Saturday, 23 October 2010

A whole lot of nothing really...

Since arriving back in Jakarta from Sumatra I have been pretty laid back. I'm happy with my classes at the moment - touch wood - and I'm quite looking forward to the next few months. I've got another couple of trips lined up to Lombok and Yogyakarta although I may head through to Bali from Yogya to make the trip a little more interesting. After those trips there will only be a month left on my contract, so I'm still contemplating exactly what I want to do. Hopefully I'll be able to make a trip to Thailand for a week or so and then spend roughly a month travelling around Flores and West Timor. Once all that is done it's looking like my next stop may be Taiwan. I've had an interview already which I think went well and I've applied for a couple of other jobs and had relatively positive feedback. Part of me wants to just have everything lined up, planned and ready to go and another part of me wants to see how things pan out. Nevermind. Good things will come of it all I'm sure...

One of my primary motivations for writing this post is to highlight the surreal normality that is living in Jakarta. I realise that's somewhat of an oxymoron and a little confusing but let me enlighten you. While visiting my local HSBC cashpoint I noticed that the security guard was asleep, this resulted in me being very careful as not to wake him, not so much because I wanted to avoid waking him but due to his less than cautious grip of his machine gun! Probably the last person I would want to startle really, hey ho I withdrew my Rupiah and nobody got hurt... or woken up!

I've almost got a grip on teaching younger learners - or ensuring they're not bored in class anyway - and this has resulted in me teaching more 'lifeclubs' where they do arts and crafts. These are encouraged because they are extra-curricular and the school makes more money. While being a break from teaching teenagers they can be a bit of a ballache. I had two lifeclubs this week. One of them went relatively smoothly and I was provided with adequate assistance of sorts. We were carving pumpkins for halloween. I was shitting it when this was first assigned to me because I didn't really fancy a class room full of young kids and a knife! Needless to say we managed it, the kids designed their pumpkins, drew on them and everything was dandy... until the carving! I was given a 'carving knife' which was little sharper than a butter knife with a broken handle! Luckily Indonesians are experienced at bodging stuff and so the office girl who was assisting me called for backup. She did little more than leave the classroom and start shouting "Aldi!... Aldi!" - his name is synonomous with fixing problems - unluckily her first attempt didn't prise him away from one of his other million tasks for the day. Eventually she went downstairs - to the third floor - and tapped the doorbell that has been installed whenever the important people upstairs need a whim attended to. Luckily this alerted Aldi like a dog to a whistle and he was on the case! Yes... after about fifteen minutes of 'carving' - in reality poking holes in a pumpkin with a blunt knife missing a handle - Aldi had worked his magic and the pumpkins were carved! I'm really impressed with his handywork. The kids got their pumpkins carved and painted and they look pretty cool now! All I really did was blow raspberries and feign high fives for an hour and a half but I could think of worse jobs.... like Aldi's!... He's the junior officeboy and consequently gets abused.

One of my colleagues has been off in the sun to Timor for a week to get engaged to his new fiance - congratulations Justin - resulting in me covering one of his classes. I'm glad to say he's back and that I don't have to teach them anymore. Only due to one kid, who has earlier been referred to here as 'pornkid', he really freaks me out. He's not unpleasant exactly... just really strange!... He's only eight and really intelligent... he just doesn't really talk!... Two things happened this week - one in each lesson - the first being a simple vocab game. I set ten letters on the board in an activity at the end of the lesson to kill some time. There were three vowels and even consonants. I gave the kids ten minutes to make as many words as they can. Clever little dude that he is made thirty one in ten minutes... that's more than a word every twenty seconds!... I decided that the winner would receive a fizzy drink at the end of the lesson so the kids would be interested. Due to this student's lack of normality I think his parents probably steer clear of sugar... So when presented with a choice of six soft drinks I asked him what he wanted... after what felt like a minute he looked up at me and said "milk"... I had to dissapoint him and tell him that the school fridge isn't stocked with milk, so he then, reluctantly, settled for lemon fanta! The second lesson was even stranger - bear in mind that this kid is eight years old and has plenty of time to get weirder - as I started my warmer and asked him to contribute he just stared into thin air. Next I managed to get him to contribute to the game, which he now did willingly and somewhat over enthusiastically, but instead of writing the name of a country he drew a football... I was a little confused and asked him to sit down again. Later in the lesson he had to write about his best friend using certain character adjectives from the book, unfortunately for me another child in the class informed me that "Fernando doesn't have a friend"... This made me feel a little sorry for him, but as soon as I saw what he had written for the exercise I wasn't anything but convinced that he needs help. He wrote a diatribe about his "best friend the football" and then above it had drawn a picture of another unrelated imaginary friend named "Swamp Monster"... he had included a speech bubble with this one and included the line: "Fernando is cool you must obey him or Swamp Monster will eat you..."... I realise this may not sound as bad as I'm making it sound and that kids are free to have overactive imaginations but he is eerily creepy and I'm happy to have my smallstars back!... Another amusing anecdote included in that class was - when writing about friends and their hobbies - one of the kids decided to write "Mr Lee's hobby is eating."... Just going to prove that no matter how much weight I lose or exercise I do this year I'm always going to be a fatty to them!

Finally I'd like to include an excerpt from one of my business classes. I have been teaching business classes on a Saturday morning recently and they are quite intense for the students as they are four hours long. To break up the monotony I have taken to using the last hour as a chance for discussion or lighthearted activity. This week we put together a Puri Indah edition of Dragons' Den. It went quite well really but this kind of tops off the surrealty flavour of this post. When presented with a proposition for Indonesia's first casino I asked these particular students how they would get the Indonesian government onside and legalise gambling, I was presented with the perfectly serious and honest answer of "we'll just bribe them and pay the mafia to pull some strings...".... I'm still a little amused by that one now. This guy is in his twenties or something. I guess business here probably is still quite openly corrupt...

Peace xxx

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