Friday, June 22, 2012

Teaching Sekolah Dasar Karang Pawitan 1 (Elementary School Karang Pawitan 1)

I'm tardy to write about this experience but I figure it's still important to document/an interesting story...

Last week I was scheduled to teach English to first graders from Monday to Friday. The Sunday before, I returned from a trip to an Islamic boarding school in Indramayu. Unfortunately, I came back with more than just gifted souvenirs--I was very sick from what we think was food poisoning (I ate almost exclusively raw vegetables & I think that there may have been many pesticides...that happens because people do not understand the dangers of harsh pesticides). Anyways, I ended up starting my teaching stint on Tuesday, with just one class in the morning as I was frankly still quite ill. The elementary school at which I taught was very close to my house, so I can save gas and walk there and back. It is not a very large school, space wise, so there is a rotation system every day that allows for two sets of classes to use one classroom. There are a total of six classes in the first grade. Classes A, C, and E have the first session from 7:00 to 9:00. Then classes B, D, and F have the second session from 9:00 am to 11:00 am.
I ended up teaching more than the first graders because there were so many requests. To try and be fair, I taught each class in the first grade one time for 30 minutes. I had a lesson plan that had extra activities to go over 30 minutes, but the children had just finished a week of testing and said they were tired after 30 minutes of learning. My teaching style must have worn them out, too because we sang songs and played games to learn the parts of the body in English. They loved singing "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" but none of my classes could grasp how to play Simon Says. The whole "be honest & sit down if you're wrong" concept was difficult for them to understand. They got really into singing the song though! It was cute.
It was an interesting experience but I'm not meant to be an elementary school teacher in Indonesia. It was chaos! Insufficient facilities, and not enough teachers or materials--that's what extreme corruption has done to the education system in Indonesia. It makes me frustrated, honestly angry, when I think about the education system in Indonesia. Private schools in Jakarta are touted as meeting international standards, but public schools in regular places are...less than satisfactory in my experience. They're certainly not free or secular like one would expect from a public school. The teachers at schools outside of Jakarta rarely come to class; when they do come to class they do not have an interactive lesson plan--mostly the students are lectured or are assigned homework or projects to do on their own. This frustrates me because the students always show up and they generally do their work. Hopefully all the exchange students have just had bad luck and we're seeing the worst of the school systems. It would be terrible if all the schools all over Indonesia were just as lacking in secularism and governmental support. Anyways, I enjoyed volunteering as an English teacher at the elementary school. The children could have been calmer, but I understand that they were hysterically stoked to have a bule teacher :) Hehehe

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Notes on Indonesian Food

According to Wikipedia 2012, Indonesia produced 66.4 million metric tons of rice in the year 2010; that's third world wide in rice production, after China and India.
In case you managed to be unawares, Indonesians are obsessed with rice; it's the basis of every meal: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. People often repeat an ancient proverb to me when I abstain from white rice; they point their finger and they say "Kalau belum makan nasi, belum makan!" This translates to : if you've not yet eaten rice, you've not yet eaten (rough translation).

Unfortunately, of all the kinds of rice and grains, white rice is said to be the least nutritious. Oh Lord, the white rice! It's a staple component: porridge, lonton (rice packed together by wrapping it in banana leaves), sweets, pudding, you name it, they've probably discovered a way to make it out of rice.

I've yet to see a working oven--most Indonesian food is fried; I've only seen little toaster ovens and inconvenient, whopping metal convection box ovens that must be placed on a stove top--pain in the buuutt... Neither are generally used to cook anything other than sugary breads and cakes. That means a TON of oil from frying.

Indonesians aren't afraid of ANY part of an animal. They eat animal brains, feet, booty, eyes, intestines, heart, liver, stomach, bone marrow.

One thing that I do know from first hand experience is that an Indonesian's diet and his or her ethnicity (Sundanese, Javanese, Balinese, Dayak) are pretty tightly woven. The Javanese are notorious for making everything sweet; I've seen them add at least a tablespoon of sugar to fried rice and fish fries. On the otherhand, the Sundanese are known to prefer vegetables and spicy dishes. Dayak eat a lot of meat. People from Padang, Sumatera use coconut milk to add flavor to the majority of their dishes.
The Sundanese seem to be the most vegetarian-friendly.

As a vegetarian, it's not been impossible to find nourishment at Indonesian tables. There usually manages to be something I can eat--even if it's just fried tempe. Meat is seen as a status-determinant; when a special guest is being entertained, the likelihood of all-meat dishes is increased ten-fold. Vegetables, tofu, and Tempe are inexpensive, and therefore seen as the diet of a poor person or villager.

Fortunately for me, there are several mainstream Indonesian dishes that are vegetarian, they just all have the same exact spices/flavoring. Gado-gado is the Indonesian version of a salad; its basically just raw cabbage, green beans, bean sprouts, and cassava leaves that are mixed together with a sauce made from roasted peanuts, coconut milk, red chilli pepper and brown sugar. Vegan!

•Pecel is the exact same thing minus the coconut milk. Also vegan!

•Ketoprak is those same spices--minus the coconut milk--but with tofu and compressed rice chunks (lonton) instead of vegetables.. Veegan!

•Krek telur: kind of like an unfolded omlette whose base is shredded potato. Then, sugar, egg, salt, fried onions bits, sweet coconut crumblies, and two other spices added in. Cooked over a smoking fire. Finally topped with more sweet coconut crumblies and fried garlic bits. Not vegan.

•Rujak: various combination of melon, mango, pineapple, sirksop, watermelon. Cut up pieces. Spicy-sweet sauce. Vegan!

•Kue mollen mini: little pieces of banana cut up and wrapped in sweet pastry dough. Then fried until golden brown. Best when fresh, warm, and crispy. Could probably easily be made vegan.

Here's a recipe for my favorite Indonesian dish, it's kind of got a soup-vibe going on, but it's mostly veggies. It's also vegan!

•Sundanese Tamarind-Spiced Vegetables (the attached picture)

•Javanese Tamarind (broth only) or 1/2 sliced tomato
•Corn (cut into 1 inch sections)
•Jackfruit (cut into chunks)
•Squash (cut into chunks)
•Tangkil leaves
•Green beans
•**Salt (to taste)
•**Candlenut (2 atau 3 biji lah)
•Red pepper
•Bay leaves
•Galangal ("Lengkuas")

1. Grind together the starred ingredients.
2. Bring water to a boil in a pot.
3. Add in the galangal, bay leaves, corn, beans & tangkil leaves.
4. After 5 minutes, add the squash and jackfruit. Boil for two minutes.
5. Add the green beans. Add the spices that were ground together. If using tomato, add it now. Add salt to taste. Add the Tangkil leaves.
6. Taste test. If there's not enough of something, just throw in more of it. The consistency should be watery, not full to the brim with vegetables.