Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Bothering Brother

Let me tell you something about someone whom I once considered as my biggest enemy, yet I know I couldn't live without. Someone whom I have known for exactly 20 years today.

Meet my smirky little brother.

Just like any other siblings in the world, we used to fight a lot. He used to punch and kick me, and I used to grab his hair and told him that he was adopted, as he is the only one in the family who has O blood type (worked like a charm, every single time). We fought every day and drove our parents crazy. We are only 18 months apart and it was only the two of us until 5 years later, so we became each other's biggest rival.

During the fight, especially in my preadolescence years when he became my biggest bully, I used to cry and wonder, why did Allah give me such an annoying little brother. Why do we hate each other so much? Why didn't He give me an older brother who can protect me instead? Yes, you know how dramatic a preteen girl could be - especially the one who read a lot of teen-lit and always compare herself with other people.

As we grew older, we develop a healthier relationship. We talked a lot about life, religion, politics, education, and the future. We talked about our parents and helped each other to adjust, as we realized that we have different norms at home and out there. He is still an annoying snob sometimes, but he can be sweet when I need him to. He's still childish most of the time, but he can act like my older brother when I need him to, perhaps because my parents always treat him like the oldest son in the family, instead of the second child. The moment when my dad was sick and needed a blood transfusion, I know right away that my infuriating little brother has turned into a dependable grown-up, and God only knows what I would do without him.

My brother was a classic middle child who was quite rebellious during his adolescence, but eventually he found his passion and figured out what he wants to be. At my graduation day, he told me that he didn't want to graduate in 3.5 years and with a cum laude just like his sister, as it sounds lame and geeky. But now? Now he is the geek in the family, as he spends hours to code every day, becomes the Assistant Lecturer, and works hard to maintain his GPA and graduate in less than 4 years whilst still being actively involved in several organizations. That's when I know that he is going to be someone in the future and I have nothing to worry about.

We're still not that sweet-siblings who tell I love you to each other, but since I'm away and I miss him (and my family) a lot, let me write this for once in my life. Thank you for being a significant part of my life. And thank you for saying this a few months ago,

"I have always thought that you'll end up with a man who is better than me, or at least as good as me."

It means a lot, even though I know how difficult it is to find a man who can meet that expectation.

So happy birthday and welcome to the early adulthood! May you always shine and be the man our parents taught to you be. And while I'm away, please take care of everyone and act like the oldest one in the family.

I'm not going to say this often, and I'm going to punch you if you laugh at me for saying this because I mean it, but I love you.

And I realize that having the privilege to have you and these two kiddos in my life is one of the greatest things that ever happened to me.

I'll see you soon!

Monday, May 11, 2015

To Take A Walk

I never knew that walking could be enjoyable. I often heard a fictional character say, "let's take a walk," but I had never been able to relate to that, not before I came to England.

York, it turns out, is one of the best places to walk. Everything looks so pretty, the pavements are wide enough, and you can choose to either walk by a river, a big road, or a city centre. You can also walk in the garden or even around the university. And, pedestrians have priority over cars in the UK, which means that the driver will always stop when you seem like you want to cross the street. It's soothing and convenient.

York city centre

Walking by the city wall

The pavement

And now that it's spring, it's even better. It's usually around 12-17 degrees, hence warm enough not to wear any coat, but cold enough to feel the wind breeze. During the season, you can also smell the scent of wet grass and flowers. Ah, even I never noticed how beautiful flowers can be. It's definitely one of the things I took for granted back home. But after you've been through winter, you'll be so excited to see the flowers bloom again. I don't mind winter, but who could resist the allure of spring?

Daisies, daisies everywhere
"We live in a fast-paced society. Walking slow us down." - Robert Sweetgall

I like to walk alone when I feel like I need some me-time. When I had a rough week and need some time-off. I usually walk around the city centre, enter a few shops I like (as I also prefer to shop alone), and sometimes just wander around farther, just because I want to. I do walk slow, because walking is all about enjoying the journey. I like to hear the sound of people chatting or the bird chirping, but sometimes, I also prefer to put on my earphone to be completely away. Sometimes it's more relaxing that way. 

If I long for a deep conversation, walking is also the best way to do it. I like to take a long walk around the city with a friend while talking about life. Just two hours or three could recharge my energy for the following week. Unlike talking over coffee (although it's also something that I found enjoyable), having a conversation during a walk is more casual. It can be as light or deep as you want it to be, and it will save you from the necessity to always make an eye contact to your acquaintance. Knowing that I can do two things I like at once (walking and having a conversation) at once, I always get excited whenever my friends told me that they are going to come over to York and ask me to show them around.

I realized that time flies faster than I expected, and before long, I'll be back in my metropolitan, polluted city when walking means feeling unsafe that the cars or motorcycles might somehow run you over. It's definitely one of the things that I'm going to miss about living in the UK.

Come take a walk with me.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sekolah Dasar di Inggris

Sejak dua bulan yang lalu, setiap hari Selasa saya jadi volunteer di salah satu sekolah dasar di York untuk ngajar matematika di kelas dua (usianya setara dengan kelas satu di Indonesia). Meskipun hanya seminggu sekali, saya seneng banget karena bisa dapet kesempatan untuk mengobservasi langsung sistem pendidikan dasar di UK.

Secara garis besar, sekolah tersebut mirip dengan dua sekolah nasional plus di Jakarta yang dulu pernah jadi tempat saya magang dan mengajar. Tata ruangannya mirip (ada karpet besar di depan papan tulis untuk kegiatan mengajar, dan ada kursi dan meja dalam bentuk berkelompok untuk tempat mengerjakan tugas), daftar pelajarannya serupa, cara belajarnya pun banyak samanya (sama-sama memaksimalkan penggunakan alat peraga visual, khususnya untuk pelajaran matematika).

Year 2 di Lord Deramore's Primary School

Ketika pertama kali masuk ke kelas Year 2, saya kaget karena anak-anaknya manis banget. Mereka juga sangat tertib; mereka bahkan baris sebelum masuk kelas setelah istirahat di lapangan sehingga nggak ada yang bertubrukan di koridor. Sebelumnya, saya sudah beberapa kali masuk ke kelas 1-2 di Indonesia, dan kesan yang saya tangkap beda banget. Menurut saya, wajar kalau ada beberapa anak yang sibuk sendiri atau malah asik main di kelas, apalagi kalau kelasnya cukup besar. Tapi di sekolah tempat saya magang ini, ke-28 anak yang ada di kelas anteng banget dengerin gurunya yang lagi ngajar. Gurunya pun santai, nggak perlu teriak, nggak pake marah-marah.

Di kelas, anak-anak ini cukup aktif dan kritis. Jika ada pertanyaan untuk kelas, guru kelas akan meminta anak-anak untuk mengangkat tangan jika mereka tahu jawabannya. Anak yang langsung menjawab sebelum ditunjuk akan diberikan teguran. Setelah satu anak menjawab, guru kelas biasanya bertanya lagi ke satu murid yang lain, "do you think that's correct?" Menurut saya, ini akan melatih anak untuk berani mengeluarkan opini dan menerima kritik, bukan jadi orang yang ikut-ikutan dan asal setuju dengan jawaban orang lain.

Di awal kelas, jika di hari sebelumnya ada tugas yang harus diselesaikan, guru akan memanggil nama beberapa anak dan meminta mereka untuk berdiri. "You all did very well, but I'm really impressed with these students, because they all showed great improvement on their writing." Yang dipuji bukan hanya kemampuannya, tapi usaha dan perkembangannya. Memuji di depan kelas juga menurut saya akan berdampak positif untuk self-esteem anak-anak tersebut, selain sebagai reinforcement agar mereka terus meningkatkan kualitas dari tugas-tugas yang dikerjakan. 

Waktu itu, saya pernah papasan dengan kepala sekolah yang sedang menenangkan murid kelas 6 yang lagi panik sebelum try-out SATs. Dengan bijaknya, kepala sekolah tersebut bilang, "You don't have to worry about it. The test is important, but it won't be the end of the world. You have an amazing brain and you've worked really hard. Your parents are going to be proud of you no matter what. You'll be fine!" Saya langsung berkaca-kaca dengernya. She sounded genuine and kind, and I wish I had more teachers like that. Di sini, nilai bukanlah segala-galanya. Setiap anak punya kelebihan masing-masing yang terkadang nggak bisa tergambar oleh sederet angka.

Ada satu hal lagi yang bikin saya kagum: kepedulian sekolah dan orang tua terhadap asupan gizi para siswa. Di sini, setiap waktu istirahat, kebanyakan anak membawa buah atau sayur dari rumah. Sekolah juga menyediakan pisang, jeruk, tomat, apel, dan/atau wortel untuk para murid untuk istirahat siang, serta susu untuk istirahat pagi. Murid-murid dilarang membawa minuman manis dari rumah (termasuk jus kotak). Saya kagum banget karena anak-anak ini jadi terbiasa untuk mengonsumsi makanan sehat sejak dini. 

Saya tahu kalau saya nggak bisa menggeneralisasi hasil observasi saya di satu sekolah dan menarik kesimpulan kalau pendidikan di Inggris jauh lebih baik daripada di Indonesia. Namun, saya benar-benar kagum dengan sistem pendidikan di sini serta cara guru-guru mendidik murid-muridnya. Saya jadi paham kenapa teman-teman saya di kelas yang lahir dan besar di UK secara umum lebih kritis dan berani berpendapat daripada mahasiswa-mahasiswa asia (termasuk saya). Pendidikan dini, menurut saya, memang sekrusial itu untuk membentuk pola pikir dan cara kerja kita.

Oh, and have I mentioned that the students don't need to pay anything to get a top-notch education? That's actually the best part! Because a high-quality education should be a right for every child, not a privilege. 


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