Indonesia Update #5: Orphanage & School


Working on the mural…

Some further narrative pieces generated by students have arrived.  Please forgive the fact that the photos don’t necessarily correlate with the stories!

Sequoia writes:

The Yayasan Gunungan Orphanage is a warm and happy place. It is a tight-knit community of staff and children who look after one another, who love and care about each other, and who strive to make each others lives beautiful and fulfilling. And yes, they succeed! Their smiles are huge and welcoming, and they rough-house and play with us, rambunctious and laughing, until we roll on the floor exhausted. They serve us delicious home-cooked dinners with equal parts pride and generosity. We scarf those dinners down with equal parts greed and gratitude. They too feel and express gratitude, in amounts unknown to children in America, whose senses may be dulled by gift and wealth.

The completion of the mural project!

The completion of the mural project!

I loved dinner. I loved playing music. I loved designing and painting our mural and I loved seeing the kids painting it even more. I cannot fully express my gratitude to them for being a meaningful part of my experience and for letting me (hopefully) be a positive part of theirs. 

Zachary writes:

The exchange rate here is $1 USD to 13,000 Rupia, making me an Indonesian millionaire. Their largest bill is 100,000R ( around $7 USD) and the smallest is 1,000R ( 8 cents USD ). The meals we’ve gotten are delicious and range from 4,000R to 40,000R for fancier things.

Jamming at the orphanage

Jamming at the orphanage

At the markets it is customary to bargain for prices.  One of our students got really excited and bought two laptop cases, a bunch of shirts and an ice cream for less than 200,000 Rupia which seems insanely expensive but that’s $14 USD.  In the states two laptop bags would at least be $30 and an Indonesian Batik shirt would be super expensive. I get confused sometimes by how many zeros are in the bills, and I think items are way more expensive than they are, until I calculate how much it is in US funds. Thank you so much for helping me with this amazing opportunity.

Tim writes:

This week we took a taxi to a local school. We were kindly greeted by the headmistress and escorted into their library. It was a single room and about 1/3 the size of the Explorations library. Let me just say that we had no idea what we were getting into; we had no clear agenda other than just show up. But we were suddenly asked to teach. Improvising, we decided to teach a quick intro to American culture and geography. We split into three groups, one for each classroom.

Visiting the school

Visiting the school

We set off with only a basic idea of what to say to a group of students our age (16-19), with them having very little knowledge of English. Fortunately, these were the liveliest bunch of teenagers I had ever met. Although we were a great spectacle and the butt of many jokes, it was incredibly amusing. Both groups were entertained watching each other. After blundering through a brief intro to our country, we got into groups of about one of us to three to five Indonesian students. Quickly it became apparent that because we could not communicate with words, chatting was not an option. However, humor broke the ice and connected each of us as high school students, civilians, and human beings.  It turns out that as young adults, we find the same things funny, and the barrier of silence was broken by lots of hand and body motions, drawings and scrambling to find the right word in our dictionaries.

At one point I said that if any of them ever came to America they could stay with me. I then stupidly realized that for them the word ‘travel’ had no place in their plans or ideas of what life could be. This is a huge generalization because in fact, our president is from Indonesia. However, I can safely say the future of a white American can absolutely include travel and the undertaking of any idea and plans we see in our lifetime. Until being with those kids I had not ever fully appreciated the wealth of opportunity and privilege that is a part of my life. Breaking down the walls of separate cultural identity, and truly being immersed in the moment, surrounded by laughter and smiling faces, was one of the most powerful moments in my life. To put it simply, there is an incredible purity to being young and naive, and this is true for every child, young adult, or student, not matter where in the world. This was experiential learning at its finest. photo[2]


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One Comment on “Indonesia Update #5: Orphanage & School”

  1. Just saw it – yeah – he finally made a photo! course this was all last week – old news. Don’t you wonder if it was our kid buying the laptop cases and shirts? I do miss him today.


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