Mark Sueyoshi: Fulbright, Indonesia, English Teaching Assistantship

Mark and some of his students who accompanied him to see President Obama speak in Indonesia

The 4:30 AM call to prayer has become a part of my daily soundtrack to life in Indonesia. Torrential rains are often a signal to the end of my day. Each teaching day I hear the chorus of “Hello Mr. Mark” as numerous students either give me an oddly familiar teenager-style handshake or touch the back of my hand to their head or their lips. I live and teach at an Islamic boarding school where half the female students wear jilbabs (head coverings) and half the student body is originally from outside the island of Java. My teaching efforts here are to shoo out malu malu kucing (shy shy cats) from the classroom and encourage self expression and creativity. We are, as my Indonesian pedagogy teacher proclaimed, here to change the dynamic of English teaching in Indonesian classrooms; each small success feels exhilarating.

Life in West Java, Indonesia as an ETA has not been quiet since I arrived. I recently returned from the cultural capital of Java, Yogyakarta (pronounced joke-jah-kartah), but my trip was cut short after the nearby volcano forced our evacuation. While awaiting our train to depart, the West Java ETAs found out that we received tickets to attend President Obama’s Speech during his 24hour stopover in Indonesia! Other, more frequent, travel experiences are haggling for souvenirs and taxi rides, listening to street performers with portable karaoke systems, and refusing sellers of cigarettes, tissues, drinks, and freshly fried snacks. Amidst the countless activities and apparent chaos there is a consistent kindness in all the people I’ve met in Indonesia: a willingness to smile, laugh, and entertain my amusing, but horrendous Bahasa Indonesia (Indonesian). I’m three months in with so much more to learn and experience about teaching, Indonesia, and myself.

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