Ashley Lackovich (3rd from the left in the second row)
with students at the Theological School in Medan, Indonesia
Medan, Indonesia The city of Medan, located on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, is a city bursting with contrasts. There are crowded streets filled with motorcycles and foreign cars rushing along side coconut trees and rice fields. Extravagant buildings of luxury sit within minutes of struggling suburbs; relentless heat is often followed by soothing rain; there are as many women washing clothes in the river as there are attending business meetings. My life here is a mixture of surprises and contradictions as well. I wake up to the sound of my neighbor’s Islamic chants and spend Sundays in an Orthodox Church. I teach English to a group of middle-aged college lecturers right after a giddy 7th grade class. I talk on a cell phone and use a laptop computer, yet often bathe by candlelight due to another daily, unpredictable blackout. The events of the next minute are always unpredictable.
As I adjust to this world of contrast and change, I am surrounded by the constant enthusiasm of my students. Whether I am teaching at the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia’s Computer Academy, the Theological School, or the 5th, 7th or 8th grade at St. Sophia School, I am embraced by their genuine smiles, warm greetings, and curiosity about the English language, culture, country, and organization I represent. My classes are filled with laughter and mutual excitement as my students are as eager to share their world with me as I am mine with them. Their willingness to engage themselves in my classes exemplifies the meaning of my work here. As one of my 8th grade students, dressed neatly in the typical Indonesian school uniform of a white colored shirt and blue shorts, told me: “We will remember our English teacher forever.”
So, as I begin my third week of classes I am realizing that, although I came here to teach English, my role in Medan is as multifaceted as the city itself. Called “miss,” “sister,” “teacher,” “friend” and even bolah (white woman), I realize that my position here can change as quickly as the lights can go out. Yet, despite this hybrid of roles, my internship is constant in testing the true meaning of being a teacher, and in continually giving me the opportunity to directly touch the lives of my students. By giving of my time, energy and excitement for what I am teaching, who I am teaching, and where I am, I am making an impression which will long outlast my stay in Indonesia. Although the waves of opposites and changes are a challenge, I rejoice in the fact that the memories made here shall remain inspiring not only for myself but for all those I encounter here as well.
During summer 2006, Ashley Lackovich served a three-month IOCC internship working as an ESL teacher at the Orthodox Metropolitanate of Hong Kong and South East Asia’s Theological School, Computer Academy, and St. Sofia School in Medan, Indonesia.