A Journey Takes Shape
What has the experience been like thus far as the Peace Corps group traveled from San Francisco to Surabaya, Indonesia? What sorts of things have you been doing in Pre-Service Training orientation in Surabaya? Where will you be staying for the 10-week Pre-Service training?
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, a world without end…less posibilities, people, and places to expore
My two year journey in Indonesia began with the long and anxious flight across the Pacific. It was made no more anxious by the fact that the training group had to stop overnight in Hong Kong before continuing on to Surabaya, Jawa Timur, the location of Peace Corps headquarters and Pre-Service Training (PST) orientation. Our flight felt like a monumental beginning to Peace Corps service, but perhaps it really wasn’t the beginning. Maybe the journey actually started with the flight to San Francisco where pre-departure staging was held. Indeed, this trip was the fartherst from home some in our group had ever taken. In any case, staging signified a huge step beyond the long application process and into the actual world of Peace Corps service. Staging was also our first chance to meet the other volunteers from the ID-5* Peace Corps group and learn more specifics about what our jobs and lives in Indonesia would actually entail. For all, staging was the most significant step in our Peace Corps careers, and our enthousiasm and excitement showed our recognition of this. But we were sobred by our staging facilitators, Ryan and Jessica. As we loaded up to leave the hotel in San Francisco, each volunteer graciously thanked Ryan and Jessica for the wonderful introduction to Peace Corps, but they’re only humble response was, “You wont remember us or staging in two years. Much more important things are to come. Go. Make the most of your service.” Indeed, by the time the group landed in Hong Kong, San Francisco was an after thought (and it wasn’t just because of the 14 1/2 hour plane ride). Anticipating arrival in Indonesia drowned out any thoughts or recollections of the exciment felt back in the United States. We could only look ahead.
Now, I have completed the first full day of Pre-Service Training orientation in Surabaya. Today, I received many things including four vaccinations (typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and rabies), a PC health kit, a water filter, malarial medication, an introduction to Bahasa Indonesia, and a fun lesson in a traditional dance from Papau. Perhaps most importantly, I also learned that I will spend the 10-week PST period in the village of Beji (bay-gee), near the larger town of Malang (mah-long). Myself and four other trainees will live with separate homestay families in Beji during PST. The rest of the trainees will be in proximal villages also near Malang. For those of you interested in the physical volcanology and geology of the area, Beji, as well as the rest of Malang is a great spot to view the inactive Arujna* volcanic edifice.Each village group will study Bahasa Indonesia separately, and the entire trainee class will occasionally meet together at the University of Muhammadiyah (UMM) in Malang. Most of our questions about the PST training sites and the host families that we will be living with are answered by Peace Corps staff with the same simple statement: “You will know everything on Sunday”–which means: don’t bother asking now, you will just have to find out for yourself.
With one day of orientation down and one to go, the group is giddy to start the PST homestay experience. Our excitement and anticipation now matches the anticipation we felt before we left our homes for San Francisco; it also equals our past energ and anxiousness for departure while we were in San Francisco. I feel certain that once PST begins, we will all already start looking forward to initiation and service. With so much energy and continue eagerness to experience what is next, I have to wonder, “When did the journey actually begin, or has the journey actually even started?” To quote James Hutton, the famous 18th century geologist, our journey has “no vestige of a beginning,–no prospect of an end.” That is to say our adventure has evolved, and it will continue to do so. With time, maybe the whole Peace Corps service will turn out to be such a long, continous process that it wont even be discretely recognizable from the rest of my life. It will simply become solidified as another phase in the mauch larger, ever evolving path through life.
This, I think, is the way Peace Corps should be. A small event–without start and end–that has the ability to transcend time and make connections with all oher experiences from life. This is what I expect from my time in Indonesia.
*Why ID-5? “ID” is the official governmental acronym for Indonesia. “5” denotes that the 2011 trainees are the fifth class to start service in Indonesia. But wait, I thought I was a part of only the second group to go to Indonesia? Yes, I may have said that to some people because my 2011 class is only the second recent PC group to go to Indonesia. Three waves of volunteers started service in Indonesia in 1963. The program was terminated in 1965. The fourth group, ID-4, re-instituted Peace Corps presence last year in March of 2010. Thus, my group from 2011 is the second cohort in this decade but technically the fifth overall.
*For those interested in the religious milieu of Java and how it affects perceptions of the physical environment, Gunung Arjuna (Arjuna volcano) is, indeed, named after the Hindu war hero. I have been told that a Hindu temple rests at the foot of the inactive volcano. Over the course of the next ten weeks, I would like to know more about the naming of the mountain and whether or not the surrounding area still has strong Hindu roots.