Rabu, 26 September 2007

On Becoming a Millionaire

Indonesia is where one can easily become a millionaire. At the rate I'm going, I'll reach the point of becoming a billionaire in no time. On average, I pay about 10 to 15 thousand rupiah for a cheap meal. Last time I spent 7000 rupiah for a can of coke and my friend Sally said that it's "mahal" or expensive. I was paying the "bule" rate. (Speaking of the word "bule," in every non-western country I presume, has a word for the white man. In Thai, they are called "farang," in Cambodian "marang," in Spanish, you call them "gringos" and here in Indonesia, they are "bule.")

Every time I leave the country, I have to pay a million rupiah fiscal, quite outrageously expensive. Also over here when renting an apartment or a house, people pay for a year or two in advance! (I often wonder how on earth can they save up that kind of money. Or maybe Indonesians know something about the value of savings that many of us westerners or westernized younger generations may not.) Not only that, sometimes rent can be as expensive or more than in the US, depening upon the kind of living situation you prefer. Do you want an apartment, a house, a mansion, or a castle? Take your pick. A lavish lifestyle is easily accessible by many foreigners.

However, I've adopted to live the ways of the locals by taking buses and eating local food. I figured since I already had food poisoning, by now, my stomach should be as strong as steel. I definitely don't want to miss out on the tasty Sundanese food that tastes much better if you dine with your hands. (Adding to the taste, of course, are the raw elements coming from your hands!)

On another note, I guess I could have lived high on the hog but then again, I need to save money for more traveling in the future and am still paying back that thing called "student loans!!!" It's actually not all bad living like the locals. For instance, taking a bus here is definitely a thrill that doesn't figuratively cost an arm and a leg, but it may literally do so. Still, I like it because it reminds me of riding on a roller coaster.

"I think that travel comes from some deep urge to see the world, like the urge that brings up a worm in an Irish bog to see the moon when it is full." ~Lord Dunsany

Minggu, 23 September 2007

Mataku Tlah Melihat Kemuliaan

"My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord."

Never in a million years had I planned to come to Indonesia. But I'm here now and God has never stopped to amaze me. Oh, the wildness of God! Who can comprehend? I'm falling more and more in love with God, his people and this country as the days go by. I still remember the first few weeks of wanting to get out of here as soon as possible: being lost in translation, having no hot water, getting food poisoning, feeling homesick, facing the chaos at work, and missing close friendships. There were times when I just asked God to give me enough strength for the day and nothing more. Why God? Why did you allow me be here? I heard no answers. But while waiting, God has taught me to find comfort in Him and Him alone, to see things from his perspective, to trust in his great plans and that he knows what he's doing with me. My life story is being written by the hands of the living God.

My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord.

On one Sunday about two weeks after I got here, I specifically prayed that God'd bless me with a friend who was going through the same situation as me--another "fresh of the boat" foreigner, another Alicia perhaps. And watchabygollywhoa! On that very day, I met Becky Vail. Not only was she new in town, she is also a disciple from Seattle who happened to just move to Indonesia to teach! As if God knew we'd need each other, a fellow soldier in the battle, as if God had planned this all along. "He determined the times set for (us) and the exact places where (we) should live."

My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord.

The other day I was doing a slideshow presentation of my Papua New Guinea trip to my ninth grade students for a development studies class. I had never thought that I'd be sharing about God's glory from my travels to students. And the kids loved it, seeing their teacher's painted face in the native grass skirt costume. Moreover one girl is currently studying the Bible. Another girl, with a Muslim background, is trying to convince her mom to let her study the Bible. Many students have brought their friends to church. And yes, I see my students at church every Sunday. Quite strange in the beginning, but I've gotten used to it.

My eyes have seen the glory of the Lord.

I'm building deeper friendships with the brothers and sisters here, growing closer to God, learning and studying the Bible with Indonesians. Aku belajar bahasa Indonesia dan bisa menyanyi dua lagu di bahasa Indonesia. Oh Tuhan, biarlah api ini terus berkobar.

Mataku tlah melihat kemuliaan!

"Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of joy."

(By the way, have I mentioned that Indonesians can really sing? The song ministry here is the best I've seen yet...)

Jumat, 31 Agustus 2007

Why Teaching?

I've worked many odd jobs in my life--washing dishes, waiting tables, representing a radio station, cleaning vacation homes, in sales, catering, working at a library, a county fair, a call center, a law office, an architectural firm, a telecommunication and a real estate company--but nothing is like teaching. For the first time in my working life, I can say that none of these jobs brought me as much joy, and possibly stress, as teaching. I maybe underpaid but I'm actually loving what I do. At one point in my life, I never thought work can be genuinely rewarding and exciting.

For us teachers, we are also known to be counselor, security guard, therapist, babysitter, disciplinarian, appointment setter, event organizer, cleaner, and mom and dad to our students. Being involved in the students' lives gives me a sense of joy because, somehow, I'm making a difference. No one day in a teacher's life is ever the same but full of a myriad surprises from your students. It's a joy. A privilege. A gift of giving. A stress. A love. It's been awhile since I think of how to better others' lives and not just my own...

This is my favorite second grader--Callum Gordon. Callum is half-Thai, half-English and came to Indonesia about a year ago and couldn't speak a lick of English then. I was designated to be his personal tutor. Callum had a reputation of walking out of his classroom if he didn't understand what was going on. When I first started tutoring him, He'd often bite me, teasingly of course, and run around when I asked him to sit down. I didn't know if I could do it because I barely had the energy left after all day of teaching and to spend it on getting him to simply sit was definitely taxing. But then I sorta figured him out. When he ran around, I'd tell him to come back after 5 or 10 minutes. And usually after he let out his excess energy, he'd come back to me. Sometimes, he'd scream and cry and call me crazy when I tried to get him to read. I didn't want him to hate me, but it was necessary to threanten him that I'd tell his parents. Thank goodness, the kid still has the fear of his parents.

Anyhow, I think he has a crush on me too, as explained by my friend Chris. Well, I think it's mutual! When he sees me around the school, he often yells out my name and because of that I've become quite popular among second graders. Now Callum is spelling out words as he sees them on the streets and has made a significant improvement in his classes. I'm so proud of him!

Senin, 06 Agustus 2007

It Is Well...With My Soul

Yes, I am in Indonesia. But that’s far from the complete truth. I’m teaching middle/high school and didn’t know what subjects I was supposed to teach my teenage students on the first day of class in Indonesia. I felt like a lamb thrown into a pack of wolves...

On the first day, I spent four hours with a bunch of seven graders. Four hours! Green as a blade of grass, I was. Other veteran teachers didn’t seem to sweat it one bit. Give them ten hours with the same group of kids, and they’d say bring it on. I seemed to be the only one running around like a chicken with its head cut off. What the credential program taught us back in the US came back to haunt me: you’ve got to make a good impression and set the tone for the rest of the year; otherwise, watch out, they’ll run wild, run the class and, eventually, run you! What if they asked me all kinds of questions that I couldn’t answer like what are you going to teach us exactly? Or why do we have to spend four hours with you? Thank God these kids aren’t like what I’d experienced in US schools. Don’t get me wrong. I had lots of good kids in my classes back in the US and, of course, some wild ones who made me think more than twice about teaching as a career. A few teachers here would complain about kids misbehaving, and I’d gently reassure them, You ain’t see nothin’ yet until you teach in an American high school. If you can handle a classroom full of American teenagers, you can teach anywhere.

For some reasons, I was confident that there wouldn't be much of a culture shock for me in Indonesia. After having traveled to a few Asain countries, I began to get cocky with my ability to adapt to new places. That's why I love traveling because it gives me opportunities to see things in my character.

For instance, when it comes to work, I was used to the way things are run in the US. Efficiency is the name of the game. Not to say that Indonesians aren’t efficient. It’s just that their definition of “efficiency” and many other words are defined in different ways. Things like passing out wedding invitations just two weeks before the wedding. Well, I’m thinking a few months or half a year is more like it. Also when you cross a street, forget the crosswalks or hitting the button for the little-white-human light to appear at an intersection. Here, one needs to practice the art of Jakartan Street Crossing—nothing too complicated--simply close your eyes, say a prayer and cross...

It’s been over two weeks since that first day of school, and I’m still breathing. As a matter of fact, I’m beginning to enjoy teaching what I know and love like literature. There’s nothing better than getting paid to do what you love. The kids here are wonderful after all, although some teachers would say that’s a matter of opinion. I’m starting to get used to the life in Jakarta, basking in the traffic, the fumes and pollution. I once told a friend of how I miss nature. He said that after awhile you’ll get used to the traffic and will miss the traffic when you're away. I’ll see about that. But all in all, it is well…with my soul here in Indonesia.

Minggu, 15 Juli 2007

My First Written Contact to the Outside World

(Via Email)

Dear All,

Greetings from Jakarta, Indonesia.

I'm alive and well and back again, this time 6 degrees down under. I just can't seem to get away from the Southern Hemisphere. I have now landed a teaching gig here, teaching middle school, which I had vowed to never ever teach that level again in America. And lo and behold! I can't run away from it. The contract says 2 years and I hope to last that long. I'm living in a house of 5 girls plus a helper(Now that's difficult). Our complex is full of mansions, but not the one we're living in. While in this complex, you may very well think you're in America, except that extreme poverty is just right outside the community gate. Quite a stark contrast.

I haven't yet experienced a terrorist attack and, to tell the truth, Indonesia is a rather alluring country and I won't be surprised if I'll not want to leave when the time comes. (So, don't always believe what the media says.)

I've been keeping myself busy with school, church, and learning Bahasa or Indonesian language. I hope that I don't lose my English or start speaking with a new accent, which tends to happen.

To all the disciples, the church here is doing awesome for being in the largest Muslim country. There are about over a thousand of us in Jakarta alone and there are still others in the provinces, as well as Bali. The disciples are continually studying, baptizing and loving people, and I'm looking forward to learning many things from the Indonesian churches. I'm also living and working with disciples and can't ask for anything better. Also the music ministry continues to amaze me even though I don't really understand the lyrics. Indonesians can really sing!

I'm sure more challenges will come but for now, I'm trying to be grateful for all the good times and the bad. There were a brother and a sister from America who taught at the same school for two years. (So teachers, if you want to come out and experience this jungle adventure, let me know.)

I'd love to hear from y'all when you get a chance.


Kamis, 12 Juli 2007

The Price I Pay

When I told people that I was moving to Indonesia, their first question generally was "Why?" followed by "Are you out of your mind?" And oh the look on their faces, expressing such terror, disappointment and pity. People can't grasp why someone who can live and work comfortably in countries like the USA would want to move to places like Indonesia. Maybe I'm just weird, backward, and crazy. Or maybe my life if being let by the hand of God?

There are hard times when you travel to new places on your own, especially for a single woman. But eventually you begin to meet like-minded people and start to form your own community wherever you go, and you realize that you're not that crazy after all--well maybe a little.

Traveling is teaching me to be less of a control freak since there are many variables that come with it-- like during my layover in Malaysia. I ended up spending the night at the Kuala Lumpur Airport, freezing my little rearend off with a thin towel over me and constantly waking up to every announcement and noise of passerbys and having to endure the itch from sleeping on a flea-infested airport bench that probably had not been cleaned for decades--the experience that made the movie Terminal come to life. I could have sworn, but I won't, that I booked my hotel reservation online the night before and got a confirmation. But when I arrived at 10 pm, the hotel receptionist said my name was not on the list and I happened to lose the print out of the confirmation along the way, oh so unlike me. Then the receptionist, in such a stealth manner, whispered that he'd still give me a room after he obviously had marked up the price. I said no thanks since I had to wake up early to catch a 7 am flight to Jakarta anyway. I mean things like this are bound to happen when you need to watch your budget; however, the woes of traveling can also add the flavor to your stories. And don't we all love to hear the sufferings of others to ease some of our pain and know that we're not the only one. The fiasco continued all the way until I got out of the Indonesian immigration, but I won't go into detail right now. Needless to say, I was glad to have arrived and not linger any minute longer in transit...