Thursday, June 3, 2010

English Library

The single most rewarding experience of my time in Palembang (note: Palembang specifically) was the English Library.

When I first got to Palembang, I knew no one. My school didn’t really invite anywhere on the weekends at first, so I usually spent Friday – Sunday trying to entertain myself. There are only so many times you can pay someone to drive you to the market/mall/museum for the day by yourself before you cry out for companionship.

Through my first counterpart Yana, I met Didi. He told me how he spent Friday nights at a place called the “English Library,” and he said there were other Americans there. I was skeptical, but eager for anyone—American or not—who I might be able to have a conversation with. I ended up spending every Friday night I was in Palembang at EL for “Chit Chat Time.”

And that’s how I met Mike and Debbie, two of the kindest people I’ve ever known. They’ve been traveling to Indonesia their whole lives and signed up for three years here with the library when they retired. I don’t know what I would have done without them. They’re from South Carolina, and they said I reminded them of their daughter. I will never forget how immensely grateful I was to them for driving me home every night. It added an extra hour and a half onto their evening, and when I thanked them, they just said, “Well, of course! You don’t need to thank us for this; we love you!” And sometimes the simplest thing can make such a huge difference. I think the library saved my sanity at the beginning.

Mike and Debbie were perfect to vent to. They love Indonesia, but they said being in Palembang was worse than anywhere else. When you’re struggling, it’s nice to hear other people are struggling, too. Debbie says she regularly checks travel web sites and bookmarks tickets home, just because it makes her feel better.

The students who come there really want to learn English. A lot of college students came to work on their thesis in English, and we work with a lot of new students, too. Unlike many of my students at IGM, the EL kids were really interested in what we taught them. And we didn’t have to worry about teaching to the government test, either, so we were free to play games, tell stories, and watch movies.

Then afterwards, I’d go to dinner with Mike and Debbie. By the end of my grant, I was considered staff at the library, and I’ll miss it so much. Plus, it was shocking to me how small the community of English speakers really is in Palembang. People who are good at English know all the other people who are good at English, whether it’s through classes or friends.


  1. It's near "BLK" rite??
    Mr. Mike and Ms Debbie were no longer here

  2. dear, does anybody can tell me "where the address of "english library"???
    i stay in palembang. and i'd love to increase my english (and also spanish).

    btw, i heard that this place are also teach spanish???
    if anybody can tell me, please text me on 085764819682 (i give my number not because i am impolite, but because am afraid i didn't read your replay on this chanel

  3. I really confused, is the english library for general or it is a course place.