Thursday, September 11, 2008

New School Year

We are slowly adjusting to a new school year. Katie and Mia started their school in August, but in a new location. Up till this year, the school had been operating out of several rented houses, however in the last few years the rent had been increased far beyond what is normal in that neighbourhood. A new location was found in the buildings of a former technical college. With some renovation and hard work from parents, the children have a very nice space for school. The downside for us is that it is almost twice the distance.

Lori has started teaching English language to the undergraduate students at her university. This has been a learning experience for her but she is enjoying it. I will let her say more.

I eventually started in the middle of Sept. I am teaching two courses but both have twice the usual number of lectures. The graduate course I am teaching is part of a program aimed at raising the qualifications of teachers in Islam, so all of these students are currently lecturing at other universities or colleges. They teach primarily in Islamic philosophy or Islamic law.

What has made this semester a bit different is that Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, covers the month of September. This means that as the month goes on, and with my classes in the hot afternoon, students are not as attentive as I would like. Furthermore, Ramadan ends with the highlight of the Islamic calender, Idul Fitri (Eid ul-Fitr). In Indonesia, this holiday can last as long as two weeks, especially for those of us in Islamic institutions. For some reason I don't understand, the university doesn't adjust its calender to compensate for these holidays so I have had to find ways of making up missed classes due to Idul Fitri.

We are taking this opportunity to take a holiday in Bali. The problem is that everyone in Indonesia is on holiday as well so hotels in Bali are booked solid. I at least tend to think of Bali as a destination for foreign tourists but over Idul Fitri, almost all the tourists are Indonesian. The girls are very excited about going to Bali.

The rainy season is also approaching. Virtually every day we will have large storm clouds overhead but with no rain. It hasn't gotten really hot yet but it is definitely more humid. In preparation for the rainy season, I have planted bamboo around the house.

Katie is part of a production of 'Amahl and the Night Visitors', which will be performed both at our church and a local Indonesian church. Katie will be singing the part of Amahl, so she has a lot of practicing to do.

We are now entering our second year here in Indonesia and we are slowly starting to find a routine to our lives here. Lori and I are gradually finding our places in our respective universities while Katie and Mia have adjusted to their new school. We are still trying to find something for Sara, perhaps a local Indonesian preschool, but she is also happy staying at home with our helpers. Raina is thriving on all the attention she gets from our helpers.

We don't know what our second year in Indonesia will bring us, but I am certain it won't be boring.


Sunday, September 7, 2008

Would you like some rice with that? (Lori)

Every once in a while, for one reason or another, our family has dinner at the McDonalds in Jogja. We know, from our travels throughout North America, that the menu at this global establishment varies depending on region. However, it was a pleasant surprise that we could, in fact, order chicken mcnuggets, Big Macs, and French fries, that taste very much like those in Canada (actually a little better, although this may be fading memory). If no one has reserved the party room, our kids can even use the play place on the second floor (it’s really, really small) where the walls are painted with pictures of Ronald and the gang. These similarities make us remember home, but there are plenty of strange and wonderful differences that remind us where we are.

Even though they serve some western fare, burgers and fries take a back seat to chicken and rice here. Yes, in a country where you can buy rice and chicken every few metres, some people come to the golden arches, and just order it again. In fact, it’s probably tastier at the nearby foodstall, and costs half of what it does at McDs, but for some reason it’s the most popular thing on the menu. Most meals include rice, rather than fries. In fact, I found out a little after the fact that none of the Happy Meals include fries. I was ordering our meal, based on the pictures from the display panel (the itemized menu is hard to find and almost impossible to read) when I realized that fries weren’t anywhere to be seen. Who wouldn’t assume that a happy meal included the things? Don’t Indonesian children have them with their chicken porridge? Other non-western items include (but are not limited to) spaghetti, sundaes a la Jogja (ice cream and jello), chicken porridge and hot sauce.

Hot Sauce is given with every meal, and is also available in those pump dispensers next to the napkins and straws. One would think that ketchup would be available too, but it turns out that this is flawed foreign logic. Actually we are proudly getting used to the taste of hot sauce with our food. I’ve been thinking about it as a ruler of our acclimatization. Even though it feels like we haven’t made many strides in our quest to become more fluent in bahasa Indonesia, we can eat dinner like the locals. And yes, I would like some rice with my Big Mac, please.