16th December 2012, by Matthew

Spectacular.  Truly the only word that can sum up my experience here at the IHF center her in Banda Aceh.  Two weeks have gone by in a blink of an eye.  It seems that just yesterday a stranger named Dustin picked me up from the tiny airport in the middle of nowhere.   After a short ride from the airport to the center on a Becak (google it) Dustin and I hit it off and became fast friends.  Shortly thereafter, upon entering the center, Hossein the center director gave me a tour of the facilities, classrooms, and introduced me to Joko, the co-director (and IHF orphan), the beautiful, intelligent, and exuberant  5 year old girl Syfia (the resident orphan)  and fellow volluntourist, Alin and Jurana. Upon my arrival, I truly felt i was welcomed with the red carpet treatment.  This made me exited to see what was in store for the next 2 weeks.

Outing in the city by students and co-director of IHF Joko
Well, what was in store was one amazing experience after another.   As I have no formal training in teaching I was quite nervous about walking into the classroom.  My preconceived notions was me heading into a class of 10+ rambunctious students who only speak Indonesian and very little English and try to teach them my native language.  Chaos would inevitable ensue.  However this was the furthest thing from what actually happened.  All the students, removed their shoes, entered silently, were extremely polite and all shared an eagerness to learn English.  Made my job much easier.  The curriculum in my classes varied greatly from one class to the next.  As the younger students were learning the basics (family, numbers, colors, pets etc) the middle students (reading/reading comprehension) and the oldest students ranging from  15-17 years old who could carry conversations.  These classes we played games, conversed about their future, family, travel plans and all the fun stuff in between.

In lampisang beach with directors, staff and voluntoursits
These students didn’t just make my life easier inside the classroom, but outside as well.  Many days and nights the students would come over after school to talk, play badminton, and card games with us until late.  Some even brought dessert, local Achanese food, and helped us barbecue outside when we were failing miserably, probably because it was raining.  A few students even invited us to join them at their university fair, where they had games/activities and one of the students was taking part in a debate with another local school.  A few students even took us to the beach on the back of their scooters. (they all got A’s)

IHF Aceh center - with other voluntourist from Singapore It wasn’t just the students that made my short stay here a memorable one, but my fellow volluntourist ( elin and  jurana)  and Directors (hossein and joko)  It was the late night chats about the local culture, religion, our native countries(Singapore, Iran, USA, Indonesia) and human rights that taught me so much of what I was previously oblivious too.

We were also very fortunate to have two amazing local volunteers Melissa and Nanda. Melissa a local university student, who is involved in  many other worthy organizations also  teaches a few hours each week at the center, and when shes not doing that she is playing tour guide for me and my fellow volunteers.  I am still trying to figure out when she has time to sleep  And who can forget Nanda our math teacher. Not only Is she a great Teacher and very passionate about her class, but she is An amazing cook as well. The few nights that she made dinner for us were, dare I say, better then my moms homecooking. Then again, when you eat 7 million pieces of rice in a 2 week span, anything would taste better.

And finally, last but not least is the most amazing 5 year old girl, Syfia. I will truly miss her and her little half smile the most.  (I say half because she has no teeth up top only on te bottom.) Her English impresses me, her personality exites me, and her attitude inspires me.  She really is one of a kind.

I’m sorry for rambling on but let me just finish with this.In America we have what is known as Southern Hospitality, which is a stereotype of residents of the Southern United States as particularly warm, sweet, and welcoming to visitors to their homes, or to the South in general. Well I think Achanese hospitality is exponentially better.  I have been welcomed into this community with open arms. Between the local residents, volunteers, students, the community as a whole I have felt right at home since the onset.   This is what makes leaving so hard and returning an inevitable possibility.

By Matthew V

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