Once upon a time, a beautiful girl named Dayang Sumbi lived in the ancient and mystical lands of West Java. As she grew, many noblemen and princes fell in love with her, but she spurned their advances…
What happens when incestuous Indonesian gods don’t get their way? They throw tantrums and create volcanoes, obviously.
In addition to so many other opportunities, I’ve had so many chances to travel this year: I went on a spontaneous solo trip to Buffalo, New York, in January, and that was only the beginning of my adventures.
This morning, Josh and I woke up, finished straightening our room, and decided what else we should buy from the store. A few hours later, we were on our way to the store, only to arrive and see that the entire shopping complex building didn’t open until 9:30am. We walked around until then and finally were able to enter the building, but had to wait about twenty more minutes until Carrefour opened—it was supposed to open at 9:30 as well, but things aren’t run on as strict of a schedule over here.
We got everything we needed, including a few new dishes and some lunch foods, and managed to make it through the checkout, though we still haven’t learned any more helpful Indonesian phrases. By the time we got home, it was about time to go to school, so we tossed our grocery bags on the bed and left.
One of the other teachers walked us to the school and pointed out an Indonesian place where the teachers normally go for lunch. After having a look around the school, we had plenty of time to kill before our induction meeting, so Josh and I headed to the recommended restaurant.
We hadn’t brought much money but figured we could find a cheap thing on the menu to share between us. As luck would have it, this restaurant didn’t have a menu. Instead, they immediately brought us each a plate of rice and about 8 different plates of meats, fish, and veggies. We realized at this point what kind of a restaurant it was—you take whatever you want from the dishes and they only charge you for what you’ve taken. We didn’t have a way to ask what the price for each dish was, however, so we settled on just eating the rice, since we knew we had enough money for that. It didn’t end up being an issue, and now we know what to do in the future.
Josh and I each observed three different classes, and we absolutely loved it. The students are really intelligent and for the most part seem really enthusiastic about learning. In each of the classes I observed, the students spent several minutes asking me questions, and as I walked through the halls between classes, some other students noticed that I must be a new teacher so they came up to talk to me.
We left school at about 7:30 and came home to our sparkling clean apartment—the maid had taken our dirty laundry pile and had also put away those groceries that we had left sitting on the bed. She even washed and put away all of the new dishes that we had bought!
Already amazed, we went to the common room, where the maid was waiting at the table, ready to serve us the heaping piles of food that she had made for our dinner. Though she knows a little English, she mostly refuses to speak it, so much of our conversations were short snippets of English and Bahasa mixed in with exaggerated hand gestures and a lot of smiles.
A few of the other teachers showed up soon and joined us for dinner, and though they know a little more Bahasa, there were still some language barriers, which we all laughed about. We mimed out some things to ask the maid, and she mimed the answers right back with some questions of her own. Finally she could tell that Josh and I were pretty tired, so she pointed to us and indicated that we should shower and go to bed. We took that as our cue to leave, and are now just trying to stay awake a little longer so that we can actually sleep in later than 5:30 tomorrow morning—jet lag is kicking our butts right now. The rest of the week will be more classroom observations and co-teaching, but I’ll write if anything else interesting happens!
Arrived safely in Indonesia, and here are some disorganized initial thoughts so far.
We arrived in Jakarta on time last night, got our visas at the border desk, and picked up all of our bags. The school director and his driver were waiting for us as we entered the arrivals area, and they drove us home in the school’s hot pink van. The drive was just under an hour, with horrifying traffic. Take NYC traffic in rush hour, add 6 motorcycles for every car, and take away all lines on the road—that’s what traffic in Jakarta is like. Some of the scooters even had up to four people on them. There were so many times I thought I was about to witness a wreck. Needless to say, I don’t ever intend to drive in this city.
Our flat is really nice. We have a big, high-ceilinged room with two large wardrobes, a queen bed, mini-fridge, a large desk/workspace area with a chair for each of us, two big bedside tables, and a sink and kitchen cupboards. There’s also a very effective air conditioner, which we still can’t figure out how to turn off.
We were surprised by the bathroom, which actually has a sit-down toilet like the ones we’re used to (the airport gave us a taste of the hole-in-the-floor squat toilets). The shower area is open, so it’s basically like the entire bathroom is a shower room that happens to have a toilet and sink in it. We’re still trying to figure out how to gracefully use the bathroom, since there is a water hose (aka “bum gun”) instead of toilet paper.
The room was pretty sparse other than the furniture, aside from some insect repellent, two hand towels, and a few goodies in the fridge—cashew chocolate bars, apples and oranges, water bottles, orange juice, and chocolate-filled bread.
We can’t drink the water in this country, but it is a little safer in this area, so we’ll be okay to brush our teeth and wash our dishes in it. The common room upstairs (which is where I’m writing this from since there’s internet up here) has giant water bottles that we can use to refill our reusable water bottles, so finding clean water doesn’t seem like it’ll be a problem.
The neighborhood is really nice and most of the houses are pretty upscale. I thought it was a really cute touch that banners of the Indonesian flag are draped across some of the streets. We have to go through a walkway to get to the door of our room—on one side of the walkway is the building and the other side has creeping vines and jungle-like plants with huge leaves. This morning, we walked just across the street and saw the two beautiful pools and the gym that we have access to.
We were both really tired last night, so we showered, met two of the girls from upstairs, and were asleep by ten (our time). This morning, we were both awake by six and immediately got to work unpacking. A few hours later, we went to the director’s flat—right next door—and he fed us breakfast and gave us pointers.
Then we came upstairs, where three of the teachers live, and they took us out to go shopping. The walk was about 5 minutes away, since the girls took us along the sewer, which was the shortcut. We had to cross a big street to get to the shopping complex, which basically involved holding our hand out to the oncoming traffic to stop the cars and scooters from hitting us.
We first exchanged our cash, which should be plenty to get us through our first month until we get our first paycheck. Then we got Josh’s iphone set up, so he is able to text and use the internet on it now. I probably won’t bother with a phone, since my ipod basically works as one whenever I have wifi.
Next we went to Carrefour, which is a big French chain. But it was bigger than any shop I’ve ever seen, maybe as big as about 4 Walmarts put together, and it was inside a mall that was absolutely full of stalls and vendors and toddlers riding around in little motorized cars—a baby that looked like he wasn’t even old enough to walk drove what looked like a mini Barbie jeep right into me. There are also plenty of stalls that sell durian fruit, which is one of the smelliest things I’ve ever smelled—I felt like I was going to be sick from the smell, and I’m not the only person who feels that way since the fruit is banned from a lot of public places.
We were overwhelmed by how big the place was and hadn’t thought much about what we needed to buy (I had thought we could just wander around and pick out what looked good, but that would take hours since the store was so huge), so we got a kettle and teabags, some mugs, juice and a few snack foods, shampoo and soap, and some tissues. It wasn’t much, but now that we have a way to make tea, our flat feels more like home.
So far, I love everything (except the traffic and stinky durian). All of the people we’ve met are great, our flat is wonderful, the shop is close and has everything we could possibly need, and the weather is so wonderfully warm.
We haven’t yet experienced any culture shock. The bum-gun situation is a little different, but we’ll get used to it. The only thing that’s been a little jarring for me is how big the mall is and how crazy the traffic is. Josh, on the other hand, hasn’t been fazed by anything except for the walk along the sewer, where the “walkway” of crumbling cement is only about a foot wide, and one wrong step could send you plummeting into the stinky stream of raw sewage below: He held on closely to the fence as we walked along. I’m sure there are plenty of things that’ll take some getting used to, but so far, nothing like that has happened.
We’re going shopping for some clothes (I need shoes and we both need some nice work shirts) in a little bit with the girls upstairs, so I’ll wrap this up. Hopefully I’ll have plenty more to write about soon, and we’ll definitely start taking a lot of photos.
So. I’m moving to Indonesia today with my forever-buddy, Josh. We are planning on having a billion adventures, and I’ll probably start to post more things on here. Stay tuned, beautiful people, if you want to hear all about life as a teacher in Asia.