The time I almost died.

head

I listen to different abortion debates with dread. I was following the news about the proposed abortion ban in Poland and wept. Because abortions are not done by faceless, heartless monsters. They are done by women in serious need. By women like me. This is the story of my abortion.

I am young. I mean, I am 22, but sometimes I even forget that I’m not underage anymore. I am still wild and free, without the grounding and calm that is usually ascribed to adults, still dealing with issues from my own, less-than-perfect childhood. I travel the world, in hopes to make the world a better place and that the world will make me a better person. And, when talking to my friends, I will sometimes refer to “the time I almost died in Indonesia”. I mean, there were many times when I almost died in Indonesia – the first time I crossed a street in Jakarta, for example. But whenever I say that, I think about the time when I decided not to condemn myself and an unborn person to a life of torment. About the time when a doctor was holding a baby girl in his arms, as I lay in front of him, bleeding out, convinced that I will die. About the time I had an abortion.

I was 21 at the time, volunteering in Indonesia, teaching English to kids in a small mountain village, where they had seen no more than a dozen foreigners in the last decade. I had gone to Malaysia for a week, where I was dealing with visa issues and using the school holidays to explore. It was Valentine’s day. His eyes were chocolate brown, his smile was charming and he showed me the sights. He was wonderful. If he had tried to seduce me, if he had asked a couple of hours later… and if he had listened to me saying “no”, it would have been perfect. He didn’t. I told my family that I had had a wonderful time and made new friends. I didn’t want them to worry. I didn’t want them to think that I’m weak. I didn’t go to police – after all, there had been no physical violence, he had been almost caring as he raped me. And I was leaving the next morning anyway. Can you tell I was in a state of shock? I couldn’t at the time.

I went on. Life went on. I went to a doctor or two to check if I had any diseases, but it was a rural town and reliable doctors were too far away to visit often enough. So I just kept on living. Went on a 20 hour bus ride to meet some other Latvians. Caught a horrible cold. Kept teaching. Kept baking cakes with the kids, kept jogging on Sunday mornings. Felt more and more sick. Went to a hospital. The doctors prescribed me some medicine. Just before she handed over the recipe, she casually asked – are you pregnant? You know, pregnant women can’t drink this medicine. I shrugged, smiled and said, absolutely not. I thought there was no chance, and my menstruation wasn’t late yet.The medicine helped a little, but not enough. I fell sick, barely eating, barely having the strength to cross the room to get a glass of water, vomiting a lot. Surely that was just a strange strain of infection or something, after all,I was across half a world. And the good hospitals were horribly far. I would be fine.

One morning I woke up deaf in one ear. That was it. I got on this rickety, 4 hour bus, where everyone was smoking and screaming over the traditional music blaring from the speakers. Somewhere halfway my other ear fell shut. My stomach was being all weird. I was weak. I hadn’t been able to eat properly in days. I spent most of the road composing messages in google translate that I’m sick, that I need this hospital, that I can’t hear you, could you write this down? I had a horrible infection in the ear. That was it.

The doctor went over my results, frowning, cleared my ears from the mucus (Hearing is such a wonderful thing. The world was suddenly full of tiny, wondrous sounds.), and sent me to do some other analyses to check if everything else is OK. Progressively, the doctors started acting stranger and stranger, alternatively frowning and smiling cheerfully at me, and suddenly I was sitting in a waiting room for a UV scan, with my urine test results in my hand, with this casual, oh so casual check next to the word “pregnant”. The world was spinning. I wanted to call my sister. A doctor called me into his office. It occurred to me that abortion is illegal in this part of the world. There was no question of trying to keep it – I was young, I had no real source of income, there was no father, for fucks sake, the father had raped me, I was battling my own demons, and – more than anything – I had been drinking heavy duty antibiotics and a whole plethora of other medicine for the last month. And I had to keep drinking them to get well again. There was no way two whole human beings would come  out of this. I held all the other documents tightly in my hand and handed over the slip that said I’m pregnant and need an UV scan. The doctor smiled and congratulated me. Asked after my husband (Oh, no, we are not married yet, but some preparations will be needed, I said, smiling as if my life wasn’t crumbling in that moment), showed me the spot where the baby was forming (I could barely look at the screen), told me that the baby is roughly 7 weeks old (Six, actually. As if I could forget) and after searching for something for a while, pushed a button and I could hear it. The heartbeat. A completely normal heartbeat. Except it wasn’t  mine. It came from the tiny being inside of me, the one that I knew would die within the next few weeks, or carry on living a life that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone – with severe physical and/or mental disabilities, with a nervous wreck for a mother, a life where none of the things he deserved would ever be his.

Because, you see, in that moment, I loved the tiny heartbeat and the person it represented immensely. I wanted him to have a perfect life, I wanted him to only know enough pain to know what it means so that it would never cause it to others, I wanted to shower him in love and kisses, I wanted him to know my sister, and my friends, I wanted to show him the wonders of my home and the world, I wanted to give him everything he deserved. But all I could give him was pain, and suffering and injustice. I loved him too much to give him that. I am afraid of hearing heartbeats to this day.

I called my sister. Then I called my mother. Both of them were worried, but didn’t have any questions either. They know me. They know that I am not cruel enough to give suffering instead of a life. The question of me returning home came up, but I quickly dismissed it. I was strong, and independent, and I would figure something out. I would keep going. This  was my dream (sans the rape and the child in my womb) and I was not giving it up. I would figure something out. Even if to my knowledge there were no countries in the near vicinity where abortion was legal (wrong) and I didn’t have enough money anyway (Why was this even an argument? I could have figured something out) and after all – everything was going to be fine. I would figure something out. (I hate how convincing I can sound when I am in state of shock. I hate that I didn’t let anyone talk to me about going to another country, returning home, anything but what I did.)

Eventually I found Women on Waves – a site that delivers safe medicine to induce abortion, all over the world, to women in situations exactly like mine – to women that find themselves in the need of abortion but are restricted by laws or people around them. I did my research. A whole lot of it. As much as I could do on my smartphone in the little village in the mountains, with the internet being patchy at it’s best. As much as I could, while still barely eating, barely moving, not talking with anyone around me about what’s happening, being sick.

In a different situation I might have found out that abortion is legal both in Singapore and Thailand. In a different situation I might have understood that returning home would be anything but weakness. In a different situation people might have wings and rocks might be edible. I was exactly where I was – lost, scared, determined to prove that I am strong, and not thinking clearly. The word I am looking for is dumb. But I am terrified to think what would have happened to another girl, without a family back home to talk to, without the internet connection, without the support that I accepted. My sister paid for the pills (my account had been drained by the doctors’ bills and the insurance hadn’t come in yet). I wrote down the address. I did the research on every possible holdup. On whether or not it was legal to ship this medicine to Indonesia (it was dodgy, but it was). I decided where I will go to drink the pills (a safe, quiet place, with a hospital within an hour’s reach, and more importantly – away from possibly judging eyes). And I waited.

And waited. And waited. And waited. Never rely on the Indonesian postal system. It’s slow. It’s horrid. Delivery will be late. I made plans to visit my friends in Papua, after I recover (I gave myself 2 weeks, just to be sure). I said a slightly sour goodbye to the little village in the mountains (It was clear something was wrong, but no one knew what. Just the westerner girl being weird). The medicine finally arrived. I went to this lovely little hostel that I had been using to run away in weekends, to speak English, to meet other travelers, to eat western food, to talk with the lovely people working there. They knew me. I always got stuck there.

I took the pills. They stuck in my throat. I messaged my sister, talking and talking, and waiting for the medicine to work. I was playing a videogame. I was crying, because damn you if you think that I could do this easily. I was killing someone. Because in this moment, it was the only love I could give to the little creature that deserved the whole world – a mercy killing, not being condemned to half a life. Because of my poor health, because of the medicine I had been taking, there was no chance he would be OK.

I started bleeding. There was pain. There was a sea of pain. And an ocean of blood. I waited. It would pass. It would pass. It would pass. My phone battery was dying. I wanted to talk to my friend that makes life seem like it could be organized. I broke down. I screamed for help, hoping that someone might hear me. I wanted to hug the friend that never told anyone about her troubles, but always listened to yours. Two boys from the room across the courtyard rushed in, and I explained that I need a hospital, could they ask in the reception to bring me there? I wanted to cry on the shoulder of my friend that always asked if I was ok. It was late. Everyone came in night gowns and scarves that they had hastily thrown on. The man that brought me to the hospital noticed blood running down my ankle, and tried to reach for me, but I snarled at his hand in my pain and confusion. I wanted to hear the friend that had helped me figure out my life up to that point say something infuriatingly logical. There was almost no one in the hospital. Through the pain I could barely talk in English, let alone in Indonesian. The nurse seemed to be annoyed for being woken up from her nap, we had to wait for the doctor. I was begging for pain killers. I wanted to know that one day I could laugh again with the friend that I had spent countless nights being silly in our kitchens. I didn’t think I could laugh ever again.

The doctor came and told me not to cry, that the baby will be fine, that the UV scans show that everything will be fine (There were clots of blood and flesh falling out of me) and that no, I can’t have pain killers, they might be bad for the baby. I think I screamed “It’s dead!” in Latvian. A daughter of the hostel owner came to translate for me, to help me. She asked what happened. I told her that I had been sick and unexpectedly became pregnant and that these were side effects of some of the medicine. She told me I should have gone home. I screamed at her. She was right.

I was wearing the prettiest dress I owned at the time. It was the easiest thing to put on amidst all the pain and chaos. So I was lying in a room, waiting for the doctors to do something (The baby will be fine), watching the white flowers on it turn red from my blood, watching the white sheets turn red, realizing for the first time, that I might actually die. The doctors weren’t allowed to do anything unless my life was in immediate danger, or so they had said. But everyone was half asleep and I was just kicking up a fuss. There were pieces of flesh spilling out of me. I defiantly piled them on top of the blanket, for nurses to see. I wanted to say sorry to my mom. It took 2 nurses and the hostel owners daughter to notice the gruesome pile on my blanket.

I was brought to a different room, with four beds. In one of them – a woman, surrounded by her family, holding her husband’s hand. It took me a while to realize why she was there – she was giving birth.

The doctor told me that my life was in danger (I was not surprised as I was drenched in blood), and that I will need to sign a release form that allows him to do this procedure. My signature, his signature, and someone else’s. Wait. Someone else’s? Did I actually need someone else to sign a piece of paper, that essentially said “I, Ofelia Spector, being sound of mind, give this doctor the right to save my life and not let me bleed out to death in this blasted hospital”? The hostel owner’s daughter stepped up and signed (I never learned her name. It’s a shame). We had to wait for the anesthesiologist. The doctor told me not to scream – look, the other girl was giving birth, she wasn’t screaming. It couldn’t possibly hurt as much. I was fading in and out of consciousness. I was recounting all the people I wanted to meet one more time. So there we were. One, a girl, surrounded by her family, giving birth. Second, a girl, absolutely alone (I don’t think I ever really understood the word “alone” before that), recounting the names that mattered, the dreams that had to be fulfilled, bleeding out half a world away from home.

A baby girl was born. The strongest pair of lungs I have ever heard. The doctor was standing at the foot of my bed, facing me, holding the girl. To this day I am not sure if that actually happened, but I have memory of him saying “It could have been yours. Stop screaming. This is your choice”. I hated the world. I hated the world so much. I wanted to hear my sister’s voice. The needle came. I faded out.

I came to my senses in the previous room. My stomach felt odd (Empty?), all the white flowers had been painted red, I was incredibly cold (How could a human being be this cold this close to the equator?). There was an IV needle in my arm. The hostel owner’s daughter was sleeping on the couch. There was a bird singing in the courtyard. A nurse came with breakfast (The best rice porridge of my life). I was alive. The room reeked of metal, I felt weak, the world was spinning. But I was alive. I hadn’t died in that room, lonely, across half the world, surrounded by a cruel doctor, a family for whom loving meant giving life, and a woman that had helped me without giving her name. I was alive.

The nurses would ask me how I was feeling, how come I’m in Indonesia, where’s my husband. (The conversation always ended at my husband, and the nurses that asked this never came back. I didn’t have it in me to make up a story). At midday the doctor came, quickly checked me over, and without asking me much told me I’m good to go. I could barely sit up, let alone stand. I didn’t have cash to pay the hospital. I was still in the blue dress with red flowers. I wanted to be home.

The hostel owner came over, to check on me, brought me clean clothing from my bag and lent me the money (Which would amount to more than two months minimum wages. She gave it to me the moment she understood that I have no cash). Her son drove me to the hostel. All of my stuff had been moved to one of the best rooms. They came over to check on me every couple of hours, kept all the coconut water for me, asked me if I needed anything, and smiled comfortingly when they saw that I had been crying. They let me believe in humanity again.

Eventually I was able to smile again. I was able to stop the couple of haunting songs that had been playing in repeat. I was able to speak with my family, and eventually my friends. I was able to get up. I was able to get better.

In a couple of weeks, I was able to go on, go to meet the people in Papua. Still in a state of shock, still needing to cry quite often, still talking with my sister, still writing down odd tidbits, still flinching from the smell of metal, still taking a couple weeks more to write to Women on Weaves, explaining what happened, telling them that the medicine I had been taking previously had interfered, that in this already horrid situation, I had been a part of the 10% that needed medical help afterwards, and that the laws of the place I was in denied me the help until last moment. But I was able to move on.

In a couple of months, I was able to mention it to a newfound friend when completely  drunk. In October, when he would have been born, I cried a lot, but I was able to talk about it when sober. I laughed a lot too. I was alive.

He would be just shy of a year today. I would have loved him to the end of the earth in a different world. But in this world, loving him meant not hurting him this much.

I wish there was a world with no abortions. I do. But not because they are outlawed, demonized, made dangerous and unreachable. No abortions, because they are not needed, because science and medicine has advanced far enough that unwanted pregnancies don’t happen, that health risks involving can be resolved.

And yes, I regret that I had to make this choice But I will never regret the choice that I did make. Even if I had to relive that over and over again, for the rest of my life, as long as the circumstances remained the same, I would, quite definitely chose to leave a country that’s ready to endanger life over judgements that are not theirs to make, but I would never change the decision – not to give suffering instead of life.


Kā Ofija brauca Kazāku satikt. 1. daļa- 20 stundas vemšanas autobusā

(Gandrīz nemainītā veidā iekopēju e-pastus un feisbuka ierakstu, ko saņēmām no Ofijas. Turpinājums sekos.)

Tātad.
Es šobrīd esmu autobusā uz Padang, lai tur satiktos ar Kārli Kazāku. Kas to lai zina, kā viss izvērtīsies, bet pēdējo dienu fakti ir bijuši visai vienkārši.
Fakts ka Sumatrā ir latvieši manī izraisīja visai lielu sajūsmu, kas ļoti ātri noveda pie tā, ka par spīti visiem ļoti latviskajiem argumentiem (kā tā var, es taču viņus nepazīstu, kā es viņiem tā uzmākšos un viņi noteikti ir ļoti aizņemti) es tomēr uzrakstīju Kazākam, kurš kopā ar četriem (?) citiem latviešiem tobrīd bija ļoti netālu – divu stundu brauciena attālumā. Jāpiebilst, ka es jau vairākkārt esmu devusies īsās ekskursijās uz tuvējām pilsētām, lai satiktos ar pilnīgiem svešiniekiem, ar vienkāršo argumentu – tu ceļo, es ceļoju, mēs runājam angliski, satiksimies, uzkāpsim kādā kokā vai vulkānā, būs jautri (un visi šie lēmumi tika pieņemti bez Ļoti Latviskajiem Argumentiem).
Kārlis bija ļoti priecīgs par ideju satikties un visi Ļoti Latviskie Argumenti tika izmesti ārā pa logu. Protams, dzīve ir dzīve un es pāris dienas biju visai neglābjami aizņemta un brīdī, kad es beidzot varēju satikties ar latviešiem, viņi jau bija divdesmit stundu brauciena attālumā. Bet ziniet ko? Man tiešām nav ne mazākās nojausmas, kad es nākamreiz varēšu satikt citus latviešus un galu galā – piedzivojums. Tā nu es kopā ar Junioru devos uz Parapat (līdz šim bieži pieminētā pilsēta Tobas krastā), divas dienas dzīvoju zaļi, dabūju autobusa biļetes un biju visnotaļ apmierināta ar dzīvi. Tas ir, līdz brīdim, kad es izlēmu palasīt, ko par šo autobusa braucienu saka internetā. Tā, lūk, bija mana lielākā kļūda. Jo internetā visās atsauksmēs par šo braucienu centrālā tēma bija vemšana. Ceļš bedrains (un, kad es saku bedrains, Latvijas bedres sajūtas melnas un maziņas) un līkumains, augšā lejā un tik šaurs, ka gludas kustības nav iespējamas. Autobusi esot veci un piesmēķēti, pārbāzti un smacīgi karsti. Un galvenais- visi vemj.
Šobrīd es šinī autobusā esmu pavadījusi trīs no divdesmit stundām. Tas ir stipri glaunāks par Latvijas starppilsētu autobusiem, un man gribētos teikt – labāks arī par busiem starp Baltijas valstīm. Aizmugurē ir smēķētāju kabīne (kurā, kā šķiet, visu laiku sēž fantastiski kolorīti puiši, ir silts un cigarešu īpašnieki netiek šķiroti), krēsli ir ar regulējamām atzveltnēm un sasodīti ērti. Līdz šim manas lielākās sūdzības ir fakts, ka ir ļoti auksti (jo gaisa kondicionieris ir izniekots, ja temperatūra nav +15) un autobusa priekšpusē kaut kas nepārtraukti čīkst. Un mans blakussēdētājs nav īpaši runātīgs un neļauj man slēgt iekšā gaismu. Un mana galvenā sūdzība ir fakts, ka šis ir nakts brauciens un liela daļa no visa tā skaistuma aiz loga pazūd nakts tumsā. Lai gan, jūtot nepārtrauktās svārstības, es saprotu kā tās ar laiku varētu kļūt par problēmu. Un ja ceļš kļūs vēl līkumaināks un bedraināks, varbūt arī es sākšu justies nedaudz neomulīgi. Nedaudz. Jebkurā gadījumā, jo vairāk es par to domāju, jo vairāk es saprotu, ka šos blogierakstus ir rakstījuši absolūti iesācēji, kuri neko nezina par autobusiem, kuros divu stundu laikā tu piedzīvo kārtīgu kautiņu starp divām tantēm, tiec apliets ar nūdeļu buljonu un attopies, ka tavā klēpī ir dzīva vista, kuru pāris minūtes vēlāk nomaina vēl dzīvelīgāks bērnelis. Un man ļoti paveicās ar jaunu autobusu.
Starp citu, es turpinu lielisko tradīciju satikt lieliskus cilvēkus gaidot transportu un iekāpjot saprast ka mums ir piešķirtas blakus vietas. Šobrīd otrā ejas pusē sēž jauks pāris no Nīderlandes. Šī ir mana mīļākā tradīcija.

Ar miglu pievēlušās ielejas, kalni, kas rotājās saulē, mazās mošejas ceļa malās un arhitektūra, kas kļūst jo tālāk, jo savādāka (vai varbūt tā ir dīvaina arī mājās, bet es jau esmu pieradusi pie Ziemeļsumatras mājām), palmas, bambusi, mango un savādi koki, pilnos ziedos – visa varavīksne. Amariļļi, kas aug ceļmalās kā nezāles – vai zinājāt, ka ir arī rozā, dzelteni, violeti un oranži amariļļi? Milzīgas augļu plantācijas un vēl jo milzīgāki rīsu lauki. Stāvas klintis vienā ceļa pusē un stāvi kritumi otrā. Šis ceļš bija tā vērts, pat tad, ja tā līkloči atstāj Gauju kaunā un Latvijas ceļi lepojas ar to cik labā stāvoklī tie ir. Pat tad, ja vemšanas autobusā nosaukums attaisnojās un cilvēki šeit to nedara klusi un neuzkrītoši. Pat tad, ja man sāp muskuļi (balansēšana autobusā, kurš uzvedas kā kuģis pamatīga orkāna vidū, kā izrādās, ir smags darbs) un es īsti neesmu gulējusi, pat tad, ja es jūtos tā, it kā manī vairāk nav ne pīlītes ūdens un tualetes šādā autobusā ir lieta, ko es vairs nekad nevēlos piedzīvot. Pat tad, ja es vēl arvien neesmu sasniegusi savu ceļamērķi, šis brauciens jau ir sevi attaisnojis.

I’m not the only one who thinks that getting flu because of the air conditioning in a 20 hour buss ride is turned to “I want to go to hell, just to warm up, because I’m pretty sure I can see my breath” is absolutely ridiculous, right? The whole thing with Indonesians and air conditioning being turned to have a roughly 20 degree difference between inside and outside is, to put it lightly, excrements of a male cow.

(Mistisku iemeslu dēļ šeit paredzētā bilde nepievienojās, tāpēc bildes sekos vēlāk.)


Ikdiena bildēs

This is one of the pets here. No clue what kind of bird is it, but it's voice is beautiful.

A photo posted by Ofēlija Spektore (@fromofelia) on


It turns out you have to become a teacher in a strange country to start love studying. These days I spend every free moment to read about pedagogy, English grammar, Indonesian culture and history, sailing, ecology, learn Indonesian and cram in bits of my usual psychology studies. I don’t think I have ever spent this much time studying.

You find home in the strangest places. Pergedel the Indonesian dish, tastes just like good potato pancakes should.

A photo posted by Ofēlija Spektore (@fromofelia) on


(The perks of being a teacher also include students cooking local dishes. Today I get to enjoy pergedel – a traditional Saribudolok dish, made from potatoes.)

Being a teacher also made me realize my artists talent.

A photo posted by Ofēlija Spektore (@fromofelia) on


(The spelling error- not mine and corrected seconds after the picture was made.)

So, the plan today is to go to the foot of this waterfall.

A photo posted by Ofēlija Spektore (@fromofelia) on

More pictures of Lake Toba. Because trolololololo.

A photo posted by Ofēlija Spektore (@fromofelia) on

La la la la la la la life is wonderful.

A photo posted by Ofēlija Spektore (@fromofelia) on

Making soap.

A photo posted by Ofēlija Spektore (@fromofelia) on

Oranges and chilli, wherever you go.

A photo posted by Ofēlija Spektore (@fromofelia) on

The "jogging" early in the Sunday mornings is one of my favorite things about staying here.

A photo posted by Ofēlija Spektore (@fromofelia) on

This is one of the reasons why I don't mind waiting at the airport for a little bit

A photo posted by Ofēlija Spektore (@fromofelia) on

I just held a long, complicated conversation about Russian politics, European culture, my family, volunteering and my experiences in Indonesia, all while speaking Indonesian. And I honestly feel that saying that I know 300 words in Indonesian would be an exaggeration. It was amazing and fun and hilarious and exhilarating and made my determination to learn Indonesian so much stronger.

A complete language breakdown is when you can figure out the word you are trying to say in 5 languages you don’t speak, but can’t remember it in the 3 languages you technically do speak. Bonus points if you try to write a Facebook post about it and have to weed out words from every language you have ever heard. I actually needed French – English dictionary to complete this post in Facebook, and I swear to god, I know 10 words in French even in my best days.


Invisible Ofelia

And, as much as I respect people and love kids, I sometimes want to scream “I am not just my skin color”. I am not an object to be taken endless pictures with. I am not a lucky charm, to be touched. I am not a walking bank. I am not a recipe book for all the western (junk) food. In fact, I don’t like being in pictures, and seeing that a complete stranger posts a picture of me on Facebook, just for bragging rights, enrages me (that being said, I have absolutely nothing against taking pictures with friends). I love my personal space and, while I love kids immensely (don’t know when did this happen), I feel violated when a crowd of kids forms around me and starts practically fighting over who can touch me. I hate it when kids (decently dressed and obviously well fed) start begging me money or when a stranger suggests I should start throwing money at the kids surrounding me. I hate it when people ask me about pizza, burgers, fried chicken and pasta and refuse to hear me when I tell them that it’s not the food I normally cook and that my traditional food is different (while I have absolutely no problem to share the recipe if they understand that). When people (not only kids), practically run after me, screaming “bule”, I feel dirty. When someone who I just met asks me to get Schengen visa, I feel used. When every mother who has a son (no matter what age) asks me to marry her son, I feel like meat for sale. And, after all of this, what irks me the most, is the fact that I have to be really careful not to offend someone. Because I have been screamed at for absolutely unintentionally insulting someone.
All of this is tiresome and sometimes ruins really happy moments. I understand that white people are rare here, I understand that I can be exciting, because I come from far away, I understand people who want to practice their English, I understand people who ask about Europe and my culture. What gets on my nerves is people who refuse to see anything beyond my skin color and the stereotypes they have attached to it.
But even this is just a moment after a particularly bad case, this too shall pass, and it’s not enough to ruin my experience, put me off anything or change the way I think about Batak people. Honestly, I don’t mind smiling to a kid, shaking a hand on my way to the shop or even tell about pizza to a stranger. It’s just huge parties in days when I want to be sitting home and doing things on my own.


Ofēlija mācīs angļu valodu

Kādu brīdi bija salūzis Ofijas bloga logins, tāpēc nav izdevies laikā sarakstīt visu, ko Ofija pa šīm nedēļām ir sastrādājusi, bet es centīšos strauji laboties.

Galvenā ziņa ir tāda, ka Ofija ir atradusi jaunu dzīvesvietu Indonēzijā. Patiesībā viss sākās ar to, ka viņa iekš Couchsurfing meklēja kādu pagaidu vietu, kur palikt, kamēr gaida atbildes no dažādām brīvprātīgo vietām, un netīšām atrada Saribudolok English School (SES), kuras direktors piedāvā cilvēkiem braukt un ciemoties pie viņa. Īpaši laipni tiek gaidīti tie viesi, kas būtu ar mieru ar skolas bērniem runāties angliski un ļautu bērniem būt par vinu gidiem. Tā nu Ofija devās uz šo skolu ar domu padzīvot tur kādu nedēļu un pa to laiku mazliet padzīvoties ar bērniem, bet dzīvē viss iznāca pavisam citādi- viņai loti iepatikās šī vieta, cilvēki un vispār viss pasākums, savukārt bērniem ļoti iepatikās Ofija, un tika nolemts, ka Ofija SES paliks ilgāk un mācīs bērniem angļu valodu.

Kā saka pati Ofija- šobrīd plāni viņas dzīvē neeksistē vispār, tāpēc nav zināms, cik ilgi viņa uzturēsies skolā, bet vismaz pagaidām šķiet, ka tas būs vēl gana ilgi, un par šo opciju stāvā sajūsmā ir ne tikai Ofija, bet arī viņas ģimene, kas palikusi Latvijā, jo no Ofijas nāk sajūsmas pilni e-pasti un šķiet, ka šobrīd viņa ir nokļuvusi tieši tādā vietā un situācijā, kādu bija iztēlojusies pirms braukšanas uz Indonēziju.

Šinī ierakstā iekopēšu lietas, kas attiecas uz apmešanos un ikdienu SES, šoreiz gan sanāks visai haotiski, jo arī pati Ofija visu šo stāstu mums atklāja pa nelielām detaļām un īpaši neiespringstot par loģisku stāsta izklāstu. (Tuvākajās dienās apsolos blogā sarakstīt arī par Indonēzijas ēdieniem un to, ko Ofija darīja, kad bija devusies prom no Tobas ezera.)

Man vairāk neeksistē plāni. Man ir opcijas nākotnei un spēja tās visas atmest, kad parādās kas labāks. Piemēram vieta, kurā es jau esmu ielūgta uz tradicionālām kāzām, iepatikusies īpašniekam, apsolījusies cept pīrāgus un viss ir labi. Šeit gluži vienkārši nav jēgas plānot. Pārāk daudz nezināmo elementu un mērķis – būt laimīgai un augt, neļauj palikt vietās, kurās nav labi. Tā ir galvenā lieta, ko iemācījos Silimalombu – nemocīt sevi tikai tāpēc ka tā bija plānots (lai gan Silimalombu nebija tikai plāna dēļ. Tas bija lielākā daļa no iemesliem kāpēc es nedevos prom agrāk, bet bija arī citi iemesli).

Es couchsurfing meklēju vietu kur palikt Siantar, ja nu kas, un nejauši atradu brīvprātīgo vietu. Mācīšu angļu valodu, netālu no Arapat (vieta, kur Ofija tobrīd uzturējās) – tikai 60 km. Saribudolok English School (SES), located near waterside of lake Toba (Sumatra), near the biggest famous waterfall Sipisopiso – in the town Saribudolok.

Vairākas dienas mums bija tikai šī informācija- Ofija pagaidām dzīvo SES un meklē jaunas vietas, bet tad piepeši sāk pienākt ziņas, ka visiem tur viss patīk, un no konteksta ir noprotams, ka Ofija grasās skolā palikt ilgāk. Kad mamma konkrēti noprasīja, vai ir plāns tur palik ilgāk, pienāca atbilde:

Jup. Mums šodien ar klasi ekskursija uz ezeru un karstajiem avotiem. Viens no skuķēniem ieķērās man piedurknē un žēlīgā balstiņā prasīja kad braucu prom, lai es nebraucu prom.

Pirms dažām dienām saņēmām “ātrēpastu”, kurā Ofija viņai raksturīgajā stilā uzskaita nelielus faktoīdus par viņas šībrīža dzīvi:

  • Bērni, kurus es mācu mani mīl.
  • Tiek pieprasītas papildstundas.
  • Bērni nāk šurpu pat tad, kad nav stundu.
  • Kopš es atbraucu ir parādījušies 3 jauni skolēni. Pirms tam šis skaitlis bija negatīvs.
  • Šī ir viena no aukstākajām pilsētām Sumatrā.
  • Šodien, skatoties kā bērni taisa projektus nedomājot izspēru “pie velna nedēļas pārbaudes periodu. Es gribu palikt”. Juniors (šis vietas īpašnieks) bija sasodīti laimīgs.
  • Disciplīna klasē valda tad, kad var puslīdz dzirdēt skolotāju arī tad ja viņš nekliedz.
  • Juniora māte mīl manus cepumus.
  • Šī ir ērtākā un siltākā gulta, kāda man ir bijusi kopš es aizbraucu no Latvijas un vēl nedaudz.
  • Indonēziešu valodā slimnīca burtiski ir sāpju/slimību māja, restorāns – ēšanas māja.
  • Šeit cilvēkiem sniegs šķiet tikpat fascinējošs kā man ideja par uzkāpšanu mango kokā, lai noplūktu mango un to apēstu. EHMERGERD.
  • Visus kā vienu fascinē mani īsie mati.
  • Visus kā vienu fascinēju es.
  • Šodien es izraisīju autoavāriju. Pirmā avārija kuru esmu redzējusi Indonēzijā. Cieta tikai rūsa. Viss ko es izdarīju bija iznācu no mājas uz terases (absolūti pieklājīgi ģērbusies).
  • Tumeriks svaigā veidā nokrāso rokas neatmazgājami dzeltenas. Uz kādu nedēļu.
  • Man kopš ierašanās Indonēzijā ir bijis no jauna jāiemācās kā mazgāt rokas, iet dušā un noslaucīt pakaļu. Aizejiet apmīļot savu ūdens krānu. Šobrīd es plānoju ieviest konceptu par bļodu roku mazgāšanai. Mani droši vien izsvilps.
  • Ierodoties šeit, es samīļoju veļas mašīnu. Nebiju gaidījusi ko tādu redzēt vēl pāris valstis.
  • Šeit dzīvo putns, kuru es nezin kāpēc uzskatīju par mītisku būtni.
  • “Suda” šeit nozīmē “jau bija/notika/tika izdarīts/already”. To izrunā ļoti krieviski.
  • Ar Junioru var pļāpāt par kultūru, pasauli, politiku un ļoti daudz ko. Kultūras ne vienmēr saprotas, bet ar viņu var runāt par idejām un sapņiem. Tas ir lieliski. Līdz šim vienīgie cilvēki ar kuriem es varētu runāt par idejām, nevis atmiņām tika no manis šķirti ar slikta interneta un update veida e-pastu nepieciešamību.
  • Šodien es raudāju apskaujot priedi. Vietā, kurā skatoties pareizajā virzienā un ignorējot cikādes, varētu noticēt, ka esmu Latvijā. Viss ir tik ļoti atšķirīgi, ka tas bija daudz smagāk, nekā gaidīju.
  • Es esmu pieņēmusies svarā. Pazaudētie 15 kg noteikti ir atpakaļ – ēdiens ir garšīgs un neizēst šķīvi šausmīgi rupji, bet porcijas lielas.
  • Man lādējas ārā telefons.
  • Te ir trīs kaķi. Viens no tiem – kaķēns.
  • Pilnīgi visiem kaķiem šajā pilsētā ir īsas astes.
  • Siantar, pilsētā, kuru es izmantoju kā iepirkumu centru, autoostu un birokrātijas ofisu, ir divi miljoni iedzīvotāju.

Nākamais e-pasts:

Viņi šeit māca tikai un vienīgi angļu valodu – valodas kursi bērniem, pēc būtības. Laikam ir 3 klases (es esmu redzējusi 3), divas ar diezgan jauniem bērniem (6-11), viena ar 13-15. Angļu valodas līmenis ir visai traģisks, bet vēl ļaunāk ir tas, ka viņi baidās izmantot arī to kas viņiem ir. Ir divi skolotāji – Juniors, skolas īpašnieks, cilvēks, kura mājā es dzīvoju, cilvēks ar ļoti plašu sirdi, kas to parāda uz katra soļa, laipns, izpalīdzīgs, labprāt runā par plāniem un sapņiem, jau pirmajā dienā piedāvāja palīdzēt ar nokļūšanu Džakartā, ja vajadzēs, ar viņu var parunāt par visu un viņš uzskata par savu pienākumu man parādīt apkārtni, mani iepazīstināt ar tradicionālajiem ēdieniem, un mani pasargāt (kas dažreiz ir gandrīz problēma – mani īsti negribēja vienu laist uz veikalu, vai pat uz viņa māsas māju, kas ir knapi 100 m. Bet izskatās ka viņš ļoti ātri mācās, ka vispār jau es varu arī viena). Viņš mēdz būt pārāk prasīgs pret bērniem un man šķiet, ka tā ir liela daļa no kautrēšanās un nerunāšanas problēmas. Jo pat tie, par kuriem es zinu, ka viņu angļu valoda ir salīdzinoši laba, ieraujas un klusē, kad Juniors sāk kļūt prasīgs un pieprasa, lai visi runā skaidri un skaļi, nekautrējas un ir aktīvi. Jo īpaši tad, ja visi pirms tam ir bijuši diezgan aktīvi. Viņš nedod bērniem laiku apdomāties un saprast, kas tika pateikts un atrast īstos vārdus. Tas klases dažreiz padara sarežģītas. Bet viņa enerģija, vēlme palīdzēt un darba spars ir maģiski. Es pieceļos un viņš jau strādā, es eju gulēt un viņš vēl strādā. Bez angļu valodas skolas viņš ir hiv, aids un narkotiku aktīvistu biedrības vadītājs, aktīvi darbojas draudzē (kas šeit pēc būtības ir vietējā komiteja kas satiekas baznīcā), un visi kaimiņi nāk pie viņa lai viņš izdarītu interneta lietas. Un katru dienu mēs pavadam vismaz stundu sēžot un runājoties par visu pēc kārtas. Man pavisam neviltoti gribas viņu saukt par draugu, un es esmu pārliecināta ka mēs kļūtu par draugiem arī tad, ja mēs nevarētu tik daudz viens otram palīdzēt. Otru skolotāju es pazīstu kā miss. Ļoti jauka un saprotoša būtne, daudz smaida. Pēc būtības – iedomājieties tipisku sākumskolas skolotāju, un tipisku aziātu sievieti – ap 30, vienmēr pieklājīga, patīk bērni, vienmēr smaida. Viņa knapi saprot mani un viņas angļu valoda ir tikai nedaudz labāka par vecāko klasi. Droši vien tāpēc man īsti nav viedokļa par viņu. Jāpiebilst gan, ka arī Junioru es regulāri laboju un arī viņam es skaidroju ko nozīmē vārdi, bet ar Junioru man līdz šim nav bijušas problēmas saprasties un es vēl neesmu pieķērusi viņu mācām nepareizi.
Es esmu pārgurusi – šodien bija gara diena un es iemācījos pārāk daudzas salku versijas. Mums bija ekskursija uz ezeru ar klasi. Uhhhhhhhhhhh

Dažādi feisbuka ieraksti un Ofijas atbildes komentāros uz dažādiem jautājumiem (citu cilvēku jautājumi ir ielikti pēdiņās, pārējais ir negrozīts Ofijas teksts). Man kaut kā neizdevās e-pastus un feisbuka ierakstus sakārtot loģiskā, hronoloģiskā secībā, tāpēc šis tas atkārtojas un šķiet jau tikko lasīts e-pastu sadaļā. Bet es neatvainojos- tas tikai atkal parāda to, kādā veidā Ofija uztur sakarus ar pārējo pasauli.

So, I’m sitting in a buss to get my passport, before going to Saribudolok, to teach English, writing an email about eating snake meat, minding my own business, you know, everything as usual, and suddenly, as the buss goes around the bend, I see two monkeys on a roadside rock, one of them laying on its back, moving it’s hands around, as if in a middle of a story, the other one sitting in a classical psychiatrist “tell me more about how it made you feel” pose. I don’t know how the monkey felt, but I sure as hell feel amused.

I doubt anything can overshadow my happiness about being in Indonesia and having all these different experiences.

Tonight I go to bed happier than usual.
I have arrived to Saribudolok, and I love it. I thought it would only be temporary, but, so far, it seems really nice here. It’s in a small town, but still close to nature, while having amenities of the modern life, the host is incredibly thankful to have me, I like him a lot and, while I haven’t seen the place where I would be working, I have already met his sisters kids and somehow accidentally got one of the kids speaking English. As it turns out, it’s the most he has said in English. Or in the presence of a stranger. Ever. Also, it seems, that we might be able to work on my visa.
So my first night here is really great and I’m happy.

I just had my first English lesson. I mean, I taught my first English lesson. I mean, I tried to make friends with a bunch of Indonesian kids. It was fun, and despite all of us being awkward puppies, I think it went well. Maybe they will even go home and tell their parents about this awesome English teacher with tattoos and interest in video games. Hopefully. The kids liking me would be the dream.

“Teaching English, huh? Are you not worried at all?”
Slightly. I definitely don’t feel confident enough to teach English and I would never presume that I’m good enough to do so in Europe, but from what I have seen, even my English is great help here. The kids want to speak to me, so they are encouraged to say at least a few words. It’s not so much about grammar rules and complicated sentences, as it is about getting them to say “Hallo, my name is…. and I like….” and becoming their friend, so English isn’t this thing that’s forced on them for no reason. The general level of English in the small vilages is really low, so even our dear English teacher Paspārne sounds great. So, there is a vacuum of people who can speak English (even people who can say a few sentences), and people who can, are greatly needed. So I help wherever way I can.

“Why do they need English there, though? Do they have a way of continuing their studies?”
If their English is good, they can get better jobs. The same way people in Latvia are required to know Russian, no matter if it’s needed or not for the position, the same way you need English here, to get a good job in one of the big cities, to get in to a good University. And not only that. It’s needed to get a chance to travel, or do something bigger, or simply work with the tourists. Also, as a person who has learned English, you should know how many doors it opens, how it gives you the chance to explore the world and learn whatever you want.
The people here genuinely want their kids to learn English, and a lot of kids are really excited about this.

“Sure, but as you told yourself – you are teaching them the bare basics. Not even that, just some phrases. You can’t really say that this will open them any doors at all. If all they will ever know is at the level of “Hi, my name is…” and “I’m from…”, this won’t net them any jobs or open up the literary world. What I’m asking is – do they have any way of continuing their studies and by that I mean, do they have a chance to learn English properly not just by phrases? If not, don’t you think your efforts might be quite pointless?”
They do. Not here, in this town, not right now (the dream is to ensure that there are opportunities in this town), but they do. Also, we do have a bit more advanced class (somewhere around 7th grade level for us), it’s just that we are just starting the English school, so there is a lot of work that needs to be done. After me, more volunteers will come, they will continue teaching, and eventually the general level of English, at least in this town, will rise. I can’t give up just because people don’t know much and don’t have as many opportunities. What you are saying is something like “well, we can’t know if it will succeed, so you shouldn’t start at all”
Also, I am quite confident that you also started somewhere, someone taught you the basics, and then you learned a lot on your own. Which is absolutely possible here. There is internet, as you can see, there are movies with English subtitles, there are books, and there are a few (all of them – teachers) people who can hold a conversation.
As for the phrases – they know them. I am trying to get them stop being shy and afraid to use what they already know, even if it’s broken.

“I’m not saying anything. I’m just not convinced that learning by learning phrases is any good. I started by learning grammar along with basic vocabulary, which actually allows you to start building your own phrases and interpret what’s said to you, thus allowing you to learn yourself instead of just labeling reality with phonetic labels, without understanding how they work. But hey, I don’t want to rain on your parade, never mind me.”
*sigh* I think there is a basic misunderstanding here. They have been taught grammar. They understand it to someone extent, even though it’s much harder for them as both Indonesian and the local language doesn’t have tenses, cases, genders and even plurals work extremely differently. I’m not the first and the last person to teach them. What I’m trying to do right now is to get them to use what they know even at a really basic level. Because otherwise they don’t really see the value of it in their everyday lives now, just as most kids in school don’t see how geography, history or math can ever be useful.
My bad, my explanations weren’t clear enough.

It is a bit difficult. Especially so since I have zero experience. And I dread moments when I’m left absolutely alone with the kids and both my Indonesian and their English fails.

“Taisni tas, ka Tu vēl nespēj brīvi sazināties indonēziešu valodā, bērniem palīdz visvairāk, jo viņi ir spiesti meklēt veidu kā savu domu Tev nodot angliski. Būs reize, kad sapratīsi, ka jau ir vērts pietēlot to, ka nesaproti visu viņu valodā.”
Jā, tas ir lieliski un skaisti standarta klasē. Tagad iedomājies šo situāciju ekskursijā. Kad visi bērni saka ka mums ir jāiet prom un mana pēdējā instrukcija ir palikt uz vietas. Vai brīdī kad visi ļoti izmisīgi mēģina man paskaidrot ka es tūlīt ieskriešu kokā kurā dzīvo lapsenes. Vai brīdī kad klasē neviens nesaprot ko es no viņiem gribu.

It turns out you have to become a teacher in a strange country to start love studying. These days I spend every free moment to read about pedagogy, English grammar, Indonesian culture and history, sailing, ecology, learn Indonesian and cram in bits of my usual psychology studies. I don’t think I have ever spent this much time studying.

There is one thing that Latvia has prepared me for in Indonesia. It is roads. Feeling like I’m driving in a ship, in the midst of a storm, in stead of a car, is nothing new for me.

I started this morning with an orange that I picked straight from the tree. I repeat – this morning, first thing I did, was picking an orange and eating it. And it was really tasty.

To those who don’t understand – this was the first orange tree I have ever seen.