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


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

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

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

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

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

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.