Today, we visited the Islamic school. The state-run school will be another day. The Islamic school is located about 60 minutes from our hotel, tucked away in the mountains. Technically, it is a boarding school, though it also serves as an orphanage. The co-ed student body of about 300 is populated by a mix of parentless children and those who come from families too poor to provide care.
Like many private schools in America, the curriculum is very demanding. In addition to math, science, geography, and all the other basics, students are taught to read, write and speak English, Arabic and Indonesian. Though their days are usually very structured, we had the privilege of an hour with ten of these extraordinary young people, 5 of each gender, their ages ranging from 8-17. Though a bit timid at first, they quickly became typical kids, very excited (though never stepping beyond their well-disciplined manners) and bursting with questions. We exchanged questions about hobbies, favorite foods, and clothing choices. We talked about cultural and geographic differences. They told us of their hopes and dreams. We shared photos of our families, explained a bit more about life in America. In the end, I think we left a good impression on them, and they certainly did so on us.