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Sunday, 28 October 2012

September and October Adventures

It has been a while since I've written a post. September and October have been very busy months. My classroom is continuing to grow and work continues to consume most of my waking hours during the week. I can't make many complaints though. I am loving teaching here and all of the opportunities that are coming my way!
Here is a quick overview of my adventures from the last two months:

I've had a few pretty exciting trips the last two months and I've also had the opportunity to really enjoy Jakarta. In September I had my first visitor. My friend Jeremy who lives in Malaysia came to visit with one of his friends. We had a great weekend and spent one night at an expat Oktoberfest event where I met some wonderful fellow expat teachers from another International School here in the city. It's great to have some new friends in Jakarta! September also brought two new American teachers to my school. They are living in my building and have been great to hangout with!
With the arrival of the new teachers, some city site seeing was in order. We made trips to the Jakarta Sea World and a few local museums. We saw how traditional Indonesian puppets are made and learned about the detailing and time that goes into each one. We also spent an exciting day at the Jakarta Culinary Festival where we were able to watch various cooking shows, sample cuisines from around the world and attend two cocktail making workshops (definitely the highlight of the day).

Canadian Thanksgiving is pretty much unheard of here. Most Indonesians were familiar with Thanksgiving but only knew of the American celebration in November. I decided to host a Thanksgiving Potluck and invited teachers and staff from school. We managed to jam close to twenty people into my tiny apartment and had a lovely afternoon sharing food and company.

Outside of the excitement in Jakarta, I've managed to have a few getaways. I was sent to Singapore twice for Visa purposes. My first trip was with two other teachers and we spent the night just outside of Little India. We had a nice evening strolling around the streets near our hotel and relaxed at a sidewalk cafe for supper. The next day we spent around eight hours walking the city and soaking in all of the beautiful and clean sights that make up Singapore! It was refreshing to be in a city that actually has sidewalks for pedestrians, and roads that aren't completely full of traffic and garbage. Singapore is extremely well maintained and apparently quite strict. It is actually illegal to chew gum in Singapore, and according to the immigration officer -also illegal to wear sandals and smile! On this first trip to Singapore we went to the beautiful Marina Bay Sands hotel and made a visit to the rooftop observation deck (around 55 floors up). We spent a little while walking around the botanical gardens and the harbour and made a quick visit to the famous Raffles Hotel.

My second trip to Singapore was a day trip by myself. Since I had seen most of the main sites, I decided to use the MRT and navigate around the city on a hunt for a Halloween costume. I didn't have any luck finding Halloween stores, but I managed to find lots of shopping and spent most of the day in China Town and on Orchard Street (the main shopping street).

At the end of September I had my term break from school. I spent five days touring and relaxing by myself in Bali. This was supposed to be a trip with friends, but unfortunately they weren't able to make it. I decided to keep my flights booked and brave it alone. I had a great time touring the island and trying new foods. Unfortunately, I came back to Jakarta with major Bali belly and ended up spending the next few days in bed. While in Bali, I rented a car and driver for two days. It's insanely cheap to do this in Indonesia. I spent under $90 to have a driver bring me around the island for 2 days. I visited many temples, drove through winding roads that looked down upon rice paddies, visited the famous medicine man Ketut (see previous post), watched the surfers at Padang Padang, and tried my own hand at surfing in Kuta.

Surfing is something I've always wanted to learn. I knew it would be difficult, but I was completely unprepared for how difficult it is. Luckily, due to being the only English speaker at the school I was given a private coach and spent several hours trying to catch at least one wave! The waves were much bigger than I anticipated. Most of my time was spent being thrown to the bottom of the ocean. I have to say, I still enjoyed it and look forward to doing it again (with many more lessons).

Another interesting day in Bali occurred when I was walking down the beach and heard loud music up ahead. I decided to follow the music and see what the fuss was about. I then stumbled across a traditional Balinese funeral. There were a group of Balinese men in traditional costume carrying the casket of an elderly man around the beach. They soon dropped the casket, lifted the body out and threw the casket off to the side. They placed the man on top of a bed made of banana leaves. Everyone then gathered around and the local women came with their offerings to sprinkle on the deceased (flower petals, fruit etc). Bali is quite different from the rest of Indonesia. Indonesia consists of a 90% Muslim population, but in Bali most people adhere to Hinduism or Buddhism. Apparently these offerings are a gift from the land to the deceased. I stood far enough back as not to seem disrespectful or be in their way. Soon, a Balinese lady came over smiling and grabbed my arm and brought me into the mix. She seemed happy to share this experience with me and teach me about the traditions. She told me they would soon take the body to an area near the mountains. They do not bury the bodies here, but rather cover them with flowers to let them rest in peace.

My latest trip was a weekend in Kuala Lumpur. I went to visit a friend and had a great time touring the city, hanging out with other Canadians, and trying some delicious new foods!
Aside from a couple nights of partying, I had a great tour guide take me around the city and show me the sites. KL is famous for the Petronas Towers and after seeing them I understand why they are such a landmark for the city. They are truly incredible, especially when they are lit up at night. One evening we had drinks at Skybar which is a classier bar in a high rise building that overlooks the towers. After this, we headed to Jalan Alor - a street full of vendors and very foreign smells! We ate at a delicious little place where we had fried stingray and chicken-fish.
My friend Jeremy took me touring around the city on his bike. It was a great day and a great way to see the city. Unfortunately, we did breakdown on the side of the road and had to wait for a tow truck to come get us, but it just made for that much more of an exciting adventure :)

I have a feeling November and December will be just as crazy and exciting as the last two months. Upcoming adventures include a weekend at an Elephant Sanctuary in Sumatra and Christmas in Thailand! Stay tuned!

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