Freiwilligendienste - weltwärts, FSJ im Ausland, EVS und CSP

INDONESIEN: I have learned so many things, gained priceless experiences and had lots of fun!

The Beginning
I have spent my weltwärts year near Jakarta in Indonesia from August 2009 to August 2010. […]
So after all the preparations and goodbyes there I was sitting travelling at an altitude of 11000m and not really knowing what was to come. […]

After around 20 hours I finally landed in Jakarta and made it through immigration. When I left the air-conditioned airport building the tropical heat struck me like a hammer. It was unbelievably hot and humid. There were people everywhere. The streets were full of motorcycles and the traffic was just crazy. I was escorted from the airport outside Jakarta to a hotel in the center of Jakarta where an AFS orientation would be held. This trip was just undescribable. It was the first time I had seen something like this. Millions of people, huge towers of glass, crazy traffic, garbage everywhere, slums next to huge skyscrapers, BMW limousines next to beggars. And everybody looked so similar. At the beginning it was hard to distinguish Indonesian people from each other. The orientation camp that was organized by AFS Indonesia was very helpful. […] My host family picked me up at the AFS office.

The first night in my hostfamily’s house I woke up at around 4:30 am because of the Muezzin’s call for morning prayer which is quite loud and long. Some people regard this as annoying but I acutally quite enjoyed lying in my bed in the morning and listening to some Arabic phrases. In the course of my year, however, I became so accustomed to this noise that I did not even wake up anymore. […]

At first I went out quite often with the AFS volunteers I meet at the orientation camp. During the week I was quite busy with work in my project anyway. The weekends, I spent with my host family. […] In the course of my year my friends mostly comprised non-typical Indonesians and all kinds of foreigners living and working in or near Jakarta.

The Culture Shock
I can definitely say that in Indonesia everything is different. The culture is totally different from the Western culture. It is an Asian country with an Islamic culture. Most Indonesians pray five times a day and take their religion very serious. They don’t eat pork or drink alcohol. They respect their elders and do what they are told by their parents. Furthermore, in Indonesia there are so many young people. On the street you can acutally only see young people. There are no old people. I perceived this as very exciting. It feels lively. There are people everywhere. […] They drive on the other side of the road, and the way they drive just does not compare to traffic in a Western country. It is not easy to summarize the Indonesian culture. I can only say that it is extremely diverse. People are so diverse, personalities and views differ so much. But overall I can definitely say that Indonesian people are the most friendly people I have ever met. Their hospitality and openness, as well as their smiles are just uncomparable to anything I have ever experienced.

My Project – the Yayasan Cipta Mandiri
On the second day in my town I visited my project together with my hostmother. Money is everything in Indonesia. It determines who you are and where you are in society. My hostfamily obviously was part of the upper middle class, i.e. they had three cars, a driver and two maids. So on that day the driver drove us to my project – the Yayasan Cipta Mandiri which is somewhat like a house of knowledge. Poor teenagers can come there and learn English, computer science, sewing and global knowledge. The two storey-high building, however, is located in a so-called kampung, a poor housing area. It is not even possible to go there by car. We had to park our car on the main road and walk into the kampung. This was my first real confrontatINA_StefanSchmidt_2009_10_Schule2_webion with poverty. Garbage was everywhere. It smelled like burned garbage and animals. People were lying on the dirty floor. Children were playing between plastic bags. When we finally made it to the site of the project my inital shock was completely overturned by excitement. The atmosphere is truly magical in that project. All the children are smiling happily, playing the guitar and singing songs. The project leader and my future collegues greeted me openly. […] It did not take long until I understood the philosphy of that project. Two classes are held each day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. […]
My job was to teach from morning to afternoon. During the first weeks I mostly accompanied an Indonesian tutor in order to learn the way of teaching. But soon I was able to teach classes myself. Throughout the year I taught my students about anything, but always in English. […] The special thing about that project is that the style of teaching is completly different to what students are used to in official school. We as a tutor try to be more than teachers. We wanted to be friends with the students. They should trust us and discuss their personal issues with us. […] INA_StefanSchmidt_2009_10_Schule_web

Besides teaching my main task was motivating the students which I figured was pretty much the most difficult challenge. Throughout the year I had ups and downs in motivating myself. After several months I was stuck in routine and an education progress can only be observed in small steps. This sometimes depressed me. But special events and my own creativity helped me to keep my spirit and motivation. […] Sometimes I also worked on Saturdays were special classes were held. In addition to that I had several other tasks. For example I distributed the scholarship money for students who were sponsored by the project. The great thing was that my project leader gave me so much freedom. There were no limits to my own creativity. Whatever I wanted to do was possible. I was neither overstrained nor bored. In addition to my working times I also spend some time on the weekends or in the evening for preparing my lessons.

My Host family

INA_StefanSchmidt_2009_10.Gastfamilie_webMy host family was really great! I was very lucky with them. They are a muslim upper middle class family. I had one hostbrother who went to school from morning to evening. The hostmother was working all day long and the hostfather only came home around every two weeks because he was working for an international oil company in a different city. They gave me lots of freedom and never said no. The important thing was that I always informed my hostmother were I am going and respected them. […] Although I did not have so many activities with the family saying good bye in the end was quite hard because I regarded them as my own family in the end. What was very interesting is getting a deeper insight into an Indonesian family. This helped me a lot to look under the surface of Indonesian society. They allowed me to become a member of their family and join them for any event. I went on holiday with them, visited Indonesian weddings and was invited to join my hostfather to parties and gatherings.

The major challenge was the visa process. Except the visa issue guidance by AFS Indonesia was ok. We neither had a mid-stay camp nor an end-stay camp since we were only two volunteers. My expectation towards AFS Germany was an excellent preparation for any personal problems I might face in another culture. The preparation seminars were very helpful in providing a better insight into developing policy and living in a different culture. Quite often I remembered the seminars when I was in Indonesia. At the time some things seemed very abstract and too theoretical. But once I was abroad they made sense and gave me a deeper insight. Thus I can say that AFS Germany did a great job!

Conflicts and Problems
[…] At my workplace once tension between the foreign volunteers and the Indonesian tutors arose but was resolved in an open discussion. In an Asian country conflicts are very different from Western countries. People seldom discuss it openly. Mostly everybody is just silent and you never know what is going on. This makes it even worse because the tension accumulates. I also found it hard somtimes that Asians rarely tell you what they expect from you directly.  But overall there were no major conflicts or problems. I had a great time in Indonesia and was very happy all the time.

The Indonesian Language
In Indonesia […] people speak many different local languages and dialects. But there is one language that all Indonesians speak and unites the Indonesian nation. It is called Bahasa Indonesia. Mostly I studied it myself. AFS Indonesia provided me ten lessons in the middle of my year. This, however, was more than insufficient. I bought a thick language study book still back in Germany and in Indonesia studied in the night after work. After one year I am able to understand almost everything and get along quite well. With my hostbrother I was talking only in Indonesian. With my hostparents in English. When I was teaching in my project I tried to teach bilingual as far as it was possible to me. Of course my job was to teach English. That is why Indonesian language skills were not necessarily required at the workplace. Nevertheless, speaking Indonesian  helped the students to understand better what I am teaching and it showed to them that I am also learning something. I figured that it is much easier to get along well with natives if you can speack the language. With my friends I also spoke bilingual depending on their English skills. Afterall I can say that I made lots of progress in my language skills but there is lots of room for improvement. Towards the end of my year I still took a private teacher for language lessons. AFS Indonesia has failed to provide adequate support for language. It is a very important and crucial part of the cultural experience. That is why I expect AFS Indonesia to provide better language support for future volunteers.

The experience and lessons I have learned I will share with as many people as possible. […]
So far it was the best year of my life. I learned so many things, gained priceless experiences and had lots of fun!