Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Away again

As you might have guessed by my lack of blogs recently, I'm traveling again.  This time it's Thailand.  I'm taking advantage of my last big holiday break before I leave SE Asia.  I'll be on the road for nearly a month, all in Thailand.  The first week and a half I'll have Donna, a great friend from Jakarta, along as a traveling companion.  Then I'm flying solo.  I arrived in Phuket two days ago and have been packing the days full so far.

I don't know if I'll get any blogs up while I'm on the road but I'll definitely pick up again when I get back.  I do apologize for the lack of blogs before holiday.  That was a combination of busy life and lack of interesting writing topics.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice/other and Enjoys ringing in the New Year with someone they love. Catch you in 2012!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lessons learned and observations from teaching

After teaching for over five years now, I've made a few general observations about teaching.  I've also learned a few lessons along the way. These all include experience near Seattle (teaching swim), in Salt Lake City, Utah, Madrid and summer camps in Spain, and Jakarta.  My students have been as young as three and as old as, well, that's impolite to ask but let's estimate mid to late sixties. I've taught private classes and groups as large as 28, utter beginners and pros, general classes and information specific.

  • It's hard to be a student. A good teacher is often a student too, and remembers that.  Being a student doesn't mean we get to slough off other responsibilities.  Even kids have other things they have to do.
  • I learned that it's harder for  me to let there be silence and wait for a students answer than it is for them to think of the answer.  I have come along way as far as that is concerned.  I've also learned how to know if the student is going to come up with the answer or if they need a prompt.
  • No one wants to sit still for too long.  Breaks, class stretching, action activities (even with adults) are a MUST.
  • Everyone laughs when a teacher sings in class. It's hard to make yourself be a fun/funny teacher with adults but it keeps them engaged and interested.  Same goes for using drawings, actions and funny voices.
  • Good coworkers can make your life easier, but not as much as bad coworkers can make work a hellhole.
  • The bells at school are as much for the teachers as the students.
  • Kids thrive when given rules.  Being their friend, or the "cool" teacher, always backfires in some respect.  My students know what my expectations are, they know what the punishments and rewards are and those never change. Especially in Jakarta where nannies and parents rarely coordinate about discipline and the kids run amok, routine and regulations are a very necessary, positive part of school life.
  • It's not fun to make a kid cry, but sometimes thats the only way to come to an understanding and usually your relationship is better afterward. Ji Hyun had a week of tears with me early in the semester but he knows that I'm not going to be wishy-washy about my requirements.  He's grade 1 and he gets it.  He says hi to me everyday in the halls and even likes to chat between classes. If I hadn't cracked down on him, we would both have pulled our hair out by now. 
  • On a related thought, kids don't hold grudges like adults do.  I can discipline a kid in class and when he sees me in the hall and hour later still waves and says hi. Kids bounce in all regards (emotionally, physically, in attention).
  • Everyone likes to be praised.  It costs nothing and when given in earnest, it means the world. Additionally, everyone needs help.  We can't be good at it all right away. Just knowing there's someone there to ask might be all they need, but maybe they need you to catch them, lead them, even push them along.
  • I love teaching.  I'm a great teacher.  I don't feel overly prideful to say that.  I put time and thought into what I do, I know why I do it and I enjoy it.
  • It's fun to see the similarities and differences in teaching different subject and different students.  In most ways, the idea of teaching is the same, but a wise teacher will be sensitive to the subtle differences (like the fact that Indonesian learners and Spanish learners of English will have different pronunciation errors) and adapt to them. 
  • It's true that teachers get more holidays than other professions but tell me you can work with ten year olds all day every day and you don't need more time off! This is why most teachers in the States burn out after four or five years.
  • I'll take dealing with kids over dealing with parents and administration any day. 
  • Lastly, I thrill at my students successes as much as they do.  Anyone who's meant to be a teacher does.
If I get the job I'm trying for in Seattle I'll be transitioning into adult training, which is teaching of a sort. I will miss the kids but have started to think maybe some coaching is in order to make up for that. (No, I don't miss kids enough to have one of my own!)

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Rare Moment

I'm not speechless but I do find myself with little to say.  I've been very busy trying to make the most of my remaining time in Indonesia, I rarely have an evening to myself. I have consolidated the radio show and business class into a single night of back-to-back busy-ness and fill at least three of the other four weeknights with dinners/get togethers.

It's year end at work which means overall reports.  If you'd like more information on that please see this blog.  I am happy to report that I finished the grade 4 scores a day before they are due and with much less stress and hassle than previously.  Its makes sense that I'd have my system down pat about the time I leave.
I've also lined up several upcoming trips.  My friend Donna and I will spend Christmas Day winging to Penang, Malaysia to spend a night and then truck up to Phuket, Thailand.  We'll travel together for about a week.  After she returns to Jakarta, I'll carry on for almost another three weeks.

I have a ridiculous five days of work at the end of January to complete my contract.  It's not even a Monday - Friday; it'll be Wednesday-Friday and the following Monday and Tuesday.  I'd hoped to squeeze in a trip to Lombok and the Gili Islands in February but that is in serious doubt now.  I'll have to wait until then and see if I have any cents left (note the intentional spelling there).

I return to the land of red, white and blue the second week of February with hopes of an interview that week.  I'll be at home long enough to unpack and rest before going to Puerto Rico for a wedding of two fantastic people I met in Spain.  Lord knows I couldn't pass up the opportunity so I'll be there a week.

That aside, there are a few things in a bigger picture but that picture is a bit fuzzy now and shan't be discussed yet. Hopefully I'll find something adequately inspiring to write you about tomorrow.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Lessons learned in and from Indonesia

The only time I don't mind being noticed, aka stared at, is when I'm whizzing by on an ojek. I have to consciously fight the urge to stick my arms out as we hit a traffic free stretch.

Good quality rain gear is worth is weight, but so is a mentality that it doesn't matter if you get wet. Sandals are the smarter shoe in the rain and people seem to getting wetter in direct proportion to how hard they are trying to stay dry.

I instinctively assume rain, foggy mornings and gray days will be cold.

Ojeks are still the best way to get around this city. Traffic flows like water, trying to stay in perpetual motion.  I'm still surprised there aren't more accidents than there are here.

Street animals will always break my heart and puppies always make me smile.

I hate zoos.  They depress me and make me feel helpless. 

Badly translated signs are still funny, even after being abroad for four years. Things like semen elephant fiber make me giggle.

No matter how many times I've heard it, when a student offers "cock" as an animal, or asks for a "rubber" and means eraser, I have to stifle a chuckle.

Upon entering my apartment, cicaks (little wall lizards) and cockroaches scurry in the same way and I jump, startled in the same way.

I really like bats.  I have become a big fan of anything that eats mosquitoes or other things that bite me, but I really think bats are cool especially at dusk, swooping out of the trees.

The more languages I learn the worse my typing gets.

People wearing uniforms may look official or proper but for the most part they hold no real power.

A tree branch is not a good warning marker for a pothole or broken down vehicle. Just like honking is not a good way to make something happen in traffic.

Sometime foreign words, or phonetically spelled words, are easy to understand but it still takes practice.  Is crem took me a bit to figure out.  Now I can easily tell what mekanik, otomotif, bisnis and sekolha teknik are.

Buses deserve names, of course.  Like "publik figur" the "love you full" and "itu dia?" - that guy?

I miss the seasons and the points of change between them.  I miss boots and scarves, sweatshirts and socks.

Just because a city is near the sea doesn't mean the beach is worth a damn.  I chose Pluit when I first moved here to work for EF because it was the closest to the coastline.  What a mistake!  It is foul-smelling and toxic.  You couldn't pay me enough to go in the water there.

Koreans are strange. Indonesians are strange. I am strange.  We are just all strange in our own weird way. . . . And some more than others.

I don't ever want to go to Korea. North OR South.

The more I travel, the more racist I get.  I know the reasons for the stereotypes and the presuppositions. I make them too, but I know why. 

I have a temperament better suited for Europe than Asia. I also didn't realize how much I liked things in Madrid.  It was far from perfect and there are lots of opportunities/advantages in Asia that don't exist in Spain but I'll happily go back there and not here, to live that is.

I can be more patient than I knew. An hour on a stopped bus? Two hours to go five miles? Twenty five minutes in a grocery check out line with two people ahead of me?  No sweat.

There is no limit to the number of people you fall in love with in your life.  I've met some amazing people here, first and foremost my girlfriends.  There have been a few men that have come and gone but the heart and mind have a limitless capacity.  I love them now and will take them with me when I go.

Sunday, December 04, 2011



verb (used with object)
1. to drain of strength or energy, wear out, or fatigue greatly, as a person: I have exhausted myself working.
2. to use up or consume completely; expend the whole of: He exhausted a fortune in stock-market speculation.
3. to draw out all that is essential in (a subject, topic, etc.); treat or study thoroughly.
4. to empty by drawing out the contents: to exhaust a tank of fuel oil.
5. to create a vacuum in.
Origin: 1515-25; 1895-1900 for def 11; Latin exhaustus emptied out, drained out, past participle of exhaurire.
Synonyms: 1. tire, enervate, prostrate, debilitate.

I think numbers one through four all apply to me today. I am so tired I can barely think straight.  Its my own doing and I wouldn't undo it for anything.
I went away to Bali for the weekend with two friends.  Nora who was my visitor from the States last week, and Donna, another American slogging away here in the Big Durian. We rushed through Friday evening traffic and hopped on a plane over to the Isle of Other.  As social coordinator, I'd made reservations and we went straight to the hotel to change clothes and drop our bags.

We headed out in search of dinner at midnight.  Nora disappeared into the dark to find a friend.  Donna and I had a fantastic time people watching.  Bali felt younger than when I was there a couple weeks ago.  There were lots of Australian schoolies (high schoolers and families there on winter vacation) and at 29 I felt old. We had quite a laugh drinking 1/2 liter beverages from plastic ducks while commenting on everyone who went by from the gorgeous to the bloodied to the tragic.

Saturday Nora was still MIA so Donna and I lounged by the pool trying to recover our strength. Eventually we made our way to Mojo's Flying Burrito.  It was a recommendation from another friend in Jakarta and it was stellar.  He didn't inflate the truth.  Mission burritos, nachos, tacos.  Mexican food like I've never found in Asia. A meandering pace through Jalan Legian as we picked up gelato and headed for a nap.  I had all intention of napping until I struck up conversation with a couple Australian guys.  Brandt is a teacher and away the conversation went.  His brother Malcolm and old friend Rod made us a quartet. Six hours later we were still sat at the pool tell stories and drinking beer.  Rod had gone, Donna and Nora joined. The ambient was cool and relaxed, the beers icy cold, the conversation stimulating.  It was a night that lasted into the morning.  

Sunday proved tougher still to wake up.  Donna, thankfully, banged on my door and we shuffled off to the beach.  She's ridiculously pale so we couldn't stay long but any beach is better than no beach. We packed up and checked out leaving our bags for later.  Mojo's was a lunch repeat and again, did not disappoint.  Donna went for a shop and I headed back to the pool. That evening I picked up a few bits and pieces at the shops near the hotel, we grabbed a bite where I had the best caipiroska of my life, and hailed a cab to the airport.  

It was a big full busy weekend but things had mostly gone swimmingly. Nora left us Saturday night and stayed with a friend before heading to the airport.  I don't envy her the long flight.  I'll have my own soon.  Sunday night Donna and I went to the airport with and hour and a half to our 22:15 flight.  On check in we were told the flight was an hour delayed.  By the time we got off the ground it was almost three hours delayed.  That meant instead of getting to my house about midnight I arrived home at 2:30.  The 6 am alarm was especially painful.

After five classes, more rigamarole with my teaching "partner" and lots of marking, I'm beat.  Toast. Dead where I sit.  I am. . . beyond exhausted. Though on the back of a weekend in Bali, I wouldn't have it any other way.