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Sunday, December 11, 2011

December Madness

What a month!!

Most months pan out quite evenly but for some reason December just exploded for a number of reasons.

Beginning sedately enough, Saturday the 3rd saw me judging a colouring competition known as "Colour Your Day". Aimed at our kindergarten aged kids but stretching as high as 8 year olds, the students were split into age groups. Andy Mac, Emma W and I had a group each and first we had to tell them a story involving the hand puppets we use to help teach kindergarten. I had the 7-8 year olds so they were told an engaging story of two brothers called yes and no. I say engaging and it was for 99.9% of the class. But as I've often been told, "sometimes there's two, but there's ALWAYS one". Yes one little chap just wasn't interested in three-toed Yaks or Kings and stuff. Oh no, what this cherub wanted to do was to disrupt as much as he could. One of the keys to teaching young kids is to keep them entertained and every time they heard the word no they had to echo it really loudly, likewise with yes. There was the story recreated on power point on screen for the better ones to follow the words. There were cartoonish pictures to help visualise the events of the story and for pity's sake there were hand puppets of Roddy our hairless mascot and his gay bear friend Ben (you need to see them :-) ) This was engaging stuff for everyone. Except one. His mission was Obfuscation and Destruction wherever possible. Occasionally just getting up from his desk and randomly kicking other students, he would also lunge for the computer keyboard and try to terminate with extreme prejudice my lovingly created story. Lord only knows what would have happened to the poor defenseless puppets had his tactics allowed him to get to them.... Anyway, the event passed smoothly after this and prizes were given and most went away delighted apart from one parents comment to his 6 year old child "why did you colour the clouds black??"

Sunday the 4th saw me being picked up by the EF driver to be taken to the annual EF conference being held in Jakarta. Picking up another DoS on the way, Anung eventually (after asking numerous people) found his way to the Morrissey Hotel in Menteng.

My first conference it was an opportunity to meet DoS's from all of Indonesia and a great experience it was too.
Leaving the hotel on Tuesday afternoon I'd already arranged to take Wednesday, Thursday and Friday as holiday before the next weekends event. The EF Swara pub quiz.

Held every December, the EF quiz is a great event. Bringing together all 9 schools (soon to be 10 with the addition of the second Bogor school in March 2012), Teachers and staff from each school gather at the Eastern Promise bar in Kemang to be quizzed on a variety of subjects compiled by the DoS's. This year we introduced the questions on power point  which seemed to add another dimension to the quiz as well as speeding up the process of asking for questions to be repeated. BSD, my old school, went into their customary lead but this year managed to hang on and win with EF Pluit second and EF Gading Serpong coming third. Needless to say, Sunday was a day of recovery.

So I sit here on Monday 12th writing this blog entry looking ahead to the rest of the month. This week will be spent catching up before a Course Consultant training session on Saturday 17th which precedes the EF Gading Serpong Weekender.

Every year the EF Schools are given a weekend away with the intention of bonding with cc's and teachers and this weekend, the 17th and 18th we're all heading to Bogor after work on Saturday and returning late afternoon/early evening on Sunday. More on this in January....

Which leads us to the run up to Christmas week. Hopefully it will be a smooth week because after work on Friday I will take my bag and head by taxi to the airport as at midnight plus fifteen, just into Christmas Eve, I will board an Air Emirates flight to the UK for 6 days break with my family before flying back to Jakarta on the 31st of December!

As I said at the beginning.....what a month!

It's said that the hardest thing is to say goodbye........

So I'm coming up to the end of my first full calendar year as a Director of Studies with EF and whilst I'll write a blog entry on my full year at some point, this one is more about change.

Over the years, especially as an Area Manager in the pub trade before my career change, we were taught how to manage change. Change, we were told, is inevitable. To stand still is the equivalent of falling because as you stay in your nice, warm, comfortable area, everyone else is changing around you. And progressing.

Now having had a few years to contemplate these pearls of wisdom I agree. Up to a point. I still think Opal Fruits should be called Opal Fruits. I still occasionally call that nutty caramel bar a Marathon and think Snickers, sounding suspiciously like 'sniggers' was a waste of marketing money.

People however, need to change. They need to develop and they should receive encouragement at every point of their journey to do this. Back in the day, when we were looking for new managers to run a pub, we'd scout the current ranks of assistant managers. Here was a talent pool that had been trained (indoctrinated?) in our values, methods and processes and that could easily step up and fill the void. And yet, some managers would actively discourage you from taking their assistant. Why? well, i guess it meant change. Having to train a new assistant, maybe doing more jobs yourself in the short term.

Imagine how the assistant would have felt, knowing they're capable enough of doing the job, only to find their manager held them back? Yeah, people are frightened of change.

So what does it have to do with this blog entry? Well, people move on. In the world of EFL/ESL teaching, a high percentage of people are "in-between things". Maybe the plan was to stay for a year and then move on. Travelling the world and paying for it by teaching the language. Maybe stay for a second year because of friends that have been made, relationships begun, and often a love of the job itself. As a DoS this is a change that you have to accept. We have made our decision to stay in this particular role but we can't expect our teachers to stay just because we want them to. If the time is right for the person to move on, we should encourage them. If we believe they have more to learn or we have more to offer them, we should absolutely point these things out, but, we shouldn't hold someone back for selfish reasons.

The friendships will always be there......

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Love and Romance


I’m surprised the subject of romance hasn’t come up on this blog before now. I may have touched on it once or twice but I haven’t really had anything positive to write. From my own position there’s been the occasional date and coffee and stuff like that. There was the brief thing with Felicia and the not so brief thing with Hylda which at the time seemed good but never amounted to anything more than  short romances.

The difficulty for an English guy living in Indonesia  is firstly around the whole “what does she see in me?” thing. We’re suspicious.  In our own countries we get by on our charm and our luck as much as on our looks and different people want different things. By building relationships or by seeing what happens from a one night stand in a nightclub the deepest connections can grow. Here in Indonesia it’s different in that as ‘Bule’ we stand out, even in Jalan Jaxa and Blok M.

A few of my friends talk about having felt like accessories such as Prada shoes or a Gucci handbag (notice i didn’t say Tescos own) when out with their girlfriend, cause no matter how you try to get away from it, we’re a must have for some girls. The type of girl who believes all her financial worries will be over the minute she aquires a ‘Bule’ or ATM card as we’re sometimes known.

At this point i should make it clear that I don’t mean Sugar Daddy.  Some guys are still looking out for a trophy wife but I guess they in turn are used for their earning potential and the status they may bring. In fact some Indonesians think we  smell bad, don’t shower enough and have big noses so we’re not on their wish list. But it’s true, others will put up with all of those faults (and more) in the pure hope of a better life.

Then there are those with a plan. The ones for whom love is incidental. A friend of mine got married to an Indonesian in the UK. She then proceeded to get homesick so they and their baby relocated to Jakarta. Next thing you know he’s in the middle of divorce proceedings without a leg to stand on and the house and stuff is all in the name of his missus.

A cautionary tale I agree, but not isloated by any means.

It would be asy to only consider the negatives. Instead lets look at the possibilities for love 8,500 miles from home..
Indeonesian men have a bad rep, some deserved, some not. But in a predominantly Muslim country where a great deal of women are thought less of than the men (look at dress codes and the acceptability of polygamous marriages) it’s no wonder that the recently metrosexualised westerner is attracive. Hell, even the mysoginistioc dinosaur 70 year old is still preferable because in public they have manners and pick up the tab.

It may be a naive opinion but I believe the opportunity to find love exists if you follow the basic rules.
1.   Get to know the culture and social mores of your girlfriend. An understanding of why she won’t hold hands in public or give you a kiss goodbye in front of other people may not be a sign that she’s just with you for the money. Rather her upbringing has taught her that these things are somewhat taboo.
2.   Communication is the key to the Universe, not just the UK. If you talk about what makes you happy and what makes you sad then less is left to chance, assumptions and misunderstanding. This becomes admittedly more difficult in a second language so sometimes a secondary explanation or a question to check understanding may be necessary. One things for certain, learning the langauge is a headstart although you may still struggle with the vagaries of slang.
3.   Relationships fail everywhere, not just Indonesia. If yours does, accept it and move on.
4.   If you choose to make your partner the one night stand you met in a club and gave Rp250,000 for the cab fare home, i’m tempted to say you’ll get what you pay for. And if that’s what you want then good luck and well done.

So where do you meet the girl of your dreams? Well, as i mentioned before you propbably won’t need to make many introductions as you’ll find that the more forward girls will come to you. If you’re respectful and considerate you’ll be attractive. If you speak the language reasonably well you’ll have a greater number of people to choose from. If you are god’s gift to women, I guess you stopped reading after the first sentence.

There’s always the people you work with, but spare a thought for what happens if it doesn’t work. And again there’s the internet. It depends on your opportunities to meet women, your self confidence and a little bit of luck.

The path of true love is often difficult to see, sometimes has hidden traps and amongst the roses there’s the occasional Raffelesia.
Without naming names i have friends that are in great relationships. I have others who aren’t. It’s so easy to fall in love here because 90% of the girls are beautiful but as with girls from your own country, they are just as likely to have baggage from previous relationships .

Belitung - 5th to the 9th September 2011

There are things that never cease to amaze me during my stay here in Indonesia.  The people, the weather, the food, the customs but nothing has amazed me more than this particular event.
We arrived on Belitung, an island off the western coast of Sumatra, on Monday and were met at the airport by Ary. To say it was invaluable having Emma’s contacts and advice from the previous week is an understatement and Ary took us from the airport to look at his two hotels. Ideally we were going to stay at Lor-in on the coast near Tanjung Tinggi but on seeing the two cottages closest to the sea at Pondok Impian 2, we booked both and  unpacked.
An afternoon on the beach at Tanjung Tinggi was followed by an evening searching for a restaurant in Tanjung Pandan. I’m not sure what we expected to find but we were a little limited by the need for food that wasn’t too spicy, Mum and Dad still aren’t quite used to the power of the chillies here! The search concluded on the waterfront where, despite lots of “sorry mister, no beef/fish/chicken” i was able to eat an amazing noodle dish while my dad had a sorry looking spag boll and mum had an omelette! There had to be better than this.....
Tuesday was an early start with a car trip around the Northern tip of the island. This really is a beautiful place but the lack of road signs is frustrating at best! We made our way back to Tinggi for a swim and the water was beautiful. The surrounding granite rock formations are some of the most uniquely beautiful i’ve ever seen.
Following a quick lunch of fresh coconut and sate skewers that came to a total of 34,000 for the three of us, we started to head south and seeing signs for a couple of Pelabuhans we headed for them. I always thought Pelabuhan meant beach but what we were met with was  a huge concrete road heading out to a docking station for small ships.
Stopping to take some pictures, we were just about to get into the car when my dad tripped and fell. The resulting gash in his leg, just adjacent to the shin bone, immediately started leaking blood of a deep crimson colour. Not good.
I ran back and got the car threw dad in the front (not literally of course) mum in the back and headed for Tanjung Pandan. speed.
Now i don’t expect you all to believe what i’m about to tell you but it’s true, i promise. At 4.02 we entered the small hospital past a line of Indonesians varying in their sicknesses. There were two rooms. A waiting room and a treatment room. We were directed to an empty bed in the busy treatment room and were immediately seen by a doctor who having once been shown the wound burst into action.
An injection of anaesthetic was followed by what I can only describe as triage surgery. There were no niceties or bedside manner just an urgent cleaning of the wound that happened in front of my still bewildered eyes. Running through my brain at the same time were thoughts such as “you haven’t even asked his name”, “where’s the private room?”,” are you really doing this right here and right now?”. When i say infront of my bewildered eyes i would also like to include the curious audience that had gathered to watch. The table that my dad was on was open to the whole room.  The looks of awe and amazement at seeing a bule in general public, was multiplied to see one lying on a hospital bed with a wad of gauze packed into a hole in their leg. The craning necks seemed to want to identify that our blood was red as well and not some kind of bluish green that they’d been misinformed about .
I should tell you that the audience included someone’s grandma who had just died on the next table and a man holding his severed finger, more interested in my dad’s treatment than the re-attachment of his digit. On the next table to him was a woman whose waters had burst and was awaiting delivery of Belitungs newest in and one out it appeared.
Throughout all this my worried looking mum was in and out to check on proceedings. My Dad is without doubt the strongest man i’ve ever met. Throughout what was a painful experience (obvious by the look on his face and gritted teeth) he didn’t complain once, not once.  To clean the wound involved sticking wads of gauze inside the hole in his leg and then dripping some white liquid from a height. At one point another liquid was put in which immediately started foaming like a corrosive acid. Still not a single complaint.
Then the stitching. Disolvable intenal stitches went in first and were quickly followed by black cat-gut stitches on the outside and then padding and a bandage.
The procedure ended with a tetanus injection at 4.25.
Twenty-three minutes for three internal stitches and three external stitches. A thorough cleansing of the wound and a tetanus jab. And a bill, including antibiotics and other drugs that came to Rp380,000. All together! (around £25 in English money!)
Handshakes all round were distributed and to the waving of still awestruck locals we departed the hospital.
Back at the hotel a cold guinness was just what the doctor (I’m sure would have) ordered for dad and it went  down well before a well deserved sleep.
Wednesday was originally planned as the day of the boat-trip around a few islands. But with the recent incapacitation of Mr Stoker Senior, we decided to head for Memboleng, and what a great decision it turned out to be.
Following a quick trip to the hospital to change the bandages, we headed out of Tanjung Pandan and pointed the car south. Following the coast to our right, the road occasionally pushed us inland to view the scenery there. Glimpses of monkeys playing in the road were interspersed with stops to top up the petrol and take pictures of the variety of colourful houses. Currently this island would appear to have one functioning petrol station (more are being built but not finished yet). The common thing to do is to stop at a shop/house/shack that has 1 litre and 5 litre containers outside and have them fill the tank through a funnel and hose contraption.
I mentioned that new petrol stations are being built (we’ve seen a couple around Tanjung Pandan and Tanjung Tinggi) but my concerns are A) what happens after the imminent boat festival (Sail Wakatobi in October which will see sail boats from many nations, as well as their entourages arrive on the island) and the tourists leave? Will the garages continue to be manned? And B) is this the first of many changes about to take place on this delightfully concealed island? There is a definite edge of selfishness in what i’m concerned about as i don’t want to see this beautiful island commercialised.
There are plenty of waroeng style food outlets but  very few actual restaurants that are obvious to the naked eye. The only sign of corporate branding is the KFC that sits proudly in the centre of Tanjung Pandan. Rather people cook for themselves or head to a waroeng and eat in or get the food wrapped in banana leaf and brown paper to take away.
No Starbucks doesn’t mean a lack of coffee....rather you get the local Java blend and depending on your ability with Indonesian it will come as you asked. It won’t be a moccachino with whipped cream and hazlenut syrup, but it will be strong and tasty. I know that some people find it impossible to go without fast food but trust me when i say sate chicken is the tastiest, fastest snack available.
So back to Wednesday. The car brought us to a part of the southern coast where we were surrounded on two sides by water. The beach was again pristine and white and there wasn’t another soul to be seen. Leaving Dad holding the car keys, Mum and I took it as an opportunity for a swim. It was as close to having your own private island as i think it’s possible to get.
Moving on with a plan to head to the other side of the island, we stopped briefly in Memboleng for some food. This was bakso (meatball) soup with plain rice and padang style spicy chicken. The roadside stall we ate at probably didn’t get that many Bule tourists so the looks of astonishment at our arrival were quite funny.
Heading towards Tanjung Lusa, we arrived to find a long rickety wooden pier heading out into the ocean. The kids, all laughing and pointing, that we saw grouped around the rocks at the entrance to the pier, soon plucked up the courage to ride their motorbikes along the pier to join us and ask us questions. I say courage as it came in two forms. The first was obviously approaching older Bules. The second was that if you saw the state of the pier with rotting slats supported by bamboo in the pier, you’d never have walked on it let alone rode a heavy motorbike carrying two passengers!!
The ride back through hilly, forrested countryside and more villages was just spectacular, with the windows wound down allowing us to wave at the many people shouting “hey mister”.
Back at Pondok Impian 2, we relaxed before again dining on amazing prawns, chicken and vegetables at the next door Restaurant Luat that we had somehow missed on our first evening.
Thursday morning arrived with Mum and I walking out on the sand flats outside the cottages, made available by the receeded tide to watch guys apparently digging in the sand for nothing in particular. The mass of tiny sand crabs swarmed and seethed infront of us as we walked through the shallow warm water.
Arriving back to find breakfast of nasi goreng, mie goreng and roti bakar with strong coffe, this fortified us before our ride up to Lor-in near Tinggi.
The hotel overlooked a completely deserted beach of pristine soft sand and having got Dad settled in a lounger in the shade to read his book, Mum and I went for a swim. The water can only be described as crystal clear. This is a term that has been widely over-used but is the only description which can be applied in this case.
The rest of the day was spent exploring more around Tanjung Tinggi.
Friday arrived and it was time to leave beautiful Belitung but there is no way this will be the last trip here.

see my facebook page for more photos from this trip

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


So today is the 18th August 2011 and the day after Indonesian Independance day. Yesterday I went with three of the teachers, Mike, Katie and Emma to the Snow Bay water park at Taman Mini. It's my second trip there but since we had use of an EF car, the sun was shining and two thirds of the population are fasting so it would be quiet, it seemed the ideal destination.

It was a great day out culminating in a wide range of sunburns and sushi at Sushi Naga in BSD which is always good (that'll be the sushi, not the sunburn)

Today is back to normal though but what is normal?

Well, I usually arrive at work between 9 and 10. This depends on if I have to drop my laundry off which today I did so today I arrived at 9.45.

I should put in the perspective that teaching doesn't start until 2pm for kindergarten aged 'Small Stars' and 3pm for regular classes and goes on until 9pm Monday to Friday. Saturday is a 9am start and a 1.30pm finish. My contract also insists I work 40 hours a week so anything over that is down to me I guess.

Anyone who knows me, knows I throw myself into my work 100% and here is no different. With teacher shortages the last three weeks I have been doing 52 hour weeks with up to 23 hours of contact teaching. But what I can say is that while it's been tough juggling teaching with administration, it's also been fun. I'm not quite sure the teachers would agree because if I do more teaching hours, the less time I have to observe them and do developmental workshops, but they've been a stoic bunch and I'm proud of them.

 But back to a normal day.....

When I arrive the first thing I do is make a pot of strong coffee. On my first day as acting DoS here back in January, the first thing I did was to buy a coffee machine. It's used by the other staff and whilst in the UK I tend to drink alot of tea, due to the sweetness of the milk in Indonesia I prefer to drink coffee here as I take it black.

While waiting for the coffee to brew I'll usually sit and scan the pages of the daily edition of the Jakarta Post, an English Language newspaper delivered every morning. Once the coffee is made I'll read a couple of stories in more detail and today's is the ongoing problem of Nazaruddin.

This guy Nazaruddin is a wanted criminal who has just been extradited from Columbia. His crime? Corruption, and on a pretty big scale at that too. So why my interest in this story? Well in the west I genuinely believe our governments are corrupt but are better at covering their tracks. Occasionally someone will take the fall at the end of a Machiavellian style plot and we never find out the true circumstances.
Here in Indonesia it's different. The country has had a problem for decades with corruption but they are openly trying to do something about it. In the form of anti corruption committees and high profile trials. But somehow the taint of corruption always seems to reappear.
In this case it is the revelation that 6 high ranking lawmakers visited Nazaruddin in his cell. Off the record. They sought no open permission to do this and there is no record of the details of the conversation. Maybe it was just a case of a bunch of old friends catching up on the state of the Premiership without Cesc Fabregas.....or maybe not. Whilst there is no record of the conversation, there was somehow tv footage of the lawmakers negotiating their entrance to the detention centre. I'm sure the fact that Nazaruddin had openly spoken about key colleagues also being involved in his corruption had nothing to do with this visit.
As morning rituals go, this story is akin to watching a 3 year old boy driving a car....funny to start with but you know it won't end well.

After that it's onto the details of the day. I plan any meetings I have to have, update my diary of the previous days events and add in upcoming events and then it's lesson planning. That I can do most of this before anyone else arrives gives me some peace and tranquility and then allows me to make myself available for any issues the teachers may have once they begin to arrive.

Lunch is usually taken at about midday and is often nasi goreng (fried rice) from the local food stall. in between teaching I may do some student placement interviews or I may observe the teachers teaching to offer them suggestion, feedback and encouragement and at the end of the day I may grab some food from a restaurant or go to the supermarket and cook for myself.

So that's pretty much my, what did I do with Emma's evaluation sheet......

Friday, August 5, 2011

Stealth Mugs

I have said before that as a guest in Indonesia i will do my best to respect the laws and customs of the country. However, sometimes after a hard day at work what you really want is an ice cold beer.

But where to get said beverage during the holy month of Ramadan? 99% of the shops remove it from their shelves, the local bar "Barrels" in Sumeracon Mall is selling only mineral water and even the "Happy Puppy Karaoke" establishment next door to EF Gading Serpong has closed for the month.

Now I could travel into Jalan Jaxa or Kemang in Jakarta but when I have to teach 3 hours of IELTS (international exam preparation) at 9am tomorrow and when all I want is one beer, help comes in a somewhat unique form.

I have mentioned Salsa, the food court near our school before and it was to here that Emma, Katie the new Irish teacher (she's from Ireland, not teaching Irish) Oli and I went to our favourite food and beer seller "Amie's"

"Three Bintangs please Ari" was the speculative request (Oli's fasting so he's decided this means no beer either) to which we were told "it'll have to be Heineken cans and we serve them in coffee mugs so no-one knows, is that ok?"

Well, no problem there then, we thought so asked for the menus as well.

Now here comes my favourite part of the experience........the beer duly arrived in said coffee mugs, but what was the pattern on the mugs?? yep, you've guessed it...."Heineken".....I promise, you couldn't make this stuff up!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Smiling in the face of adversity......not always easy

Writing this blog is cathartic, in the sense that once you get stuff "off your chest" (idiom) and "out in the open" (further idiom), it can allow you to open your mind to what's really worth focusing on.

As a Director of Studies, your day is filled with challenges both small and at times seemingly mountainous. Today was the challenge of resolving the ongoing situation of getting my motorbike, or 'Everest' to follow the idiom.

As I have mentioned in a previous entry, six months ago I put my faith in a Dutch-Indonesian guy called Mike. This faith was (mis)placed based on my casual friendship with Mike and his girlfriend Lyn. As you may imagine from the title of this entry, all did not go well and 6 months later I'm still without said motorbike as well as the two million rupiah down payment.

Now I know you're going to say that I probably deserve it. But should living, and aspiring to continue living, in a different country, stop you from making friends and then taking those friends at face value when they offer to help? Well hindsight is one of those gifts that I may have been at the back of the queue for when handed out but I believe that you have to trust people a little. Relatively, two million rupiah equates to about 140.00 pounds so it isn't going to break the bank but obviously there's still the principle of getting it back.

So, what to do next. Well, the idea of spreading the payments over a year seemed sensible. Having only a few months back forked out 30 million to sort out my house and knowing that my parents are also coming to stay for a month in August and still needing some bits for the house before they arrived, the thought of a down payment and then spreading the cost, where I wouldn't really notice the monthly amount appealed even more. Enlisting the help of the Marketing Co-ordinator Yosef and Nina the Centre Manager to leapfrog the hurdle of intensive Bahasa Indonesian language, it transpired that I could indeed accomplish all of this in my own name.

A representative from the Dealership came and completed the forms and took away my inflated deposit of Rp3.75 million with promises that following a successful examination by the leasing chap (a guy comes round and looks at your house to make sure you live there, I kid you not), said bike would be delivered tomorrow 21st July. The following day came the next adversity, the down payment had just risen to 30% of the bike's cost but this would be reflected in the monthly payments and by doing this it was 100% guaranteed the bike would be delivered on the 21st July. So off I trotted to the bank to withdraw more cash.

The house inspector guy came out the same day and left saying that all he needed now were copies of my last three months bank statements. This morning I deviated from my normal route to work to collect the statements from my local branch of Permata (who I've banked with for two and a half years). Dropping them with Yosef at work I was then asked if I had a "Family Card" like other Indonesians. Yep, here comes the next bit of adversity. All of those previous promises were based on being able to produce an identity card which as a Brit we don't possess. But, don't worry Mr Daron/Mr John (this is the problem of including your middle name on anything here, it baffles people as to what to call you) said the guys from the dealership, we can get a letter from the guy who is the unelected head of the area you live in, that you've never met, who wouldn't know you from Adam, to confirm I do indeed live at the address I've actually been living at for the last 6 months............and it will only cost me a further Rp500,000 and a wait of up to a further two weeks.

The complete surprise and amazement of everyone in the room that I didn't leap from my chair and enthusiastically shake everyone's hands for their lopsided attempt at extortion was obvious by the slack-jawed expressions.

The speed with which I suggested that the best thing to do was to return my money took the two dealership guys (I guess there were now two of them if backhanders were being handed out) by surprise and they seemed completely confused as they exited the office without any acknowledgement to their departure.

The upshot? Back to square two. Not square 1 as I'm still awaiting the return of the original 2 million deposit..... You never know.

And finally back to the title of this entry. How do you smile in the face of this adversity? Well, it's Indonesia and you don't sweat the small stuff and realistically, this is small stuff. Something will work out, it always does. You just need to find the particular method to make it happen!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A funny thing happened on the way to the launderette......

Proof that nothing in Indonesia should be taken at face value was confirmed recently by this particular incident.
A live in maid is not exactly compulsory here but it is extremely normal. Paid the equivalent of about 70 pounds a month, the maid usually has a room in the house and her (although sometimes it's a his) duties entail cleaning and laundry with a possibility of shopping thrown in too.
We have two teachers houses here in Gading Serpong and up until recently we had a young maid based in the main house. She cleaned the two teachers houses on a day to day basis and also did the laundry. I attached myself to this rota by having her visit my house once a week to clean and took my laundry to the main house to have it done.
2 weeks ago, the maid left.
Now, I live on my own and my house is easy enough to clean, but laundry and ironing I have always considered to be time I'll never get back and that there are more worthwhile things I can do with that time. So, it was with this particular philosophy that I looked around for someone to do it.
As luck would have it, there was a sign saying "laundry" outside a house two doors away from my house.
I ventured into the driveway one day to enquire and was met by a sweet old Indonesian lady. Using my limited Bahasa Indonesian, I asked if she could do my laundry for me to which I was met with the reply of "EH-EH"
This wasn't the response I was expecting so proceeded to re-request my laundry needs. The woman appeared to understand but yet again said "EH-EH" this time followed buy a further sucession of "EH-EH"'.
It was at this point I realised that the poor old dear had some sort of speech impediment or some such disability, but her frantic nodding made me return to my house to collect the stack of clothes that had built up. I left her my name and address and my phone number and left to a cheerful chorus of "EH-EH"s.
3 days later I went back to check on the status of the laundry and was met by a middle aged woman called Veronica who, it turned out, was the sister of the lady I'd first met.
Veronica looked worried, never a good sign and especially when your worldly clothes posessions are at stake.
Very calmly, Veronica apologised for her sisters enthusiasm at being able to do my laundry and immediately I wondered why. There was a perfectly good sign saying "Laundry" outside the house and EH-EH, as she will always affectionately be known to me as had completed a very formal printed out laundry request form.
The next part didn't take me quite by surprise as it would have done when I was newly arrived in Indonesia. Veronica explained that their laundry was an agency for dry cleaning and that all the clothes are sent away to be dry cleaned at a cost of RP5,000 per item. I was now looking at a bill of over RP200,000 for what should have cost less than RP50,000...................and then she handed me back my laundry bag containing my dirty underwear and tea towels.
On the plus side, Veronica did direct me to a place called "Nina's" in the next street where the sign saying "Laundry" evidently meant they could do day to day laundry.

The moral? It always pays to ask...............

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Indonesian Public Holidays 2012

These are the public holidays in Indonesia next year....i think that makes 19 plus i'll get about 9 extra at Christmas next year ...UK, eat your heart out

January 1 (Sunday): New Year
January 23 (Monday): Chinese New Year
February 5 (Sunday): Prophet Muhammad’s birthday
March 23 (Friday): Nyepi, the Hindu Day of Silence
April 6 (Friday): Good FridayMay 6 (Sunday): Waisak
May 17 (Thursday): Jesus Christ’s Ascension Day
June 17 (Sunday): Muhammad’s Ascension Day (Isra Mi’raj)
August 17 (Friday): Independence Day
August 19-20 (Sunday-Monday): Idul Fitri
October 26 (Friday): Idul Adha, the Islamic Day of Sacrifice
November 5 (Monday): Islamic New Year
December 25 (Tuesday): Christmas
Additional Days Off (Cuti Bersama):
May 18 (Friday): Ascension Day
August 21-22 (Tuesday-Wednesday): Idul Fitri
November 16 (Friday): Islamic New Year
December 24 (Monday): Christmas

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

You want to work in Paradise too?

There is a steady stream of people who decide, for one reason or another, to up-sticks and head for Jakarta. Some people do as I did and head for Asia and then consequently find themselves in Jakarta. Other people head for Jakarta or other parts of Indonesia specifically.

The reasons for coming vary enormously too. It could be to work for a company, such as in the oil industry. It could be a gap year, or it could be as simple as needing a change. Whatever that reason, if you want to work your way around a new country, then teaching is a great choice for many reasons.

If you choose teaching, and teaching English, it usually means learning a new skill (more about that later). It allows you to then take that skill and potentially apply it anywhere that needs an English teacher. Depending on how the experience progresses, you may find yourself diversifying into other jobs. One thing I can pretty safely guarantee though is that the experience will change your life.

So, how to begin........
Well, assuming you aren't currently a teacher then you need to get some experience to become one. Most institutions are looking for some qualification that proves you understand what is involved in teaching either EFL (English as a Foreign Language) or ESL (English as a Second Language). If they're not interested in you having any teaching qualification, worry.

Many teachers take a TEFL course, the 't' stands for teaching. This is often through a company such as  i-2-i ( who offer both online and classroom based opportunities. I'm not familiar with this as it's not the route that I took somy advice is that you really do need to check what your future employer is looking for. So don't skimp on the research. Put another way, it may seem relatively easy to do an online course, but will the qualification get you a job? Or just onto an extended course for further qualifications?

I went down a slightly different road and took a CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) with a company called International House based in Bangkok ( I really can't rate this highly enough. It was the toughest month of my life in some ways. It was also the most satisfying ( I should apologise to my ex-wife for that last sentence). What I have found since is that the Tefl courses seem fine but the CELTA is just so much more developed. I can only tell you how I felt at the time coming off the course. It was so in-depth and extremely focussed on lesson planning and delivery that I still adhere to it's formats over two years later.

So why Thailand? Well, Thailand has it's knockers (no pun intended) but International House are a reputable company and the CELTA is directly affiliated with Cambridge University so carries a prestige too. The second reason was that they offered a residential course in Chiang Mai in the North of Thailand which appealed enormously to me. I had absolutely no intention of staying and travelling in the sweatbox that is Bangkok, but Chiang Mai offered a different perspective.(The picture below is not the accommodation, rather it's the view across a serene, tranquil catfish lake, perfect for reflecting on your teaching practice or essay writing.)

This is the website for the residential course location you don't book your accommodation, it comes as a package but this site shows better angles than my photos!

There is a maximum of twelve teaching students on the CELTA course and ages and experience vary enormously. below are some of my friends from the course.

The added benefit of taking the CELTA in Thailand was that with the classroom teaching practice, I taught non English speakers and in hindsight this was immense value when starting my first job.
The students are locals from Chiang Mai and are offered a structured English course for free, as long as they don't mind being guinnea pigs for the teaching students!
(above is the computer and research room and below is one of our training classrooms at Nugent Waterside)

"I've passed my TEFL/CELTA, what's next......"

Well next up is to apply for a job but who to apply to?
For me I'd settled on China or Indonsia in the first instance. China because I'm fascinated with the culture and Indonesia because I knew next to nothing about it. Why not Thailand? Well, the CELTA course had finished in February and the fact is that the State schools don't really recruit until May/June and financially I needed to be working.
My Uncle, who has a great deal of academic experience of China was at pains to suggest I didn't go there. Before anyone hyper-ventilates, this is my blog, with my experiences. I hear many good stories of experiences teaching in China. I have never worked there so really can't comment other than to point out that my Uncle didn't consider it to be the best move I could make. So it came to pass that I took up an offer with EF English First in Jakarta.

I reccommended earlier that people should do their research carefully. I did not. I was partly so happy to get the job I'd applied for (I had also been offered a job in China) that I just kept anticipating putting the hard work into practice.
Not researching carefully enough usually, after having started the job, leads to cries of "what?" or "You want me to do what?" or "I'll be sharing a room with two goats and Grandma Probolingo?". I have been lucky. This comes from being placed in a great school with an academically excellent Director of Studies. But my advice to everyone is DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

Have a list of what you want to know:-
what ages will I be teaching
expectations of ability to follow your own interests outside work
etc etc

This way in any interview, you will be prepared as much to ask questions, as to answer them.
If you're offered the job and time allows, I'd expect the Director of Sudies who you'll be working with to contact you and offer the opportunity to speak to or email current teachers. Another chance to ask pertinent questions. This along with the research you did earlier will ensure you don't arrive and immediately think "what the ......?"
In all likelihood you'll be taking on a one year contract. That may or may not be extended depending on your performance as much as your intention and any extension depends on what you want to do next. I know teachers and DoS's who have continued into their fourth years and beyond.

Finally. This is a job of work you are taking on. If your goal, as in the words of the immortal Artist Formerly Known as Prince, is to party like it's 1999, then don't do it. Do something else. Get into party planning or wedding organising. You're going to be responsible for impressionable minds. Of course you'll have plenty of chance to let your hair down but you're not on some kind of extended holiday. Better to hear this now than when you're struggling to get a reference for your third job in three months!

Life as a teacher is hard work but there's also fun too. My school is often organising day trips or overnights to different places. Going off on your own is also fun and there's always plenty of help and support to do this.

Good luck and feel free to comment here or ask for further help. I'm happy to oblige.

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Memory of Roisin Burke

On 31st May 2011, we said goodbye to Roisin Burke.

To those of us who knew her, she was always the life and soul of wherever she was, encouraging people to see the fun side of things. I believe this is how she will want to be remembered.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Food Glorious Food (Indonesian style)

Anyone that know's me, know's I like my food. Yes I can be picky at times and at others downright confusing (I love cheese but I can't stand anything with cooked or melted cheese) but I'm always up for trying new and unusual things.

Back in the days in Thailand, before travelling to Jakarta, I went hill trekking and managed to try both rat and water buffalo. I also tried deep fried crickets too which, after a few beers, are not overly dissimilar to pork scratchings if you take the legs and general cricket shape into account.

The food I've tried here in Indonesia has been of tremendous variety. Simple dishes with complex flavours made by carefully combining herbs and spices and other ingredients to combine into what can only be described as a taste sensation. And I'm not talking about 5 Star restaurants. You get this same attention to detail even from the street vendors and roadside waroengs. The biggest complaint I hear levelled against Indonesian food is "everything is fried" and whilst this is not entirely true, alot of the food can be fried..........let me introduce you;


From top to bottom of these pictures we have:-
1. Nasi Goreng (Fried Rice)
This is a staple part of the Indonesian diet and possibly the most versatile meal on the list. This meal can be eaten for breakfast, lunch or dinner or just as a snack. I've seen this dish prepared in a matter of seconds as long as the ingredients are ready to go. Here's the recipe and method from my local lunchtime waroeng, Wong Solo.
Basically you add some oil, garlic and salt to a hot wok and lightly stir in an egg. Next is added a little chicken stock and some thick soy sauce called kecap (pronounced ketchup but not to be confused with the tomato sauce variety) and to this is added a portion of steamed rice. This is stir fried and has pieces of cooked chicken and, depending on your taste, chopped birds eye chillies* are added. Now it's just about combining the ingredients. If this is served as a take-away then it is scooped onto a piece of banana leaf and topped with fried shallots, chopped pickled vegetables and, as is my preference, shredded cabbage. Finally garnished with prawn crackers called krupuk, the cost of this lunch is RP12,000 or about 80p in English money or $1.20 US.
The picture show's the more traditional "eat-in" service of the dish straight out of a bowl mould and topped with a fried egg and garnished with cucumber and tomato but, in my opinion, the dish I've described from Waroeng Wong Solo's is the best Nasi Goreng I've had since I've been here.
* The chillies are usually optional although in some dishes are already present. Indonesian preference is usually towards spicy. If you require your meal "spicy free" then the expression tidak pedas should immediately be in your vocabulary. Asking for something pedas usually ends up in vindaloo++ proportions of spicy heat! It should be born in mind that very little food here is ever entirely without being a little spicy.

2. Mie Goreng (Fried Noodles)
It's difficult to tell just which is more popular here, Rice or Noodles. I'd have to say that on reflection it would be noodles. Indonesians eat noodles in so many ways from the amazing variety of pot noodles and dried noodles found in supermarkets that with a little hot water, reconstitute themselves into great snacks (or in the case of cash strapped teachers, possibly a staple diet) to angel hair noodles or udon noodles.
This picture show's the most traditional way to eat them. Stir-fried with some vegetables and some stock and of course, the prerequisite chillies!

3. Gado-Gado (Vegetable Salad)
Possibly the least appetising dish from the pictures, I agree, but don't let that fool you. Gado-Gado can be translated into English as "jumble" and basically that's what this is. A jumble of steamed vegetables coated in peanut sauce (and chillies) and usually served with plain steamed rice or Lontong, a compacted rice cake.

4. Soto Betawi Ayam (Chicken Soup)
The fourth picture down is a great soup made with coconut milk, chicken and vegetables. It also has these weird egg crackers which don't taste particularly nice on their own, but once soaked in the soup give it another texture altogether.

5. Sate Kambing (Barbecued Goat Skewers)
There are many types of sate, quite possibly the more popular one is chicken, but this goat sate is more complex. The chicken version is barbecued then coated in a spicy peanut sauce and served on rice. The goat version is barbecued but then served with a sauce of sweet soy, chopped chillies, shredded cabbage, tomato, sliced shallots and lime juice.

6. Iga Bakar (Grilled Beef Ribs)
Pork isn't entirely off the menu in Indonesia but with the majority of the population being Muslim there are only select places that you find it. This dish does away with the need for pork ribs. The ribs you get in the waroengs and restaurants are usually huge and often served with something called Sambal*. Don't oder if you don't like fat. whilst there is alot of meat on the ribs, there is also some fat too. I'm a big fan of the taste of flame grilled beef fat but I understand it's not to everyone's taste.
* Sambal - Initially there are two types of sambal, matang (cooked) or mentah (raw). but the varieties don't stop there......
Sambal terasi
Possibly the most common style of sambal with a strong flavour coming from red and green chillies, shrimp paste, sugar, salt, and lime juice
Sambal asam
This is similar to sambal terasi but with the addition of a tamarind concentrate.
Sambal kacang
A mixture of chillies with garlic, shallots, sugar, salt, crushed fried peanuts and water.
Sambal bajak
Chilies fried with oil, garlic, candlenuts, this is a darker and richer sambal.
Sambal pencit
Take some sambal terasi and add shredded young mango. Pencit means young mango in Indonesian.
Sambal lado ijo
This is a Padang speciality- the sambal is green, not red and is made from green tomatoes, green chilies, shallots and spices and then stir fried.

The list goes on and is seemingly endless!

7. Bebek Goreng (Fried Duck) above
There are many Chinese restaurants here that serve great duck but this dish, found in waroengs and roadside restaurants is simple. Fried bits of duck served with a salad of raw cabbage leaves, mint leaves, tomato cucumber and a hot and spicy green chilli sambal.

No list of Indonesian food, no matter how short or how long, should miss the local delicacy(?) that is Durian. New York is called the Big Apple because everyone wants to take a bite out of it. Jakarta has earned the international moniker of "The Big Durian". Let me tell you durians stink. A ripe open durian smells like the inside of a 3 year old running shoe that's been left to go damp and moldy in some outhouse. Even Indonesians themselves are divided with a significant percentage not liking it either.
This does not stop shopkeepers and supermarkets from placing the display right at the front of the store where you can smell it from a considerable distance (aprox 2 miles). How this attracts customers rather than repels them is beyond me. It would have the same invitational appeal as a rotting warthog carcase displayed in the window.
The list of things made from this disgusting fruit includes iced smoothies, ice cream and even a sambal! Whilst durian flavoured candy is also available.
All i can say've been warned!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Customary Confusion #1

One of the things that never fails to bring a smile to my face every day is the differences in Asian and Western customs. I know there are huge disparities around the globe such as the "ok" sign being acceptable in some places whilst not in others, but in Indonesia there are some great ones. I do hope my Indonesian friends and colleagues wont mind me poking a little fun at this area as I'm sure many of our customs seem strange to them and I'm absolutely positive that a trip to the west would bring about the same perplexion (probably with our attitude to beaurecracy in particular!).

Let's begin with the nose. Bule, as westerners are commonly referred to, have generally bigger noses than our Asian brothers and sisters. This in itself can be cause for much hilarity, pointing or staring depending on your situation. The customary divide is that we Westerners do tend to refrain from inspecting the contents of our noses at regular and often public occasions.
My father once taught me a small rhyme as a kid;
"you can pick your friends,
and you can pick your nose,
but you can't pick your friend's nose"
Now admittedly even in Asia I have never seen anyone picking another person's nose, but the acceptability of the second line of the rhyme is extraordinary. Were it ever considered as an Olympic event, The Gold would indeed come to Indonesia I feel.
In particular, students of all ages quite happily sit in class "raiding the snotbox" and to say this is off-putting when explaining the formula for passive voice is an understatement. However, this behaviour is not limited to students. No sir, no indeedy. I have been physically stood in front of policemen, immigration officials and much more frighteningly, waiters, who all believe this is an acceptable past-time.
The thing that makes this slightly more confusing is that it is considered rude to blow your nose in public. The use of a handkerchief or tissue is frowned upon!

The customs in this area are not only confusing, but if you don't have your wits about you they can be downright dangerous and I should point out that there is no test of driving ability in Indonesia. As long as you can afford the cost of the driving licence (Rp300,000 for Indonesians, Rp500,000 for Bule) that is sufficient to get you onto the road.
Consider two lanes of traffic. As in the UK, Indonesians drive on the left hand side of the road. Most of the time! Quite often you will encounter a bicycle or a motorbike and extraordinarily at times a car or a truck, coming at you on your side of the road. The reaction to this in the UK would be hand gestures, shouting at the other driver (window up or down optional depending on level of frustration) or liberal use of the horn and flashing of beam headlights.
These responses highlight other customary differences. Firstly, Indonesians rarely show anger. I have heard stories from other drivers where people have been knocked off of bikes, picked themselves up, dusted themselves down and depending on the state of said bike walked or ridden off. Once even with a smile and a wave! Hence any show of anger is treated with confusion. (NB. There isn't really any insurance here either. Rather the common acceptance is that the biggest vehicle must be at fault and therefore stands any costs)
Secondly, the horn and beam lights. here these are used purely to let other drivers know you're in the vicinity or that you have no intention of stopping. Angry use of these two accessories purely causes yet more confusion and a long, single blast of the horn would make most people assume it's just broken.
Finally, as I mentioned at the beginning of this posting hand signals have different meanings here to the point that you'll probably end up complementing the other person hehehe.
My point of view on this subject comes from having held bike and car licences for the last year, regularly riding a motorbike around the area an also having an amazing view of the main road from the smoking area on the first floor of our building.
Do not be tempted to adopt any highway code that you use in your own country. Giving way to traffic at roundabouts and junctions seems more instinctive than controlled by rules and certain vehicles such as angkots (cheap minibus taxis), taxis and ojeks (motorbike taxis) seem to be a law unto themselves.
Tip: drive as if you're the only person on the road and have major difficulty parking and you'll fit in nicely.

As a Brit, I'm used to the different cultural values of this custom. In Spain, "Manjana time" is the standard where whatever it is you're waiting for will happen soon. Probably.
Depending on exactly what it is you're waiting for, this laissez-faire attitude is usually pretty funny. Most people experience it in a holiday context so are usually more relaxed and accepting. In a working capacity it must be more frustrating.
We Brits are usually less forgiving when something at work needs to be done. It's part of our DNA make up. We're just raised that way.
Our reaction is impatience and this shows in a few ways. This could be despairing or exasperated looks generally looking for what it is you're waiting for.It could escalate to finger tapping or grinding of teeth or possibly starting a random argument with some innocent bystander. These usually occur before the final "flipping out" stage which can also be referred to as "losing it". Quite often in this situation a "messenger gets shot" as the impatient person finally "goes off the deep end".
Any time spent in Indonesia quickly leads you to the realisation that time as a concept is arbitrary. Certain things you'd expect to be expedited quite quickly, usually aren't.
1. Getting your passport stamped on arrival back from Singapore with a new visa. (relatively long. Depending on just how many times one guy can look at every page of your passport without ever making eye contact with you in person)
2. Getting an Indonesian mate to help you sort out finance on a new motorbike. (never-ending. Currently I've been waiting nearly 5 months for this to arrive and the list of excuses recently went from laughable to just sad)
3. From choosing a new shirt to leaving the shop with your purchase. Way longer than you'd think!
4. Waiting for some teenage students to get to class. Hmmmmm.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

First week of May 2011

So my birthday week has arrived and looking ahead it's going to be a fun week.

Today isn't actually the best start as I've got a bit of a cold, you know that type of cold that isn't full blown feeling crap, rather it's the type of cold that means you can't actually taste anything, you have to blow your nose every 2 minutes, the air conditioning makes you feel cold, but the minute you turn it off you sweat buckets and basically you can think of a thousand places you'd rather be than at work.....ah well, some panadol capsules and writing myself a memo to say "man up and get on with it" should do the trick...

It's currently 11.25 on Monday morning the 2nd of May and I'm waiting for a group of parents to turn up to talk about their children's next steps. This is a class of kids who've completed our Trailblazer levels but are a little to young (in maturity stakes as well as physical years) to move to the Real English levels. The meeting was supposed to start at 11.00 and the complete lack of respect it shows to arrange a meeting and then to not turn up, to not even bother calling is remarkable.

I have an illness issue this week in other terms too. Two of my Indonesian teachers are off with Chicken Pox. It's actually a curious form of Chicken Pox as both called me after the initial diagnosis to say that they'd be off for two days. Having personally been unfortunate enough to have had Chicken Pox as an adult I feel huge sympathy for both Inge and Haryo but what doctor worth a medical degree can suggest two days rest as a cure for the Pox?? The incubation period alone is 12 days and it only stops being infectious after the scabs from the spots heal over. Anyway, Inge will be off for at least another week and Haryo thinks he'll be back next monday......we'll see. I guess it's one of the perils of working in a school that you expose yourself to all manner of bugs and diseases.

The upshot of this is that with Jacob, one of our native English speaking teachers having to return home due to epilepsy and Widi, one of our non-native teachers taking a new job as a translator, we're pretty short on teachers. Paul Hutchens is also on holiday this week and I'll be going to Singapore on Thursday with Emma Winfield, another of our teachers to do a "visa run". With this being the situation, we've actually had to borrow two non-native teachers from other schools so I'm waiting to welcome Angel and Puput.

In a small side note, I've just noticed the death of Osama Bin Laden on the BBC website.

Looking forward to the rest of the week, on Thursday i'll be flying to Singapore. Usually our visas are extended within the country once we have them, but recent issues in the Indonesian government have seen some problems with this process. Anyway, owing to other Indonesian govenment problems over the taxing of International movies, no new movies are currently being released anywhere in the country! This means that impending blockbusters such as Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern and X Men - First Class (to name just the superhero blockbusters) won't be seen. On Thursday, on landing in Singapore, I'll take the MRT to Orchard Road and go and see Thor and I'm as excited as a kid at Christmas!

Thursday 5th is also Emma's birthday so I guess a couple of beers may be consumed as well!

Bringing us swiftly to Saturday the 7th and my own birthday. With Emma's and mine being so close together we decided to host a joint party and invite just about everyone we know. The Singapore trip before it gives us the chance to get some spirits as well.

So what with all of the teaching issues this week, I'm going to use the more relaxed times to recover.......

til next time.........

Monday, April 25, 2011

Students, Students, Students

I changed jobs and moved to the other side of the world because I thought I wanted to teach. Doing the CELTA (The Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand, living for a month with 11 other people at Nugent Waterside, socialising, interacting, learning, laughing, arguing....this experience really cemented my desire to teach.

The CELTA is not easy. There is no final exam, instead you are assessed over the course of a month on physically teaching students. You also have to write 4 essays on teaching methodology that are assessed for your final grade too. The benefit of this and doing the CELTA in Chiang Mai for me was two-fold. Firstly, the students would all be Thai and wouldn't have much experience of English. Sometimes teaching in England, the students are already exposed to the language. This would be less so in Thailand.
Secondly, I'd be staying on-site at the training venue. This meant that we could spread the work and relaxation, not have to worry about travelling everyday and all of the meals would be arranged for us.

The actuality was that the CELTA was ultimately rewarding in experiential terms, but a complete bitch at the time. The pressure to perform well and the intensity of the learning when coupled with the high expectations on the assessments was overpowering at times. The release valve came in the form of having 11 other people around me in the same position.

I have no idea what the TEFL courses such as I-2-I are really like. What I do know is that if you're interested in teaching, the CELTA will confirm it, one way or the other.

So, this brings me to the students that I have taught with EF. I actually had no intention of teaching kids. The CELTA is aimed at teaching adults, but the methodology is essentially the same. The reality is that kids make up aproximately 90% of the market, be that in actual schools or extra curricular learning such as ourselves. The experience has been surprising on many levels.

Firstly, I wasn't sure I really liked kids. The outcome of that is that I do, and understanding some child psychology has definitely helped with this. Secondly, I wasn't sure i could teach kids. I thought I'd respond better to adults, predominantly because of my age. Let me tell you, age is no barrier to teaching. I have taught kindergarten up to adults and each class brings it's own set of challenges. My age has never proved inhibiting for the students or for myself.

The students are amazing. They can be moody, lazy, obstinate and unco-operative. But they can also be enlightening, diligent, inteligent and funny. Their responsiveness is a direct result of how good our lessons are and it's our job to make those lessons as interactive and enjoyable as possible. I don't mean games, games, games...rather educationally responsible activities that are also fun to do.

The downside of being the DoS is that it takes you away from teaching. Because of the administrative duties you have less time. Our teachers have a minimum 23 hour contact teaching hour week (contact hours being the hours you actively teach in a classroom) after this they get paid overtime. As a DoS mine is 14 hours. I wasn't sure that I actually wanted to even be a DoS so at my contract meeting i had a clause written in that said if I didn't like the job and wanted to do more teaching I could go back to my old job! The reality is that I still get to teach, I have great classes and I also love my new role too.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Weekend

So how does a Director of Studies spend his first long weekend off since starting as a DoS in January?....well let me break it down

As it may have occurred to you all from that last remark, I've worked every Saturday since starting at Gading Serpong. This is unusual as my contract allows me to take one Saturday off in four but due to it being the probationary period and that for the last few Saturdays I've been teaching a private student how to deliver a presentation in English, I haven't had the opportunity. Let's just say I was looking forward to it!

 Firstly I will take the TKT test on Monday morning so part of the weekend has actually been spent revising for that. The TKT is a test of teaching methodology knowledge, linked to EF through Cambridge University. I already hold the CELTA qualification but all of our teachers attain the TKT so it's only fair that the DoS leads by example and takes the same exam. I don't know why but I'm quite nervous about it, hopefully it'll go ok.

So Thursday night I headed back home after some food in Salsa, the food court I've referred to in a previous blog. The lie-in on Friday was great. really needed and I probably stayed longer in bed than I'd intended.

My laptop hasn't been working and I've been waiting for a suitable opportunity to go the 30 minutes to the Supermal at Karawaci. Here you can find all manner of electrical help. Be it a new mobile phone (or a second hand one come to that), Pulsa, the local term for mobile phone credit  as there are no real contracts to speak of here, plus computers. You can find laptops and notebooks of all shapes and sizes and along with this there are all manner of shops set up to mend any problems that you come across. My problem was that no power would get to the laptop so I took it to one of the sites, immediately found a guy who had a good grasp of English (although my Bahasa Indonesian is improving, I could never carry a conversation on the technical difficulties of a computer!) and explained the problem. he plugged it in and of course it immediately started working!

Next stop was a trip to see Bhoni. Bhoni is a girl who works at one of the knock-off DVD stores you can find here. Whatever you're looking for you can probably find it. As a movie buff it's a godsend, especially considering the current craziness going on in the Indonesian government and cinemas but more of that in a future blog. Rp21,000 or the equivalent Sterling of £1.75 saw me walk away with perfect copies of Inception, The Fifth Element and Rise of The Silver Surfer. Now it was time for a coffee.

There's a Coffee company called JCO where they give you a free glazed doughnut with every coffee purchased so it was washed down with an excellent hazlenut latte. As a matter of note, the guy behind JCO got his idea from Krispy Kreme doughnuts from the USA. He applied to hold the franchise rights for Krispy Kreme in Indonesia and, after attending the orientation course, decided to set up his own operation!!....They have a great range of doughnuts and sell a box of 12 for about £6.

Having just moved into a new house my last purchase today was a wi-fi router and with a working laptop this would now come in handy. So all of this in hand I jumped onto my borrowed moped and headed back to Gading Serpong.

I had no real plans for Friday night but that all changed with a phonecall from Zia. She's an Indonesian girl I know and she asked if I'd meet her and some of her friends and maybe record an English introduction for a company her friend works for. We arranged to meet in the Downtown Walk area of SMS and an hour later saw the voice recording done and a fun conversation over a coffee

Before leaving SMS Zia asked if I had any plans for Saturday and I told her no. She had to meet some other friends in Blok M, an area of Jakarta, to pick up the fabric for a bridesmaids dress for a wedding she'll be attending in July and asked if I wanted to go along. Any excuse to go into jakarta is fine by me and especially with a pretty girl too. So on Saturday morning I rode the moped the hour or so it takes to get to her house in Pamulang and we jumped into her family's car and I drove us into Jakarta.

We'd arranged to meet Zia's friends at 1.30 but a delay meant this was now going to be 4.00 and so to fill some time we headed to the Jakarta Convention Centre in the Senayan area where they were hosting and Indonesian handicrafts exhibition.

No sooner had we got through the entrance doors we bumped into Roach, a teacher who'd previously worked at EF Gading Serpong but for his second year he'd be working at EF Tangerang City. Roach was there with his girlfrind Alve and her young neice. I guess it wasn't difficult to spot Roach as we westerners do tend to stand out. We spent some time with them wandering through the exhibits before saying our goodbyes and heading back to the car.

Next stop was Blok M. one of Jakarta's older shopping areas and an area that on a night-time can be linked with the seedier side of the city if you know what I mean. We were meeting Zia's friends in a cafe and as with her friends the previous night they were all very nice and made me feel very welcome. Meeting Indonesians is a great way for me to learn more about Indonesian culture but also a great chance to practise my Bahasa.

From the cafe we then went around some stalls looking for a trophy. Two of Zia's friends are getting married and the four of them had a plan to buy a trophy which would be passed onto the next one to get married....interesting.

With the trophy bought we headed back to the car to return to Pamulang. It was totally dark now and this makes driving even more of an experience.Motorbikes and mopeds buzz around you like angry mosquitoes and you really do need to keep your wits about you. Arriving back at Zia's house i spent some time talking to her sister and her mum while waiting to see if the spitting rain would turn into anything more did turn serious but not until I was back in BSD. Needless to say by the time I got home I was completely drenched!

It's now Sunday morning and my plan today is some more revision, probably over a coffee and doughnut in JCO. From there I'll head to ITC, a shopping mall in the BSD area where Iwant to buy a bookcase and a bed.

That's how this DoS spent his Easter weekend....

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

EF and Gading Serpong

I suppose I really should tell you about my school.......Gading Serpong is a suburb of Tangerang. I'd like to tell you that we're in the North East of Jakarta or the South West but frankly I have no idea!! Geography and finding my way around have never been a problem up until now, but here in Jakarta where i have lived for two years, I couldn't put my hand on my heart and tell you. I've even looked at maps. I've found where I live on Googlemaps but for some strange reason i just can't commit it to memory.

If it was a huge problem I'm sure I'd come up with a way to deal with it but getting into a cab and saying "Kemang" (a hangout spot for Bule2 in Jakarta) gets me where I need to go.

Gading Serpong is fairly new as a residential area I believe. I doubt it's more than 20 years old and it's a mixture of residential and retail properties but no industry to speak of. It has a golf course with a swimming pool(Gading Raya) which can be expensive. It has a number of schools, both state and private. It has a shopping mall called SMS or Sumeracon Mall which is in the process of being extended. It also has a great variety of restaurants and waroengs where I guess you can find food from most places around the globe.

Next to the Sumeracon Mall is an al fresco area called Salsa where a central stage that plays live music every night is surrounded by restaurants selling mainly Indonesian food, some of which serve beer! (don't forget Indonesia is predominantly Muslim and  drinking is not necessarily the cultural norm here)

In the mall itself, a pedestrianised walkway called Downtown Walk is enclosed with an even wider variety of restaurants ranging from Wendy's (The American burger franchise) and Pizza Hut, to more Indonesian branded restaurants such as Solaria and Dantes. Again a central stage has live music every night and on Mondays you can usually find a Beatles tribute band.

Indonesia is a land of malls and usually each one is subtly different. SMS has mainly clothing stores plus a couple of household/electrical stores, a smattering of personal shops such as Body Shop and a stationers/bookstore called Gramedia. There's a cinema on the top floor (more about that in another blog) and there's is also a well stocked supermarket called Farmers Market.

Driving in Gading Serpong is much easier than elsewhere such as it's near neighbour, BSD. The traffic seems much lighter and the road network spreading off from the main Jl Boulevard Gading Serpong means you always have options if the traffic is heavier than usual. The biggest problem I find is the potholes. Riding a motorbike you feel them a helluva lot more than in a car!

EF is a little over 2 years old and is located next to the Mall, maybe a 3 minute walk away. A 3 storey building, it houses 20 classrooms, a computer room with 11 computers and two activity rooms. The teachers staff room is spacious and my office is, well let's say it's compact, bijous and more than adequate for what I need. Over 700 students are catered for by a dedicated teaching staff and excellent administrative staff.

I'm contractually required to do a 40 hour week but partly through the love of the job and partly through a poor love life, I spend longer than that here! My day usually starts around 9.30 and I find coming in at that time allows me to get  things done before the teachers start arriving. Then, if I'm needed I'm available. I work Monday to Friday and work 3 saturdays in every 4. Depending on classes may day usually finishes around 7.30pm and 2pm on Saturdays.

Over the next few days i'll post some pictures to give you a better idea but right now it's 10.20am and time for coffee and a meeting with the school's Centre Manager. Daron out.