Archive for January, 2013

January 29, 2013

New Beginnings

by Tabitha Kidwell

I went through a rough period in December. There were lots of reasons why: the excitement of my initial few months back had worn out; I was sad about missing the holidays at home; the semester was winding down, so I was busy doing the boring parts of teaching (grading) and not the fun parts (you know, inspiring young minds); the rainy season had started; mango season ended. It was a combination of all those things (but mostly the mangoes). I just felt really bored and tired of my life here in Indonesia.

But luckily the activities of the past few weeks have helped get me out of my funk and remind me why I came back for a second year and why I love teaching and living in Indonesia. First, I spent a week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia helping to train the incoming Fulbright English Teachers. Their program has expanded in the past to years, from 12 ETAs to 75 (!) and this was the first time they had included teacher training in the program. Some of the ETAs had taught before, but most had little experience, so they were very motivated and ready to soak up any advice we gave them. They were an incredible group of trainees and were so excited to learn how to be effective teachers. Their fresh perspective reminded me how exciting and terrifying it can be to get in front of a classroom, and how far I have come since I was in their shoes. After almost a decade in the classroom, I can plan a lesson in a couple of minutes and feel pretty confident that it will go well, even if some kind of crazy discipline problem comes up. It was really exciting to share some of the knowledge I have gained, and to get fresh ideas and energy from these beginning teachers.

I left KL last Monday and flew directly to Bali, where I met my friend Erica. Erica and I met while leading the youth group at church, and we bonded over teaching (she taught high school English), running (we did the Cincinnati marathon together) and skirts (for the entire month of March 2011, we gave up pants to raise money for women’s issues as part of an event we called March is No Pants Month). We spent 3 days in Ubud, Bali, eating delicious organic food, shopping, running through rice fiends, drinking cocktails, getting massages, and climbing enormous (and very steep) Mt. Agung. Then we went to Kupang to help lead an English camp for access Microscholarship students. Access is a program of the U.S. State Department that provides extra-curricular English classes to talented high school students in under-resourced or remote areas. Kupang is a fairly big town, but its location on far-flung Timor Island makes it feel a little bit like you are on the edge of the world. The students were so fun, and Erica, who now works as a balloon artist and children’s entertainer, connected with them instantly. Now, we’ve flown back to Java, where we’re going to explore temples, paint batik, and pop into Salatiga for a little bit of work before heading back to Bali to go scuba diving.

The best part of having Erica here is seeing Indonesia through fresh eyes. She is delighted by the monkeys in Bali, shocked by the children precariously balanced on the backs of motorbikes, and overwhelmed by the huge menus of delicious juice options. She is impressed by the potted plants and neatly swept steps in front of even the tiniest houses. She is puzzled by the impulse to shower in the afternoon and amazed by the variety of options at the spa. Traveling with her reminds me of what life was like when I first arrived here, when everything was exciting and new.

After a rough December, these past few weeks have been a breath of fresh air. I have less than 6 months left here, and I feel re-energized to make the most of them! January really is a time for new beginnings!

January 13, 2013

Welcome to KL!

by Tabitha Kidwell

Even though it’s right next door, I’d never really thought about coming to Malaysia. It’s like Canada – a widely-rumoured-to-be-better neighbor to the North. Why go there when you already live in the slightly-inferior-but-still-just-fine version? It would just foster resentment, right? In fact, when my sister (who is coming to visit in May) brought up the idea of going to Malaysia for a weekend, I was kinda like “Yeah, I guess, if you want to…”

And even after I got asked to come here to do the Fulbright ETA teacher training, I was still so focused on finishing up my semester in Salatiga that I didn’t think much about it. I literally didn’t even think about the possibility of needing a visa until I was waiting in the immigration line! I knew almost nothing about Kuala Kumpur – I basically pictured it just like Jakarta.

And I was right – KL is just like Jakatra… if Jakarta didn’t suck so much! Ok that’s harsh, I really like The
Big Durian
, but Kuala Lumpur is a much cleaner, nicer, and more cosmopolitan version. Granted, I’ve only seen like 3 blocks, and that was on a quiet Sunday afternoon, so I may be way off, but I love it here. It reminds me more of Australia than Southeast Asia.

I checked in to the hotel at about 3 PM. I keep thinking that the US government has housed me in the fanciest hotel they can, and then they keep upping the ante. The Royale Chulan pretty much blows the Sheraton Bandung and the Onmi Shoreham out of the water. See?


As always, I jumped on the bed, then completely unpacked. I hate living out of a suitcase, but I love packing and repacking. I’ve often surmised that is why I like to travel so much. Anyways, I pretty much skipped lunch, so then I was starving. The doorman directed me to the mall just down the street. I intended to grab lunch then walk around the city exploring, but I was sucked in by the artificial charms of the Pavillion Mall. At first, I pretty much just wandered around gawking at all the wonderful things at the mall. There was every ethnicity of cuisine I could ever want – Mediterranean, Turkish, Tapas, Mexican, Irish, Italian, TGIFridays, etc. I settled on Tapas after I saw that they had a cheese plate/bottle of wine special. They told me I could take the bottle home if I didn’t finish it, and I was sold. I also ordered a smoked salmon salad, prompting the waiter to gesture to his stomach, give an I’m pregnant type gesture, and say “You often eat the big food?”. I was a little insulted – is a salad and (individual!) cheese plate that much food? I’ll concede that the bottle of wine was excessive, but a salad and some cheese? Cone on, dude! Nevertheless, I pretty much just parked it there for the next two hours sipping wine, nibbling on cheese, and reading my new Kuala Lumpur travel app. I also ordered the tiramisu. Yum!

After that, a little bit tipsy from my half-bottle of wine, I pretty much just wandered around the mall. I found a magical section of the mall that had Nike, Aisics, AND Speedo stores, and almost peed my triathlete pants. I swung by Subway for the free smells. I stopped by the free candy store (okay, I think they expected you to buy some bulk candy, not just try one sample of each, but they didn’t seem to mind) and the free perfume store (same story, but I only tried one). I found a grocery store and bought some Cavendish bananas (ironic that the plain old only-kind-available-in-America bananas now seem exotic and foreign to me). And now I’m back at the hotel and intend to spend the evening taking a bubble bath and watching Mad Men. I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the best day of 2013… so far!

And my time in KL has only just begun! Tomorrow I get to begin one of the best professional opportunities I’ve ever had – I’ll be training the 75 recent college grads who have been awarded Fulbright grants to go teach English in Malaysian primary and secondary schools. And, I get to do it with the two senior fellows in Indonesia, from whom I have so much to learn! And, I’m only 10 minutes away from the free candy store! This might even be the best week of 2013!

January 12, 2013

Finals Week

by Tabitha Kidwell

My 12 years of public schooling, 4 years of university, and 9 years of teaching add up to 25 years that my life has been set by the academic calendar – my silver anniversary! Over all those years, a few patterns have come to hold true, for teachers and students alike. For one, the first week back from a holiday is always miserable – given a taste of freedom, it is just painful to return to the shackles of the daily grind. The last week of a semester, when everyone just wants to be finished, is equally miserable, but with the promise of freedom lying just beyond that last exam.

So last week was notable because it was both the first week back from vacation and the last week of the semester. A freedom-misery sandwich, if you will. This strange occurrence happened because those two weeks I was galavanting around Bali and the Gilis were actually only my vacation – since I’m at a Muslim university, they don’t take the week of Christmas off. The Monday and Tuesday of each week were national holidays, though, and I hear not much got done Wednesday-Saturday anyways. After those 2 weeks off, I was dreading returning to work on Monday, especially given the two sessions of Speaking 3 final exam presentations and the pile of Evaluation of Language Teaching assignments that had been shoved under my office door. That first day, I ended up listening to almost 8 hours of presentations, leaving me way too wiped to work my way out from under this pile of papers:


Unfortunately, out of foolish devotion to assessment for learning, I had promised my students that I would turn their assignments around in time for them to revise them and submit them in their final portfolio, so I graded all morning on Tuesday, only to be rewarded with this on Wednesday:


… and again on Thursday…

Ok, I know this is the same pic as before, but  I forgot to take a new one.  Just imagine lots more folders and envelopes that look exactly like these!

Ok, I know this is the same pic as before, but I forgot to take a new one. Just imagine lots more folders and envelopes that look exactly like these!

… and a few more stragglers on Friday and Saturday.

But now, the magical moment – I am FREE! No more classes to teach, no more papers to grade. The grade book is filled out, percentages are calculated, grades are assigned. Time to breathe a sigh of relief and relax until the next semester starts in March!

Well, actually, not really. Since this is only a 10-month fellowship, we aren’t really given any vacation time. I mean, no one is really keeping track – I clearly find enough time to relax on tropical beaches. But I am encouraged to plan some kind of worthy pursuit to occupy my time during school vacations. So from now until March, I’ll be traveling all over the place. Tomorrow, I’ll go to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to help train the 75 Fulbright English Teaching Assistants who will be placed in schools around Malaysia. After that, I’ll spend most weekends in far-flung spots helping run English camps for Access Micro-scholarship students, who are part of a US State Department program that gives extra-curricular English lessons to talented but underprivileged youth. Work-related projects will take me away from Salatiga for the remainder of January and most of February. But don’t worry – I’m sure I’ll find plenty of time to chill on the beach!

January 9, 2013

Jeopardy Online Test January 2013

by Tabitha Kidwell

I love Jeopardy. It’s a major life ambition to get on there. In the next 10-20 years, my knowledge will continue to grow, but I will get gradually less attractive. I hope to go on the show at the intersection of those two – the sweet spot where I have the most knowledge possible before the middle age spread takes over and my face starts to sag. I take the online text every time I can, more for practice than because I think I will actually get an audition – though I did get an audition last time! Unfortunately, I was in Indonesia and it was a bit of a trip. But that makes me think there is hope for the future.

Anyways, I took the online screening test again this morning. It’s 50 short answer questions, and you have 15 seconds to answer each. Spelling doesn’t count, you don’t have to phrase your answer in the form of a question, and there is no penalty for guessing or benefit to answering quickly. I try to make notes about the questions so I can check my answers later – usually I can answer in 5-10 seconds, then jot something down with the extra time. Some day when I really get serious, I’ll have a friend watch over my shoulder to write the questions down. I thought it might be interesting to share the questions, If you’re wondering what the test is like. These are paraphrases of the questions (er, answers, I guess, since its backwards) as best as I remember.

1. This the title character of Charlotte Bronte’s best known work. (Jane Eyre)
2. She hosts Project Runway. (Heidi Klum)
3. This man patented the polio vaccine in 1955. (Salk. I said Pasteur DUMB!)
4. This country is bordered by Sudan to the south and Libya to the west. (Egypt)
5. This university is in Ithica, New York. (Cornell)
6. This Queen began her long reign in 1838. (Victoria. I can’t believe it, but I said Elizabeth! DUMBER!)
7. This character, king of the Fairies, played with Puck. (Category: Shakespeare) (Oberon, but I didn’t know)
8. Steve Ballner is the CEO of this technology company. (Microsoft. I said Google. 😦 )
9. He was afflicted with boils by Satan (Cateogry: Bible book title characters) (Job. I kill at the bible categories.)
10. It’s the alcoholic ingredient in Cuba Libre. (Rum. Thank goodness I do plenty of research in this category)
11. An counting device using beads (Category: 6-letter words) (Abacus, got the Joy Formidible stuck in my head)
12. It’s the capital of Ukraine. (Kiev, I’ve known that I watched Oksana Baiul figure skate in 1994!)
13. This book is set in Panem. (Hunger Games! Duh!)
14. While in prison from 1895-1897, he spent most of his time reading Gaol. (Didn’t know, but it was Oscar Wilde.)
15. In year XXXX, the first of these wars between Rome and Carthage began. (Didn’t know this one either – Punic wars)
16. It’s the name of the aptly-named robot on Mars. (Was on a bad streak here. Couldn’t remember enough details from the question to find the answer, but maybe “curiosity”)
17. This painter is most famous for Number 9: 1949 (or something like that) (Jackson Pollock, I can’t believe I missed it after getting an A+ in Art History in college!)
18. Woodward and Bernstein became famous while working for this paper. (Washington Post)
19. It precedes pumpernickel and letter (Category: Colorful Language) (Scarlet)
20. Celie was that main character of this 1982 novel. (The Color Purple. I read it in the peace corps!)
21. This “grew” to be Zyngas best-selling game in 2010. (Farmville)
22. He published 11/22/63 in 2012 (Steven King – Got this one with a last second guess. Good thing his name is so short!)
23. This is the birthstone of July (Ruby, but I said Garnet. Grr)
24. Mt. Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America, is located in this mountain range. (The Andes. Thank goodness I have a former life as a Spanish teacher.)
25. In 2011, she was “Rolling in the Deep” (Category: Pop stars) (Adele)
26. He wrote Heart of Darkness. (Conrad. Thanks, 11th grade English)
27. Watson and Crick are credited with this discovery. (DNA. Thanks, 11th grade Chemistry)
28. Its the capital of Wisconsin. (Madison)
29. He composed the Four Seasons. (Vivaldi)
30. Azure Sneaker (Category: Rhyme Time) (Blue Shoe)
31. Canada’s postal code PE refers to this eastern province. (Prince Edward Island. Thanks, Anne of Green Gables!)
32. These were the high law of the United States before the constitution was written, from 1781-1789. (Articles of Confederation)
33. In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia seceded from this country. (Yugoslavia – I was reminded of my 2007 trip to Croatia!)
34. Queequag, a tatooed Indian, was a character in this American classic. (I said Last of the Mohicans. It was Moby Dick)
35. This southernmost US state is also one of the smallest by area. (Hawaii – little bit tricky but not so hard)
36. The Real Housewives Series are on this network. (Bravo. Total guess, good thing I got it or I would have been embarrassed the next time I saw my cousin Elizabeth)
37. 4 pecks equal one of these. (Bushel. Now I have Guys & Dolls stuck in my head)
38. Atom number 92, it’s named after a planet and important to nuclear energy. (uranium)
39. This Algerian-born existential author is most famous for his novel The Stranger (Camus! Thanks right, French major!)
40. Fear of foreigners (Category: X Marks the Spot) (Xenophobia)
41. Though often called a sea, this is actually the worlds largest lake, located just east of the Caucasus. (Caspian)
42. This woman, whose real first name was Gabrielle, introduced the Little Black Dress in 1924. (Category: Designing Women) (Chanel. I did a report on her in AP French class!)
43. This Danish explorer of the Siberan coastline lent his name to a strait, an island, and a sea. (I totally blanked on this one. Bering! Duh!)
44. This man was finally elected president of South Africa in 1994. (Mandela)
45. In this book by Alice Sebold, Susie Salmon watches her family after her own untimely death. (The Lovely Bones. Also read this in the Peace Corps!)
46. Andrew Garfield helped resurrect this superhero’s movie franchise. (Spiderman)
47. She was the author of the story Brokeback Mountain. (Missed this, could only think of Ang Lee, the director of the movie. Annie Proulx.)
48. It’s a home for Eagles (Category: Starts with 2 vowels) (Aerie. Thanks to the offshoot of American Eagle that sells skimpy lingerie to the not-yet legal)
(I forgot 2 questions)

Really not that hard, right? I got 36 correct, and really should have gotten 3 more if I hadn’t blanked. I don’t think it’s good enough to get called in this year. But I think I have a few good years of attractiveness left so it’s okay!

January 9, 2013

Keeping Closer Tabs

by Tabitha Kidwell

With the new year come new resolutions…

In 2013, I’m going to change up the format of Keeping-Tabs. Recently, blogging has begun to feel like a chore, and I keep procrastinating. I just dread writing and have to force myself to put something up every couple of weeks, or back-date it to make it look like I put something up every couple of weeks. Cheater.

My solution: write more! Sound counterintuitive? Maybe it is, but I’m going to try not to make each blog post into such a big production. Instead of an in-depth essay on Indonesian culture or an entire photo album from my vacation, I’m just going to write a paragraph here and there. What am I doing today? What do I think about (blank)? What did I eat for lunch? Simple, easy, no need to spend hours hammering it out. So instead of having 2-5 blog posts a month, I’ll do maybe 10-15. I think this is more in the spirit of the title “Keeping-Tabs.” Literally, where is Tabitha, and what is she doing?

So let me know what you think over the next couple of weeks! I predict more typos and grammatical mistakes (which I hate, but I’ll get over it) and more vague rambling about the mundane details of my life. TMI? Boring? Self-indulgent? Yes, on all accounts. But hey, no one is forcing you to read! Feel free to return to facebook stalking and cute cat videos at any time!

January 6, 2013

Christmas & New Year Holiday 2012

by Tabitha Kidwell

Despite the fact that I teach at a Muslim school that doesn’t, for obvious reasons, have Christmas vacation, I took the weeks of Christmas and New Years off and headed to Seminyak, Bali. I started out by meeting up with my friends Jackie, Jon, Holly, Kate, and Ron. We stayed in an awesome little bungalow that had it’s own pool and lots of space to stretch out and feel at home.


We could even decorate for Christmas!

We could even decorate for Christmas!

You could access the beach by either a 10 minute walk on the roads, or a 3 minute walk through a trash-strewn and muddy path along a construction site. We couldn’t waste 7 minutes of beach time (14 roundtrip!), so we took our chances with the path, at least in the daytime. We spent most of our time relaxing on the beach. Kate, Jackie, and I went on morning runs. Jon, Jackie, and Holly tried surfing. We ate at the same awesome restaurant everyday. It was the perfect start to vacation!




We pulled ourselves away from the beach one day, to head to the southernmost point of Bali, where a tiny temple called Ulu Watu is perched on a cliff overlooking the South Sea. It was breathtakingly beautiful (if you could ignore the monkeys, that is. A guide with a slingshot offered his services, but we opted out, with the only loss being my bottle of water.)


We also celebrated Christmas in Seminyak, by singing carols in our taxi…


…and having an elegant Christmas Eve cocktail on the beach.


The day after Christmas, Holly and Ron headed on their way, and the other 4 of us headed up to Ubud, the (touristy) center of Balinese culture, whose most famous resident of recent years was Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love. We were just there a couple of days, but it was long enough to eat lots of detoxifying food, visit the spa, and meet up with my friend Roxy from Peace Corps Madagascar, who was there for a month doing a yoga teacher training.


Roxy was nice enough to bring a little bit of home with her: Christmas gifts from my mom and sister!


After a couple of days in Ubud, Jon, Jackie, and I returned to the coast to meet up with our friend Jen and take the fast boat over to Gili Air, a speck of an island off of Lombok, Bali’s neighbor to the east. Our friends Liz, Adam, Josh, and Jess joined us there. I spent a week last year in Gili Trawangan, another nearby island, and the Gilis are some of my favorite places in Indonesia. No motorbikes are allowed, so they are super quiet. In fact, the roads are basically just sandy paths – by the third day there, I think we all had given up on shoes! There isn’t much to do except relax and snorkel or scuba dive. I went diving a few times, did yoga, went for runs and swims, and still had lots of time to nap, read, and watch the sun set. It was the perfect way to end 2012 and ring in 2013.




January 1, 2013

Uberlist 2013

by Tabitha Kidwell

For my 3rd Uberlist, I’m trying something different. For one thing, the huge, long list is a little overwhelming and impractical. My college friends convinced me last August that I had to do just 13 good goals. Because, come on, Chew food longer is a pretty stupid goal, right? But when I sat down to choose my 13 goals, I couldn’t come up with 13 good ones. And this is the first year in awhile that I don’t have any idea what the year will bring. After July, with the exception of my sister’s wedding, I have no idea where I will be or what I will be doing. It was almost impossible to make goals for 12 months when 6 of those months are a total mystery. So I decided to make a long list of goals, and make it a priority to do at least 13! When 13 are done, my Uberlist is complete for 2013! Here’s the list, in no particular order:

Run a Marathon
Read & pass on all the paper books I brought to Indonesia
Avoid sugar & refined grains
Plan Katie’s bachelorette party
Journal daily
Do 100 push-up training program
Tweet professionally 1x/week
Run a race with Mark
Play laser tag with Rickie
Visit Kelly in Chicago
Visit Jimmy in San Fransisco
Visit Meghan in Seattle
Visit Claire in NYC
Go on a road trip with no predetermined destination
Finish Error Analysis article
Put 1 new jeopardy study topic in book every month
Finish watching The Wire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, and Downton Abbey
Begin “Bible in 3 years” plan
Finish “Basic Indonesian” book
Finish Course in Miracles
Do Yoga/Meditation retreat
Eat more mindfully
Hike Mt. Merapi
Visit 2 places in the US I’ve never been before
Get conversation clubs started at STAIN Salatiga
Organize UPB library
Start book club
Get Married (Jackie added that one. You never know!)

Let me know if you want to help make one of these happen! I’ll try to blog when I accomplish one. 2013 looks like fun (at least until July, then it’s just more mysterious fun!).