Friday, July 13, 2012

Learning to love Jakarta

Welcome to my new school! This is at the PIK campus.
Selamat datang to my latest blog entry! That’s the formal way of saying “welcome.” Well, unless you’re responding to someone after they say “thank you” or terima kasih (aka tuh-reema kuh-see), then you would say “sama sama!” (sahma, sahma).

My desk in the primary teacher's workroom
Anyway, it’s unfortunate that I haven’t been able to update you guys until just now because so many cool and well, not so cool… things have happened! I suppose I’ll start from the top…

After our teacher orientation ended, we made our way early Saturday morning to the land of Puncuk (pan-chook) for a weekend getaway in the mountains with all the teachers from the five various Bina Bangsa campuses, both old and new. There’s two campuses in Jakarta, which are KJ and PIK. My school is located at the PIK campus. The other campuses are each located in a different city. There’s one in Bandung, which is surrounded by mountains. Then there’s Malang and finally Samarang. I don’t know much about these last cities except that Samarang is the closest to Bali. Everyone was exhausted from the teacher orientation but since we knew we were getting paid I guess you can’t complain too much.
One of the pools at the Yasmin Hotel in Pancuk

Pancuk was pretty. I slept most of the bus ride and woke up near the end and didn’t realize exactly where I was. The scenery was amazing. Mountains everywhere. I felt like I was home again in Tennessee. It looked a lot like Chattanooga!

The ride there took maybe 2 hours. They separated us into different buses. They were all so small though! I keep forgetting that everything here is equipped for the Asian built body and not so much the American one. Although it could be a lot worse! I could be as tall as some of the other Americans, maybe 6’5’’ or so and be absolutely miserable.

When we arrived to Pancuk, we dropped off our luggage (“baggage” as they call it here) and found our rooms. They paired us up with a random teacher. I was roomed with Suni (Sunny). Although she’s at a different campus than me, we became good friends at the orientation so it wasn’t too awkward. Then we basically jumped right into to our morning devotion and started going to our scheduled various classes. I was scheduled for two elementary math classes and one for general Kagen strategies (otherwise known as cooperative learning). We didn’t get to choose our classes so I was a bit frustrated because I’m not even teaching math (or “maths” as they call it here) this year. But I guess it was valuable information... especially since my interest in the Singapore math curriculum was one of my biggest reasons for accepting the offer at Bina.

View of the mountains from the conference
The teacher’s conference in Pancuk is strictly Bina Bangsa teachers and occurs annually. The school basically rents out an entire hotel, call the Yasmin Hotel. It also has little villas. They provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner with various tea breaks in between. The food was a bit different but fairly similar to the food at the teacher orientation.

PIK campus teachers in our new conference polos
Bad mistake on my part though. I ended up getting food poisoning over the weekend while in Pancuk. And so did at least 20 something other teachers. NO JOKE! The admin started to suspect it was the seafood restaurant they took all the new teachers to the night before in Jakarta.. So many teachers were taken to the hospital over the weekend during the conference and I saw one lady pass out during the morning devotion! I thought maybe it was just the altitude since we were so high up in the mountains since the nausea would come and go but then got worse. I was miserable. I cried. L lol I was so frustrated that I was feeling so awful. Thank god for Suni and her fluency in Bahasa Indonesia at 4 in the morning. She was a life saver.

The bus ride home should have taken 2 hours but instead took a total of 9. We sat in a road block for 5 hours. Apparently every so often they completely shut down one lane of traffic in Pancuk and let the other cars pass through. There really is no explanation for it, or anything in Jakarta that is. You learn to embrace how backwards everything is and instead just smile and nod.
So many of us just got out and walked around on the mountain checking out little shops and buying things like food and other various items. The people in the little shack like shops must have been so excited to see so many Westerners. Everything was suddenly overpriced. They have strange chips here. Sure, there are Pringles but there’s no salt. And their equivalence of sour cream and onion are seaweed chips but I heard they taste the same.

9 hours later, we returned to Jakarta! I have never been so happy to be home in my life. I love my apartment at Mitra Bahari. And good news folks, the cockroaches are gone. Me and Aasha have never spent so much time in our apartment until now. Speaking of Mitra, I probably should let you guys know that my apartment is historical.. and part of the Mitra Massacre.. in which a bunch of people invaded the apartment complex back in the early 90s, searching for Chinese expats and through them out of as high as 26 story windows. Now I know why security is so tight here. And why our apartment doors have iron locked doors in front of each wooden one. It’s not really scary sleeping here at night though unless the fireworks are going off at 4 in the morning, which is common. I’ve learned to sleep through the prayer calls in the morning = success.

Daily Jakarta traffic
I have a class of 24 P5 (5th grade) students. Tomorrow I get number 25! 12 boys and soon-to-be 13 girls. They’re sweet. I try and balance my act with them. We’ve done lots of read alouds and getting-to-know you games. The kids thought I was from Australia. I’ll have to share with you the letters they wrote me as part of their first assignment!

When I’m not teaching P5 English and Science, I teach P3 (3rd grade) English at various times throughout the week. My schedule is fairly balanced. I do a little bit of planning here and there between classes and then have some school duties in the canteen (their lunch room) and outside the bookstore. We basically eat lunch whenever we want to. I usually bring my lunch unless I forget or run out of time which happened to be the case yesterday… 3 hours to deliver 2 sandwiches. UNREAL. I don’t want to talk about it.

My room is still a work in progress but I think the jungle theme is coming together quite well.
Close up of my "maths" section of the bulletin board and yes those letters are hand made!
Welcome to P5 Joy!
My "tree-normous" word wall - a work in progress
My monkeys :)

Big emphasis on cooperative learning
View of the soccer or "fustal" field form our classroom
The first week of school hasn’t been so bad. I didn’t really know what to expect, I don’t think any teacher does the first day of school. All I knew is that the kids were rich and there were going to be nannies. I just didn’t realize each child had their own nanny. And driver. And Blackberry. I confiscated so many smart phones on the first day. 

Smart phone collection ~ the kids automatically place them on my desk in the morning! I've got them trained already!
On Tuesday the school sent us to Singapore to take care of some last minute business. We were in awe of the clean air! And no traffic! And no honking! And the pedestrian friendly paths! And the sidewalks! And pedestrian light signals! And just how smooth everything worked. They even have an MRT (aka Subway). Holy smokes. I didn’t know what to do. I want to go back. That place was SO worth getting up for at 3:30 in the morning. Seriously. Even if they serve chicken feet for lunch.
One of the many malls - you will go broke here
Another view of the Orchard area shopping location in Singapore - I highly recommend!!

Squatter toilet in Singapore - it's like peeing in the woods..

Front entrance to a local mall in Sinagpore in the Orchard area
Wednesday was a bit of a last-minute holiday in Jakarta. The government didn’t officially set a date until the last minute. But it’s Jakarta, so I’m not phased by that anymore. They held their governor elections so naturally, all the younger teachers took advantage of that and had a pool party. All 20 something of us. Good times. I don’t think the Asians have seen so many bikinis and bules (boo-lays) in one setting.
Even monks go to the mall
Well folks, between the crazy taxi drivers who scream the F word and being forced to be shady if you wish to purchase an HDMI cord at the local Carrefour, Jakarta sure is a place of it’s own. You really want to hate this place with every ounce of your being. But for some reason you can’t. I treasure it. But I don’t know why.

If I have one goal this year it’s too convince my students to be nicer to their nannies. We should respect each other!

The sign speaks for itself
Oh, and did you know that cats are viewed as disgusting animals here? They waunder the streets with only half a tail, in search of food. Apparently a long time ago, Indonesians thought cats were too perfect so they started breaking off their tails and now the cats are naturally born without them. It’s kind of gross. They just walk all over the city and into the school building. I don’t know what’s scarier. A bony cat, a flailing gecko, or the cockroaches that are sometimes as big as your thumb. Ick.

I just need Bali to get here, FAST!

I'll have to add pictures to this post after my next block. Time to teach!



  1. I'm glad everyone is ok; Great job you and everyone else there..!

  2. You continue to amaze me with your positive attitude! I was ok with most of the conditions you've mentioned until you got to the cats. If you remember, I have several and I would have to launch a huge effort for a shelter and for spay and neutering. Maybe after you get the kids to be nicer to the nannies, you can start on people being nicer to the cats. As always, it's great to hear of your adventures. Glad you survived the food poisoning - not fun in any country.