Thursday, September 10, 2009

My first mini-breakdown

Yesterday I had my first mini-breakdown. It happened after I went to the supermarket in search of some take out lunch to bring back to the office with me and found that the food stand which had been open a few days ago for lunch was closed, as was the KFC in the same building. Not knowing where else to go that might be open for lunch during Ramadan, I ended up buying some cheeseburger flavored chips and a lemon-flavored Gatorade type drink called Vita Zone. That was my lunch. It was pretty sad. Then I got in a bentor and headed back to the office. By this point I had taken a few solo bentor rides and was feeling pretty proud of myself. But this time, I managed to draw an incredible amount of attention to myself. Cars honked their horns, men shouted, “Hello Mrs., I love you!” and there were all sorts of whistles and cat calls. Mortified, I realized this excessive amount of attention must be due to the fact that I was wearing a dress that came to just above my knees. And when sitting in a bentor, your legs are on display for all the world to see. I felt half naked all of the sudden and couldn’t wait for the ride to be over.

When I got back to my office, I hurriedly ate my chips and waited for Ibu Noni, my writing co-teacher, to arrive for our meeting. We were supposed to talk about the schedule and who’s going to teach which section of the class. I had met Ibu Noni the first night I arrived in Gorontalo but hadn’t seen her since. She asked me how I was doing and suddenly I burst into tears. I explained how I was starving and didn’t know where to find food and how I felt my clothes were completely inappropriate and how I had tried to go shopping several times and hadn’t found anything. And then she asked me to write down a list of everything that I am stressed about. My pen flew over the paper as I thought of everything else in addition to the food and clothes issues that had been quietly building up and stressing me out. Neither my stove nor my washing machine are connected, my sinks leaks, I need new bedding and towels, my house is dirty, there’s garbage all over the front, I don’t have enough electrical outlets in my bedroom, I don’t have Internet at home or at work yet, I need bookshelves for my office, the light is broken, the clock needs a new battery, I don’t know how to work the printer, and on and on. And something else that I see as critical to my well-being – I haven’t been to the beach yet. Gorontalo is supposed to have some amazing beaches. In this crazy, unfamiliar environment I think I nice swim in some salt water would do me a world of good. But no one has volunteered to show me where the beach is. I asked a couple people this past weekend, but the general consensus was that it’s not ok to go swimming during Ramadan because you are weak from not eating.

Anyway, it felt really good to be able to talk to someone about all of these things. Until I started writing the list, I hadn’t realized how much stress I had been under. Ibu Noni asked why I didn’t say anything earlier. She said there are so many people here to help me and that if I need anything I should be sure to say so. I guess I was worried about appearing to be an ugly American who needs this and needs that and needs it immediately. I had been told many times that things happen slowly in Indonesia. And maybe a washing machine isn’t the necessity I think it is. Maybe there are lots of families who wash their clothes by hand. I don’t know, but I want to be sensitive to this and not be too demanding. The same thing goes for the Internet. For me it’s a lifeline, my link to the outside world and I see it as essential. But I realize that having Internet at home is a luxury for many people here. So I’m still trying to be patient on that front.

After our chat, Ibu Noni really surprised me by taking me home to her beautiful house and letting me try on some of her clothes so I would have something to wear immediately. I found a few blouses and a skirt that fit. But the most amazing realization of all was that her HUSBAND’S pants fit me. We found a pair of beige Dockers type pants and a pair of jeans. I have to wear a belt with both, but it kinda works. In fact, I’m wearing the beige pants right now. So I learned that I need to shop in the men’s department… And then she and her husband took me shopping for fabric and then we went straight to a tailor’s to get me two blouses and a pair of pants custom made. They should be ready tonight! I hope they fit and I am SO grateful to Ibu Noni for calming me down and helping me get things done (and inviting me for dinner!). THANK YOU!!


  1. Hey Julianne,

    Ramadan's a difficult time to be in Gorontalo, because there's really nothing going on. Hang in there. With each passing day, the language, food, streets, and bentors will seem to get more familiar to you.
    Until you have a working laundry machine, go to the language lab and have a student help you out. Santi (if she's not too busy can help you) otherwise anyone at the lab can help you out. The lab is located behind the rector's house on campus. There are businesses that will wash your clothes, press them, and perfume them. Unfortunately, durring Ramadan these businesses might be closed, but it's worth checking out.
    The beaches are pretty dead during Ramadan, but if you want to see the ocean, tell your bentor, "saya ingin pergi ke pantai indah" or just "pantai indah." It means, "I want to go to the beautiful beach." The funny thing is that there's a place next to the ocean that they call pantai indah, that has no beach and is not particularly beautiful. Nontheless, you'll be able to see the ocean.
    The first month in G-town is frustrating, but it gets progressively easier.

    Good luck,


  2. Thanks Peter! I love when you and Jonna reply to my posts. It gives me hope!!

  3. Oh, Ibu Noni has been a blessing! Caring people like this give us hope when we feel hopeless. You've found a gem!