28 November 2012

Thankful in Indonesia

Last Thursday and Friday, my co-teacher and I taught a lesson about Thanksgiving. I used material from my colleagues and the State Department to teach my students about the holiday. The lesson was straight forward: I went through a Power Point Presentation about the history of the holiday, I had the students do a small activity about what they were thankful for, and we sang Over the River and Through the Woods

Here is a short list of what some of my students are thankful for: 
1. God
2. Parents who care for them and treat them well 
3. Their friends 
4. Me, for coming to Indonesia to help teach them English (I thought I might cry after hearing this one.)
5. Their friends, and 
6. God 

For the activity, I had my students trace their hands 
and write what they were thankful for in each finger. 

After reading a passage about Thanksgiving, I asked the students if they had any questions for me about the holiday. Let me tell you, younger people ask the most interesting questions. One student wanted to know what I did on Thanksgiving day. So, I told her what I did from getting up to eating dinner. Another student wanted to know why pumpkins were also considered a symbol of Thanksgiving because he thought they were only a symbol for and used during Halloween. I explained that pumpkins are harvested during both months and that is why they are used and consumed. Another student wanted to know why turkeys were a symbol of Thanksgiving. So, I walked her through a part of the passage which stated that the Native Americans brought turkey to the first dinner and that it has been a part of tradition ever since. The last question turned into a geography lesson. One student wanted to know if I went home for the holiday. I couldn't help it and let out a laugh. I told her that my home was too far away for me to go and return overnight. To make sure they understood this, I drew Indonesia and the United States on the board separated by the Pacific Ocean, and told them that I was around 10,000 miles away from home (35 hours by plane). Then, I heard a few ooo's and ahh's, as well as some laughter. I think they got the point.

We ended the lesson with the song. First, I let them listen to the song on Youtube. Next, I sang it. Then, I let them practice alone. I recorded the best version from my most enthusiastic and well-behaved class. I hope you enjoy it! This was, by far, my favorite lesson to teach. 

This is Kelas XB. Overall, they are very engaged and many 
of the students participate willingly. I call them my "Angel" class. 

20 November 2012

Surabaya, Jawa Timur

[Muharram started a couple of days ago on 15 November. Muharram is the first month of the Islamic calendar in which fighting is prohibited. So, happy new year to any one who is a Muslim!]

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Surabaya in Jawa Timur (East Java) for the Fulbright mid-year conference. The halfway point of the grant is January, technically. However, the conference was held earlier so that the ETAs could collaborate with the ELFs. Surabaya is the second largest city in Indonesia, and I was excited to tour some parts of the city. But we were only there for three days, so I made the most of the short stay. According to Lonely Planet, locals refer to Surabaya as Kota Pahlawan (City of Heroes) because that is where the battle for Indonesia's independence began.

My first stop was the historic Majapahit Hotel (Majapahit was a kingdom in ancient Indonesia). One of the hotel staff members gave me a tour. The hotel's construction began in 1910 and was completed in 1911 as the Oranje Hotel under Lucas Martin Sarkies, an Iranian-born Dutch man. When the Japanese occupied Indonesia during WWII, the hotel's name was changed to Hotel Yamato and became a temporary camp for Dutch women and children. In 1945, Dutch occupation resumed. The tour led me to Room 033 where the Indonesian flag was born. Room 033 used to be a temporary headquarter for the Dutch. At some point during their stay, they raised the Dutch flag on the room's tower. This act upset the youth of Surabaya and someone climbed the flag pole on the tower and ripped  the blue strip off the Dutch flag, transforming it into the Indonesian flag. It felt surreal being in the room as I tried to imagine all of the history that took place there. Room 033 is now a high-end room with most of the furniture from its opening days. After that event, the hotel became known as Hotel Merdeka  (merdeka means freedom in Indonesian) or The Liberty Hotel. Once we left the room, we walked through the halls and checked out the hotel's gardens, ballroom, and cafe, Cafe 1910. After 1945, the hotel went through one more name change to become the Lucas Martin Sarkies Hotel, before it was named the Majapahit Hotel.
I rode in a becak (pedicab) for the first time. 
This is a picture of my driver. 

A view of the street from the becak.

Painting commemorating the tower event of November 1945.

Charlie Chaplin, the famous silent actor, Crown Prince Leopold III
from Belgium, and Princess Astrid from Sweden once graced these halls.

The front of the Executive Suite.

The entrance to Cafe 1910.

Resting outside of Cafe 1910. 

The next day, I went to the House of Sampoerna (sampoerna means perfect in Indonesian), another historical site. It was founded in 1932 by Liem Seeng Tee, a Chinese Indonesian, and was later used as an orphanage managed by the Dutch. Today, the House of Sampoerna is a museum as well as a cigarette factory. I walked around the museum on the ground floor before going upstairs to observe the cigarette production. It was an unbelievable sight. First, I watched about 10 women package cigarette boxes. They looked like robots as they packaged the cigarettes at an incredibly fast pace. The only parts of their bodies that you can see moving are their arms. You are reminded that they are humans when they pause briefly to wipe the sweat off their brows or to drink some water. As I continued walking on the second floor, I received a fishbowl view of the cigarette production process. A staff member told me that there are about 400 workers in one room (there are eight rooms in total) rolling cigarettes with traditional equipment. One person does the rolling while another person, standing close by, trims the ends of the cigarette. [She also reminded me that the first owner was Indonesian, then said that now he is American: tobacco giant, Philip Morris.] As I stood marveling at the scene below me, one of the workers looked up and noticed me. She waved at me and some of her coworkers noticed her waving and then me. Soon, half of the room was waving at me. I laughed and waved back at them. I also remember one woman started rubbing her head, then pointing to me, and then went back to rubbing her head. I guess she was really digging my afro. After Morgan joined me, I left the window. I had to let the women get back to work. [Visitors are not allowed to take pictures of the cigarette production and packaging. So, unfortunately, I don't have any photos. I hope that my words give you a good picture of what I saw. :~)]

Liem Seeng Tee's bicycles. 

Mr. Tee's first stand. 

In front of the House of Sampoerna with Marilyn and Charlie. 

Before grabbing lunch at a warung, we went to some more sights: Jembatan Merah (Indonesian for red bridge), a site where a lot of fighting occurred between the Dutch and Indonesians, and the Heroes Monument and Museum.

Jembatan Merah.

Street art.

An old building in the middle of town.

Surabaya means "shark crocodile." Sura for shark and 
baya for crocodile. The city's seal (in the center of this sewer cover) is a 
picture of a shark and crocodile facing each other in the shape of an "s." 
According to a local myth, the two creatures fought each other to determine 
which of the two was the strongest and most powerful.   

A rally in front of the Governor's Office.

The Heroes Monument. 

Workers started setting up decorations at the monument 
to prepare for the president's visit on 10 Nov (Heroes Day). 

Statute in front of the entrance to the Heroes Museum. 

Morgan and I dined on some mie goreng pakai ayam 
(fried noodles with chicken) at a warung.

These cute school girls from Madura came up to our table
to say hello and work on their English. 

Walking around Surabaya as we made our 
way back to our hotel. 

The first day of the conference was dedicated to discussing successes and challenges in our communities and at our schools, prompt ideas for WORDS (the National Creative Writing English Competition held in March), and safety issues. The second, and last day, was devoted to learning how to work with basic, intermediate, or advance level students, creating activities for them, and learning how to be better assistant-teachers. A lot was packed into two days, but I left the conference feeling much better about how to work with my co-teacher and be a better resource for my students.

I was very grateful for my lovely stay at the Marriott Hotel. 

Inside our mid-year conference: here we discussed activities 
for basic-level students in our classes and English clubs. 

A trip to the Arab Quarter as we search for dinner.

A man behind his date stand. 

Spongebob, one of our options for dinner...

A piece of Chinatown. 

Seafood dinner at Sari Laut Kapasan warung. 

I'm back in Pontianak, and back to the equatorial heat! Until next time :~). 

06 November 2012

A Date With The Big Durian - Jakarta

[Happy November! I cast my vote via absentee ballot a month ago and am excited to see how the election plays out back home. The rest of the world is watching. So, cheers to a smooth election!]

Last weekend, Amanda (another Fulbrighter) and I decided to go to Jakarta for the Eid al-Adha holiday weekend. We were looking to get some rest, relax, tour the city, and have some fun. We got all of that and more, and we were incredibly exhausted when it was time to return to our sites in Borneo (she lives in Tarakan, East Borneo). 

Friday, 26 October, was a jam packed day. As soon as we landed in Jakarta, we dropped off our belongings at Michael's (an ELF working in Jakarta and our awesome host for the weekend) house in Rawamangun, east Jakarta. We hopped into a banjai (a type of taxi) and ventured into the town. Our first stop was the Monumen Nasional (National Monument) also known as Monas, at Merdeka Square in central Jakarta. The white-washed structure towers over Merdeka Square and has a golden tip. The first president of Indonesia started its construction in 1961, but it was not finished until 1975 under Indonesia's second president, Suharto. People stood in long lines at the base to get a view of the city at the top, and unfortunately, Amanda and I did not get to climb the tower. Instead, we walked around the square which is laced with tall palm trees and enjoyed the peaceful scene of people walking and playing all across the square. If you plan to walk anywhere in Jakarta, bring a cap, a parasol, and some sunscreen; the heat is intense. Amanda and I did not have any of those and we were soaked with sweat.

Photo op in a banjai! 

Monumen Nasional (Monas).

Merdeka Square.

Statue at the southern entrance to Monas.

After Monas, we took another banjai to Cikini, in southeast Jakarta, for lunch. Amanda dined on sushi and noodles, and I had rice with curry chicken at Kikugawa, a Japanese restaurant. We wanted to get some shopping done while we were there so we went to FX Mall in the Senayan district. I purchased a pair of badly needed flip flops since I could not find my size in Pontianak (the largest size is around an 8 for women). The mall has a 72m transparent cylindrical slide that shoots a person down six stories in about 12 seconds. So, of course, we tried it. I will be honest, I was actually scared to go on it. I only went because they offered Amanda two more chances to ride it, and I thought I should be adventurous and decided to go for it. It was quite the adrenaline rush. Everyone could hear me screaming as I slid down the slide, and Amanda would not stop imitating my screams and laughing at me. It was definitely worth the ride, though.

Amanda, after being shot down the slide. 

In an effort to take full advantage of the remaining sunlight, we took a taxi to Ancol Marina in Ancol, north Jakarta. Our main plan was to swim with some dolphins, but we missed the showtimes. We decided to go on a cable car ride above the entire park instead. That was my first time in a suspended cable car. We had a great view of the sun setting over the city and people playing and swimming at the hotel pool or on the artificial beaches below. Soon after sunset, we ended our day with dinner at a mall with Mike, his wife, and a few other ELF's.

View from the cable car at Ancol Marina.

The sun setting over Ancol. 

The next day, we woke up early and went to Museum Nasional. We saw beautiful jewelry, traditional clothing, and sculptures from the ancient kingdoms of the main islands of Indonesia. The history of the country was overwhelming; there is simply so much to learn.

We were not able to see both buildings in their entirety because we had a lunch date at noon.

The entrance to Museum Nasional.

Outside display on the ground level.

A sculpture from Bali.

Jewelry from my island, Kalimantan (Borneo).

We went to Kemang, in south Jakarta, to meet with Mia, a Fulbrighter from a couple of years ago, who works at a school in Jakarta. Kemang has a cool and hip vibe. Amanda and I got to know Mia better over pizza and pasta at Pasta Basta. The pizza, which was the closest thing to NYC pizza I have had since I arrived here, was delicious. Then, we went to Amigos, a Mexican restaurant, for dessert. We connected more over ice cream and went grocery shopping at a market across the parking lot. Amanda and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting and getting to know Mia. Darkness started to set in and after hanging out at her apartment, we headed back to the busway into Rawamangun. We needed to get ready for Saturday night's festivities.

Dessert at Amigos.

As Mia, Amanda, and I walked around Kemang, we
saw this man with some slaughtered cattle to celebrate
the Eid al-Adha holiday. The Muslim holiday celebrates
Abraham's (the prophet) willingness to sacrifice his child
to God and signifies the end of the annual hajji to Mecca.

I had been itching to dance some salsa here and found out about salsa dancing at the Ritz-Carlton Jakarta. Yes, there is salsa in Indonesia! It was a memorable experience; the dancers were very talented and I even got to dance bachata and the cha cha cha. After salsa, Amanda and I met up with some other friends at Domain, a club at Senayan City Mall, for a birthday celebration. We danced into the early morning. On our way home, the craziest thing happened - our taxi was mobbed by waria (ladyboys). One walked right in front of the taxi and while all eyes were on him, another came to my side of the car and tried to open the door. A friend who has lived in Indonesia for a long time told me that the waria are very aggressive at trying to get clients. Amanda and I had seen one waria earlier that night and we had to do a double take because we had never seen one before. He was beautiful. It was kind of like seeing a mythical creature. You know, like a unicorn. However, at that moment, the yellow street lights casted on their faces, their heavy make-up, and their oversized breasts and behinds made them look scary. The driver honked and they moved out of the way.

Ready for a night of salsa at the Ritz-Carlton Jakarta. 

On our last full day in Jakarta, after getting some necessary rest, we went to the old city of Kota, in north Jakarta. In Kota, one can see the influence of the Dutch in the city's architecture. We saw a handful of beautiful white buildings as we wandered onto Taman Fatahillah Square. It is surrounded by colonial buildings, and vendors and people covered the cobblestone streets. Some vendors played dangdut (hip Indonesian music with an attractive and mesmerizing beat), others sold coconuts, mangoes, cake, and other tasty foods. We snacked on mangoes and kue kamir (a slightly sweet and doughy cake) as we absorbed the sights and sounds of the lively square. We had dinner at the seemingly high-end Cafe Batavia (Jakarta was named Batavia during Dutch occupation). Pictures cover all of the walls, even the ones in the bathroom stalls, and the place makes you feel like you are dining on the Titanic. I had marinara pasta with squid and shrimp, while Amanda had a fresh Greek salad (something she had been craving for a while). We followed our meals with a cold tall glass of iced tea. Before heading home, we made a quick stop in the heavily Chinese-populated town of Glodok. There was not much to see because it was getting late and many shops were closing. We did get to see some vendors selling fruits and vegetables on narrow streets decorated with round red lanterns that grace Chinese communities primarily during the new year celebration.

Walking along the street after exiting the bus station in Kota.

Taman Fatahillah Square.

The old town hall building.

Inside Cafe Batavia.

Monday was our travel day. We had a mouth-watering breakfast at a nearby warung before Amanda flew out. I squeezed in an afternoon nap before my evening departure.

Waiting for breakfast at a warung.

Jakarta, also known as the Big Durian, is a force to be reckoned with. The traffic jams I had always heard about are no joke. I learned the Indonesian word for traffic jam while I was there. It is macet. By the second day, we were riding the busway to save money (the taxi rides were adding up!) and beat the traffic. The busway has its own lane and, for the most part, other motorists obey the lane rules even when they get tuck in gridlock. Amanda and I enjoyed figuring out the city's transportation system and using our improved Indonesian to make our way all over the capital. I left with a better understanding of why some people might not like living there. It is tiring for sure. But the Big Durian is definitely worth another trip.

A gorgeous sculpture near Merdeka Square.

Fountain Roundabout near Merdeka Square.

The president's office. We actually saw his motorcade
(several tanks and police cars) as we walked around the city. 

A picture of my favorite roundabout, the 
Welcome Roundabout in south Jakarta.

The view from an overpass as we transfer buses.

A view of the serious macet as Amanda and I wait
for the bus on the TransJakarta busway. You can see
one motorist breaking the lane rules to bypass the traffic jam.