– By Ian Morse, ETA in Gorontalo –
I pushed and pushed through May to get a video project done. My teaching hours dwindled, and I had a lot more time to spend with students. I didn’t want to squander my last month with my students, so we assembled as an English club and wrote a video script. What should we tell people about this province we lived in? How can we show the character of Gorontalo and our pride in it?
The script sat on my desk for weeks. Other events and club practices kept interfering with our English Club. The last week came, as did preparations for Ramadan, and we saw an opportunity. Teams of students gathered together, and over the first three days of fasting – and my final few days in Gorontalo – we travelled across the rice fields and through villages to pull this together.
My students’ reaction was a bit surprising; they were more thankful than anything. I intended this project simply as something fun to bring us closer together as an English club, but also as material for my students to be proud of. Almost all of my 16 English club students made it to filming. This was their home, and we only needed to show the world that it was as great as we said.
It’s hard to escape the widely held view in Gorontalo that the U.S. is the country without imperfections. Conversations over the past ten months about the U.S. often began with questions to confirm TV rumors. Was everyone rich in the U.S.? Does everyone live in clean cities? Education is better there, right? But it was up to confidence and language ability to correct those ideas. One of the best ways, I found, was to simply say that Gorontalo was the one that was “better” in some respect. Locals asked for gifts from the U.S. often, but foreigners ask for gifts from Gorontalo. There’s nothing to say that the U.S. should be more highly regarded than this province in Indonesia.
It was with these ideas that I believed the video could divert a community’s eyes inward, rather than outward. I’ve sent the original video (in a lower quality that doesn’t eat up as much data) to my students, who have shared it with their friends. A province of just over a million people can indeed share the stage with historically more prominent places.