300 Students + 1 American = 1 Interesting Day

Mar 12, 2011 3 Comments by

Looking back I can honestly say I have no idea how it happened. The day started off perfectly normal. By the end, well it was a different story. I had meant to be up early to grab the bus to the Prambanan Temple complex outside of town before it got too hot. However I slept in and by the time I was out the door the temperature was rising fast. I made the executive decision to forgo Prambanan and do the Sultan’s Palace instead. Plus I already knew where it was which is always a bonus.

The Palace that morning was overrun by several student field trips. Evidently these students had been at the Water Castle the day before. I can’t say I recognized any of them, but they remembered my tattoo and several of them pointed it out while asking for my photograph. I still have no idea why they love having their photo taken with tourists but it happened all morning. Soon I was making conversation with some of the teachers for the group as they instructed their students to practice their English. They were pretty good at it. Much better than I am at Indonesian and were thrilled with every answer I gave them. The talks soon turned to what my plans were for the rest of the day, and I was explaining my decision about Prambanan Temple. That’s when things got interesting. One of the leaders of the group asked me to accompany them as they were heading to Prambanan after the Palace. I immediately turned them down, insisting I couldn’t. It wouldn’t be right. I wasn’t in the group. Slowly but surely all of my objections were overturned until I had a cheering mass of students around me. And just like that I became the official mascot of the “Round the Java Tour Group from Jakarta.”

Their group:
300+ students
8 buses/drivers
10+ teachers
1 confused American

I piled on bus #4 where I was promptly given a microphone. I hate public speaking especially about myself. But soon I was giving an oral report on myself, my family, my friends, my job, America, footfall, Obama, Hollywood, etc. They made my head spin with all the questions but you could tell they were fascinated by everything. Then they asked me to sing. Like all by myself. To a bus full of high-school students. To try and buy myself some time, I told them they had to sing first. After a brief debate amongst the girls up front, they launched into a rousing rendition of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream. They were pretty decent actually. Now the spotlight was on me and for the life of me I couldn’t think of a single song. Finally they suggested my national song. And that’s how I ended up singing The Star Spangled Banner on a school bus. I got a standing ovation and then it was time for lunch.

I quickly became adopted by Lola and her friends, and was given prime placement within the cafeteria. It was really a restaurant but with that many students, it looked just like a cafeteria. Plus the food was served buffet style which was great. It allowed me to try all of these Indonesia dishes without having to try to figure them out at a restaurant and some of it was amazingly tasty. Turned out it was a girl’s birthday so they dragged her up to the stage to sing. I don’t understand the fascination with making everyone sing but it was fun. Soon there was a bunch of singers lined up to perform traditional Indonesia songs. And then I got pulled up to dance. Dance. Me. On a stage. Emily can tell you this is a very very bad idea. But they wouldn’t take no for an answer and god knows I tried. Still the dance was pretty easy and Miko taught me what to do. Also it seems that my camera was stolen by Lola and the group, and you can now view my humiliation on Flickr. It’s pretty entertaining.

Then we were off again. I switched to bus #1 on Lola’s insistence and once again had another round of 20 questions. I was getting better at it though. Soon we arrived at Prambanan Temple and everyone piled off the bus. The teachers in that group were amazing. They even tried to tell the guards at the complex that I was with them so I wouldn’t have to buy a ticket. The guards weren’t stupid and they didn’t go for it though. And still the teachers apologized profusely that I would have to purchase my own ticket as though it was their fault. Crazy! Convincing them that it was completely fine (cause of course it was) we all trouped into the complex.

The Prambanan Hindu Temples are really spectacular and even if I spent more time having MY photo taken than taking photos. I seriously lost track of how many times I heard, “Miss! Photo miss?” They were an amazing bunch of kids and I had a blast having my picture taken with them. I also became fascinating to the few other tourists within the temple. They kept coming up and asking what I was doing with the students. I had a hard time explaining, since I still didn’t know how it happened. After boiling in the sun it was back to the bus and back to Jogja. On the way back to town I received the offer to become an English teacher at their school. It was a tourism vocational school giving lessons in hospitality, multimedia, and travel, so English was a huge part of that. Having a native speaker as their teacher would be a massive coup for the school. I couldn’t believe it. All these years of never wanting to become a teacher and here was a job offer dropped in my lap. Crazy town! Note to all my English teacher friends, come to Asia and you’ll get a job while buying milk.

The final part of the day was spent touring through the markets along Maliboro for some shopping as well as dinner. The students had been given vouchers to KFC. Yes I said KFC, it’s very big here. After Lola bought herself a bracelet we headed over to the mall to meet Miko for dinner. Eventually it was time to say bye to my new friends and head back to my room. I exchanged phone numbers, facebook, and twitter accounts promising to get in touch when I hit Jakarta.

When I walked through the door of my hostel and they asked what I had done that day, I couldn’t quite figure out how to explain. I mean really? What would you have said?!

Best Of, Destinations

About the author

One die-hard Mac Geek set on traveling the globe.

3 Responses to “300 Students + 1 American = 1 Interesting Day”

  1. Mom says:

    i would have said that i had a “fantastic friday” & i might become a teacher in java?? or would it be a “silly saturday”??

  2. Drew says:

    That is a truly spectacular day. Way to be a rockstar! Can I tell people that “my sister is huge in Indonesia” now?

    • Heather says:

      Totally! I multiple daily requests to come stay at people’s houses in Jakarta. And for giving a presentation at the school. I’m like Bono, only a girl. And not rich…

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