Here We Go Again
After a lovely trip home, I’m back in Indonesia. It was great to be home, although honestly the trip flew by unbelievably quickly. I was lucky enough to get to to take trips to Mexico and Washington DC, so I’ll post some pics soon.
Right now, I’m just trying to get back into the swing of things. Unsurprisingly, after a 6 week absence, my bike won’t start, my shower isn’t working, my kitchen is leaking, and my yard is wildly overgrown. WILDLY. No joke, I found a living crab in it today. A crab. Hiding under a bougainvillea plant.
It’s nice to be back in my house and in my neighborhood, and I’m looking forward to going back to work today, but at the same time, it’s all a little overwhelming. I feel good about my decision and I think it was the right choice for me, but there’s still a feeling of holy crap, I can’t believe I’m doing this again. This is going to be my third year teaching abroad, and I think this feeling’s kind of inevitable; it’s a big commitment.
So that’s where I am: excited, scared, and slightly concerned about the presence of a sea creature 4 hours away from the ocean. Overall, I’m optimistic. I think it’s going to be a good year.
The Bahasa Bee
This weekend I participated in a Bahasa Indonesian spelling bee and it was ridiculous. We had a English spelling bee for the students, and then during a break between rounds, five of newer teachers got on stage in front of a couple hundred people to spell Indonesian words using the Indonesian alphabet. We were not good.
Before the spelling bee. I look a bit nervous:
Please note the hideous t-shirt and bee antennas. Yep.
It was surprisingly really, really fun. The teachers were all good sports, and the crowd got REALLY into it, especially the kids. The would scream when we spelled words correctly, and they would let you know IMMEDIATELY if you said something wrong.
Here’s me getting a word right I think. I look insane:
I ended up spelling five words correctly and two words incorrectly, which earned me second place, which I’m oddly proud of.
The contestants and their prizes:
My ballot arrived! I am shocked. I’m sure Indonesia has some sort of mail delivery system, but I have seen literally no evidence of it. No mailboxes, no post offices, no mail deliverers and when I asked the front desk at my school for our mailing address, they were not entirely confident in their answer. I am pleased. Well done, State of Oregon/Indonesia.
I had three major motorbike accomplishments this week:
I drove my mother on the back of my bike. And we survived! It wasn’t very far, but still. My mother!
I taught someone to ride a bike, which is absurd, and something that I am absolutely not qualified for. The lesson included one (minor) crash, a brief foray into someone’s garden, and one stressful moment when my student was standing next to the bike, pushed the gas, and then had to run alongside the bike for 20 feet while I chased her and yelled, “let go of the gas!” So we will call that lesson moderately successful.
I also test drove a bike for a friend who’s buying a bike and doesn’t know how to drive one yet. It was fun, because I remember when I bought my bike, I had no idea what I was doing, so my friend Tamsyn test drove it for me. I remember being so impressed with her, that she could just hop on this random bike and drive it around and it wasn’t any big deal. And six months later, here I am test driving a bike for someone else. It was a cool, full circle moment.
I just registered to have my ballot sent to Indonesia. I wonder what the chances are that this will work? Probably slim.
Kallyn’s Indonesia Motorbike Tips
My sister recently got her US motorcycle license, so when she came to visit, we talked a lot about riding a bike in the states and how it’s different. Our conclusion was that if I try to ride a bike at home, I will be arrested for reckless driving within minutes. Things are different here. Four months into riding a motorbike in Indonesia, here are my tips:
Don’t be limited by lanes and so-called “one way streets.”
Drive wherever seems convenient. Don’t worry about staying in a lane or on your side of the road. In fact, if you drive in a lane during a time with a lot of traffic, you’ll make everyone mad. The lanes are for cars; go down the center line or get on the shoulder where you belong.
Don’t worry, you’ll fit.
There is no space too small for you and your bike, just go for it. Once, when I was stopped a light, I decided to just wait instead of trying to squeeze through a twelve inch space between two cars. Someone came over to make sure I was ok because my behavior was so odd.
If you’re not fearless, you will never make a right turn (Indonesians drive on the left side). Be bold.
Fifty percent of riding a bike in Indonesia is walking. There’s so much traffic that you often just have to sit on your bike with your feet on the road and slowly walk your way around the cars. My current favorite technique is to have my right foot on the brake and my left foot on the curb. This enables me to squeeze down a small opening on the shoulder. In this manner, I crab walk through traffic and to work.
Don’t forget the sidewalk.
Sidewalks are a viable option for avoiding traffic jams, and for the most part, they are up for grabs. Don’t worry about hitting someone. You’re much more likely to bump into a fried rice stand or a giant hole than an actual pedestrian.
Get an International License.
If you get pulled over, it is very helpful to have an International Driver’s License. It does not need to be real. Mine is only for driving cars and specifically excludes Indonesia, but really impressed the police. My friend Krista apparently pointed to the organ donor symbol one time and said, “That means international.” It worked.
I spent a lot of the weekend at the hospital with a friend who was ill. She’s doing much better, and the doctors and nurses were lovely, helpful, and unintentionally hilarious.
“I want to nasal spray in your nose”
“Would you like piss pot?”
“This will hurts a lot.”
“You mean not hurt.”
“No, it will hurts.”
Torrance got the fever people.*
I think part of living in a developing country is getting sick. A LOT. We mostly just refer to it as “bad stomach” and get on with our lives (the previously mentioned .80 cent street food might have something to do with this). On the plus side, most of the expats I know have lost weight. The downside is obvious.
Yesterday afternoon I developed a raging fever out of nowhere (I’m fine now, mom, I promise!). I was already at work, so I taught one class before giving up and going home. That class was AWESOME. I was super loopy and out of it, so here’s what I had my class of 13-year-old girls do:
- Played Uno for 20 minutes (I accidentally kept swearing when I lost, which they loved)
- Sat around and smelled Mr. Sketch scented markers for a while
- Watched the Despicable Me 2 trailer a couple times, and then watched this guy 5 or 6 times
- Did one activity from the book
- Did a nonsense “um, write a sentence in present perfect continuous and then draw a picture of it” activity I made up on the spot, but mostly just colored and watched music videos. I made them watch the Call Your Girlfriend, which they did not like, and Countdown, which they did like
And that was it! I am such a good teacher.
*Movie quote for Taryn.
I’ve getting close to having been here for 5 months, and I was reflecting today on some of the ways I’ve changed. Here are a few:
- I eat white rice every day
- I sometimes plan my commute around the call to prayer
- I have frequent conversations about motorcycles, the pros and cons of various brands, and motorcycle maintenance and repair. And I enjoy them
- Toilet paper is more of an oddity than a necessity
- I feel totally inappropriate if I leave the house without wearing leggings and having my shoulders covered
- Western rules of the road have gone out the window (more on this later)
- I am no longer taken aback by bank tellers and cell phone companies asking me my religion.
- I mostly drink instant coffee
- I am at peace with the rats living in our break room