Indonesia shopping

Teaching In Indonesia: What’s Similar And Different To The U.S.

*This is an update of posts chronicling my teaching in Jakarta, Indonesia, during Ramadan. As part of the U.S. State Department of Education’s IREX program, 10 teachers and I spent two weeks traveling, teaching, and creating friendships with Indonesian students. This trip was life-changing for me as a woman and a teacher; so many stereotypes of the Muslim religion and Ramadan were altered due to my ability to meet the Indonesian students, teachers, and families and observe what their daily life was like, what they valued, and how many similarities American and Indonesian teens share. I’d like to share some of my experiences traveling in a Muslim country during their most holy time. I’d love to hear your stories of international travel and how it has changed your world, too.
~Jennifer

 

Indonesia teaching highlighted similarities and differences to the United States. We began with an early teacher meeting at IMAN Cendekia School.  Asked to speak about green school and International Baccalaureate programs, we arrived to meet with a few interested teachers.  We’ve witnessed an attempt at recycling awareness on many campuses in the form of posters and some class assignments, but noticed an alarming absence of trash and recycling containers.  While the teachers asked many questions about our recycling programs, it soon became evident that their infrastructure problems with sanitation halt their progress.  We suggested that they don’t wait, but rather start teaching the children, ideally in primary grades, about how to reduce, reuse and recycle.  We’re hopeful that we can continue to provide them with examples through Skype or email when we return to the US.

Indonesia teacher
Indonesia teacher

The assistant principal, interestingly, changed the subject several times to ask us about the ‘Seattle Sound’ and bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana.  He also wanted to chat about American movies, wondering if our schools were like “Mean Girls”, and told us his favorite actors were Denzel Washington and Tom Hanks.  We continue to be amazed at what a dominant role American media plays in their beliefs about our country, and how often incorrect they really are.

Indonesia teaching

We were able to ask the teachers some of our essential questions and found that they believe that Indonesians are generally shy and don’t share their opinion, in fact, they will often go along with something they don’t agree with.  They have no word for love, and no polite way to be angry.  They believe that boys and girls are treated equally and that men are generally more polite.  They think their students need to study American history to know what are the best ways to run their country, so they choose to study the American Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, the Civil War, and Malcolm X.

Indonesia school
Indonesia school – students interested in recycling and Western culture.

The average wage of an Indonesian teacher is $100/month, and for $75/month they feel they can live well, although they may need to commute far for work.  Earning $200/month is considered middle class, enough for school, rent, food and little savings.  $10,000 will purchase a good house.  We found most items very inexpensive, especially food.

Traveling to Sekolah Tunas to visit a K-12 school provided a radically different glimpse into Indonesian education.  We were greeted by a British man, Mr. Paul, hired to be their resident native speaker.  The primary school children were adorable, full of questions like “do we go to rock concerts” and “would we like some chocolate milk”.  Their command of English was excellent   – due in large part from efforts to have students learn conversational English.

Observing on Friday meant students weren’t in uniform, making religious affiliation more difficult to discern.  These students looked so much like our American students; in fact, one young girl was excited to see a photo of my daughter wearing the same shirt!

Indonesia school concert
Indonesia school concert

We were treated to a traditional gamelan concert, questions and answers by the 10th-12th graders, student leadership tour guides, and a look at music and dance (modern and traditional) electives.  As this is a private school, students pay a fee to attend between the hours of 7:30 – 4.

We spent our afternoon taking the train to a 13-story wholesale shopping center.  Interestingly, Indonesian trains have pink and purple cars for women only, created in response to protect them from sexual harassment.

Jakarta shopping
Jakarta shopping

Exiting the train took us into what our guide called ‘real Jakarta’, and we couldn’t agree more.  This was by far the most crowded, dirty and lively section of town we have seen.  We entered an outside bazaar and began crisscrossing through the maze of vendor booths selling clothes, food, pets, shoes and household items.  The path was narrow and at times we wondered if we would make it to the mall.  We emerged into an open area where the men were just finishing their afternoon prayer.  As it ended, they picked up newspaper they knelt on and went on their way, and we entered the mall.

A teacher, Eva, met us there because she was deemed the best bargainer.  She proudly told us, ‘this is not comfortable for shopping, but comfortable on the wallet.’  And she was right-we spent the first hour in shock and amazement as she led us up escalators to the thirteenth floor, through labyrinthine paths to find the items we want and back out again.  When the mall closed at three we went upstairs to the mosque so our guides could pray, then back down to find a taxi.

Jakarta mosque
Jakarta mosque

Jakarta traffic is unlike any other city.  Buses and taxis have an easier time, especially when they drive up onto the curbs to scoot past the cars and motorbikes.   Although the train would be
faster, our guides felt it would be unsafe for us to utilize it during rush hour.  Two hours later we were happy to arrive at the hotel, break our fast and fall into bed.

Indonesia shopping
Indonesia shopping

Today I was reminded of the disparity between schools in Indonesia.  The difference between the strict, traditional religious education and the more modern structures is a perfect reflection of what I see happening in the country.  I’ve noticed a conflict between those who would like to stay true to their traditions and culture, and those who want to embrace modern living.  It feels like holding on too tightly to the past is causing problems with looking forward into the future; I’m hopeful the children can figure out a balance that will keep everyone happy.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Teens aren't all that different in Indonesia

Teaching Teenagers In Indonesia – They’re Not So Different From American Teens

*This is an update of posts chronicling my Teaching In Jakarta, Indonesia, During Ramadan. As part of the U.S. State Department of Education’s IREX program, 10 teachers and I spent two weeks traveling, teaching, and creating friendships with Indonesian students. This trip was life-changing for me as a woman and a teacher; so many stereotypes of the Muslim religion and Ramadan were altered due to my ability to meet the Indonesian students, teachers, and families and observe what their daily life was like, what they valued, and how many similarities American and Indonesian teens share. As so many today are celebrating Ramadan, I’d like to share some of my experiences traveling in a Muslim country during their most holy time. I’d love to hear your stories of international travel and how it has changed your world, too.
~Jennifer

Sitting in my western style hotel room, sitting in a comfortable bed sipping coffee and watching CNN, I might think I’m at home in America.  Then I hear the faint strains of the morning prayers broadcast outside, and am instantly clear that outside this window is a completely different world than what I’m used to. Teaching teenagers in Indonesia is opening up my ways of thinking.

Indonesia
Indonesia city view

Systems in Indonesia

After only 76 hours in Indonesia, I’m beginning to understand some of the systems.  The Indonesian people are all about hospitality and helpfulness, even when they don’t speak my language.  I’m having a hard time learning Indonesian phrases – for some reason, they don’t hit my ear correctly and I cannot memorize even the simplest words. Teenagers in Indonesia aren’t really all that different than teens in America – but the schools are. Gender separation, strict uniforms, and forcing the teachers to move rooms instead of the students are unlike U.S. schools, but the goals and interests of Indonesian teens are amazingly similar.

Communicating in an Indonesian school.
Communicating in an Indonesian school.

 

What NOT to do in Indonesia

I’ve learned not to take photos in a grocery store, to use my hand in a downward flat palm position when I need to push through a crowd (personal space is very limited), and that cold Bintang beer tastes great after a day hanging out with a Komodo dragon in the 91-degree humid weather.

I’ve learned that teachers in Indonesia worry about many of the same things we do in the US – how to celebrate and teach diversity, how to engage students who are more interested in social media than school, and how to preserve their cultural identity, all on a salary of $150-$300/month.

Indonesian school project about climate change.
Indonesian school project about climate change.

Learning from each other

Today I begin teaching in a religious boarding school.  I’m hopeful that I make easy connections with the students and can understand what we can do to make our world a little bit better by working together.  I know the Indonesian people are as eager to learn from us as I am from them.

Teens aren't all that different in Indonesia
Teens aren’t all that different in Indonesia.
Teaching in Indonesia
Teaching in Indonesia.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Indonesian school

Teaching In Jakarta, Indonesia, During Ramadan

*This is an update of posts chronicling my teaching in Jakarta, Indonesia, during Ramadan. As part of the U.S. State Department of Education’s IREX program, 10 teachers and I spent two weeks traveling, teaching, and creating friendships with Indonesian students. This trip was life-changing for me as a woman and a teacher; so many stereotypes of the Muslim religion and Ramadan were altered due to my ability to meet the Indonesian students, teachers, and families and observe what their daily life was like, what they valued, and how many similarities American and Indonesian teens share. As today is the start of Ramadan, I’d like to share some of my experiences traveling in a Muslim country during their most holy time. I’d love to hear your stories of international travel and how it has changed your world, too.
~Jennifer
Arriving in Jakarta during Ramadan was really exciting – after three flights and countless hours of layovers and sitting upright, I was ready to explore.  The Indonesian language is difficult to decipher, so I followed the crowd to get bags, exchange money, and find our guide, Lilia.
Indonesia

I had heard about the infamous Jakarta traffic and prepared for the 36 km, nearly two-hour drive from the airport to the hotel.  Indonesia is 14 hours ahead of California, so we essentially missed Wednesday and arrived on Thursday.

Indonesian breakfast
Indonesian breakfast

After an interesting breakfast – Indonesians eat rice at every meal, as well as meats and seafood – we headed off to our guide’s public school – SMP 49 in east Jakarta. During Ramadan I wasn’t sure I’d be able to eat or drink much, so I fueled up!
Indonesia

As we drove into the school, we were greeted by students hanging over the railings and the teachers and administrator in the parking lot.  We were surprised to learn that it was a school holiday for the start of Ramadan, yet the students and teachers came to school anyways just to meet us.  They made us feel like celebrities as we exited our bus!

Ramadan
Indonesia school

 We began with a faculty meeting to discuss global education and get to know each other.  It was interesting that the principal began and ended the meeting with prayers. Indonesia

We spent the next hour working in classrooms.  To our surprise, the English teacher wanted us to teach his students, so we launched into a discussion about our schools, families, and culture of America.  Notice the uniforms in this 8th grade English classroom – especially the sneakers!  My partner, Amy, is from Chico, California, and we had prepared a Prezi on her iPad which really came in handy.

The classrooms were sparsely decorated and moderately air conditioned.  Students here test into the school, so they are considered high-achieving.  They are extremely fluent in English, although some are reluctant to speak.  It was interesting to me that a student leader rose when we entered, then asked the rest of the class to do the same.  They greeted us, said a prayer, then took their seats.
Indonesian school
Indonesian school
They are fascinated with American teens and really loved hearing about our own kids and students.  They said they love Twitter and American movies!
Everywhere we went and everything we did they documented with video and photos – the teachers are so eager to learn about what American classrooms are like and how we teach.  I was impressed with the emphasis on behavior and respect, as evidenced by signs all around the school.

I was touched by how delighted the school was with our visit, and how honored and respected they made us feel.  I really think that these students and teachers have so much in common with us in the US – they want to learn, improve and have great hope for their futures. We left with happy hearts and new connections to help us learn to be better global citizens.

Typical meal at Ramadan breaking the fast
Typical meal at Ramadan breaking the fast

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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“A Constellation of Vital Phenomena”:Taking Risks

Risk map in Wikipedia.
Risk map (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember as a little girl spending countless hours hunkered over the board game, Risk. As the air conditioner cooled our house from the scorching heat of northern California valley summers, my elementary school friends and I would hunker over the globe, carefully strategizing our next move against countries I had never heard of before. We never imagined our world as a constellation of vital phenomena. Marching our players across the flattened, cardboard world, we had no more desire for world domination than any other nine-year-old. I believe we simply wanted an escape, a way to pass the long, summer day without today’s diversions of the internet, satellite TV or iPads.

In our young minds, the world really did have boundary lines. We assumed that moving from country to country, state to state, would involve some sort of hopscotch game in order to transport ourselves out of one place and into another. None of us had ever left the west coast, let alone the United States. we read Scholastic World magazine, looked at our parent’s subscription to National Geographic, and only imagined those places too far away to really touch.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.
“a constellation of vital phenomena”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We couldn’t transport ourselves with a click of a mouse, fly over the South American jungles via Google Earth, or even comprehend the idea of one day setting our own two feet in the dust of a Nicaraguan road on a quest to discover what was really happening beyond our boundaries.

One roll of the dice, and our players advanced in the game, one more move towards occupying every territory and eliminating the other players. I remember the tickle of my tongue as I tried to pronounce “Kamchatka”, and the giggles when we landed on “Yakutsk“. Ural, Ukraine, Mongolia, Indonesia…our black and red players marched forward capturing one continent after another in our imaginary world where the Earth’s boundaries really were drawn in the sand, and the people there merely tokens in our game.

It wasn’t until nearly forty years later that I stopped to think about Risk and what it taught me.  I sorted through the pieces in my mind,  doing a quick Google search now and then for the new names of those foreign lands. I remembered the coolness of the linoleum floor as we lay prone for hours and hours, never wanting the game to end. I realized the damage it might have done as we learned from such a young age that the name of the game was to conquer at all costs, and I realized that actually, what it taught me was that what we do effects others. Our strategies impact lives. We may be divided by those imaginary boundaries, but we all share the same space together on Earth, despite where the lines are drawn or the battles fought. We are interdependent, reliant on each other to play the game. To break down the boundaries. To roll the dice, sometimes not knowing where we’ll end up, but knowing where we’d like to go.

To take risks.

This post was inspired by the novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. In a war torn Chechnya, a young fatherless girl, a family friend, and a hardened doctor struggle with love and loss. Join From Left to Write on May 20 as we discuss Anthony Marra’s debut novel. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. To purchase your own copy, visit http://amzn.to/XWBaxN.

 

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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On the Corner of Dream Ave. and Believe St.: Stepping Out Of Our Comfort Zone

“To the degree we’re not living our dreams, our comfort zone has more control over us than we have over ourselves.”

                             ~ Peter McWilliams

comfort zone
From angelvillanueva.com

What is on the other side of change?  How often, when we find ourselves happily cruising down the  road of life, do we stop and think about what’s next? The superstitious among us might not want to jinx a good thing-why think about what might be around the next bend? Why not just keep on chugging forward? Don’t rock the boat? The grass isn’t always greener on the other side, right?

I’m wondering if maybe it actually is.

As Peter McWilliams, author of Do It! Let’s Get Off Our Buts and Life 101: Everything We Wish We Had Learned About Life in School—But Didn’t says, if we really want to live our dreams, perhaps we should think what’s just beyond the horizon or around the corner. Pushing ourselves outside our comfort zone means a momentary loss of control-scary for some of us, exhilarating for others.

Living in our comfort zone is safe.  We know what to expect, and we often feel guaranteed of the outcome.  That is, well, comforting.  Whether it’s the salary we earn from a job we don’t feel passionate about, or a relationship we are used to, a weight we feel is ok, or a dream we think we’ll never achieve, staying put is only a guarantee that the part of life that is comfortable will likely stay the same.

But is that living our dreams? Are we simply designed to be content, with only the renegades among us willing to take a risk?

12 7 iNDONESIA TRIP 110Last summer, I traveled to Indonesia-a place I never considered as part of my life travel itinerary. That experience propelled me to take dozens of risks, including getting incredibly cozy with a Komodo dragon. I remember the palpitation of my heart, the baby steps I took, first touching the back, the tail, and them finally getting close enough to his face to brush my lips to his scales.  Recently, the Jakarta Globe’s story of a Komodo attack that left two people in the hospital prompted discussion among our travel group: were we courageous, or simply stupid?  I say, courageous.

I think of the pioneer women who traveled across the west without any clue of what lay before them. They stuffed their wagons full of all the comforts of life, sure that their china, linens, furniture and even their beloved piano would not only safely make the trip, but also provide the much desired civilization they left behind.  Leaving their comfort zone often meant following their husband’s dreams, not their own. But they went anyway, knowing they might never go back. I’m sure komodo dragons weren’t on their worry radar, but undoubtedly the fear of the unknown, the fear for their children, and their second guessing of their decision as they huddled over a campfire for the hundredth time must have seriously tested their strength.

The curveballs life throws today’s women is similar.  Many of us follow expected gender roles, marry, have children, and put our careers second to raising the family.  Others forgo the traditional route, choosing instead to follow their dream job at the expense of what our mother’s generation could barely fathom.  Still other women try to balance both, exhausting themselves between juggling babies, bosses and never feeling wholly present in both worlds. Like the pioneer women, we ruminate over our choices, wondering if we’re on the right path.

Stepping out of our comfort zone, regardless of our social, marital or work status, requires a leap of faith; sure that our future can be more than this, that our life is ours to create.  It requires courage, determination, and often, a bit of impracticality.  Taking calculated risks that push us towards our boundaries, to find out what is on the other side of change, is scary.  Like a rocket shooting off into the darkness of the universe, sometimes we must trust that the plans have been laid, but the process might bow,flex and bend us into places we least expected to land.

Power-shift
Power-shift (Photo credit: Brett Jordan)

With all our feminist advances, women today have no guidebook to navigate motherhood, marriage and the myriad of opportunities in front of us. I say that’s a good thing.

Consider that your comfort zone is perfect for where you’ve been and where you are right now. Consider going at your own pace, placing opportunities in front of you like a master chess player, sometimes hoping that the risky move won’t be noticed by the opponent and will propel you to the win.  Prepare for the setback, the capture, and the ultimate possibility that the grass really is greener on the other side. Think of the words author Neale Donald Walsch wrote, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Where do you want your life to begin tomorrow?

What are you waiting for? Where do you want to go in life? What have you got to lose?

Take that leap.  Step outside yourself. Take control of your dreams. Experience a little discomfort-it means that life is happening.

Let me know what changes.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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