English First School

My contract with EF ended today, and I have 3 days left here in Indonesia. It’s been an exceptionally routine month: morning classes, home, afternoon classes, home, eat, sleep, repeat. As I’ve enjoyed the last stretch of being an English teacher in Indonesia, I’ve been plagued by an unexpected and recurring thought:

I’m not ready!

After moving to Indonesia last August, it didn’t take long for me to be annoyed with almost every aspect of daily life here. Living in a suburb city in the outskirts of Jakarta was not what I imagined my Indonesia experience would be. Pretty soon, I wanted out.

Jakarta

I was sick of not being able to drink tap water.

I was sick of the unscheduled power and internet outages.

I was sick of the walk to work along the stinky sewer in the oppressive heat and humidity.

I was sick of EF forcing me to teach such a demanding schedule full of 12-hour split shifts.

I was sick of being so cut off from the world because of slow internet.

I was sick of the ubiquitous mosquitoes, which did literally make me sick when I came down with dengue.

I was sick of the disorganization and miscommunications that are so prevalent in Indonesia.

I was sick of being touched by people who don’t believe in germs–another thing that made me literally ill many times.

I was sick of breathing the disgusting, polluted air that would leave a sulfur taste in my mouth.

I was sick of feeling so negatively about my life in Indonesia.

I really thought I hated living in Indonesia. (Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some great travel experiences in other parts of the country, but my Jakarta life wasn’t what I dreamed it would be.) And yet, without realizing it, I slowly fell in love with what I had here.

In December, I started counting down the months until I left, lamenting at how slowly time was passing. Eight months later, I feel that time has passed much too quickly.

Bogor

Weren’t Josh and I just visiting my grandparents before being dropped off at the Chicago airport?!

How can it already be time to pack our big suitcases when it feels like we only just unpacked?!

Was it really a year ago that we went to our first of many movies and discovered our favorite Italian restuarant?!

Have we actually spent well over 1000 hours teaching English?!

And what do we have to show for our year here?!

Without question, it has been a hard year. But I think the best way to describe my experience here is not as being positive or negative, but rather as being simply that: an Experience. With a capital E.

Living in Indonesia has taught me so many things–about myself, about life, about the world.

Jakarta

I’ve learned about what sort of things I can and can’t adapt to. Communicating with people who know virtually no English can be nerve-wracking, but it’s a solvable problem by picking up new phrases in Bahasa. On the other hand, living with constant anxiety of being bitten by a mosquito and getting dengue fever once more is something I don’t want to subject myself to again for such a long period of time.

I’ve learned firsthand about issues that I’ve never had to think about before. For example, where am I going to get my next glass of water? Did I remember to bring my pollution mask to school today, or will I have to use my scarf for the walk home? Is the mosquito net over our bed securely fastened so that we don’t wake up in the middle of the night to a face full of welts?

I’ve learned about ways in which my cultural upbringing differs from that of others. Meeting so many people here has taught me about how my priorities differ from theirs, how my value system isn’t the only value system, and ultimately how we are all united despite those differences.

Working at EF has helped me grow as a teacher and as a person.

Colored Pencils

I’ve developed all sorts of strategies to keep students focused and interested. I’ve learned how to think on my toes and adapt at the drop of a hat: “This activity isn’t working for the students? No problem, I have a better idea!”

As I’ve gotten better at being able to teach the lesson material, I’ve also realized the importance of teaching other skills beyond simply English. I create lessons for my young learners that will allow them to build their social skills while practicing English with each other. With my older students, I make sure that they are practicing critical thinking skills as they use their language. I’ve gotten really good at assessing the skills of my individual classes and students and from there, tailoring my lessons to target their needs.

I’ve come a long way from being the shy rookie who couldn’t get a dozen preteens to be quiet long enough to listen to me on the first day of class. I’ve built my confidence, and I’ve learned when and how to call out students who demonstrate unacceptable behaviors. I’ve figured out the best ways to make class time run smoothly for all my students.

And so here we are at the end of this Experience. 

Dieng Plateau Paradise

Truth be told, I’m not ready for it to end just now. I’ve finally gotten into a routine, I’ve finally started to feel comfortable, and I’ve finally begun to love my life in Indonesia.

But a year is long enough, and it’s time to move on to the next adventure–the latest and greatest Experience. I’m not quite sure what that will entail, but I can tell you for sure that I’m ready for my long journey home (more on that next time) and I’m more than ready to be reunited with my family, my friends, and deliciously potable tap water with a side order of unlimited internet!

Love, Elizabeth

*All photos in this post were taken by Josh.