Meet Pete Simano: Director, World Traveler, and Storyteller
June 01, 2011 | Harvesters
By Jesse Newman
It is no secret that Pete Simano (pronounced “sih muh no”) is an incredibly adventurous world traveler and story teller. I recently witnessed Pete’s great storytelling at the 2010 NICS Annual Leadership Conference, where he captivated members of the Home Office Staff and many other NICS directors with a great Alaska Bigfoot adventure story (the “nigaleena” Pete references later in the article). Pete is the Director at Bandung Alliance International School (BAIS) of Bandung, Indonesia, and has experienced more adventure in his lifetime than most people dream of.
Pete was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, and grew up in a small New England town called Pike which is nestled in the White Mountains. Of his childhood he recounts, “It was great being in a farming town of 200 and living a rural life out in the great outdoors.” He later attended the received B.A.s in both Psychology and Spanish from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and had the opportunity to spend his junior year of college in Madrid, Spain, with the Institute of European Studies (IES). This was his first experience living abroad, and the experience fostered his love for the different places and people of the world. Pete has also earned two Master of Education degrees from Plymouth State College, a Guidance and Counseling degree for K-12, and an Administration and Supervision degree (also for K-12). He spent three summers at the University of Oregon and Northwest Christian College participating in Summer Institute of Linguistics, Inc. (SIL) courses in linguistics and at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks for continuing education classes.
Pete’s favorite hobbies revolve around the outdoors. He says, “I am totally an outdoor guy (from my childhood) and love everything involved in hiking, camping, canoeing, fishing, and hunting. The more time I spend outdoors the happier I am. Alaska was such a great fit for me. Indonesia is more challenging and I miss wide open spaces but find [peace] here when swimming in the ocean.” He attends a local church in Indonesia called Gereja Bethel Indonesia. Pete shares, “I LOVE having a church family of a different culture and love worshipping with them. Revelation is my favorite book of the Bible, and I always have the end-times perspective in mind and trust that we will be good and faithful servants sharing His truth with those lost around us.”
CORE: You are definitely a world traveler, but you have also worked in a variety of different settings and geographic locations. Can you share some of your favorites?
PS: I lived in Madrid, Spain, for one year. I loved the history, architecture, and art of Spain and got to travel all over Spain including Ibiza and the Canary Islands. I was able to tour Europe for six weeks on a Eurail pass and my favorites were skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland, looking for the Lochness Monster in Inverness, seeing Stonehenge, touring the Vatican, and experiencing Athens, Greece.
I lived almost three years in Guatemala and got to travel throughout Central America. Highlights were living at the grassroots level with Mayan Indians, the Mam in San Marcos and the Kekchi in Alta Verapaz. I loved the simple life, delicious food, and great friends that I made in the Peace Corps.
I lived 6 years in bush Alaska and got to experience life in remote, isolated villages. I had a snow machine and toured the Kuskokwim River between Aniak and Bethel, and the Yukon River from Kaltag to Tanana. A highlight for me was driving my snow machine from Unaakleet to Fairbanks over 4 days and staying in schools along the river. It was SO MUCH FUN! Another highlight was seeing the Iditarod sled dog race go through Nulato while I lived there four years. Again, so much fun!
I got to live two months in the Philippines in 2002 and experienced life out in a remote village on an island. I lived with a family and got to plough with a water buffalo and fish in dug out canoes. It has been a fun adventure.
CORE: Having all of the experiences mentioned above, how many languages do you feel “comfortable” conversing in?
PS: I am very comfortable in English, Spanish, and Indonesian I am familiar with French and can talk agriculture and food terms in Kekchi and Mam. I learned quite a bit of Cebuano and Tagalog during my time on an island in the Philippines. Yupik and Koyukon Athabascan are very difficult to learn and I only learned survival terms of “I’m freezing”, “I’m scared”, and “Thank you”!
CORE: How did you first hear about NICS?
PS: I first learned of NICS through BAIS teachers who attended the Bandung International Church in Indonesia. I was at language school for an assignment with SIL in Papua, Indonesia, when I first met BAIS teachers. I was invited to help out the local Youth Group (SOFEFO) during my language school time and I really enjoyed meeting the BAIS students.
CORE: The majority of NICS/Oasis staff members serving overseas are single individuals. As a single man, can you talk about “singleness” and serving overseas? Anything that you would like to say to your fellow singles or couples in relation to their fellow staff members who are single?
PS: Being single on the field is definitely both rewarding and frustrating. For safety and accountability in Bandung, we require that our staff have roommates and it gets “old” to have roommates when you are in your 30’s and then 40’s. YET, it is always fun to be invited for an adventure or a trip with the other singles. The freedom to take off and have your own “mini-adventure” is always nice, yet it would be nice to do that with family. It is such a special time to be serving overseas, and I would encourage the singles to try hard to make friends outside of school and its bubble/fishbowl and yet really enjoy those great times while inside it. I have no real advice for married couples except “thank you” for including us in your families and in your very special moments as we watch your kids grow and see your family function in the international setting.
CORE: Any interesting story/event that you would like to share with the readers?
PS: … besides the “nigaleena” …, ok seriously – a story that I’d love to share is the special connection we can have with students and the host culture while serving overseas. I, like all my colleagues, just have wonderful memories of experiencing life from a different lens and learning day by day how our values and experiences may clash with those in a new place. I have written a “Top 10” of cultural experiences, shocks, and stories throughout these last years in Indonesia and you never ever run out of material. Things catch you off guard all the time (still) and kids tell the funniest stories that you just must record.
One quick story was in the Philippines, on Sibuyan Island, a family dragged a dead dog (in rigor mortis) across an empty beach to right in front of us (a group of expats) and proceeded to dig a hole to bury it. We couldn’t believe that in a whole empty beach they chose to do it 2 meters from us and we just watched these kids dig while the dog lay stiff and bloated. Once they finished, they pushed the dead dog in only to have it bark. We all jumped, didn’t know what to do, and were so happy when they quickly buried it as it was obviously suffering. As I look back, it was all pretty natural for these kids to bury a dying dog on the beach near the surf. Every aspect of that caught us off guard and we were shocked and startled to hear the dog gasp out one final bark.
CORE: Please share a couple of your fondest memories (both with NICS and in other places of service).
PS: I was blessed to have 3 months this year with my mom and dad (their first trip to Indonesia). Fond memories with them include seeing the Borobudur and Prambanan Temples outside Jogjakarta and watching them just love the people and places of Bali.
I so enjoyed participating in the annual Sea Tribe trip from BAIS to remote islands in Indonesia. Living with families and experiencing island life was definitely a highlight for me, and the team I traveled with have become dear, close friends.
Lastly, I love being part of a Network of Christian Schools and I have been blessed throughout my journeys to see the schools in Accra, Nairobi, Pyongtaek, Seoul, and Rio de Janeiro. There is nothing like worshipping God, celebrating Christ with TCKs and like-minded staff around the world. It is great seeing what is happening at BAIS and in our sister schools. We hosted a conference in Bandung in 2009 and the Directors from Asia and Africa got to come here to Indonesia, and it was wonderful to showcase our students, staff and facilities to my colleagues. Praise God!
CORE: What would you say is the greatest blessing you have received because you have chosen to serve overseas? What and where do you see God leading you in the future?
PS: The biggest blessing is understanding more how God’s church works and understanding more clearly what the body of Christ will be like in heaven. I can’t wait to have eternity to meet brothers and sisters from around the world and throughout the ages who are worshipping God in heaven. I love praising God through songs of different language groups knowing how pleasing that is for Him.
I will want to experience another country at some point in my life. I am nomadic this side of heaven and love knowing that there are 15 other countries out there with NICS where I can serve.
CORE: I feel like I have been on an adventure just hearing about the things Pete has seen and done! It has been a huge blessing hearing from one of our NICS school directors. We thank Pete for sharing just a few of his experiences with us, and we will definitely look forward to hearing about his future adventures in the new place of service the Lord has in mind for him next.