Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Authoritahs!

On Friday at 10am, Miss Kate came rushing into my room telling me to avoid leaving my room and especially to avoid the main office. Apparently, some immigration authoritahs had come to the school and were taking pictures of the ex-pats who were in the halls or main office area time of their arrival. Later on, once the authoritahs had left, Ibu Elena told me they were most likely looking for a bribe and didn't have the proper paperwork with them to question the status of the teachers at the school, but either way it was disconcerting to have that happen during the school day.

This weekend has gone by pretty quickly! On Friday, I got to hang out with other ex-pat staff members and it was really interesting to gain their perspective on living in Jakarta and teaching at Mentari. They've had really positive experiences and while I realize the sample wasn't representative, it was definitely encouraging that my positive interaction with the school thus far might not be an anomaly or "honeymoon period." Saturday, I was able to do a good amount of reading (I'm really enjoying the current book: "Nudge" by Thaler and Sunstein), went for a distance run, and had coffee and conversation with Ab prior to seeing Inception with him. Part of our conversation had to deal with September break, and we're looking to start to finalize plans to go to southern Vietnam and Angkor Wat. It's really surreal that this vacation may happen, I mean there's a National Geographic special on Angkor Wat and we may be able to go there! Today I've been able to run a number of errands and I'm about to go out to purchase some futsal boots so that I'll have more traction on the turf surface! Additionally, I started the "Forgiveness" sermon series with Church of the Resurrection online. My landlady has invited me to her church service, but I'm really enjoying the quality of the messages provided by Adam Hamilton, so it may be some time before I venture out with Ibu Thelma to try her service (which also has some components in Bhasa, so motivation to study up!)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

KU and Pitt Football, doing things the right way

Warning: This post is solely related to college football. The craziness of today will be in the next post, once I get home and have the opportunity to deconstruct what happened... In the mean time:

KU Football: KU made the best hire over the off-season in naming Turner Gill as their head coach. While he doesn't have the NFL pedigree of Lane Kiffen, he's also not crazy or conceited :). Seriously though, Turner Gill created expectations for success at Buffalo. Buffalo? The team that went 10 - 79 as a D-1 A team prior to Gill's arrival on campus, yet in his third year were at a bowl game?? Not only are his results on the field impressive, but also his mindset for how to go about coaching 17-22 yr old males. Throughout the Big 12 Media Day, Gill discussed the importance of educating the entirety of the college athlete and for teams to be successful they must be able to relate on a much deeper level than Xs and Os. The first days of KU football practice involved sharing responses to questionnaires that dealt with athletes personal lives. Gill is embracing his role as an educator, and all educators must teach relationship building and other ways to negotiate interpersonal interactions. What happens out of the classroom or off the football field matters, just ask UNC, USC, UConn and others, demanding proactive instruction. Kansas was blessed to get Turner Gill and I hope, for all the good guys out there, that his team succeeds on the field as well! (Judgement Day: week 2 against Georgia Tech. How will Kansas fair after Mangino and Reesing?)

Pitt Football: Pitt has the opportunity for a break-out season to showcase the program that Dave Wannstedt has built or have another pedestrian year in the Big East. The opportunity for national recognition arises from one of the most difficult non-conference schedule's in all of college football (at Utah, home against Miami, and at Notre Dame - who under Brian Kelly should be markedly better; Grand Valley State, Central Michigan, and Cincinnati, the common denominator there is winning, and A LOT of winning) Additionally, their Big East schedule is about as difficult as they come since they have to play the Backyard brawl at West Virginia and they also have tough road games at UConn (and Rich Rod had better watch out, the campaign to fire him will begin week 1 when UConn goes to the Big House and surprises the nation - the team is returning 16 starters), South Florida (I'm interested to see how the Bulls do under Skip Holtz. I wouldn't sleep on South Florida because they are probably the most talented team thank to Florida recruiting and QB B.J. Daniels was able to get a lot of experience and leadership growth while Groethe was out), and Cincinnati (and when Pike was out, Collaros filled in really nicely). Pittsburgh has a lot of talent, a growing sense of swagger and a very capable coach. Tino Sunseri's ability to prove the on-the-field leadership is essential, but after years of not living up to expectations with Bill Stull, there is potential for an upgrade in the QB position. Additionally, now that Dion Lewis has the target on his back, how will he fair in his sophomore season? Either way, as a product of Big East country, I hope this is the year Pitt pulls it all together and provides the justification of Wannstedt going about things in the right way; returning to his alma mater and building a program on a reliance on hard work and discipline rather than flashy recruits. (Judgement Day: week 1 at Utah. If they get the ball rolling in the right direction, the sky's the limit!)

Overall, I'm really looking forward to the college football season and seeing how a lot of these stories play out!

Favorable Biases

After today's staff meeting, Ibu Lia (one of the executive assistants) called me over to update me on my visa situation. My VOA (visa on arrival) expires this Sunday and, initially, I was going to have to take a day trip to Singapore so I could get another VOA, but Ibu Lia said that thanks to my..."bule-ness" (direct quote from Lia)...their visa agent was able to extend my VOA for two weeks, during which time I should definitely be able to get my work visa.

Today was also pay day. Since I don't have my kitas yet (will come with my work visa), I cannot open an Indonesian bank account, and thus I was paid in cash. I felt like a drug dealer leaving school today with an envelope full of cash, so I splurged and took the $2.10 cab ride home (instead of spending $0.40 to take public buses) Also, when I got home, I really had to resist the urge to "make it rain" lol.

After school, I finished "The Space Between Us," and even though this book focuses more on women's issues, I enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it because it is really well written and properly impresses upon us to examine the paradoxes and dissonances in our lives. My only reservation is that, at times, the book can be rather graphic to the point it is hard to read and hard to believe.

Finally, two of my eighth grade classes started their "Scaling Sekolah" project today. They are to use only tools available to them on their person or in the math classroom to create an accurate, scaled drawing of part of the school grounds. Students have chosen a variety of places to create scaled drawings, but my favorite was the parking lot. More specifically, Hanif's group was frustrated by their lack of a large measuring stick or tool that could easily help them find the dimensions of the parking lot. However, Hanif was very concerned about obtaining accurate measurements and was unsure whether or not his shoes would consistently match up with one another, so he took his shoes off, measured his bare feet, and walked the dimensions of the parking lot in his bare feet. I pretty much lost it. :)

"If he were to mail a letter without postage, it would still get there. His personality is so magnetic, he can't carry credit cards. Even his enemies list him as their emergency contact. He is the most interesting man in the world."

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Tim Tam Towers

The challenge: Create the tallest, free-standing structure possible. The supplies: 30 pieces of spaghetti, 1 yard of tape, and 18 minutes. The catch: it must be able to support two Tim Tams (chocolate covered wafers) placed at the top of the structure.

Team 1:

Team 1 was inspired by the Eiffel Tower. They were convinced that by creating a series of triangular prisms that built on top of one another, the structure would achieve both the necessary strength to support the Tim Tams and the height to win the competition. Even though their tower turned into more of a Leaning Tower of Pisa, last minute adjustments put them in the best position to win (until Calisha destroyed one of the Tim Tams by

Team 2:

Team 2 went with the fatalist approach. They assumed all other teams would fail, and so built an extremely sturdy structure, but it was only 9 cm off the table...

Team 3:

Team 3, like Team 1, were looking at ways to incorporate triangles in their structure. Initially they were looking to have the spaghetti intertwine and have the Tim Tams rest on top, but ultimately they were unable to balance the structure and at the end of the 18 minutes their Tim Tams were...0 cm off the table...epic fail!

Team 4:

Team 4 demonstrated the best teamwork of the four. They went for the skyscraper approach, but with about 5 minutes left, when they first placed the Tim Tams on top, they too encountered the balancing issues. By quickly creating a system of braces and separating the Tim Tams on the top of their structure to even out the weight distribution, they created the most elegant structure of the 4 teams, and unlike Team 1, did not destroy any Tim Tams :)!

Team 1: 39.5 cm (but disqualified due to a destroyed Tim Tam)
Team 2: 9 cm
Team 3: 0 cm
Team 4: 25.5 cm
Perhaps the fatalist approach was not the best... :)

This was a pretty awesome team building exercise and I'm looking to do one of these each Tuesday. So far I have: Tim Tam Tower, Human Knot (oldie but a goodie), Human Scavenger Hunt (will need to consult with colleagues to make an Indonesian-style game board), Will It Float? (who can come up with the most out-landish things that actually can float), Perfect Squares Puzzles Pieces (each team member is given a envelope and inside are puzzles pieces that on the whole make a perfect square for each member, but the pieces are split up. catch: no talking allowed), and other spaghetti structures. Please feel free to share more!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

4 Classes, 4 Lessons

Today I taught four different classes (two ninth grade and two eight grade), but had four different lessons. 9B was a day behind 9A due to the unforeseen exodus last Friday at noon (insensitive language there? lol) and I saw 8C yesterday, but saw 8A for the first time this week. This is definitely the most scrambled my brain has been regarding keeping track of instructional material, and I feel as if I've successfully negotiated another rite of passage! This experience has helped me appreciate solely having one grade and getting to see each class every day during my first two years of teaching. While I think switching up the schedule so that I don't see each class each day will be good for my relationship with my students, it is more difficult to establish consistency.

College Football Discussion: Today was the first day of the Big 12 media days, and I know expansion talk is old news, but I don't understand why Big 12 commissioner, Dan Beebe, has received so much praise. All he did was promise the major would-be defectors (notably Texas, but also Texas A&M and Oklahoma) a bigger piece of the pie (essentially Colorado and Nebraska's pieces) for helping the conference remain in tact. Yes, the conference did not die, but increasing disparity isn't something that should be praised. A better move would've been to commence courting TCU, Air Force, BYU, and/or Boise State (essentially the cream of the MWC - yes I'm included Boise State in that because even though they'll be joining the MWC in 2011, Utah defecting to the Pac-10, makes them relevant to change gears again, especially since rivalries won't have been established yet) to keep them at 12 teams because the conference championship game earns the community it's hosted in close to $20 million (according to a 2007 article when San Antonio was vying for the event). I included four schools there because there might be issues regarding religious affiliation, but in terms of academics, the Big 12 doesn't nearly have the standards of the Big Ten or the Pac Ten (let's be honest, Nebraska is most going to profit from the billions in research sharing that occurs within the Big Ten). I bring all of this up because Nebraska was one of the four teams "on the clock" today and Bo Pelini had to field many questions regarding their move to the Big Ten. Additionally, I find it interesting that Pelini is convinces his defense will be better this year even without Ndamukong Suh.

Day 2 of the ACC media days seems to go as planned: blasting agents (poor UNC), high expectations for Virginia Tech (Beamer ball has been consistently good, but they've still not produced a national championship), Georgia Tech needing a better passing game (but playing against the option is just never fun), and UVA not really having any expectations (no shocker there). I really respect how the ACC gave Day 1 to the players because this signals a conference that gets it. Ultimately, college athletics is just a part of a college experience and that the development of young men is so much more than winning or losing football games. My hats off to you ACC.

"He is the life of parties he has never attended. If he were to punch you in the face, you'd have to fight the urge to thank him. Sharks have a week dedicated to him. He is the most interesting man in the world."

Monday, July 26, 2010

No Power = No Internet

Last night was the first occasion in which I experienced a rolling brown-out. When I came home from school, there was no power, so I went for a run (well also the run helped remove some of the stiffness from Sunday's futsal game - totally different muscles were used then and I was kind of feeling it on Monday) When I came home about an hour later, the power was back on, but once I finished my shower and finished up with dinner, the power went out again. Hence, Monday's post is occurring on Tuesday morning (or for those of you living in the past, Monday night :-p)

The start of week two was good, but Mondays and Thursdays are going to be interesting days. I teach 6 periods on both of those days and have another 40 minutes or so of responsibilities. While I've enjoyed the teaching, my TFA mentality about things has been very new to the kids (they aren't accustomed to doing this much work during a class period :-p) and the teachers (who aren't sure why I come so early and leave relatively late) Either way, it's how I know how to do it, and it hasn't been burdensome at all. Additionally, my kids names have been awesome to use as substitutes for my NYC one's who are in my law school personal statements :) (good old Daffa and Arsyan - pronounced Ar-shan, very unlike Dusty and Buddy. Because Dusty was a Catholic...but Buddy was not. And Buddy was always trying to get Dusty to eat meat on Fridays...)

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Futsal! (and ND vs. the U)

Tonight I got to play futsal with a bunch of other ex-pats. Essentially futsal is like indoor soccer, but with a smaller pitch, no walls, with a smaller and heavier ball, and played on turf (yet open to the elements so thankfully able to enjoy the breeze). After we warmed up with a game of 5 on 5, a few more people showed up and we split things up into 3 teams of 4. For some reason, they chose an American to captain one of the teams, and initially my team started a little slow (about 2-5 in the first hour), but we came into our own during the second hour (7-1). It's great to do something completely different (and the fitness for small field futsal is very different from the distance running I've been doing the past 3 years) and can't wait for this to become a Sunday evening ritual!

During futsal today, I was asked if I was an American football fan, and responded that I'm a huge fan of college football. In fact, one of the reasons I stayed late at school on Friday was to read up on the SEC media days this past week, but a few days ago, ESPN reported Notre Dame and the University of Miami will renew their rivalry in the 2012 season (story here: I am really excited that "the U" is willing to schedule more difficult non-conference games and this is something that should become more pervasive throughout college football. Who wouldn't want to see Ohio State play Cincinnati each year? Or Penn State and Pittsburgh? Or Miami and Florida?? Or Nebraska and FSU (or any litany of other big programs they've consistently faced in bowl games)? The list goes on, but unfortunately, the current BCS system creates risk aversion for scheduling non-conference games against big opponents. Notre Dame is blessed because their contract with the BCS allows them to remain independent and have complete control over their schedule (and hence play USC and Michigan each year). We need to change the system to encourage more high profile, non-conference games (or move to a play-off system in which these games would occur, just at the end of the season) instead of beating up on cupcakes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


The last few days I put together my knowledge of Kemang and the surrounding area to develop a decent running route. Friday night was the first time I tried the loop and was still uncertain whether or not I was making the correct directional assumptions, when out of nowhere, someone startled me by shouting "BULE! Hey Bule, over here!" Bule is the Indonesia word for albino or Caucasian, but based on the accent, it was clear an Australian was yelling at me. I looked around and saw a man stuck in traffic across the street. He asked me what I was doing, and when I responded that I was just jogging to be in shape for futsal over the weekend, he responded with "right on!"

In general, Indonesian culture is not accustomed to running for fun or running for fitness. Between the climate and being in the middle of a developmental boom which has eradicated millions from poverty, it is logical for this to be foreign to them, however, I've yet to get used to their reactions. These vary from "Jalan-jalan bule!" (rough translation: "Run, Forrest, run!") to yelling and applauding as I go past to a simple turn of the head to stare in shock. Running is a part of me that I don't want to repress to a treadmill, thus it will be my act of sharing bule culture with wider Jakarta :).

It has come to my attention that I should clarify my position regarding the New York Times article I referenced in an earlier post (The Teachers' Unions' Last Stand). While I like the article a lot, as with all things, we must be critical readers and uphold a standard of analysis I previously neglected to address. Race to the Top could be one of the most transformative parts of the Obama administration, not because of its perfect implementation or that it is necessary the best way to go about educational reform, but because it's been the catalyst for significant changes in many state laws.
Additionally, I agree with Mulgrew that most teachers go into teaching for reasons outside of what can be stipulated in a contract and that they want what's best for kids. Unions are theoretically a good thing because they protect their members from potentially crazy administrators (and based on the stories throughout the TFA NY office, there are plenty of those) and create a perfect association for medical insurance (employed, college educated individuals with a higher correlation for more positive lifestyle choices - the most significant factor regarding long-term health outcomes and thus insurance pay-outs), yet, pragmatically, I cannot support unions who refuse to negotiate on "the big three." The "big three" are employment for life, lockstep compensation, and last in/first out.

As I mentioned above, I am in favor of various forms of protection from potentially vindictive or out-of-touch administrators, but going to an extreme where it is nearly impossible to fire someone as long as they don't abuse a child is ridiculous. Due to many issues with standardized tests (from subjects that lack tests, to the biases within the tests, to the question of how to rate growth, and many others), teachers should not be judged solely on their students' performance on one exam, but there needs to be some sort of accountability. This could come from an outside body (say a separate division of the DOE), other administrators, staff developers, or some crazy formula involving multiple parties, but ineffectiveness and shirking cannot be tolerated for those molding our youth. I really like the quote, "good teaching is just good teaching." There is not one right way to be an effective teacher, but the anecdote within the article comparing the Harlem Success Academy with PS 149 points out the obvious fact that children working in a classroom will learn more than students jammed in an auditorium during a "coverage."

This brings me to my next point. I'm sick and tired of people constantly trying to find excuses for why charters are performing better than comparative neighborhood public schools. Does this mean I don't find validity in their arguments that there are factors within the data that are skewed in favor of charter schools to perform better? No. In fact, just for Mr. C, here's my critical analysis of the anecdote within the Times article.
Higher performance among the charter students is biased due to 1) parents have to elect to have their children enter the lottery (thus signalling their, at least latent, interest in their children's education and valuation of education, but I would argue the threshold here is quite low due to the extreme number of students being turned away by charters and, more importantly, the pervasiveness of Harlem charters into the fabric of the community - more so than probably any other neighborhood in America) 2) most likely having a higher percentage of native English speakers (advertising to non-English speaking parents has been lacking despite recent campaigns by charter networks) and 3) most likely having a lower percentage of Special Education students. Additionally, the charter is likely to be operating at a lower cost per student because the teachers in the charter have fewer years of experience (thus on the aggregate paid less and due to younger ages having lower benefit costs as well) and the higher costs associated with educating a higher percentage of special education students (as hypothesized above).
However, it's really hard to imagine these discrepancies bridge the achievement gap (or in this case, chasm) between these two schools. In fact, isn't our necessity to look for excuses as to why many charters are performing better than their "peer" neighborhood schools a good thing?? Doesn't this prove that it is possible for students from these environments to perform to the highest standards?? Charters are not the answer (I am fortunate to have witnessed some of the more successful charter schools in the nation), and in fact many charters are failing their students, but as adults working to better educate all children, we need to drop our biases and learn from the "one hundred 1% reasons for success." (Part 1, more on this to come, but it's getting late over here and I don't want this post to become too epic.)

"He is the only man to have aced a Rorschach test. If he were to give you directions, you'd never get lost, and you'd arrive there at least five minutes early. The pheromones he secretes have been known to affect people miles away, in a slight, but measurable, way. He owns three sports cars and drives five. He is the most interesting man in the world."
These are images from Mentari on Friday night. I stayed a little later so I could grade papers, prepare my lessons for the coming week, and catch up on the SEC media days. I was struck by how fortunate I am to be working in such a beautiful place and had to share these with y'all! The bottom picture is a view down the first floor hallway from the library. My classroom is just after the set of lockers and the main office is all the way down on the right (after the garden that is directly across the hall from my room!)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday Prayer

I officially experienced my first awkward moment with Muslim culture. Today I learned that on Fridays, it is customary for all Muslim males to go to the mosque following the noon-time call to prayer because in the middle of teaching how to develop the concept of completing the square using intuitive pictures, one of my 9B students raised his hand and explained they were supposed to go on break. I took out my schedule and, according to that, I had the class from 11:10 to 12:50, so I responded with "umm...don't I have you guys for a double period?" At that point I got a number of strange looks and the same student said that some of them had to go to prayer for about half an hour. Since I was completely in the dark about this, I finished the thought we were on, and then dismissed anyone who needed to go to prayer. When all but one of the boys and none of the girls left I was really surprised and not sure of what to do with less than half of the class for half an hour. Fortunately, I see the other ninth grade class four times a week, compared with only three times with the other, so I had prepared a "math lab" and was able to use that with the 7 remaining students during the "break." All in all, the entire episode left me very befuddled until Mike explained the cultural reference to me.

Last night, Mike and I (Ab did not go because it was "too late"...jeez it's Pirro syndrome all over again! Just kidding Joe, you know I love you and completely understood your 8:30 bedtime) went to go see Inception. Not only was the movie really good (Christopher Nolan was able to couple an amazing story with incredible action and special effects in such a fluid and entrancing manner), but it was also ridiculously affordable (15k rupiah, or about $1.50). It's the best $1.50 I've spent thus far, and since movies are this cheap, I might even reach a Pirro-level of viewing! (it seems this post has been all about you, Joe!) I hope everyone is doing well! I miss you all!

"Watch for children" That seems like a pretty fair trade. (My deference to Demetri)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

First Staff Meeting

We had our first staff meeting of the year after 6th grade dismissal today. Speaking of which, I'm extremely impressed with how the five grades have been handling the fact that they're all working on different schedules. There hasn't been too much loitering in the hallways and even though I'm on the first floor right in between the library and main office, things haven't been very loud at all. Back to the staff meeting. There was cake, cookies, and coffee at the meeting. Need I say more? Very unlike the DOE, I'll leave it at that :)

I've been reading Dr. Green's blog (a friend of the family from back in the Bing! who worked as an admin for over 30 years and has created a blog to share his knowledge) and really liked his breakdown of the New York Times article discussing the Teachers' Union Last Stand:
I agree that Obama's most lasting legacy may be the paradigm shift from entrenched unions to a more dynamic, results-oriented educational community. As an alumnus of TFA, I can't help but smile because educational reform has transitioned from a leftist ideal to a reality in which Tennessee (clearly the most liberal state in the union) earned the highest marks for phase one of Race to the Top.

Lemon, OUT!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Day 2...and Asian Stereotypes

I share my classroom with the Mandarin teacher and decided to stay in the room today during an eighth grade class because I wanted to do a little work, like a Sudoku or read up on the pending college football season or something else productive along those lines. The lesson dealt with the vocabulary for school subjects. After the first few, the Mandarin teacher wrote the next vocabulary word and its pronunciation on the board, but he wanted the students to guess which subject it represented. As a hint, he said that this was his favorite subject in school, at which point all of the students yelled out "MATH!!!" He resisted and offered a second clue that this subject helped him be so fit today, at which point a student responded, timidly, "math?" After saying that he always had to change clothes for this subject, a couple finally acknowledged he was referring to PE, but it was really difficult for me to refrain from bursting out laughing. Oh Asian stereotypes...

My second day went well and, fortunately, the materials I prepared for the eighth graders took the perfect amount of time. Tomorrow will be my first day in the content with ninth grade, so I'll have to wait and see how that pacing goes. Moving to a higher level, private school had me concerned for the amount and speed at which the students would complete work, but today affirmed that no matter the level, constructivism takes time. On that note, I was also informed my first training in the IB curriculum will take place a month from now. It will be good to have an in depth look at the Middle Years Programme (MYP) and start to visualize the long-term plan of IB in a middle school context.

First Day of School...awww

This is what welcomed me in the classroom this morning:

Needless to say, the first day of school with students was quite unlike other first days. I saw 4 of my 5 classes today (I see each class 3 days a week), and I am excited for a year when I'll be able to concentrate on delivery of material and other instructional related issues rather than managing. This is due to a lot of factors; private school kids, small class size, Asian culture (not in a disrespectful way, but just that education is given a higher priority), room set up, etc. Overall, the thing that struck me the most was how small of the kids were. I vividly remember my first day at 88, and Nick came up to my shoulder on the first day of school and by the last day of school was up to my nose. In contrast, many of my ninth graders are about the size, or smaller, than most of my sixth graders last year. I suspect that my ninth graders are younger than American ninth graders, but only by a year or so.

The only other really pressing matter is to go see Inception. Joe has told me it's a must-see and the previews have created a March of my curiosity (kind of like the November of my soul, but March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb, you know, nevermind, Melville never explained the other one...), so Mike, Ab and I are looking to go Thursday or Friday.

"Greatest thing since sliced bread." So this is it, huh? I mean...computers? cell phones? the human genome project? Please... you have bread, you have a knife, SLICE IT!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Rainy Season??

While Jakarta is in the tropics, this time of year is supposed to be the "dry season." I've been told that means most days should be devoid of rain, however, it has rained nearly every single day, including three distinct periods of sustained, torrential downpour today. If this is the dry season I fear for what will happen during the rainy season...(I'm not actually worried as I visited during the "rainy" season in February and it wasn't drastically different than the weather now, instead I've been assured our current weather is very abnormal)

In other news, I finally completed "Catch-22." It took much longer than I anticipated due to its length coupled with the multitude of other things demanding my attention (something like starting a new job or whatever :)!) Overall, I was extremely impressed with how smart the writing was. In fact, I found myself continually reviewing what I read to make sure I had properly identified the dissonance that Heller so brilliantly crafted throughout the novel. Next up is "The Space Between Us" originally purchased to be a discussion novel with Jillian, but if that falls through I might be able to convince Ab to read it after he finishes "Let the Great World Spin" (the amazing book I finished during my 11 hour lay-over in Frankfurt). Either way, books are more enjoyable when they're shared, so if you've read any of these three and want to discuss, I'm all ears :)

Prior to returning to my placement school after each break, I would experience an encompassing sense of dread, but right now I feel completely at ease despite all of the unknowns that I'll be facing tomorrow. This has a lot to do with my ability to rely on past experiences and the fact that I've grown up a little more, but also speaks to the truth of the statement I heard all throughout TFA Institute; "Nothing will be as bad as your first year teaching at your placement school." Tomorrow will be the true test. And do as The Dawg says, respect my authoritah, keep the hallways clear, and Fly with Christ bra

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Apparently Pandora is only licensed to operate within the United! This makes little to no sense thanks to wealth of pirated media already present over here in Indonesia, and rather than gathering the media within a controllable, measurable, and profitable entity, we have few options outside of buying CDs or DVDs for 6,000Rp a piece (roughly $0.60). Consequently, I may be forced into using an Indonesia solution for maintaining a varied music library... ;)

After having lived in Kemang for 2 weeks, I am finally starting to recognize the major streets and for the most part know whether drivers are headed in the right direction. Actually, this is a part of wealthier Indonesia culture that I've yet to become accustomed to: drivers. Nearly all of my students will have their own driver, and if there are multiple children in one family, that family may have a car and driver for each child. What?! I don't think that truly sunk in; the family may have a car and driver for each child. Granted, I acknowledge that I am teaching the other side of the gap, but this seems quite excessive and is something I've never heard of in the states. It is really nice, especially because an excess of drivers allows me to be driven home after time with the Ibus, but an uncomfortable tingle goes down my spine as I alight from their car at Thelma's.

Finally, the pictures below are of the gardens located directed across the "hall" at Mentari. Friday, Ibu Elena decided to move the lockers from the windows in front of my classroom to the cafeteria, so one of the gardens will literally be visible from inside the room. It may be necessary to post student projects on the windows :)

Friday, July 16, 2010


I am grateful for the additional time prior to the beginning of school to properly plan and set up the room, but due to my expectation that today I would be in Singapore getting my visa, the only objective on today's agenda was to complete my bulletin boards. Once that was complete I spent about an hour perusing through the textbooks and materials from IB, but prior to knowing how quickly the students will take to the material and the way in which they respond to my constructivist style, it's difficult to make specific plans. Consequently, I got to practice what I've heard people often do at their jobs, shirk. After about an hour of online Catan, another hour of law school research, chatting with other staff members, and an extended lunch, it was only 1:30. I don't really understand how some people do this on a daily basis?! Wouldn't you get bored with life?! Or perhaps I'm now starting to understand how Rick Rolling and other things along those lines can go "viral"...

In another completely unrelated topic, I think Jakarta has a lot of potential to be a very green, sustainable, urban area. While those who have been to Jakarta (or simply read my posts regarding its disparity and smog level) might find this hard to believe, the city's latitude coupled with it naturally containing many of the elements that will restrain American cities and suburbs from having as fluid of a transition into 21st century necessities. While tropical latitudes previously stunted economic growth due to less-productive, high-yield agriculture and the prevalence and destruction of diseases, thanks to advances in medicine and technology tropical locations should at least be on an equal playing field with higher latitudes and potentially come out ahead because of greater environmental stability (annually relative) and ability to reliably count on green sources of energy. Additionally, thanks to the ability to grow on the shoulders of world-wide technological development, the city has the potential to solve a lot of its problems by hurdling intermediate, developmental steps. For example, when much of Africa did not have access to telephones, governments and businesses were able to install cell phone towers rather than spending hundreds of millions on traditional telephone lines (the most famous example of hurdling technologies).

Regarding intangibles, Jakarta has a lot of "third spaces." A third space is somewhere other than a person's home or workplace where they're able to spend a considerable amount of time. Effective third spaces are imperative for community to be built while still respecting personal space, however, if they are not proximate or accessible, then too many resources will be expended thus not "greening" a city. This is the problem facing many urban and suburban areas in America, but "thanks" to the rapid expansion of Jakarta, more traditional suburbs have been absorbed within the greater metropolitan area. This has fostered dense construction, which allows buildings to "share" energy rather than losing it, but has not stripped away regional identities, thus enabling for the preservation and inception of meaningful third spaces. Consequently, if Jakarta is able to develop a Singapore-style mass transportation and infrastructure, it could become an international model for greening cities.

Also, this serves as a general warning. Do you notice when you're leaving people, they often give you messages to give to someone else? Whitney tells you, "Give my love to Klaus." Do you mind that? What if you don't see Klaus, what are you supposed to do with Whitney's love? Can you give it to Songky? And what if you give Whitney's love to Songky...and then you see Klaus? You can't really give Klaus Whitney's love because you've already given it to Songky. But what if Klaus is gay and really wants Songky's love and not Whitney's? Are you to be the love arbiter? And what form does the love take? Are you to risk giving them a tongue kiss when you pass on their love? or just a hug? or are the words enough? Or will Klaus already have assumed you've given Whitney's love to Songky since you've developed a reputation for being so loose with people's love? Or what if you're not instructed to give their love to someone else, but rather their regards. What happens if you give their love? Say for instance Whitney instructs you to give her regards to Songky, but you only give him her best? Or could you upgrade it to her love? What if you're currently at odds with Songky? Could you completely disregard the message or would that be larceny of Whitney's regards? All of these factors have caused me to develop the over-arching rule that I will no longer be the courier of anyone's love, regards, wishes, best, hellos, remembrances, howdies, or hugs and kisses :). (My utmost to George.)

(Also there were no pictures in today's post because of the sloth-like interweb here at school.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010


Things really started to come together in room 102 today. First of all, my copies are officially made (and I didn't even need to wait until the secretaries were gone and be all 007 about it!) Secondly, I've decided to seat my students in a semi-circle so that all students can see one another, have access to the board, and allow me to keep them more accountable for their work. At least this is the theory, we'll see how it plays out. Honestly the only reason I even have the option to give this a try is due to the largest class only having 20 students. I am really excited to see how the change in class size changes the way in which I'm able to present material and interact with the class (the excitement is of course assuming that this will have a positive effect on both...sorry Alex, I did not enjoy when you stood on your desk, threw your pencil out the window, and then shouted about how you "unprepared" for class since you didn't have a pencil. Funny in hind sight, but arguably not ideal for a learning environment)

In other news, I am not going to Singapore tomorrow. Apparently April is an inadequate time frame in which to have submitted my materials... I know things will come together, but it's kind of annoying to have this hanging over my head. On the bright side, I'll have this weekend to get to know Kemang and Jakarta a little better and be all rested up for the first day of school! (I'll make sure to pack my Spiderman lunchbox and take a picture of myself by my door on the way out to add to mom's collection :) lol)

Finally, the most interesting cultural event from the past few days was the candlelight vigil for George Steinbrenner. Actually, Jakarta didn't blink on that one, or the NL breaking the AL's streak, not exactly sure why not...but fun fact, for my friend's cell phone number, if you look at the letters on a telephone that go with his number it spells out "oh or ok, oh zk" What does it mean? I don't know, he doesn't know, but it's how we start every conversation.

Notice the "College on the Clock," William and Mary will be next month but I thought I should support Indo first. Also, "If I" by Demetri Martin is both hilarious and deep, well played good sir. PAX

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Today we had a full faculty meeting for the entire Mentari staff. There are a total of four campuses and close to 120 teachers, so it was quite the meeting. The Jakarta campus doesn't have the facilities for such an event, so we met up at school early and all took a bus together. It took about 45 minutes to get to Bintaro, but it was a welcome break. First of all, it was great to get out to a suburb of Jakarta and away from dense pollution (which we're guessing is one of the main factors for Ab's recent cold). Additionally, the Bintaro campus has significantly more space than either Jakarta campus and the library at the school is really something. The two story windows and beautiful foliage outside were quite a sight to see, and hence documented below :) At this meeting, I discovered that the entire secondary math department of the school is new. While I was hoping to meet and talk with teachers who had been in the system before and consequently could give me more straight talk on the school's expectations, it was nonetheless good to meet the Bintaro teachers and share our recent experiences as well as begin to share materials with one another.

I briefly mentioned this earlier in the post, but the pollution, especially when in transit, is really starting to get to both Ab and me. We've started bringing cloth to breathe through and are considering moving to the surgical masks depending on how our new mode of transit, ojek, works out tomorrow. We're switching to ojek's because there have been three mornings when we've had to wait over 20 minutes for a bajaj to come. So even though it's cheaper to take bajaj (Ab and I each pay 5,000 rupiah as opposed to each of us taking separate ojeks and paying 10,000 rupiah each), one of the security guards at Ibu Thelma's is friends with an ojek driver and we'll be able to consistently have a ride who will show up right outside the homestay. All in all, things are going well and I'm excited for the year to start. The time is already moving quickly and it'll be December before we all know it!

It is good I didn't go to high school here. I mean so ridiculously beautiful it would be distracting!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Room 102

Today I officially moved into room 102. That was all that really happened at school today.

In other news, I've decided to watch Adam Hamilton's sermons online until I'm a little more settled and feel comfortable venturing outside of the route to the few places I currently know; Mentari, Blok M, and home :). Anyway, I started with his "Children of Eden" series and was shocked with how progressive and liberal he was in his interpretation of "In the Beginning..." Well, not liberal based on New York standards, but considering that Church of the Resurrection is in Leawood, KS, a pastor actively arguing for the "big bang" theory and evolution over more traditional creationism is significant. Pastor Hamilton states that the old testament is a series of stories to teach things about ourselves rather than biographies, and focuses on the importance of reading the old testament, not only in a literary, but also a scientific context. It is uplifting to know that at least a fringe of "compassionate conservatism" or the "religious right" are acknowledging that we are no longer willing to check our brain at the door of the church. Science is not an evil thing, but something logical and that is ever evolving (pun intended). The scientific knowledge of Moses' time is not the same as our knowledge today, in the same way current understanding will continually be trumped by knowledge gained today and in the future. Irregardless (yes Mom, that's for you :) lol), I'm glad Pastor Hamilton is spreading the good word in the Midwest.

Finally, thanks to the week and a half of planning time I've had at Mentari, I've had plenty of time to listen to classical music while developing the ways in which my students will explore congruence and similarity (a thrilling topic for the beginning of the 8th grade curriculum) or completing the square and proving the quadratic formula (only a slightly more interesting start for the 9th grade). I would definitely recommend 'Alejandro' or 'Wavin Flag' :), but seriously, the Arabian Dance and the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy have developed a whole new meaning and complexity (or perhaps I'm finally mature enough to appreciate and understand them)

Here's a reminder from the American Medical Association: Don't pour sulfuric acid on your children.

Monday, July 12, 2010


I was rather lethargic throughout the day, and so after the first meeting with Ibu Elena (the curriculum director for Mentari) I was talking with Mike about going for a run or doing some other sort of exercise to get the blood flowing and whatnot. Mike lives in a very nice high-rise building that also has a mini gym in it, and so he suggested that we all come over around 7ish and work out at his place. Ab and I thought free was a major upgrade from paying for a day pass at the gym, so we all agreed to meet up at the lobby of his building around 7. Ab and I jogged over and wanted to be there a little early so that Mike wouldn't have to wait for us, but come 7:10 we were getting a little concerned. At 7:15 we decided Mike had either forgotten or a nap had overcome him, but since we had gone all the way to his building, wanted to see if we could go to the gym anyway. At this point we had been hanging around the front of the building for a solid half an hour or so and were definitely suspicious. However, we would not be deterred. Upon entering the building, Ab asked me how we were supposed to act like we knew where we were going when we really had no clue, but I assured him that walking briskly and with purpose had yet to cause me to be stopped by building supers yet (thanks to my experience at the Monterrey lol) So, the two of us walked on in which purpose, made the decision to head to the right and were not feeling confident of our prospects when we noticed there was an ID scanner next to the double doors that would let us into the elevator bank. However, after MacGyvering the situation, we realized the door not next to the ID scanner could simply be pushed in. Consequently, having a friend sleep through the group work-out, walking with purpose, and not being deterred by building "security" allowed Ab and me a great work-out in a swanky building :)

The only real interesting news from today is that we were told today that we'll be heading to Singapore on Friday to get our visas. Consequently, we'll actually be in the country legally and in a legit way soon, hooray! Weather permitting, tomorrow will include pics of the outside of Mentari and Wednesday is the first day with the rest of the staff!

Sampai besok! (Until tomorrow)

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Keluarga means family, and family is one's backbone. It is this backbone that I am reliant upon; nuclear, Sky Lake, WaM, TFA, Sekolah Mentari, and Fathonys. The Fathonys were my gracious hosts in February and through Nina, I met Elena and ended up getting the job at Mentari. Not only did the entire Fathony family serve as ambassadors upon my initial visit, but also welcomed Ab and I into their home today to share stories from the past few months and get to know one another better. Their overall presence and proxy to Indonesian culture is my newest family; my backbone that I can rely on throughout the course of the year (and Mom and Dad, they're very excited to meet y'all if you are able to come out to Jakarta!)

In other news, I stumbled upon a TEDtalk by Chip Conley (CEO of Joie de Vivre - an independent hotel chain in Cali-for-ni-way) who discussed the importance of analyzing what we count. Essentially he argued in favor of ascending Maslow's hierarchy of needs in business as in life, and to give more consideration to Gross National Happiness (initially argued for by the king of Bhutan) rather than Gross Domestic Product. His talk goes to the heart of my discontent with economics, which first arose during the fall semester of senior year when I did an independent study in growth economics which revealed a negative correlation between GDP and GNH. Robert Kennedy was exactly right when he argued for a redefinition of GNP and said, "it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America, except why we are proud that we are Americans." (the whole 2 minute clip can be seen at: Finally, it is best that this TEDtalk came from a CEO because it empowers the notion that focusing on happiness and company profits is not a zero-sum game. American fascination with sport has ingrained that there must always be a winner and a loser, when in reality multiple things can simultaneously "win."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Public Bus 77

Today I discovered the Jakarta version of the N train: public bus 77 (even though it doesn't run express to Brooklyn). Taking this one bus I'm able to go from the end of my street (Jalan Kemang Timur Lima) to Blok M (a major transit center and a mall) for $0.20! I needed to pick up a few things from Carrefour and in the process managed to avoid getting lost and successfully utilized my skills of reversibility! Additionally, I'm going to try and ride public bus as much as possible because in both directions I was able to practice my Bhasa with fellow passengers as well as creep on surrounding conversations :).

One of my goals for the coming year is to catch up on classic literature and other such necessities that have been lacking from my education to date. Currently, I'm reading Catch-22, and have been completely surprised with how genuinely funny it is, with classic lines such as "some men are born mediocre, some men achieve mediocrity, and some men have mediocrity thrust upon them." Ab actually commented that my laughter while reading this section of the book distracted him from his lesson planning the in room next door.
Finally, it has also come to my attention that I have yet to post any pictures of the outside area of my residence, so here we go. I didn't take a picture from outside the gate so that y'all could see what the whole building looks like because I don't feel I know the security guards well enough, the the general idea is an extended version of the third picture (it's two stories with a total of 8 apartments and Ibu Thelma lives in a detached building behind the boarding house) My room (#2) is on the first floor almost directly behind the stone column with the narrow, vertical windows.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Ibu Teti and Ibu Lisa

I have officially completed the first week of work at Sekolah Mentari, and yet it feels like I have yet to begin. There is still so much to learn, so much to see, and so much to plan, however, at the end of the day (around 2:30) Ibu Teti and Ibu Lisa took Ab, Mike and me out for a late lunch. Ibu Teti is one of the five founding mothers of the school and Ibu Lisa is the parent coordinator for the middle school. It was great having an opportunity to meet two of the more influential parents in the school to hear their perspectives on education and life in Jakarta. It was great that there was a group of five of us because the conversation was able to flow freely between all of us and there was never too much of a focus on any one of the three of us. In fact, conversation went so smoothly that we stayed at the restaurant for close to three hours! Furthermore, it was an introductory education in the home lives of our students. I definitely feel fortunate to be a part of the Sekolah Mentari community and continue to be blow away by the hospitality and community within the school.

Interesting TEDtalks fact, there are 1 billion malnourished people and 1 billion obese people in the world. Ellen Gustafson is exactly right that both kids in the South Bronx and kids in Botswana need apples, though Golam with his morning "breakfast" of a full bag of chips may disagree...1 billion and 1 billion... (and for those interested in more info and a link to Ellen's full talk:

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lunch for $0.85?!?

Today I went to lunch with two other co-workers (Yohan and Tyas - both native Indonesians). I wanted to start to venture out and try some more native Indonesian food (easing my stomach into the transition) and at the Warteg I got a bowl of rice, tempe, tofu, and a celery mix along with a delicious sweet tea-like drink which was extremely tasty and filling for a whopping total of 8,500 Rp (or pretty close to $0.85) Depending on how my stomach reacts (and so far, so good), I may have to become a regular at this Warteg :) Additionally, going to lunch with Yohan and Tyas at the Warteg provided a great opportunity to learn more Indonesia. So far my language skills leave a lot to be desired, but I'm trying to work on phrases I might need on a more regular basis as well as slowly building my vocabulary.

Finally, the picture I've attached at the bottom of this post is a view from the second floor hallway of the school. I took this picture because the towers being constructed in the background have served as a landmark for me and Ab as we've gotten to learn the neighborhood, but also because how this investment in creating apartment buildings as nice, if not nicer, than what were going up in NYC compares with the structures in the middle ground of the picture. The disparity in wealth is overwhelming and disconcerting and causes me to question the sustainability of the current economic climate in Jakarta. There is a crisis in urban planning here, and with the rate of growth in the city, it is foreseeable that inadequate infrastructure and crumbling facilities for the majority will ultimately cripple the city. As I get to know co-workers at Sekolah Mentari and my language skills get better, I will be interested in what native Indonesians think about the current economic climate.

And a little bit of George: (thanks to my examination of Indonesian, George's examination of common phrases in English is awesome)

"legally drunk" well if it's legal, what's the problem?!? Leave my friend alone officer! He's legally drunk!

"lock 'im up and throw away the key" Where are you going to throw it?? Right in front of the jail so his friends can find it?! And how far can you throw a key anyway? 50-60 feet the most, even if you lay it flat and scale it. This is a stupid idea and needs to be completely re-thought :)

What we do for sport...

Today we were given a "tour" of the neighborhood near the school. I say "tour" because the school van was driving around (and as I mentioned previously, roads in Jakarta are a little less than obvious) and we all lost our barings relatively quickly. All things considered, it was good to get out and see a little bit more of the city as well as having an authentic Indonesian lunch. Additionally, it helped break up the monotony of unit and lesson planning (which I was working on all morning, other than for those who were "distracting" me via gchat - always welcome of course!)

The big news today is that Ab, Mike and I decided to meet up to watch the Spain/Germany game tonight. However the title of this post comes from the fact that the game will be starting at 1:30am... Hence, the game plan is, eat an early dinner, go to bed for 5-6 hours, wake up around midnight, go to the game, get home around 4am ish, and then grab another nap prior to going to school tomorrow. Given the environment around soccer here (people were literally yelling and screaming in the streets as the driver brought me from the airport to Ibu Thelma's), it should definitely be worth it!

Additionally, I'm a little concerned about when I get back to the United States because included in my rent are the services of a maid, who cleans the room and does my laundry (all inclusive for $270/month! oh how laughable that is compared with my experiences in NYC...)

And concluding thoughts: new sports idea: high-school auto racing, they have it, but it's not organized. or how about cross-country chess, run a mile in between each move, see how fast that goes. or turkish wrestling, oh wait, that's real...

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Clarity...ahhhhh the relief (perhaps starting the day with Mr. Carlin is for the best)

Starting at Sekolah Mentari, being in a private school, and being slightly mis-informed yesterday, I was anticipating I would have to drastically change my teaching style in the coming year. However, after meeting with the current technology teacher, Matt (who has been there for 7 years), I am extremely relieved. It may have been the language barrier and differing expectations, but yesterday I was under the impression that students purchased their textbooks at the beginning of the school year and that the school advocated students writing in the textbook as supplementary notes. However, today Matt clarified that Ibu Elena (yes, similar to 'bu Cindy' for all my WaM friends :) lol) prefers teachers who don't use textbooks (something I've become very familiar with due to my time with TFA) and that the students only borrow the textbooks. Thus, today I was able to better construct what my lessons and classroom would be on a daily basis (at least for the 8th grade, tomorrow I'm going to work to familiarize myself with the 9th grade coursework)

In other news, Ab, Mike, and I walked home from school today to start to explore the neighborhood of Kemang. It is definitely a nicer neighborhood in Jakarta (and as a point of comparison, it has a Chelsea-type feel relative to the rest of the city, so yes, I'm turning into one of those, but don't you worry, there are no gays in Indonesia, so Kemang is not like Chelsea in that way :-p) The walk coupled with trying to be really observant while taking transportation has helped me start to get my barrings, but it is difficult because there are a lot of winding roads that often change names, often for no reason whatsoever (clearly urban planning is an Indonesian strong-suit) Also, the first two days of work, Ab and I have shared a bajaj (pictured below) to work which has added to the whole Jakarta experience. When y'all come, we'll definitely take one :)

And finally, I've yet to be told when my "non-stop" flight to Singapore is going to be so that I can pick up my work visa. Unfortunately, the administrative assistant at school didn't understand that I insisted that my flight stop, preferably at the Singapore airport. Once again, tossing it up to a language barrier... :) favorite mode of transportation :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Day 1

Today was my first day at Sekolah Mentari, and needless to say, this year will be quite unlike my prior teaching experiences...(obvi) For example, each Friday I'll need to turn in lesson plans (consistent with my charter school friends, eh? :) oy vey) In general, I've been strongly questioning the wisdom of my decision to come out to Jakarta because of the difficulty of this transition, but then, isn't that the point of pulling the trigger and going out on this adventure?! I miss you all very much (this message was rather brief bc getting back to work while jet-lagged has been fun :)!)

P.S. If anyone has great rice cooker recipes, holla!

Sunday, July 4, 2010


Arriving back in Jakarta has been surreal! On one hand it's great that I've been here before and could recognize Pacific Place and Blok M Mall as the driver went past, but it's also been a completely new perspective of the city and I've yet to find my barrings. Tonight, the owner of the home stay took me and Ab to Carrefour to finish out-fitting our rooms with everything we needed (like sheets...arguably important and as you can see on one of the pictures below, were lacking thus making sleeping slightly difficult last night) Tomorrow is the first day all of us "new" teachers need to report to the school, so I'm sure that will be interesting. Also, I may not be an employee of the esteemed DMV, but I do know that the shoulder is not a "lane" of a highway, just today's helpful hint from Jon.

The current state of Jalan Kemang, Timur V A4 room 2:

Saturday, July 3, 2010

In Transit

The computer in Singapore is telling me I have 1:28 to send off this message (gotta love free internet in airports!) My trip has been uneventful thus far, just a lot of drunk, fat men sitting next to me, which has clearly been less than optimal! The only real news I have to share is that my school is picking me up from the airport (so Pete, while I was excited to use the Damri bus skills that you taught me, I suppose those will have to wait for another date) and also upon picking me up they will be bringing me to the housing Ab set up (for all those in America, Ab is working at Sekolah Mentari as well and we had initially talked of rooming together), hence, my housing situation may already be solved! (and include hot water! :) ) and time.