Monday, May 30, 2011

Weekend Recap - May terminates

After the rollercoaster of last weekend, I am very pleased to report this weekend went much simpler and smoother.  Friday night was drinks with the girls at Loewys.  Only one hitch there which I didn't discover until Saturday.  I'd started at the bar and gave them my bank card to open a tab.  When all the girls came in we moved to a table for eats.  At the table we all threw in cash, as usual, to pay the split bill.  I completely forgot my card and went into a minor panic on Saturday.  First I thought I left it in an ATM I'd also visited Friday night.  Luckily they are holding it for me until this evening.  Whew. You were wrong Ian, they didn't buy the bar rounds on me all night. Thank goodness!!

We had a couple drinks there and then BoT sent word that he was finished at work.  It had been (a bit of) a hellish week for him.  Overtime everyday, ridiculous new procedures.  When he works 1p-10p as it is, overtime is really a killer.  The boss thanked them by letting them out an hour early on Friday.  He and the boys came down for a couple drinks.  After one at Poste, we all went our separate ways.  Mine was home.

Saturday meant meetings for BoT and a cleaning/organizing spree for me. I haven't had one in a while and the place looked good.  The maid had just been on Friday but I'd made a bit of a mess after she left and then threw things around after I got home Friday night.  Evening time meant a nice dinner with Carla and Donna at Toscana.  I can't figure out why we don't go there more often.  It's about 10 minutes from home, reasonably priced (especially for the pasta dishes) and tastes good.  The real selling point is that the music is kept at a din so you can have a conversation.

Dinner gave way to drinks at EP.  Good Ol' EP.  It's our standard.  Our favorite band there was on.  The boys had a footie end of season drinkfest, so were already there.  Plus we were planning to watch the Wembly Championship Barcelona vs Manchester United game at 01:45am.  A good time was had by all.  No one passed out, no one went home alone (well, not all the way home alone).  Nothing stolen, no tears, no bloodshed.  Brilliant.

Sunday was a recovery day, as I feel we should be allotted every week without it cutting into the weekend.  An hour or two at the pool despite the overcast did us all some good.  I cooked a remarkably good meal considering I used what was in the fridge, and all I could find was chicken, half a carrot, some onion, not ripe tomatoes.  Add some sauce and serve over rice.  I think I surprised myself more than anyone else.  Add an inane movie and I by 9pm I was dragging.

BoT was sweet enough to agree to my place since I have to be up at 6 and he doesn't. As always, but especially as of lately, 6am came waaay too early.  The kids have pressed their luck today but the good weekend will buoy me through at least today and hopefully a bit of tomorrow.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Look what the maid made

Hooray for homonyms (and alliterations)!!

I gave in a couple months ago and got a maid.  I'd fought it.  I was going to be the bule hold out.  I wanted to be one of the few, the proud, the maidless. Everyone in Indonesia has a maid, and a nanny and a driver and. . .  My place is small.  It's a 33 square meter studio.  There's not much open floor space after accounting for the bed, sofa, wall unit and table.  I didn't see the need for a maid.  I can clean it up.  I don't mind cleaning for the most part.  I tend to be pretty organized.  I thought it was silly to get a maid.
Courtesy of  This isn't my apartment, but about the same size.
Then I got a maid.  Nani is a friend of my friend's maid. Did you get that?  My friend Carla has a maid, Yanti.  My maid, Nani is Yanti's friend.  They arrive and leave together.  They go shopping for food together.  It's convenient and she was looking for work.

I have tried to convince myself I'm providing work and a relatively good salary for someone who might not have it otherwise.  I'm very nice and respectful.  I tidied up this morning knowing she'd be coming.  I left dishes and laundry, but both in their correct places.  I picked up all the stuff that was flung about from my exhaustion in arriving home the last two days.

Nani is great.  She does all the laundry, changes sheets or makes the bed, washes dishes, wipes down the shower/sinks. She goes to the local grocery to pick up food for whatever she's cooking that week.  She cuts up enough fresh fruit to feed a family of four (though I went through it all in about 5 days this week).  It's less than a whole day's work.   I'm not sure how early she comes but she's finished between four and five pm.
This is how my fridge feels on Friday afternoon.
I love that I come home to a clean house with food prepped.  I do still occasionally feel guilty but I'm trying to take advantage since I have never before, and I'm guess I won't after, had a maid. This is how to make Indonesia work.  Splurge on the maid, the weekly massages, the whenever possible trips to Bali to help mitigate the mind numbing frustration, exhaustion and ridiculousness of Jakarta.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Getting stuff vs. doing stuff

I've gotten news that my Ipod may be beyond repair.  I'd taken it in months ago and it was replaced with a refurbished one that never worked perfectly.  Now they shop is saying that though it's under the 90 day guarantee from the previous work, they will not do anything because there is some indication it got wet. I didn't drop it in a puddle or the toilet so I blame the humidity of Jakarta, which is plainly not my fault.

How does this tie in to today's topic?  I am now faced with several options while I continue to argue with the shop.  One: hope I can get my Ipod back and limp along with it a little longer.  Two: give up and buy a new one. Three: give up on the old one and use the little 1 GB Nano that mom gave me to use while my other one was in the shop.  And here's the tie in. 
Courtesy of
I paid $80 for the initial repair. A new one online is showing at 3,163,000 Rp ($370).  I'm sure I could find one a bit cheaper out in the malls here.  The dilemma is that I am planning summer trips.  I have five weeks off work and I'm going to make the most of it.  I'm planning five days in Northern Vietnam alone.  Then a friend from the States will come over and we'll spend two and a half weeks making our way from Hanoi, south to Ho Chi Minh City and across the Mekong delta into Cambodia.  We'll wrap up our trip in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.  At that point she heads back home and I still have nearly two weeks of time.  If I come straight back to Jakarta I'll spend heaps in restauranting and drinking.  The flight is the same to get to Bali as it is to get to Jakarta . . .soooo . . . .well, it seems like such an obvious choice.
Courtesy of
I've also found out some friends from Spain are planning to be in Thailand in August/September.  I go back to school the second week of August but there is a week of holiday for Idul Fitri (the end of Ramadhan)  in the week that spans Aug-Sept.  Now that week it potentially Phuket-Krabi-Phiphi island.  I'd love to go since I haven't been yet, the beaches are supposed to be fantastic and I can see Angie and Trish.  We're still working out if the timing/locations will match up but I'm hopeful. 
Courtesy of This is Phi Phi Island
I also need to see more of Indonesia in case I leave at the end of the year.  That means mid-semester break in October and maybe Christmas break.  On top of that I will need to sort out my living arrangement before I leave for holiday.  That means thumping down six months of rent all at once.  Ouch.  It is nice to only pay utilities during the contract but the big wad of cash that I hand over at the beginning is tough to do.
I've just been saved as a friend has helped me out with a nearly new camera.  The camera I bought in KL in August, and I loved, has disappeared without a trace. Now if I tack on the cost of an I-pod I'm definitely eating into my travel funds.  I've found that the last year or two I really prefer spending my money to do things, rather than to buy things.  I have plenty of stuff.  Lots of shoes, clothes, nicknacks.  I do splurge for a stack of dvds every couple of months but other than that it's mostly food and toiletries (or replacing things that are stolen or broken).  I like to go out with my friends.  I like to travel. How do I balance the stuff vs the experiences in my life?
Courtesy of

As American as apple pie

You may have seen mention of a softball tournament last weekend.  It was made in passing fashion as there were big events that over shadowed the euphoria of the games quickly after.  Now is the moment to return to the warm evening glow of the games.

Last year this same tournament was at the end of April.  I'd been here four months and I was working in an EF (English First school) surrounded on ninety-nine of one hundred sides by Brits.  By happenstance I found out Friday night that there was a men's slow pitch softball tournament that had started that very day and ran through Sunday.  I was ecstatic.  I don't think I even asked anyone else.  Saturday, after teaching from 9:00-14:00, I raced home, grabbed a bag, changed clothes and headed to the fields where I spent the better part of the next thirty-six hours.

This year I thought I'd missed the tourney.  It was already well into May.  Then I got a facebook message from Mel, one of the guys I'd met and hung out with a bit the previous year.  We'd exchanged a few "how have you been"s online over the year and he was giving me a heads up that he was in town for the games.  YIPEEEEE!!  I think my heart did a little flip.  Whatever plans I'd had were scrapped and the new plan was softball.
This is Mel.
On Friday I left work early and made my way to the fields by 3:30.  It rained absolute cats and dogs on my way there.  By the time I arrived the fields were under several inches of water.  A bit of time and a crew with sponges and buckets took care of the problem and by six o'clock we were underway.  I was greeted quickly after my arrival by not just Mel, but Jeff, Byron and a few other guys I'd met last year.  We sat around shooting the sh*t, drinking beer and whiling away the time until the next game.  I spent nearly seven hours at the fields last Friday in a sea of Americana.  There was beer and hot dogs, midwest accents, sunflower seeds and the most beautiful green grass. I was sometimes surrounded by guys and some of their girlfriends (yes, all Asian).  Other times I sat alone.  Either way, I was a happy camper. Some games were good contests between well matched teams. Others were blow outs where fifteen runs were scored in the first inning. I cheered the guys I knew and lamented the loses or injuries with them.

Mel's team, the Guzzlers.
On Saturday I had what was possibly a bigger thrill.  My friends wanted to come see the games with me.  The group in a was an American with ten years in Indo under her belt, a Texan with her two kids, an Red Sox fan from Russia, a baseball clueless Kiwi, a football loving Brit and a big, bald Scotsman.  Look at the crowd I drew for a faux baseball game.  Baseball is the game that Europeans (heck, most non-Americans) don't get.  It's long, it's boring, nothing happens.  Blah, blah, blah.  It's pure Americana.  Our history and heritage involving baseball is long and storied.  It's unique to us. 
Courtesy of
Those who know me probably know that starting about March each year the word "Baseball" and more importantly "Mariners" starts creeping back into my vernacular.  When the regular season starts in April, I'm ready for the season.  I know the players, managerial changes, injury statuses, etc.  I've been told I went to my first game in a baby carrier long before I could walk.  Baseball is a constant for me.  Across the countries and the miles, I can track my team online.  As soon as I've confirmed my tickets home, Mom buys tickets (provided it's in season).  Mariners fans are particularly long suffering and this year is no exception. The team has had both six-game winning and six-game losing streaks.  Either way, I'm with them until September, if not October.
It was a real joy for me to have friends interested in seeing the game.  Many of the Non-Americans asked questions about what was happening.  They wanted to know how the game was played.  How does a team score a run?  Why do they change from offense to defense? I was more than happy to explain and answer everything. Inevitably their interest waned before mine.  And yet most of the group didn't leave until seven or so; all of us staying between four and seven and a half hours. Just thinking about the softball games, and the experience of sharing it with other in a land where I thought baseball was as foreign as I am, brings a huge grin to my face.

A last surprise is that one of my bosses plays on a team that was in the tournament last year and this year, though he didn't play.  He said that I should play.  I didn't see any women playing in the tourney, but I'd love to practice with them if nothing else.  They are on summer hiatus right now but he said to think about it and he'd let me know when practices restart in September. SQUEEEEEAAALLLL!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Saftey First?

I mentioned in yesterday's post that there was a skirmish outside a bar on Saturday night.  We were not so much involved in the action as we watched it whirl about us. The more I thought about it, I realized I'd like to elaborate just a bit.

Carla and I talked through what happened last night.  We both agreed that it was a bit surreal, like the scene out of a movie in two senses.  One - a movie in a foreign country that is on the verge of war and one side of the debate is trying to evict the foreigners; Two - it felt a bit like a movie that you'd walked in on 3/4 of the way through, at the highest action point, but had no idea what had happened to get the scene there.(Two names have been omitted and instead I will use She/her and He/him in bold letters to differentiate.)

The bar was packed, absolutely to the rafters.  Her purse was a very small clutch and she had it under her arm with the chain over her shoulder.  The thief didn't take the whole purse.  He didn't pull it off her.  Somehow he managed to pull the phone out undetected.  Of course with all the jostling, pushing and yelling, you could have snuck someone's kidney out without them noticing.  His phone was taken from a pocket.  Not the money or the smokes that were also in pockets, just the phone.  From the way we'd been hassled passing through the crowd there were several people it could have been.  Both of the victims indicated they thought it was the guy who'd been the biggest loud mouth. He was an unimposing Indonesian of about 20 or so.  Ugly jacket and a big mouth to boot.  He'd pushed along to follow near us in the club and was obnoxiously yammering the whole while.

Her phone was found to be missing first.  I don't think his went missing until after He'd gone back in the club (we'd made it out to the patio) looking for Her phone. The two of them then went looking for this guy.  Now, if you or I stole something we would immediately leave the premises.  Not this jackass.  He stuck around long enough to be found.  He got him by the collar and was forced to let him go by two friends who didn't know what was happening. Once informed, the aforementioned friends went along with Him to hunt the thief out again. A friend of the thief was found and he made promises of getting the phones back which fell on skeptical ears.

Security was roused from a slumber somewhere to join the group standing around and gawking like eighth graders in a hallway push about. At this point my group decided it was a pointless venture and we made slowly for the door.  Upon exiting, we made sure we were still nine together and headed towards someone's car.  As we neared the car, the same friend of thief approached again making promises of phones to be returned.  There was a bit of shouting on both sides and then my group piled in the car.  This is when I feel like I must have missed something.  We got in the car and to pile nine in a mini van took a few minutes.  After we were all in, the car was surrounded and several very, very drunk Indonesians who had not been even peripherally involved, started pounding on the doors and windows.

There were punches thrown from the outside in through open windows that hit Him. The driver (an employed driver) not only bailed from the car, but took the keys with him.  Bastard!  We were stuck in what was fast becoming a lynch mob. One of the boys managed to wrench the door open and by sheer presence moved the crowd back.  I've been told the Indonesian girls in the car were screaming, though I honestly don't remember.  We spent several minutes in slow motion trying to find the keys or the driver without luck.  About that time several of us made it out of the car and started to head for taxis. The driver was found and a few friendly Indonesians from the crowd helped usher us back to the car and hold back the lunatics.  We smashed back into the car and pulled cautiously away, against my hope of peeling out and not looking back.
Courtesy of  It was somewhere between this many people around the car. . .
Courtesy of   . . .and this many people.
I feel like there are a lot of bits and pieces that are missing from my recollection of the night.  I didn't see the crowd  until they were surrounding us.  I don't know why they did.  I didn't see who hit Him through the window. I don't remember hearing much (not even my heart pounding in my ears).  I don't remember being terrified in the moment, though I probably was.  I do remember begging the boys not to get out of the car.  Not only because I pictured twenty Indonesians piling on each of them like piranhas on a chicken, but also because a couple of our guys had a size advantage and I was afraid they might literally pummel someone to death.
Courtesy of  This is how it feels now looking back.
I was with our group, in the middle of our group of nine.  We did not instigate this fight.  I do not know what precipitated the mob surrounding the car other than one or two guys being drunk and stirring sh*t. For a country with a population what usually prefers to avoid physical contact, it was an even that took me totally by surprised and has jaded my opinions (at least temporarily) of Indonesians.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Weekend Recap

Due to problems with internet connectivity and then the blogger website being down I haven't been getting posts up regularly again. The upside is that I have lots to write about when I do write.

Once a month the English teachers can leave early.  It allows for banking and other business since many of those institutions close at 2pm.  I usually take it as a mental health day, as was the case last week.  Even with a day off on Tuesday, last week felt long and excruciating.  Since I hadn't taken an early leave day in two months, I felt entitled. I had a great plan too.  Except the best laid plans lead often to disaster (chuckles).

I left work on Friday at noon.  It was hot and sunny so I thought I'd grab an hour at the pool.  I changed and it was sunny.  I got in the elevator and it was sunny.  I got out of the elevator at pool level and it was cloudy and darkening.  Within fifteen minutes it was sprinkling (insert expletives here). "Fine, I'll go back up before it starts to pour", I mumbled to myself. If I'd waited there it surely would have.  Since I went inside, the sky promptly began to lighten.

I changed clothes and prepped a bag.  Last weekend was a men's international slow pitch softball tournament (more to follow on that tomorrow). I'd gone last year and was excited to go again.  I departed, thinking I could soak in some sun and beat the Friday afternoon traffic.  HA HA HA on all accounts.  Twenty minutes into my taxi ride it started to spritz. Twenty five minutes in it was raining.  At thirty minutes it was pouring. The ride to the sports complex took nearly an hour.  On a "normal" day it should be a 35 minute trip.

I spent all afternoon there, shooting the sh*t with other Americans, drinking beer and eating sate. I was quite happily surprised I didn't get sick from it.  BoT (that's all he's to be called for now) came to meet me after work and we went for Mexican food.  Dinner was good apart from a misunderstanding resulting from miscommunication. Home again, home again for a quiet night in.
Softball babes!
Saturday started a bit later and lots slower than I figured but that was fine. We met Carla and headed off for (more) softball.  I'd watched alone on Friday.  Saturday was to be a family affair.  In all there were about six adults and two kids.  I even managed to talk a Russian, a Kiwi and a Brit (YES , a BRIT) into coming. we got to the games about 11:30.  The boys took off for a football/soccer team meet up at a bar.  We girls all bailed at about 6:30 for showers, dinner and naps. I napped anyway.

BoT showed up about late (comic eye roll here) as per usual.  The we grabbed a cab to meet "our peeps" for drinks.  Beyond was not beyond expectations.  It was busy, but only two foreigners in the bar other than us.  The beer was reasonably priced but 95,000 Rp for a weak vodka/sprite is painful.  Folks trickled away to other bars and eventually we did too.  About 2:30am Carla, BoT and I headed to meet some of the others from before at Venue. It was so packed we could hardly get in the door.  It was not good from moment one.  There were people hassling us, we were hassling them back, it took a full lap around to find our group.  After about five minutes Carla and I headed towards the toilet only to find someone had taken her phone from her bag.  We went hunting for the guy and in the process someone stole BoT's phone from his pocket. We think it was the same guy since he was hovering and obnoxious.  The night took a swift down turn from there.  Seeking out the thief resulted in collaring him, letting him go, tracking down his friends, following someone outside, then trying to leave the bar.  It was at that point that we were surrounded by a mob of bystanders, 98% of whom had nothing to do with the situation and at least 50% of whom were drunk.  We were in the car being rocked and windows punched by the crazed Indonesians.  It was scary as hell.  Why didn't we drive off I can hear you wondering.  The driver bailed and took the keys.  Why?  Because it's Indonesia, the land where only the illogical can be expected. After what felt like an eternity, while the girls tried to keep the boys from killing anyone or getting thumped on themselves, we finally made it outta dodge.

After all that, a snack at 24 hour dim sum was quite a comedown.  We were all coming off an adrenaline rush and were tired. Sunday was a well deserved day in; just watching dvd's, eating and doing nothing.  It was well needed after the rest of the weekend.

Monday morning was an unwelcomed sight today. It's hard to leave a comfy bed to deal with children any time, but especially at 6am!!

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I have a couple of, what I think are, good post ideas brewing.  I often write about the day to day stuff that makes up life.  Other times I find things that relate to daily life but have struck a different chord in some way; maybe a bigger theme or concept. Then there are days like today where I can't manage to get four brain cells lined up in a row to accomplish any of that.  I know that any real attempt at blogging, or accomplishing anything, would be nearing disastrous and would definitely involve far more energy and enthusiasm than I can muster.

I'm not sure a week with a holiday in it has any right to feel this long. Strangely I'm not the only one feeling this way.  I was talking to two other teachers at the end of the day who are in the same boat.  The kids were pushing today and we're exhausted.

It's days like this, when you're tired, and not thinking really clearly and not your usual patient, understanding self that there's not a problem; there are many.  I survived the school day only to have issues with someone else.  I am trying to chalk it up to the fact that A) we are both tired and busy, B) we were using blackberry messenger and anytime electronic communication is the means, the meaning can be easily lost and C) we're both a bit hyper sensitive right now after the last two weeks of. . . .controversy.

My solution for this today was two beers and now I'm headed for a nap.  At JIKS we also get one early leave day per month to use for trips to the bank, etc.  I haven't used mine in a couple months so I'm cashing it in as a 'mental health day' and going to see some fast pitch men's softball.  I went to the tourney last year and I'll eagerly take it as a semi-suitable replacement for the great American past time*.  I'm planning to post here in the morning but that is other work obligations pending.

All that being said, I'll wrap up with a Congratulations to Erin, a Good Luck to Manda and a Get Well to Asa.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Oh boy!

I had the best of intentions to blog yesterday. . . and then it was sunny.  Yesterday was a holiday, Waisak day.  It's a celebration of the birth of Buddha. It was also a school free day.  Some folks got Monday as well, but I won't complain since some didn't even get Tuesday off.  I could really whine about the fact that in Spain it would have turned into a puente with both Monday and Tuesday off for everyone, but I'll show some self restraint.

I spent part of the morning out in the sun being stared at by all the Indonesians.  Yes, I know it's a Muslim country but if you can wear micro mini skirts in public and at restaurants then I can wear a bikini at my apartments. A "quick run" to Ranch market resulted in a massive bill for a single bag of goodies.  I did, however, find cool ranch doritos, chorizo, salami, blue cheese and chevre.  The dinner of olive oil, pan fried eggplant, portobellos, asparagus with cheese bits and sea salt was divine.  After shopping but before dinner I managed a swim and had a great long chat with Carla.  Not a bad day!  Capped off with a dvd and then an unfortunately horrendous night sleep.  Ugh,  so much for being rested after a day off.

When a holiday day breaks up the week it always feels like there's an extra Monday.  Today felt like Monday.  I'm glad it wasn't. I'm really glad that in reality I only have to survive two more days (plus business class tonight) to get to a weekend.  If the week were any longer, there might be bloodshed.

One of my classes has decided to see if they can drive Ms. Melissa off the sanity cliff by semester break.  They are a difficult class for many reasons but namely that of fourteen kids, only four are girls. With ten boys in the class, I've run out of room to separate the naughty ones.  There are about five boys that talk, sing, yell, get out of their seats, throw things, you name it.  A couple of those boys can be neutralized when there is distance between him and his mates.  Short of installing seat belts on the chairs or moving some of the chairs to the ceiling, I'm outta space.

A second class is evenly split between girls and boys.  This is the highest functioning class. I don't know if its because of the class, if the homeroom teacher got them in line or if that class just randomly got the best kids.  Their scores are the highest, they are the least likely to turn in work late and they listen the best in class.

My third class is in the middle but usually leaning towards the better class.  This group is nine girls and six boys.  They can get rowdy but I can control them for the most part.  There are a couple of really smart kids and they work together pretty well.  Even the lower level kids work hard.

It's just that first class.  They are lazy, perpetually turning things in late, shouting, screaming and goofing off class. Siiiigh.

My two pronged approach of rewards (stickers that can be traded for rewards of game time, erasers, etc) and punishments (lines, homework) has worked as well as I'd hope, EXCEPT with this one stupid class!  Add that to the fact that my school computer is loused up once again, and it's been a long day.  You'd think that with the frequency of trips the computer guys make to our teachers room they'd learn to just fix it the first time.  But no, this is Indonesia.  I figure his incompetence is planned because it keeps him employed.  Unfortunately they won't get someone who actually knows what he's doing. Instead they keep these guys on and permit them to do a piss poor job.Of course I assume he could plan and plot to be incompetent when in actuality he's not and that's a big leap.

All that will make this weekend even better as there is dinner with D on Friday, softball tournament on Saturday and lounging on Sunday on the books!

Monday, May 16, 2011

My ten-years-ago self

I'm not sure what brought it on, but I've found myself pondering who I'll be in ten years.  The only conclusion I can come up with is that I don't know but I'll probably be happier with who I am (and hopefully what I'm doing) than I am now if I can project based on the fact that I'm happier now than I was ten years ago.  Happier with who I am and who I'm becoming mostly.

That's not to say I'm not (mildly) happy now.  For the most part, I do like teaching, though I find the Koreans more trying than some students I've taught.  I definitely like living abroad, but again, Jakarta is a bit wearing.  As I look ahead to where I might be, it's inevitable that I also ended up looking back.  Back to myself ten year ago.
Courtesy of

At this time ten years ago I :

I was living in Lawrence, KS with a roommate in a dormitory while attending the University of Kansas as a junior in graphic design.
I had been lied to by someone I was dating long distance and was miserable about it.
I was working three jobs, all at the University.  One in the cafeteria, one at the swimming pool and a third in the stats department.
I hadn't lost anyone important in my life.
I wasn't in touch with anyone from high school even though I was just nineteen as that time.
I didn't call home as much as I should have.
I still didn't get along with my sister.
I wasn't nearly as flexible about anything as I should have been.
I used a computer for email and class work.
I had made plans to transfer back to the University of Washington at home.
I didn't drink.
I had to acknowledge I didn't have my swimmers body any more.
Courtesy of
Five years ago :
I was living in Salt Lake City, Utah, in a house I owned jointly and shared with my now-ex, our two dogs, a cat, some fish, two snakes and a couple of geckos.
I perpetually felt like an outsider without community.
I called home more often but usually in a disastrous state.
I occasionally drank, but never beer.
I had no specific plans for the future other than continuing what I was doing, hoping to change where I was doing it.
I missed my father and my grandmother who had passed away.
I was very confused about how I ended up where I was.
I was nearing the heaviest I've ever been.
I lived in a small bubble.
I had a lot of stuff - books, furniture, knickknacks, enough to fill a house!
I was becoming quickly disillusioned with the path I had chosen to follow.
Courtesy of
This year :
I am living in Jakarta, Indonesia in my own apartment with a pool and a grocery.
I am still pursuing teaching in some manner.
I call or instant message my mom more than anyone else who doesn't live in this city and I miss it when I don't.
I have found common ground with my sister, though we don't talk often.
I am still confused about where I'll go next.
I have friend on three continents, in multiple countries, who I miss very much.
I use facebook daily, but still don't myspace or tweet.
I can roll with the punches and appreciate the conquests more than I ever realized possible.
I continue to fight my little black rain cloud and its depressant effects.
I prefer doing things over having things. 
I am seeing someone.
I have an overactive social life.
I write this blog as regularly as I can.
I drink a lot of beer.
I travel a lot, and go to concerts and meet tons of new fantastic (and sporadically not so fantastic) people.
I probably weigh what I did ten years ago.
I'm also more confident, more global and more experienced.
Things that are constant:
I've tried to learn and improve myself and my surroundings.
I am still a list maker.
Good music is a must.
I still miss those who are gone or just gone away.
Life isn't always easy, but no one ever said it would be this hard. And it is, in a million unique ways.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

When I fall apart

As I have vowed not to discuss my love life, or lack there of, as more than a fleeting shadow, this blog post is tricky. Its not the easiest vow to adhere to.  There are times when I'd like to gush about the wonderful, serendipitous, slightly maudlin (insert something fantastic or amazing here) that just happened. Other times I'd like a full on, internet rant to bitch about the awful, unfair, heart wrenching thing (again, insert one here) that happened.  Because I know there are actually a few folks out there reading this, and some of them may be people who I see or correspond with, I am not convinced allowing myself to do either gush or rant is a great idea.  Especially on the internet where nothing is ever really gone, ever. Just because I delete it and can't find any trace of it definitely doesn't mean that a more tech savvy twelve year old couldn't find it and exploit my one moment of stupidity in internet publishing.
Courtesy of   You won't hear more from me than this.
That being said . . . I'm going to walk the line a bit today. There will be a slight (like ephemeral fog on a sunny morning) mention of some sort of infatuation element.  I won't go into detail, but for now, it's as close as I'll get to a mention of there being a man kinda in my life-ish.

My friends here in Indonesia know all about the drama from last weekend. It was a perfect storm of the way Jakarta can louse up plans, a lack of communication, an additional lack of phone with which to communicate and lots of drinking (not on my part).  He pulled a 180 on me and I was totally over-turned by the events and they're unexpected nature. Since it's all still new and (now less than) shiny, I had only a short history for comparison and was sure it was all intentionally inflicted agony.

I was one part crying, upset woman
It was three very long days for my friends, I'm certain. There was shouting, and pouting, crying and rationalizing.  There was definitely sulking and confusion.  That was all on my part.  My friends must have been tired and thoroughly irritated for having to put up with me.  Zoë especially.  I know she must have been because I would have been.  She was at my side both Friday and Saturday nights.  Yet, she never betrayed her calm, patient exterior.  That's what a friend is.  It's someone who will let you moan about the same guy for two straight days, over dinner, through drinks, and never cut you off.  She never said I wasn't justified, that I should just suck it up, give up. Or if she did, it was with the softest sell waiting to see if I jumped on that boat.  There were a few people that did. They found out rather quickly how poorly that would go over with me in the state I was in.
and one part Calvin angry tantrum.

Zoë put up with me longer than anyone else, but she wasn't cast in the role of sole supporter.  I found myself encircled by girls who held me up and held me together all weekend. Lest the girls get all the props, there were two sweet boys who did everything possible to make me smile, and both succeeded.  Who'd have thought an American guy and a Frenchman would be the ones helping me regain my sense of humor and smile?

They joined the small flock of lovely ladies that did everything they could to simultaneously support, vindicate my logic, trash the person in question, rub my back and just let me cry. They were there in person, on blackberry messenger, and in my thoughts.  To the family I now know I have in Indonesia, thanks.  Next one is on me.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More JIKS hijinx

There's never a shortage of ridiculousness at JIKS. I have for the most part ceased to be surprised by the goings on here.  Instead I have adopted a policy of shaking my head, sighing and occasionally chuckling.  Here's a list, in no particular order the happenings, or mishaps of the last two weeks.

* Last Thursday was Children's Day.  I suppose it makes sense.  We celebrate Mother's Day, Father's Day and (to a lesser extent) Grandparent's Day in the United States. Korea instead has a Parent's Day and a Children's Day.  The school has a policy of celebrating this day.  This year each grade went to a different location for a picnic. Grade four went to Cibodas, a big park south and west of the school.  Wednesday it was sunny.  In fact it hadn't rained in a week.  What happened Thursday?  It poured relentlessly all day.  Not the fault of JIKS, but we all know there is no surer way to make it rain than to schedule a picnic, or wash your car.  The park had a very small covered area to accommodate lunching.  The ride took approximately two and a half hours each way, which left us an hour to sit and eat.  The (chuckle) bonuses of the day?  The teachers had their own van and didn't have to ride with screaming children, that teacher's van stopped at Starbucks on the way, the rain meant we didn't do anything other than walk around and say hello, the Korean moms fed us (it was all cold Korean food, but hey! a free lunch is a free lunch) and we got a bit of overtime pay, though none of us can figure out why and we didn't ask.
courtesy of
* Last Tuesday was English Game Time.  I don't know what idiot though this was a fun idea, but it wasn't me. Rumor has it that it's a mutation of English Carnival was a highly effective fundraiser and enjoyable.  This rumor adds that the Korean teachers were threatened and thought it's resounding popularity made them look bad, hence the change to English Game Time. Each English teacher set up a "booth" in the gym.  The kids were divided into groups of ten to fourteen and rotated around in ten minute increments.  Periods two and three were for grades one and two, then periods five and six were for grades three and four and finally periods seven and eight were for grades five and six.  Still following me?  Period one was set up time, so we effectively taught all day.  No off periods, no planning, nothing.  No overtime for this day either (scratching my head). I explained my game twenty-five times minimum.  The teacher next to me had a microphone and speaker, plus I was in the center in the gym at the eye of the noise hurricane. I had to shout to be heard and lost my voice yet again.  The bonus that wasn't: we got free pizza provided by the school but I was still on my doctor enforced carbohydrate prohibition. I mentally applied the overtime pay to Tuesday to be less spiteful about it.
Courtesy of  Kind of like this but more booths and a smaller gym.
* The Friday before English Game Time was "Creativity Festival 2011".  We were thrown off my this one because it wasn't on the calendar and was only announced on Monday. No one could quite make out exactly what the point was.  Regular classes were cancelled.  There was an assembly in the morning where several local Korean community members made speeches and music was played painfully loudly.  Next, each child affixed a post it note with their dreams/hopes to a helium filled balloon and let it go.  I don't know what the children were supposed to get out of it.  A coworker and I laughed at the people who let them go too early, and then cringed at the environmental impact. After the assembly, the kids went and worked on "projects" though I can't tell what, if any, was the uniting theme. They made things ranging from plastic bottle CD racks to pipe cleaner flowers.
Courtesy of
* This Friday we will, allegedly, be celebrating Teacher's Day, which falls on the following Sunday officially. Two weeks ago we were told we'd all be going to Cibodas for a hike.  I whined a bit since that was were grade four was going for Children's Day, but then with the rain we didn't get to see it.  As of Monday this week, the hike was off but something else was pending.  Today I've heard two versions of contention.  One: the principal is unhappy that several primary teachers have complained about him, though no one had since his arrival in August.  He's cancelled everything.  Version two: There's no money in the coffers for transportation or lunch.   Either way, today's rendition of plans is that there will be an assembly Friday morning and then we can go home.  It's a waste of everyone's time and money to have to come in at all, but at least we get to go home early  (theoretically, I won't believe it until it happens).

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Singapore Sequel

Not being one to pass up an alliteration (and complete the Singapore triumvirate), we continued on to part three.

After exiting the emergency room I decided I could be miserable in my armpit of a hostel room OOOORRRR I could go meet Alysson for "lunch".  It was lunch in theory but I sure as hell didn't have an appetite.

We met near Clarke Quay, pronounced Clarke Key though I haven't the slightest idea how quay is key.  It's a riverfront area tucked next to downtown in as a well-to-do neighborhood along the Singapore river.  On one side of the river are governmental buildings with a wide array of architectural styles:
There's a building that looks like it has a flying saucer on the top that I missed just off the left side of this picture.
That is a boat on top of that building.  It's a casino.
Opposite theses photos is a row of bars and restaurants where we sat at The Mexican, and I watched Alysson eat and drink.  Ha ha.  Had I been well, I'd have been right there with her.  As it was the view and the company were good enough to sustain me.  We met an American and a Brit who were both friendly, as well as two older women who commiserated about the awful Dylan performance. 

Farther down the water front is an area that's basically just for eats.  We went to a tapas bar called Octapas with a great mertopus/ meropus /octomaid ? It's not a mermaid because she's got tentacles instead of a fish tail). We walked about just enjoying the night air.  It was fantastic even when I was in pain.
pretty colorful shop fronts.
Wednesday I was waiting to catch an evening flight.  I thought I'd have a walk around Chijmes (an orphanage/nunnery turned into a restaurant haven) but was thwarted by thunderstorms. I did get a bottle of Bundaberg rum and a bag of mini Reese's peanut butter cups on my way out of the country, which I was told by the doctor the next day that I couldn't eat.   I don't think I'll go back to Singapore, unless it's a visa run.  A day there still has it's pluses (ahem, cough, duty-free, cough), but I think I've seen most of what there is to see.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Singapore Second

I'll try to pick up the pace a bit since in the last post I only managed to get through the concert, which was a mere day and a quarter of my six days in Singapura.

I spent the next two days (Sunday and Monday) seeking things that cannot be found in Jakarta: walkable green spaces with clean air.  Sunday I took a twelve person ferry fifteen minutes to Pulau Ubin, or Ubin Island.  It's a little island just off the southeastern corner of Singapore, near Sentosa I think.  There are no cars on the island, just bikes to be rented.  I spent four hours peddaling around on a clunker with squeaky brakes and the world's most uncomfortable seat.  I nearly hit a three foot long monitor lizard, followed a monkey down the street and caught a fleeting view of a wild boar. I was mosquito bitten and very tired when I left, but undeniably happier than when I'd arrived.
This is the farthest SE section of the island. The pink line is a boardwalk that does extend over the water and through mangrove wetlands.
A coastline view from the boardwalk.

View from the top of an observation tower in the mangrove wetlands.

On Monday I headed to the gigantic Singapore Botanical Gardens.  They cover 160 hectares (if you know what a hectare is without looking, you must have gotten a more complete education than I did). There is an orchid garden, an Evolution Garden which would never fly in The States, an herb garden,a ginger garden (I did not realize how many plants are part of the ginger family) a teaching garden, and probably a couple more I missed. I sat and read, found a university cafeteria for lunch, walked, wandered, moseyed and roamed through the park for six hours.  I was happy as a clam. . . .until my stomach started acting up.  If you missed that crisis, go back to the Amongst the living post.
Swan Lake.  I sat on a bench here and read for an hour.  Then made friends and had a moment with a turtle before sneaking around some swans.
Waterfall near the ginger garden and where I got some chocolate ice cream.
It was so nice to have large, smooth sidewalks to walk on or footpaths in the garden.  The air was very clean.  The cars drove according to the painted lines on the street. I got to a place I could enjoy nature didn't take a three hour car ride and crushing blow to my carbon footprint.  Why am I in Jakarta and not Singapore?  The final installment will be the next blog.  It's more city scene and my departure.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Singapore Shuffle

Now that I am firmly planted in the recovery ward, I can, as promised, fill you in on the recent Singapore trip.

As expected, it was really nice to be there for more than six hours.  Many people here have little or no interest in Singapore because it is such an oft visited site.  Since I'd never gotten out of the downtown area, I couldn't really tell you what else was there before. This Singapore rehash will be a two-potentially-three-parter I imagine as I try to keep my posts a reasonable length.

I left for Singa on Friday and made the flight by the skin of my teeth as the taxi driver insisted it was terminal three more persistently than I said it was terminal two.  To which we went to the wrong terminal and then I made him take me, fare free, to the correct terminal.  Luckily, the plane was actually at terminal three so after checking in at terminal two and going through security we all had to bus on over to the plane.  Don't ask me.  The only customs center is at Terminal two but the parking spaces are at terminal three.  Welcome to flying budget airlines in Jakarta.

Upon arrival, I headed to the hostel, had the same conversation three times with three different people about my reservations before I got a key and left my bag to head to the concert.  This concert was the catalyst for the trip.  Erin asked if I would be interested in seeing John Legend and (her favorite) Imogen Heap on Saturday.  After looking at the line up I immediately decided that I must also go for Friday as Bob Dylan and Michael Franti and Spearhead were playing.  I'm not a Dylan fan to be honest, but he's 69 and going to die soon.  Now I can say I saw him.  On the other hand, I am a huge HUGE Michael Franti and Spearhead fan.

The concert was strategically located between the Singapore Flyer (think London Eye/huge Ferris Wheel) and the waterfront, a placed called Marina Promenade.  The show is called Rock and Roots; its in its second year.  Attendance each night was probably 400-600, but I'm lousy at estimating that kind of thing.  Compared to Bumbershoot in Seattle it was small and cozy.
Singapore Flyer lit up right above the stage

Pros:  The venue was small, lots of toilets, sufficient food stall, multiple beer stalls to control lines, easy crowd flow, great stage view from the right side, big video screens, breezes from the ocean.

Cons: Lousy line of sight and acoustics on the left side, large VIP section that was cordoned off, Dylan requesting the video screens be shut off.

Dylan was awful.  One part him, one part poorly adjusted acoustics.  I nearly fell asleep during his show and only endured it to get to the performer after. After Dylan many of the VIP folks left and at Franti's request, they opened the front section up for the real fans.  I spent the nearly two hours of his show at the front bar, jumping around like crazy.  By the end I was drenched in sweat and couldn't wipe the smile off my face.  His positivity and joyful sound are contagious.  He was out in the crowd, walking through and high fiving everyone.  He brought people on to the stage. He brought two other performers from earlier in the night out to play.  It was an AMAZING show. To think, only two years ago I had no idea who they were.  I stumbled upon them at the Bumbershoot Festival of 2009.
Michael Franti and Spearhead were kicking off their world tour here.  This is the logo.
Michael Franti glows from the inside out.
Saturday was fun because my friend Erin, her friend Loni, Loni's friend Kevin and my friend Alysson all joined me for the show.  We divied up a bottle of duty-free vodka in mixers before the show and trouped in.  We weren't especially transfixed by the music the way I'd been the night before. The notable exception was Erin when Imogen Heap was on.  I really enjoyed the music of Trombone Shorty, an up-and-coming artist with energy to spare and a hot body.
Trombone Shorty.  Look at those guns.
Alright dear reader.  I'll leave you there and carry on in the next installment.  If you are interested to see me in the same photo as Michael Franti go to  Go to the gallery and click on April 15, 2001.  Then you'll have to scroll through to a photo of Franti in the crowd.  Look on the right at the tall shirtless guy and see if you can find me between him and Michael.  If anyone can tell me how to steal that photo, I'd be grateful!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Back amongst the living

I have survived the worst of it now I figure.  Of course, knowing me, now that I've said that I'll end up hospitalized with Dengue or The Plague. Here's a condensed rendition of the events of the past two-plus weeks of Melissa health news.

I'd been sick for about six or seven weeks with nondescript digestive issues. I eventually went to the doctor and was told I had a bacterial infection in my intestines.  Pills and patience was the prescription and I seems to be on the mend.

I went to Singapore (blog to follow about that) for 6 days.  I arrived Friday and really enjoyed myself until Monday afternoon.  Prior to Monday I did have a few little digestive "hiccups" which I attributed to too much curry or the change from Indonesian food.  By Monday afternoon I was in a fair amount of pain and I limped back to my hostel.  I didn't sleep more than an hour Monday night as I was in agony.  I believe that I have a high pain tolerance.  I may whine but I'll trek on through most things.  This pain absolutely felled me.  It felt like I was being stabbed on either side of my belly button.  It was sharp and radiated back to my spine. By the wee hours of Tuesday morning I'd set a deadline: If I didn't feel at least marginally better by 7 am I would go to the hospital. I gave in at 6:15 and caught a cab. 

When I got to Singapore General Hospital I was nearly in tears.  I couldn't breath deeply or stand up straight.  I was flashing back to my father's bouts with pancreatitis which were the only times in his life I'd seen him in tears.  I thought it must be that, or my appendix, or something else equally serious for me to be in that much pain.  I was sent to registration, then triage, and then to the waiting room.  I probably was there only twenty minutes or so before I was seen but if felt like two days.  Once I was called, a tiny nurse, no more than a third my size, insisted on taking my arm to assist me as I was hunching over and moving the speed of an injured snail.

The doctor was a tall, big boned Asian looking man who's face I never saw from behind his mask.  He asked a few perfunctory questions, listed to my heart, felt my abdomen and drew blood.  I'd submitted for a urinalysis upon entry. The put an IV in my hand and ran what would eventually be two liters. Then off to x-ray.  The tech there helped be undress, and by this I mean she physically man-handled me to undress me as I was more of less incapable. I took out my bellybutton ring and lost it at some point before I left.  The two x-rays were torture as it hurt to stretch out and lie flat.

Back to the observation room until the labs were back.  I did nod off there for a couple hours.  Id been there about three hours when the nurse woke me to say it was a bladder infection.  I was a bit dazed and not able to understand how that was but didn't ask many questions.  The IV was removed, and I was sent "home". All in all the trip was much more affordable than I feared.  The visit which in The States would have run into the hundreds easily, cost me 95.55 SGD ($78, or 52 Euros). That included all the diagnostics and prescriptions.

It was then Tuesday and I was determined not to miss out on the last of my holiday so out I went to meet Alysson for lunch.  I continued to feel really bad until I threw up in the restaurant toilet and it was about that time I started to seriously doubt it was a bladder infection. I took the medications for two days without much change or relief.

I arrived back to Jakarta Wednesday night and pledged to go to the doctor again on Thursday.  Returning to the doctor (Dr. Melissa) that I'd seen before, I still had some of the bacteria around from before but now also had a massive yeast infection in my intestines.  WHAT?  I thought that was a lady parts problem.  Apparently not, one can get a yeast infection in the kidneys, stomach, mouth and throat additionally. It's been a long, sloooooow road to feeling (mostly) well again.  That road contained four medications (one an anti-fungal which sounds revolting), two weeks without carbohydrates and sugars, and several backsliding moments of increased pain. Today is my last day in carb banishment but I've just found out it needs to be another three weeks sugar free. SIGH! I do feel much better aside from the nasty cough I picked up yesterday morning so I'll carry on sugar free.  My friend Julia swears I've lost some weight, if I haven't I'll be pissed.  At least I can answer the call of the Bintang beer that's been whispering my name for over a week.

Everyone seems surprised that Singapore totally muffed the diagnosis and Jakarta got it right.  I think the docs here are more accustomed to dealing with dodgy stomachs but who knows.  Until I really real 100% I'll be taking any good juju or positive thoughts you can send my way.