth of their hearts and entire being, therefore they are shallow, which is the opposite of depth. Kind of like the deep end of the pool and the shallow end…never dive in the shallow end. One lesson in life and love the universe has taught me a few times. The only way to ever achieve anything in life is to be whole, sincere and authentic. The only way to ever touch ones heart is to speak from your own heart. That includes never having to hide your values and beliefs that have shaped who are, owning ALL of your good & bad habits while being able to laugh at them, and being able to fully love the shit out of yourself at every moment of every day, which is why this year I left every ounce of makeup in America. Anyone who can’t appreciate your inner and outer natural beauty has no place in your life.
The article describes that if mockery is your approach to life, meaning everything is false and covered up about the real you, you will keep your distance from the things that will move your heart. Opportunities will continue to be missed, and your chance to make a mark on this earth will be gone. Today I’m closing my eyes with the thought of how I will never allow myself to dive into the shallow end of life. Sure, it’s scary to dive in the deep end, but what will you get from diving in the shallow end?
This weekend, I had the pleasure of attending a traditional Parmalim Wedding in the town of Sibadihon, Porsea in Toba Samosir. The only weddings I have ever attended are traditional Westernized weddings.
These wedding ceremonies have taken place anywhere from a church, courthouse, or outdoor venue. The ceremony is usually brief..anywhere from 10 minutes to 30 minutes, and is usually dictated by religious beliefs such as a Catholic ceremony, for example, which usually lasts longer or non-religious, which is derived from a simple Anglican ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer, and can be performed in less than ten minutes. There’s usually a few speeches from close friends, family members, etc, and the ceremony doesn’t start until the father walks the soon-to-be bride down the isle to her future husband who cheerfully and nervously awaits her while tears form from the people in the audience. Blah blah blaaahhhhh. After the wedding ceremony, the reception starts and that’s just code for a great time!
In this wedding, I had no idea what to expect! The day began on Saturday morning, 8/26/17 bright and early at 9:00am. We arrived to the home of the bride around 10:30, took pictures and were sent to the home where the ceremony would take place. Men sat on one side of the room, and women sat on the other side. Our shoes were removed before entering the home, and we sat on the ground while the priest recited prayer for about 90 minutes. The bride and groom sat in front of the room together while the audience of about 85 or so people sat and listened. The bride is the librarian at my school, so I am very honored that I was asked to be a part of such a special day in her life. After the prayers were recited, the ceremony was over and they were officially husband and wife.
In this particular wedding ceremony, the families practice the Parmalim religion; the modern form of the Batak Religion. This religion spread at the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th century and originated in the Toba Lands. The Malim religion became an expression of anti-colonialism from the Dutch and a majority of the descendants of this religion are primarily Toba Batak. The largest groups reside in Laguboti, on the south shore of Lake Toba. Since the Malim religion was formed as an expression of anti-colonialism, there are a few similarities with Islam, including prohibition against the consumption of pork. Unlike a traditional western style wedding, the bride did not wear a white dress and after the ceremony, everyone sat together in another home and ate a meal containing beef and rice. The ceremony was over at about 2pm and off we went back home!
My awesome co-teacher, Ibu Olivia and I. I started my day off at 8:00 am by going to the town stadium in Balige. Here, Civil Servants, also known as teachers employed through the government sector, aka public school teachers, participated in a walking event around the town of Balige. Here, the local public schools in the region joined together in this walk through town celebrating Indonesia’s freedom. Unfortunately, I stayed for about five minutes until the smell of durian made me extremely nauseous in the heat and I ended up going home. If you have never had that fruit before, I recommend that you taste test it first before having it! Also, if someone is kind to offer you this fruit, don’t be afraid to say you don’t like it. I felt bad and kept eating it.. Yikes! The pale face and rosy cheeks definitely show how sick I was feeling!
After going home and sleeping it off, I was able to participate in some pretty cool school activities! Here, the students and teachers had different competitions, ate lots of delicious food, and enjoyed watching students work together in various games and events. I even participated in Tug of War; teachers against students edition! It was great to see everyone working together and the school staff and students coming together in such an important day in Indonesia’s history.
To read more about Indonesia’s Independence Day click this link: https://indonesiaful.com/2017/08/17/a-brief-history-of-indonesian-independence/
I’m a little late on the blog post and already not living up to my bi-weekly postings! But hey, jam karet right? In Indonesian, that stands for “rubber time” aka not having to worry so much about the timing of everything in life. I feel that this way of living should be embraced much more. I sure know that I am embracing every moment of it and absolutely love this way of living. Something I have noticed these last few weeks of my time in Indonesia, is the laid-back environment and the cool, calm and collected attitude towards life. Family time and relaxation are more important than working. The common saying of “living to work” is what I have been used to and working 80 hours a week has been my normality. Now that I am here, I am seeing life through a different lens and enjoying the “jam karet” way of living. Here, I am learning how to be patient, flexible and learning to love the unpredictable moments that life may throw while accepting, adapting and moving forward.
Anyways, these past couple of weeks have been a wealth of new information and meeting new people in the busy city of Jakarta. My brain has been doing cartwheels around Bahasa Indonesia, teaching, new connections and a lot of excitement for what the future holds!
I arrived back to Balige from Jakarta on Sunday and I am so happy to call this my home for the next ten months! Cheers to new beginnings and good luck to my fellow ETAs back at their sites.
As I reflect back, I can’t help but think that if I didn’t believe in myself, I would not be where I am today. Thanks to one of my former students for pointing that out to me; you will forever be with me. From monument to monument and country to country, anything is possible if you give yourself the power to believe in yourself and know what you are capable of.
Keep calm and Jam Karet folks. ‘Till next time!
Below are some pictures I took from my first week on site!
“Everything you do, do it with love.” These were the genuine, sweet words from one my students I will be teaching this year. My first day of school was nothing short of amazing. I was introduced in front of over 400 students with a warm welcome and a short introduction about myself. I was excited, nervous and so humbled by how happy the students and teachers were to see me.
After my grand introduction and tour of the school, I sat in and observed my first classroom with my co-teacher. Since it was the first week of school, the students first assignment was to create a picture of a flag, which represented who they are, what they enjoy and their goals in life. Each student took turns to stand up in front of the room and to describe their flag only speaking in English. What struck me the most was the fact that all 34 students in that class had similar goals; to make their families proud, to reach high for the stars, and to go on to college. One that stood out the most and really made reflect was from one student who only had a heart on her flag and that was because no matter what she does in life, she will do it with love. As I laid in bed that night, I thought of that over and over again because not only is this a statement, it is a fact.
The next few days were absolutely amazing. Each day led to a mini adventure. I met so many great souls that will become my friends and family throughout my next ten months in this beautiful area of the world. Lake Toba is magical. To be honest, the pictures do not do any justice to how breath-taking this lake is. Everyone I have met is so open to welcoming me into their homes and to their families. My heart is so full as I sit here and reflect back on my first week in Balige. The heart-warming conversations I have had with such great people in such a wonderful area of the world pushes me to really try and do everything with love and all of my heart. I can’t wait to get back in two weeks to become more involved in the community, work with great teachers and students, and to form lifelong relationships with the people of the Batak Culture on Lake Toba.
Stay tuned for more pictures of my first week.
Well I’m finally in Balige, Northern Sumatra; my final destination, which will be home for the next ten months. I landed in Jakarta on Sunday, July 23rd and stayed until the 24th.
In these few days I connected even more with my fellow ETAs and had a blast doing so! I had my very Indonesian meal called Gado-gadowhich was delicious. According to my taste buds and to google, gado-gado is an Indonesian salad consisting of steamed vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, boiled potato, fried tofu and tempe and served with a peanut sauce dressing. So many authentic flavors in one dish & I can’t wait to eat it again!
One thing I noticed was the amount of cats in Jakarta! Stray cats everywhere! I just want to take them all with me and hold them, but I have to remember these are not house cats, they are stray cats 😦
After returning back to the hotel room, it was time to pack and sleep since the next day it was time to reach our final destinations. Waking up at 2:45am while being jet-lagged from previous days, and having your sleep schedule completely off was actually pretty easy! I’m not sure where I’ve gotten this energy from, but I sure am thankful for it. We took the shuttle to the airport at around 4:30 am, flight took off 8:10, and I was in the air by 9:30 and landed in the beautiful city of Balige at around 10:30. After meeting my awesome counter-parts at the airport, we grabbed a cab and headed to my home.
Everyones question so far has been, “how do you feel? are in culture chock?” My answer: I feel great and I am taking everything in day by day. I am loving the new culture and the way of life the people of Balige live. They follow the traditional Batak culture. I am learning so many new things everyday, this being one of them. The Batak Culture is a term used to identify ethnic groups found in Northern Sumatra. Bahasa Indonesia is not their first language, Batak is. My co-teacher even invited me to a traditional Batak wedding August 24th and I am so excited and very thankful to be invited.
After a very long and exciting day, I was finally beginning to feel what the term “jet-lag” means. Whoa..my brain was heavy, foggy and I felt like I was in a dream. My first night I slept like a rock for a solid 8 hours.
Until next time readers.
Day one in Indonesia. Too many feelings to even think one thought. The feelings of jet lag, nerves, excitement, anxiety, happiness, and most importantly accomplishment. Since March, when I finally received the life changing e-mail that I was officially accepted as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant, I continuously ask myself, “how did I get here?”
Lets rewind to the 2013, when I had a professor who planted a small seed in my brain after listening to her extravagant stories of teaching abroad. She had traveled to five different continents and taught in seven countries! I knew I was capable of doing something similar to this and nothing was stopping me.
I graduated from Husson University with a B.S in Elementary Education and after a gap year of living at home and “figuring out my life,” I applied to an elementary school in Lewiston, Maine. April 1st, 2014 I sent in my resume, June 22nd I was interviewed, and finally on June 24th I got the news that I was the new grade three teacher at Longley Elementary School. This was a start to a new chapter; a step in to “figuring out my life.” Tears of joy filled my eyes as I stepped foot into my new classroom. Three years later, and I can’t begin to describe how much I have learned from my students and how much they have inspired me to teach abroad.
During my three years at Longley Elementary School, I pursued a Master’s of Science in Education in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. In that time, I taught students from a multitude of diverse backgrounds. Djibouti, Angola, Congo, Tanzania, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia and a handful of other countries were where my students called home. The vast array of culture among my students was what really watered the seed that was once planted to see more of the world and to teach English in another country. After discussing these ideas with my advisor, he suggested that I start my Fulbright application immediately and have it ready for the following school year. After the lengthy application process, numerous essay revisions and edits, and fear of the unknown, I, Amy Quirion, was officially a Fulbrighter.
Now I am sitting here by the beautiful hotel pool side in Jakarta writing about the journey I took to get here. Not only have I finally made it to Indonesia, I have also met my fellow ETAs (English Teaching Assistants) who are not only my co-workers, but will be my life-long friends. We all got here because we had a similar seed planted in our heads at one point in our lives. Whether it was from a parent, friend, teacher or co-worker, we continued to water that seed and pursue our dreams. In life, people are too afraid to follow their dreams, hopes and aspirations. I was one of these people, and kept making excuses or finding things that got “in the way” of my dreams. I can’t really describe the feelings I have right now, but all I can do is smile at my screen in this surreal environment I am now in.