…And then we went on a trip without internet and didn’t blog for a few weeks!
It’s like the weirdest work-cation ever.
Yim went ahead of us for this trip and taught for a week on economics and the basics of government. We were scheduled to meet her at the restaurant to have lunch together and then travel further to the school we were staying ats.
She arrived, said she was starving, and ordered rice with a variety of proteins: meat, fat, bones, and eggs.
At this point, we knew we were in for an adventure, and that we might be hungry along the way.
We were hungry for a lot of it. Rice, noodles, and green beans were our staples. We had a few potato and pumpkin surprises; there were pork and fish served, but not in a way that we chose to eat them. Let’s just say one of the pork dishes Stephen had to ask if it was floating in spices or blood; and when he learned it was very red spices, he was able to find two pieces of meat–not fat or intestines or unidentifiables.
The teaching didn’t go quite as we expected, but I’m sure I say that every time. There are always surprises. Even so, we taught. Hopefully they learned! We did manage to have some lively discussions.
When we discussed the importance of free media in democracy & development, I started by asking the students about New York City. What is it like? Can you draw a picture of it? They drew the Statue of Liberty first. I asked if the people lived in the Statue of Liberty? Is that all that is in the whole city? In the end, they drew this and told me about the people renting rooms out of these tall buildings. I then ask them if they have been to New York City–to which I get a resounding “NO!” and much laughter–and use it as an example of how media tells us about places we haven’t been or experienced; it shows us what life is like in different places and how it might be different that our experience. We can use that knowledge to vote and participate in government, hope for different things, etc. I thought their drawing turned out pretty great!
My favorite of Yim’s commentary on one particular student, just as we were arriving and he passed by us: “I think he has a psychology problem. He thinks he is always right.”
“A psychology problem? Arrogance?”
We argued about that one for a little while.
The creatures were abundant. We were warned about the red ants that make your hands swell. Our room was corrupted with snails and ants and spiders.
After overhearing the girls’ have a conversation about a snail that bit one of the girls, I asked and was told that the snails suck blood, similar to leeches. I asked Yim for a second opinion, and she confirmed. I told her we had a lot of snails in our room; should I do something about it? She looked at me wide-eyed and emphatically replied, “Yes! Get rid of them! Snails are very bad!” I had no idea. And to be honest, they weren’t my greatest concern.
I was told to “shake the bathroom door” every time, but especially at night, because Yim had been greeted by a snake twice. I just made a mental note not to drink anything after 4pm. It did help my perspective: the foot-long lizard and ginormous spider and trail of hundreds of ants are no longer a concern.
A girl was stung by a scorpion while she did laundry right next to me on the first morning after we arrived. Yim treated her with MSG on the wound, which supposedly kept the swelling down. (I remain skeptical.) We were then told to “shake out all of our clothes” because a number of scorpions were being discovered.
Showering was a highlight. For one, the view was stunning. All the girls shower in the same area in sarongs, with a beautiful stretch of mountains behind us and, by 5pm or so, a moon shining above. It’s just like South Pacific!
I try to savor the beauty of it all just enough to not lose focus of keeping my sarong on, which I can’t say I’m skillful at. It takes about six buckets just to get my hair wet throughout, which is six bucks of water pulling my sarong down. Who knows how well my female students got to know me!
The water felt wonderful on the hot, humid days: it was freezing and refreshing. Then it began to rain, and continued to rain for five days straight. At this point, showering was just very, very cold; and it took a few minutes to convince myself it was indeed a good idea to dump this bucket of ice water on my head.
We had electricity by generator every night from 6pm-9pm; just enough time to charge the computer for Stephen to work on videos & photos and study by light. The students are (supposed) to sleep by 9pm; I was usually out cold by 8:30pm because it’s somehow exhausting: I’m not sure what. We have few responsibilities as guests: I teach, we talk with the students, Stephen takes photos & videos, we do laundry, we shower. We occasionally walk to a local snack shop, sing songs, or learn to weave. That’s the entire day. We sleep wonderfully–it’s pitch black and sounds so natural. Once you talk yourself out of a few fears, you’re out cold. The students are up at 4:30am to a whistle; we sleep in to 6:30am. Ten glorious hours!
Here are some students up studying late before the exam. You would think from this photo that I’m a difficult teacher and it was a hard class, but I think the girls were just nervous. There were only four questions.
We didn’t have internet or phone where we were, but we could hike thirty minutes or so to get internet on our phones–supposedly. It only worked two times, because rain and other daily occurrences can limit the signal. You can find the locations are because there are (random) bamboo poles stuck in the ground with a little shelf carved out of it where your phone can sit in the exact spot to get service. There is a rubber band there to hold your phone. It was bizarre that people had found these spots, where on the bamboo pole you got service, but just an inch to the left and you had nothing. Here we are looking for service:
That’s the gist of our work-cation, but more stories to come.