Heading Home

•September 16, 2009 • Leave a Comment

I’m sitting in my little living room watching tv and waiting to hit the road. This is the start of the Ramadan traveling time when millions of Indonesians hit the road to go back to their villages for the Lebaran celebrations. I’m going to be one of them. I’ve decided to take off in the middle of the night so that I might avoid a crowded ferry on the first leg of the journey. This will also allow me to spend most of the trip in the daylight since I have some problems with night driving. The trip up the coast to the harbor in north Sumbawa is a bit of a pain as part of the highway is a mess of holes, so I plan on taking my time.

I’m going to try to get a few hours of sleep before I leave. If the ferry from Lombok to Bali isn’t too crowded, and I get on first, I should be able to rent a cabin and get a few hours of sleep on the way over to Bali.

Can’t wait to go.


Baseball: Derek Jeter and Stan Musial

•September 13, 2009 • Leave a Comment

My last Saturday before I head back to Bali for a two-week break. It would be an understatement to say that I want to go home, so I’m filling the days with memories of the past and glimpses of the future.

Today, I spent five hours watching baseball on ESPN. The game to watch today was the Yankee’s game against Baltimore. For some reason, the Yankees are the only team that shows up on ESPN here in Indonesia. But, that’s OK as I’ve had a love-hate relationship with the Yankees since I was a boy and was fortunate enough to watch Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Roger Maris and Whitey Ford. Derek Jeter broke the Yankee all time hit record today, and it was exciting to watch the fan and team response.

During my youth, my father was mostly absent as he usually worked double shifts, but my fondest memories are of the times that he took me to ballgames on Sundays. Usually, we went to Wrigley Field in Chicago to see the Cubs play the St. Louis Cardinals – my father’s favorite team – and mine as well. Back in those days, the Cubs had the great Ernie Banks and the Cardinals had the great Stan Musial on the 1958 rosters.
Stan the Man was a hero of mine; first because he was a favorite of my father, but also because I loved the way he would stroll up to the plate, get into his famous crouch and just zing the ball into the outfield. But, besides his tremendous ability as a hitter, he was one of the classiest ballplayers that I had the good fortune to meet.

It was definitely a different time than today. Back then; the average ballplayer would have an off-season job as something like a salesman. Stan the Man made $100,000 in 1958, but a young player like Curt Flood only made $5,000 per season. Back in those days, you could wait outside the locker rooms in Wrigley Field for the players to come out so that you could ask for autographs.

Back in 1958 or 1959, I waited one Sunday with my father for the Cardinals to come out of the visitor’s locker room. After getting a few autographs from younger players who were always happy to sign autographs, we spotted Stan in a phone booth probably calling the family. We waited with a crowd of fans until he was done with his call. When he came out, he signed autographs for dozens of fans until he begged off. As he was leaving my father called out, how about one more Stan for my boy? With that, Stan turned around, asked what my name was and took our program and signed it. That was one of those moments in life that affect you; it defined for me, the qualities of a gentleman.

800px-Derek_Jeter_-_2007-05-18I don’t know Derek Jeter – I’ve never met him, never seen him play a game in person, but he seems to have that quality that Stan the Man did. Congratulations on your record, Derek. It’s a fine thing to see a class act succeed.

What’s Happening to America? Questions from an American in Asia

•September 5, 2009 • 5 Comments

In one of the latest attacks on President Obama, a national controversy has arisen around the president’s speech to American students on the traditional first day of school. I’ve been following this for the past 24 hours since I first heard about it. States are lining up as either broadcasting the speech, not broadcasting the speech, allowing for teacher discretion, and allowing for parent discretion and what else?
I started watching coverage on CNN (one of the few international English language newcasts that I can access), but CNN these days seems to spend as much time covering Michael Jackson’s death as it does anything else. So, where to go? Well, I get the leader of lunatic right in America, Fox, so I thought that I would go over there and see what they have to say. Reminiscent of the Simpson’s cartoon, they had mothers crying “what about the children,” and other nutters warning about “indoctrination.”

Part of the problem seems to be lesson plans that the Education Department sent out for teacher use. Really, what teachers actually use lesson plans that anyone sends them, especially the government? And indoctrination? The right in America seems intent on creating a climate of hysteria around the health care issue, and now have thrown Obama’s speech into the fire. Where is the intelligence and civility in America these days? Why would someone not want to hear what the President of the United States have to say? Agree or disagree, you need to know what he is saying. Is a speech going to indoctrinate a child? Who is doing the check on reality these days?

Another Week Passes By in Sumbawa: Sickness, Longing, and Doubt

•September 4, 2009 • 2 Comments

As I started this post, I checked back on what I wrote on the last post, and I saw that I’m supposed to write about guy stuff. Maybe next time, I have other things on my mind right now.

I’ll be home in Bali in another 13 days. My does that sound good. This ten week period has been a long stretch with one medical problem after the next. After I recovered from the mini-stroke, I picked up the flu that has been raging through Indonesia, and I’ve been battling that for the past three weeks. This week I went in and taught all my classes and then went home thanks to my understanding principal and went to sleep. Actually, I don’t get sick all that often, but this term has been the exception. It could be age, but thinking back on it, I do have a hard time getting rid of the flu when I do get it, so maybe it’s just the luck of the draw. I have missed more school this term than I have in the past two years combined.

But then these problems could be related to the intense longing that I have to return home and get on with my life there. I miss the kids and my wife. I miss the house and the Bali Sea. I miss the little funky neighborhood that I call home. I miss my library and my afternoon naps. I miss my wife’s cooking. I miss the kids coming up to the third floor to watch the sun set with me while they yell at their friends down below in the kampung. I miss the howling kittens that are now probably cats. I miss the daily drive on my motorcycle with my wife to the local food shop to by the few imported foodstuffs that I treat myself with like cheese and olives. I miss living in a place where people are more concerned about life’s necessities than they are about the behavior of their neighbors.

This is my first Ramadan inside townsite –that strange mutilation of an allegedly multicultural town that’s been carved out the jungle here in Sumbawa. I’ve been a Muslim for ten years now, and Ramadan, for me, has always been a time of joy, joking, reflection, humility and learning. I spent my first four Ramadans in Pakistan where I was working when I became a Muslim. The school population was predominately Muslim with a few Christians –Pakistani and expat – but Ramadan was a time when the Muslims would talk about religion, about life, about what fasting meant to us, but without impacting the portion of the school population that was non-Muslim. The cafeteria stayed open during Ramadan, and Muslim teachers did cafeteria duty. Some of the Muslim kids ate lunch – most of the primary students and even some of the secondary students and teachers. It was never an issue. No one complained that they couldn’t fast because others were eating, and the part of the school population that ate did so as usual.
At our school here, the teachers that eat (Christians and others) are consigned to a tiny room at the back of the school where they huddle to eat their snacks and lunch. The students have to eat in a little area in the front of the school that is surrounded by a cloth banner so that the Muslim students won’t see them eating.
I don’t really understand this segregation. Muslims are supposed to be demonstrating discipline and self-restraint by fasting. Aren’t we strong enough to keep our fast even if someone else is eating. In my Muslim kampung in Bali, women spend the day cooking for the evening meal. Smells of roasting meat, baking cakes and sweets fill the air; everyone keeps their fast.

Ramadan should be a celebration, not an occasion to separate people.

Changing Jobs Once Again, Health, Life in Paradise, and Ramadan

•August 29, 2009 • 2 Comments

I finally made it through a full workweek in my new grade level. I’m teaching 6th grade now. When I came back to this school out of retirement, I was teaching 7th grade. After six months of that, I moved to 8th grade along with my 2 expat students. They left a few weeks ago, and I moved over to one of the 6th grade classes that has three expats. I have 13 weeks left on my contract, but it’s anybody’s guess as to whether my expat students will stay here that long. They’ve told me that they are leaving in December when I leave, but you can never tell here. Isn’t this paradise?

So I teach the three expat kids Social Studies, Math, Library, Art, and English. I also teach my homeroom class of expat and national students English. Besides that, I’m the technology coordinator. In that role, I work on helping teachers work with technology. I also teach a class for teachers once a week on using technology. Actually, it’s a class where they are supposed to be learning English and technology. They are learning technology; I’m not sure how much English they are learning. I’ve become the utility guy to use a baseball term. I play a little bit of just about everything.

Our elementary principal left last week after ten years on the job here. I’m teaching her classes; her principal’s job will be filled by one of the four teachers who applied for it. A number of Indonesian teachers and staff asked me to apply for it – I think because they feel that I’ll be more amenable to their needs, but the last thing that I want is to be a principal here. Too much aggravation and too little power to affect any real changes.

I do enjoy my homeroom class, and I enjoy working with my Indonesian counterpart, but I can’t help having this feeling that I’m just temporarily filling a hole to keep the rain out.

On a personal level, I’m doing my daily countdown until retirement. I haven’t fallen prey to STD (short timers disease) yet, but I do want to go home. I miss the kids and my wife and my life in Kampung Bugis with snorkeling everyday and writing and just hanging around with the family. 13 more weeks. It all seems like a dream.
I’m taking a blood thinner because of my mini-stroke last month, and I’ve started having nose bleeds. Wonderful. So I have a lot of bloody sheets. I’m not sure what this means, but I suppose I should go see the doctor about it. How did I get to this place?

And then there’s Ramadan which started last week. I actually love Ramadan and fasting. I get a sense of clarity when I’m fasting, but I’ve had to forgo a few days because I had the flu when Ramadan started, and it seems that the flu is back again. I’m a guy so…Wait, this is the next post.

An Unusual Term at School

•August 24, 2009 • 1 Comment

We are now entering the seventh week of the first term of the 2009-2010 academic year. The school is clearly not an international school any more; it may be a national plus school, but it’s still seeking some direction as it meanders through its second year of existence.

Our expat population is down to somewhere around 20 from a high of 70 a few years ago. The expat elementary principal just left for Australia as she resigned after 10 years at the school. She took her two children with her, both of whom were my students.

Out of the first six weeks of the term, I’ve actually only taught about three weeks. We’ve had three three-day weekends this term, plus I missed six days due to a minor stroke, and then almost a week due to a bad case of the flu that has been going around the community.

Tomorrow, I start my third position in the 8 months that I have been working at this school. I’ll be teaching math, social studies, art, and library for 3 expats, and English for 12 expats and Indonesians together. Plus, I do 6th grade homeroom twice a day.

Then there is the tech stuff, but I’ll leave that for another day.
Only 14 weeks to go before the next retirement.

A Day of Relaxing in Lombok

•August 21, 2009 • 2 Comments

As I mentioned in the last post, I’m here in Lombok to relax – well, mostly I’m here because I wanted to drive my motorcycle fast and Lombok has an excellent road where I can drive fast, but the second reason was to get away from townsite and relax.

It is nice to be somewhere other than townsite in my apartment that has been for the past seven months my home. I can sit here on the small veranda of my bamboo bungalow and read and think without the interruptions that would occur if I were to sit outside my apartment in townsite with students passing by. As much as I love my students, I need the weekends to recharge and reflect and have time for myself.

Being here in Lombok allows me time to be completely with myself, but if I’m not happy with where I am, then what does that time give me?

So today, I got up and showered and had a small breakfast and wrote a blog while I had a cup of coffee. Then I read my book on Marco Polo for a while and had a short nap. After that I visited Stephen, Jan and Olvier in their hotel. From there I went to central Senggigi and had lunch at a small place in Senggigi Square. I went back to the hotel where I read more of my book and then took another nap.

The power just went out here, and I’m supposed to go out for dinner, but I’m being attacked by little insects drawn to the light on my computer screen in the darkness that surrounds me. Am I relaxed?