Sunday, February 20, 2011

Back to the grind(ing) stone

After weeks of holidays that took me to new, fun, fantastic interesting places, I've had to settle back into life in Jakarta. I think my culture shock was almost greater coming back than when I first arrived.  During my first year here, I learned to put up with the flooding, the lack of dependability and reliability, the overpriced "american" foods and _________ (fill in the blank there's lots of options, horrendous traffic, torrential rains, etc, etc).  I went home and things worked as they were supposed to.  People drive between the lane markers and stop at red lights,  they don't push and shove, the lines at the market move quickly and orderly, and there's not a choking level of pollution in the air (For more information on pollution in Jakarta, see this detailed blog post) . Coming back and dealing with the city that can frustrate more often than it can soothe is a difficult transition.

The good news is that my new apartment makes life much more enjoyable.  I am paying slightly more than twice than I was before and it's worth every penny.  I am in a 33.5 sq. meter studio.  It's cute and well organized.  My apartment building has tennis and badminton courts, a huge pool, and a 24-hour grocery store. The best news is that it reduced my ojek time from 45 minutes each way to about 25.  It's also loads closer to Kemang, an area of the city which is great for going out.  AAANNNDDD Carla is my building mate.  We get to see each other everyday but still have our own apartments and our own spaces.

Coming back to Jakarta meant starting a new school year.  Most schools run their year September to June (or so).  JIKS starts in February and runs until December with a six week break in the summer.  It feels very different to have new kids at this time of the year, but the timing with the new calendar year, and coming off Christmas holidays seems to make sense. Last year I started mid year, after summer holidays at the beginning of the second semester.  It was a difficult start for many reasons and not the least of which was starting in the middle of the year.  With all new kids I have been able to set my rules and my classes the way want them. Now, just two weeks in to the year, they know the routine and the rules. I've set up a yellow card/ red card system like in football/futbol/soccer.  If they are breaking a rule they get a yellow card which is just a warning.  If they do it again they get a red card and that can mean lines or losing a sticker (which they can collect for privileges or prizes).  Don't write and tell me that footballers get TWO yellow cards, I know. For a 40 minute class they don't need two warnings. It's not perfect but it's much much much better than last year.

I also know better what to expect, how to handle the kids and also, retraining myself.  I have gotten accustomed to shouting to get their attention.  The combination of loud smokey bars, polluted air and going into both regularly has done a number on my voice.  My voice seems to fall between a husky phone-sex operator and a Phyllis Diller-style lifetime smoker. I drink tea, sometimes with lemon or honey, or Lo-Han-Kuo (a herbal Chinese concoction), I suck on vocalzone lozenges and drinks tons of water, yet I was still hoarse all day today.  Suggestions welcome as to the cause or the cure.  Part of my new school year plan has been to limit the amount of shouting I do.  Part of the problem is that I yell for fun and to get the kids hyped up, not just when they're too loud or in trouble.  I am getting better, but it's not a change that has been made automatic yet.

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