As my first month of Peace Corps training comes to an end, Indonesia is starting to feel more like home. My favorite part of the day is the morning hike down the mountain. I leave the house at around 6. Before I go, I usually take a moment to remind myself what I’m doing here, and then I’m off. The whole way down, I wave and say good morning to every villager I meet, and there are spots when the trees open up and I can look out at the mountains. The view is different every morning. Sometimes the clouds collide into the mountains perfectly, sometimes they cover everything, and sometimes there are no clouds.
Last night I read the beginning of my journal and couldn’t help but think of the new group that’s on it’s way. That first week was incredible! Nothing too controversial here, just my first impressions of Peace Corps.
I suppose today was officially the first day of Peace Corps service. 27 month journey began today. I flew out from Dayton after saying goodbye to mom and dad. We ate at the Boston Stoker cafe there at the airport. It was a terrible flight. Terrible turbulence… by the end of it I thought I was going to throw up. There was a storm too. I arrived at O’hare not really knowing what I was going to do, because I missed the flight to San Francisco. Everything turned out alright, though, and the flight to San Fran was a lot better.
Met Ryan and Jessica, as well as the 31 other trainees. Tried to use Dad’s trick of remembering their names. It worked about half the time. We did the ‘find someone who does this’ game as an icebreaker. We played a variety of games to get to know each other and the Peace Corps. Roomate is Andrew Hart. Pretty cool guy. We’re getting up at 6 to fly to Hong Kong. I’m a little worried about my luggage, and tried to stuff some stuff in my guitar case.
Too tired to write anymore…
I suppose the big news of the day is that I lost my roommate Andrew. He made it to the security checkpoint at the San Francisco Airport. That was the last place I saw him. So now I’m on my own, which is too bad because I kind of wanted a roommate.
We crossed the International Dateline at some point today. It feels like it’s the evening of the 5th, but we jumped over that during the flight, so it’s really the evening of the 6th.
I feel really tired and fatigued. I couldn’t sleep on the plane at all. A lot of PCT’s went into the city, but I’m just too tired. I probably wouldn’t do myself much good to go, and I’ve developed a general rule not to go out if you don’t feel like it.
I was sitting next to a married couple on the plane. I think I’ve already forgotten their names. I’m pretty sure the husband was Daniel. Must have been Daniel and Paige Gable. Talked a little bit with them about mission work they did in Spain. Said they were running a hotel on the St. Jame’s Trail. So far, everyone’s been nice and easy to talk to.
Well, it is morning on April 7th. I feel more rested today. Getting to Indonesia has been exhausting though. Just finished reading the Lincoln book to try and check my attitude. Should probably read some of the material I brought on the Indonesian English program to make sure I understand the main goals. I’m also pretty hungry but don’t really understand how to change dollars into Hong Kong currency. I will probably ask the front desk.
The day has gone better today I think. Better participation, energy level on my part. Got to keep it up!
We are largely being trained in a conference room like setting. We sit in chairs in a circle and talk about Peace Corps policy, expectations, language, culture, safety and security, health. It is definitely a rigorous schedule. There is just so much to take in, and this is going to be an endurance type of deal. We had an activity where we walked with the training manual on our heads across the room, and we couldn’t touch it, even if it fell. Someone else had to pick it up for us and put it back on our head. Mine didn’t fall, but I had to pick up Whitney’s.
Just got back from the reception with the current volunteers. Very interesting evening. The entertainment is what I generally like when I go to these kinds of things. I really hope I’m doing okay. Tomorrow I’ll have to try harder.
One cool thing today was a jam session I had with D.J., Tim, and John. All good guitar players.
You need to keep moving… don’t get stuck.
I just met my host family. Nothing can really prepare you for it. I walked through the door with Ananda, he sort of introduced us to each other, and after a minute or two, he left, and I was all alone with my pak and bu. (I forgot their names, and the paper that has them is on the other side of the mosquito net). The 2 kids were really shy. I’ve hardly spoken to them, but it’s only the first day, and I suppose as far as first days go, things could have been a lot worse. We watched a soccer game during dinner, Malang vs. Jakarta. Malang scored 2 goals. Pak really seems to like soccer. A few more random things: Mike left his bag, and they thought it was mine, so pak took me on a walk through the village to get it. Huge mountains. I’m pretty high up right now. I’m so tired…
That first moment with the family is hard to make out. You just have such limited language that it is very difficult to communicate. I think we were both trying to speak the others language, ironically. I have to go to bed. Too tired.
I’ve had a lot of fun the last couple of weeks riding around the village on my bicycle snapping photos. I am helping a student of mine named Wilda start a Rumah Baca in our community, and the organizations we are requesting books from, Asma Nadia and the International Book Project, asked us to send them pictures of the area.
This is the text of a speech on fashion my student, Wilda, delivered at a province-wide speech competition. I helped her write and prepare for the speech. She got 4th place.
Fashion Can Be Beautiful
Assalamualaikum Wr. Wb.
In the name of Allah, the Lord of Mercy, the Giver of Mercy. Praise belongs to Allah for allowing us to gather here for this speech contest.
I would like to thank the jury and everyone for gathering here to listen to my speech under the title, “Fashion Can Be Beautiful.”
Ladies and Gentlemen:
For muslims, fashion must be polite, neat, and beautiful. This is God’s will. And from my point of view, as a member of Indonesia’s young generation, I can tell you that balancing God’s will with current fashion trends in this fast changing modern era is not easy. It’s hard. It’s confusing. There’s all these different things to consider, like: What will my friends think? What will my parents think? What does the Quran say? How should I interpret what the Quran says? And last but not least, what is beauty, and who decides? What helps me sort all of this out is a quote from the Hadis that says, “Allah is all-beautiful, and loves beauty.” When I read this I know that embracing beauty through fashion is not forbidden, but encouraged as a form of worship to Allah. And I know that there doesn’t have to be a conflict between Islamic fashion and the modern world. We are allowed to change. So to illustrate this further I’m going to talk a little bit about the Jilbab.
As we all know, Islam has Syariat, or laws, to manage all of the things which happen to its followers. The Quran directs all women believers, in Al-Ahzab verse 59, “to make their outer garments hang low over them so as to be recognized and not insulted.” So Jilbabs are a commandment of Allah. But they’re more than just a commandment. They’re lahir-batin, outer and inner. They’re proof that a woman has devoted her life to God, and that she has accepted God into her heart. Marwa El Sherbini is an example of the seriousness of that devotion.
Marwa was a pharmacist from Egypt who lived and worked in Germany. She was only 31 years old. One day a man accused her of being a terrorist and told her to take off her Jilbab. But Marwa declined and called the police. The police arrested the man and there was a trial. During his trial, the man took a knife from his clothes and stabbed Marwa 17 times.
This story should make us ask ourselves why Marwa refused to take off her Jilbab. Had she done so the man may have left her alone and gone on his way. But, then again, perhaps not. The man was trying to strip away Marwa’s identity as a Muslim woman. He was seeking to humiliate Marwa by getting her to renounce her faith, and taking off the Jilbab was his way of doing that. We see, therefore, that a relationship exists between the Jilbab and one’s heart.
It has been said that the Jilbab is like a crown for women, a crown which gets its value from faith in God. Think about that for a second. A crown not made of gold or diamonds but just as beautiful, and made of cheap, regular cloth. You see, without faith, the Jilbab is worthless. Faith is inner beauty; it is a beautiful thing, having faith. And women believers must respect, keep, and defend their Jilbab as they do their faith. If Marwa would rather die to defend her Jilbab, then today, the young generation can find a way to reach a balance between God’s will and the modern era. And in many ways, we are already doing that. We are trying to combine the Jilbab with modern dress while still holding on to Islamic syariat. For instance, there are now stores full of Jilbabs with different styles, different colors, different designs, and made of different materials. And they are appropriately called “modern Jilbabs.”
So as “modern muslims,” we must realize that fashion is influencing our lifestyle and how we think. We cannot avoid it. Islam is Rahmatan Lil ‘alamin, which means the wisdom of Islam must be spread out to all people of the world. Because of that, Islam is not always textual/strict when defining a law. Some laws are contextual/flexible, and believers must balance Islamic laws with the reality of the situation. We have to be smart and separate the good things from the bad. And the way to do this is by our faith, our inner beauty.
It has been said that all people are born beautiful but let bad things come into their lives. The Jilbab is a way to protect against that, to feel close to Allah and make us think twice before doing something bad. So in conclusion, I’d like to say, 1)It’s ok to change with the modern era; 2) Fashion, as the Jilbab illustrates, is lahir-batin, outer and inner; and 3) Faith, or inner beauty, is a form of worship to God.
Ok, that’s all of my speech. Thank you for your attention and Assalamualaikum Wr. Wb.
Essays I wrote for my Peace Corps PST Portfolio.