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.

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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



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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.

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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.

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My recent vacation has allowed me, once again, to see my surroundings with a larger magnifying glass than I’m used to using.

You know how it is…once you make a place your home, you become numb to things after a while.  You tend to gloss over its beauty and focus on its annoyances.  You tend to lose a bit of the majesty and luster as if you’re immune to its power.

So, getting to show someone around is a great way to get back to those first impressions and awe-inspiring moments that I experienced just a year and a half ago.

One thing that will always amaze me about Indonesia is the vividness.  Some places I’ve visited around the world have been awesome, but dull in a certain sense.  Everything about Indonesia is vivid to me.

First we have the people.  The young and the elderly are the most vivid in my opinion.  I love hearing packs of little kids squealing with delight as I say hello or ask how they are.  (This reaction is less cute when it comes from a teenager or young adult.)  It’s also great to watch the kids with their paper kites, having battles on the open fields behind the school, just like a scene our of “The Kite Runner.”

The elderly, especially in the smaller towns and villages, are unforgettable as well.  With feet, hands and faces as tough as leather, they are capable of bearing the hot sun or the annual monsoons and torrential rains.  They may look a bit weathered, but they are tough as nails.

Big cities in developing countries usually carry some unwanted odors…there’s no escaping that.  However, the scent and taste of Jasmine has become a favorite since living here.  Massage oil and lotion, bridal wedding adornment, flavor-infused black tea – Jasmine is all around.  I like it so much, and I find it so soothing, that I’ve already stockpiled essential oil and Jasmine tea to bring back to the US. :-)

Finally, there’s dirt.  Quite a bit of land is not paved, so I see dirt everywhere.  Dirt on the side of the road isn’t anything special.  That looks like dirt everywhere else.  But sometimes I get to see dirt in a field, from farms or building sites, and it’s the reddest dirt I’ve ever seen.  Not reddish-brown like in Tanzania.  Not milk-chocolate brown like in Peru.  This dirt looks bright red, like a fresh cut of beef.  As if the Earth’s skin was sliced open, exposing a wound, proving that the planet is a living organism and recognizing that I’m about the size of a hair follicle on its flesh.

Tree sap is even red too.  A slew of trees were cut down nearby to expand the constantly packed road.  The trees look pretty common except when one is freshly cut.  The layer just under the bark oozes blood-red for a gruesome scene.

With six months left in this country, I may be getting a bit sentimental prematurely, but it’s good to have a reminder to look closely at where I am, and to appreciate what is around me, before it’s gone.

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Pomp and Circumstance

After a few months of getting used to a new school and teaching 1,000 kids, it was time to celebrate with the grade 9 and 12 graduation ceremonies.

It did feel a little strange celebrating these events in the middle of my contract year, but that’s how it worked out for me.

Any chance to spend time with the kids is great.  Being the only Westerner in the school/area really makes me stand out, which is really tiring, but within the confines of the school, it makes me feel special and cared for.  And I think it’s important to connect with the students outside of my mere 45 minutes with them.

I knew that I had to wear traditional dress for the events, which meant going shopping for Kebayas (traditional blouses), and skirts or sarongs to wear with them.  Over the past 1.5 years my Batik (traditional Indonesian fabric) collection is substantial, but a girl can never have too much.  I mean…just look at the high quality of fancy Batik fabrics I’ve been able to accumulate!!!


Grade 12 was first.  Early on a Saturday morning, I walked into the hall of the High School to see people bustling around getting ready.  I took some photos with my 11th graders who were singing in the choir and playing in the band.


After the parents were seated, the teachers had to leave to make a grand entrance, followed by the students who sat according to their individual classes.

A few underclassmen girls dressed up as traditional dancers for the opening production and then served as servers to hand out the medals (they don’t have caps/gowns or tassels.)


After four hours of awards, medals, speeches, songs and prayers, it was time to congratulate the well-dressed young ladies and gentlemen of the SMAK 7 Cipinang school.


A few weeks later it was time to do it again for the 9th grade.  Early on a Wednesday morning, I once again got dressed up and headed to the hall to get ready for the exciting event.  The ceremony was very similar to the grade 12 only a little less fancy and a little shorter.  We still had awards, medals, speeches, songs and prayers, but this time the entire ceremony took about 3 hours.  And, of course, after congratulating everyone, I posed for dozens of pictures.  It was great to be there to welcome the grade 9 into the High School and be able to give a nice farewell to the principal, who I’ll miss very  much.


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Yogyakarta – revisited

Last year I came to Yogyakarta to see the central Java cultural attractions of Borobudur and Prambanan temple complexes, that are just a short distance away.

After catching up with a few friends since that trip, I found out that there was a place I had not been to, that I found very interesting.  So naturally, I had to go back, just for the weekend.

Next to the Kraton (Sultan’s Palace), was Taman Sari, or the Water Palace.


It was a complex of pools and waterways and dressing rooms for the Sultan and his large number of wives and children.  The wives would all be out bathing in the pools and the Sultan would be on an observation area up above, watching.  Once he selected a wife for the evening, they would both go to the private pool area.  I find it a bit disturbing how many wives and children he had, but it was a cool building to tour.

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Just down from the Water Palace was an underground mosque.  We descended a small staircase and hallway which opened up to archways facing an open courtyard.  Being such a hot day, it was nice to be able to walk the circumference of the building via the underground walkways, and just pop out to have a quick picture taken.

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The next stop was an art shop in a hidden alleyway.  This is a place where students and apprentices make traditional Batik wall art.  It’s almost like buying it wholesale before some of the best prints get purchased by souvenir shops on the main street and resold for much higher prices.  I naturally had to pick up a few items, before returning to the hotel, taking a shower and a nap.  A very productive morning.  It wasn’t until the sun was well below the horizon before I went out again for some dinner, when it was more comfortable outside.

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In the morning I was off to Kota Gede.  This is a neighborhood just outside the city limits that is known for its silver shops.  The main street is lined with shop after shop offering intricate silver stuff: jewelry, pendants, wall hangings and sailboats in display cases.  There was something for everyone, in every price range.  Since there aren’t many things I collect, I thought a new pair of earrings would be a nice keepsake.


The pedicab ride back to Malioboro (the main street in Yogya) took about 15-20 minutes.  I got dropped off at the very end of the street, by the park with a nice tree.  School kids were out hunting for foreigners to interview for class projects, street food was a-cookin’ and some bamboo carvings were being sold nearby.  I’m a sucker for interesting international art (that doesn’t take up much space) so I was happy to take away some more wall hangings.

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A trip to Yogya is always a good choice.  The shopping is great, and pretty cheap, the temperature is always warm, and there are so many interesting things to see and do.  It’s definitely a place I’d love to visit again.

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