I was sitting in a café that, despite the constant roar of motorbikes zooming by, is a peaceful place to spend an afternoon. I was about to hit save on a lesson plan for my upcoming 10th grade classes when all of a sudden a shuttering downpour of rain and a barrage of wind hit the streets outside and the power went out. That, of course, didn't matter for my lesson plan draft because my computer can just run on battery. The shock was the drastic contrast this storm made from the sweltering heat and sun of just a few hours earlier. But that’s the life in Payakumbuh, West Sumatra, Indonesia—full of the unexpected and the unpredictable. And really, ever since accepting the position to become a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant (ETA), never knowing what to expect next has become more than commonplace.
I like to think that after just having passed the 100-day mark, I’ve found some sort of rhythm here: going to school Monday to Friday, teaching many awesome 10th and 11th graders classes, writing up weekly lesson plans, meeting with a group of students at the library to chat and learn English during their morning break, eating soto ayam (noodle and rice soup with chicken) for breakfast at the canteen, helping to lead English clubs after school, spending evenings of hopping on the bicycle and searching for the night’s dinner or doing groceries, and just trying to find moments of rest after hectic school days. But even within a rhythm there are also the unexpectedly great moments: like climbing a jungle mountain during a thunderstorm, having my students come up to me after English club to show their appreciation, or being welcomed into the group playing traditional drums for the opening ceremony of a village’s 101st anniversary expo on just two days’ practice. And then there are the unexpectedly hard moments: of not speaking the language and being the constant outsider in a culture across the world; becoming nostalgic for late night snack runs with friends back home; and wondering if I’ll ever give back any adequate fraction of the kindness, effort, and resources that the people at my site have given to me.
Just like the landscape of the Minangkabau Highlands, life after graduation—and most certainly living abroad after graduation—comes with a myriad of peaks and valleys.
But for all that can’t be predicted, for all the smiles I’ve shared, and for throughout all of unexpected ups and downs, I’m glad to be out here learning a little bit more with every passing day.
Nicholas Navin '19