Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Guilt

Merry belated Christmas.  I have been feeling plenty bad about not blogging in. . . .awhile lets say. The end of the school year had me fairly, well amply, busy.  Then there was lots of "last night out before I leave" ness.  Most of my community was leaving Jakarta even for other locales in Asia and not "home". So each time someone was departing we had a last night.  Suffice to say that the first three weeks of December was full.


I made a smart decision to leave my laptop in Jakarta.  I have felt freed from the need to check email, update my facebook and even, gasp, blog. Though it was my choice and I have been happy for it, I still felt I should be blogging.  Until I looked at the blogs I follow.  Most people are blogging very little and I am grateful.  I haven't written and also haven't read blogs over holiday.  I know it's not just me now and that I won't have an insurmountable task to catch up with my reading.


I will try to write a couple more times when I'm here at home though I think it wise not to make any promises.  This morning (term applied loosely as it's 12:37 but I am on holiday) I am writing from my mom's computer, sitting next to the fire and watching the snow melt. We got a light dusting of snow here in the city and I am thrilled, partially for the snow and for the excuse to stay in and look at it. There is over 100 inches in the mountains and we're planning a snowshoeing day trek for next week!!  For someone who never thought of herself as a cold weather or snow zealot, I am loving this.  I have had to wear a dis-ordinate number of layers of clothing.  I don't leave the house without long underwear under my jeans and at least three layers on top, plus a scarf and gloves. My toes are perpetually cold and my nose threatens to mutiny my face when I walk the dog but I am not complaining.  After a year in the tropics, it's a welcome change.


I departed Jakarta on December 22nd almost under the belief that Christmas was a myth.  I had completely forgotten it was just three days hence. The hectic schedule and warm weather made me complacent.  All of the things that make Christmas Christmas were missing.  I didn't have anywhere to decorate as I am once again between homes. My friends and I were to be in different places and I wasn't yet with my family. Having grown up in the northern hemisphere, Christmas is always cold.  Recently I've spend years living away from home, which I am convinced shall remain Seattle in some aspect.  I cannot convince my brain in spite of itself (or myself) that it's Christmas when it's 90 degrees with 75% humidity.  The only Christmas carols I listened to before arriving in the land of cold were at the malls; the first being "little Saint Nick" by the Beach Boys at a low rent, Indonesian mall.  I did make an effort to remedy this by listening to carols non-stop for about four days to the minor chagrin of my family. There were a surprising number of Christmas trees, tinsel and lights around as Indonesia embraces the holiday for all the consumerism it brings.


Christmas at home has been a little truncated, I didn't get to participate in the decoration of the house or baking.  I have managed to eat better in a week here that I have in a year in Jakarta.  The 1.3 pounds I've gained in a week is clear evidence of the amazing cook my mom is and the ludicrous amount of fast food available in the states. Christmas Eve dinner was prime rib roast, potatoes au gratin (with my grandmothers recipe, my favorite food!), salad and Spanish red wine. Christmas morning was brunch with warm butter croissants.  In six days I've had Mexican food about six times, each meal resulting in two with the leftovers as a second course.  The portions here are HUGE!!

I don't want this to ramble on too long but I'll write anon more about my homey Christmas.

My hope is that you have all had as merry and fulfilling Christmas as I have.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The stress of year end at school

As you may have noticed, I have been fairly absent from the blog in the last week to ten days.  I have also been slim on time for email, facebook and instant messenger.  It is one of two times a year that stretches teachers thin. It is end of term reports. This is my first round of reports here at JIKS which means the level of chaos is exponentially higher, though it tends to come thick and fast here anyway.


I started from a spreadsheet designed by an anal retentive, detail oriented guy with high technological capabilities.  He didn't pass on any explanation to my teaching partner, Ben, before he left.  Since I am a mite more saavy on the computer than Ben I've taken the reigns on the reports. The aforementioned spreadsheet is 24 columns by 37 row for four pages, each a different class, for SOSE (Study of Society and Environment) and 37 columns by  36 rows for four pages for English.
A screenshot of one part of the spreadsheet with names removed.  Color coded, and super complicated.  Lucky for me it's in English as many things here aren't. 
 After compiling the "final" scores on this sheet I then had to convert those totals into scores of 10-5 for speaking, writing, listening and participation or 5-1 for reading, social participation and subject knowledge. Those scores will then translate a score out of one hundred and that converts again to H(igh), M(edium) or L(ow) and A,B,C,D or E for overall grades. This all combined with a one sentence comment that was also put on a Word document and given to the homeroom teacher.  This spreadsheet below is only for the English department.
High, Medium or Low and A-E are the third and fourth conversion of the students grades. 
The comments were first sent in a word document to the Korean English teachers for review.  They usually give them back with questions or corrections.  For one class this year they gave the reports back signed but then came in two hours later with corrections.

After that, these are completed and have to be submitted to the department head who usually kicks them back with a few minor corrections, like missing a full stop (period for you in America, the thing at the end of a sentence).

The last stage is the individual report.
 
Each student takes home an individual report. The left side details are for English and the right side are for SOSE.
Now that you see what I've been wrangling with lately I hope you'll understand why I haven't had the additional energy to blog.  As my mother so poignantly asked "are you reviewing them to advance to grade 5 or to go into the space program?" I don't think even NASA is this complex.  I hope to have the reports done tomorrow but then they'll need to be printed, signed and stamped.  I depart for home (Seattle) on December 22nd, next Wednesday, so I have to be done before then and hope to have a crack at writing the SOSE book for next year as well.   I really don't want to schlep that on the plane.

Don't give up on me, and keep an eye out for at least one more this week.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Roommating

Living with people from other places is always interesting and often informational.  Late last week something came on TV and Carla asked me about Spring Break, the American excuse to go to Mexico or Florida, drink way, way too much and act like an idiot.  At least that's what I assume happens. I don't know as I've never been on a "typical" spring break. I don't provide the best example of a "typical" American or a "typical" adolescence; maybe not even a typical American.  I've been told several times in the last month or two that I may not be American.  I nearly got my "American card" revoked during the World Cup series as I cheered for Spain. An Aussie, after hearing me spout my socialist beliefs acquired in Europe, was only half joking when he asked, "Are you sure you're American?"  I usually take it as a compliment.  Two weekends ago Carla and I met a German at our favorite bar.  He announced decisively that I was surely the Kiwi because I looked more like one.  You can see the photo of us below and we look quite similar so I'm not sure what he was eluding to. We had a laugh and another beer.
New roomies at home.  I'm on the left.

We've been comparing notes.  I tried Marmite last night.  It tastes like soy sauce mixed with a packet of powdered gravy and then congealed until its the consistency of fudge sundae topping. I'd eat it instead of a salt lick, but in general would pass.  I''m a big fan of the onion dip, though we make one in the States that's nearly the same. She has got me on these silly rice crackers though. Last week I made grilled cheese sandwiches; ruddy bread with butter on the outside, pan grilled with Australian cheddar inside. She claimed they were good, to which I beamed. We're both bringing foods back from our respective countries after the holidays.  I'm looking for some super American stuff to wow her with.

Carla's also learning to speak American. We've been talking about what different words we use for the same things.  That is trickier since she's lived in the UK for a couple years and I was in Spain so we both speak a muddled English.  I'll start keeping a list so I can report back.

I keep forgetting that she's going home to the middle of summer.  Carla keeps reminding me that there's a hole in the ozone above New Zealand so she'll get really tan while she's home. I'm not as tan as I'd like to be now but more so than most Seattleites. When I come back from four weeks away I'm sure I'll be even paler. I can't imagine it being warm at Christmas.  Lord knows Spain wasn't.  I think it still doesn't really feel like Christmas because it's so balmy, as it is year round here.

I was a bit tentative to move in with someone again, even for a short while.  That being said, all my fears went quickly out the window and we've had a smashing time so far. Fingers crossed that we carry on just as well until I get my own place in February.  I am looking forward to my own place but with Carla as my neighbor, same building, different floors.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

How a trip home can take 4 buses

Here's what my Friday trip home looked like:

13:28 walked to the security office to ask about angkots
13:29 head out walking to find the intersection with the traffic light.  20 minute walk, I could have taken angkot 2 for 2,000rp and probably will next time. On the walk no less than 15 angkots went by and about 3/4 of them honked or slowed down.
13:50 pick up angkot 40 to go to the KP bus station for 2,000Rp.
13:55 arrived at the bus station.  Asked the security guard for angkot 15, got angkot 19 which was supposed to go to angkot 15.
14:00 three minute wait in the angkot until we took off which is relatively short.  You can end up sitting and waiting for ages. took angkot 19 to pasar rebo. five minute ride for 2,000Rp.
14:05 got into angkot 15, waited five minutes to take off. Fifteen minute ride with a basket of fruit in the back, but I got the prime seat in the front. 4,000Rp.
14:25 the driver of angkot 15 told me to get angkot 16.  I walked over and stopped a #16.  They told me I needed metromini bus 75 so I had to walk over and find that.
14:35 caught metromini 75 with promises of my street for 2,000Rp.
14:45 got off the bus on my street.  Walked over the pedestrian bridge and home in three minutes.

I made it home for 10,000Rp in about an hour and twenty minutes. By knowing where to catch which buses and angkots I think I can drop it down to about a 45 minute commute for 12,000Rp.

Monday's ride to school will be angkot 15A most of the way to work. Home should be the teachers bus plus one angkot or bus; a whopping 2,000Rp.  I'm just happy to have made it  all the way home in one piece.  Is all this a scam to keep bules (foreigners) in the expensive taxis?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Adventures in Transportation or 101 ways to get to work

Now that I've moved to a different part of the city I have to reassess and reconfigure my routes and modes of transportation.  If you are a regular reader you'll know that I have had many an issue with transport, particularly ojeks, here in Indonesia. The new 'Pejaten era' of my life here is no different.  The ride to and from work should be fairly straight forward; go down my street to the next major street, hang a left and go and go and go.  At the end of the trip there is a right and then two left turns to get into the school.  The key word in that last sentence is should.
I know Jakarta can feel like this.  I wonder what it actually looks like from above. Courtesy of marcofolio.net

The first day (Tuesday) I went from my new home to work by taxi.  7,000Rp for the toll and 40,000Rp for the ride.  Ouch! Remember I was paying 65,000Rp round trip for an ojek from my old place which was farther away. I'm a bit stumped about the toll system. I took a toll road on the way to a business class I teach on Wednesdays and that toll was only 2,000Rp.  Each toll has it's own amount but I am not privy to why each one is different. The two to the airport are 4,500Rp and 6,500Rp. I found out there's a free teachers bus (aka van) that makes two stops-Citos mall and Blok M. It only runs in the afternoons at 4pm.  Citos isn't too far from me so I took the bus there with the intention of getting a kopaja bus or angkot home; ojek was the backup plan.  The ojeks wanted 25,000Rp even after Carlas maid said it should be 5-10,000Rp tops. I waited 15 minutes for the appropriate bus or angkot with no luck.  Taxi again.

On Wednesday I went looking for an ojek.  I walked with Carla to her school, about 12 minutes down the road.  No ojeks were to be found.  Instead one of the very sweet security guards from her school gave me a ride.  I asked him how much twice and he just blushed so I insisted he take 20,000Rp for gas.  He said there's no bus or angkot that runs to my school from Carla's school.  Hmmmm. I finished work at 3:30pm but was waiting for the teachers bus. At 3:45pm the Korean coordinator in my department, the same one who got the teachers bus info for me the day before, came into the staff room and said "what are you doing here?" I informed her I was waiting for the bus. She said it left at 3:30pm.  at 3:30, only on Wednesdays.  A small detail she neglected to tell me before 3:30pm on a Wednesday. Taxi again.

Thursday I felt prepared and took a Transjakarta bus down the road to Ragunan.  The bus is 2,000Rp, runs constantly is nearly deserted in that direction at that hour and the stop is 2 minutes from my building.  My plan was to get an ojek from Ragunan thinking it would be cheaper from there. Of the five ojeks at the stand only one even vaguely knew where it was. He wanted 50,000Rp. I laughed and told him a taxi was cheaper than that. he waved me off so I got a taxi to work.  The meter was at 30,000Rp when he made a wrong turn.  He said "sorry, sorry, just 30,000Rp, ok?" 15 minutes later I made it to work,.  The meter was at 46,000Rp but I gave him 30. I hate it when you tell them where you want to go and they go "ya, ya, ya" and act like they know exactly where it is but they don't know where they're going.  I found an ojek here near my school to go home.  He wanted 50,000Rp as well.  I offered 20,000Rp, we agreed on 30,000Rp. The trip took about 25 minutes and was a straight shot.  I'll see how he feels about me today when I ask to go to the bus station.
Busway even has their own driving lane. Most stops are accessible by an overhead bridge. Courtesy of m.kompas.com

This morning I woke up at 05:30am.  At 05:45am the sky opened and it poured. My plan the night before was to try to catch an angkot, or transjakarta bus and then angkot. This method should cost between three and five thousand Rupiah in all. Opposite to what usually happens, the roads emptied and there were very few angkots or buses to be found.  Normally everyone jumps on transport since they don't want to be in the rain.  I waited with Carla for her taxi.  I still hadn't seen more than one agnkot when it arrived so I went with her.  We dropped her off and I carried on to school.  42,000Rp no toll which isn't bad considering the rain induced traffic on the school road.
Angkot! I need red #S15A. Courtesy of Lifeportraitsofme.blogspot.com

Taxis are a nice option because you have personal space and no pollution in your face (it rhymes, I could write commercials) but they get expensive and can be slow. Ojeks are quicker and sometimes cheaper but there is lots of gear required (helmet, rain clothes, anti-pollution mask).  Buses are usually packed and slow but cheap and out of the rain. I will be leaving school after I finish this.  The goal is to find out from the security staff if I can get an angkot to the KP bus station.  If I can I'll do that, if not I'll get an ojek there.  It should be about 7,000Rp there I'm told.  From there I can get an angkot that should take me to my street, a three or four minute walk from there and I'm home.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I'll let you know!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Pejaten jam

Leading a peripatetic life does lend itself not only to moving country to country, but also moving frequently within a country. I had enough and moved house. It was quite unexpected.  On Saturday I returned home from lunch with a friend at the mall to the remains of a flood.  The water had dissipated but the scum was left behind.  That and my still five days later soggy books. Luckily there wasn't much on the floor to get wet but what was there got soaked.  After a single week that contained two power outages, a power spike that ruined my phone and ipod, two days without water for a shower, two days with cold water for a shower the flood was the last straw.
Pretty much like this.  courtesy of ehow.com

My friend Carla immediately jumped to my aid with an offer of her extra bedroom.  She lives in Pejaten, an area of town part way between my old place and work so more convenient in that aspect too. We'd planned that I would move my stuff there over Christmas break and when I returned I would get a studio in her building.  This just moved the schedule up. I am still planning for my own digs in February. It is heaps nicer than my old place.  The building is brand new and still mostly empty.  This also means the furnishings are new.  I can cook again since there's a small kitchen and Carla's maid handles laundry, cleaning and some of the cooking.  When I got home yesterday after moving on Monday Yanti (the maid) had ironed and refolded all the clean clothes I'd brought.  We ate the fried rice she made for dinner (I had it again for lunch today with the fruit salad she put together).  As I'm barely accustomed to someone doing my laundry, this entire service package might take a little getting used to.  Or none at all and then I'll forget how to take care of myself like the Indonesian kids that grow up waited on.
This is not Yanti, she's older and without teeth but very very sweet.  Courtesy of topnews.com

The old kost was surprised on Monday when I just showed up with a moving truck and friends to move out yesterday.  It was the 29th of the month so perfect time to move out.  It's always been month to month so I didn't feel bad about not giving not notice. The owner, a Chinese woman with bad teeth but a good heart,  kept saying " I miss you" and apologizing for the flood. She asked why I didn't give her notice and I said it was a surprise, I hadn't been planning to move so quickly. I couldn't have accomplished it so quickly without Julia.  She met me in her car with her driver and kids.  They'd rented a truck so we all drove over to my place.  The advantage of renting a truck here is that there's driver who drives but also helps load. It was definitely worth the 300,000 Rp.  We got to my old place at 4.  By 6 o'clock everything was into Carla's place.  It was amazing.  A very different experience than the parade of friends helping me drag, pull and slide things along Madrid's streets, through the metro and into a new flat.  Also better than cramming myself and Jen into a taxi a couple months ago to make a move in from a northern suburb.

I am without internet at this apartment for the time being but it was the move that explains my blogging absence.  I'll write next week about the area, post a few photos and a new chapter in my minimalistic dissertation about the ins and outs of transportation in Jakarta. 

Friday, November 26, 2010

Turkey day far away

Celebrating holidays in foreign countries is usually a little frustrating, a little strange and often informative. There are many holidays that I can skip altogether and not miss.  Valentine's Day, Flag Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Halloween, even Independence Day. There are others that I have to celebrate and make me homesick. Thanksgiving is a must. Because so few countries have their own version, it can be a bit dicey to find a proper meal for it.
Two years ago in Spain I was invited to not one but two dinners.  The first was fairly traditional. Sarah prepared all, or nearly all, the food. My mistake was starting in with others on the champagne before the food was up for eating.  I ended up with a roaring head ache but still scarfed down turkey, salad, potatoes, stuffing and pie.  We were Americans, Mexicans and French. The conversation was nearly as good as the food.  Sarah is quite the cook and has since opened a bakery in her home state. There was food to go around and then some.

The second meal was a bit more haphazard, possibly a representation of the group in attendance. We were from the US, Australia, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, Venezuela and I think there were another two or three countries represented. The food ranged from turkey to fried rice.  By that point I wasn't eating a lot but it was a hoot.  There was lots to drink and riotous laughter (ahem, something regarding my death). the food came in with the folks, a few at a time throughout the evening.

Last year I was lucky enough to be home.  It was a small group, just four of us.  We don't have much family left but what we've got is mighty tight.  My part in the day was to sit around, starving and whining until it's time to eat at about three or four o'clock. Then afterward I package the leftovers, clean up and wash dishes.  We've found that too many cooks in the kitchen may not spoil the soup but it has a higher probability of spoiling our moods. My mom and sister have a fantastic handle on the food, it's always amazing so I am happy to stay out of their way.  Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, homemade gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls, and wine is our fare.  I realize everyone's is a bit different, but I wouldn't have it any other way.

This year in Jakarta I found out about a couple of restaurants hosting turkey dinners.  I chose the American Club, a sports and social club that you can have a membership to, but it isn't required to attend the dinner.  Their website said Friday night.  I thought I might even get two dinners again. When I called for reservations the hostess made sure to tell me it was actually on Thursday.  I had to message and email everyone to confirm plans (and this was when my phone was in the shop).   It was 288,000Rp all included, all you can eat buffet with one glass of wine.  Two friends accompanied me there, one was Donna who I've mentioned before, the other an Aussie who'd spent the last 14 years in Los Angeles. The eating commenced before Donna's arrival about 6:45.  We bought a bottle of Sauvignon from France, 2008 for 142,000Rp.  That's the cheapest wine I've seen in Jakarta EVER and it was quite nice!  The turkey was moist and wonderful.  The gravy was richer or slightly different than I am accustomed to, but good.  The cornbread stuffing was a little surprising and looked thick and dry but it wasn't.  Mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and green beans (not the casserole) rounded out my meal.  There was also roast beef and glazed ham available but I had to stick to the ole favorites. I also skipped the cold cuts, salads and pumpkin soup (after hearing it was disappointing) entirely.  Two plates later I worked my way through most of a slice of pumpkin cheesecake and a bit of chocolate mousse. I was painfully full when I left but had a huge smile on my face. A power outage 15 minutes after my arrival home couldn't even dampen my spirits, and it was the second outage this week.
Like this except mine was drowning in gravy, had more stuffing and no sweet potatoes.

I was homesick as Seattle was "enjoying" six inches of snow and for many people a six day weekend instead of the standard four for Thanksgiving break. I felt guilty that it was just my mom and sister this year, I felt robbed that I didn't get to stay home and sleep in today. It felt slightly off to have missed the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade and football games. Yet, Thanksgiving reminds me how many people know I'm American and make a point of wishing me a happy day. I feel somehow slightly more connected to the greater American expat community by seeing all the well wishes and commiserating with the other homesick peri-patetic teachers (Thank you for one of my new favorite words blogland!).


Apologies that the blogs have been a bit sporadic lately. I've got a new one in mind and hope to get it up tomorrow. As an aside, I'd love to know who is reading my posts in places like India or Singapore or Australia.  Some of the countries on my readers list are places I know that I know at least one person (Japan, Spain, Denmark, the US, etc) and my assumption is that the person or people I know there must make up the readership.  I understand that you have elected to remain anonymous readers but my curiosity is piqued.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Electrical vortex; or the terrible horrible no good very bad day

"I went to bed with gum in my mouth and now there's gum in my hair".  That's the opening line to a book called Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.  As a child my mom would read a book to my sister and I most nights at bedtime.  This became a standard especially when either of us were having that kind of day.  Now, twenty some years later, I still use that line to describe my day and my mom knows it was a rougher-than-usual one. He is the only of the three brothers who doesn't get a toy in his cereal box, has cavities at the dentist and doesn't get the color shoes he wants. His best friend leaves, he accidentally causes a mess and life is a wreck. *SIGH* I might trade for those problems.
courtesy of wikipedia.com
 Sometimes terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days run together.  I seem to have had one (or one +) lately.  On Sunday night I arrived home from dinner and plugged everything in to charge-my ipod, my phone, my other phone, my laptop. I hopped in for a quick and COLD shower.  When I got out my phone screen was all white.  I couldn't revive it by removing the battery.  It lived at the repair shop last night. They'd said they could fix it in an hour. They told me it would be today after I'd waited around for an hour.
Hopefully it's not this bad but I've got my fingers crossed. Courtesy of pileofphotos.com
My ipod has refused to charge for 3 days. The battery has just hit the red level critical stage.  A co-worker said I may be able to trade it in at a local mall.  There isn't a place to have the battery replaced in Indonesia. This place will supposedly take it in, mail it to Singapore and I'll get a new one all for about 800,000 RP ($90). In the meantime the ojek rides will feel very long.  Did I get magnetized overnight?  My electronics all died about the same time. This is not the first time this has happened, don't even ask about my track record with laptops or external hard drives.
Whaaa happened?  courtesy of consumerist.com
 Last night after the phone debacle, I headed home and hopped in the shower.  Mid shower, with shampoo in hair and soap on body, the water stopped.  Just ran out. After waiting three or four minutes I was able to rinse off in cold water.
courtesy of countryliving.com

I checked out Thanksgiving dinners online a couple weeks ago.  I wanted turkey in Indonesia.  I found the American Club was hosting dinner.  On their website it said Friday at 6pm.  I just called and it's Thursday at 6pm.  Now I have to scramble to see if people are still interested and all without the aid of my phone.

I'm waiting to hear from someone who isn't calling.  I've missed an opportunity for a job, and it's end of the school year stress at the one I have.  After being told by random people that I look slimmer/fitter, I was told point blank to my face last night that I've put on weight. Lose crowns, massive bug bite (I'm guessing a spider but really unsure)I feel I'm missing something I was moaning about yesterday.

Sometimes a rant is necessary. Thanks and apologies.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

MONEY matters, money MATTERS

Being an English teacher I appreciate that this tiny two word phrase can have two different meanings.  If I say MONEY matters it would be in reference to banking, the flow of money in and out of accounts, financial transactions and the like.  If I say money MATTERS I am referring to the important of money in my life or society.
courtesy of top-10-list.org

After three months at a job that pays cashews instead of peanuts (haha), I've actually got a little left in the bank at the end of the month. In an attempt to follow my spending habits, I've noticed that I can go the better part of a week and only spend about 100,000 Rp (daily transportation not included). Then once a week, like yesterday, I'll drop about 1,000,000Rp in one afternoon.  160,000Rp on groceries, 62,000Rp on dinner, 120,000 on an ipod cable and phone skin, 118,000Rp for a cremebath and pedicure with tip and 10,000Rp to get home. 967,000Rp or about $110. It was a mental health day. I needed a way to relax after a busy day with lots on my mind.
courtesy of uk2.net.  Am I burning through money like  . . . ?

It's difficult to feel like a self sufficient adult when you're barely making enough to pay the bills.  Granted, by traveling and moving to different countries I've spent what could have been (or should have been) savings. Each new location requires start up capital as it were. Rent, housing necessities and of course the flight to get there.  Even when work is obtained it's a month at least until the first paycheck comes in.  SIGH  I vacillate between believing that money is temporary, it's made to be used. Life is about buying the necessities and having experiences.  Then there is the 'grown up' part of my brain that says "OYE! What if something happens? You've got barely any savings, you're still paying bills in the States, and hello?!?! Retirement?".

I'll be home in about five weeks and will buy a lotto ticket while I'm there (just one or two $1 ones) just in case. Until I make a million (and teachers never do) I'm willing to take any extra cash that's just lying around.  If it's dirty, old, smelly and you would like someone to take it off your hands, I'll take one for the team.  Same goes for Euros, bank bonds, Rupiah, stock certs, and the like. I'm not picky, just trying to help you out.
courtesy funfacts.com.au

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Idul Adha

I mentioned several blogs ago how it seemed I can't turn around without bumping into another holiday. I stayed indoors (for other reasons) and avoided all the bloodshed.  Idul Adha is the Day of Sacrifice for Muslims. Idul Adha coupled with Idul Fitri are the two most important Muslim holidays in the year.  Families purchase goats, sheep or cows and turn them over to the mosques and their staff to be sacrificed while their names are read aloud. Then the meat is donated to charity, which is the meaning of this day. It seems to me that it's a particularly gruesome way to encourage folks to donate food to the needy but far be it from me to shun any attempt to help others.  This event also turned Jakarta into one bit cow pasture.  The city took on a very distinct smell as make shift pens went up all over.  Worshipers could chose their own goat/sheep/cow depending on their price and preference.  I was told that goats were 1.2 million Rp. (approx $135) while cows could cost as much as 9 million Rp. (approx $1,011).

This is a goat pre-slaughter on a funny little platform on the back of a motorbike.

 I'll post a few more photos, mostly taken from the back of the ojek. 

As a side note about holidays, here is the official Indonesian government list for next year.  Muslim holidays are in blue, Hindu holidays in yellow, Christian holidays in purple, Buddhist holidays in gray and Indonesian government in red. The one that's left out is Chinese New year.  I wasn't sure where to put that, maybe Buddhist but not necessarily.  I also get additional holidays at my school that include Korean Independence day and Chuseuk (Korean Thanksgiving day) among a few others. You want multicultural?  We got yer multicultural right here!

Official Holiday Schedule for 2011

1 January Saturday New Year
3 February Thursday Chinese New Year (Imlek) 2562
15 February Tuesday Birthday of the Prophet Muhammad
5 March Saturday Day of Silence – Hindu New Year 1933
22 April Friday Good Friday
24 April Sunday Easter Sunday
17 May Tuesday Waisak 2555
2 June Thursday The Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven
29 June Wednesday Isra Mi'raj Prophet Mohammad SAW, Celebrating the Ascension of The Prophet Muhammad
17 August Wednesday Indonesian National Independence Day
29 August Monday Shared Holiday by Gvt decree-part of Idul Fitri
30-31 August Tuesday-Wednesday Idul Fitri 1432 H
1-2 September Thursday-Friday Shared Holiday by Gvt decree-part of Idul Fitri
6 November Sunday Idul Adha 1432 H
27 November Sunday Islamic New Year 1433 H
25 December Sunday Christmas Day
26 December Monday Shared Holiday by Gvt decree-part of Christmas

http://www.expat.or.id/info/holidays.html for more information on any of these holidays.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Oh My!!!

When a friend or family member dies, they leave an obvious hole in your life.  Other people who knew you were associated with them understand and often grieve with you. Occasionally there are deaths that make the whole world take note.  Think Princess Diana, JFK, or even a bunch of nobodies, but a BUNCH of them, i.e. September 11th. Even more rarely are the people who affect a community.  The world as a whole doesn't come to a screeching halt, but a single area (geographically or topically) freezes to mourn their loss.

This happened last week to Seattle and to baseball.  Dave Niehaus was the announcer for the Seattle Mariners baseball team since their inception in 1977. Hardy M's fans will know his name, face and especially his voice anywhere.  M's fans are a peculiar breed, as the team has achieved little over it's lifetime and less in the last five years. The fans, myself included, tend to follow them and attend games regardless of their record.  Dave was always the most enthusiastic M's fan.  Anyone who lived in Seattle in the 1990's knows about the miracle year of 1995 and Dave's call.  He was as much a part of the team as any player, maybe more so since he was never traded, never retired.  He was inducted into the Mariners Hall of Fame. In 2008, he was named the winner of the Ford C Frick given by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, which recognizes career excellence in baseball broadcasting and is considered the highest baseball broadcasting honor. Niehaus broadcast 5,284 of the 5,385 Mariners games.  See his full Obituary at the Seattle PI.
Dave Niehaus.  courtesy of iill.net
I went to my first Mariners game before I could walk, or so I've been told.  Games used to be held in the Kingdome; a giant concrete monstrosity.  It had great acoustics if you were the home team.  Other teams used to complain about the excessive volume.  Rumor has it 'the wave' started in that stadium. When it was imploded on March 26, 2000 I had a tear in my eye.  It was ugly, but I had very fond memories of family trips to the ballpark wrapped within it.  (for wikipedia's version of how the wave was started please click here)
Exterior of the Kingdome; its amazing to see the cityscape around it now too.  It never looked that bleak then. courtesy of monolithic.com. 
Interior of the Kingdome. We usually sat in those outfield seats that look blue on the right.  Courtesy of ballparks.com
The new stadium, Safeco Field named after the sponsoring insurance company, is beautiful.  I loathe that its named after a company, as are most stadiums built in the last decade.  A fan can enjoy any choice of eats, from sushi and wine to hot dogs and beers. There really isn't a bad seat in the house, most of them making fans feel close to the action. The roof is retractable so the crowd can enjoy the precious Seattle sun or hide from the rain and wind.
Safeco Field. courtesy of theredsreport.com
When I had a jaunt home for a mere 4 days in June my mom bought Mariners tickets.  It's an unspoken agreement that if I come home during the season, we get tickets.  It doesn't matter who they're playing against, what their record is or how far out of contention (for the World Series) they are, we go and enjoy the time together while eating peanuts and clapping along to the stadium organ.

I know many of you are from lands outside of the United States where baseball is hardly understood, let alone followed with fervor. I may have lost you in the first three lines of this blog. Watching memorial videos made me tear up at my desk today.  Dave shall never be replaced just as a childhood that has passed can never be regained. Today I find myself yearning for simple times gone by, with a bag of peanuts, in the outfield bleachers, sitting between mom and dad watching a game I adore in the city I love.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Time to grow up?

As any teacher regardless of level or subject knows, teaching is not an easy job. When a group of English as Foreign Language teachers gather, we often discuss the fact that at some point we might have to get "real" jobs. It's not that the work is easy, dealing with kids is often stressful as are interactions with other teachers, management and parents. I do take the phrase "real job" quite differently when mentioned by another teacher than when brought up by a non-teacher.

I know we work.  We plan lessons, teach said lesson, correct the paperwork, give feedback and the plan it better for the next time. It's not all fun and games, though I use those a lot in my class.  Anyone who has been in my immediate vicinity to hear me lose my voice, or who's read a couple of the blogs here will understand that especially this school, has been anything but easy. That being said, I still feel like it's not a "real" job because I can do much more while working this job than I could with a "regular" job. 
  • While I have to get up at 05:30, I am finished everyday by 1630. I can pick up an extra class in the evening if I so chose.  I can run errands like I will today.  I can go home and go to bed at 8pm since I do get up at a ridiculous hour.
  • Unlike teachers at a "regular" school, like primary in the states, I get loads of paid vacation. I feel entitled to it since I got so little vacation in Spain and rarely got paid vacation.
  • By living in foreign countries I get to travel to other foreign countries, that is time and finances permitting which they often don't.
  • Here's a biggie-I get to teach.  I am not certified in the States but I like teaching. Until I decide about getting my Master's, this is the only way I can do it.
Here is where I come to my dilemma . . . Is it time to "grow up and get a real job?"  It was pointed out to me that I am not contributing to a 401K retirement savings plan, I haven't kicked into Social Security in years (though there's no guarantee it will be there when I'd be due to retire anyway), I don't own property and the expense of flights and setting up a new home every time I move means it's nearly impossible to save.  I still love the moving and all but what happens when I'm 45 and still doing this, alone!

An additional part of the conflict is that my dating life has withered in other countries. Do I need to settle in one place before I meet someone and does that place need to be the US?  Do I want to stop traveling just to meet someone? And if I'm not ready to stop? If I do settle down, when do I want to be?  There are some very cool looking Masters in Teaching with certification around. The Spanish Bilingual elementary education component in cities like Oakland or Denver would be up my alley.

Last year I applied to work for the US government as a Foreign Service officer.  Though I wasn't selected, I did make it to the last step of the process and feel I owe it to myself to try again.  A life in public diplomacy living abroad on someone else's dime would be fantastic, but would it be just as lonely as living/moving the way I have been? Yet I don't want to kick myself later for not attempting it.
Any time we talk about growing up, Peter Pan reflexively comes to my mind.  Is it time to let go of my lost boy fantasy and join the "real world"?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Obama-ocity

I am at a vergence of worlds again.  "My" president, as a friend put in last night in a next about him holding up traffic, is in Jakarta.  He had planned a trip here twice before and was subverted by the healthcare legislation and then the gulf oil spill.  I think many people, myself included, doubted that he would really make it here this time. There was talk of another "postponement", they never used the word cancellation, when Mount Merapi decided to really give this explosion thing a go. Instead Obama arrived but had cut his trip short due to the ash cloud that might impede his departure to . . . . .Seoul, South Korea for a G20 conference.  Yes, I am in Indonesia teaching at a Korean school when the American president came to Indonesia and left for Korea. Very cool actually.
courtesy of the Jakarta Globe.
I was interested to be in a place that the president came to visit, I can't say I've ever been this close.  If I didn't have to work, I probably would have tried to catch a glimpse. He did manage to muck up traffic worse than a wet season afternoon rain storm. The majority of the toll road was closed for his motorcade yesterday.  My route was only barely inconvenienced as we (ojek and I) were able to detour without too much hassle.  On Monday I think SBY (Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian President) went through my route.  There was a massive motorcade and traffic blocked off but not nearly to the extent it was yesterday.   Upon an evening trip to Grand Indonesia Mall, near the "center" of the city, I saw 12 motorcycle cops, 2 Military police on motorcyles, 5 military vehicles and a tank parked out in front.  I wondered if Obama was staying at the Hyatt there.  It turns out he wasn't, supposedly booked at the Shangri-La instead.  On my drive to work today, we passed no less than 2 dozen armed, camouflaged soldiers walking near the toll road.  It's starting to feel like I live in a police state!
courtesy of news.bb.co.uk. They looked like this minus the blue helmet.
Most Indonesians were initially excited about Obama's presidency and what it might mean for Indonesia.  They generally seemed to think it would help tourism and trade. Many thought it might help dispel myths and rumors about how backward or hostile it is here. Consequently, there was a feeling of general heartbreak when his trip was put off and then put off again.  This time he did finally make it here but was literally on the ground about 24 hours.  Barely a day.  a couple meetings, a speech at the university today and that's it.  The speech was lots of sounds bites (see http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/at-home-in-indonesia-obama-reaches-out-to-muslim-world/405876 for more information) but he is still a rousing speaker.

Will things change here?  Will the US do more than send anti-terrorism money and tsunami aid? We can only wait and see.

Monday, November 08, 2010

A day of longing

Each place I live holds new adventures.  I may, in a moment of frustration, reconsider having moved there a mistake.  I occasionally have "I hate _(insert location here)_" days but I make the most of it.  I suck it up, remind myself that it was my choice to come and I can leave when I chose (more or less). I have to be reminded by people who don't live the kind of mobile, nomadic life I do that most people don't. I try to be thankful in the quiet moments in my day for that. Although in the loud moments I often wonder why I'm not somewhere else.
Home Sweet Home, courtesy of zachshaner.ca
Today I'm thinking of the places I've been before, mostly in relation to the people and things there. I see fantastic photos of them, they make plans on facebook that are posted to my wall. I feel envious they are going to Aranjuez or Lisbon or a bar downtown and I can't join them.  I can't really stay in the loop for gossip and chatter since so much has changed since I left, but it doesn't make me not want to.  There are birthday dinners and concerts and nights out drinking and holidays that are a million miles from me.  They happen in Seattle and in Spain.
Gran Via, the heart of Marid. Courtesy of targisol.csic.es

I've been here in Jakarta long enough to miss people here too.  I miss the some who have already gone home.  Others are on to their next adventure.  There are even some people still here that I miss.  Those might be the hardest because if they have decided to drop out of your life while you're in the same place, they won't be coming back; those I've given up on completely. There are people I see regularly but not regularly enough.  I can think of a few people whose company I'd like daily.
Jakarta doesn't have a downtown but this is where lots of stuff happens. Courtesy of theodora.com
 I miss jamón and vino tinto and tapas crawls.  I miss La Bamba Mexican restaurant and local microbrews.  I  miss Åsa and Christopher, Veronica, Mildred, Meghan, Daz, Ra, Laura, Alex, Allison, Angie and Trish, Craig and Sergio and everyone else that I can't think of off the top of my head.  I miss mom and Jen, Chris, Amber, Nora, Suzanne, Alex and Chris and you few others that I do actually still know in the States. Those in Jakarta shall remain nameless as I am not going to incriminate myself now.  And not least of all those few who are scattered like seeds in the wind, to Matt, Tristram, Eka, Amy and Anja and a few more.

Know that I love you and miss you.  That today my heart feels heavy knowing you are far away, an hour farther than a week ago (daylight savings). Know that I think of you often even if we don't write or speak as much as either of us might like.  The worlds not as big as we think, I'll see you soon.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Two monthiversary

I hate it when people celebrate their one month anniversary.  The word anniversary is for a year. It's implicit in the name.  While I suppose there are things worthy of an "anniversary" after just a month or two, I find it an inane practice.  That being said I am using it as a segue into my post for today.  I realized I've been writing for just over two months now.


I've never been into finding and reading other people's blogs until I started my own.  I have found some I quite like and others that I pass on.  I find it very freeing. Now until today have I felt like I should be writing but found I have little to say.  It's easiest for me to arrange a blog post around a single topic or stream of thought. Today I guess my brain is working in bits and pieces. In that vein, I'll try to make a few notes about what's floating about in the abyss and leave it short.


Mount Merapi has been exploding almost continuously for a week now though the first blast was two weeks ago.  The death toll stands at 141. 
 
courtesy of the Jakarta Globe
Long-exposure image of Mt Merapi, in central Java, erupting (2 Nov 2010)
courtesy of www.bbc.com.  Also check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11685277  for more photos.

The Tsunami death toll is over 400. Both affected areas are having trouble keeping up with the needs of survivors and clean up.  A mass burial near Mount Merapi was announced today while on Metawi island they are still searching for survivors under the rubble.

In the meantime, on what might as well have been another planet, I missed a free concert in Madrid with Katy Perry, 30 Seconds to Mars, Linkin Park and Kanye West. looks like it was quite the blow out.  And sponsored by MTV to boot.

My weekend consisted of lots of eating and drinking. I was one part organizer of an expat get together.  Damien and I had set it up through a forum and had a great turn out of 13.  I wasn't expecting that many but was thrilled.  We ate and drank for about four hours.  I didn't even get a chance to talk to everyone.  This has the possibility to be my new monthly thing since I haven't been able to rustle up book club as in Spain.  At this point I'm happy with the great weekend I had and that I'm trending to neither end of the spectrum.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Questioning Teaching

I've had several days teaching this week unlike many others I've had.  I stopped and wondered if I could continue.  Mainly I contemplated continuing at my current school, but also continuing teaching in general.  My fourth graders have pushed me to my max and it took me a couple days to bounce (what's a slow version of a bounce?) back.
We are mid-way through second semester.  As in many schools our semester is a bit lop-sided due to the fact that the year doesn't end on the last day of the semester.  All the grades and evaluations have to be in well before the last day meaning they are done weeks before so that the reports can be written, certificates printed, etc. That means we're really in the last 4 weeks of school.  By the end of the first week of December all of the work with the kids is done and we enjoy coasting to the finale.  Non-contact teaching time is filled with LOTS to do.


Until then, this month is very busy.  We (my teaching partner Ben and I) gave two tests this week which  consequentially had to be scored, recorded and returned, then recollected and stored. I am constantly collecting/correcting/returning diaries as kids work towards completing all ten entries. Next Thursday is Parent SOSE day.  All the science integration classes prepare something for parents to come in and see.  Most classes are doing some kind of presentation since this is supposed showcase not only science knowledge but use of English.  We've got each class of 24 kids broken into 6 groups of 4. Each group has a different chapter we've covered from the book (bones & muscles, soil, water, USA, symbols, diet & digestion). They have to make a visual presentation (poster) and a spoken presentation (they are free to read from a script they prepare).  That means all of our semester plans went on hold so we could get all of this together.  Lord help us, I think we'll be ready with time to spare.


The kids have decided that they are ready to be the inmates running the asylum.  There are several factors outside my control working against me; I started mid-year and wasn't able to start grade four with these kids.  There is always a bit more chaos when things are changed in the middle.  I am the only female teacher in my department. Most of the primary school homeroom teachers (85%) are women, but they are also Korean.  I think being a foreign female (no jokes please) means there are different interactions and expectations.  It is a bow to the elders, give way to the men Asian culture.  Third, the parents are so much tougher on these kids that I could ever be that any threat I throw out can't rival their folks.  Some kids have written in the diaries that they are hit at home if they get a bad score, don't study incessantly or misbehave.  There are moments that my visceral instinct it to smack the smirk off a kids face but I know I could never do that.  I've been told there are a few teachers at the school who use corporal punishment.  I haven't seen it and don't know which teachers these are, but it wouldn't surprise me.  I've blogged before about the physicality of these kids and from what I extrapolate, the Korean culture. Unless I'm ready to whack a student, I'm a shadow of a deterrent.
courtesy of clipartpal.com  This tranquil scene is the goal.
I am the only teacher in my department to couple rewards with punishments.  About a third of any class are highly motivated for rewards.  Students grades 1-4 respond very well to stickers.  These stickers are about 1 cm x  1 cm for the most part.  I have some bigger, special ones for special work.  To some degree I've quieted a class by simple walking through the chaos and silently giving three or four stickers to students who were in their seats, quiet and ready.  This doesn't work with the four to six kids who feel they must be the center of attention.  The attention seekers play the class clown card, the "do something not permitted" card, the 'smart' remark card, the out of your seat to get the football card. These are generally boys and they don't give a lick about the stickers.  


I received an observation feedback form (that's a whole other blog) that mentioned I should institute some class rules.  What teacher in their right mind would run a class of any age, any level without rules?  It also recommended that I use punishments to deter bad behavior.   DUH?!?! I didn't know whether to laugh or fell highly insulted.  I have. I have. I HAVE!  This is my problem, it's not working.  Nothing I've tried has really successfully worked. I returned the observation for with a request for suggestions, I'll mention that the observer is Korean.  She just said to keep trying and hope for better kids next year.  Great, what do I do until then?


I've resorted to giving a ridiculous number of lines for the time being, both the "I will stay in my seat and listen in class" variety and the "copy a chapter from the book" variety.  The next step is standing in a corner, I'm weighing a dunce cap. I don't like to give punishments that take away from their learning time.  If they're writing lines in class they aren't learning.  I was sending lines home as I'd been told kids will reform at the mention of lines at home because their parents will see them writing them (see above punishment). The kids would bring their lines in completed and continue to misbehave.  Ben said he uses lines to immobilize students and I get that now.  If they have ten minutes to write ten lines it means they have to get to work. They can't be out of their seat or disturbing other students. It keeps them from setting the whole class off.  I didn't grow up writing lines, I think it's mostly gone by the wayside in the States.  The threat of lines in Spain was usual enough to curb the behavior.  I think I gave lines maybe a dozen times in a year.
courtesy of huffingtonpost.com
I know some of my friends who teach occasion to read this blog.  Please send suggestions.  I can't isolate the kid much because of the size and arrangement of the class.  I will not resort to violence. Some of the boys have underlying rage issues as it is. Parents have their own ways, but these are not my kids regardless of how many times I call them that.  I am not wont to take them to see the assistant headmaster as we share no common language and this is more work for me than I can suffer though (again, more on the disaster that is the staff at the school later).  I am working on getting a form letter written in Hangul (Korean) that I can send home to parents.  I could organize extra homework but that's as much work for me as for them and I've already got plenty to do.  Ideas?  Suggestions?  Tips, hints, tricks?  I can't keep screaming myself hoarse to no end since they are much louder than me.  I consider myself a motivated, experienced teacher but I'm at rope's end.
courtesy of addiction.narcononrehab.com.  I guess it could be worse.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Relationships, ufff!

Those of you who know me might expect this to me a moan/tirade about men or the lack there of, about dating or the lack there of.  IT'S NOT! (well, a little might creep in but it's not my initial focus)
When I think of difficult relationships I do tend to think of those with the opposite sex.  As a single, heterosexual female I find relationships with men trying/difficult/frustrating on a regular basis.  You're into someone but they are into you or vice versa.  You're both into each other but there are X number of reasons it won't, can't or shouldn't work.  There's an ocean between you, one of you is already in a relationship, there are kids/ex's, etc, etc.


The relationships I've turned my attention to lately are those I have with my friends.  I think of myself as personable. After much traveling I'm outgoing and approachable, though I often do the approaching.  Awkward? It used to be but I feel like I can tell in a minute or two if someone is happy to stand and chat or is ready for me to leave them alone (That being said, I still have trouble approaching a handsome man in a bar).  I'm happy to pick up the baton of conversation and carry it.  For those of you snickering because I talk a lot, shut up! It beats perpetually being alone. I've made some good friends because I wasn't too shy to strike up the first conversation. I'm back to that method here in Jakarta as I attempt, sometimes successfully, sometimes in futility to meet new people. *


I'm finding my female relationships to be just as trying lately. My social circle has shrunk to the size of a child's inner tube.  I have two great close girlfriends here.  They see the world in similar but slightly different ways that means we get along well but help each other see another side.  The problem is that they work more than I do and it's getting tougher and tougher to see them even once a week.  Another friend has decided to attempt to monopolize my time and interest. I have to give excuses for going out without her even though I have a life and other friends. I shouldn't have to invite everyone everywhere I go.  The problem is that's about it. Three friends I see regularly.  I'm the vacuum, I've started internet friend dating.  I've planned a meet up of expats looking for new people. If one of them in a cute, interesting guy, all the better, but the plan is to meet some new friends. I've met two girls who have been here three months or less and are feeling very isolated.  They are great but live a ways away. Another girl I met on Saturday just arrived on Thursday.  All thought they were the only one feeling alone, struggling to meet people.  I reassured them that I, as well as others I'd met, was feeling the same way. Jakarta breeds isolation and depression.  A male friend and I were discussing this last week.  One must really fight to be out and find new people to make up for the atrophy of a group.


I go out, I make plans, I strive to meet new people. . . but there's more to it than that.  Just like in a romantic relationship, it must be a good match.  I want a give-take relationship with my friends, someone who I'm compatible with. We can enjoy some of the same things, and usually follow the same line of logic.  Why is it that after spending our whole lives in and out of relationships, they are still so difficult?  Why is it that so many people still suck at them?


Is there ever a point that relationships get easier?  I find myself with many friends but few close friends.  How many people would really go to bat for me if the chips were down? Wanna see how many more cliches I can get into one paragraph?  Honestly, there are few people I stay in contact with, some fault on my end, some on other ends.  I know distance is a big factor, being in different timezones and the like.  It occurred to me, if I were to get married in, say, six months or a year (hahahahahaha, lemme wipe that tear from my eye, woooo) who would make the trip to see it?  Who would I even ask figuring most wouldn't make the trip? Who am I even in touch with enough to feel it wasn't utterly ridiculous to invite them? Of course, I'd have to figure out where I was getting married first . . .but it's still an interesting theoretical exercise.


How do some relationships end up strangled by need or necessity and others simply fall by the wayside?  Why do some survive half the world's span and others can even survive cross town? Why are there people you can immediately click with and others that the connection is strained and limps along at best?  Why do I have lots of questions and no answers?  Perhaps, when I'm 85, I can impart a bit of wisdom to my grandchildren (should I have any wisdom or grandchildren).  Though, smirking, I realize they'll heed the advice about as well as I did of my grandmother or mother. Maybe that's why we continually struggle in relationships. . . because the only way to know is to do it, live it, try it.  Not to mention, it's never the same twice.


* I have also learned to be great company for myself.  I believe we are raised in community and most people never practice or learn the art of being alone.  Not hiding, not feeling self conscious but choosing your own company and being happy to hear your own heartbeat and own voice. It does take practice but it's worth it.  People who haven't learned what I mean think I'm nuts, especially the Spaniards and sometimes the Indonesians. I get the "look at that crazy girl alone! She must be waiting for someone" look a lot. I just don't care anymore.  I'm with the most interesting chick in the bar, ME!

Post Script: I realize this was a long wordy entry. No great pictures, slightly rambling.  If you made it this far, thanks.  Let me know what your opinions are relationships are.  Do you remember our first meeting?  Did I start a conversation with you?

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Does the costume make the man?

It is Halloween night.  In the United States children are preparing for trick or treating that won't commence for hours.  The final candy is being bought, the finishing touches being put on bars, restaurants and haunted houses about the cities. Here?  It's a quiet Sunday evening after the last call to prayer. Most folks are home with family, perhaps dreading the eventual Monday return to work.

I am left reflecting on the events of the weekend and the holiday.  By most measures it was a big Halloween for me.  As you hopefully read in a previous blog, I'm not much for dressing up.  That being said, I was convinced to do so this year.  A friend and I hit a new bar on Friday night.  Being that we were the only two people crazy enough to be in costume, we won the costume prize. The bottle of moscato is in my cupboard.  I was happy to see my first jack o'lantern of the year and felt good about my costume.
he's so cute! 
Not bad, and comfortable to wear.  No paint necessary.
I skated through on one costume for two nights. Donna had two completely different looks; a pirate on Friday and a cyber punk on Saturday. As expected, the bars were full of people, especially women, using the holiday as an excuse to reveal a skanky dressed side of themselves. Night one included a vampire, a nurse and a devil all in unbelievably short dresses and all Indonesian. Night two included Poison Ivy from batman in short shorts, a dominatrix (in pants but tight clothing), Amy Winehouse, Snookie from Jersey shore, a strange orange and yellow thing that involved short shorts and skin, a girl dressed in a short white dress and wig, black cat in skin tight black and numerous others at the bar. I will give a hand to the creativity of cyber punk, Papa Smurf, the Chilean miner and Cruela Devile.
Cyber punk!

Chilean Miner

Cruela Deville
I was asked more than once what my costume was.  A friend made a great guess via facebook today of Lois Lane.  I should have said that was it.  One friend said, "Oh a reporter? don't you mean a sexy reporter?  It's Halloween, whatever you are, you are a sexy that."  Ahhh no.  Not wanting to be a buzz kill I didn't go into my line of thought about the sexing up of Halloween.

There were several, more than several, guys dressed as women.  I often wonder if they're trying out cross dressing, giving way to an urge that stays hidden the other 364 days of the year or if they do it just because it's easy to find the parts for the costume. Do our decisions for costumes say something about us? Is it a peek into our subconscious?  That I prefer to be comfortable in a costume that has sloppy built into the idea? That I am rebelling against the sexing of Halloween? That I don't like my thighs and therefore will not wear a ridiculously short skirt?


When I would stay home and pass out candy from my mom's house in Seattle, we would often keep a tally; how many princesses, how many ninjas.  I figured most parents knew what their child is doing and hopefully helped them choose a costume.  Even as kids turn into teens, I would continue to hope that parents are involved in the Halloween plans and processes for their kids. A unique example?  A friend works at a large international school here told me about a student of hers. The student was given 300,000Rp to buy a costume. On Friday morning the child (13 yo) got into the car to go to school in full Nazi regalia. The father complained and rightfully so.  By the time the kid got out of the car at school he had changed his costume.  He was Jesus. Jesus! Hitler one minute, Jesus the next. I can't be the only one shaking my head.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Pray for Indonesia

It's been an eventful week here in Indonesia.

If I see one more person put "pray for Indonesia" as their facebook or blackberry status I might flip.  This is the most populous Muslim country in the world, with millions of people praying five times a day.  If their prayers have not warded off the "wrath of a vengeful god" (which is who prayers are directed to) then is my one half-hearted, unbelieving prayer going to tip the scales? And don't tell me who to believe in or what to pray about anyway! Enough with the rant, onto the real info.

Indonesia is located on the Ring of Fire.  I learned a lot about this in school because Seattle is on the Ring as well, though a much less active part.  Any country on the Ring of Fire is apt to encounter earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.  It happens with the tectonic plate their location on shifts with or against the huge pacific plate. Other major locations on the Ring of Fire?  Japan, California.  All sites of huge earthquakes this century.  The Mount St. Helen's eruption in Oregon that sent ash as far away as Russia?  Great Alaskan quake of '64?  On the Ring of Fire too. I haven't felt one earthquake here which might be because I didn't feel them at home often either.  I've become desensitize to them.
courtesy of explorations.ucsd.edu.  Indonesia is over on the left, near Australia.
When I first arrived in Jakarta I received emails from family and friends frequently asking if I was ok. They'd seen there was an earthquake in Indonesia.  Indonesia is made up of more that 17,000 islands with nearly 2 mil square kilometers, but stretching over 5,000 km in length from the most eastern to western. If there's an earthquake on Sulawesi its not felt in Jakarta usually.  There are literally earthquakes daily here.   Last week there was an earthquake just off the coast of Sumatra, the big island to the west of Java. Notice of the earthquake was disseminated fairly quickly.  I even got a text message from a friend giving me heads up of a tsunami warning after the 7.7 quake. I slept through it. Now the news is known round the world.  The islands of Metawi and North Pagai have been devastated. They were hit by a three meter wave just five minutes after the quake.  Surfing and fishing boats sunk or exploded. As of this moment, the official death toll is 343 with hundreds presumed to have been swept out to sea among the missing.

If that weren't enough for cash strapped and infrastructure crippled Indonesia, there is also a volcanic eruption happening near Yogyakarta in central Java. Mount Merapi is a known active volcano.  I was near it in September for holiday.  The hot ash and gas has killed 33 and the count is growing. The hillsides of the mountain are populated by farmers who know the mountain soil is fertile. Many are refusing to leave their belongings, their land but the ash is raining down more than five miles away now.
courtesy of bbc.com

courtesy of ayearinbali.wordpress.com
Yesterday afternoon in our school staffroom we got to talking about the news coverage of the events.  I began to wonder if this, any of this, would be covered in the US press if it wasn't all happening at the same time.  A co-worker asked "When was the last time you saw anything about Guam, Samoa, the Marshall Islands or Puerto Rico in The American news?". I marveled at the massive flooding in Benin that was barely covered on the BBC website, lord knows I wouldn't find it on any American sites. It reminds me how insular the United States is and how we as individuals must fight to be informed about anything else.  I admit, the US is big and it can be a bit of a task just to stay informed on things within the US. When most people rely on the TV for their news and the TV only covers news outside the area if it has spectacular imagery (i.e. volcanic explosions), I doubt people have the interest or energy to look at BBC, Christian Science Monitor, AP, Reuters or any other source to find out about Albania or Laos.

I was asked by a new class of business students why I am in Indonesia.  Part of my answer was that no one comes here, it's largely unknown by Westerners or maybe specifically Americans. I feel an obligation to tell people about Indonesia; the people, cultures, customs, Islam, etc. My experience here will be unlike any other I can have. Sometimes good, often trying but always different. If I can teach people a little something, even the ability to find Indonesia on a map, and I will consider my mission accomplished.

For more information please see:
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2010/1026/Tsunami-and-volcano-response-Indonesia-assesses-back-to-back-disasters

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-11642086