Random Musings No. 3: Baggages

Everyone has baggages of their own. By baggages I mean the problems that we face every single day. Those we bring with us wherever we go, those simple (and not so simple) ones that chew at the back of our heads any moment of the day.

When I went to Indonesia, I chose to leave my baggages behind in the Philippines. A clean slate, a new beginning. So that if I have to carry more during my trip to Indonesia, I will have the capacity and the grace to carry them all. Looking back on it now, I think this was a good decision.

I am not superhuman to say that teaching in a completely alien country was a breeze. I am also in a position to say that though being very grateful for the opportunity, being a teacher has its downsides. We barely get enough sleep in the weekdays so that we could plan for the lessons and make our instructional materials. I reckon, if I still had my baggages with me in Indonesia, it will be much, much ore difficult for me here.

But the thing is, I am happy here. Being exhaustingly busy is nothing when you are around people who make you grow. A foreign land may be daunting and scary, but it could also be an opportunity to explore, to LEARN. Losing my voice is okay if it is spent teaching the students I have learnt to love in my short stay here.

After a couple of weeks, I realized that this is what I am happy doing. I have always said that teaching is my calling but even then I had my doubts. But after teaching real students, real lessons, in a real life setting, after having a taste of what being a teacher actually feels like, I realized that every sleepless night is worth it. Teaching is worth all the baggages that life will throw at me.

Teaching is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I am so sure of it.

When I go back to the Philippines, all those baggages are still waiting for me there. And having the wisdom to continue and knowing that after all of these, I will become a teacher, they don’t seem much of a burden anymore.

“Trust Me, Okay?”

It took me waaay too long to be able to make this post. It is because I can’t write about our buddies without crying. We have five days left and all I can think of is that it is very likely that wouldn’t be able to see these people ever again.

When we first got here in Palu, I was shocked that we had to ride motorcycles everywhere. I thought we can ride public transportation. In the Philippines, I do my best to avoid riding motorcycles because we are taught that they are dangerous and that many accidents happen everyday because of them. This explains why I was so terrified.

I told this to one of our buddies, Akhsan. I told him that I don’t know how to ride motorcycles and I’d probably squirm a lot. He simply answered “Trust me, okay?”. And I did just that.

Now, I’m perfectly fine at riding motorcycles. But more than that, I have inevitably gotten close to our buddies. I just wanted to express my gratitude to them for being so selfless. They tend to our every need, and made friends with us in the process.

I reckon that these are the type of people we only meet once in our lives, and never again. Rahma and Asna who are so sweet and always told us what is acceptable in their traditions, making sure that we don’t embarrass ourselves. Akhsan, who is soooo caring and industrious. He makes sure that we always get what we need and that we are happy and well-fed. And last but not the least, Adrian, who I admit I have been the closest to, who I treat like my younger brother, who was always there to eat with us and share stories with us.

Our buddies didn’t just help us with our daily needs and lesson plans, we also shared stories with each other, learning from each other in the process. We were tired together, sleepless together, sad and happy together. They made our stay in Palu so much better and worth it.

They simply made Palu home for us.

So from the bottom of my heart, my buddies, friends, loves, thank you so so so much for being there for us when we needed you most. I will forever miss our late night talks and inside jokes. Please never forget your Filipina buddies. Because I will never ever forget you. I cannot thank you guys enough. Thank you. Thank you.

Aw shucks, I knew I would cry in writing this. :’)

Teaching Barefoot

As teachers, we always had to look our best and to present ourselves well to our colleagues and students.

On my first day, I chose my best clothes and my best pair of platform sandals to match. I planned it because I want to leave a good first impression with the students and those sandals could make me seem taller and more authoritative. So imagine my disbelief when I realized that we would have to remove our shoes before going inside the classrooms. I begrudgingly removed them and went inside. My buddy introduced us and though it was so awkward, the students accepted and welcomed us.

I realized that I didn’t need to be authoritative or seem older than I am to get the students’ respect. I was humbled because without those shoes, many of my students are even taller than me physically, and yet they still look up to me figuratively. And that like removing my shoes before going inside the classroom, I have to roll with the changes that this trip will throw at me.

I am still learning… Excitedly so.

Teaching in Palu

2018 has been a very difficult year for Palu. It was devastated by a 7.4 magnitude earthquake followed by a tsunami 10 meters tall. Since Palu is basically a seaside province, many infrastructures were affected, many livelihoods destroyed, and unfortunately, many lives lost.

The SMA Labschool was one of the many affected by this calamity. It is currently being built and mended but floors and walls are still cracked, and some rooms do not even have electricity yet in them.

For 21st Century learners, the students would rather learn from powerpoint presentations and the use of mulitmedia. But not unlike our developing country, it is just natural that we encounter schools that have no electricity or no means for us to use 21st century multimedia. We must always be ready for these circumstances because having no resources is not an excuse to hinder learning.

We made use of instructional materials like colored papers and markers to make learning more interesting for the students. We also made use of claps and chants to keep them awake during the discussions and activities.

In the end, we have to realize that we should adapt to the circumstances we are in and just be ready for sudden changes. This is simply the reality of teaching, whichever country you might find yourself in. And if these students of ours are persisting to learn amidst their disasters, then we can definitely persist as well, for them and their learning.

Challenges and Bridges

On our first day in Palu, our coordinator, Prof. Diah told us about the lack of resources in the schools. Of course, we knew about this even before we came here. We expected it because we knew of the earthquake and the tsunami weeks prior.

On that day, Prof. Diah also told us that these are the “challenges” that we have to face.

And challenges they were, indeed. Apart from the HUGE language barrier that we have, the lack of resources also posed a difficulty. When we got to SMA Labschool, only one of my two classes had electricity. The funny thing about this is, I already prepared my powerpoints and videos before I knew that my grade XI class has no electricity.

But this curveball is nothing. In our subjects, we have been reminded time and time again to be prepared for whatever is to come during the class, power outage included. So I went in, ready with my instructional materials, papers and markers, and most especially, my voice.

The takeaway here is, no lack of resources should stop us teachers from giving the students the knowledge they deserve. It is our responsibility to deliver as much wisdom as we could for their benefit.

Salim

It is a custom here in Indonesia to kiss or to touch the teachers’ hands to the students’ forehead or cheek. This custom is called Salim. The teachers would line up at the entrance and all of the students would have to do Salim to each one. We have the same in the Philippines. We call it “Pagmamano” wherein we would kiss or touch the elders’ hands to our foreheads.

These are the simple things that we do to honor those who are above us. It is just right to respect them because they know infinitely more than we do. I just find it endearing and nostalgic to see people do pagmamano in such a foreign land, and for the same reasons, too.

Indonesia, Palu in particular, is not that different from our Motherland, I reckon. Of course, there are differences, but it’s impossible to feel alienated in a land where everything looks so much like home.

Random Musings No. 1: Watch Out!

I’d like to start a series here called “Random Musings”. Basically, it is just some realizations that I have along the way.

This is my first of hopefully many RMs in the future. 🙂

I remember thinking when we alighted the plane off Jakarta that we still have one more plane to catch and it would take another 7 hours before we get to our destination.

I then realized that traveling is soooo difficult and tiresome but also very fulfilling as well. I get now why so many people travel and spend so much money on going places.

I have also always been an independent person and always want to explore. I know that this trip is good for me. I just know it. Somehow it brings a sense of the mysterious in my life. An adventure waiting to be taken. And now, it’s still really hard to believe that I am here.

The time, effort, money spent on traveling is worth it. Especially if the place you’re going to is as beautiful as Palu. It’s nothing fancy, but it sure feels like I’m back in the provinces of the Philippines. No signs of pollution in the air and sprawling mountains and blue skies greeted us when we first got out of the airport.

I can’t help but think that I want to go back to Indonesia when I’m more financially stable. Only a day has passed (most of it I spent asleep) and yet I can’t wait to know it better.

Watch out for me, Indonesia! I’ve come to explore.

Paalam, Pilipinas. Halo, Indonesia!

After some last minute goodbyes with friends and family, I went on the bus from Pampanga to Manila with the dean of the College of Education at AUF. Went to NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Terminal 3, 4 hours away from departure. Levie, a classmate (and now I consider as one of my dear friends), met us there.

Flying was no big deal, even though last time I rode a plane was about a decade ago. Levie and I had so many stories to tell to each other that I didn’t even feel the plane land on Jakarta

Our dean accompanied us up to Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta Airport and then left us on our own to alight the plane to Palu. We are so thankful that our dean was there to show us the ropes.

We waited a bit more before our plane to Palu departed. As a light sleeper, I didn’t really had the chance to sleep at the airport, but found myself dozing off at the plane. Maybe 19 hours of travel would do that to you.

At past seven in the morning, we arrived at Palu, at Mutiara Airport to be greeted by Prof. Diah, our Indonesian coordinator, our Thai counterparts, and our buddies! We ate a hearty breakfast then was escorted to the hotel where we spent the rest of the day asleep.

Everything was so overwhelming to me. I had to keep on reminding myself that I was at Indonesia. This is where I will be for the next 29 days. This will be my new home away from home.

With the resolve to do my best and the energy of a jet-lagged traveler, I went on to sleep.

Something New

I was over the moon happy when I finally got the acceptance letter from our Indonesian coordinator, Prof. Diah. After that followed a whirlwind of getting all of the requirements done and taking our exams in advance so that we wouldn’t miss them when we get to Indonesia.

But came the time when there were only a few days left before my departure. I waited until the last evening before I packed my things. Leaving the comforts of home is still difficult, after all. I’d be trading all these for a month with a foreign country that I know basically nothing about. This is just my second time leaving the country. Talk about getting outside my comfort zone, huh?

But still, I cannot get over the fact that I have been chosen to be sent to Palu. One month seems so long and daunting yet exciting at the same time. I have always been a person who’s adventurous and always looked for something new.

Yet, I know I will miss my family dearly. No daily kisses from my dog for a while, no nights out with my friends, no Netflix for a month! But I also know that this trip will be very meaningful. Maybe a time away from the monotony of university life is all I need. I will be able to get a glimpse of my dream of being an educator here in Palu.

I can’t wait. I just can’t wait.