Week Two and we’ve started with two very different days. On Monday after lunch Tara and I had a surprising day. We knew that we’d have a different day as we’d been told that everyone would go to the main campus across town for a ceremony with the Rektor and Vice Rektor i.e. the university president and vice president. I’d hoped we’d have an earlier day than usual, but knew that there was no telling.
I was impressed by the large campus with stunning architecture. While the grounds were stark they, buildings were colorful and for me exotic.
As is not unusual, it took awhile for people to assemble, which is common for Indonesia. The ceremony was supposed to start at two and at 2:20 I wasn’t sure when we’d start. Then a woman holding two headscarves approached Tara and I. She asked if we’d wear headscarves so that “everyone could look the same.” I didn’t have much time to really think about it before we were whisked into a side room to put on headscarves. When we went to the big mosque on Saturday, we had to put on headscarves and take off our shoew, which I gladly complied with as it was a way of respecting a religion. Now I was caught off guard and not sure how to decline. This was just a meeting and some women in Indonesia don’t wear headscarves. This group did, but they also want to become an internationals school with students from abroad and the lecturers want to go to America to study. They’ll have to be around women without headscarves. Anyway, we went along and as soon as we put on the scarves, the woman who gave them to us told us we looked beautiful. It seemed awkward to be told that now that we had scarves on we were beautiful. I’m not sure what to make of that. Some of the folks on the planning committee were apologetic and I think embarrassed about this last minute headscarf thing. People have been so hospitable and gracious, but there still are some awkward moments.
Eventually the meeting started. First the head of the organizational committee spoke, explaining its goals (i.e. to prepare young lecturers to speak in international settings like conferences and to enable them to write for academic publication. It’s a loft goal since a lot of my students can’t write an outline let alone a solid paper. Also the Vice Rektor stated that within about 10 years the government wants all lecturers, not just assistant professors to have PhDs. Now 30% do. To top that off, this university wants to be in the top 500 universities in the world by 2030, which considering that the library doesn’t subscribe to many databases or have a collection of books needed to do the research needed to get highly ranked means it’s sort of a Don Quixote impossible dream.
We’ve got three weeks to teach or perhaps explain the main skills needed to write an article that would be published in an international journal. (I say explain because to me “teach” implies that at least half of the students can do at least a so so version of the taught skill. Here I think a lot will just be able to talk about it and will need more practice before they can apply what’s been taught.
The Head of the Language Center spoke and I was surprised how much of his talk was administrivia (e.g. we reserved the hotel for the teachers on July 16th, I’ll fill out the forms for their stipends on Tuesday, and things of that ilk, which we’d just handle through email or less formal meetings).
So all the department leaders, Tara and I and two students all spoke. One student included a lot of religion in his speech, which I doubt would have been included in a similar speech at a Christian university.
So the meeting finally ended and then people took a lot of photos before finally leaving.
We’d driven with an administrator named Fuzan and a lecturer and were going to return with him. But a very bright outgoing student offered to drive us to the hotel. Fuzan politely, but firmly said he would because he’d been assigned to. We thought we’d just go with whomever was less inconvenienced. There was quite a lot of back and forth and finally the program director intervened and had us go with the outgoing student. OK. Maybe he lives closer to our hotel.