Have you ever seen the movies where the protagonist is walking in the hallways of some fictional school in a fictional city and as he/she walks heads are turning and people begin to glue themselves to the windows watching with interest as they pass by? Have you ever wished you would be that protagonist? I don’t remember if i ever did but i don’t have to imagine anymore because sudenly I found myself in the protagonist’s shoes playing a role I didn’t really audition for.
Visiting schools and helping children to learn English was the highlight of my stay in Klaten. I’ve never done anything like this before and I was completely thrown into the experience without any preparation. Good thing i’ve mastered the skill of adapting fast and going with the flow. So, on my first day, when i was fresh-of-the train my host asked me if i wanted to join him for some classes at a public school.
Ovick is truly a remarkable person and through his company E-Fun Institute he strives to help locals to learn English in a fun way. He also offers his time in public schools, a blind school, an autistic school, a culinary school, runs a free English Community Class and is the leader of the English Teachers Community in Klaten. How he does all that, take care of his little family and still get enough sleep at night is beyond me.
So here I was, a little tired but more excited, standing in front of about 30 students in a vocational school for future engineers. “Miss, tell us more about yourself’. Their youthfulness and laughter is contagious. The respect and hospitality is overwhelming. “Miss, do you have a boyfriend? Miss, can I have your picture/instagram?” are quite popular questions. Of course they also want to know about my travels, my life back home, my opinion about Indonesia and the people here, my future plans and life goals.
I found out that in Klaten and in the surrounding area as well, there is something called “Tourist Hunting” and it’s as real as it sounds like (I couldn’t believe it at the beginning). Students are organized in groups and then travel to popular tourist areas to practice English with foreigners. I thought this was an exciting practice until I found myself at the Borobudur Temple and I couldn’t take more that 5 steps without being welcomed by endless groups of children wanting an interview. With my limited time I helped two groups but after that I dropped the interviews in favour of countless selfie requests from children and adults alike. The urge to hide from “hunters” is also too high because unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to make everyone happy! ( So I was ridiculously hiding behind ancient stones)
The children school was a complete new experience. They are so excited about foreigners that they take the “celebrity” status on a whole new level. Who new signing autographs requires skill? Who new i would need help running away from the sea of children who “ambushed” me asking for pictures, handshakes and autographs”? It was quite the funny sight. I tried my best to make everyone happy but as there were too many of them, i was left with droplets of sadness after seeing their disappointed faces.
Here is a picture of me hiding in the teachers office. I’m not even joking!
The blind school left a heavy mark on me..
I felt admiration for these incredible children who laugh, smile, tell jokes, sing and work the same way we all do. Their friendships and camaraderie is outstanding. The outside world might not understand them well but they have each-other and that’s the most beautiful thing to have at the age they are at. We learned how to sing Imagine by John Lennon and I realized how important music is in their lives.
Ovick, Ivan & Pandu
The autism school is a small building covered in drawings and colours on the inside. Our only student- the only one out of 17 students who was ready to study English welcomed us at the door and happily asked us about ourselves. I’d never come in touch with an autistic child but Jenar taught us that he is just like us. He loves to play guitar, draw and do magic tricks. His proficiency in English is incredible. Even though it’s tough to imagine the hardships they are facing every day, all the children are really taken good care of by their teachers and families.
The E-Fun Institute is ran by Ovick and his smart and proficient English teachers with beautiful & kind souls. Their dedication to the school is remarkable. They strive to make English a fun language to learn and you can notice the big improvement the students are making after completing the programs. We also took part in their Free English Community Class where we played games and helped locals to practice English.
The Goofy Team at E-fun Institute with the absolute real boss- Little Joulie!
My journey in Klaten brought back memories from the times when I was the one learning English in my old schools but I wasn’t as excited about it as all the children/teens I encountered here. This was such a humbling experience, being able to be here with them and learn their way of life. Everything in Klaten will always hold a special place in my heart. I can only hope all the children I got to meet will go on to accomplish great things and will live up to their potential as well as follow their dreams. I’m just grateful I got to be a part of their English language journey!