To my surprise, Rudhi treated us with the often requested opportunity to observe an Indonesian classroom. The humidity was making photography impossible as my lens fogged up instantly. This is something I’ve never experienced before. The students started as we often have seen, reciting script from the Koran. Much of my observation is based on what I infer, as there is no way to know for sure what was happening since it was presented in Bahasa. With the eyes of President Jokowi and the Vice President staring down upon the class above the often used white board, students were focused during their reading. Wearing their Friday school uniform which resembled a Boy Scout’s brown uniform, this uniformity was part of the Indonesian educational system’s identity. The teacher finished the scripture reading by taking a grade book out and assessing individually, one-third of the classroom boy's ability. Placing checkmarks in their books before moving on, she offered little prompting as the instruction seemed to occur automatically. With little personality showing during the early reading from the teacher, the official English/Arabic lesson began. The teacher began to smile and the environment was much looser. Students were more free to talk out loud without raising their hands to address the teacher. A lot of call and response from the students occurred. The natural light illuminated the classroom, forgoing any need for the lights to be turned on in the room. Missing from the room were any signs of learning, decorating the walls. The room’s walls looked weathered, as time has given the beige walls a beating. Hard wood desks and chairs filled up much of the classroom’s space as students sat next to a partner, but in rows. Boys sitting on the right and girls sitting on the left, were transfixed on the oration given by the teacher. The 7th garden class had as many students as I have in my classroom, thirty-four students. With the continual call and response, this seemed to hold the student’s attention. To think that students have to learn Bahasa, their native language, English, and Arabic, it’s amazing how talented they are with their linguistic abilities compared to the students in the United State who study but one language primarily. Thirty minutes into class, the teacher instructed the students to change their seating formation in order to prepare for the subsequent lesson. After several minutes of students shuffling their belongings, they began to push their desks together creating groups of four instead of two. With half the group facing the back of the teacher as she instructed on the board, students had fresh workbooks to follow along with in the lesson. A major difference between Indonesian schools and American would be the fact that students have to stay in the same room and teachers move from classroom to classroom. This fundamental difference I believe limits the ability of the teacher to prepare for class with the necessary supplies, create a sense of ownership for a thematically decorated room, and hinders the ability for students to get a much needed change of scenery by attending a new classroom with new students. Later the kids were asked to rearrange their desks in order to work as groups. Finishing the lesson, I was very pleased to have finally witnessed a classroom. Before leaving SMP 8 Negeri for good, there was some unfinished business I had to attend to. When I visited that great 7th grade class the other day, I forgot to handout stickers. Stickers seemed to me to be something so simple and basic, that few would get excited for, but I was pleasantly surprised when the class greeted the late gift with overwhelming joy. Having more stickers to handout, I stopped by several other rooms, interrupting lessons which Rudhi said not to worry about. The kids absolutely loved my presence and gift I gave them. It was uplifting to experience this after having spent a long week in Purwokerto, away from the main group. While waiting to meet with the entire staff to hand out gifts, I was asked again to take several selfies with students and staff again. When we entered the staff lounge for the last time, I gave Rudhi his gifts. Expensive Traverse City Cherry candies were devoured by the women who surrounded Rudhi. I don’t think he had any chance of bringing them home. The sour puckered lips of shock and perhaps distain for the sour treat that they weren’t used to was evident on many faces. I also gave Rudhi some other Michigan items like pure maple syrup and cherry salsa. Giving the principal who had been nothing but welcoming to us several Michigan items, including some food, he was very pleased with my hospitality. My favorite was giving him a large Michigan flag which he was so happy to hold and display, although everyone laughed at him as he was holding it upside down and later backwards. Finally getting it right, we took some pictures, I gave him the IREX certificate, and he gave me a yearbook from the school. Heading back to the hotel, our day and seemingly our time to explore Purwokerto were at an end as Rudhi wanted to tonight to simply be getting ready to head out to Borobudur. Doug of course decided that the best place to sleep was an $11 a night hotel. I preferred the $40 a night hotel, but decided to go with the flow, as I was simply excited to finally visit the one place I’d circled on my calendar so long ago. Seeing the temples was the shining light that helped me get through the long days at times in Purwokerto. The drive was to be 5 hours long with a driver that Rudhi hired. When the sun set, we headed closer towards our destination, finally seeing the city lights outside of Borobudur. Making it to the hotel Doug picked, I couldn’t believe where we were to stay for the night. Littered with flies and lizards outside, I obtained my key for my room. Walking past several people smoking hookah, I entered my small room, with a dilapidated bed with seemingly a mattress stuffed with wood chips, I knew it was going to be a long night. The lack of air conditioning, a shower, and a sink to wash my hands, I knew it was going to be hard to adjust. The hotel listed that they had wifi, but it was only in the lobby. Trying to get some sleep prior to the following day’s temples, I was starting to crack. I’ve stayed at low quality hotels, but I knew this was going to be miserable. Thankfully I stepped up and asked Rudhi if it wasn’t too late (it was 9pm) to find another hotel. The driver who was going to sleep in the car to ensure its safety, took Rudhi and I to find a hotel. The original hotel I found for $40 down the road made my eyes open wide when they told me the only room left was the president’s room, for $450. Knowing how tired an frustrated I was, I actually mulled this transaction over, thinking that finding a hotel at this time was going to be futile. Thankfully I asked Rudhi to visit one more hotel, which looked even more extravagant than the expensive hotel I was at, had a room for $65. Without blinking I accepted and took my key card to my room on the 9th floor, past the opulent lobby. In my room I ordered room service and got a burger, which was a meal I would have had to had forgone at the other hotel. Settling jun my wonderful hotel with a great view of the city, a delicious meal, and a shower, I headed to bed. It was the best night of sleep I had for the whole trip as it rested me up perfectly for the most exciting day of the entire trip to Indonesia.
About Matthew Cottone
Experience the World! This is my creed I bring to my classroom and my life. I'm a World Studies teacher at Van Hoosen Middle School and I have a passion for learning and experiencing the world.