Wednesday, 22 December 2010

The musings and happenings of the last week or so...

So this week has flown by. It's also been pretty cool as I've managed not to cry ;) Things in the classroom have been pretty relaxed and I've had some nice classes. I've been teaching about a third less classes than I have been in recent weeks and it's a much welcomed change! Nothing out of the ordinary has happened really but I've been in touch with a charity and I've been cleared to visit after Christmas to see what goes on in an Indonesian childrens' charity, so I'm actually pretty stoked about that!... Luckily it's Christmas next weekend and the schools will be closed for nine days which gives me the opportunity to see a bit more of Java before I leave. Time is passing so fast and once I return to work in the new year I'll only have a few weeks left on my contract. The year has just flown by!...

This week I was sent a parcel from home with some pretty cool presents. Most of them are personal jokes amongst friends and you really have to know the intricate details of my sordid past. Not that there are any deep dark secrets or anything, no secrets at all, just embarrasing events really. I'm really grateful for all the gifts from Tom, Paul, Jo, Gaz, Kelvin and Lewis. I'm now the proud owner of a Mick Foley action figure and I have to say Kalves that all the kids and teachers absolutely love the fart putty! It was also pretty cool to have a Christmas card from someone who wasn't my mum too! Although the best Christmas card I've received to date was from a seven year old called Darrell. He's a bit special and a real pain in the arse... but everybody loves him... by everyone, I actually mean me... and by love I actually mean I think he's the funniest person I've ever met... ever! He's a little shit though. But awesome. He's the kind of kid that nobody can teach and all the teachers dread. He's amazing! The card he wrote me was pretty funny – I have a running joke with him where I call him 'Gappy' as he has lost his front milk teeth, I think he might still be waiting for the tooth fairy to deposit the cash... he's pretty mad! - the card reads "all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth" on the front (apparently he loves the song) and inside it reads "Mr Lee Punya pacar... (has a girlfriend, not true may I add) and bau (stinks). Thousand years of death!!!... Merry Christmas, Darrell"... He's my hero!

My business lesson this week consisted of killing enough time using the course book so that the students still felt like they'd learned something and the rest of it was spent doing Christmassy things. I made a wordsearch, crossword and quiz and awarded a prize for the first team to finish each activity successfully. Unfortunately the same team won everything! It wasn't all bad though, we made them share some of it though although one of them got pretty precious about sharing the good stuff... "n'gak boleh" was what I heard her repeating "ini n'gak boleh" or something close to that – I'm pretty turd at spelling in Indonesian – "this is not okay", she was basically just saying we could share the Dairy Milk but the Ferrero Rocher was strictly for home. I'd spent a reasonable amount on crisps, cake and drinks to have in class and used Youtube to play Christmas music... although I think some of it was lost on the muslims in the class... they are pretty cool and down with whatever really they just go with the flow and enjoy the atmosphere and all in all it was nice. Unfortunately Wizzard and Noddy Holder didn't impress them as much as I thought they would! (...
The only thing that dissapointed me was the reserved politeness... Indonesians will only really eat half of what is on offer – the old save it for other people thing later on thing – I was expecting them to pig-out with crumbs clinging to their chins... at least I was hoping for that. That would have been something closer to home. My Mum's a bit of a wimp in any conventional situation but if there is food involved she turns into The Incredible Hulk and clears the room of any competition... she can clean a buffet out in under ten minutes... so by her standards I was left a tad deflated! ;)... I'd also had to protect my stash from the office staff downstairs. Gaby in particular is a psycho when you hide the Chitatos from her. She must've screamed "Lee... I want Chitato!" at me 5 or 6 times before I'd even made it to the top of the stairs! I was then given the same treatment during my break and when I presented them with the other half of the leftover cake she just looked at me screeched "pelit!!!!!!" (Stingy) and said "I no like cake or chocolate I want Chitato... Pelit"... I realise that I make her sound like a mental patient but I'm scared that she's going to try and eat me next time!!! It felt like I was Bruce Willis in Die Hard with a Vengeance when he's walking through Harlem in New York with an "I hate n****rs sign"... Luckily I'm safe and sound and she was momentarily dazed my the smell of half stale chocolate brownies! =p It was that intense!! "Pelit!!!!!..." It was cool though the class got together and bought me some posh style Indonesian nosh. While not my favourite snacks, it's the thought that counts...

This week also saw my first experience of an Indonesian wedding. It had a bride and a groom and lots of people but it didn't really have the aura of a wedding reception to me. By that I mean it was nothing like a British wedding... there was no shit disco, the buffet was of a really high quality, nobody was pissed and there were no family members fighting for some bullshit reason... It was pretty pleasant and there were lots of people from work there. You basically stand in a big room with lots of other people and no tables and chairs. The bride walks in to the waiting husband and they have a smooch – which is well gay! Urrrr.... - and then make their way up to a stage and people congratulate them. After that there is some organised photo taking followed by a ruckus to the best food. One of the plump office girls at work made a beeline for some rice dish from Bali... I decided that she knew best and decided I'd go for that too... it's pretty intense as Indonesians don't really do public courtesy very well so queueing for the food was less than civilised, akin to that of a school dinner queue when the turkey twizzlers are being taken by all the younger kids... Indonesians are very hospitable if they are hosting you but in public – and this is a massive generalisation – they don't seem to give a fuck ;)... and the prevailing ethos in this situation seemed to pretty much be "foooooood... me first...."... Other than that it was cool to spend some time with the Indonesians at work as I was the only honkey from EF in attendance. In fairness, Nana – the bride – looked absolutely amazing and overall it was pretty cool if not a bit short... Indonesian receptions only last around two hours!...

Saturday, 11 December 2010

An emotional week: Kuningan, Crying, Secret Santa... and Tony!

So this week has been particularly stressful. I spent last weekend pretty much working, cooking Indonesian food and getting pissed. It was the Christmas Quiz for all the schools in our group so I got bladdered for the first time in ages and spent lots of cash with nothing to show but a sore head and a reawakening to just how shit my general knowledge is ;)... I also met a very busy Indonesian friend who I probably won't get to meet again so I pretty much ended up spending all day Sunday with her getting steaming, eating and going to the cinema. Not very productive but possibly a needed blowout and break from my working routine. Travelling between schools is getting kind of stressful as I'm not at the same school on any two consecutive days. I've also been on the end of a pretty demanding schedule but it's looking a bit calmer now... I hope!


Tuesday was a bank holiday here for the Islamic New Year and myself and another colleague saw it as a perfect opportunity to spend some time in a more social light with our office boys. We decided to hire a car and driver from the school for the day and travel to their village. It's quite a distance from Jakarta, and travelling by road in Java is always a nightmare. This journey was relatively smooth and as we left in the night gave us plenty of time to catch a nap once we had arrived. Relatively smooth in that we didn't die! We got there quickly but our driver Tony is a bit of a space cadet... a lovely bloke but a little bit mental... in a nice way... We arrived in their village around four in the morning and arrived to a wealth of snacks and some coffee. It was a really nice village and I was surprised by how clean and green it was. I was expecting it to be a bit dirtier – as Java is a pretty dirty place – but nonetheless I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong. It was quite funny when Reno – the senior office boy (he gets to drive the motorbike) – apologised in advance for his family's home not being clean and tidy (he must think my Mum is a domestic goddess...); I was also touched by his concern that I wouldn't have access to bread for the day... Bless him, he must think that I walk around with bread on a drip tap like some kind of Kingsmill Zombie!... It was a really nice trip and Reno had nothing to worry about, his family's kindness and hospitality was brilliant and they were really a pleasure to meet. In fact, Reno's Mum's deep fried carp was the only whole crispy deep fried Indonesian fish that I've enjoyed so far. I'd previously heard before that you could chew the bones with relative ease if the fish is cooked properly... it was and I did. So in that regard she hit the nail on the head!...



After breakfast we visited Aldi's parents and had some food there too. We had only just eaten though and were still full from the meal we'd had 10 minutes prior. Indonesian hospitality is somewhat intimidating to the western visitor as the host places a spread in front of you usually including, but not limited to: rice, fish, chicken, vegetables, tempe or tofu, sambal and then coffee water and desert or fruit as well. You have the honour of eating first and in my experience seem to be expected to finish first before the host. Indonesians don't really discuss much when they eat, they just eat, and food is prepared to last the whole day and feed the family in its entirety for at least one meal. So when I say they place a wide variety of food in front of you, what I actually mean is that they place all of the food for the family that day in front of you and it's the unwritten rule that you help yourself to enough of the food to feel satisfied but not too much as to prevent someone else from being able to eat later. Of course, nobody tells you this, so you feel obliged to eat as much as you can because you think that you are being polite!... Cultural differences between Indonesia and the West are vast and often I'm sure I offend many people on a regular basis without realising, but as it's impolite to disrupt the decorum in public nobody will ever tell you or so much as let on that you've offended them, in case they upset you! Sufficed to say I hadn't fallen into the trap of eating too much and managed to make some room for the food Aldi's mother had laid on, a spread of fruit and bread which meant that I could eat more!... The coconut bread she had bought was really nice and I've never seen it before – the brand was the generic Sari Roti and I have great disdain for the sweetened shit they sell as standard bread – but if I find the coconut one I'll probably have a bash the next time I see it in the supermarket!...



The rest of our time in Kuningan was pretty nice – although towards the end of the day we were all tired and not looking forward to the 4+ hour drive home!... We visited a local waterfall called Curug Sidomba and a nice big lake called Waduk Darma. The vibes around the attractions were nice and surprisingly for Java the access was pretty easy. I didn't have to do any trekking! It was quite funny today as I was approached by one of the local street sellers – seems that he goes by the name 'Ketoprak Man' as that's the dish that he so skilfully prepares – and he invited me to his village for the Christmas holidays... I'm not sure if he's looking for a free lift home, to show-off his bule mates or is actually extending a genuine invitation, but I'm already booked-up for Christmas and had to decline! ;)... Aldi must have been boasting when he was sent to buy food for the lazy wankers in the office that abuse him. I hate the demoralising nature of life here if you are a subordinate to anyone as it seems that humilation knows no bounds... they have a doorbell to summon the office boys but no distinctive tone so there is usually a competition between the upstairs and downstairs offices for the attention of the office boys to do whatever mundane chores need attending to. Not only is it degrading but it disrupts lessons when they press it 6-8 times consecutively because they're too important to wait a few seconds between presses!... I appreciate that coffee contains caffeine and is mildly addictive but they act like rich heroin junkies summoning their butlers for a fix!



The rest of the week has flown since then. We had Secret Santa yesterday. That was really nice and Reno and Aldi got a decent present each so I think they had a pretty good week. I did okay, I got a girly pink photo frame with "happy bear" written on it. It's from Aldi and it's a really nice gesture, I've never really been sentimental enough to buy a photoframe so I'm quite happy with it.
After the Secret Santa was over and I was waiting for my lift to the other school in Cengkareng, I bumped into one of my old highflyer students – she's about 9 – and I used to spend a bit of my lesson planning time with her, because she's around the school a lot and a really nice kid. I usually watch some crap on youtube with her which is exactly what we did while I was waiting for the car...
She's such a sweet kid and is usually hanging around the school for eight hours a day before and after lessons, needless to say her parents could do more than leave her in reception for the majority of that time. Just before I left she asked me when I was going to teach her again and told me that she missed me before inviting me to an extracurricular class in two weeks making Christmas Cards that I won't be able to attend... because I'll be working in another part of the city :(... Needless to say I was choking on tears that I was holding back for the 40 minute or so drive to the other school and then had to hide in the toilet until my tears had subsided – or until I thought they had! - she is such a nice kid and it's heartbreaking that she doesn't get the attention she needs and now I can't even give her 20 minutes out of my day. She's the same girl in the birthday cake story. After finally getting over it – or so I thought – I entered the staffroom there to start planning my lessons to find out that I'd been hiding in the ladies toilets and when asked if I was okay I kind of burst into tears again!... I don't cry that often but when I do – mainly when I feel that I'm helpless in a situation – I'm like a fat girl that's just been dumped before she's found the ice cream... or the cookies!!!... It's not all bad though, it is highly likely that I'll have time to visit the school on Christmas eve before I start work in Cengkareng and will try and buy her something nice for Christmas to make her smile...

X


P.S. On the way back from work I had cheered up quite a lot as I'd been teaching some lazy teenagers who were quite funny. During the drive, Tony was being his usual mental self, getting angry and speeding in bumper to bumper traffic while shouting expletives in Indonesian and his own brand of English... "Pucking Motorr!!!"... Loosely translated from Bahasa Tony to English I think it means "Fucking Motorbikes!..."... Normally his craziness doesn't make me laugh that much – as I'm used to it – but during some funk tune that was on one of the Jakarta stations he's into, there was a psychodelic funk song with a sample saying "that dance!" although it sounded exactly like "Bat Man!" from the Adam West show of the 1970s.... So I was howling with laughter for about five minutes while it was playing and he was getting irate and aggressive with half of the traffic in West Jakarta!... I imagine that song to pretty much summarise his entire thought process for the whole day!... After leaving the car and saying bye – still giggling and chuckling – I had a flashback to earlier in the day where I was leaving the car to walk to the school and trying not to cry and Tony just asked with the most vacant of stares "Are you okay mister?"... I've included a photo below so that you can share a little bit of Tony's magic!... I've also included a photo from the halloween party with the wonderful little girl that gets me so emotional...