I want to give you more snapshots of my life. I think you might get a kick out of the things that are now biasa (normal) in my life, but quite entertaining for those watching from a distance (and let’s be real… for me too). I’m going to start a little series called, “A Day in the Life.” We’ll see if I can keep this up…
The particular day I’d like to share was this past Wednesday when I joined my school on a 22 hour field trip. Yes, 22 hours.
Let’s begin the story on Tuesday…
Somehow, despite not having class until 10:30am, I’m late to school. It’s 10:27 and I’m just leaving my house. What have I been doing all morning?! I even set my alarm early so I could go for a run! (Didn’t happen.) It’s a good thing I live about three minutes walking distance from school…
I walk through the asrama, say good morning to the security guard, and wave at the students outside their classrooms cheerily calling to me, “good morning, Miss!” I walk up the dirt path, pass the 12th grade classrooms, the administration office, and come upon the teachers lounge. Like usual, a group of teachers are sitting outside chatting away excitedly. Pak Elit calls out, “Selamat Pagi Miss! Apa Kabar?” “Grinning I call back, “Baik! Anda?” The other teachers all giggle excitedly as I say the most basic words ever in Bahasa. Then, Pak Elit says, “Miss, mau ikut ke Banjarmasin besok?” Me: “What? Umm… Tidak bisa!” (I’m not spending my precious vacation days on a trip to Banjarmasin with my school). Pak Elit: “But you have to!” Me: “Berapa hari?” Pak Elit: “One day!! Berangkat jam 5am dan kembali jam 24:00” Me (to myself): Good lord. “Oke! Bisa 😀 Saya mau ikut.” And ten teachers cheered.
And that’s how I was ambushed into a 22 hour field trip. I mean, don’t get me wrong. I love my students. I was excited to spend the day doing something different. But Banjarmasin is a solid four hours away. Probably five by bus and I quickly realized I had just agreed to a very, very, very long day.
My alarm goes off at 4:15am. Ugh. Five more minutes, please? But alas, not knowing when exactly we will leave I best be ready by 4:30. I throw on my teacher batik, slacks, wash my face, brush my teeth, and am just grabbing my bag when my phone rings. It’s 4:35. Shit, am I late already?! It’s one of my students. “Mack, where are you?” “Um, at home. But I’m ready to go!” “Okay, I’ll come get you!”
We walk around the swamp and into the dining hall, each of us grabbing a plate of rice, and sit down with the other 49 students who are coming along on the trip. We sleepily walk through the school to the buses where we wait for about an hour before climbing on and setting off. I’m lucky enough (truly) to get to ride on the “girls” bus, with 24 female students and another female teacher. I’m thankful I’m not stuck on the teacher bus and subjected to five hours of questioning and dangdut music. We pull out at 5:50am and set off. The girls are bubbling with excitement. This 10th grade class “won” this trip by having the cleanest classroom in the “clean and decorate your classroom competition.” Someone pulls out a selfie stick and we take a million selfies. They pull out cell phones and snacks. I’m impressed… 10th grade students aren’t allowed to have smart phones at our school (only brick phones), yet all of a sudden, they all pull their Androids and Samsungs out… Slowly the bus quiets as the girls begin to drift off to sleep. I pop my headphones in and attempt to doze off to sleep but the road between Palangkaraya and Banjarmasin is not meant for sleeping. It’s pot-holed and uneven and narrow and windy. I’m tossed up and down in my seat and resort to staring out the window for four hours.
At 11am, we pull into Martapura, a tourist trap and city I have come to hate. It’s supposed to be the diamond capital of the world and there is a market full of gemstones and diamonds. It doesn’t feel authentic in the slightest and it’s hard for me to believe that these gems and diamonds are real. Plus it’s small, with really only one “famous” store and a dozens of others with shopkeepers trying to win your attention before you walk into the “main” diamond store. This is my third time here. The first time I bought a simple $20 gemstone ring. The second time I was here (three weeks ago on another day trip with a teacher), said teacher’s sister-in-law bought a Rp 34,000,000 diamond ring. That’s $2,500. WHAT? People here don’t have anywhere near that kind of money.
Now we are back. I wander through the market with my kids taking selfies, and watching them splurge on Rp 5,000 keychains ($0.30). I spend $4 on two pretty bracelets, one for me and one for my best friend back home (lookin’ at you Martha). An hour and a half, 14 Magnum ice cream bars, and 55 packets of rujak (some fermented fruit thing) later, we board the bus. We then wait for an hour or so because two of the students are missing and it takes someone ages to find them in the small market. Our wait for the boys means we don’t have time for lunch before we are supposed to visit another school.
At 1:30 we finally leave and head directly to the school. We pull in at 2:30, 30 minutes after we were supposed to be there, and climb up a massive set of stairs and enter the most glorious Aula (auditorium) I have ever seen in Indo. EVER. And I’ve been to a LOT of schools (see Fulbright’s recent Instagram post). It’s huge, it’s shiny, it’s clean, it’s fully air-conditioned, it has recessed ceiling lights. There are huge, cushy couches for the teachers to sit in. I’m in shock. We then hear a presentation about their school, hear lots of speeches, sing our school song, and after two hours, my poor students are ready to faint from hunger (their last meal was at 4:30 this morning… 12 hours ago). We take a zillion photographs. Their English teacher asks me, “Are you that bule teacher who taught at UNLAM this fall? Everyone is talking about you!” HA. Yes, that’s me.
We quickly tour their school and then board the bus. We pull into a big restaurant where a buffet is waiting for us. My kids stuff themselves to the point that the restaurant runs out of food and the last 15 students in line didn’t get any food. We wait for them to cook more food. We change out of our batiks and uniforms in the bus. The headmaster then informs the students that we no longer have time to visit the waterfall (the point of this field trip) so instead, we go to the mall.
I’ve been to this mall at least 20 times. Carlie and I would go here almost every day when we were in Banjarmasin during the evacuations. It’s a small mall (but ten times what Palangkaraya has) and is really a place I’d hoped never to go back to. But alas, here we are. The students disperse with strict instructions to be back on the bus in two hours time. I wander off with the teachers to a fancy coffee shop where we order $5 coffees (mahal sekali! very expensive!) and take another set of selfies with our selfie stick. We wander around the mall for a bit, take some more pictures, and then meet the students at the bus.
It’s now 8pm. We go back to the same restaurant and eat again. This time there is plenty of food. My students ask me endless questions about America, the WORDS competition (more in a later post), and about scholarships to study in America. This is what I love. Informal, fun, away-from-school conversations with my students. They are shy but trying hard. I use a little Bahasa. They giggle with glee. 447 pictures later we climb back aboard the bus. This time, two more teachers have joined us and I have therefore lost my double seat (and to begin with these are not spacious luxury bus seats – but built for tiny Indonesians). I now have the aisle seat in the front row next to another teacher. I know that no sleep will come. By the time we get gas and wait for the kids at the mosque, it’s 9:30pm. This is my bedtime. I only stay up past 10pm if I’m waiting for it to be late enough in the morning to talk to mom (15 hour time differences are HARD). Oh, and did I mention I have class at 6:30am tomorrow?
We head out of town. The bus driver doesn’t know where to go but seeing as I have made this drive only about 8 different times, I know the way… I direct him “left” “right” “straight” until we are back on the single lane road. The teachers are impressed. I laugh and point out the restaurants and places that Carlie and I went to while we lived here.
The bus is flying through the dark. The students all nod off to sleep but I’m trying to stay in my seat and not picture the image of a crashed bus in the dark in the middle of the jungle. We’re whipping around corners. We’re passing cars and trucks like no one’s business and barely making it back into our lane as an oncoming car zooms past. We’re driving in the middle of the road to avoid the pot holes in our lane. We go over so many bumps that my fingers are white from being clenched to the bar in front of me trying to stay in my seat. I try to close my eyes, try to fall asleep, but I keep being bounced up and down. Finally, I relax my hand on the bar, put my head back and close my eyes. And am subsequently thrown out of my seat when we hit a bump and literally fly into the air, arms flailing, and land on the floor of the bus. The teachers gasp and the bus driver grins. I scramble up and back into my seat. No more attempting to sleep.
Oh, and the floor of the bus is literally burning. It’s metal and the the engine must be underneath and its literally so hot it’s burning my feet through my shoes. I’m trying to move my feet to different places, stacking my shoes on top of each other, putting my feet on my bag – anything to relieve the burning. Five hours of this people. Five hours.
I’m taking hourly snapchats just to pass the time. It’s so late now, that many of my state-side friends are awake and I text with people I haven’t talked to in months. At 2am we pull back into the school. I pick up my bag expecting to see holes burned into it but no, it’s just so hot I can’t even touch it. I stumble after the students back to the asrama. I dig out my keys, open my door, set my alarm for 5:45am, and crash into bed.