Indonesian Grand Tour Part 3: “Work” in East Java

by Tabitha Kidwell

Some of the pundits have sent me comments regarding the fact that I seem to be on vacation quite frequently. Ok, yes, I have had approximately 7 weeks of vacation during these first 6 months here. I suppose that would be regarded as a “generous” vacation policy by my friend who are slaving away with something like 10 days a year. This is true, and I feel for those of you who are working in unfair and usurious labor conditions. I suggest you become more like me by joining a union, becoming a socialist, and voting for Barack Obama in the next election. Alternatively, you could become more like me by quitting your job to move to southeast Asia to teach English. Either way, it looks like becomeing more like me will probably get you more vacation.

Nevertheless, I do work here. I don’t blog much about the day-to-day grind because, well, the day-to-day grind is pretty boring. I love my students and plan pretty good classes for them, but that never seems worthy of a blog post. I’ll be on the lookout next semester, though, for fun classroom anecdotes to share. Besides teaching, I also do other “work,” like presenting teacher training workshops, hosting teacher training webinars, doing special programming at the American Corner libraries in neighboring towns, helping students try to get scholarships to study in America, researching and writing articles, and spreading a positive image of America by taking pictures with lots of random Indonesian people on the street.

I even am doing some work during the Indonesian Grand Tour, believe it or not. It’s getting to be something close to a grueling working vacation. Well, maybe not. But I did do some work this week. On February 1, 4 of my colleagues and I went to Madura, an Island off of the Northeast coast of Java, to do a teacher training on using traditional games in the classroom. Indonesian people love pomp and circumstance, so the event began with an opening ceremony (complete with it’s own opening and closing procedures!), a speech from a representative from the American consulate that didn’t exactly relate to the topic of the workshop (but you have to invite the consulate!) and a coffee break (before any “training” has actually taken place!). I sometimes think all this ceremony is silly, but it seems to be important to Indonesian people. If an event didn’t have all this, it wouldn’t have the same air of officialness. After the first two hours, we got down to business and I gave my presentation on American road trip games (think: categories, 15, guessing game, have you ever, and other games that get people talking) to three separate groups.

Then everyone returned to the main hall for the panel discussion, when participants were supposed to ask questions related to using games in the classroom, but when we actually fielded questions on topics ranging from how to motivate students to the differences between British and American English.

And then we concluded the workshop and headed down to Batu, in East Java, for a couple of days of collaboration with a few more colleagues. The mid-year conference for the English Language Fellows had been cancelled this year, but several of us decided to have our own anyways. We rented a house, bought a bunch of food, and arrived ready for “Geek Week.” We did lots of important things, like:

Setting up a system to transport materials to and from the second floor without using the stairs….

Making and consuming delicious tacos…

Making and consuming delicious pancakes…


(that’s honey, not beer. I promise)

Oh, and we also shared our best practices, ideas and resources, like Angela’s color vowel chart:

Geek Week was also a great opportunity to get advice and suggestions on upcoming classes and projects. It was great to hear what everyone else is doing, and to pick up ideas and feedback to take back for the second semester. And, okay, we had a lot of fun, too. Work, vacation, work, vacation… I feel like all my time in Indonesia is a combination of both. Whatever you call it, it’s just life in the end. I’m lucky to have work I enjoy and vacations that are meaningful.

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