We need your HELP!

Dear Friends and Family – my community and I need your help!

For the last 7 months my host mother and a few other community leaders have been building a new kindergarten and community center. Our project is almost completely funded by community donations but we need help furnishing the classrooms and purchasing playground equipment.

When this project is finished we will have purchased desk, chairs and white board for our classrooms and playground equipment for Gebang’s new community park.

If you are interested in donating or want more information please click the link below!

https://donate.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=donate.contribute.projDetail&projdesc=15-497-002

Terima Kasih Banyak!

Kids of Gebang

Kids of Gebang

ID8 Welcome Video

This past weekend 65 new Peace Corps Volunteers were officially sworn in and moved to their permanent sites. To keep with Peace Corps Indonesia tradition I made an “unofficial” welcome video to help boost their sprits as they left their PST friends and family.

Many volunteer from across the island help to put this video together and we would like to share it with you- we hope you enjoy it!

Congratulation ID8 and Good luck at site!

1 year down – 15 months to go!

Today, April 9th 2014, Peace Corps Indonesia batch 7 celebrates its 1-year anniversary. Over the past year many things have happened but time has seemed to fly by! The year has been filled with many great adventures, amazing friends, awkward cultural misunderstandings, emotional highs, emotional lows, strange sicknesses and most of all it was filled with RICE.

Reflecting on the past year I finally understand why Peace Corps is 27 months long.  I have been here for a year and I just started feeling comfortable teaching, beginning secondary projects and living independently in an Indonesian village.  I feel the challenges of transition are finally coming to and end and I can begin moving forward and really trying to make an impact over the next year.

For the last few months I have been away from my blog and it would be convenient to blame it on the rainy season, the floods, the earthquake or the volcanic eruption but in reality its because I was lazy and couldn’t find the motivation to write a post. So to recap my adventures from beyond a comfort zone I will try to represent my 1st year here in Indonesia with photos. 

April 2013

On April 5th 2013 I left home for Peace Corps staging in San Francisco. Soon after we arrived in Indonesia I moved to Tulungrejo were I stayed for 10 weeks and trained to become a Peace Corps Volunteer.

May 2013

During training we had a pack schedule. We had language training 6 days a week, attended teacher workshops and taught at local schools. Pre Service Training was very busy but we always seem to find time for Pizza!

June 2013

In June I Swore in as a Peace Corps Volunteer and moved to Desa Gebang, Cirebon, West Java.

July 2013

In July I spend the summer exploring my new home, I finally began teaching and I got to celebrate a rainy 4th of July with some crazy PCV’s.

August 2014

In August, Ramadan came to an end and I got to take part in many cultural and religious events. I also spent a lot of time getting to knew my community.

September 2013

September was a month of big moves. I moved to a home closer to my school and I was lucky enough to get my own little apartment. I also visited Bali with 30 of my closest friends. We had a blast exploring another one of Indonesia’s many Islands.

October 2013

In October all of ID7 reunited for In Service training. Before training a few friends and I spent a long weekend snorkeling around Karimun Jawa. At training I was happy to see many long lost friends and as a group PCID celebrated Halloween. But the highlight of October was getting to watch the Red Sox win the World Series.

November 2013

In November I spent a lot of time with my English Club. We took our first field trip to the Cirebon Palace and at the end of our trip they surprised me with a small birthday party ! At the end of the month West Java was invited to the Ambassadors house to celebrated Thanksgiving.

December 2013

December was the month of Family! At the beginning of the month I got a chance to meet up with my older brother in Singapore. When I got home my host father and I traveled to a near by volcano and at the end of the month I spent Christmas and New Years in Hawaii with my family.

January 2014

During the month of January the rainy season was in full swing which made for amazing sunsets! I also had the chance to visit Obamas former elementary school in Jakarta and got to help out with Mr. Dan’s English Club.

February 2014

In February it rained so much that the streets flooded almost everyday. This happen so often I could barely leave my house but it was no problem because I finally started cooking at home. Now my homemade chocolate chip cookies are the hit of the village! I also learned how to properly gut a fish and grill it – Desa style!

March 2014

In March I was invited to the new trainee orientation as a member of the Peer Support network. At  orientation Thai, Emani and myself lead a session on diversity in Indonesia. We also had the chance to hang out with the new trainees and answered all of their burning questions. I also took this time to visit my former host family in Tulungrejo!

April 2014

This April has started off to be a very busy month. My site mate Brie and I are in the process of planning a university training as well as a Cirebon wide teachers workshop.

This year has been an incredible adventure and I’m excited that I still have 15 months here in Indonesia. I’m not ready to go home yet, there are still places to explore and work to be done – Im just getting started!

Ohana means Family

Airport Reunion

Airport Reunion

For Christmas vacation this year my family and I reunited for the first time in 9 months on the beautiful Hawaiian Island of Oahu. We all arrived on Christmas Eve and for me this meant traveling from Indonesia to the Philippines and then to Hawaii. That day I celebrated Christmas Eve in 3 different countries, I crossed several times zones and stretched one day into 42 hours. In any other circumstance having a 42 hour Christmas Eve would have been the highlight of the day but the best part of that Christmas Eve was seeing my mother run through the baggage claim doors looking for her long lost son but didn’t realize I was standing right in front of her until I reached out an began to hug her.

The rest of the Gendron boys came through the doors a few minutes later and I was over whelmed with joy. It was great to finally be back all together. We gathered our things and piled into a blue mini van, a Gendron Family vacation tradition, and drove 2 hours north of Honolulu to the North Shore where we stayed for a week and a half.

We stayed in an amazing house that over looking the beautiful and rough North shore ocean. From our deck we had views of monstrous 30-foot waves that shook the ground when they crashed. We witnessed spectacular sunsets that were framed by both palm trees and mountains in the distance. For me this house was even more amazing because it had a hot shower, a kitchen with an oven, the most comfortable bed I have slept in in months and it was stocked with all my favorite American munchies! I have to give my Father props for finding this house it was awesome!

Over the course of those 2 weeks we did many things, we went surfing in Hale’iwa, we had an amazing Christmas dinner at the Turtle Bay (yes I did quoted the entire movie, Forgetting Sarah Marshal) and we hiked Diamond Head in Honolulu.  We went snorkeling, we swam with turtles and visited both the Polynesian cultural center and Pearl Harbor.

Some days we just bummed it on the beach and other we had bonfires in the rain. We went to mass twice and the first priest was from Indonesia and the second from Boston, coincidence I think not! On New Years day my three bothers decide they wanted to run a 10k race and they finished 1, 2, 3. I didn’t want to show them up so I just stayed in bed.

We also eat and abundance of delicious food, which was a must for me because white rice and chicken doesn’t always cut it! To top it off the weather was perfect. It rained a few days but for the most part it was 75 everyday and unlike Cirebon there was no humidity.

The list of things we did on this vacation could go on and on but for me the first and the last nights were by far my favorite memories. On the first night after getting settled in our home we grilled chicken on the deck and put together a delicious dinner.  After eating we just sat on the deck, drank wine and shared memories of the past year. We spent that night catching up with each other and we didn’t miss a beat. It was a great reminder that we could live a world away but this – this would never change.

On the last night, although it was bitter sweet, we were once again reminiscing but this time about our two weeks in Hawaii. We joked about little fights we had, discussed the next family race strategy and tired to mentally prepare to leave this tropical paradise (although not all of us had to go home to four feet of snow). Before dinner was over Chris, the youngest of the Gendron boys, handed out key chains that he bought for each of us. As he handed them out he told us how they all say “Ohana” which means family in Hawaiian. He got them for all of us because he thought that even though we were spread around Massachusetts and “the world” we could all keep this with us to remind us, as Disney’s Lilo and Stich put it best, “Ohana means family, Family means no one gets left behind.”

This Christmas I was reminded how lucky I am to be part of this family and how  happy I was to be with them. This trip truly was the greatest Christmas present I’ve ever received.

Are you ready for some FOOTBALL

Adjusting back to the volunteer life has kept me very busy. Reconnecting with friends and students as well as getting back to the teaching grind has taken up most of my time, but to this football fan January means playoffs! A few weekends ago I had some free time so I visited my friend Dan, who is also a football enthusiast (49ers fan). We spent our time talking about football, watching football (at ungodly hours) and playing football with neighborhood kids, which was by far the highlight!

The kids were hesitant at first but quickly pick up the sport! Dan recently posted on his blog, Superbaik.com, about our experience. Take a look, he does a great job describing how natural these kids were and how shocked and excited we were (seriously check it out he a great writer).

Unfortunately, I did wake up this past monday at 3am to watch the Pats season come to a close, but all things considered they had a good run. Football will have to wait until next year or at least until the next time I’m in Plered!

December Disclaimer and Singapore Shenanigans

During the month of December my first school semester was coming to a close and my classes were preparing for the national exam. At the same time my English club was gearing up for their first debate competition, which was held completely in English and they finished 7th out of 42 teams . This month I also had the chance to do some traveling with my host father and visit some other Peace Corps Volunteers. But the highlight of my month by far was having the chance to spend some time with my family.  This month has been jam-packed and I haven’t had any time to blog. There are way to many stories to write about in just one blog post, so I am going to spread it amongst a few.

In early November I received a facebook message from my brother Steve, saying he was asked by his boss at Brooks Running to staff the Singapore Marathon later that month. Seeing that Singapore and Indonesia are relatively close he asked if I might have an opportunity to come visit him. For me, school was slowing down so it was the great time to travel. I jumped at the opportunity.

On December 1st Steve and I were reunited for the first time in 8 months. It was an amazing weekend filled with tons of sight seeing, reverse culture shock and an abundance of delicious food! In my opinion, Singapore is the most western city in all of Asia and it is also the cleanest city I have ever explored. The whole time I was there I felt like I was walking around Epcot or what Walt Disney must have imagined when he designed tomorrow land.

The city almost seemed faked. It is a beautiful mixture of old colony style buildings surrounded by towering skyscrapers whose architecture creates a beautiful skyline.  Further out of the downtown area Singapore is split up into ethic districts that transports you from the tomorrow land like city center to the countries of India, China and those of Middle East. In all of these areas you can shop, tour, eat and not even realize you’re in Singapore. All of these areas are easily accessible by Singapore’s state –of-the-art MRT or subway system.

That weekend Steve and I spent a lot of time sampling the local cuisine. Singaporeans take pride in many things when it comes to their city but the one thing they don’t joke around with is their food! In Singapore you can find extremely fancy and high-end restaurants but when you ask most people where to eat they recommend the local food courts.  Like in Indonesia, street vendors set up shops all over the city and sell a verity of delicious food, however these were much cleaner than in Indonesia. A city favorite is chicken and rice. It sounds pretty bland but you have a choice of many different sauces that gives it an amazing flavor.

Yes thats Bacon in the cheese!

Yes thats Bacon in the cheese!

We eat at local food courts almost three or four times a day but one day we splurged for some western food. This is mainly because I have been deprived of good burgers, cheese and bacon for almost 8 months. For all those PCVs who know what I’m talking about look no further than Clark Quey’s Beerworkz.  I can say with out a doubt this burger ranks among the best burgers I have ever had.

Singapore’s skyline is very impressive but the Marina bay Sands Hotel maybe the crown jewel. Standing 73 stories above Singapore’s Marina Bay, this hotel is made up of 3 towers that are connected at the top by the world’s largest suspended infinity pool. It is probably Singapore’s most recognizable building.  Not only does it add to the skyline but it also provides amazing views of the city.

Before going to Singapore I was told that unless I was a hotel guest or on the list we would not get to the top of the hotel.  However getting to the top was a trip goal for Steve and I, so one night we tried our luck. We strolled into the hotel as if we were guests and followed a crowed of visitors to the sky park elevator. When we got to the desk they asked, “Are you hotel guest?” Steve quickly replied, “Yes, we are in room 1206.” Before I even knew it happened they hand over two passes and ushered us into the elevator.

The view from the top was amazing. It was a very clear night and you could see the whole city.  You could see the lights that stretched all throughout the city and into Malaysia. Steve treated me to an overpriced Corona and we both agreed at that moment we were Miles away from other beers.

These are just some highlights of the weekend. We did everything from watching the Maria bay light show to meeting up with a fellow Indonesian Peace Corps volunteer, Shane. We had a wonderful time and to cap off weekend we had a Singapore Sling at the Raffles hotel, were they were invented. I look forward to my next trip to Singapore and I hope whenever that is Steve can come back with me.

What are you Thankful For?

In an attempt to make Indonesia feel a little more like home, all of my classes this week have been Thanksgiving themed. In each class I gave a brief history of the holiday, its traditions and what my family does to celebrate. I have explained everything from my family’s unpleasant early morning run to counting down the hours until Aunt Sue’s squash soup hits the table. But the highlight of each class by far has been throwing the football around with my students, because lets face it what’s Thanksgiving with out football!?

When I did these lessons in my classes I asked my students what they were thankful for and no surprise, they all said the same thing.

I am thankful for my God, my family and my friends.

We made a huge list of things they were thankful for but when asked to choose just three they all chose the same three to be the most important. Yes, some students copied each other but out of 5 classes it seems remarkable to have the same answers. It is just another reminder of what is most important to Indonesians, community and religion.

Today I find myself missing my “community “ (friends and family) more than usual. I am missing the food, the football and the festivities. But being here today I have also realized how thankful I am for all that I have. I am currently living a life I only used to dream about. I have made many new friends and memories here in Indonesia and I know it’s clique but being away from home around the holidays has really shown me how amazing my friends and family are.  I look forward to when I come home and I can once again join in on the butterballs!

Now before you go on thinking oh poor Matt, I will be having Thanksgiving dinner with some fellow volunteers and the U.S. Deputy Ambassador at the Embassy in Jakarta this weekend, Thank you ‘MERICA. And yes I did walk up early today and go for a run; you have to keep some traditions alive. Although this time I didn’t have to keep pace with anyone and there was no snow, just me with the ocean on one-side and rice fields on the other.

My English Club enjoyed the lesson on thanksgiving so much they asked to make a movie to show my friends and family back home what they were thankful for  –we hope you enjoy it!

HAPPY THANKSGIVING – and in the words of Edie McClurg “Gobble Gobble”

 

Karimun Jawa – The trip that almost never happened

Welcome to Gebang

Welcome to Gebang

When I first found out that I would be moving to Cirebon I went straight to map to see where on this diverse island I would be living. When I found it realized I was living right on the ocean and I extremely excited. But every time I told someone where I would be living they told me that Cirebon was hot, flat and relatively ugly. I didn’t want to believe them because everything I had seen of Indonesia seemed to be beautiful. But to some extent they were right. Gebang doesn’t have sandy shores and it is pretty flat. So I went back to my map and I found Karimun Jawa.

On a map it looks like a little island to the north east of Cirebon. I thought that being in a port city there would definitely be a ferry to this island! Again, I was wrong, but before I found that out I researched this island and fell in love with it before I even had a chance to get there.

If you Google the name you see tons of beautiful photos but its hard to find actual information on the island. The more I dug, the more I found and the more I needed to get to this island. Karimun Jawa is actually a small chain of 27 Islands. The main Island is named Karumun and has a population of 10,000.  Some of the other islands are populated as well but most are uninhabited and can be walked around in less than an hour.

After 5 months at site I finally had a chance to go with a few friends before our In Service Training, also known as IST. Because the Peace Corps office is located in Surabaya all the members of the Barat Pack had to travel across the island to get to training. When we found this out I immediately called Brie but before I could say anything, she said, “I’ve already called the ferry, we leave Thursday!”

Jetty in Gebang

Jetty in Gebang

After classes finished the adventure began. We board a bus to Semerang, Central Java with our friend Marguax where we intended on meeting up with our friends Alex and T (Terrence) and then  boarding the ferry to the islands. Simple right.

About 30 minutes into our 8-hour bus ride Brie received a text that due to large swells and bad weather the ferry was cancelled. The even worse news was that it would not run again until Saturday. We were devastated for all of 10 minutes. This would not keep us from the island, we were determined to find a different way.

Marguax and I began searching the web and Brie was scanning her Lonely Plant guide to find a different mode of transportation.  With in an hour we had found a port in Jepara (2 hours east of Semerang) that had a ferry leaving the next afternoon. This ferry would get us to the island by sunset and buy us almost 3 full days on the island. However we still didn’t have tickets or reservations, but details right…

When we arrived in Semerang we met up with T and Alex and boarded a bus at 5am headed further east to Jepara. This was, at that time, THE WORST BUS RIDE OF MY LIFE. It was jam-packed and 100 degrees. The phrase jam-packed does not give you a correct description of what this was bus was like. There were literally people standing on other people, it was painful. When we arrived in Jepara we were so relieved just to get off the bus that it restored our faith, we were getting to this island.

We raced to the ticket window to see if we could purchase tickets for a ferry that day. But when we arrived we were faced with the unfortunate news that the ferry would not be running due to the swells.

Sunset in Jepara

Sunset in Jepara

This news was debilitating. We had just driven all night, we had not eaten a real meal in over 12 hours and we just road on the bus from hell (again what we thought at that time). This depressing feeling lasted a little bit longer than last time but again we were determined. So after eating and taking a quick dip in the ocean we all walked down to the customer service window to see about the next day.

When we got there we met another group of travelers who were also looking to find away to the island. We were told that the next days ferry would be leaving on time but it was full. It was sad day in Jepara. We had come this far and it seemed like the trip was slipping through our fingers. Back at our hostel all five of us sat down, eat some mie goreng and discuss our options.

We were all little upset and decided maybe we should consider a plan B. we still had a full weekend before IST and we were in a very culturally rich part of the Island. So again we pulled out our books and iphones and started to search. As we discussed possible plans all I could think was that just 2 short hours north of where I was, was were I wanted so badly to be!

When the final plan was concocted, a trip to Solo, I passed. I decided that I was going to try my luck getting a ticket in the morning or go back to Semerang for the Saturday Ferry. Margaux chose to come with me, Brie and Alex were off to Solo in the morning and T was going to head to Surabaya a few days early. Even though we had been together a short while it was sad to see our group breaking up.

Our Trusted Ship!

Our Trusted Ship!

The sun started to set so we sat by the ocean. We all were heavy hearted because we had faith we would make it. We made it this far and now it just over. But just then our friends from the ticket window came over and asked what our plans were. After hearing what we had to say they told us that they spoke with a few fishermen and they were making a cargo run in the morning and they had space for 5 more people.

Without hesitation and in unison we all said, “We’re in!”

At five in the morning we boarded a small fishing boat that full of every kind of Indonesian snack you can think of, tons of eggs, fruit, different kinds of drinks and even two goats. There were also 10 other people crammed into this tiny boat, the European travelers and their Indonesian guide, two other Indonesian travelers and some people who lived on Karimun. The boat set off for what was supposed to be a 6-hour journey but again nothing could be that easy.

The Cargo on board the ship

The Cargo on board the ship

We were about two hours into the trip and no land was in sight. I was having a great time chatting up my new friend Nizer, the Indonesian guide, when I decided I needed to stretch. I shut my eyes and reached as far back as I could and then I realized my hands were in the water! Shocked, I opened my eyes just in time to see the whole boat leaning with me and along with the boat all its contents were sliding towards me! I quickly pulled myself back into the boat and then the wave passed and we rocked in a similar pattern the opposite direction.

This happened for the next four hours. I was terrified. I thought for sure our boat would flip and that we would be too far from land to swim, I thought we would have to wait and hope someone would find us. The fishermen didn’t seem phased they actually seemed amused. They told us this was nothing that they have been through worse and at night. This calmed me a little but the fear in the eyes of the people who actually lived on the island kept brining me back to the fact that I almost fell out of the boat and that the high speed ferries weren’t running for a reason.

Me, Nizer and T hanging out on the boat

Me, Nizer and T hanging out on the boat

About six hours into the trip the waves calmed down and you could begin to make out the island of Karimun Jawa. It was still far off but I knew if it came down to it I could make it to one of the smaller islands off the coast! But there was no need, with in about an hour we pulled into the small port of Karimun and made it to solid ground.

The Island was more beautiful than I Imagined! The water was so clear you could see straight down to the sand below!

The main town was about four streets wide and all came together at a small town center known in Indonesian as an Alun-Alun. We found a Guest home for about 4 dollars a night (per person) and eat every meal in the town center. At night the Alun-Alun become a food market with stalls that serve all the Indonesian favorites but the best was the Ikan Bakar – grilled fish. You could pick from a verity of fish and then it was cut and grilled right in front of you.

 

Grilling the Fish

Grilling the Fish

In the morning we rented a boat hired a guide and spent the day snorkeling and exploring uninhabited islands. These islands looked as if they jumped right off a windows desktop – it was unreal. I felt like Jack sparrow being marooned on his own private island but the difference was I wanted to stay. On one island we were able to walked all the way around and the only footprint we saw were our own.

The snorkeling was amazing! The Coral and the fish were so colorful and they were everywhere. It was honestly leaps and bounds over the snorkeling I did in Bali. Both Brie and Alex who have traveled extensively through South East Asia agree that these are most beautiful beaches and Islands they have ever seen.

We ended our trip watching the sunset over the main island from a sand bar in the middle of the Java Sea. It was the perfect ending to an extremely crazy adventure. Would I do it again, definitely! Would I take the high-speed ferry, definitely!

This island is still flying below most tourist radar but it wont for long. They are currently building the island up by building a larger port and a bigger landing strip. They seem to be committed to keeping it clean and free from big chains but that can only last for so long. Soo0o plan your trips now because I would love to go back!

Below is a photo gallery and a video I made just to show you how awesome this Island actually is – I hope you enjoy it!

Oh yeah that bus ride to hell and back … Ill get to that later.

 

 

SMK N 1 Gebang

I have been away from site for a few weeks due to trainings, weekend adventures and a quick trip to the doctor. When I arrived home I found that my school had made some major physical changes. Now we have a full basketball court, we are constructing a new library and 2 new classrooms. I have only been here for a short time and things are already different so I figured this was the best time to tell you about my school – before it changes again!

My school before the construction

My school before the construction

School under construction - Its hard to see but there are new buildings

School under construction – Its hard to see but there are new buildings

For the last five months I have been teaching at a semi military vocational high school. Our school has 3 tracks, Automotive (TKR), Social (TKJ) and Nautical (NKPI). The largest track at my school is the automotive program; here students study to be mechanics and to operate large machinery. The Social track, which is the only track that has female students, studies to work in customer service and specialize in everything “computers.” The last and smallest track is the Nautical program, which is my schools flagship program.  This means that NKPI gets a lot of attention and inspires the rest of the school to have a military feel. Students in this program are hoping to find jobs on fishing boats, passenger ships or to attend the Naval Academy.

 

Me with my NKPI K2 Students

Me with my NKPI K2 Students

Like all high schools in Indonesia my students will study in Gebang for 3 years. However at the end of their second year they will be placed in internships all over Indonesia. The Automotive and Social track will find work in their respective field in either Jakarta or Bandung. The Nautical program travels to the Island of Bali to work on fishing vessels, cruse liners and ferry boats (most of my classes are nautical classes so I’m petitioning to be one of their supervisors). Students will live and work in these cities for 3 months and then come back for the 3rd and final year of school.

 

Being a semi military high school my school loves its ceremonies and uniforms! Like every other Indonesian school we have a flag ceremony on Monday mornings but unlike other schools we also have these ceremonies every day. At these ceremonies we salute the flag and the school, we sing the national anthem, students stand in formation, and the principal address the school.

 

Flag ceremony on a Thursday morning

Flag ceremony on a Thursday morning

Another difference between my school and others is that we have a drill team that completes in competitions that are specific to ceremonies like this, so our ceremonies are always done to precision, its like a science. They also try new formations and marching techniques, which always makes it very interesting.

 

Students wear their navy whites Monday through Wednesday and Thursday through Saturday they wear royal blue uniforms. The uniforms look like sailors uniforms and each one comes with a specific hat. The class officers wear ropes around there left shoulders that denote class and rank. Students also lead, perform and practice most ceremonies on their own.

New Cadet Ceremony

New Cadet Ceremony

One ceremony that I really enjoyed was the New Cadet Induction. At this ceremony the freshman students, who had gone through basic training for a little over two months, were finally accepted into the school as first level cadets. The ceremony was spectacular! Every club presented and every drill team preformed. Class officers wore orange over coats and the schools marching band made me feel like I was in the Indonesian sequel of Nick Cannon’s Drum Line.

 

The best part of ceremony was when the students were allowed to pin on there shoulder buckles, this means they were officially students of SMK N 1 Gebang. At this point parents were allowed to approach their children. Mothers and farther alike were very proud of there students running up to them to give them hugs. I saw many mothers crying and I assumed it was because they were overwhelmed with joy, when I asked my counter part why this was such and emotional celebration he confirmed what I had thought. He told me education was important and not everyone has this opportunity.

 

This is a very brief over view of my school but in the future I will write more about my experiences teaching here!  I will especially write about my campaign for teachers to wear the Navy Whites!

 

Election Day in Cirebon

On Sunday, October 6th, 2013 Cirebon held its annual Bupati Election. The Indonesian government is set up on many different levels starting with village, then the district, state and finally ending with the National government. Bupati is a position that is equivalent the Mayor or Governor of a district.

 

That my door behind voting booth number 1

That my door behind voting booth number 1

This election was great because not only did I get to witness democracy in Indonesia, I got to be a part of it! My host father is very active in our community and volunteered our home for the village polling location. He also volunteered me to be the Ballot Box Guard and finger marker person (not real names – just sounded cool). Needless to say he just gets me!

 

On the night before Election Day my host father, a few of our neighbors and myself set up our polling location. With in a matter of minute we transformed our little porch sitting area into a fully operational agent of democracy. We did it so quickly we didn’t realize we covered the entrance to my “apartment “ with a large green tablecloth. My host father thought this was particularly funny, because now I could no longer access my home.

 

Polls are OPEN!

Polls are OPEN!

The next morning we were up bright and early to begin preparing for the election. My host parents were shocked that I could actually wake up, on my own, before 5am. I tried to explain to them that for the last 7 or 8 years I have been working or volunteering on campaigns and Election Day for me is up in the ranks with holidays like Birthdays and the Forth of July, but I still don’t think they understood my excitement.

 

My Host Farther dipping his finger in the Ink

My Host Farther dipping his finger in the Ink

Before the workday began all volunteers had to take an oath stating that they would not tamper with the free election in any way.  Then we went through a process of counting the ballots and setting up the stations. My station was the last station. I was the guard of the ballot box and once each person voted I had to remind them to dip their finger in purple ink, so that they would be marked and couldn’t vote twice.
When the polls closed we empty the ballot box and carefully inspected each ballot. A committee, put together but the candidates, was there for this part to make sure the count was correct. When the day was done I was extremely proud of my host country. All day men, women and young adults came out to vote and voice their opinion. It was a great thing to be apart of and I’m very excited to do it again.

 

counting the ballots

counting the ballots

I love elections and the election process. This year I’m a little sad I will be missing out on the upcoming local election because my fathers name is finally back on the ballot! This experience definitely helped me cope with my “year without elections” but it’s not the same as helping my Dad run for office! With that said this blog would like to endorse Steve Gendron for Lowell School Committee, I know what your thinking that’s a prestigious endorsement. Good luck in November and don’t forget to Run with Gendron.

 

 

– REMINDER you can still get an absentee ballot so get on it! And don’t forget to vote on November 5th!