My TGC cohort John Pazol and I were extremely fortunate to have Jontenofer Duarmas, or as we affectionately referred to him as, “bung Jon” (buddy Jon), as our Indonesian host teacher. Bung Jon treated us like (or better in some cases) we were family in town for the first time. But, what makes bung Jon special to me is not the way he treated me or the fact that he was named Teacher of the Year for his district, but the way he treats others based on his story.
Bung Jon was born in the Indonesian archipelago islands of Maluku, east of Sulawesi (where we met him ). Muluku is known for sago, rice and its spices, such as, nutmeg, mace and cloves. At one point in history, Maluku was the only place in the world where these spices were grown. This may explain why bung Jon loves such spicy dishes.
Bung Jon loves fish heads, especially the eyes!
He lived there until 1999 when a civil disturbance between Christians and Muslims broke out. Rumors got out that Christians were killing Muslims and many Muslims came to Maluku to help their fellow Muslims and killed thousands of Christians. By the end of the conflict over 500,000 Christians were displaced. Bung Jon, a 29 year old Christian, turned himself in to the authorities and was sent to a refugee camp in the North Sulawesi town of Manado. The refugee camp was called “Kali Camp”. From there his fortune began to change when he received scholarship funds from donations by Christian Indonesians who had moved to the Netherlands. From these donations, bung Jon was able to complete his B.A. degree and Masters degree from St. University of Manado. He is now an English teacher (2nd language) for Indonesian students.
But through this turmoil and violence, bung Jon started reading and listening to the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. Because of the atrocities he witnessed as a young man between the people of one country, bung Jon decided that the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were important enough to make his English-speaking Indonesian students recite the famous ”I Have A
Dream” speech. As you will see in the video clip, bung Jon takes Dr. King’s speeches as more than just speeches.
Bung Jon’s words remind me of the uneasiness I feel every year from between Dr. King’s birthdate through February’s “Black History Month” to the date of his assassination in April, when I’ve taught at multiple predominantly African-American schools and districts and almost every year there is no commemoration for the achievements of African-Americans, much less Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I know that since I work in the system, even as a mathematics teacher, I could and should put something together. I wonder where is the outrage. African-Americans feel disrespected when people such as Paula Deen call us out of our name or just plainly practices racist policies, but we are conditioning non-African Americans to marginalize our struggles and heroes. Where is the outrage from parents when their children come home and say we didn’t do anything to honor the efforts of our fore fathers? Where is the outrage from politicians and District leaders who are not receiving invites to our school plays and performances that show more than our youth wiggle their behinds?
Indonesian schools are going through struggles to maintain local language and culture as young girls may not want to wear hijab like their mothers or boys are not praying as often as their fathers, but I do see where the institutions have not given up. At what point does freedom overtake tradition. I would like to say “thank you” to bung Jon for his inspiration, but as he put’s it, “there is no need for friends to say thank you to each”. So to bung Jon, I say, “keep doing what you are doing my friend!”