A Warner School – Fulbright Reunion
One weekend last month (14 – 18 November) provided an opportunity that Puji and I had been looking forward to for a while – a chance for us to visit Yanti Sri Rezeki in her city/university! It was a reunion of three University of Rochester/Warner School Fulbrighters – as both Puji and Yanti had Fulbright support for their Ph.D. programs at Warner, graduating together in 2016.
Using the 1st National Conference hosted by the English Department in the Faculty of Education at Universitas Tangjungpura as the impetus and anchor for the trip, we built a full weekend of connecting, sharing, learning, and touring! We traveled to Pontianak, in West Kalimantan, on the island of Borneo – an island of 3 nations (Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei), and the largest island in Asia. There, our hosts took exceptional care of us, introducing us to the food, people, sights, and practices of this beautiful region of Indonesia. Here were some of the highlights of that trip.
Yanti arranged for us to visit a local senior high school and a vocational school, and at the time, those were my first opportunities to be inside Indonesian classrooms and to connect with students. We sat in on part of a history lesson about the “fall of Suharto,” or the end of the 2nd Indonesian President’s position in power as a result of student uprisings. We answered questions that 11th and 12th graders had about our research, American classrooms, and the U.S. in general. We met passionate vocational school teachers charged who showed us the physical and virtual learning environments they use to help prepare future mechanical engineers and medical lab technicians for internships and careers. We had fascinating conversations with kids and their teachers, and began to think about how our work to understand the digital literacies of Indonesian youth might relate to what we were seeing in these schools.
Encouraging Future Fulbrighters
As we are all three Fulbrighters, we leveraged this visit to Pontianak as an opportunity to spread information about how other Indonesians might be able to join the Fulbright network and find support for their own degree and/or career exchange experiences in the U.S. Yanti and her faculty arranged for us to have time on Friday afternoon to deliver a presentation provided by AMINEF, into which we sprinkled stories of our own Fulbright experiences. At the end of the presentation, and throughout the rest of the weekend, attendees approached us with questions and seeking guidance as they considered whether or not to take the leap and change their lives by learning and connecting abroad.
Ostensibly, we were invited to Pontianak to deliver plenary addresses as part of the conference. And, that we did. My talk was about digital literacies as social practices, and its application to and implications for Indonesian teachers, learners, and researchers – a message that keeps getting more and more refined each time I get the opportunity to deliver it. Puji’s talk was another example of her great rhetorical skills, and her shift into the identity of a digital literacy scholar. I just loved how she incorporated a cooperative learning demonstration into her address. As she began to speak, the woman sitting at the speaker’s table next to me leaned over to whisper “I can see evidence of the teacher in the student.” Talk about proud advisor moment!
Experiencing “Car Free Day”
I had heard about the Indonesian phenomenon that is “Car Free Day” before, as they have this each Sunday morning in Semarang city (and other cities around the country) – but I hadn’t had the opportunity to experience it until Pontianak. As a means of encouraging Indonesians not to rely so much on motor vehicles, cities close a very busy street to motor vehicles for about three hours on a Sunday morning. The streets then get filled with large groups of people – families, people of all ages – who walk, jog, ride bikes or scooters, do yoga or aerobics, and enjoy time outside for a few hours, without the noise, pollution, or dangers posed to people by motorbikes, cars, and other vehicles. Puji got me up and out early as the sun rose over Pontianak and we explored the university’s arboretum, the city park, a beautiful large mosque, and all over the car free zone. We saw a whole school of people doing exercise to Ed Sheeran songs, an gathering of people doing aerobics in the mall parking lot, an outdoor yoga class happening on the lawn of a hotel, and so much more! Car free day is something wonderful to experience here in Indonesia! Check out my Instagram post from that day for what it looked like.
Sampling the Food
Puji and I agreed that the food in Pontianak was delicious! We enjoyed the Chinese influence in the cuisine, and, fish stews, sauteed ferns, and fresh coconuts were staples of our meals while there.
Exploring Tourist Sites
Yanti and her student (our driver and new friend) Melissa took care to show us some of the most interesting tourist spots in the area.
We dined with the conference committee and other speakers at a beautiful riverfront restaurant on Saturday night after the conference.
Then, on Sunday, we drove to visit the Equatorial Monument and stood on the equator. We took a boat ride on the Kapuas River, the longest river in Indonesia. And, we visited Rumah Radakng – a replica of a “long house” in the tradition of the Kanayatn Dayak tribe, where Yanti and I stopped to take this picture.
Across the entire weekend, we had such lovely opportunities to get to know people. This really was a special weekend, and I look forward to a chance to return to Pontianak to see all of these people again on a future trip to Indonesia. Here are a few glimpses into how this visit brought new people into our lives: