Wednesday, February 3, 2010

When Does the Semester Begin?

This is a question I have been asking myself daily for the past couple of weeks because there doesn’t seem to be a fixed date on the calendar. At first I was told February 8th and until recently this was the date I was working with. On Monday, with only a week to go before classes start, I asked the head of my department for a list of classes I would be teaching and this is how the conversation went:

Me: Do you know yet which classes I’ll be teaching?

DH: Ahh, it is too early to say. We are waiting for some students to finish their final exams.

Me: Ok, but classes start on the 8th, right?

DH: The 8th? No, I don’t think so.

Me: Oh, that’s what I heard. So, when do you think they will start?

DH: Maybe on the 8th?

Me (very confused): Oh, but I thought you just said they won’t start on the 8th.

DH: Maybe or maybe not. It is difficult to say.

Me: Oh. Well, just let me know, ok?

After that confusing conversation, I spent a few hours in my office reading other people’s blogs (I am following some new ones and have a lot to catch up on) and then I went home. I can’t really work on my syllabi when I don’t know what I’m supposed to be teaching. When I came in on Tuesday I finally got a course schedule but I thought we had agreed that I would only teach 4 classes this semester and I was down on the schedule for 6. Hmm. I would have to discuss this with my counterpart.

Meanwhile, I got a message that one of the other lecturers was looking for me to give me some batik. I turns out that on February 9th there is going to be a big ceremony for two faculty members who are earning the title of “Professor”. Everybody is supposed to wear matching batik outfits. So, Ibu Elsje and I went off to the tailor’s with a couple meters of batik fabric to get my new clothes made.

Knowing that there would be a big ceremony on Tuesday that would take up half the day, I figured that classes couldn’t possibly be held. I mentioned this to my counterpart and Ibu Elsje this morning:

Me: So, there won’t be any classes on Tuesday because of the ceremony, right?

CP: Oh, good point. Yeah, probably not.

Me: But isn’t the semester supposed to start on the 8th?

CP: Maybe it will start later.

Ibu: The students have a graduation on the 18th. So I think classes will maybe start after that.

Me: Oh, the 18th?

CP: Yeah, or later. Don’t worry - you have plenty of time to plan.

So, within the space of two days the start of the semester has been pushed back from the 8th to the 18th or later but of course this is all still just speculation and no one seems to actually know anything. I asked Ibu Elsje if she found this at all frustrating. She said, “Yes!” quite emphatically but also said that that’s just the way things are done.

Personally, it’s driving me a little crazy. How hard is it to make a schedule, share it with your colleagues and stick to it? Apparently, very, very challenging. I don’t understand how my colleagues here can work like this. Is everyone prepared to start their classes at a moment’s notice? Don’t they want to know when they have time off so they can plan trips or other activities?

This is the part that really gets me. Maybe it doesn’t matter so much to my colleagues if the semester starts on the 8th or the 18th because they’ll be in Gorontalo anyway. But for me, with some cash to spare and limited time to travel in Indonesia, I don’t want to be twiddling my thumbs for ten days waiting for something to happen. If I have 10 more days off I’d like to go somewhere. I could go see the orangutans in Borneo or the famous Buddhist temple of Borobudur in Java. I could go to Tana Toraja in South Sulawesi to see the elaborate funeral rituals or venture down to Komodo Island to see the dragons. If I have time off, I’d like to take advantage of it and I think that’s why I find this vagueness about the start of the semester so incredibly frustrating.


  1. I completely understand everything you're saying! It's not that you aren't willing to 'go with the flow,' you'd just appreciate a tiny bit more organization. I'm so glad you started following my blog, because now I'm catching up on yours and loving it! I'd love to come and visit Gorontalo sometime, too.

  2. Thanks, Katie! Yes, please come to Gorontalo! We have great beaches and seafood :-). And Sarah and Alexa have an extra bedroom with AC.

  3. So late last night my friend and I were searching for something completely random, having NOTHING to do with Indonesia and who do I stumble upon but my fellow Camden Hills Pre-O leader Julianne!

    How are you? How did you end up teaching English in Indonesia?? I'm in DC doing the corporate ladder thing but still get up to Maine enough to remain active my summer camp's advisory board. We opened an all girls camp across the lake and a vacation camp families of 9/11 victims. So we're busy.

    Anyway, feel free to drop me a note sometime (hchance@alumni... ) or look me up on Facebook. I check that every once in a while.

    Happy Blogging!

  4. Henry! Oh my goodness! How good to hear from you! I will send you an email... :-)

  5. So tell us Julianne, did the semester start today??

  6. Update: the semester hasn't started yet. The word on the street is now February 22nd. But today I just met a Canadian living in Gorontalo who told me that I should be wary whenever an Indonesian gives a time, date or distance involving the digit 2. This man has lived in Indonesia for about 10 years and in his experience, Indonesians use the number 2 when they have no idea about something. For example, if someone says something is 2 kilometers away that means they have no idea how far away it is. If someone says there will be a meeting a 2 p.m., it means the meeting will happen some other time but most definitely not at 2. So, we shall see if the semester actually starts on the 22nd!