Finding my feet in Yogyakarta

Trip Start Sep 11, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Friday, October 12, 2007

I arrived in Yogyakarta on Wednesday 3 October, after getting up at 0530 for the hour-long flight from Bali. I was accompanied by the disability programme manager, Joji, who was with me to facilitate the Employers Workshop. All volunteers have an 'Employers Workshop' with the organisations they will be working with, to give both the chance to meet each other, identify common ground, and discuss some of the practicalities.

There were seven deaf people from the three organisations, along with an English-Indonesian interpreter and a sign language interpreter. It went well, but it was quite a slow process, not least because of the number of language barriers:

- someone from Yoygakarta signs something
- this is translated into Bahasa Indonesia
- this is translated into English
- this is signed for me, by Joji, in American Sign Language
- I try and understand what has been said!

And so bucketloads of patience were needed, and I was sure to smile a lot. Plenty of time to find out more later on, and matters will be a lot simpler when I have learnt the sign language and can just sign with them!

The workshop started on Wednesday at 1pm, and ran until Thursday late afternoon, so we all ate together on the Wednesday evening. It's funny what you end up talking about - Robin Hood, guitar-playing, the second world war...

On Thursday we looked at cultural barriers and disability awareness in the morning, then in the afternoon I met with each organisation separately to ask them some questions. It was funny, they all meet on Sunday mornings in different places - and my job description says I'll be working from Monday to Saturday! So I think there's going to have to be a bit of flexibility on my part.

I also realised that I'm not actually going to be 'managed' as such - it's going to be down to me to manage myself most of the time, which will be different, but fun.

They all went home after the workshop on Thursday afternoon, and I said goodbye to Joji, who left for Bali. She is going back to the Philippines next week, as Fiona - who she has been replacing - returns from maternity leave. On Friday, I moved to the hotel where I was to spend 3 weeks, and spent the weekend slowly getting used to Yogyakarta, where I will be living for the rest of the year.

Yogyakarta is huge! I couldn't stop laughing when I went around in a taxi for the first time. I had imagined a small university town nestling snugly in the hills. But there is nothing snug about Yogyakarta, except perhaps the buses. It's quite odd because cities here don't really have a 'centre' where everyone goes. The pavements are never much to speak about either, and everybody zips around on motorcycles.

Java is the most densely populated island in the world, and there are thousands of students from all over Indonesia attending its universities, which adds youth and diversity to the busyness of the place.

My sign language classes started last Monday, and I have 4 hours a day. That's been going ok so far. The sign language here is mostly very different to Britain, though a few signs are similar. As I am being taught in Indonesian, it means I'm learning two languages at the same time, which leaves me feeling quite tired (the heat, the culture, the negotiation and travelling by motorbike also help!).

My classes take place in a building that resembles an open barn, and the method of teaching is as follows: my teacher writes sentences on the whiteboard, which I copy, then I learn to sign it. The topic of the sentences vary, but they tend to be quite aspirational and/or moral! 'We should not ask for help from other people if we can do the work ourselves.' 'I hope I am able to have a happy family.' 'Our dreams will not become real if we don't want to work.'

At the moment I'm learning lots of signs related to transport. Hopefully the topics will soon start relating to the kind of thing I am likely to need to say in future. My teacher is also looking after the neighbour's son, a young lad called Yogi who has boundless energy. It's fun watching him running around like a mad thing while I'm having a break.

It has been a blessing to be staying somewhere with a swimming pool - a good way to try and unwind at the end of the day. I need to start looking for somewhere to live soon, but it is Idul Fitri at the moment (more on that later) so I might have to wait for a few days...
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