Captain Jack

Someone recently moved into my apartment with me. His name is Captain Jack Sparrow.

Captain Jack Sparrow

Captain Jack Sparrow smiling for the camera

Now as you may recall, I already had a roommate, Albus Dumbledore. Albus has never left the kitchen, which is nice because I don’t have a mosquito problem in the kitchen anymore.

Albus Dumbledore in the kitchen

However, the living room is a shelter for many transient mosquitos hunting for a meal (my blood). One of the reasons I am so excited about my new roommate, Captain Jack, is because  he is in my living room and will likely hunt for his meals (mosquitos) there.

You may have noticed that Captain Jack’s tail is missing. It will grow back. I’m assuming what happened is that one of Alfonso the-stay-at-pool-cat-dad’s kittens tried to catch Captain Jack, and in that terrifying moment Jack released his tail as a distraction and got away. Stupid cats.

Although I am happy about my new roommate, I am a little hesitant. I have no way of keeping these types of guests out, so I am getting a little nervous that more might show up. Another thing that makes me nervous is the possibility that Albus Dumbledore is actually a female and gave birth to Jack. If Albus had one baby, he (she) could definitely have more. And in the case of house-gecko-roommates, the more is not the merrier.

Here’s my view: two’s a company, three’s a crowd, four is just creepy, and five is an infestation.

In the perfect world, Albus would be a male and would adopt Jack, teaching him how to be an authentic, manly gecko. They would go on mosquito hunting trips and have a good, healthy relationship. Both of them would patrol my apartment, and most importantly, they would not startle me with their lightning fast scurrying every time I walk into the room.

So as you can tell, my brain is fried from this week of teaching and I can no longer perform higher-level thinking. There is good news, though! We have a holiday on Monday so there is a three day weekend. Who would have ever guessed teachers appreciated days off, too?

Plumeria flower

We sang this song at church yesterday, and it really resonated with me. This morning, God used it to teach me something. So, if you are able to, take a minute to listen to the song while reading this.

I woke up this morning stressed and anxious for classes, because today I started to teach a Year 10 class on top of my 2 Year 9 classes. I was dreading this because I am still trying to figure out my other classes.

By coincidence (yeah right), I happened to read the perfect verse while eating my oatmeal:

Philippians 4:6-7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Ok, I think I can do that.

But God wasn’t done. He wanted me to know something else. The words to the song from church (which you may or may not be listening to currently), came into my head:

“I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind.”

God used these words to remind me how insignificant I actually am in this world.

Last week I picked up a plumeria flower from our school grounds and brought it to my office because I like how tropical they look and how good they smell.

Plumeria flower at my desk

I left it in my office overnight, and when I came back the next day it was wilted and unsightly–a stark contrast to what it looked like 24 hours earlier.

I realized that I am that plumeria flower, here today and gone tomorrow. My entire being is so insignificant that my anxieties and worries have next to no value, which is extremely freeing. If I slip up and think that I am bigger than I actually am, though, then my problems will also be bigger.

One of the most amazing parts is that even though my life is so minuscule compared to the history of this world, God knows me inside and out and loves me more than I can know.

That’s pretty cool to think about.

 

Life in Pictures

After 3 days of teaching, I think I aged 3 years. Right after I finished typing that sentence, I looked down at my arm and found a gray hair. I can’t stay up past 9:30pm, and I can’t sleep in past 7am. I am rapidly approaching old geezer status.

In my last post, I mentioned that my first day of teaching wasn’t the best. After 2 more days of teaching, I am feeling a lot better about it. Once I get to know my students better, and they get to know me as both a teacher and a person, I am confident that my classes are going to go a whole lot better. I am really excited for that point and hoping it comes soon.

It seems the only thing that keeps me clinging to my youth these days is time spent goofing off on the weekend with my fellow teachers and our friend Jason. Below I have attached some pictures from the past few days, a couple of which are from an adventure Jason led us on yesterday.

Sign in the stalls at the school.

This picture is in each stall at the school I work at. We were informed that when Western-style toilets began to appear in Jakarta, many people didn’t know how to use them. You see, the toilet most people were (and many still are) accustomed to using is commonly referred to as a “squat pot”, and consists of a bowl-type thing installed in floor. See picture below (this is actually the toilet in the vacant maid quarters inside my apartment).

A more traditional style Indonesian toilet ("squat pot")

As you can guess, people squat down while using this type of toilet. We were informed that many places with Western-style toilets have to put up signs instructing bathroom patrons how to use the toilets. This is because so many people would hop up onto the toilet seat and squat down, leaving dirty shoe prints all over the toilet seat. Picturing that happening still makes me laugh quietly to myself.

Lady in the revolving door at the mall.

Yesterday we went to a mall (actually we went to 4 malls), and in a small cubby thing in the revolving doorway was a lady facedown on a desk (as seen above). “Well that is slightly alarming”, I thought to myself as I stared at her going around and around and not moving. It turns out she was not real, just accurately stuffed clothes and a wig. There was a sign on one side of the door reading “Too scared to face the world?”, letting me know that revolving-door-lady was actually an effective marketing scheme. Good work unknown, too-scared-to-face-the-world company.

Roxy Cell Phone Mall

Jason speaks Indonesian, so he took me to the cell phone mall in order to get my iPhone unlocked so I can use it here. The place is insane. In the above picture, you can see store after store after store, all of which deal cell phones. That is how the entire mall is, 5 giant floors of cell phone stores. And people everywhere. Although an overwhelming and overstimulating trip, it was successful and I can now use my iPhone for local calls and texts.

Anika and Ruth taking pictures with locals.

After the malls, Jason took us to Ancol beach, which is right outside of the city. We were enjoying the scenery and fresh(er) air, when surprise, surprise, 2 ladies approached Anika and Ruth for a picture. There must have been some other Bule-watchers out that night, because after this picture was taken, us Bules were approached by 2 other groups wanting pictures. It is such a weird feeling getting your pictures taken with strangers…

Sunset at Ancol beach right outside of Jakarta.

After the picture charades, we set out to find McDonalds on the beach. Some of us have this thing where we really like to go to McDonalds in other countries, because each country varies in what they offer on the menu. This is the sixth country where I have been to a McDonalds, and there was absolutely something different here: fried chicken and rice. And it was good!

Back to the photo, on our way to McDonald’s, we got to watch the sunset, and it was very pretty. Look at the picture for proof.

And off we go

Today I became a teacher.

Now that I am home and have had a little time to process through what happened today, here is my experience in a nutshell: I did better than I thought I would, and my students were more… umm… rambunctious than I expected them to be.

For your information, the students at the school come from wealthy families, and we were told that most students have their own drivers and their families might have up to 5 maids. As most of us know, when children don’t have to work for much in their lives, they often become spoiled and struggle to have discipline. That is definitely true with my 9th grade students. Also FYI, the current 9th grade students have a reputation carried over from last year for being rude and extremely undisciplined in the classroom.

After today, I can see where that reputation comes from.

After Brady’s first class, he told me he had already picked out the troublemaker for that class. So when I started my first class (I had 2 separate classes today), I picked out my troublemaker within 5 minutes. However, over the course of the next 65 minutes, I picked out 4 more troublemakers. What happened to the good old days when there was only 1 troublemaker per class?

To be honest, I finished the day feeling a bit discouraged, mainly due to my inability to fully take control of each class. With that said, I do have quite a few resources (books and co-workers) that I will be consulting for strategies.

So, my overall feeling after day 1 of teaching is: a bit deflated, but determined.

By no means was it all bad, though. I do have several students in each class who are entertaining, enthusiastic, respectful, and driven. Because of these students, I feel encouraged. At least I have some people on my side 😉

One of the more entertaining parts of the day was reading each student’s answer to a biography sheet I handed out to them. I will share some of the answers to the last question on the sheet, along with some commentary from your’s truly:

Question: What do you want me to know about you that would help me teach you best?

“Well… I just want you to stay who you are. Don’t get carried easily by students. Cuz trust me, it’s going to be a long year for you.”

  •  My initial thought: “Thanks for your honesty? And thanks for the encouragement? And how old are you?”

“take it easy on me. I’m calm and doesn’t talk much. My English is awsome (kinda) because I used to have an Australian friend. And, I hate horror or scary things, gives me nightmares.”

  • My initial thought: “What did you think I was going to do? ‘Oh hey class, in order to improve our English, we are going to watch a movie. I’m thinking Children of the Corn!'”

“nothing, you’re great”

  • My initial thought: “Is it ethical for teachers to have class favorites? If so, is it too early to declare my class favorite on the first day?”

Early Mornings

Since we arrived in Jakarta, we have been waking up early. This is partly because of the early morning prayer call, and partly because our school shuttle picks us up at 6:15 am. It’s weird how normal this already feels.

A few days ago I didn’t get out of bed until 7:30 am, and I felt like a lazy slob.

This morning we met at 8 to head to the grocery store in order to find ingredients for pancakes for breakfast. We got most of the stuff at Ranch Market, which is a store with lots of imported products. Still needed a few things, though, we decided to go to Hypermart across the street. Hypermart is a fun name.

Hypermart doesn’t open until 9 am, so we had to wait for a few minutes outside. Allow me to paint the picture of the scene we walked into when the doors opened at 9:

Imagine walking into an old Walmart and there are 3 times more employees than would ever be needed, and about 30 of them are spread out in a line near the entrance as if expecting to assist a black Friday crowd. You and 4 other minorities walk through the gauntlet of workers, trying not to make eye contact with any of them because you don’t need any help (you just need a couple of ingredients), and would not know how to ask for help even if you needed it. You also dread going down most aisles, because there are so many workers spread out everywhere that someone is hovering behind you at all times, and the language barrier makes it awkward.

Reading that back to myself makes the experience sound really bad, but when you are with your friends it’s actually pretty amusing.

Ruth was in charge of making the pancakes, and they were delicious. I miss them. But now I am about to make dinner, which will consist of rice, steamed carrots, a banana, and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. That’s about all I know how to make so far with the ingredients over here.

Also I got 5 mosquito bites on my feet while writing this post. Don’t worry there’s no malaria in Jakarta.

Bule Day

(From Thursday, July 14)

According to those we have spoken with at the school, a foreigner, especially a white person, is referred to by locals as a bule (pronounced boo-lay). Being a white person, I wondered when I was going to hear someone call me that.

The wait is over.

It’s hard to put on paper (or screen) what happened today, but I will try my best. After the first Finishing Well session this morning, Brady and I were walking back to our hotel room. We were just about to cross the hotel’s large entrance driveway when we noticed a bunch of middle-aged women taking a group picture on the other side. Nothing out of the ordinary… until:

-Lady: “Bule! Bule!”  *jumps around waving at us

Slightly confused, we hesitated to try and figure out what was happening.

-Other ladies: “Bule!”  *all waving at us

By this point it was clear that they wanted us in their group photo, and the first screaming lady was now taking me by the arm over to the group. Brady and I were received by the women with screams of excitement. After the first photo was taken, I noticed another woman sprinting from about 50 yards away with her camera. She wanted a bule pic, too.

*******

A few hours later Brady and I decided to go swimming. Almost to the pool, we spotted a large group (15-20) of young women at the pool staring and smiling at us.

Here we go again.

With about 36 eyes following us, we went to the poolside and cowered down by the water slides trying to figure out what to do.

-“Get in!” they called.

-“Need some help?!” they asked.

I had not felt so hilariously uncomfortable since… 3 hours earlier.

After a brief situation analysis, we decided to retreat, letting the young women (who we later found out are our new coworkers) know that the water was just too cold.

********

At dinner, us Americans were eating together when I noticed the first group of middle-aged women gathering for another picture nearby.

-Same first screaming lady: “Bule!”  *waves

-Tyler: “Brady there they are! Look away!”

-Lady: “Bule! Bule!”  *waves and begins walking over to us

Just when we started feeling safe again…

Ruth and Anika also got dragged in, which made me feel better (safety in numbers) and probably made the Indonesian women feel like they had hit the jackpot this time.

Right now I’m sitting next to Brady in the last session of the day. So far I’ve spotted 4 different people taking pictures of us.

Side note: whenever I hear the word “bule”, it makes me think of the song “wooly bully”. Enjoy:

Finishing Well

(From Wednesday, July 13)

Today all of the schools converged on the city of Puncak, where we are attending a 3 day “retreat”. Some of the other expat teachers at my school told us a little bit about this retreat, and from their descriptions, they would rather watch paint dry than attend the retreat.

The retreat is up in the mountains, so it is much cooler and comfortable here, and we can actually see the blue sky and sun, unlike in the hazy, smoggy city of Jakarta. There is also a ton of people here. The combined number of staff and teachers from all the schools is over 800, which completely caught me by surprise. FYI, there are 11 schools (all of which are Christian), with my school, the International Christian School, being the largest and only English-curriculum school.

During the first session today, I was struggling to stay awake while the speaker explained the “Finishing Well” theme of the retreat. I am not a fan of the theme, because at this point I am freaking out about not knowing how to start well in the classroom, so you can bet I am not concentrating on how I am going to finish.

Each of us was provided a lovely notebook to take notes in, so I have included some pictures of my notes. This kept me both awake and sane during the 2 hour session.