Today, I forgot to put on deodorant. On the equator, that's not a good thing. And when you're headed to a temple, orange grove and museum, that's really not a good thing. Just before reaching the campus gates, I made the executive decision to pop in one of the many little shops on my way to school. Not 5 minutes later, I left with deodorant, Q-tips and a huge smile. Not only had I solved 2 problems (I've been wanting Q-tips for awhile now), I'd also had a simple conversation, but conversation all the same, with the sales person. Quite the accomplishment if you ask me.
I realize it may sound silly but in a new city with a new language, one must celebrate such small accomplishments. Going into a store and searching every shelf, fiddling through your wallet to find the right bills, even interacting with a real human, some days all of this would make for too much. Some days, I might've just settled with smelling like a dog.
Beautiful Indonesia and lovely Indonesians aside, immersing yourself in new and totally different surrounding is mentally exhausting at times.
All jokes about my unfortunate habit of forgetting deodorant aside, the adjustment wasn't actually as challenging as I expected. I believe I have the US Department of State to thank for that. The amount of work and resources they put into the CLS program is incredible. I wrote in my last post about the many things that were making me nervous before leaving (I.e, illness, inability to communicate), I found them all to fade away as CLS took me under it's wing.
There have been a few moments during this trip where things actually just seemed... over the top. Checking in to a hotel I didn't make a reservation at was the first occurrence that struck me as odd. Needless to say, I enjoyed the fruity water in the lobby and fluffy pillow during our 2 nights in D.C. I also had time to get to know the people I would be spending the following two months with. (Not to mention following 3 days of traveling).
I had said my goodbyes, packed my bags and sat through orientation. The only thing left to do was get on the plane, then the next one, then the next one.
I arrived in Malang two weeks ago. The last 14 days were a whirlwind, to say the least. The cattle, 26 American students, had been herded through airports, security, customs and were finally completing the last leg of their journey. We got off the bus in front of a building, that would become a safe haven for many, and were greeted with open arms. Even for a population known for their remarkable hospitality, the warmth of the people I met that day blew me away. They had all memorized our names and faces. For each of us, there were two of them, plus photographers there to capture the first moments of what would become strong friendships. I was feeling overwhelmed by all of this when I heard the words, "you must be Laura". I looked down to find a beautiful, tiny Indonesian girl, Te. She and Sylvie are what one could call my "paid friends". Every CLS participant is paired with a host family, 2 friends (tutors) and given a backpack with notebooks, a phone and a magical folder containing everything you could dream of. (My favorite of which, a map of Malang pinpointing where each student lives). In addition to weekend excursions, a buffet lunch at school every day and the security of having the State Department behind you. As if having the chance to live in beautiful Malang wasn't already enough..
School started our very next day. I'm in a class with four other students and we have four teachers ("gurus"). Embarking in intensive language class as a complete beginner is a beautiful thing. It's hard work and humbling work. I acknowledge that I have no idea what is going on most of the time, I acknowledge the ego that drives the need to contribute and from here there's nothing to do but learn. And learn I will, CLS has made sure of that. My every need is attended to here, ensuring the only space in my mind is reserved for all the new Bahasa Indonesia words. (And man will I be needing that space).