Sarongs in the classroom? Only in Bali? Not at all. The last school we shipped sarongs to was in Reston, Virginia. Â Â School had just started and Connie Leontine, a brand-new teacher, was determined to excite and engage her students. The first region in her yearlong Cultures of the World curriculum was Indonesia. She chose it because she was fortunate to have twins from Bali in her class. This was a first, and she seized the opportunity.
The girl, Wayan, and the boy, Kadek, were outgoing and at ease with the other kids. They had lived in different places as they followed their diplomat parents around the world. Their mother had assured Miss Leontine that they proudly owned their cultural heritage and were very comfortable sharing information about it. Something about their demeanor did not invite teasing. It seemed to have the opposite effect. They wore their differences proudly and the other kids were fascinated.
While sarongs are worn in countries across southeast Asia and beyond, they are linked in the publicâ€™s mind with Bali. So Connie ordered enough sarongs for each student, hoping the kids would be willing to put them on and join in the Balinese dancing she planned to teach.
Whether due to beginnerâ€™s luck, a brilliant introduction, or the kidsâ€™ fascination with Wayan and Kadek, it worked. The kids were all over the package of sarongs when it arrived. Connie had been tracking the progress of the package on the class computer, and on the day it was due to arrive, she took the entire class to wait outside the office at the hour UPS normally came.
They practiced a Balinese song they were learning as they waited, and were still singing when the driver walked in. â€œPeople are often happy to see me, but I’ve never been serenaded before,â€ he said with a laugh, as the children jumped up and down with excitement.
Back in the classroom, the kids couldn’t wait to put on the sarongs. Boys and girls alike chose a favorite with minimal bickering and unselfconsciously put it on. They watched a brief video of Balinese dancing and then, with Wayan and Kadek in the lead, started dancing themselves.