Thursday, April 28, 2011

icky icky sicky

Hello all and once again I begin with an apology. My plan was to return from Singapore tan and rested, resuming my life and my blog post haste. Oh riiiight,  life is what happens when we're busy making plans.   Instead I ended up visiting the emergency room at Singapore General Hospital to be misdiagnosed, then seeing the doctor again after my return to Jakarta for what appears to be a more correct diagnosis. On that note I've been in agony for over a week now.  I am also having technical difficulties with internet, both at home and at work.  And although I should take advantage of the internet now, I've reverted to a five year old in the last week and napped every day (well, Tuesday I just went to bed early and slept twelve hours but  I'm still counting it).  Today shall be no exception. I will keep it painfully brief and do my best to get a blog in the bag tomorrow at work when I'm feeling better (I hope).

Notes to follow will be on the highs and lows of my first real tourist trip to Singapore, meaning I was there more than eight hours, a cliffs notes version of my recent maladies and update about work's chaotic schedule.

Thanks for hanging in there with me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Power is OUT!

Well it was.  Last Friday we had two power cuts/outages.  Both were during class hours.  One at ten in the morning for about forty five minutes.  The power went back on for about an hour and then back out for another ten or fifteen minutes.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to keep a handle on a class of forth graders with the power out?  The classes immediately get hot and sticky.  The visibility in my rooms was reduced greatly; the kids had a hard time seeing the chalkboard.  As you might remember from your school days, it seemed like the prefect opportunity to start screaming and trying to run about.
Courtesy of
My 4-1 class was twenty five minutes in to a forty minute class when the second power cut hit.  There was about a five second pause when no one moved or said anything.  Then it was like a wave, the shouts of joy came rumbling down the halls and reached us at the end.  These kids erupted too and I gave them a minute to hoot and holler while I laughed.  Windows were opened. Desks moved closer to the board, and we slogged on. 
Courtesy of  I'd love to get a hold of this book to read in class!
We had a loss of power last Wednesday as well, at three o'clock when we are permitted to leave at three thirty.  The rub of it was I'd just spent several hours doing all my paper correcting, things I didn't need the computer for.  I had entered two of the forty five scores I'd marked and the power went out.  We all spent the next thirty long minutes staring at each other and the blank screens.
Courtesy of
When I worked in Pluit, we would go through spells of daily power cuts.  The school turned in to an absolute broiler with most of the classrooms reaching one hundred degrees or more.  The kids sweat, the teachers sweat, it was easily the most miserable I've been over a prolonged period of time. I'll never forget the look on my three year old's faces as they turned in to absolute puddles.  They didn't understand what was happening or why and still trudged along like troopers.  It wasn't until the school finally got into action and got a generator that the power cuts stopped.  Murphy's Law (Sod's if you're from across the pond).  They'd affect school, but since the shared houses were on the same grid, we'd leave work only to sweat it out at home.  Now that I'm in central-south Jakarta I'm rarely affected by power cuts and I don't miss them a bit.
Courtesy of  We all ranged somewhere between THIS sweaty. . . .
Courtesy of    And THIS SWEATY!!
Yesterday the school didn't suffer from power cuts, instead the wi-fi was out.  As a result you'll notice there is a lack of blog from both Friday and yesterday.  I do allow myself the weekends off (and this weekend that time was put to fantastic use) but try to journey on during the week, especially as I can normally write from school.  Please forgive the absence.  As a note, I will also be away starting Friday until next Thursday.  I am heading to Singapore for more fun than can be imagined.  I promise to blog all about it after so you might enjoy the ride too.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Two Seasons?

Seasons in Jakarta have taken some getting used to.  Indonesia is one of thirteen countries the equator passes through (Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Sao Tome & Principe, Gabon, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Maldives, Indonesia and Kiribati).  It's hot here.  It is rarely cool enough for a light zip up jacket (except at the movie theater) but always warm enough for air conditioning.

I was born and raised in a city in the Northern Hemisphere.  Not barely north of the equator, but Seattle.  Yes, just south of Canada.  Seattle is temperate in comparison to places like Boston, New York (which Seattle is north of latitudinally) or even Paris to some extent which is on the same latitude. Until a couple years ago it was rare to get snow in the city though we always got it in the mountains. Spring usually starts in March and lasts until June, summer when it's sunny daily and warm bordering on hot is from July to mid September, autumn is usually short running form Sept to October when the cold rain sets in for the winter.  Maybe not textbooks three month seasons with obvious differentiation, but enough to know when was what. 
Courtesy of  See how far north we are?
In Jakarta the seasons are (or are supposed to be) wet and dry.  Only two seasons per year, and not evenly divided at that.  When I arrived I was told that the wet season was January to May, give or take, and the dry season was the rest of the year.  Since then I've also been told that the wet season is December to March, October to February or November to April.  All I know is there is a wet season.  As per the rest of the world, the seasons seem to be changing due to climate change (which I prefer to the misnamed global warming).  The wet season seems to have been shorter this year, or I missed a bunch of it when I was enjoying the rain at home in Seattle.
Courtesy of  We've gone from this. . .
This week, Monday in fact, appears to be the start of the dry season.  The temperatures have spiked dramatically and the teachers are all glued in their seats in the air conditioned office.  It's sunny all day with out the usual afternoon thunderstorm.  I would love it except for two things; One - I am stuck in my school all day.  The rooms can get quite hot and the sun seems to wind the kids up.  Two - by the time I get home the sun is behind one of the two towers of my apartment and I can't even soak any of it up!  As someone who has always preferred the sun to the snow, this isn't what I mean.  Sweating home on the back of the motorcycle while dutifully wearing a jacket and jeans is not my idea of fun.
Courtesy of  To this!
My hope for the weekend is a bit of sun when I can enjoy it at the pool.  Fingers crossed. Of course, now that I've said something, I will have jinxed it and just like seeing the groundhog in February, we may have another six weeks of rain.

Korean Observations

I've been working in Jakarta at a Korean school for 8 months (minus six weeks of Christmas holidays).  Here are a few observations that make me laugh, wonder or just shake my head.

* There is always music on in the toilets.  Its generally classical or opera of the vein that makes me think of the Looney Tunes cartoons that are synchronized to the music, like the Barber of Seville with Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd. I don't know if they are convinced that the music covers the sound of peeing but it doesn't.
Courtesy of
* The bells for class breaks are teeth rattlingly loud, as are all PA announcements.  This morning to ease us in to the announcement they played a bit of classical music.  It's always the same ten seconds of the same song.  The real treat today was that the volume was being controlled by a first grader.  It went up, it went down,  it went back up slowly, paused and then faded off all together. The announcements can be so loud as to make one wince.
Courtesy of
* The students have a penchant for screaming.  Long, loud screams, screeches and squeals that would be the delight of a horror film director.  They scream in delight, in disgust, in excitement, in disappointment.  It's, well I was going to say mind numbing, but then I'll be able to tune it out and it wouldn't give me headaches.  They run down the halls screaming.  They sit in the class screaming.  I think I'll rewrite Green Eggs and Ham with lines like "He will always scream on a train, He'll definitely scream in a plane". My real disappointment is that they never get tired of it.
Courtesy of  This is how I feel.
Courtesy of  This is what I want to do.

* The people are also very loud. This year the foreigners/native English teacher departments teacher room has been combined with the secondary Korean teachers room.  One room now includes nine bule, four Koreans who teach English, a Korean PE teacher, a Korean Mandarin teacher, a Korean grade five teacher and up until yesterday the Indonesian teacher. They sit about chattering like twittering birds, in high octaves at high decibels having tea time throughout the day. Someone brings in a snack and it's time for a chat and giggle and eat on the sofa.  It's coffee time and they are at it again. I have no idea what they talk about only that its done loudly and often.  Its a cacophony and they are oblivious to the fact that it's highly disruptive and irritating.
Courtesy of
* The staff there is constantly handing out notices or sending instant messages for important, pertinent  things except they send them out only in Korean.  Then they seem frustrated when we (not just me) have to ask about it BECAUSE IT'S IN KOREAN!!  I came in from class today to a document that needed a response. The only thing I could read was 4 something 7, 4 something 8 and the names of the bule teachers. I asked, to a round of sighs, what I was supposed to do with it.   This is a message I got last week: 

* They don't seem to realize there are many other very delicious types of food in the world.  The cafeteria, the small supply shop and the hot snack bar all serve Korean food.  There are a few other choices, namely Oreos, Cheetos and milk, but as you can see they are very few.  I don't mind Korean food though it's not my favorite.  What I can't fathom is eating the same thing every day.  Kimchi, chicken katsu, rice, blah, blah, blah.
Courtesy of  I have had my share of kimchi since I started, as well as kimchi soup (hot and cold) and kimchi pizza.  It's good but not a daily necessity for me.
Courtesy of  Even the ice cream is Korean.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Recent Occurences

Last week I had a reasonably normal, average week except:

I finally broke down and went to the doctor.  It was Doctor Melissa.  No last name, as is par for many Indonesians.  I was surprised that she spells it the way I do.  She was very nice but asked for a stool sample.  I provided one the next morning but hope I won't have to again.  Its a strange thing to do.  The outcome was that I have not one but two different infections.  As a result I am on five medications, of which no two are taken at the same time.  One is two capsules in the morning before food, a liquid that is taken a half hour before meals, the antibiotic is twice a day after food, another pill taken after each meal and one more pill that's twice a day though I can't currently remember if it's before or after food.
Courtesy of none of my pills look like these but I take at least this many for the moment.
I gave in and hired a maid.  Never in my life have I had a maid until Indonesia.  It was included with the shared teacher house I was in first.  My second place, a boarding house, had someone who did the wash but nothing else.  After a couple months in my single studio, I've hired a maid on for once a week. Almost everyone here has maids (and nannies and cooks and drivers and and and ). She does the washing, sweeps, mops, cleans the bathroom and kitchen and cooks.  The funny thing about when she cooks is that she seems to think she's cooking for five.  Maybe it's reminiscent of her time working for families, not just an individual.  The tuna pasta she made on her first visit was good but I didn't need four meals worth.  The chicken with steamed veggies this week is even better, but again it will be three to four meals for me.  I'm not complaining, she's fantastic.  I just think it's funny.
Courtesy of  This is probably what will happen when I ask for fried rice.
Though this is coming in blog-chronology after the zoo, it occurred in real life before the zoo. There are beggars everywhere in Jakarta.  Some are vendors and I don't count those who are walking car to car selling things, or have a cart set up. These are the ones who want money for doing little or nothing.  There are women who sit near the bus stops with small children and a plastic pot looking pathetic. There are men, women and children playing everything from guitars to ukulele to a stick with some washers that jingle held on with a nail. They approach cars or jump on the buses. Lastly there are the monkey men.  I hate these guys.  I don't use the word hate lightly but I repeat, I HATE THESE GUYS. They are almost always lethargic-looking teens or young men, they are lazy as the day is long.  They have these small monkeys on chains (always chains).  The monkeys are dressed, the clothes ranging from a diaper-esque get up to full rodeo ready attire. There is nearly always a hollowed, cut up doll head that they are made to wear. I really want to get off the motor bike and go punch these guys right in the face. I used to have a flash of guilt in thinking that I gave them money then they'd take better care of the monkey because they would have more resources that might be used for the monkey's welfare.  Sadly though, I know that's not the case. Seeing the monkeys makes me depressed and upset in about equal shares. After seeing no less than eight monkeys last week, I was definitely down.
Courtesy of  This is exactly what you'd see.
I saw a guy peeing in the street.  Nothing special here in Jakarta (or even in Madrid) but He was pulled over near Mega Kuningan which is one of the higher rent districts of town. He was right at the edge of the road, not several paces off.  And the kicker?  He was peeing on his BMW.  He was at the front passenger side door (opposite from the US passenger door), with the front and back doors open to shield him.  He was standing between peeing on the back door.  I didn't look closely enough to see the backsplash, ewww!
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Lastly is the recent change in my ojek driver.  He is very reliable, not just for Indonesia but especially for Indonesia.  He's on time about 95% of the time and has never not showed.  Two days ago he half told half motioned for me to put my arms around him because his jacket was billowing up.  I never wrap my arms around him because he's not my boyfriend or my friend, he's a random Indonesian guy who takes to to and from work.  I thought it odd, but most things here are.  So I obliged and figured that was it.  It happened again this morning.  Other than being emotionally uncomfortable, I'm taller than he is and on the back of the bike I ride higher so it hurts my back to put my arms around him.  Yesterday, he also asked if he could come up to my apartment just before we got to the apartment building.  I asked why.  He didn't respond and then we acted like it never happened when I got off the bike.   I hope I don't have to go find a new driver.
Courtesy of  I usually hang on like this guy.

Courtesy of  Nothing nearly as close or cozy as this.

Monday, April 04, 2011

Cruel, animal prison or educational hands on experience?

I told myself, and my mom, that I would post a blog on Friday. I had every intention of doing so.  Then the reality of only having gotten four hours of sleep the night before hit and I napped instead.  My mom wasted no time in questioning about my lack of blog post from Friday.  I apologize for the lack of informative/amusing/ridiculous reading information.  I do try to blog during the week so I can have the weekend off without too long a break.  I am finally feeling better as the antibiotics have taken hold and are waging battle with the bacterium in my intestines.  Between that and a few nights of sleep, I'm feeling like a productive member of society again. 

Sunday I felt well enough to take part in an organized group activity.  Taman Safari is an animal park.  Anyone familiar with the Puget Sound area should know about Northwest Trek (if you don't,click on it), but in NWTrek visitors ride on a shuttle instead of drive.  It's very similar.  Customers pay to enter and drive through the park on a set course where the animals are free to roam about.  There are lots of hoofed animals, think deer, buffalo, giraffe, wildebeest, plus elephants, hippos and rhinos.  You never have to get out of the car.  At this particular park you can feed the animals carrots and bananas which are available by the bushel before entering the park. At the end of the driving track, visitors can get out of the car.  There are restaurants, cafes, a few kiddie rides, souvenir shops, an aviary and a "petting zoo".
The green trail is the driving part, the brown is walking area.
I noticed throughout the entire drive there were some potentially dangerous animals that were free roaming.  The rhinos weren't restrained (more on that later), neither were the lions, tigers or leopards. At Northwest Trek at home I remember being able to feed some of the hoofed animals bread or veggies but I don't recall being allowed to drive through a lion enclosure. Many of the animal enclosures were built with walls or distance between their climbing area and the space people milled about.  These spaces all felt much closer, much narrower than they would in the States. Being that Americans are more litigious than most societies, it doesn't surprise me.  I never felt in as though I was in danger.

I took the time and spent the money to go to the Baby zoo, which at home would be a petting zoo.  I had my photo taken with a baby orangutan and a leopard.  I was close enough to touch a kangaroo and feed an elephant. I thrilled at the proximity of the animals and tried to soak in what was sure to be a unique experience. At the same time, I felt desperately guilty and ashamed for having gone.  Some of the animals were too thin, like the bears.  Others were too fat.  The alligators looked really wide.  I chalk i t up to not having to hunt for food or having much a space to run around.  Some animals, particularly the big cats, paced nervously and seemed unsettled.  It was mentioned in our car that the rhinos were probably tranquilized so they wouldn't become upset and ram a car.
Have I consented in their treatment by visiting the park?  On one hand, if I don't go, there are still many others who will.  I am a drop in the bucket.  And maybe my entrance fee is going to improve their conditions.  Plus, this is an educational opportunity.  If people see how stunning the animals are they will be more invested in conserving their habitats.  On the other hand, my money isn't going to help the animals, it's paying the employees and adding to general profits.  I think most people, and Indonesians in particular, aren't affected by the "education" element of these parks and don't make any correlation to the need for conservation in-situ.  I can't imagine what my life would be like should I have to live in the park all day, everyday.  Though I understand that they do not have the mental capacity that humans do, or perhaps the capability to understand and assess their situation, they can still be miserable.
Northwest trek has the sense to keep only local animals, ones that were well suited to the climate.  Cougars, lynx, bison, moose, deer.  We didn't see the polar bear at Taman Safari and I think I'm grateful for it.  There were large snakes in small tanks, elephants working for rides and in shows, and kangaroos who's cage was a chain link fenced, barely grassed plot between the baby zoo and a cafe.  I think I'll make a donation to World Wildlife Fund right now.