On Monday 11 January I arrived at The Learning Farm, an educational project set in the rolling green hills surrounding Puncak. The drive up was beautiful – tea plantations and sharp corners. I couldn’t decide if I was driving up in to the foothills of the Himalayas in Northern Pakistan, looking at Vanilla Plantations in Uganda or, in fact, just three hours out of Jakarta. It’s crazy to think Maleber, with its green fields and cool climate, is so close to the busy polluted streets of Jakarta.
So, The Learning Farm…
Karang Widya (TLF or The Learning Farm in English) is a residential organic farm that is home to around forty young men and women. The students, aged fifteen to twenty-six, are referred to the farm from charities all over Indonesia and stay for three months. Over the course of this time, they learn farming, business skills and English with the hope that this will help improve and stabilise their futures.
Which is where I come in.
Because I am now an English teacher! Every day, Phun (a volunteer from the US and my new best friend!) and I teach English: present tense, possessives, how to tell the time… I think I’ve learnt more English grammar in the last two weeks than in all my fifteen years of education. And I can tell you now that English sucks. How on earth are you meant to explain the difference between whose, whom and who in English, let alone to people that don’t understand everything you are saying?? It’s impossible! It also doesn’t help that there is such a range in the age and ability of the students – some have finished high school while others have only had a few years of secondary education.
Luckily, the students are great. In our batch we have four girls and thirty boys, all of whom are hilarious and so enthusiastic to learn. It’s surreal teaching a class where all the students want to be there – no rebels in the back not paying attention (although there is a fair bit of messing around). I can’t understand how teachers in England do it. If I find this hard we must have been hell!
The students are split in to two classes for English which means less lesson planning for us (woop) and four days of basic lessons. It also makes it so much easier to teach – imagine having to explain things to forty hyperactive teenagers! Hell. Which is why going to STL, the advanced program, on Wednesdays and Saturdays is so nice. There are only eight students and they’re all crazily funny. Most of the lesson is spent rolling around the floor laughing.
Teaching only two hours a day also leaves plenty of time for other things… Like farming. Every morning and afternoon the students go out to the fields to harvest, weed and plant new crops. Phun and I mainly stick to weeding (and even that depends on whether we wake up in time and already have a lesson planned!). Still, farming is really fun if we get out there – there’s something so calming about pulling all of the green plants out a bed of red cabbage. Of course, it also helps that you look up to see this view…
But farming isn’t everything. Runs (my legs are still sore from running up the hill back to the house – at least it makes the prospect of a freezing bucket bath less daunting), naps (my personal favourite) and trips to the nearby bakery (a break from nasi three times a day!) are all part of my new routine. And of course, hanging around with the students: card games, singing and laughing. Everyone here seems to be musical. I feel like I’ve been transported in to a cheesy romance film – sitting around on the sofas as someone plays the guitar and everyone else sings feels so cool. It’s like High School Musical all over again…
Sundays are everyone’s day off and so the perfect time to do some exploring. Last Sunday we walked up to Curug, a nearby waterfall and tea plantation. It was incredible – all the photos look like they’ve been stolen from the internet.
And showering in the waterfall was amazing, even if it was freezing. Although getting caught in the rain on our way back and not having a change of clothes was not so fun… It is so cold here – add that to a cold bucket bath when we got home and I’m surprised I’m not ill! Still, we drank hot water with condensed milk in Ibu Naani’s hut and sat around a fire to dry off feeling very cool and hipster. (My hair still smells of smoke!).
The adventure continued when we arrived home – Phun and I had been locked out of our room! And so, like something out of a superhero movie, one of the boys scaled the wall of the house and climbed in through the window!
Today it’s back to teaching. Phun had to go to Jakarta for visa stuff so I’m all by myself! It’s a review lesson: worksheets and Jeapardy.
Look out for next week’s post – going back to Jaks to see Amaala’s school play, Copacabana.