Friday, June 22, 2012


typical view of Jakarta from my friend's apartment on the 24th floor, those red homes are called "kampung" - they are overcrowded villages with no running water, indoor plumbing or electricity and can be found all over the city and look far worse in other areas.. didn't realize this was such a 3rd world country

my best friend on the 19 hour flight.. I watched so many Family Guy episodes, lol - they also have music, movies, news stations, and news stations

Yes, I am alive. The thought of writing this blog is already giving me a headache because I have experienced so much during the past 5 days. I'm not quite sure where to start.

The level of frustration I have experienced so far cannot be put into words and the 90 degree weather everyday isn't helping. Everything feels so backwards here. I look around and think to myself, "Oh Amber, we're not in America anymore." I have had SO many "What the ... " moments, and from what I am hearing, that is going to be the situation for sometime. Pictures are really worth a thousand words, especially if I am going to be here for 2 years. I'll have to get in the habit of uploading pictures elsewhere because my Internet access at the apartment is dial up and unbelievably slow. It took at least 7 minutes to upload the two pictures above -_______-

We landed in Jakarta on Monday without any problems. The flight from Hong Kong went by much faster -- it was a little under 5 hours. As soon as we got off the plane, a school representative met us at customs. He took our passports and sent us on to the baggage claim area. I thought our suitcases would never come. I was introduced to the culture almost right away as soon as we entered the airport. Short little Asian people everywhere. For the first time in my entire life, I feel tall. And if they are in a rush, they run. I mean full-fledged running, even the airport staff. All the workers here look like they are maybe 15 years old.. I know that they're not, but Jakartans must have good genes. They push their way into elevators. This was even evident in Hong Kong. It doesn't matter if there are 10 people on the elevator waiting to get off, someone will enter regardless, without a care in the world. They do not say excuse me when pushing their way through elevators or cutting you in line for that matter. It's every man for himself here.

After we finally gathered all of our things, we walked outside the airport and were greeted by more Bina Bangsa School staff. To finally meet the faces of all the people I have been communicating with was such a relief.. I had so many questions. We were all greeted by smiles, hugs, and handshakes. We were given welcome bags from the school (they're quite nice actually, remind me of those recyclable bags from the grocery store but these have the school logo on them and are much more durable). The bags contained travel sized items, a converter/adapter for my electronics, booklets of information on the teacher orientation schedule, the Bahasa Indonesia language, snack food, and local maps. We also were given a SIM card to activate our phones.. phone activation.. (shakes head) I don't even want to talk about it.

We loaded up in the vans and were taken to our apartments. They place you in apartments based on the campus you will be teaching at. Nicole is at a different school and different apartment. Eduardo is at the same school as us but was placed in another complex as well. Andrew and I ended up staying at the same apartment complex, but on different floors. Our apartment is called Mitra Bahari (meechra-buh-are-ee). Security is awesome. It's gated and they have around-the-clock security men in uniforms by this gate that resembles the gates you might be greeted with at a train track. Once you enter the apartment, there are two towers, A and B. Tower A is actually the hotel part of the apartment compelx and tower B is where the rooms may be rented out. We stay in tower B. However, before you can enter tower B, you walk by another security man who sits at a desk and watches you swipe your card before you can enter the glass doors to the elevator. I thought he had a pretty sweet job -- who doesn't love to people watch? My dream was fulfilled when I realized that one of the channels here actually projects from cameras from downstairs by the elevators. So I can sit on my couch and be a creeper and not get caught. It's pretty awesome.

There's 24 floors but no 13th floor. Jakartans are very superstitious. But guess who "technically" lives on the 13th floor? Yep, you guessed it... and this may explain all my newly found cockroach amigos. We've bonded quickly. Unfortunately, we will be parting ways as soon as I can successfully communicate the infestation of cockroaches that currently occupy every corner of my apartment and watch me shower. I learning quickly that gestures or charades won't work for communication here and I am going to have to learn the language if I want to get around. Just the other day, I tried communicating that I needed bug spray when I went to the local "Carrefour" (car-four). As quoted by Nicole, "It's like Walmart on crack." I tried imitating a bug in the store to a local employee and when that didn't work, I tried pretending to step and squish a bug. He laughed and looked at me in confusion. I apologized for being an American.

Jakartan 1, Amber 0

I'm learning the best way to find what you need in a supermarket with unfamiliar product and names is just to walk up and down every single aisle. Oh, and don't expect customer service. You can look confused as you want but they aren't going out of their way to help. You can ask and they might point if they understand you. They may also point if they don't understand you.

Yeah, the cockroaches, I guess I should explain that culture shock. Definitely a, "What the.. " moment. Apparently having cockroaches here are "normal." They'll say, "Oh, you don't have cockroaches back home?" Um, no actually, that's disgusting. But to them, it's inevitable. Depending on your region in the states, you could compare it to having ants or houseflies or ladybugs or knats. It's just the way it is. You can spray and keep the place clean but they'll never just "go away." I went through an entire can of cockroach spray in 1 day. It's called "anti-nyamuk" or "anti-cockroach" spray. I am the queen of cockroach stomping, squishing, and killing in Jakarta. It's kind of like a video game. See how many you can squish in 1 minute and bonus points for the ones that splatter. Needless to say, I'm getting over my high-maintenance ways real quick.

Traffic is fun. There are no rules. Everyone drives how they want, cut you off if they want, and honk as much as they want, even if it's not necessary. Sometimes I think they just honk to honk. There are very few, if any traffic lights. Many people choose to ride motorcycles because the traffic is just so awful. Anytime you sit in traffic, which is 23 hours out of the day, you see what looks like motorcycle gangs! It's insane. Words cannot express... there will literally be 20 or 30 motorcyclists all crammed in between vehicles trying to squeeze past. There are no lanes on the roads. So each side attempts to have 3 or 4 lanes but many like to take over 2 of those lanes. I have seen up to four people on a motorcycle here. Families mainly with little children in the front holding on for dear life with no shoes or helmets.

People also ride bikes and drive trucks, taxis, wagons, or these smelly little vehicles call bahajs (badge-eyes). I'll have to try and take a picture sometime today. I've been avoiding it because the men who drive these have ice-cold stares. And it doesn't matter if you make eye-contact with them. Staring is not considered rude here. Especially if you are an American then they have every right to stare and yell "BULE!" (boo-lay) which means "albino" or "whitey" in Bahasa Indonesia. I haven't had that problem but Andrew and our new friend Josh have, lol. Poor Josh, his 6'3 or 6'4 statue isn't helping. He broke the car panel as soon as we got in to a taxi the other day. The taxi driver laughed and said, "BIG!" Hahahaha.

Teacher orientation started this week. Yesterday was the first day and it went really well. We played lots of get-to-know-you games and I lost just about every single one it felt like leaving me as one of the chosen ones to perform the chicken dance in front of all my fellow co-workers. I guess those ice skating lessons paid off. When I was about 6 years old, I learned the chicken dance and performed it as part of an ice-skating routine with the rest of my class. So thanks, grandmama. You prepared me well. :)

They picked us up from our apartments around 6:30 in the morning but I must say I'm up as early as 4 or 5 sometimes. My body is still adjusting to it's new internal clock. My appetite is small if there is one at all. I'll get hungry and eat something, such as a chicken sandwich, and then I'll quickly realize it's dark meat or if I'm eating chicken friend rice (nasi gerung), those random rubbery pieces of "chicken" are actually gizzards.. or some part of the body of some animal. Barf.

Any consumption of water here must be bottled, that includes brushing your teeth. The school provided us with water dispensers, you know, the type you find at doctor's offices or something.

Now, I know it sounds like I'm having an awful time and anything that could possibly go wrong has. And part of that is true. Things have been very difficult but the more I drive around town in the taxi, the more I realize how worse it could be. The kampung are just so sad. I mean, these homes are literally built by hand using scrap metal or wood. The children run barefoot. 1 year olds walk on the street with their 4 or 5 year old siblings. Old women walk around with their newborn grandchild in a sarung, begging for food or money. People sell water, rice, fruit, or funky looking meat as they walk in between the traffic. It's their life and how they make it day by day. It's all they know. And I feel so selfish everytime I start to complain because I realize just how bad things really could be. So I'm trying to make light of the situation.

I must say, I am learning to love this place. I really am. I'm very happy and I feel like I am here for a reason. It just feels right. Some days I want to pull out my hair, especially when it comes to communicating with the real world, whether it be the language barrier or lack of internet/phone service but I am realizing that everything here is a work in progress and you must be patient. If someone offered me a ticket to go home today, I'd say no in a heartbeat. Really.

I have so much more to say and many more pictures to update you guys with but it is almost 6 am here and I need to shower and get ready for day 2 of teacher orientation.

To be continued...



  1. WOW Amber that's a lot of information! THe picture of Kampung and they were you were describing it made me so sad to think about. Will you have some of these students in your school? That'd be cool to get to work with them and find out more about how they make a living. It's like a rougher much poorer Lonsdale.

    The whole cockroach thing sounds terrible by hilarious at the same time. I'd love to have seen our reaction to the first one you saw. I'll have to send you a surplus of bug bombs and cockroach spray in a survival kit. Hope their population tends to die off soon :) Sounds like your new name should be cup lol
    It sounds like you're starting to adjust and will begin to really enjoy it. Good luck on the next teacher orientation!
    Miss ya

    1. CUP!! AHH, I freaking miss you. Yes, the cockroaches are disgusting but now they don't phase me anymore. I'll be talking to Aasha and then randomly will divert my attention and say, "Hold on", grab my shoe, squish it, and continue the conversation, lol. BTW, I loved that grad pic you posted on FB. Makes me miss my amigos. Wah.

  2. lol..traffic is fun. you fit right in. And the people watching thing... I just thought of Chrissy.

    1. I don't think she would survive, they don't approve of outwardly displays of frustration, lmao

  3. Well, the people in Jakarta may find an appreciation to you teachers for what you're doing. I'm sure when they see you as regulars at establishments with your good intentions, the confidence in your everyday work plus how you show respect while being on their soil as American instructors in education, the impression you leave will be theirs to remember especially thru the kids.. On the other hand,apparently, cockroaches are as part of the culture as the people-thankfully they dont worship them or deem it illegal to stomp 'em. BTW to Ashley's statement-she already knows u-know-who would be back in the States within 24 hrs- she afraid of bringing those kind of bugs back home into the house..! Good job as always, sweetheart-you guys know your stuff..:)

    1. Hey Dad!! Yeah, everyone here is eager to talk and see Americans. We're like little celebrities here so it's kind of fun. I hope to leave the kids with a good impression :)

  4. I'm so glad to hear of your safe arrival and your efforts at adjusting to your new life. I'm also pleased to read of your positive, stick-to-it attitude but that's really no surprise to me. I will look forward to following your journey in prose and in pictures.

    1. Diana! So glad you got the link to my blog. I'm having a wonderful time and practicing my patience :) Stay in touch and add me on skype! ayarbro3

  5. enjoyed reading your blog Amber and hearing how adjustment to your new home is going!! a lot to take in!
    hope the last bit of orientation goes well!!

    1. Thanks Katie! It definitely is eye-opening but I am learning so much in the process. And what's the update with Mozambique? I hope it all works out! Keep me posted!