Archive for April, 2012

April 29, 2012

Pulau Weh & Banda Aceh

by Tabitha Kidwell

I’m currently am wearing an exfoliating face mask made of volcanic mud that I actually purchased on-site at a volcano! It’s not exactly tested by the FDA, so it might give me a chemical burn or make my skin fall off, but it feels pretty nice and soothing. Sometimes it’s fun living in the Ring of Fire.

Of course, sometimes it is not so fun, like two weeks ago when there was an earthquake off the coast of northwestern Indonesia that led to tsunami warnings. This happened in the early evening here, which means it was all over the news when my friends and family woke up at home, so a bunch of people messaged me asking if I was okay. I was – I actually didn’t even feel the earthquake. It was in Aceh province, which is like 1,000 miles away. Unfortunately, this is also the province that was hit by the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004, so it brought up many sad memories for the people there. All of Indonesia watched the images on the evening news of people panicking and evacuating the city, hoping and praying that the warnings would be false alarms this time. Not having a TV, I kept refreshing my browser for new reports. I’ll admit to a selfish ulterior motive for my online vigilence: the evening before, I had purchased an airline ticket to go visit my friend Jonthon up there, and I was a little concerned that my tropical paradise vacation might be transformed into a disaster zone. I was, of course, first concerned with the people living there. But also for my vacation plans. Just a little bit. I’m a terrible person. I’ll just admit that now.

Luckily (for the Acehnese people and for my conscience) no tsunami developed, and there was not even much damage from the earthquake. So I hopped on a plane a week later to visit! I figured it was a perfect time – given that there had just been a big earthquake, what were the chances of there being another? Probably all the plate tectonic stress had been worked out, so I was safer than ever, right? Nope – there were actually like two earthquakes while I was there. But they were small and we didn’t even feel them. There are risks everywhere, what can you do?

Threat of geologic armageddon aside, it was a great vacation! We had two weeks for midterms at STAIN Salatiga, and I scheduled mine the first Monday and Tuesday and the last Thursday and Friday so I had the week from Wednesday-Wednesday free!

On Thursday morning, Jonthon and I headed up to Pulau Weh, the most northwestern point of Indonesia, and site of some amazing scuba diving. When we got there and it was time to figure out transport to the beach side of the island, Maude (French) and Adrien (German) came up to us and asked if we wanted to share a car. And we had two new traveling buddies from that point forward! We ended up getting a hotel together, and they were tons of fun!

From the port, we headed to Gapang beach, a beautiful little crescent of sand overlooking a tranquil bay. For my triathlon training, I went on a few swims in the bay:

And on a few morning runs on these hilly roads:

I also did my open water scuba diving certification, meaning I can now go on dives up to 30 meters, including at night. It was beautiful underwater – I saw octopuses (octopi?), turtles, eels, shrimp, and more tropical fish than I know names for.

Then we returned to Banda Aceh, and did the tour of Tsunami-related sites:
-One of the Tsunami buildings, which people are supposed to go to if there are tsunami warnings, rather than battle the traffic to get out of the city. Apparently no one went there last week, preferring traffic to government-built structures. I can’t say I blame them, but it did seem pretty sturdy.

-A 2,000 ton ship that was carried a mile inland. When I say 2,000 tons, that doesn’t fully convey the face that this ship is freakin’ ENORMOUS and the fact that it is sitting in the middle of the city shows just how scary and powerful the tsunami was!

-And the “Boat on the Roof,” a smaller ship that is perched on two houses. This might be more shocking because it is on a more human scale. You can look into people’s bathrooms and bedrooms and imagine what life might have been like for them, had they not lived in a tsunami-prone region and had the misfortune of having a giant boat land on top of their house.

Lastly, we visited the Mosque, a testimony to the strength of the Acehnese people. This was one of the regions that held off Dutch colonialism the longest. There were battles here for centuries. At one point, the Dutch burned the mosque to the ground (just because they could), then to reconcile, they built this beautiful mosque. Good plan, until the Acehnese killed the representative they sent to the dedication. Snap. It’s that kind of spirit that probably helped the mosque to survive the tsunami – basically the only building to do so in it’s area of town, apparently!

And then I headed back to Salatiga. All in all, a relaxing, interesting, geological-disaster-free vacation. It will probably be my last long-ish vacation of this year. A good way to go out.

April 16, 2012

Midterm Recap

by Tabitha Kidwell

Wow! It is already midterms, and an entire half a semester has gone by without me posting much at all about what I have been doing! Truth is, it has been a really busy 6 weeks!

This semester, I am teaching more at STAIN Salatiga (the State Islamic University of Salatiga, if you don’t speak Indonesian acronym), including a class on using Media in Language teaching. This is the first time I have taught a teaching methods course – it’s a great opportunity since I wouldn’t be qualified to do so in the states with only a master’s degree. I have been putting a lot of (wasted?) effort into it. I’ve made elaborate power points, only to modify those power points after the first class so they’d be somewhere close to my students’ English ability. I’ve crafted assignments (complete with beautiful rubrics and detailed examples) that attempt to prompt critical thinking, then graded those assignments and realized that students still didn’t quite understand what I wanted them to do. I’ve been a little frustrated (can you tell?). I’m coming at teaching methods from a student-centered, formative assessment, standards- and mastery-based paradigm, and they are coming from a rote learning tradition, so we’re speaking two different languages (oh, and to make it a little more difficult, we are also literally speaking two different languages). It’s been a little frustrating, but I know it is not wasted effort. Some students seem to just get it, and have submitted some incredible lesson plans and activity ideas. And I think I am getting most students to think about how to be a better teacher, so they’re getting something out of the class. Turns out, it’s hard to improve the entire Indonesian language teaching system one teacher education student at a time. But I think I’m “moving the needle,” as Eran, the Regional English Language Officer (and my boss) says.

In addition to teaching, I did a bunch of different presentations in March:

On Multiculturalism in America, at a middle school in Boyolali, a small town nearby:

And on Public Speaking and Character Building for the STAIN Salatiga Communicative English Club:

And another Multiculturalism in America, this time at there American Corner at IAIN Walisongo (A university in Semarang, a town just north of here):

And on Games for Language Learning at the American Corner at Universitas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta in a town south of here:

In addition to all that, I’ve been out of town 4 out of the past 6 weekends!

First, I went to Yogyakarta, where my friend Katie (who also happens to be from Columbus) and I acted on our ambition to get into the Dispatch:

Two weeks later, I went to meet my friends Jackie and Jess in Lombok. Lombok is the island just east of Bali, and for a long time it has been billed as “the next Bali.” Much like Dippin’ Dots are the Ice Cream of the Future, I think this may be a prediction that will always stay in the future tense. For the time being, it is a quiet beachside paradise. We relaxed on the beach, swam some laps to train for our upcoming triathlon, played scrabble and ate cake:

Can you beat that?
We also did a really fun trail run with the Lombok Hash House Harriers, a group that can be found throughout Southeast Asia which is typically a running cum drinking club. Here, it was a running cum drinking water club, which was fine by us. The run took us up into the hills overlooking the ocean, but of course I didn’t have my camera so you’ll just have to take my word that it was incredible. See how happy we are afterwards?

The next weekend, I joined a whole bunch of blue at Wonosobo and Dieng Plateau, an incredible region full of natural beauty and ancient Hindu temples. I was happy because we finally had enough people with connections to Ohio to have an authentic OH-IO shot:

Dieng Plateau is basically a huge collapsed volcanic crater, so there was lots of volcanic activity:

We also hiked into a cloud:

It doesn’t look that high, but maybe the look on Ab’s face will convey that it was really freakin’ high!

The weekend after that (Easter weekend), I visited Jackie in Jakarta so that I could join her triathlon training group’s open water swim. We swam about a mile and a half, which is great since we only need to swim half a mile in the triathlon. And we still looked happy:

Maybe thanks to the incredible views:

We were less happy the next morning, when we unwittingly attended a 3 hour plus Easter Sunday church service. Actually, the church service was only about one and a half hours long – it was followed (confusingly) by a graduation ceremony and the dedication of a partnership between the church and the a seminary in America. The church service was nice, but once it was nearing noon, we left for lunch:

And shopping:

And that brings us to last weekend, when I just stayed in Salatiga. It was such a relief to just stay home and have no real plans. I hoped to get through a long to-do list, including blogging, but instead I mostly just read old issues of The New Yorker on my iPad. But now I am blogging on Monday. I promise yet again that I will be a more consistent blogger in the future. When Lombok is the new Bali. And all ice cream is freeze dried.