As a follow up to my post on finding local solutions, my first example comes from a small, vibrant group of people who call themselves the Laskar Hijau or “Green Warriors.”
I read about the Green Warriors in a local newspaper last semester and called to arrange a meeting with a man who goes by “A.A.” He kindly invited me and a couple of teacher friends to meet him at his home in Klakah, about 20 minutes out of town. He described the group as a community of friends with a common cause, environmental conservation. Despite his humble epithet their name conveys a truly radical element in the way they interact with environmental issues and institutions. These folks are nothing short of activists, leading a popular cause in politically complaisant rural East Java.
This post is dedicated to the newest addition to the extended Peace Corps Indonesia family, our keluarga besar. Today you took your oaths. For the next two years you will not know what each day may bring but remember you are not alone. You will do great things and we (ID6) cannot wait to see how far you will go.
April 22, 2013 started much like any other Monday for most of us in Lumajang. The local mosque came alive with prayer, the sun rose, and the roosters crooned “ku kuru kuru kuuu…” School was unexceptional down to the final bomb-siren “bell” blaring at 2:00 pm. At least that’s the norm here. And like clockwork students filed into English Club. “What’s our lesson today, Mr. Matt?” Asked one. “Today is Earth Day.” I replied. “And you all will decide what we will do to celebrate.”
Most of the time I’ve got soil on my mind, or seed starting, or plant diseases. Where others see rotting trash I see lush untapped organic matter waiting to be composted, even to a fault sometimes. Recently my obsession proved constructive. Here’s what happened.
Last week was different. Classes were cancelled to celebrate the school’s anniversary. School had the air of a carnival with all the competitions and performances going on. On Thursday some students performed a play. As the hundreds of other students looked on in the courtyard outside the mosque I could be found — not spectating from the teachers’ section — but on my hands and knees collecting used plastic bottles.
A sad reality about Indonesia is the unabashed littering. Everywhere I go I see people throwing away candy wrappers in the street, peanut shells on the bus, trash out car windows, and diapers into the river (not to mention defecating). The town square is always occupied by a plague of plastic bags. But this is “normal” here, or so I thought.
I was both fascinated and infuriated by what I learned in class two weeks ago. I used the topic of “littering” to teach persuasive essays. My students gave me over ten different reasons why littering is bad, and totally avoidable, yet they all confessed to be habitual litterers! “It’s just the easy thing to do, Mr. Matt.” The problem here is not education but attitude.
Students are smiling and laughing in class. For the past month, almost everyone’s homework has come in on time. Attendance and participation are up and I’m averaging only two sleepers per period. Can it be? Do my students actually enjoy learning English?