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

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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”