Wednesday, April 4, 2012

One Year in Peace Corps, One Year in Indonesia

The one year anniversary of joining the Peace Corps seems to be a good time to reemerge into the blogosphere. The "reflections" entry is pretty standard in any blog tracking the journey of a PC Volunteers, so why should I be any different.

Well today, April 4th, is my one year anniversary for joining the Peace Corps (not becoming a volunteer) and Saturday, April 7th, will mark one year in country. Then April 10th will be the day when I officially started living with a host family. Yes, there are many anniversaries, some quite trivial. The funny thing is that early on some of us (myself probably more than others) kept close track of these dates because not only was living in Indonesia for a month quite an accomplishment, but so was being part of the Peace Corps. April 4th therefore has as much significance to me as April 7th does, but at the same time they are quite distinguishable.

This pattern will again arise come June. While I joined the Peace Corps on April 4th, I did not become a volunteer until June 15th and I did not arrive at my site until June 16th. So many dates, but each has their own significance. The first few months are filled with a number of milestones and our time is so rushed that its easy to forget that each one has it's own meaning.

So one year. It has all passed by so quickly. In truth I feel like a year of memories has been crammed into a month of time because it really doesn't feel like a year has passed. As I understand it, many of my friends back home feel quite opposite. There are a good number who were convinced three months ago that over a year had already elapsed. Apparently time moves slower in the US.

I have learned things, though they weren't the lessons I expected to learn of course (they never are). Most lessons have been about me or life in general and less have been about the world of development.

Here are 5 lessons learned during Year 1.

Lesson 1: "Oh the things you can think, think and wonder and dream, far and wide as you dare."

My fast paced American life in which I use tv to relax in the evenings and on weekends does not provide any time for me to just sit around an think. Here in Indonesia I have come to appreciate the act of thinking. It is an activity that has been lost to Americans and was certainly never taught to my generation.

This practice is pretty much forced onto all volunteers whether they realize it or not. We get left behind in conversations or meetings so often that the only thing to do is think. Sure we try to decipher the conversation in the beginning, but your brain can only take it for so long. After a while you really just need to escape into your own mind.

What do I think about you ask? Well I often make plans. I lesson plan. I think of secondary projects and the results that will come out of it. I map out a daily schedules hoping that I have found the one I will be able to stick to (they never work out). I decide how I will tackle the GREs. I imagine what I will do with the trainees when they visit me at site next month. Then, of course, I day dream about seeing friends and family again or going on vacation. More recently I just try to make things up; generate ideas for stories. Get the creative juices flowing. There is a whole world of "thinks" real and imaginary to muse over. It is quite amazing and really not a waste of time.

When I first arrived in Indonesia I was amazed at the number of Indonesians I would see sitting on their porches doing nothing. I just assumed that they were spending their time thinking. Now my host sister has given me reason to doubt this. She always asks me why I am staring off into space when I am the one thinking and it is usually accompanied with a tone of concern. So maybe I have been wrong to assume that Indos sit and think a lot, but they do sit and I have a hard time believing that nothing goes on in their heads. At any rate I like to believe that I am becoming Indo in taking the practice of thinking to heart.

Lesson 2: Running away from your vices is not possible when even developing countries have found a way to connect to the internet.

Yes internet is quite prevalent here. It is not found in even a fraction of houses in the villages, but I can afford it and therefore I have it. Of course I purchased it for practical reasons. I needed a cheaper way of talking to friends and family and in the end having the internet is cheaper than paying for cell phone credit.

Well the internet also means that I have a source for TV shows and FB (and of course this blog, but I think we all know it has not been a vice). With so much good, comes a lot of time sucking entertainment which I have a hard time saying no to.

I had fully expected to be ripped away from current episodes and I hoped that Peace Corps would rid me of my addictions. Alas  running away from your problems is never a good idea and even those caused by technology can reach you on the other side of the world. The only thing to do is to confront it head on.

Lesson 3: You learn not to take friends and family for granted when you are forced to be apart.

This was one of my earliest lessons. It isn't difficult to become homesick here. I had a particularly rough time of it when I first arrived at site and I was overwhelmed by my host family, but simultaneously jealous of their proximity to one another. The only thing that was able to calm me down was the thought that I would never miss my family this much if I had found a job and moved out on my own instead of joining PC. Although the lack of feelings would have been easier, the general notion of not missing your family is quite sad. When we do what is expected of us there isn't too much time to reflect on what was because we are so busy moving forward, but being away heightens feelings.

Surprisingly I have found that a few of the relationships that I have cherished over the years have actually been strengthened by the distance. This is quite ironic in my case because I was always horrible at maintaining long distance relationships. My current lack of contact with basically all of my high school friends is proof of this. I was fortunate to finally find the rich value of my friendships partway through college and since then my skills at maintaining long distance relationships have flourished. It is more painful to lose a friend than to be apart. In fact I have only come to love these people all the more. I am grateful for the time they have put back into me. 

Lesson 4: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

This song runs through my head fairly often for days at a time. I don't think I can even come up with a specific anecdote for you; it's just a natural part of my life. This one certainly applies to the world of development.

Lesson 5: Aversions do not remain aversions throughout your entire life.

Well truth be told I learned this lesson quite a while ago when I finally began eating tomatoes in Florida. We are talking about a lifelong aversion that was suddenly cured by the taste of fresh Pico De Gio. This Pico did not just give me a taste for Pico, but for the first time in my life I was not taking tomatoes off of hamburgers, picking them out of salads, or forcing my grandmother to make two batches of tuna salad. To say my mother was shocked was an understatement.

I suppose that all of my getaways have help me grow to like things I hate in some way or another. Indonesia has been particularly helpful with my dislike of writing. I am not saying that I LOVE writing yet, but I have become more fond of it over the past year. This is truly a big step for me. Writing has been one of my academic nemeses since high school and we have hated one another equally. I know that my blog has not reflected this in the last few months, but overall I will say that the relationship is improving. I apologize if the proof is not always publicly visible, but maybe, one day, it will be.

I raise my Nalgene (filled with water) to a good first year. Here is to hoping that much will flourish during the next year and ten weeks to come!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Post Thanksgiving Funk

Last week I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to visit my training host family and Malang and to enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner at Consulate General Kristen Bower's home. The weekend was lovely. I was thankful for my Malang host family (and their love for my single serving apple pies) and all the PCV friends that I got to feast with. All in all not a bad Thanksgiving weekend.
As the weekend drew to a close, however, I found myself reluctant to return to site. I was sorely temped to stay another night, but the cost associated with such a decision did bring me to my senses. So with a pessimistic attitude I boarded the bus Sunday afternoon. Since arriving back home I have found myself in a lethargic state. I am calling it my Post Thanksgiving Funk.
Throughout my service so far, I have found myself happy almost all of the time. Sure there was initial adjustment to site and the homesickness than followed, but at no time have I actually found myself reluctant to do much of anything fore more than a day or two at a time. I think that this prolonged funk can be attributed to the holiday season and the real lack of festivity surrounding me. Sure I have been watching Christmas movies and listening to Christmas music, but it feels out of place. My subconscious still thinks it is June and it isn't even ready for Christmas in  July.
This mood has effected my motivation do things. This week I have found myself lesson planning while half sleeping in the mornings and reluctant to do anything social after school. Fortunately my lesson plans have worked out pretty well, but this is only because we are in our final weeks of classes and we have begun reviewing for the final. I am therefore not teaching much of anything at the moment. I have also been able to get myself out for volleyball, which is good. At least I am not held up in my bedroom for those two hours.
Because of a mixture of moodiness and my journey to Malang and Surabaya, my 30 day challenge has only had a good start. I got myself out of the house on only one occasion so far. I will need to remedy this in the remaining 2.5 weeks. Hopefully I will be able to shake the funk and really be in the moment here before Christmas.
The good news is that I have not handled this bout of homesickness the way I had previously. Before I 
would take any sign of sickness and secretly hope that it would enough to get me medivaced (sent back to DC) for just a couple of weeks. PC policy is that if you return to full health within 40 days of being in DC then you are allowed to return to site. It is pretty ridiculous that that was a regular day dream for about two or three months, but you do what you can to survive.
Now I just see myself muddling through the funk here, where my home is now and will be fore the next year and a half. I have no desire to leave, I just want to have a Christmas that feels like Christmas. There is no need to worry though. In just 2.5 weeks I will be off to the Philippines and although it is still hot there, it is filled with family. I can't think of anything better to throw off the funk, although I do hope that I can shake it before I get there. I hope everyone is enjoying their holiday season. Have a peppermint mocha for me from Starbucks (they cost as much as a Pizza Hut pizza here!). I will continue to watch Christmas movies, listen to music, and maybe I will find my way out of the fog in another day or two.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The 30 day Community Challenge

Exactly one month from today I will be leaving my community for a couple of weeks and I will head off to the Philippines to spend my holidays with my family. By that time I will have surpassed the six month mark at site by three days and a quarter of my service at site will be gone; only 3/4 left. As I indicated yesterday, overall  I am very happy with my progress here at site, but the one area I still feel needs improvement.

Community integration has been a difficult area for me. I am hesitant to stop and talk to people (usually because I am whizzing by them on a bike), and therefore people know that I am here, but they don't know why. I have also been dreadful with names because I was always embarrassed the second or third time I met a person to ask them their name again and how can you say that you know someone if you can't even remember their name? In general I have let my fear of what others are thinking (although they will think it anyway), my novice grasp of the language, and my desire to not attract too much attention get the better of me. Although I am happy with my progress overall, it is time to shed my fears and just go for it.

In an attempt to face my final integration frontier head on I have devised a 30 day challenge for myself. Recently I have seen several people participating in various 30 day challenges and I feel that it is time for me to get my own on. As I stated before I am in my fifth month at site. Although adaption is an ongoing process and I know that I will still encounter unfamiliar situations long after six months, the quarter mark at service is a decent benchmark for familiarizing and observing to lessen and for action to start. I want to make sure that I have done all I can before I hit this mark, so I am committing to get out into the community more over the next month.

For this challenge I have identified three days a week which currently lack scheduled plans during a chunk of the day; Sunday, Tuesday, and Friday. On these days I am committing to taking a walk (not a bike ride) and stopping in at anyone's house who invites me in. I will also commit to keeping a journal of all of my encounters so that I can better remember the people I speak with. On top of that, I expect that this challenge will give me some blogging material. Its time start relationships!

Today was a great kick off to this challenge. I went to the home of a church member who has been asking me to come by for a couple of months and I also stopped by a small house compound of sorts where three sisters live. Both excursions were long overdo, but they were a good way to get my feet wet. These were people I was familiar with and who had asked me to stop by on previous occasions. To my surprise the conversations flowed fairly effortlessly. I tried to do a better job of explaining why I was here, I answered some questions, and then I asked a few questions of my own. All in all a very successful day 1.

So here is getting out more and have no PC regrets about community integration!

Photo of the Day

My niece, Putri, and nephew, Akbar, blowing bubbles.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


Somehow it is already mid/ the end of November, and I don't really know where the time went. In the last month a couple big PC things took place. During the last two weeks of October I traveled to Surabaya for our In Service Training (IST) and just this past week I had my site visit with a Peace Corps staff person. Although there are still more to come, it does seem like a majority of the major PC benchmarks have passed us by. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the office is much more hands on with you during the beginning of your service, but still time is flying by.

There isn't a whole lot of specifics to report on IST. I had a great time living in a hotel for two weeks with 26 other great American friends. It gave me the opportunity to get to know some of the volunteers that I  wasn't close to during PST (literally because of distance) and we were able to enjoy the comforts of western living for a bit. Its not like we are living in mud huts or without running water, but my house does lack a hot shower, sitting toilet, and actually something as basic as a sink. Movie theaters, malls, and Italian food are also a very nice treat.

Contrary to my host family's belief though, this was no vacation. We spent hours a day sitting in a conference room talking about our experience sand absorbing new information. Information, which I am pleased to report, that has been very helpful since returning to site. All in all, good times!

I think that the best  benefit of IST had little to do with being in Surabaya though. In fact the biggest benefit was just being away from site. Sometimes you need to be missed for you and others to understand the changes that have been taking place. Being away for two weeks was a significant amount of time and one of three things happened during that time.

  1. Its true what they say, when you are too close to something it is hard to see the changes. You don't always notice when a friend looses weight if you are around them everyday, but the second you look at an old picture it is all too obvious. Maybe my students were slowly opening up to me and gaining confidence in my teaching style and I just wasn't able to see it until I stepped away for two weeks.
  2. While I was gone my students recognized the difference between my teaching style and the way other teachers teach. They realized that I am trying to make their learning experiences more interactive and that they are actually learning something during the silly games and songs.

  1. It was a combination of 1 & 2 (the most likely explanation).

All I know is that since I  have returned to school, my students have been more engaged in their classroom activities than they had been before. They are now following directions within a minute of me giving them instead of staring at me, and now they are asking more questions and looking for approval. It is great!

So just a few days ago I had my first site visit. After the first one they aren't too scheduled, but they usually occur when someone from DC is visiting, when someone form Jakarta is visiting, or when an event is happening at the school. This first one though was just a check in. Aside from occationally getting overwhelmed with the number of things that people want me to do (usually teaching English) everything at my site has been going swimmingly.

My relationships with my CPs has steadily been growing stronger and we are even embarking on a major project to write our own English workbooks for next semester. We are getting better at lesson planning together and we have finally started English department meetings. Clear goals have been set for the remaining part of this semester, and it looks like we should be able to start off strong next semester.

Life in the community has also been going well. I continue to love everyday that passes with my large host family (8 adults in one four bedroom house). I have also joined a women's volleyball club team, so I get a more competitive (not college level, but not jv either) practice in twice a week. Its just good time for me to chill with some women and girls in the community.

I do recognize, however, that my forays into the community have been pretty limited. I am not great at using my free time to get out of the house and meet people. I hesitate oh too often because it is probably one of the hardest parts of the job. We are constantly being watched and called out at and to put myself out there and meet people in the community usually means times filled with awkward conversations and a pretty strong language barrier. This is something I need to get over though. Integrating myself into the community was my number one goal in becoming a PCV and so far I have avoided it like it is the plague. Once I make first contact things will be fine, but I just need to get up my courage and do it.

At seven months in country though, I am happy with my progress and my trajectory. Hopefully I'll stay on course and just gather more power along the way.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The "Super Person" and the Indonesian School

In my last post I provided this link to an article in the New York Times. I don't know how much attention this article got back in the states, but judging from a couple of Facebook posts I saw, it wasn't unpopular. If you haven't read the article, it talks about "the new Super People." James Atlas compares the standards for top tier college students of his day to those of today and finds the gap to be astounding. The level of excellence expected of those students vying for a spot at topped ranked colleges is far greater than what was once required. He notes that "[his] contemporaries love to talk about how they would have been turned down by the schools they attended if they were applying today." Although Atlas continues on to question the validity the resumes' of "super people," what I am most interested in is the "super person" mindset and how it effects my work here.

As I read this I recognized that so much of what I accepted as normal as an adolescent and even as a college student is part of this "super person" mindset. If I were to compare my adolescence to Atlas' description, I would have to proclaimed myself a "super person." In high school my friends and I found ourselves taking as many high level courses as possible. As a three season athlete, a board member of at least two clubs, and a member of an acapella group, I could be found somewhere on the school grounds until at least 5:30 on a daily basis. During my summers I volunteered at an outdoor Shakespeare festival, worked at the local Build-A-Bear while studying for the SATs, and went to China to help with a summer English program. I may not have achieved the grades expected of "super person," but I ran with the crowd and had the mindset to boot. The funny thing is that I never thought twice about it. Sure there were a few times as a high school student that I recognized that it was probably not the best situation for my mental health, but everyone was doing it. It was normal.

 In some ways I loved the mindset and in other ways I despised it. The expectations my parents had of me became the expectations I had of myself by the time I reached high school. Being a "super person" allowed me many life experiences (some which my parents paid for and many which I worked for on my own) that I would not exchange. Please note that the name Atlas has given to people like me is ironic because being a "super person" can have some very adverse effects. I believe that this lifestyle brought me to some very emotional lows more times than I would have liked. As a "super person" you don't lead the most balanced lifestyle. It is "go Go GO" all the time and in the end it is emotionally exhausting.

As a teacher I often find myself thinking back to  my high school experience. Sometimes it is to use my former teachers as mentors (I had a lot of great ones), other times I try an remember what I was thinking as I sat on the receiving end, and a lot of the time I simply reminisce. When you compare my high school experience to that of my Indonesian students it is like the article, but in reverse. Some students study and work hard to be top students, but even with my ban on copied homework, I am fairly certain that a majority of them still get their answers from their friends (I can always tell who worked together). Most students just run home and sit around or hang out with friends without opening a notebook the rest of the day. Some come to sports or band practices afterschool, but as I mentioned in my volleyball post, team practice here is wildly different than what you see in America. In short I am a "super person" in a non-"super person" environment. Recall what I said yesterday, if I use the expectations I grew up with to measure my students, I would get frustrated very quickly.

During August I gave a lot of thought to the question, "Do I want to work to transform this into the high school I knew?" Every single time I thought "no" almost immediately. Why? Well because PCVs aren't sent around the world to turn their countries into little Americas. My goal here isn't to take what I know "works" in the US and try to put it in place here. For centuries people have discovered time and time again that that doesn't work. In addition, who is to say that it is the best situation. Just because people aren't dying doesn't mean that they are thriving on the most basic emotional levels.

It is important to recognize the positives and negatives of both situations. In Indonesia students are more carefree and able to be young. They have a strong sense of community and feel that the success of the class is important. On the other hand the students measure success by whether a test is passed and not by how much the comprehend. Students don't use critical thinking skills and rely on the smart students to get through test situations. Students from my high school experience had a strong background in a variety of subjects and hobbies. Considering their age they had a strong world view, and an appreciation for hard work. On the other hand they were very competitive and stressed out. Their competitive nature did not always nurture the strongest friendships and although no one admitted it, they often felt alone. Both sides have very negative effects.

Although, I don't want the Indonesia I know to turn into a mini America, I do feel that education does need to be taken more seriously. How do we find balance? I am not sure that a perfect equilibrium will every be struck, but there must be a way for Indonesian students to see the value in education without going to the extreme of needing to become a "super person." At the same time, the youth of America should not have to be a "super person" just to have a sense of self worth. Somehow I must merge my past with my present and hope that in the end my students benefit from it.

As usual I do not have the answers, but I can say that I hope living in Indonesia for two years will bring a bit more balance to my life and tame my mindset a bit.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Head is Out of the Ground - here is the post on Education

So for awhile now I have eluded to the state of the average Indonesia school, but never really talked about it. Knowing that my first post on this grand topic would take some time to write, I have avoided it. However, considering that it is the main reason that I am here, to skirt the topic much longer would leave a gaping hole in your understanding of my work.

I find myself hesitant to write because I want to be careful not to be judgmental about practices here. I recognize that my experiences in the American education system were very extreme, even by America's standards. Education was (and probably still is) third on my list of values only to God and family. I recognized early on in my time in Indonesia that to use my past experiences as the measurement of a "good education system" would not only bring me a lot of stress and frustration, but that it would also not achieve my goals as a volunteer of understanding why things here are the way they are. If (but more realistically "when") I choose to overlook this key factor, it can mean a lot of wasted time, energy, and emotions for  the people involved. And as a logical human being I try to avoid that when possible. I am fairly certain that I have failed at my goal to be nonjudgmental in this post (it is something I am working on), but the account I give here is the reality of my Indonesian school.

I would say that Indonesians have high standards for their system. They want to make sure students obtain an understanding of many subjects by the time they graduate from high school. It isn't uncommon for students to take 18 subjects per semester. This is especially the case for students at madrasahs (Islamic schools), such as the one at which I teach, because Arabic and religious classes are added to the normal curriculum. Students study the general subjects (math, biology, chemistry, history, etc.), but they also study more social subjects like sociology and psychology. Of course those subjects are not unheard of in the average US high school, but they are usually an elective and the average American high school student has about 8 subjects per semester. Where do all the extra subjects come from you ask? Well all the sciences are studied simultaneously. You start to add up those simultaneous subjects and in no time you find students studying 18 subjects at a time. 

Every student studies every subject because they are assigned to a class and do not have individual schedules. This does not allow for flexibility in learning. If a student is smart overall then they are put in the smarter class, even if they are horrible in one or two subjects. This also means that a student must pass or fail overall because there is no opportunity for them to take grade 10 English for a second time.

In order for there to be enough time for all of these subjects, the school week is Mon-Sat, although Fridays are a couple of hours shorter. The schedule is usually set up in a way where subjects are taught in two period blocks. Although many subjects have an average of about four hours a week, some have three and others have five. This means that my classes meet on average twice a week for an hour and a half. With some classes the days are consecutive and with others they are spread a part. Either way the students only have to think about English twice a week. The rest of the time they are welcome to sit back and forget.

Of course with a more sporadic schedule teachers find some days wildly busy (for me Tuesdays and Saturdays) and other days completely empty. This allows teachers to come and go as they please (as long as they are not being paid by the government) and also gives most teachers a second day off in the middle of the week (mine is Friday). I can't pretend that I don't like the leisurely system though. To be honest I think that without it, it would be difficult for women to be teachers here.

For most teachers the time between teaching usually spent socializing with their friends. The school provides workbooks that also contain basic lesson plans. These lesson plans usually consist of "tell the students to do task 3 then go over it." Because most teachers take this approach they find that they have free time in the middle of the day and students usually find English (and if what I am told is correct, all other subjects) difficult. The speed at which most teachers go is usually too fast for students to have adequate time to practice each skill, especially when their classes only meet twice a week.  In the end the students retain hardly anything.

To get by students cheat on homework, quizzes and tests. Indonesian cheating has become so bad and systematic that it even received global attention from NPR and The Economist over the summer. I assume that each student has a strength in at least one subject because of the way the classes are grouped. It seems that by cheating they get themselves (and their classmates) through the rough spots. I have been told that this is because students start to receive pressure from their teachers and the national exam to always be correct. Most students therefore don't realize that there can be more than one answer to a question. If somehow a student still falls behind, in the end there is still a certain amount of pressure from the administration to bump up a student's grade if they are only failing one or two subjects.

In general I find that my students lack critical thinking skills, basic logic, and study skills. When they go to write sentences in English they always write it out in Indonesian first and then use a dictionary to translate. I know that by the time I was in high school I was using the basic words of Chinese and throwing in English when I couldn't remember or didn't know a word. Unfortunately my students have yet to make that transition.

I will say that the students are very energetic. This usually means good things for game based learning, but it is a big a draw back when I am or one of their classmates is speaking. They are all very sweet and although not all may see a purpose for education I would say that the majority do. Their definitions of respect and diligence may not be the same as mine, but I am sure that we will find some common ground.

I think about education a lot here. What goals are realistic? How will my background  mesh with their practices? Which things really need to be worked on and which are ok to let be? How do we find a balance between the American education system that I know and the more laidback one that I work in here? What is the value of education in a society who's local economy is primarily made up of labor intensive jobs? This is what I think about regularly (feel free to give wisdom). These are the questions that don't necessarily need answers but need thought in order for me to work well at my school.

I wrote this today because I in my next post I want to address an article that I one of my PCV friends posted to another. Thanks to Facebook's stalker qualities I read this NYT article today.
Because this post is already long enough and because it was necessary to give a background on Indo schools before commenting on the article, I will leave my thoughts on this it for another day.  

One last thing: Do you all like my blog's new look? I mean I didn't work on it for a full day or anything but I think it turned out pretty darn cute! It's a picture of Indonesian batik fabric. I haven't had it made into a shirt yet, but one day you will see it in a picture on me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fee Fi Fo Fum

As I mentioned in a post about volleyball a couple of months ago, my physical build is considerably bigger than the average Indonesian's. Although this applies to weight, it is by no means the only physical attribute which exceeds traditional Indonesian proportions. 

At 5'5" I am taller than probably 90% of Indonesian women and even a large percent of Indonesian men. When I talk to people about volleyball here, they assume that I am a hitter on any team in the US. I had to show them pictures of my teammates for them to believe that I am actually considered short back home, especially by athletic standards.

The size difference that amuses me  the most though is between our feet. Before coming to Indonesia I carefully planned what shoes I would bring. My previous experiences when attempting to shoe shop in the Philippines and China had taught me that my feet are truly American "super-sized." I assumed that Indonesia would be no different. Well I was not mistaken. 

I live in a traditional Indonesian house, which means out front you can find a plethora of sandals. Usually there is a pair for every person in the house, but every now and then we borrow whichever pair of shoes is most convenient. Today my sister, Lutvi, slipped on my sandals as she ran out of the house. I couldn't help but be amused, so I ran in the opposite direction for my camera. 

As you can see her feet kind of swim in them.

Of course this isn't shocking, she is a tiny Indonesian woman after all. What is infinitely more amusing is that when my brother Riza (her husband) put them on, he also swam in them.

This is a guy who is taller than me and considered an average size Indonesian man, yet his feet are tiny compared to mine.

When I tried his sandals on it was no Cinderella story. Instead I was one of the Ugly Step-Sisters.

I suppose that I am an even UGLIER step-sister when I try to fit my sister Ira's flip flop. When I saw these shoes at the market I assumed that they were for children, but apparently I was wrong. 

So although I may not be a really be a giant compared to Indonesians I think that it is safe to say that my feet are.

My brother Riza and sister in-law Lutvi on their wedding day.