Big week coming up!

We have got some exciting events coming up these next two weeks. So beyond excited to have Seth’s parents join us in Indonesia on Sunday. While I’m in Jakarta with my Debate Team; Seth, Ellie, Ed and Marlene will fly to Bali for a few days to explore and attend a friend’s wedding in Kintamani. The exciting part (for me at least) is that we will all be meeting in central Java, Yogyakarta. This is where the famous Buddhist temple ruins of Borobudur are! It’ll be a packed 36 hour weekend trip, but I’ve found that those can produce some amazing experiences. Pictures will flood the site soon.

In the meantime, I got a belated birthday gift today: a pie maker! Nom Nom Nom.

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Welcome to Bandung

Welcome to Bandung–the Paris of Indonesia–known for it’s romanticism, great food and shopping. This city is incredibly popular among Indonesians, and we now know why. We spent only 36 hours exploring, but fell in love the first five minutes we were there.

Don’t get me wrong, there was and always will be certain elements in every city that will shock or disturb you here. The theme of offense for us was the blatant animal cruelty we witnessed: broken and manipulated tail feathers on doves (the tail shaped like a fan) and monkeys riding mini motorcycles, dragged in a wide circle by a chain wrapped around their neck, as a ploy to get money for the “entertainment” while you wait at a four way stop.

Anyway, back to why we like Bandung. We checked into the Hummingbird Guesthouse and fell in love with it’s kid-friendly outdoor living space and posh rooms. This little guesthouse is behind their main attraction, their artisan eatery. The food was out of this world, with options that ranged from escargot to prawn caesar salad with capers. This is not your average Indonesian take on what international food should taste like. This was the real deal for $6. No. Joke. We declared our dinner as the first of many, and quite literally ate across the city. Our only breaks were to ice skate (a first for Eliana) and shop.

Today we rounded out the trip with a lovely hike (it was nice to see monkeys walking around in the wild) and a history lesson about the WWII tunnels in the hills of Bandung. During our walk through the Dutch caves we found some paper confetti, to which we all shouted “On on!” to commemorate a past hash event that must have taken place in the tunnels. (How cool would that be?!)

Bandung. We get it now! And we will be back.

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International Day

One of the biggest perks of working in a high school is the competitions. The students will get behind anything you throw at them. (Apparently so will I.) Debate competition? Bam, ranked third in the nation.

International Day? Piece of cake. Each class was assigned a country and we had two weeks to turn our classroom into France, in our spare time. On D-Day, judges toured the school and marked each class based on decorations, food and performance.

We started planning a bit late, but pulled together a romantic ambience, an amazing replica of the Eiffel Tower, a WWI Museum, eclairs to sell in our “cafe”, and a pretty awesome performance to go with it all (which included a violin solo and a flash mob).

Needless to say, we won Best Concept. I can get used to this!

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National Debate Championship

Only 10 days ago was I asked to take three teams of students to compete in the IAAS Olympic Debate Championship.

Keep in mind, we do not have a debate team. Nor have any of our students ever competed in a debate before. I had my work cut out for me.

Fortunately the Principal knew some members of the University of Indonesia’s Debate Team. We invited them to hold an exhibition and spend a few hours with our students to help coach them on the rules of an Asian Parliamentary Debate. I also through out my lessons and held in-class debates to help us begin researching the motions on agriculture, science and technology, energy, and the environment.

The basics of Asian Parliamentary Debate include: Two teams, one is the government and the other the opposition; the government supports the motion put forward; each team has three members; each member speaks for 7 minutes, each team gets to reply for 4 minutes. Teams may also interrupt each other with “Points of Information”.

We did well. In fact for this being our first contest, and one that was slightly rigged in how it forced our teams to debate each other so that only one team could move to the semifinals; we did very well.

We got third place! About 1,000,000RP, certificates, and medals. Now, we prepare for the larger competition next month in Jakarta. Bring it!

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Birthday Thoughts

I’ve had some pretty poorly executed birthdays in my past. October is a busy month for people, so parties are generally difficult to plan. The older people get, the more awkward it seems to celebrate a day you were born.

Why does it need to be so difficult? This year, it came easy. The day was full with responsibilities: managing my class at the school ceremony, feeling nervous for the MCs, whom I helped write their speeches, and preparing my new debate team, building their confidence and challenging them just enough for our big competition tomorrow, supporting my husband who left for Jakarta this afternoon for a second interview at a position he is such a good match, and being home, right now, with my sweet sweet daughter, who wrote me a card (I’m loving her handwriting) thanking me. Thanking me!

I am desperately missing my family back home. (Especially when I get a picture like the one below from my little sister Nicole.) But it feels so good to know how much they love and support me in this crazy adventure.

I feel good in reflecting on where I’m at in life. To feel so happy with what I have done and what I can do at 29 is a wonderful thing.

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Family Hash

Hashing (a la Hash House Harriers)┬áhas been a popular expat leisure activity for the last 50+ years, beginning in Malaysia, and it’s easy to see why. Completely adaptable to all environments, situations, able bodied people and attractive to all layers of the economic strata. Effectively, you get a trail to start with, in any place… a city street, the jungle, a desert canyon, whatever you got. From there, the leader or “Hare” devises the trail and puts in a few curves. Forks that lead nowhere, challenges if desired, the kind of stuff that you must overcome and thus make the journey itself far more satisfying. As a “turtle”, you must follow the trail, which is somewhat marked with something… paper, paint, or identifiable material. This is sometimes left a significant distance from the prior, and so when one is spotted, the spotter says “On-On” to identify that he is indeed on the correct trail.

So we arrived for our first family Hash a few minutes late at 10am, park under some Rambutan trees . We are at the edge of some light jungle and the Hare is already back at the starting point. He guides us to the beginning of the trail, or to the beginning of a shortcut to our abbreviated start. Bingo, we’re already winners. We pass by a 50+ foot well (baby Jessica has nothing on this!) and cut through a hole in a fence and it’s on. See our first confetti and it’s On-On. A couple of kids are just behind us and see our slick entry. We’re clearly in the know, so good company, right? We go a little ways and find ourselves next to a river, at a 3 way fork with no confetti present to give us a hint.
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Take two of the wrong paths, crossing some precarious bridges and realize we are on the wrong trails. Our friend is over enthusiastic and takes a spill into some muddy bits, and we find our next confetti and On-On, with Ellie shouting them off for the rest of the event.

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We make our way up a challenging hill, past some shallow graves (seriously) and suddenly we are in a village and all the locals are seeing us pass though. We meet their goats, tell everyone good afternoon and give a few more On-Ons. Passing the next local sustenance-agri village or two and realize that the bananas grown here will be the village supply for the next few weeks, we are up close and personal with the slow food movement, and there is no use of the word organic, although, there is no way it is anything else.

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Before I know it, my eye being so preoccupied in my surroundings, the trail is over and we are back to the Rambutan grove by 11:15. Everyone is enjoying a beverage and cooling off. Take a beer or two and meet a new friend at the finish. Kids get chips and we give a little bit of money for the pleasure of cold drinks on hand and to cover some of the Hares expenses. Someone makes a speech and the Hare is thanked. Last, this fulfills the need for a mixer and you meet the participants, who identify as predominately Dutch, British, Irish, Aussies and a mix of family/locals.

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So this was the family event, only a pair of beers on the final tally and a ton of kids around. The usual Hash events are traditionally more fraternal. It was originally a way to get just enough fitness into justify another hangover the following day. Drinking might be more of a rule for most of these events, the standard chugging-beer-challenge, in given geographies, under duress. It has this collegiate feel, doesn’t it? Further, the longer you do it and more involved you get in Hashing, the more they remember you, but not by your given name. You get a Hash name, of course. Most hash names are a bit more than insulting, given for a character flaw or observed failure. Finally, the last thing I find is that these frequently begin at about 4pm on M/Tu. These guys are committed, they make time for this… I now see why.

I’m going to find a way to do it again. I did the fraternity-thing in college, which this clearly is a surrogate. So, it appeals to my adolescent-male sensibilities, which are fleeting at the age of 33, but and I still like to exercise them in the correct environment, such as this. It’s fully international, a true mix of characters from all over the globe, and the mix of accents and perspectives is what I want more of. I dont want to sound misogynistic, a Neanderthal, but there is just some outlets that I relish as a male: being lewd in an garage, petty gambling on a billiards table, challenging others and being challenged with a beer in hand. You get it, sometimes we enjoy making poor decisions in a controlled environment. These are things that we should do, in order to maintain our composure when professionally called upon. I can see how this is a sensible way to the delicate balance.

So what’s not to love? I would do this in the States. I’m a bit ashamed I didn’t already.

-Seth