The Balloon Life

Life since my arrival has been a struggle. I’m hoping that it will settle down soon as I have found myself in one of two states since arriving:

  • Overwhelmed (overinflated balloon)
  • Lonely and bored (deflated balloon)

As many of you know, my flights were a mess and my arrival in Sumatra seemed, at times, like a distant dream. I started traveling on Tuesday, September 6 at 8 a.m. and finally arrived in Pelalawan Kerinci, Sumatra, Indonesia on Friday, September 9 at 10 p.m.. My timeline was as follows:

  1. Tuesday: Lansing, Michigan–>Chicago, Illinois
  2. Wednesday: Chicago, Illinois—>San Francisco, and then  California—> San Francisco, and then California—->Hong Kong
  3. Thursday: Hong Kong—> Singapore
  4. Friday: Singapore—>Pekanbaru, Sumatra—> and then Penabaru, Sumatra–>-Pelalawan, Sumatra

Stressed out like a balloon about to burst.

My luggage, however, did not arrive until a week later, finally landing on the school’s doorstep on Tuesday, September 13. It was just me, my computer, my guitar (with a broken string—I forgot to bring extras) and the few pieces of clothing I purchased in Singapore.

During my first weekend I found myself wandering around an empty, white apartment and playing hide and seek with a house gecko and spending the night hours (adjusting 11 hours ahead) watching cable TV (I do have HBO, Stars and some strange syndicated station through “Star TV” that give me English-speaking shows so I can’t complain about that).

Yes, that was my life. For two days, I openly admit that I found myself in a hazy state of intense loneliness and pondering if I had made the right decision.

Lonely. Bored. Deflated balloon.

Then came Monday. I arrived in the schoolyard at 7:20 a.m. and was whisked off to meet my two first grade classes. Within 10 minutes I found myself being asked to lead the class. I had no lesson plans, I had no idea what we were covering in class, I had no idea how class worked—but I did it and everyone survived. In the coming days I would meet over 20 teachers in addition to my 28 students. I would fill out copious amounts of paperwork (including opening an Indonesian bank account where you are required to even list your religion), attend group planning meetings and attempt to furnish my very white, very sterile apartment. I would give out more copies of my passport than I had ever imagined and put into place the workings to get Internet in my apartment, get a refrigerator delivered and hire a woman to do my laundry and clean my home (as is the norm for the expat teachers). I would attend my first press club meeting, attend my first student assembly (about Idul Fitri), taste copious amounts of delicious and spicy foods and begin the never-ending process of proofreading the English-written official letters and documents of almost all of my co-teachers. And during all of this I try to learn about the International Baccalaureate curriculum, implement it in my classroom and still create fun and interesting lessons that hit all required concepts.

Overwhelmed. Overstimulated. Overinflated-about-to-burst balloon.

But the kids are amazing. My co-workers are kind, helpful and big-hearted. And my house is starting to become a home.

Thankfully I have also managed to find a little zen within my home life. I have started up my yoga practice again and am doing it 5-7 times a week. I have also joined the small gym located in the hotel that is in our townsite and I run or bike there 3-5 times a week. Additionally, while I’m running and biking I now listen to French podcasts and in my free time am reading a book about the basics of speaking Bahasa Indonesia. Hopefully, in the weeks to come, I will be able to say a few key phrases in Bahasa and  by the time I leave here, lets hope that I have a minimal understanding of French. I’m also trying to do Skype French lessons with my lovely friend and fellow American Village alum, Amy…if we ever get my wifi up and running!

Happy, orange, birthday balloon?

So the lesson here is, I’m like a balloon that went from being empty to being blown up very, very quickly and I’m now trying to do things in my personal time to let out some air so that I don’t explode. Boom.

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