Thanks David! saw this today and while I won’t have time to use your ideas this year, I will have time to come up with a quick Valentine’s starter for my classes…
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My Fellowship in Jogjakarta is rapidly approaching its end. It’s been a breathtaking, eventful year, both professionally and personally, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, though everyone here could have done without the earthquake and the volcano, and I wouldn’t have minded forgoing the wart…
All the teachers I’ve been building with this year survived the quake, but only two-thirds of them managed to pull themselves back to the seriously damaged campus for the final, and extra week of classes they requested. Of these 15, at least four lost their homes, and for the most part their towns, 2 are fairly seriously injured, and as a group they eleted to have class in the lobby of our building, feeling too skittish to concentrate in a 2nd-floor classroom far from the doors and open skies. They are wonderful group, full of promise, and I will miss them.
I’m not in Gaza. I’m not in Israel. I’m certainly not in Iraq. Or New Orleans. But I was in DC on 9/11, and I watched the Pentagon burn for several nights, though I didn’t know anyone who died. I only saw their families’ and Government’s reactions. And now I am in Jogjakarta, and I’ve finally seen the altered states we enter into when inexplicable pain transforms our relationship with our environment. Not to say I’ve never grieved or been close to grievers, but so many — that’s different and informative. Yuli tracked down a friend of hers from university, and found she’d lost her mother. An old woman wanted to take us to the spot where they buried her daughter-in-law carrying her first grandchild six months along. We begged out, but her son was nearby, asking someone, more than two weeks after the fact, “Where’s Nia? When does she come back?” In the days after the quake he had seemed the most together of that area’s victims. Another resident shows us where the earth opened up, swallowed a river, and ruined any hope their generations-old kampung now has of surviving on their homeland.
The convoy drives daily, and they see hundreds of victims everyday. The majority still smile, trying to shake off their personal disaster and ‘soldier’ on. They take the shovels and clear the homestead. They team with others and tear down walls anticipating rebuilding. They may complain about their invisible government, or how little their children now have, but they smile, and somehow I know their families will recover.
A significant percentage remain visibly stunned, but still functioning. They walk their children through the rubble, they sit on salvaged couches, beds and balays by the side of the road a few meters from their tents and uncleared land. They eat, they stare off into the distance, but they are there. They, too, may still find a path to recovery.
But the others. Grief and shock turning to rage and madness. In Allah and God a possible answer, and this can only be explained as an act of Allah and God. There is nothing acceptable on which to vent the grief and rage, of which there is so much. So I have to wonder what any humans think they can gain from committing acts that fuel such emotions? I used to hear modern poetry about ending the cycles of hatred and war… once in awhile a politician would actually make it into office having talked about these cycles. But it’s been a long time since that happened anywhere. Instead we only hear reports of humans creating situations like the one I’m living now, and threats to make more of them. So much ignorance, all over the world.
Didn’t really provide enough detail in the “surreality” post: at halftime an Indonesian cover band played a couple of reasonably pleasant cover tunes. After the match, the band came back, here between the earthquake and the volcano, and sang a few more songs. Right now, between the quake and ‘no, seemingly with no thought to the physical context, what are they singing? “What a Wonderful World”. What a wonderful people, I say…
Today as many days this week, I’ve been sitting in a favorite resto of ours, updating the convoy blog, and catching up on itnernet-related work and communications. The connectivity here is the best I’ve found in Jogja, and it’s free.
At about 7 PM, waiting for Yuli to get back from the hills, the Dixie Diner suddenly was overrun by Indo-style football hooligans, settling in for the England-Paraguay match, now almost over. Go England!
But here’s the surreality bit: I’m an American, in a quiet ancient Javanese city, being attacked as I type by quakes from the south and a volcano from the north, surrounded by young Javenese men and women, rabidly involved in a match involving European and South American teams… As a matter of fact I’m finding myself pretty British, as I did over two World Cups in Europe (1990 London and 1994 Poznan). This time, however, four continents and two natural disasters are involved in this scene… and nearly everything stops for this tournament.
The Convoy’s mission and a typical day in the life are up now at www.indoquake.blogspot.com
If anyone coming across this site wishes to contribute, please stay tuned for details.