Dear Shansi Community


Kara Nepomuceno '20 is a 2020-2022 Fellow at UGM. This is her first year narrative report. 

Dear Shansi community, 


I hope you are well! Even though I am not yet in Yogyakarta, I have still been able to learn, teach, and grow this semester. I would love to share three snapshots on the themes of education, language, and movement from my first six months as a Fellow. ​


Caption: My family’s Christmas parol, crafted from capiz shell in shades of red, blue, green, and yellow. December 2020.

I. Education 

Lighting a parol for Christmas is an annual family tradition that brings me pause and reflection. My family’s star was lit just after I completed my first semester at Universitas Gadjah Mada. This past semester I found lesson-plan inspiration in surprising places -- arts museums, self-help podcasts, cookbooks, and more. I feel especially grateful to my students for their feedback and kind encouragement, and to my faculty colleagues and co-Fellow for their support and ideas. 

I have been making a list of “best hits” from teaching this past semester. I started playing music to wake-up and motivate my speaking classes––because although it was early evening for me, it was 8am for them! I was also surprised that students requested cold-calling, which I thought might cause them some anxiety. However, even though it was early morning, many of them were willing to be “voluntold” and get an extra nudge to speak up. In my co-taught academic writing class, graduate students in the CRCS program inspired me with their analysis and their strong commitments to community-based research. Another highlight was a weekly chatroom about music, and a “transition words” jeopardy that became surprisingly competitive. 

While the parol hangs alone, it represents one among a constellation of stars that light up the winter nights. I am looking forward to the next semester, supported by a strong community of students, educators and present and former Fellows. They help me imagine and strive to create better spaces for learning that are responsive to the experiences and aspirations of students.


Caption: Walking through a dry bluff near Torrey Pines State Reserve. December 2020.

II. Language

When I returned home last spring, I began exploring trails near my home that I had never visited before. Around the same time, I began studying Bahasa Indonesia online with Alam Bahasa. My teachers, Lia and Mbak Siwi, met with me online for two hours every weekday for six weeks. They were also my first points of contact in Yogyakarta and I really enjoyed getting to know them. With Shansi’s support, I was able to continue learning with them weekly, completing 120 hours of study together last December.


In our classes I was excited to find similar words between Bahasa Indonesia and Kapampangan, the language of my father’s hometown in Angeles, Pampanga, Philippines. Since I am at home, I get to share these new cognates with him firsthand, often leading to discussion of family memories and experiences. 


Outside of teaching, I have slowly begun reading an article on the igal “dalling” dance. Danced in Sama-Bajau communities of East Kalimantan, it is also performed in southern Philippines and is similar to pangalay, a dance form I studied during my In-Asia Grant. It has also been exciting to learn more about performing arts in Indonesia and I have been able to attend a few arts events online, including the 15th Annual Indonesian Dance Festival and the end-of-semester department showcase for Institut Seni Indonesia Yogyakarta (Indonesian Arts Institute, Yogyakarta).


When I began learning Bahasa through virtual classes in June, I was pleasantly surprised our initial six-week intensive became something more. Through local fires, a pandemic, and across the time difference, I have been thankful for my Alam Bahasa teachers, Lia and Mbak Siwi, who have shown an abundance of patience and motivated me to continue learning. With their guidance, I am looking forward to advancing my study this February. 


Caption: Hiking with family at La Jolla Beach, California. January 2021. 

III. Movement

I am really thankful to have movement and the beach nearby as resources and teachers. The principle of “movement in stillness”, found in court dances of Java, and other dance forms from Southeast Asia, resonates with me always, and especially during this stay-at-home order. The wavelike, curving motions of igal and pangalay remind me to flow with this current moment, to roll with uncertainty without breaking.


I look forward to a future date when I can meet my students, colleagues, teachers, or co-Fellow for a meal or a walk together. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you, whether you are teaching, learning, creating art, or otherwise. Let’s move through this together! 


All the best,