We’d bought a lot of school materials in Darwin for delivery to remote and needy schools across Indonesia. Before we left Dili we spoke to an American guy from the Vega, a beautiful old wooden yacht boat that does a run through Indonesia visiting these same remote islands and bringing all sorts of supplies. We had just donated my much loved but rarely played guitar on the promise that he had just the right village in mind for its new home. These musical instruments become community assets that can have a far reaching impact on many people. I wonder how many guitars sit right now on top shelves of wardrobes gathering dust across the suburbs of Australia. Anyway, he mentioned an island that was particularly remote and particularly in need of school stuff so we decided to make this our major beneficiary.
We arrived quite early after a short sail of 20 odd miles and anchored in crystal clear water. A young local paddled over in his dug out and with his best English offered for sale his recent catch of crayfish and fish. Diana grabbed the crayfish (50000 rp) for about 5 bucks. Quite expensive relatively but he was a real sweety and very welcoming. With dinner sorted (for one only) out we made plans to go ashore and find the school so we could give our small gift. We had no idea where the school was but figured it a good move to find the village first and then maybe the school would be close. As we dinghied ashore we noticed a group of people playing in the water and so we waved and they waved back, all very friendly and very welcoming.
We pulled the dinghy up and they came over, a little shy at first but soon bubbling with giggles and their best English phrases. We asked if they knew where we could find the school and more importantly the teacher or guru in Bahasa. Note that word fellow teachers reading this blog, GURU, and respect to all you gurus out there. Well, you won’t believe this but the guru was right there in front of us and this was a school trip to the beach for some lunch and a bit of fun. It was a Sunday by the way. So, not only had we found the teacher but we had half the school right there as well. Brilliant. The school was quite a walk away so Diana and I were invited onto the backs of their scooters and with back packs full of goodies we all scurried off to the school. The school is common in design being just one block of 4 classrooms, no windows, wooden floors and desks preDikensian but it’s a school and it does all the same things that the flash glass mansions of Claremont do.
We piled our small offerings onto the table and greedy hands were gabbing for crayons and textas until I said in my best teacher voice Tidak.........Guru Guru, meaning no the teacher will decide who gets what and when. Then we all piled into a classroom and the kids spread themselves out in the desks and we had endless photos taken. Then the village teacher asked if we would do a lesson for the kids and they all screamed with excitement. OK...........let’s see......how about writing a short story, poem...... what say we analyse this magazine article I have in my back pocket......Wrong. I grabbed a pack of flash cards with colours and small animals on each face and had a quick game of who could guess first. First hand up won and name went up on board (yes, I was using a whiteboard marker on a whiteboard in a classroom on a remote island in Indonesia and boy the memories came flooding back) and then a tick if you got more than one right and then a play off for the smarty pants who got the most ticks and we have a final champ and game over and lesson done. I used this a lot to wrap up lessons when I was a teacher and it’s a fun way to finish. The winner got a flash pen and then we have red cordial on the veranda supplied by the wife of the principal. The kids were delightful and the teachers and staff so grateful for our small gifts. We have the email and postal address of the school and will be doing more to help in future. A little goes such a long, long, way in these places and we in Australia have so much we can give.
Then it was back on the bikes for a tour of the village and this was incredible. The streets are so narrow , nothing more than a path really, so you get such a close look at village life as the scooter shoots past people washing from buckets pulled up from wells, families lying around playing cards or just chatting, lovers sleeping with their heads in laps, old ladies gossiping with neighbours and always, always the instant flash of a smile as we glide past on the backs of the scooter. It was a real life snapshot of a village going about its business on a Sunday afternoon and we felt completely immersed in this moment and with these beautiful people. We made our way back to boat and after farewells and thank yous were completed we dinghied back to the Doctor. The sun was setting ,the Bintang was cold and we toasted to a lovely day and a mission successfully completed.