I was given a schedule for my first week that laid out all of the introductory activities I would take part in so that I could get myself oriented. This included lectures from fellow volunteers about food, safety, transportation, health, daily life, money, and a little bit about conflict management.
What I really liked about it though was that it also included activities in which I had to go out into the community and interact with it. Whether it was trying to find Salak (an Indonesian fruit) or finding my way around big local markets, it forced me to push my comfort zone and it forced me to bargain, and in the end it helped me feel much more comfortable being where I was. I also had many opportunities to go out and try several different restaurants (warungs). It was during this exploration that I found Wardes, a warung that I began to go to at least once a day every day that I was in Denpasar. No joke, I am able to get rice, noodles, egg, tempeh, vegetables, potatoes, sambal, and sprite, all for about $1.50. Meanwhile, I also got to be around the other volunteers as they were working on their own individual projects. Rocio, our Spanish volunteer, was putting together her big event – cleaning Sanur Beach with kids from orphanages, schools, and banjars. It was the capstone of her environmental project, and I really think that it was a great thing for me to be a part of, as it really helped me assimilate into working on projects with Act Global, and it gave me a chance to meet some of the kids that I would be working with. The project itself was incredibly successful. Through the selling of raffle tickets, we were able to raise enough money to buy snacks for the kids and rent buses to transport all of the kids to the beach. Once all kids were transported to the beach, all volunteers (international and local) worked almost flawlessly as a cohesive whole, it was a great thing to witness and observe. The coolest part was seeing how involved the kids were as well. From my experience, when working with kids at a camp or afterschool program, half of the effort is spent making sure that the kids pay attention and actually take part in the activities. For the beach cleaning, that wasn’t an issue at all! I did what I could with small tasks to help out the group, but I really focused on capturing as much of the event on film as I could. That night (after eating at Wardes), I put all of the film on my computer, and immediately set to getting a video together to really showcase how awesome the beach cleaning was, how well the entire event flowed, and how much effort went into making the event in the first place. It turned out great! People liked it, and now it’s up on the Act Global YouTube page. (http://bit.ly/1wmYpmI) I think that these days, having film is great for visibility and it’s one of the quickest methods to explaining what organizations do to the public.
As this week comes to a close, I think that I have really enjoyed my time here so far. The culture shock is not as ‘shocking’ as I expected it to be. I really think that the reason for that goes to the people that I am surrounded by in Act Global. I am fortunate to be with other volunteers who have already been here for five months, and they really know their way around. I am also so fortunate to be around local volunteers, who are so friendly, accepting, and willing to spend time with me and the other volunteers in their free time. A particular experience that comes to mind was on Friday evening, when they brought me to the couch surfing meeting at a restaurant called Wing Dome. Every Friday, there are a couple guys there who play guitar, and they invite people from the audience up to sing pop songs with them. The local volunteers pushed me to go up with the guys to sing and play along with them. Because of that experience, I intend to go to Wing Dome every Friday night that I can so I can play with those guys. They’re pros, really good players, and really cool cats to be around as well. So that’s a general summary of this past week! I’m excited to start up on my own volunteer work next week!