Tuesday Sept 21
I stood in front of by far the largest audience of my life this morning, 1000+ at a guess, and talked for over 20 minutes - with less than a minute's advance notice!I went to the school's big opening ceremony for the fall semester, for all incoming freshmen, plus faculty and administrators - with whom I was seated in the front row of an immense, filled-to-overflowing auditorium ( guys on one side, women on the other ).A guest speaker from Jakarta was going to give the "General Lecture" on globalization in Indonesia but his plane was hours late.I didn't know that until later, but anyway after over an hour's delay with students pinch-hitting by singing song after song after song it was clear that something was wrong.Suddenly the MC came over to me and quietly said that he wanted ME to speak for 15-30 minutes, immediately!Well, why not?The nominal topic was 'easy ways to become fluent in English'.I was able at least to introduce myself in bahasa Indonesia first and then switched mostly to English.I told them about my previous jobs in Muslim countries and said I was very comfortable in such a situation, which got some applause. I said that I would be teaching English at IAIN for a year or two, but never got into the details of the ELF program that put me here.After I said all the predictable things about how to improve their English, the MC called for questions and a succession of students came up on stage and largely asked questions that forced me to cover exactly the same ground I'd just been over, plus ones about family, hobbies, etc.I have no idea how much they understood, especially since the sound system was awful, but they did seem to be listening and when I walked clear up the main aisle later everyone was trying to make eye contact with me and smiling from ear to ear.Everyone certainly knows I'm here now!Anyway, the MC finally indicated that I was free to return to my seat, and then a series of other front-row people were asked to come up and say something equally unplanned, in Indonesian of course.All the students started having conversations with those around them- the 'buzz' was almost like being in a giant bees' nest, but all of the speakers, including the Jakarta guy when he finally arrived, gamely carried on as if they had everyone's rapt attention.The globalization speech surely was of no interest whatever to a typical 18-year-old, and even the officials around me were openly ignoring it to talk with each other!
When the event finally ended, the students seemed reluctant to leave, and I soon found out why: it was pouring outside.No one - no one in that entire immense crowd- had brought an umbrella, and the auditorium was quite a ways from anywhere else.Fortunately for me, a vice-rector I'd met previously gave me a lift back to the Language Center in his chauffer-driven SUV.
Outside the Language Center, seven of the students in my Monday Curriculum Development class - all long-time friends and classmates - were sitting and chatting, so I stopped and spent 15-20 minutes with them mostly talking about parents and kids, my daughter, and related topics.They seem beyond overjoyed that I'm happy to sit and spend time having informal conversation with them.If my students are going to be this easy to please, I've got it made!
Then I met and talked a while with a friendly young teacher who seems to have a very similar teaching style to my own; not sure why he was hanging around all day,actually.He drifted into my office later and joined a long rambling conversation between Raidul and me while Raidul checked out Skype (he'd seen me having another Skype conversation with the ELF in east Java earlier and was intrigued ) Then she called again: by coincidence she'd just spent two hours unsuccessfully trying to help a colleague there in Jember download the Skype software. In the midst of that conversation the rain and howling wind returned with a vengeance, though Raidul and Holan laughed when I described it to Elisabeth as 'amazing' - just another typical 'dry season' day for them.Raidul insisted that the rainy season is still months away from starting.Elisabeth says everyone is Jember believes the rainy season is starting a lot sooner now due to global warming/ climate change.
The president of the campus language club ( both their English and Arabic ) came in and invited me to be the keynote presenter at the start of a 3-day conference opening on Friday afternoon.I'm to talk on moving from competence to real fluency, to about 50 people.I said I'll bring some examples of activities students can use on their own or with friends to challenge themselves; he seemed pleased with that idea.I'm to plan a 45-minute presentation and allow a half hour for questions.
The guys ordered gado-gado again for lunch. They're pleased and seemingly a bit surprised that I like it so much. After lunch I looked at the blogs of some other ELFs - at least 9 of us have them, though most haven't posted much and some only photos/brief captions. One had recommended my entry from Saturday - the wedding description - to readers.
Herizal drove me back to the hotel through streets flooded in places.When the rain stopped, one of the hotel staff that I often chat with took me in the dark on his motorbike to buy more pulsa for my cell phone, which was so low I couldn't make even a local call.I talked for quite a while with him and one of the receptionists, though she doesn't seem able to follow a lot of what I say. She did tell me she's a big fan of Frank Sinatra, The BeeGees, Tom Jones, and other very well-known past singers/groups.Not exactly what you'd expect from someone in full Islamic dress who always goes into the lobby's closed-in office conscientiously to observe every prayer call.Good reminder not to 'judge a book by its cover'!