Dissection of times and schedules and resultant spontaneity.
In January, I wrote a post that compared the beginning of the new semester to a track race that had been called back as a false start. It’s March now, and I feel like I’m still in the starting blocks waiting for the gun to go off for the second the time. Perhaps, the starter has even called us to get set a few times but asked us to drop loose again. The reason for this is that second semester has been quite dissected, and the future promises more of the same.
February included one week of cancelled classes for the MAN Fair, which I wrote about as a rewarding experience, but March has only had one week of classes. Two weeks were set aside for Ujian Nasional Madrasah—some form of national exam that is taken only by Madrasahs—and another week was set aside for Ujian National “Try-Outs”—a round of practice tests for the real national exam. The next two weeks will supposedly be uninterrupted, but just before anyone can really get into a groove , a week will be set aside for the Twelfth Graders to take the Ujian Nasional followed by a holiday. During this holiday, the teachers will escort the Twelfth Graders to Jogjakarta, return, escort the Eleventh Graders to Jogjakarta, return, escort the Tenth Graders to Baluran (a national park in Banyuwangi), and—if they haven’t keeled over from exhaustion—return yet again. Though I taught for maybe a grand total of six days in March, I can’t be sure I’ll accumulate much more time in April. When I ask when or how long each of the ‘study-tours’* will last, nobody seems to have an answer. “Maybe we will return on the twentieth.” I’m not sure if the uncertainty lies in a lack of planning or the administration’s own fear that the chaperones will indeed keel over and die of exhaustion.
The segmentation—or rather the mass blackout—of March’s school schedule wasn’t a total loss for me. It actually provided room for a bit of spontaneity that I haven’t experienced in a while. I’d like to write more about each of these events, but I’m afraid that will have to wait. The coconut tree, which you are all familiar with I’m sure, has stolen my ability to spend large amounts of time with a word processor. I will share more about each event in due time, but for now I leave you with just the tidbits:
Hiking Gunung Raung—or rather scrambled plans to hike Gunung Raung. The Volcanic Survey of Indonesia and USGS would like to place a few new seismometers there in May, so I’ve been working with the observatory staff to plan a scouting mission above the tree line. I’ve written more about these (ever-changing) plans and what they mean to me as a Peace Corps Volunteer, and I will share those writings with you when I regain access to hard drives.
Sukamade—a ‘hidden secret’ of Java that is hidden not by obscurity but by the fact that it takes seven hours to travel the one-hundred kilometers between it and my site. Sukamade is a natural destination for sea-turtles to lie their eggs, and is also one of the few places I’ve been in Java that I would describe as ‘quiet.’
Nyepi—Balinese celebration of their new year. Leading up to Nypei, the entire island of Bali participates in rituals and ceremonies that are meant to scare bad spirits off the island. On the day of Nyepi (nyepi=silent), residents and visitors to the island alike are restricted (by law) to their dwellings so that the returning spirits will think the island deserted and pass over until the next year. If you’re like me, you might scorn the tourist-infestation of Bali, but the local culture is both beautiful and inviting.
Bamboo Seismometer—I have built a crude seismometer out of bamboo. I am still trying to figure out how to record ink data on a rolling drum without spending a lot of money. So far, the pieces of the instrument have cost me around two dollars. I am excited to finish it and share it with you. My intention is to use the seismometer for demonstrations at my school. (Look! The Ground Really Does Shake!)