From the airport to Pak & Ibu’s school, it took Pak Pahot 1 hour to drive. Just before we arrived, Ibu Eliza phoned to update the principal of our imminent arrival. We drove into the school grounds and ready waiting for us was a group of about 6 girls dressed in traditional clothing complete with makeup. They looked gorgeous and each was holding a piece of beautiful length of material identical to the one Pak Pahot & Ibu Eliza presented out school with. No sooner than we had got out of the car, than hundreds of students streamed out into the school yard from their classrooms laughing and chattering excitedly to greet us. Pak Pahot insisted that they kasih salam as we were inundated with the throng of youngsters. They all clamored for our attention and held out their right hand to us while we one by one offered our right hand to each in turn so that they could place it on their forehead or cheek.
We were then ushered into the staff room and invited to sit in the chairs out the front while the staff and invited guests sat in chairs in front of us. Seated with us out the front were various people from the education department, 2 representatives from their parent committee, the principal and staff.
and special guests were also offered a plate of lupis – a local cake made from glutinous rice which was boiled in a banana leaf and then a brown sugar syrup was drizzled before sprinkling grated fresh coconut over the top. It was absolutely delicious and just what we needed as all we’d eaten that day was a tiny packet of peanuts. While not hungry, we appreciated it as it put something in our stomachs!
Ibu Elizawati began the welcome ceremony by explaining about the Bridge Project and then invited Masrul Badry, (kepala bidang pendidikan dasar, dinas pendidikan kota Medan) to speak. He spoke about the new curriculum which is currently only being used by a few schools while the other schools are still using the old 2004 curriculum. The new curriculum is only being implemented by schools who have chosen to do so and schools like Ibu Eliza’s who have been nominated to trial it by department; an honor they are reluctant to refuse! Pak Masrul then spoke about the importance of ICT in education and how we are living in a global world now where we are all connected by the internet. Once he was finished talking, the microphone was passed to me and I introduced both Ibu Margaret and myself and spoke briefly about our school before inviting questions! The silence that greeted this offer made me suddenly doubt the wisdom of asking for questions, but then one of the governing council members asked me about the ages of our students and once that question was asked, more followed in quick succession. They were fascinated learning about the specialist subjects, our timetable, the fact we have no canteen, the new curriculum,
Once there were no more questions, the microphone was handed back to Ibu Elizawati and she introduced the entertainment. We first watched a performance by 3 drama students reciting a very nationalistic poem about Indonesia’s independence, then next was an ‘orchestra‘ of 50 students who played a cool song with angklungs, air organs and a group of boys played drum on the desk top. It was a fabulous performance
The final performance was also entertaining. A young boy told a kancil story via wayang made from cardboard. It was excellent, especially as we are learning a kancil story next term with the junior primary students.
Once the performances were finished, we were invited to have lunch in the principals office. It was a very fancy and very delicious nasi bungkus in a box. It included urap (vegetables in spicy coconut), fried chicken, spicy sweet tempeh, a cup of water, a potato pergedel, a banana and a tiny bag of delicious stock which I poured over my rice.
After lunch Pak Pahot took us on a tour of the afternoon classrooms. Most junior classes consist of over 30 students!! Just about all the classes we dropped in to visit were year 3’s. Some classes were well behaved and polite and others were so excited to see us we were once again mobbed. One class was without their teacher and quite unruly. Some were in the classroom and some were out on the verandah. They wanted to follow us but Pak Pahot told them to return to class and wait for their teacher. The very next class we visited, we met their teacher who was unabashedly enjoying a chinwag. Pak Pahot informed her that her students were misbehaving so she left briefly to tell them to get back in the classroom and then quickly returned to resume her conversation!!
Soon afterwards, school finished so we too headed off. Pak Pahot informed us that we would be staying the first night with the principal, Ibu Erna Julia. As it was still early afternoon, they decided to show us a few local sights before dropping us at her house. We firstly went to the port, a popular destination for locals on a Sunday. A section of the port has been set up as an entertainment area with a huge eating area looking out towards a stage built out over the water and protected by a breakwater. Beyond the break water were several fishing ships anchored side by side so closely together the crew could walk from one to the other easily.
Soon after we arrived, the boats separated and motored off to sea for the nights catch. The breeze here was welcome after the still hot humidity at the school which is situated in a built up area on a busy main road. From here we visited a nearby school where Pak Pahot taught many years ago. We parked by the side of a very rocky dusty road in the process of being steamrolled. Even the steam roller struggled on this road!
As we walked to the school, Pak Pahot was greeted warmly by both teenagers and adults who recognised him. All were delighted to see him again. He loved catching up with past students and hearing what they’ve been up to. His school was up a narrow road which ran alongside remnants of a mangrove with several large wooden boats in various stages of disrepair moored in the mud.
The houses were all made from planks of wood and on stilts yet the school was built from bricks however it too was looking very shabby and neglected. While it was much smaller than Pak Pahot’s current school, he said there are over 1000 students and they have classes of 60 students! He also told us that at high tide, the sea comes into the school and that students once had to stand on their tables, it was so deep!
Nearby was a place selling ‘fresh’ seafood. It was tucked at the back of another narrow road in a large wooden building backing onto the mangroves. Inside were several young men relaxing who happily showed us all tubs of various sized prawns, crabs and a few squid kept fresh with a huge block of ice in each tub. Goodness only knows when they were caught! After bargaining a price, Pak Pahot bought 2 kilos of prawns
and then we returned to the car before heading to Ibu Erna Julia’s house with a brief stop along the way to buy crabs sold by people standing on the side of the road. Apparently the crabs had been caught in the river behind them! While the crabs were still alive, I wondered how long it had been since they were caught.
We arrived at Ibu Erna Julia’s house,
Ibu Erna Julia and her 2 daughters live in a tiny compact house consisting of 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a sitting room and a kitchen.
The first thing we did after Pak Pahot left was enjoy a mandi with freezing water that was very refreshing before lying down briefly in the air conditioned bedroom. So lovely to finally have a chance to enjoy a quiet rest before a delicious dinner which was delivered by a younger sister!