Thurs. evening Oct 14
Suddenly I am much closer to being able to cook and eat in a more 'normal' way for me, and am feeling more positive about that part of my life here.Yani took me to Palembang Trade Center on his cycle this afternoon, where we went through the two best supermarkets I've seen here (though he thinks Carrefour is better yet ).Diamond has a great fresh seafood section with live crab, big redfish, etc. and more varied spices ( I finally found cinnamon ). For local non-Muslims, it even has a small enclosed pork cooler, with not much on offer but two attendants 'on guard', it seemed to me. Still no luck finding muesli but I bought 'instant' oatmeal and will dress it up with raisins, which I also bought there. Amid the sugar-packed rubbish there were two small, lonely boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats, no price marked, and when from curiosity I took one to the register to see its price it rang up at almost $10, dollar equivalent. I imagine they may continue sitting on the shelf for a long time. Still no nuts to be found except peanuts. Then we walked behind PTC to LotteMart, like Costco but no membership fee.It had better prices on many items, larger sizes for some staples, and lots of imports though on a hit-or-miss basis ( as has been true of imports everywhere I've lived abroad ).I got a huge tub of yogurt plus bell peppers, green beans, onions, apples and a whole chicken ( for gumbo ) plus lean ground beef ( for spaghetti ).I bought a huge, heavy Teflon frying pan too, since my house came only with a wok barely more substantial than tin foil. All the other pots and pans I'd seen for sale here were similarly flimsy. I looked at electric ovens ( a nice one for about $40 ) and DVD players ( about $25-30 ).I'll get both later. Maybe a fan as well so I don't use the AC so much. Prices overall were comparable to the US. Oddly, neither place seemed to sell any fresh baked goods, but I can get those elsewhere, even at the campus minimart.I think I'm ready to invite people over and cook for them, finally.
Our route to/from PTC took us on the most direct route, which involved many turns along back lanes in the residential area behind my house, until we got to the main street that PTC is on.Along the way I finally found the little toko I remembered that sells pisang ( bananas ), so I got some of the little sweet ones ( 30 cents for a kilo ) on the way back.Turns out the woman there has a daughter in Semester 3 English Ed - I may be teaching her in Writing III, and if not I will teach her in Writing IV next term.Anyway, now I can find cheap bananas whenever I want.And I could actually walk to PTC if I had the time and willingness to endure the heat and car exhaust. I expect I will at some point.
Yesterday afternoon Herizal and Yani and I drove way out of town to the new ( since '93) Sriwijaya University campus - comparable to UO/OSU minus the dorms, a spacious campus, lots of trees and landscaping, some impressive buildings, students who on the whole looked a 'cut above' IAIN's in social class, including physical 'type' and bearing, though I'd be hard put to describe the differences in specific terms.But we got there so late - 3 pm - that everyone they know out there had gone home for the day ( we probably passed them on the road out since they all live in Palembang ).The guys had not called anyone first to say we were coming.We'll go back again, earlier - some out there say they want to meet me.The drive itself was interesting, over the only other Musi River bridge, through marshy areas almost all the way with roadside houses ranging from the majority on stilts and very basic to some modern and large ( at times the latter built behind the former, I guess indicating that the residents had come into a LOT more money recently)There were areas with roadside food stands lined up by the dozen, and we stopped at several:for a special kind of 'fluffy' fried tofu, mandarin oranges, and dried full-length banana chips, supposedly 'sweet' but not by my definition - they were dusted with a brown powder that was not unpleasant but definitely not sweet either.
Over the last two days I've been reflecting on how to envision my optimal 'role' here, which has had the result of bringing my own perception more in line with that of everyone around me.I realize and accept that it does NOT matter that much what the title or subject matter is for any course that I teach; what I 'cover' in the course is not what anyone here cares about or will remember or might be affected by in some way.What makes me stand out in their eyes is that I am the only native speaker teacher they will ever have, maybe the only American they will ever get to know.I also present a different way of teaching, and a different way of relating to students - partly an American way, partly my own personal way, but the main thing is that I'm quite different from any other teacher they'll have, and I want them to see those differences in a positive light, maybe use them as an example and a justification for how they teach in the future.So I need to stop worrying about whether a particular activity or topic that someone suggests I do in class 'fits', strictly speaking, with what that specific course is 'supposed to' be about.Just do things that only I could and would ever do with them, that they would like to do, and hope that at the same time they also learn something new about English, or teaching, or American culture/ geography.
This weekend I've invited the two local English Teaching Assistants over so we can meet and begin to get to know each other, even support each other in some ways, though they teach in a very different situation from mine ( elite high schools ) .It will be my first time to invite anyone over and first time to cook for anyone here ( chicken gumbo ).Except for brief conversations at the English Library last week, it will also be the first time I've even seen Americans ( or Westerners of any nation ) since I arrived.