James Ohlson / April - June 2015
I arrived late morning into Medan which worked really well for me as I could easily take public transport to the school. It took me 4 hours, which I found out later was a really quick time!
Dewi recognised me as I walked towards the school and I was given such a nice welcome! The kids were still in school and it was a really wonderful environment. I was lucky to have a handover period of a week with the previous volunteer, so I got to see how things were done previously, but after they left I had full scope to teach as I wanted, with the support of the fantastic Gigin to help me teach, get any resources, tour guide and translate when needed.
Lessons were differentiated very widely, some classes were only in their first few English lessons, while others where extremely advanced. We re started adult classes and advertised in local schools which meant our adult class was much busier and the level of language being taught was far more complex. The variety was really interesting and a challenge at times too!
All the students however were wonderful, grateful and very interested in perusing their understanding of the English language. Added to that, they love the school as it is a safe and fun environment. Outside of school, Bukit Lawang is a hub of things to do. Local treks around the river, tubing (leisurely or extreme!), biking some local paths and of course the jungle trek to see the orangutangs. All amazing. Trekking to Batu Kapal also gives you a chance to see wild orangutans for free, and it is really beautiful there.
With Gigin's help, I joined in with takraw (a local volley/football game) 11-a-side football in the middle of a palm oil plantation and some high level volleyball was played! Everyone I met was so welcoming. The food is great, at the school, at the market, in local warungs and on the street. Make sure you're taste buds are ready for the added chilli! Laila and Dewi are immune to spice and use chilli like a vegetable! (But will adapt if asked of course!)
The rooftop is a great place to chill and the school has endless possibilities in the ways it can be developed and improved. You'll get out as much as you put in.
Key tips: Be open to everyone, so many opportunities to be had. Try to learn bahasa, it will only increase your opportunities. Bring a book, (but there is an expanding library). Be prepared to say 'hello' (and be treated like a mini celebrity) to everyone! Say hello to Nella at the Rainforest Restaurant in Bukit Lawang.
Teacher tips: Don't try to teach too much content. Teach a little bit very well and make sure they remember it. Don't be afraid to do two or even more weeks on the same topic. Enjoy it!! If you're happy and you're enthusiastic they'll never get bored and they'll learn!