“Rather than ask, ‘What do I want to be when I grow up?’ ask, ‘In what way do I wish the world were different? What problem can I help solve?’ This puts the focus where it should be — on how you can serve other people.” -Angela Duckworth
Peace Corps Indonesia was originally established in 1963, but after just two years, was closed due to political issues. PC Indonesia was reopened in 2009 and has since expanded from serving only in East Java to now West Java as well as the island of East Nusa Tenggara.
We have recently welcomed our ID11 team (11th batch) of volunteers to Indonesia, bringing our current volunteer total to XXX volunteers teaching English in a variety of middle school and high schools.
The Peace Corps Indonesia team also focuses on training teachers to better serve their students in and outside of the classroom in the hope that our work is sustainable past our twenty-seven month service.
Volunteers train together for three months on their teaching skills as well as Indonesian culture and language knowledge before they are sworn in and moved to their permanent schools. There, they live with a family of host country nationals and work or two full years. Generally, they are the only American in their cities, so rely on their families and teaching counterparts as friends, families, and allies.
My Peace Corps Life
My two-year assignment is the lovely, small school of SMAN1 Panawangan in West Java. An SMAN is a public, government funded high school and the number attached represents the sequence of sister schools in the area (SMAN1 Panawangan is the first and only high school in Panawangan, although there are other, larger, cities with schools numbered in the twenties and thirties.)
SMAN1 Panawangan was founded in 1991. Before its opening, the students in the area would either move to a distant boarding school, if their families were able to afford it, or (more frequently) end their education after the completion of SMP (middle school) and begin work on their family farm or in the family store.
Twenty-five years later, there are 505 students studying at SMAN1 Panawangan in 10th-12th grades, similar to an American high school, but much smaller. Even by Indonesian standards, this school is tiny.
I have been welcomed into the home of Bapak Anan and Ibu Situ, both retired, in their 60s, and the biggest gigglers I’ve ever met. Before retirement, Pak Anan was the principal of SD Cinyasag (the local elementary school) and Bu Situ was a second grade teacher at the same school.
They have four children together, all grown and with families of their own. Their youngest daughter, Eni, still lives in her parents house as well with her two children, Resta and Ari, as per Indonesian tradition. Her husband, Ryan, works at a hotel in a neighboring city and visits his family at home about twice a month.
Because we live in a very small, traditional, mountain village, there is a plethora of extended family living nearby, including the majority of Pak Anan’s eight brothers and sisters along with their families. This large extension means everyone in the village knows everything about me and has welcomed me as part of the family. There’s literally no where in Indonesia where I feel safer than my village, Cinyasag.