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
 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
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
 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

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

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  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.

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 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
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 
Interior of the Kingdome. We usually sat in those outfield seats that look blue on the right.  Courtesy of
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
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


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 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 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
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

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
 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  Also check out  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  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
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  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?