Bryan: At the School, Tumpaan, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

One step on our visit to sponsored child Syalom in Tumpaan, North Sulawesi, Indonesia, was to go to her school. It was a school day, so the plan was for us to pull her out when we arrived in order to visit her home.

The adults we’d met before going to the school were making the visit very formal, as is typical. We had to be introduced to all the authorities. Our Compassion host offered to document events with my camera while I was visiting. Those of you who have seen my prior posts probably realize that wasn’t going to work well for me. I need the camera! He got some shots in, mostly taken at a distance. Not my style.

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You can see several of the school kids around. Some classes were on recess in the courtyard, while others were in session. The kids were really eyeing us. I think they wanted to be involved, but either were too shy or didn’t know how.

We had a similar situation at a school in Africa. The kids all wanted to touch us. That visit got pretty crazy. We just had to initiate it.

As we rounded a corner, I saw a couple of girls standing with cell phones surreptitiously taking pictures of us. (As it turns out, many of the kids have old, very beat-up cell phones. The cost is minimal.) I decided to break the formal, reserved mode this had taken and went up to the girl who had taken the picture. I bent down by her and motioned for her to take a selfie of the two of us.  I think that lit a fuse.

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Then we went in Syalom’s classroom to meet her. Some of the kids were trying to act like they were studying, but they weren’t getting much done. I also got my camera back! As seen below, a number of kids were peeking in the windows to see what was going on. (This is not a tourist area, at all. We were told some of the kids had probably seen very few, if any, whites before.) They filled the windows and doorway.

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Some staring; some working; some staring while trying to look like they’re working.

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When I first focused on these two girls in the second row, they immediately looked down at their studies and acted like they were working. I kept focused and pretty soon, they both cracked up and looked up. That’s an administrator on the left, flashing the peace sign, which is very popular here.

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We then went back outside. The people “running the show” wanted to line us up–administrators, teacher, Syalom, Compassion center staff, and us–and shoot some pictures in the courtyard. To get to the courtyard, we had to go back through all the kids looking in. I saw a couple more had gotten their cell phones out. But they were still on the shy side. I started snapping pictures of the kids as I went out in the courtyard. They were getting into it.

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In many of the pictures, you can see there are kids up close, then a number hanging well back.

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We walked through the phalanx of kids in order to line up for the group photo. I don’t know what anyone else had in mind, but as soon as we started lining up, I looked over at all the kids we had just walked through and started motioning for them to come get in the picture.

And the dam broke. We were flooded with kids. They were very accustomed to taking big group shots like this, so they all lined up quickly and properly.  Unfortunately, I’d again surrendered my camera in order to get a copy of the group shot. I noticed lots of these kids around us had cell phones in hand. So as soon as the group photo was over, I grabbed the first one and he took a selfie of the two of us. The kids took it from there. For the next fifteen minutes or so, we hung out in the courtyard in a wild, teeming mass of kids taking selfies with Ginger and me. One after another after another. They’d come back in groups or individually, but they couldn’t get enough. As soon as one snapped a picture, the next would crowd in. Kids with phones would hand them to others without phones in order for them to take selfies with us. The kids who had been holding back jumped in. Lots of jockeying for position to be the next one. I would make sure the smaller kids got equal chances, trying to get to the kids in the approximate order in which they came up. But, it was happy chaos! The volleyball team having practice in the courtyard stopped. I think Ginger and I were probably all over Indonesian Facebook by the end of the visit. It was crazy!

The guy with my camera didn’t really know what to do, I think, so he didn’t capture much of that. Below is a small sample of what we were seeing.

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Eventually, I again regained my camera and started taking more pictures. Things had calmed down a bit. OK, we can’t have that!

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I remembered in Ghana when this happened, I showed the boy we were visiting how to use my camera and had him snap some pictures of us with the crowd of students. So I showed Syalom how to use the camera. Within 2 seconds, she was probably better with the camera than I am. I then knelt down in front of a bunch of the kids. An uproar ensued. The kids were crowding around to get close to me and into the picture.

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You can see a fairly small boy at the bottom of the picture, above. He had been sticking very close to me. His approach to getting in more pictures was to be EXTREMELY polite and deferential. That seemed so out of place in what was happening, but it worked! After another picture or two, he got shoved out of his position by the girls behind him. Not intentionally, but the crush caused someone to lose balance and fall into him. He was upset at losing his spot, so I grabbed him and held him right in front of me. He was psyched.

You can see behind the chaos that the volleyball team has pretty much stopped in place and most are watching us.

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I did manage to get a few calmer pictures, too. Note right in front, with the blue backpack, is the girl from the very first selfie.

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Here’s “Mr. Polite”:

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And then, of course, more chaos.

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I believe that about this time, Ginger was roped into more group “stand ‘em up and shoot ‘em” pictures with the school staff. I believe I was supposed to be included, as well, but was having WAY too much fun with the kids.

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Eventually, we had to say our goodbyes. The kids followed us to the door.

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There were a few out in front of the school. So I managed to convince this girl to let me shoot her picture too.

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I suspect not much got done the rest of the school day.