Well, I've been welcomed to schools, I've been introduced with poems and songs and outstanding performances, but this is the first time I have been gonged into a school! Honoring an Indonesian tradition, I was welcomed at the Caltex School in Sumatra by a deep g-o-n-g. After they asked me three questions: Where am I from (Ohio, USA), What is my birthday (September 15) and what is my favorite food (pizza) I turned a rain stick upside down and b-o-n-g the gong was sounded again and our day began. Caltex is a small school by US standards, 40 kids grades pre-K to 8. Everyone was all enthused to hear and write poetry. I was pretty jazzed too, especially after I watched the monkeys playing outside before school began.
No, I'm not talking about the ones in the shorts and sneakers -- I'm talking about the MONKEYS! As one student pointed out after I was yammering about the monkeys like the bug-eyed foreigner I am, "they weren't just invented for zoos, you know." Well, yeah, I guess I knew that, but it sure was new to me to see them running free like squirrels all over the neighborhood.
I was particularly impressed by a display of Haiku poetry about the Tsumami in the hallway, illustrated by three dimentional collages representing the chaos and damage caused by last December's disaster that struck the beaches. This school is far inland, so it wasn't damaged by the earthquake or aftermath, but no one in this region has been unaffected by its devastation and like many schools, this school has helped raise money for relief efforts.
After sharing and writing poems the world was washed clean by a genuine tropical rain, after which I was treated to a traditional meal and a yummy dessert -- rice with honey and mangoes. Double yum. After that we had a rocking family evening -- more poems. I can honestly say this is one school visit I will NEVER forget.