Charge d’ Affaires: A Belated Thanksgiving

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Turkey Layout!

Last week, the entire Fulbright ETA program gathered together for our Mid-Year Conference held in Jakarta this year.  After being at our individual sites spread all over Indonesia for the last few months, it was nice to finally be back together to swap stories and whine a little bit.

The most common cultural adaptation to vex us is the immense differences between school systems in Indonesia and the United States.  For example, senior high-school students take upwards of 20 subjects per year compared to roughly eight in American schools.  For teachers and ETAs, this means we only see our students roughly once per week, sometimes two if we are lucky.

I will share another post sometime in the future detailing the differences between JT Moore, the middle school where I taught in Nashville, and SMA Muhammadiyah, my current school.  This post is about our capstone event at the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission’s Residence in Jakarta.

Invitation to the event.
Invitation to the event.

Right up the street from President Obama’s former elementary school we sat shodden and shabby on the bus awaiting entrance.  Guards carried umbrellas back and forth over our heads from the bus to the front door as we entered an entirely too luxurious house for present company.  We were treated as dignified dignitaries despite a hodge-podge of batik from local cities and thrown together business attire pulled wrinkled from backpacks.  Ok.  Maybe it wasn’t that bad, but after our last few months leading the opposite lifestyle at our sites, the experience of being in a place that required shoes was awkward.

The home, layout, and people were wonderful.  Everyone wore a fantastic smile, happy to share their ideas and experiences abroad.  Robert Blake, the to-be-ambassador, gave a heartwarming speech extolling our efforts and roles as Fulbrighters, and his wife took immense interest in our work.  Walking out many of us felt the calling of entering the Foreign Service one day.

Robert Blake
Robert Blake

This week, my students take a round of final exams, and next week I head off to Kalimantan, one of only two places in the world to see orangutans.  Let the adventures begin.