Lost in Translation…or just communication

My walk to work every morning takes about 15 minutes.  It’s about a mile of walking through the neighborhood and includes passing no less than four security checkpoints.  These areas are for neighborhood safety patrols because everyone basically lives in “gated” communities…although they are not glamorous like what you would normally picture in the hills of California or other prestigious areas.

Anyway, since I walk every day (which is extremely unusual here), all the security guards know who I am and where I work.  They are very nice guys who I always say hello and goodbye to along my journey.

The oldest security guard and I have a special bond.  He has gentle eyes that squint against the sun and pretty white hair that shows beneath his cap.  In all the times I’ve run into him, I’ve never seen him without a big smile across his face.

This is the only guard who I let give me a ride to the school, if he happens to be going that way on his rounds.  On the back of a motorbike, the journey takes only about 2-3 minutes, so it is a nice gesture when he offers.  But in those 2-3 minutes, an interesting situation occurs.

While on the back of his bike, this guard just talks and talks and talks…in Indonesian.  I clearly only know enough Indonesian to get by in basic situations, so the nuances of chummy banter are absolutely lost on me.  After about nine months of living in this particular neighborhood, all the security dudes should know my extremely basic Indonesian vocabulary, but this special guard loves to talk and talk and talk.  I usually respond by nodding my head, saying yes or sometimes just giggling, knowing full well that this guy is having a conversation completely by himself.

Over the course of two years, this has happened a few times to me where the other person just wants to chat whether I can contribute or not.  It used to pressure me a bit because I wanted very badly to join in, ask a question or add something of value.  I don’t want to say I’ve given up necessarily, but I think I got to a point where I recognized my language ability wouldn’t develop fast enough for that to happen.  Since that moment of realization, I started to enjoy just listening to how beautiful the language can be and how sometimes a smile can communicate everything you need.

The older security guard will still give me a ride every now and again, he will still smile and talk away, and I’ll still giggle in ignorance.

Posted in adventures | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What I won’t miss…seriously

I’ve already set the record straight by telling everyone that although I live in a country that has numerous places that are classified as “tropical paradises,” I still live in a city.  A big, polluted, still-developing, over-populated, traffic-jammed city.  My classes are not conducted on pristine beaches, my offices are not located in palm tree tree houses and I do not sip from a freshly opened coconut in my leisure time.  Ok, that last one I admit to doing…but very rarely.  :-)

I am, however, going to miss many things about my time here.  Two years was a great amount of time to really feel like a local, which is exactly the experience I wanted.  This country, this job, this life experience has left so many positive impressions on me, that there may be too many to describe.  So instead of gushing about tropical corners, kind attention (or even special treatment), I thought I’d make a list of some things I won’t miss.  It’s not incredibly long, but it’s humorous and satisfying.  Life in paradise isn’t always a beach.

-Eyelid sweat (a daily occurence).

-Being asked if parts of my body are real (Nose, eyelashes, eye color, hair color).

-The annual floods.

-The need to take a shower the second I walk into my room after returning from my walk home from work.

-Being called “Mister.” It’s strange to me that if you only know one or two words in English, you should make sure you don’t call a woman the wrong word.

-People yelling and sneezing at the top of their lungs…the concept of “noise pollution” hasn’t yet made it to this country.

-Constant congestion from the mix of pollution and humidity.

-Watching laziness…everywhere.

-The treat of Malaria or Dengue Fever every time I get a mosquito bite.

-The threat of food poisoning every time I eat vegetables.

-Being followed around stores by attendants who feel it is necessary to stand 8 inches away and watch you as you try to shop…how they can think this is NOT rude is beyond me.

-How lots of people like to gossip, but important information and details are apparently deemed not worthy of sharing.

-The depression I feel after seeing a 10 year old smoking on the back of a motorcycle being driven by a 12 year old.

-The general lack of good, quality parenting.

-The overwhelming number of men who were NOT taught how to be respectful or how to conduct themselves appropriately in public…(see the above notation).

-90 degree Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

-Being stared at…ALL the time.


As the adage goes, I’ve become more appreciative of various things after experiencing their absence in my new/current environment.  And I’m grateful for the recognition.  The US is FAR from perfect.  In some cases, we are far behind other developed countries in a few key areas.  But I appreciate my rights, freedoms, and progressions.  I appreciate the improvements constantly being made or worked on.  Most of all, I’ve been away long enough to be happy and excited to return.

Posted in adventures | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I Never Want to be Famous….

Let me just say that being famous is the worst thing in the world in my opinion.  Having complete strangers stalk you, take your picture when you don’t want them to, making every piece of your life public, would be a death sentence in my eyes.  Yet strangely, that’s basically what happens to me here in Indonesia, which is why it’s a constant struggle.

Perhaps I can deal with it for the time being because I know it’s temporary.  I’m approaching the two-year mark in this place, and after that amount of time enduring such abuses, I will soon be able to hold my head up high as I walk into a crowd of people and happily disappear into anonymity.  Oh…how I dream of that.  Not to be stared at.  Not to be stopped five times by pedestrians asking for a photo.  Not to be in the middle of something and having men a few yards away TRYING to stealthily take my photo…and FAILING HORRIBLY….

My knowledge of being famous basically comes from the little I know about Hollywood stars.  Yes, those people are glamorous and rich and all of that…which I care nothing about…but they use their wealth to buy or build things to keep them protected and isolated.  Private jets get them where they want to go and their houses are more like compounds.  They have walls and guards and gates.  They serve as houses, resorts, gyms, studios and parks, so their isn’t much reason to ever leave.  They have people to do their shopping and cooking, which can further limit their interaction with everyday people, if they so choose.

None of that ever interested me, until I moved to a place where I was on display…by just being me.  And right now, that notion of isolation does sound appealing.  After enduring the harassment, the stares, kissing babies and posing for pictures at every moment when only solitude was desired, I relate to wanting nothing more than a compound to hide in for a while.  The weight of a stare, in a country where I’m the opposite from the locals on many levels, can crush my confidence and resolve and reduce me to wanting to hide in a corner for a respite.  And forget underwear shopping!! Anything remotely private gets put under a microscope and can easily become uncomfortable, especially with an audience wherever I go.  It’s these moments when I want to throw my hands up and say, “why not find someone ACTUALLY famous?”

I had a conversation with a coworker the other day about foreigners at the beach.  I couldn’t get my coworker to understand how inappropriate and uncomfortable it is to stalk people at the beach and take endless photos of someone in a swim suit (without asking) just because they have a different skin color.  I had to explain that even though people are choosing to be sunning themselves near the ocean, it’s still a private action, a matter of personal space that deserves respect.  But, it was like telling a small child “Look, but don’t touch,” only to have their grimy little hands crap up your polished silver.  Needless to say, my coworker didn’t learn the lesson I was trying to teach…which means her friends or children won’t learn a lesson in cultural sensitivity either.  Apparently anywhere I go, I will be treated as an object of personal amusement to the locals because I’m caucasian and won’t get a say in the matter.  Hence…I need a private compound for breathing room….

I suppose the experience might be different for a man, considering many come here and enjoy and even seek out the attention from the local women.  And I suppose it’s easier for a woman to get exhausted by the multifarious harassment, but a female perspective is the only point of view I can truly comment on, for obvious reasons.

I just can’t help but think of how crazy this would be back home.  I grew up in a small town that was pretty homogenous, but a person of a different cultural background would be part of the community from time to time.  But those individuals would be slightly avoided, as to not offend them with stares, not be stalked!  I wouldn’t run up to someone and yell out “Asian” or “African,” take their picture and then secretly (not so secretly…) follow them through a mall to watch where they were going.  I get that in Indonesia these things happen out of a fascination with white people and it’s thrilling to see one, but geez…I’m still a human, and kind of a boring one at that!  I’m not a supermodel, singer or actress, in which fan fare would be expected.  I’m just a teacher who happens to be a fair Westerner.

I suppose this is one area I may never truly understand.  All I know is that for the next 4 months, I’ll pose for about 100 more photos, be followed around shopping plazas and be called “Bule” (the Indonesian word for a light Western foreigner) multiple times.

Ahhh, that’s Indonesia.

Posted in adventures | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

7th Grade Welcome Ceremony

I’m so happy that I was able to be a part of the 7th grade welcome ceremony.  On the first Thursday after we went back to school, the entire new 7th grade class gathered in the assembly hall on the top floor of the building.  After a few days of preparation, groups of 8th and 9th graders filed into the assembly hall to perform for the newest members of the middle school.

The school has 20 or so extracurricular clubs and groups that are offered, so the parade of performances was meant to entertain the students and also whet their appetites in the hopes of getting new recruits.

Everything from martial arts demonstrations, songs, music performances and dance routines (both cultural and contemporary) were displayed in beautiful design.  It was apparent that these students, who study around 13 subjects every week, still had enough energy and dedication left to practice and perfect a beautiful craft, no matter what is was.

I was so proud of these students.  Everyone did a beautiful job.

2015-07-30 10.17.10

2015-07-30 10.28.03

2015-07-30 11.00.50

Posted in adventures | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Vacation in Pictures

I don’t have some amazing story or crazy adventure to accompany the following photos.  Basically, I loved Lombok and the Gili islands so much last year, that I decided to return this year and explore for a little longer.  And…it was absolute paradise, yet again.

Gili Meno was especially noteworthy.  The island is extremely small and can be circumnavigated a few short hours.  It was heaven and I’m positive the beauty I’ve seen here will undoubtedly ruin most beach experiences back home and/or in my future in general.  LOL



Senggigi, Lombok

Senggigi, Lombok

Sunset House Hotel

Sunset House Hotel

Local Fisherman

Local Fisherman

Rocky ocean-side temple exploring

Rocky ocean-side temple exploring

Tall trees!

Tall trees!

The Gili Islands...Meno is in the middle

The Gili Islands…Meno is in the middle

(Gili Meno)





Sea Urchins!

Sea Urchins!



Fruit lady

Fruit lady



Posted in adventures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s in a name…

Setting up score sheets for over 1,000 students isn’t the most fun activity in the world.  However, reading through the lists and lists and lists of names can be very entertaining, to say the least.

First, let me describe how the naming system works, because it is different from back home in the USA.  I am used to people having a first name, middle name and last name taken from the father’s side of the family.  Of course, some variations do occur.  I myself have two middle names, which is not extremely common.  But that general pattern is not how it works in Indonesia at all.

In Indonesia, anything goes.  They really don’t have a “last name” thing…at all.  You might have a child that has six names because the family was honoring all kinds of relatives with the naming of the baby.  You also might have a child that has one name.  Yep, that’s right…ONE name.  If a child is named “Ed” with no other names attached to it, then that child’s name is Ed.  One their passport, the full name would read “Ed”…and that’s it.  So, you can imagine the crazy, interesting, surprising names that I have come across in the past year and a half.  Some are common, which you see all the time.  Other names can catch you off guard and brighten your day when you read them.

I have come up with a list of interesting names for boys and girls that are my personal favorites.  I will start with the FIRST NAMES:

Boys first names:                            Girls first names:

Yoan                                                           Pinky

Linggom                                                    Salsa

Handy                                                        Sorta

Lordy                                                          Lady

Sandiega                                                    Party



Now I will move on to the other names.  These could be considered middle names, if you wish, but to make it easier, I will just call them ADDITIONAL NAMES.  These are any names that come after the first name given.

Boys Additional Names:                        Girls Additional Names:

Lie                                                                       Yut

Navidad                                                             Jubilee

Jafar                                                                   Gees

Bonana                                                              Dorkas

Glorious                                                             Easter

Victory                                                                Budhy

Magnifasan                                                        Deng

Saint                                                                    Eunike



There are also plenty of “regular” names…meaning names that I am used to back home, only they may have very interesting spellings here.  Some are traditional, taken after either the Christian, Muslim, or traditional Indonesian cultural aspects of this complex country.  But no matter what name we are discussing, each unique combination is fascinating and I never get tired of learning their origins.

Posted in adventures | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Six Months Left

After two months of not being in my classrooms, I am back at the school again!  I’m beginning by preparing all of my paperwork, which takes forever.  I need to have attendance lists prepared and old speaking scores noted (to adjust as constant assessments happen throughout the semester) for over 1,100 students.  Then I need to have my handouts or worksheets ready so the school can make copies.  It feels like a mountain of paperwork, but I’m so glad I’m at my school a few days early to get myself organized.  After that, it’s easy to stay organized.

It’s weird though.  I know I’m leaving Indonesia after this contract is up in January, so this is the home stretch.  I’m looking at everything in a way that I’ll never be able to again, which is a little sad.

I remember feeling this way in college.  You’re in a place temporarily, but it feels like you have all the time in the world.  Then you really become comfortable, almost as if you forget that the day will come when you have to pack up all your stuff.  Finally, you have to start getting rid of things, scaling down and letting friends take things off to a new home, because the life you’ve accumulated won’t fit in your suitcases.  You have to choose which mementos and memories get to stay.  The world of your living space becomes smaller and more compact until it collapses into a suitcase to board a plane.

Basically, the countdown has begun.  I’ll be lucky if I can fit in a cheap weekend getaway somewhere, but I have to reflect on all the cool places I’ve gotten to see thus far and focus on daily happenings and my students’ smiling faces.  Those little things are what I will end up missing.

I need to start mentally preparing how to pack my bags, considering some of my clothes won’t even last to the packing stage.  Many items may have to be retired early due to rough hand washing my first year here.

As the countdown continues, I anticipate more intense Western food cravings than the ones I am having now.  Currently, I dream of American pizza that has delicious cheese and proper sauce…not flavorless, over-processed “white stuff” mixed with pure ketchup…. Not to mention the friends and family I will be chomping at the bit to see, as the clock runs down.

I know that my next adventure (re-assimilating to North America…and a full Winter season) will be nothing like this.  I need to drink in the tropical climate, the crazy food, the unsafe building practices and the chaotic school systems while I still have a chance, because pretty soon this lifestyle will just be a memory.

Posted in adventures | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments