International School of Rumbai, Sumatra: Not just Monkeying Around.


Ever look out at the sliders, swingers and tag players on a
lively playground and think, what a bunch
of monkeys?

At the International School of Rumbai, playground monkeys
are not just metaphorical.  The school’s
campus, carved from the jungle by an oil company (now Chevron) 50 some years
ago has become a sanctuary for wildlife – short and long-tailed macaques,
 gibbons, monitor lizards – as the jungle
around the compound has been clear cut to make room for palm tree plantations. 

Although the macaques beat us to school in the morning, they
went back to their forest to nap while the students of Rumbai made poetry about
dim sum, recess, conflicts, people, places and experiences in and out of the classroom.  I don’t want to say that ONLY at an international
school might a first grader write a refrain poem about dim sum, because there
may in fact be a Chinese dumpling enthusiast in Houston or Salt Lake City.  I’m just saying I haven’t met one yet. This
is what makes working in international schools a constant surprise.
We wrote about what was real and closed our eyes to search our imaginations for ways to stretch our observations.

The classes are small and the school itself has only 65 students.  They come together every morning for a meeting and a few quick exercise moves lead by a rotation of students.  Teachers, imagine this: you teach for 10 or so students for the morning, walk home for an hour lunch and then come back for the afternoon?  People who teach at small schools such as this have made a quality of life decision to destress.

The middle schoolers gave us a percentage poem to help us remember them and then a second poem, explaining what our bus trip to visit their sister school in Duri. 

Thank you to all the teachers and students in Rumbai for a grand
and memorable visit.

One response to “International School of Rumbai, Sumatra: Not just Monkeying Around.”

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