Out with the old, in with the new! There were a few things we enjoyed about our time in the capital. As a hub for international relations, we found ourself able to attend several Fulbright and AMIEF programs. If you’re not familiar, The Fulbright Program is an academic exchange program established in the U.S. in 1946. The program has been working with Indonesian and American students since 1952.
At this time Indonesian students getting ready to fly off and study for their Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D or to delve into research. On the other side of the equation, there are currently there are 34 Americans teaching English among the islands of the archipelago with a handful of researchers who are wrapping up their work. Over this last year, AMINEF has hosted several presentations and events honoring current and alumni Fulbright students, of which Rio takes an honorary place as an alumni!
During the last winter break, we watched current English Teaching Assistants (ETA) introduce their various stations through presentations. This was the halfway point for the Americans, 5 months into their 10 month station. The best presentation by far was a group who staged a mock dating show were each ETA represented their city. This event was held “@America” which is an American cultural and educational center.
While this picture is old, we’d like to give a goodbye to these Fulbrighters! They will be leaving soon back to the U.S. We ran into one of these Americans in the Lombok airport and spoke with her as lights came on and off throughout the struggling airport. At the time their departure was 3 months away, and she got a very sad sort of melancholy in her voice when she told us how much she’s enjoyed working with her students.
A few weeks later, we headed back to the @America corner, for a review of two researcher’s work on studying flooding in Jakarta. I had no idea how bad the flooding gets in the city, but 2012 saw one of the worst years. The audience really turned out for this event because it was such an important topic, and I really got a chance to hear Indonesian perspectives during the Q&A.
What I personally took away from this was the use of concrete and its negative effects on the city. The property development craze that is engulfing the city of Jakarta is leading to more water retention in the streets, and less so in the ground. Indonesia’s water infrastructure is severely lacking with open sewers that carry all manner of trash and disease to anywhere with little to no efforts made for cleaning and retaining water after its use. High rises are then consuming more limited water resources, and regurgitating more non-potable water into the sewer systems. Likewise, Jakarta is a city on the shore and global warming is expected to push back the shore line. A shore line where many live, do business, trade, and work at the moment.
Lastly, we attended an incredibly momentous occasion last month in May! Before Fulbrighters go out into the wide wide world, there is generally a formal workshop to help people prep for the culture shock ahead. We attended the formal dinner that would start the workshops for the newest Indonesian batch at the Shangri La Hotel in Jakarta. We could feel all the nervousness and anticipation packed in one room. Not only this, but I ate without abandon knowing not one thing was going to make me sick! The greatest joy my tax dollars have given me this year seeing as how AMINEF/Fulbright is largely funded by the U.S. Dept of State.
By chance, I happened to invite two shy Indonesian women to join our table, one of which planned to study in the university just next door to Puzzled Pilgrim’s alma mater! The student is going to be studying in SUNY ESF, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The college shares plenty of activities, events, and more with Syracuse University. We immediately started telling them about the area, where to go, and all that the place can provide. Rio and I were both a bit jealous upon reflection, of the journey they were about to undertake. We’d love to do it all over again. I also found out from other alumni in my husband’s batch, that our marriage was a topic of gossip whenever other Indonesian Fulbrighters had gotten together. It’s a weird thing to think that while we were enjoying our post marriage glow, tens of Indonesian strangers were texting each other over Whatsapp with shock.
A hearty congratulations to our new Fulbrighters who will step forward to represent Indonesia in the United States! We wish you the best in this incredibly hard, but rewarding transition.