Monthly Archives: January 2015

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

A friend and I went to Indonesia for New Years. We started off in Yogyakarta. We didn’t see the temples that you were supposed to see but we had a good time regardless.

I ignorantly assumed that because rainy season was over in Thailand, it was over everywhere else in SE Asia. Well I was quite wrong. We arrived to rain, rain, and more rain. So much rain that the streets were flooded. No need to wear anything other than flip flops or aqua socks while the walking around as shoes would be soaked in seconds.

We went to the Sultan’s Palace. Outside there are two banyan trees. The legend is that if you are able to walk between them blindfolded your wish will come true. Neither my friend nor I attempted it but there were lots of people with blindfolds willing to help us do so if necessary.

Moments after arriving at this spot I was bombarded by people asking for their picture with the tall foreigner. This is a typical part of traveling for me but my friend had never experienced it before. The one problem with it is that as soon as one person asks then 15 people ask. So I stood there posing while my friend made a new friend.

The new friend proceeded to lead us around the closed Sultan’s Palace. We followed simply because we did. When traveling it’s always a tough call between trusting people and continually questioning their motives. This guy seemed pretty interesting and we were around enough people to feel safe. After going through a neighborhood we finally found out his motive – a leather puppet-making shop. It was fascinating but I wasn’t buying anything. We listened politely to the man explain about how they pounded out the leather to create the puppets. After a few minutes we politely excused ourselves and left.

Looking up at the sky we realized we had about two minutes to seek cover. We knew we wanted to get home. We managed to find a pedicab driver who would take us. Just as we started off on our journey back to the hotel it began POURING down. Our driver stopped and pulled over to where we were half covered. He pulled the other plastic covers down over us and put a poncho on then continued on. The pedicab was not created for two average size Americans, let alone a super tall one and an average one. I’m glad my friend and I were well acquainted as I basically laid on her lap the entire way. We had negotiated the price of the pedicab down but given all that he went through to get us back we happily paid him the original amount he asked for.

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Cooler weather and baby powder

The temperature has dropped significantly since I first arrived in May. It gets down into the 60s at night now. The other morning I woke up around 5:30 and I had to grab a sweater. When I first arrived I slept with the AC on. After our month long break in October, I came back and the weather was beginning to cool. I just used my fan at night. In the past two months I haven’t even used the fan. The temperature is just right for sleeping.

On the walk to school it is tempting to put on a sweater but I haven’t quite needed to. Everyone at school has a sweater on though. One teacher always starts off the day in an arctic parka, and no I am not joking. Additionally, dogs have t-shirts put on them. Even big fluffy dogs. It is quite humorous.

One thing that helped me in the warmer months and that I still use today is baby powder. At first it just seemed silly to put baby powder all over my body but then I noticed a difference as soon as I put it on. It kept me cooler and feeling less sticky. There is a product called Prickly Heat that has menthol in it and leaves your skill feeling refreshed and cooled. There are baby powder containers all over my school, in both the classrooms and the bathroom. Teachers frequently put it on the younger kids faces, although I have a feeling the kid below applied his own….

Currently the temperature dips as low as the mid-60s at night and peaks around the mid-80s or 90 at most. I did not grow up with warm weather so I am surprised at how well I have adjusted. 90° no longer seems as hot as it once did. Although I am fortunate to not have to be outside during the hottest part of the day which helps.

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Bullying and my students

Bullying, teasing, making jokes. Whatever you want to call it, it happens in every culture.

Recently I had a heartbreaking experience with a student. I was washing my hands in the restroom when I heard a loud pounding sound. As I walked out, a 5th grade student walked out of the boys’ surest room. He had obviously been crying and it was also evident he had been the source of the pounding. I assumed he had had the wall with his fists.

I got down on my knees and give him a big hug. We stayed like that for a long time. I tried to understand what had happened as I knew he had been bullied before. He continued to cry. I told him I wanted him to be happy and not sad. We hugged again. I got a half smile out of him. He could at least tell that I cared even if he couldn’t talk about what had happened yet. I spoke with the Thai English Teacher and had him speak with the student.

It turns out he had retaliated against a bully by throwing her stuff on the ground. He was angry with himself for reacting and hit his head (not his fists!) against the wall ten times. He is the smartest kid in English class so it is hard to see anything bad happen to him.

I wish I could understand more about what the school does for bullies and teasing. There are a few other kids I worry about as well. I try to separate troublesome pairs in classes yet sometimes I come back and they are seated next to each other again. What is it I see that other teachers don’t? Am I missing something? Is it just my class?

Bullying is such a difficult issue. Yes, teasing will occur it’s simply human nature. It happens in the workplace as well and can build a general sense of community when it is understood to be “fun” teasing. But when does teasing go past general camaraderie and become bullying? Ask yourself this next time you tease a friend, coworker, child, sibling, parent, etc. How do they seem to be taking it? Are they actually smiling or are they grimacing underneath? If anything remember – if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

A relaxed night out – Singapore

My friend and I went out to dinner then walked around Singapore people-watching. We started off at the Robertson’s Walk then wandered along the river in Clarke Quay.

Red trees had been staged around the city for the holidays.

We went to 1Altitude for a drink. Based on our observations, we think it was the highest place in Singapore.

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Then we popped over to the Lantern Bar simply so we could look at the pool. It is part of a hotel and has a great view of the waterfront area.

Singapore Botanic Gardens

Morning thunderstorms did not deter me from taking a bus up to the botanic gardens.

The grounds are extensive and cover 183 acres. It is open from 5:00am to 12:00 midnight and it is free!

I entered from the southwest entrance and meandered around until I reached Swan Lake, featuring actual swans of course! Nearby was also a wetlands area with walking paths.

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Nearby was a bonsai garden, a ginger garden, a healing garden and so many other gardens!

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A VIP orchid hall features orchid hybrids that are then named after famous visitors to Singapore (for instance Prince William and Princess Kate after their visit a few years ago).

A larger orchid center (this is the only place that you have to pay for in the whole park) feature an enormous amount of orchids. They colors, shapes, and sizes were breathtaking. I highly recommend it!

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Also featured in the park was a rainforest walk, a cool house (for cooler climate plants), a mist house, and an outdoor concert hall.

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One thing that was prevalent throughout my visit were the bugs. And not in the way you might think as they weren’t biting me. You could hear them everywhere! A constant buzz that drowned out any sounds of the city. It made me feel one with nature and my surroundings.

Night Safari! Singapore

My friend recommended the Night Safari as a unique activity to do. I looked up the bus route and made my way out of the city.

The Night Safari is part of a multi-zoo complex that includes the Singapore Zoo, the River Safari, and the Night Safari. Night Safari claims to be the first wildlife park dedicated to nocturnal animals.

The Night Safari doesn’t open until late (7:30pm when I visited) since it showcases nocturnal animals. They have restaurants that open before so you are able to show up early and grab a bite to eat. There is also a fire and dance performance.

Animals in captivity is always controversial (more about that in an upcoming blog post) but there’s something so amazing about animals that is compelling.

The park had three main parts: a 30 minute live show, a tram that takes you through the park and animal enclosures, and walking trails through the exhibits.

Some notes from my visit:

– The tiger exhibit was sponsored by Tiger Balm.
– Some exhibits allows you to enter into netted enclosed habitats. My favorite was the bats! They caused a few shrieks from the human visitors as they flew around. But they were so intriguing.
– I watched a small-toothed palm civet stare down another civet who tried to cross the log that the first one was sitting on. You could just see the attitude in the stare.
– Pangolins are an animal I had never heard of until a few months ago when I saw a video online. They look like a mix of a sloth and an armadillo and are a species native to Singapore (and other places). They are very slow moving which can make them road kill. Unfortunately their skin and meat are used in traditional medicine so their future is in danger.

As I was getting ready to head back to the city (the park closes at 12:00 midnight), I debated my options – bus, cab, hitchhiking… When I discovered that the Night Safari sponsors a bus! It dropped me off right on Orchard Street and then it was a five minute walk to my friend.s house. So props to the Night Safari for sponsoring transportation options!

Unfortunately due to the nighttime nature of the park most of my photos are worthless but I do have this gem from the restroom.