Archive for May, 2013

May 28, 2013

Bittersweet

by Tabitha Kidwell

I just made the mistake of looking at facebook pictures of my first class of 7th graders from Kilbourne Middle School at their senior prom and graduation ceremony, right after cleaning out my office here. This made me simultaneously nostalgic for my own high school days, for the time I spent teaching middle school, and for all the exciting and wonderful places I have ever lived and had to leave behind. In short, it made me miss every ending of every experience I have had thus far. Except maybe for college. But now that I think of it, I really miss college too. Now, I have this deep feeling of loss and sadness. I feel like there isn’t possibly enough time in the world for everyone to do everything they need to do. My mom told me that, after dropping me off at my dorm freshman year, she cried for 24 hours straight. I didn’t really understand that at 18. At 30, I’m beginning to.

I don’t mind this sadness – It’s only sad because it marks the end of happiness. You should be sad at the end of an experience like this. So I’m sitting in it, feeling it, poking at it. I’m regretting the progress of time, but I also feel a little bit like time doesn’t exist, like I am partly still back in high school and like that high school girl is also a little bit here. We’re united by longing and memories, just as the me of today will still be there when this feeling surfaces again sometime far in the future.

After the closing ceremony of a conference we attended together last November, Bu Rini, my partner at the university here, asked me “Taby, what is that word for something that is both sugary and unpleasant?” “Bittersweet?” I offered. “Yes!” she exclaimed, “bittersweet! I feel bittersweet because you will leave soon!” I thought this was a little odd at the time, given that I had over 8 months left to go, but Bu Rini was just thinking ahead. The bittersweetness is really kicking in now. I’ve loved living here, but I can’t wait to move back home. I’ve met wonderful people, but I’m so excited to be back near family and old friends. I’ve had great career experiences, but now I’m ready for a new chapter. When I started this blog almost two years ago, I wrote about how I love the beginning of things. Now I realize I also love the end.

May 26, 2013

FAQ

by Tabitha Kidwell

No matter how many Indonesian people I meet, they always seem to say the same things. The order varies, but I get the following questions/comments basically every time I meet someone new:

Where are you from?
Obama!
You speak Indonesian very well! (This often comes after hearing me say only a handful of words. They are easy to please.)
English is very difficult.
How can I learn English?
Where do you live? (They mean, like, which street, which is creepy in America, but just curiosity here… I think…)
What do you do?
What do you think of Indonesian people? (Duh, they’re awesome!)
Which is better, Indonesia or America? (Duh again… I give the people what they want.)
How old are you?
Do you have children?
Are you married?
You should marry an Indonesian man!

I have perfected the answers to these questions, making me sound like a much better Indonesian speaker than I actually am. I even have a few comedy routines I can throw in (Yes, Obama and I are good friends!… I’d love to marry an Indonesian man, do you know any?) I don’t often get thrown for a loop. But this morning, my horse cart driver and I were making small-talk when he asked “So, are you a virgin?” as if it were the most logical and normal question to ask. I suppose it was, from his point of view, or he wouldn’t have asked it. After 2 years here, it’s amazing how surprises can still come up!

May 24, 2013

Posterior Tibial Tendonitis and Me: How I got uninjured

by Tabitha Kidwell

It’s taper time! I just did my last 20-miler of my marathon training schedule, so it’s time to rest and recover in preparation for the actual race on June 16th! This will be my 5th marathon, and this training season is the best I have had yet!

When I came to Indonesia two years ago, I intended to run a marathon in Asia and in Australia (which would have brought my continent tally up to 5!) I had spent the previous two years training half- and full-marathons, but I was constantly injured with one thing or another. I was always sore and exhausted after long runs. I had a lingering ankle injury, knee pain, and was always one old pair of shoes or concrete sidewalk away from shin splints. Luckily (luckily?) I sprained my ankle pretty badly within my first month here, and my plans to continue running marathons went out the window.

I got back to that goal this spring, and my training was totally different from the past. No ankle pain, shin splints, knee tendonitis, IT band syndrome, pulled hamstrings, or sore back. I don’t even feel sore after long runs. It was great! How did you do it?!?!?! my injury-prone fellow runners might ask. (Injury-prone runners like nothing more than talking to people about their injuries, so if that does not describe you, you might want to check out right now). Unfortunately, I have no clear answer. I had been so desperate to get better that I was ready to try anything. So now, I don’t know which actually helped. Nevertheless, I think these things contributed to my recovery:

Almost 2 years off/Cross-training
Until I started this training season, I hadn’t run farther than 10 miles, and that break from distance helped a lot. I also started doing triathlons, so kept up aerobic fitness by biking and swimming.

Running slower
The first morning I ran with MIT, the my marathon training club in Columbus, I went to the guy in charge and said “I’m new.” “How fast do you run?” he asked. “Maybe nine or ten minute miles?” I guessed. He sent me to the 9:30 pace group, which I stuck with because I developed a huge crush on the coach. After two seasons, I ended up with an ankle injury and a broken heart. (The ankle took longer to heal.) Those two races are still my half-and full-marathon PRs, so we’ll call it even. I eventually dropped back to the 10:00 group, and now that I am running alone, I do more like an 11-minute mile on long training runs. This is what the experts recommend – you should run long runs one or two minutes slower than your goal pace. I’m not too worried about goal pace (I approach marathons with a pass/fail mentality), but I do know this is a better pace for me.

Healthy living
For better or worse, Indonesia is kinda a buzz-kill. Us foreigners are lucky if we live somewhere where you can buy alcohol, and even then, pretty much all you can find is cans of beer or bottles of Smirnoff ice for $3 apiece in the mini-marts. Indonesia is not a drinking culture, and alcohol is taxed very heavily. I basically have stopped drinking just because I don’t have the opportunity. Compare this to life at home, where I would typically have a few drinks with friends 2-3 times a week.

Massages & Refloxology
Giving up alcohol, I may have just acquired another addiction – I’ve been getting about 2 massages a week. Why not, when each session costs under $10, and there are so many varieties – standard body massage, hot stone, aromatherapy, Japanese chiropractic, body reflexology, foot reflexology, and the magical “cream bath” which is really a deep conditioning treatment for your hair, but also includes an arm, shoulder, and head massage. So I’ve had a massage regimen like that of an elite athlete. I’m all loosened up. The best is foot reflexology, where they dig into your feet and release all the gunk that I imagine builds up there after a few hours of running.

Strengthening & balancing exercises
Since 2009, I’ve spent 15 minutes most mornings attached to a giant rubber band faithfully doing exercises given to me by a physical therapist after I first injured my ankle. I varied it a little and added in other exercises, and, to be honest, slacked off quite a bit once my mileage got high in recent months. But I think I have increased foot and leg strength. I really noticed it when hiking down Mt. Merapi with Katie and Chris a few weeks ago, when I easily caught myself on ankle-turning stumbles that, in the past, might have put me out of commission.

Shoe Inserts
I got ‘em just before my health insurance ran out two years ago, and, given that in Indonesia, I have no shame wearing grandma shoes, I have worn them almost everyday. So my arches are supported and happy. I know that the new barefoot movement advocates less support in order to strengthen feet, so I don’t know if they are helping or not. I’m just going to continue wearing the things until America convinces me that uncomfortable shoes are beautiful and worth the pain again.

Toe Striking

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I’ve started running in Newtons, which encourage you to run with a (currently trendy) toe strike. They have changed my stride when running in regular shoes as well. Some running experts say there is no need to mess with your stride, but all I know is, I am less injured. In fact, the only injuries I could possible link to toe striking are two matching blisters below the ball of my foot where my body created new skin at the spot where my foot now hits the ground. Even if it doesn’t help my running, at least it will make runner-types think I am cool.

3:2 breathing
I read this article in Runners World: I did it. I liked it. If only because counting my breaths gave me something to do on those long runs alone.

Sleeping in this thing

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I noticed that my ankle tended to tighten up overnight, so I invested in this torture device to keep it in a flexed position. This is actually made for Plantar Fasciitis, but it works great for my ankle tendons as well. And is actually quite comfortable. Though, if I ever get a boyfriend, I’ll probably keep this hidden (along with my mouth guard) until I get married. Or have children. Or grandchildren.

It is probably tempting fate to write about how awesome it is to be uninjured going into a marathon that is still over two weeks away. Let’s hope for no motorcycle accidents or ankle twists. I intend to focus the reminder of my training on eating sufficient pasta. Wish me luck!

May 7, 2013

Lets (not) talk about sex, baby

by Tabitha Kidwell

This morning, one of the groups in my reading class presented a puppet show about one of the articles they had read. The topic was Rob Portman, the Senator from Ohio who had “flipped” his opinion on gay marriage after his son came out. It was strange to sit in a classroom on the other side of the world and watch a puppet show about my own senator. Without the gay marriage controversy, Indonesian students would never have known the guy’s name.

A few groups picked this article to read, and their reaction papers are very interesting. I write comments on most of the reaction papers (I agree! How interesting! Do you think that will be true in the future? etc.) but I have avoided comments on the papers about gay marriage or gay rights. As a guest lecturer at a Muslim institute, I’m just not sure how to weigh in on it. Most students say something like “I am Muslim, so I do not support gay marriage.” A couple said very enlightened things like “I do not agree, but I understand that marriage is a right for all people,” though many don’t seem to have thought about it much.

In terms of romantic relationships, Indonesia seems to be about where the U.S. was in the 1950s. Society turns a blind eye to pre-marital sex. Sex education is not taught in schools based on the idea that students won’t need it until they get married at 20 or 21. Because of that, Indonesian teens have very limited knowledge of sex. Condoms are available at any mini-market, but many teenagers (and children as young as 12!) end up married “by accident.” As to same-sex relationships, I have had students tell me flat out “Indonesia has no gays.” Maybe because they are so sure of everyone’s sexuality, men are very comfortable showing physical affection with each other. It’s not at all strange to see two men walking down the street arm-in-arm, or a teenage boy reclining between his friend’s legs. Men are even comfortable wearing women’s clothing. There is a great tradition of cross dressing in Yogya, the cultural capital of Java. I first took this as evidence of tolerance for homosexuality, until I was informed that it actually stems from women historically not being allowed onstage. So it’s more like evidence of close-mindedness. Fail.

So, while America is debating gay marriage, Indonesia is debating instituting raids on hotels to catch unmarried couples. The two countries may be light years apart from each other ideologically, but there is still the same impulse for the government to decide who can love whom and under what circumstances. I’ll stay out of the debate except to say that, in both instances, the country would probably be better off without the government meddling in its bedrooms.

May 4, 2013

On vacation… again…

by Tabitha Kidwell

Haven’t written for awhile… I was traveling during the mid-term exam period. First I was in Jakarta to give a presentation at the Police Language School, then Jackie, JEss, and I went to Bangka Island, off of Sumatra, to compete in a traithlon and relax on the beach. Then, I spent a week at beautiful Lake Toba before presenting at Medan State University. Then I was back in Salatiga for a quick week of class. And now I am back again in Ubud, Bali, with my sister Katie and her fiancé Chris, who will be spending the month doing research at a hospital in Bandung. That’s right – I’m on vacation AGAIN!

And it’s not going to stop anytime soon. I’ll be in Salatiga to teach every week until the end of the semester in June, but I’ll be away every weekend in May, either meeting KAtie and Chris somewhere, or at the end-of-year fellow conference in Makassar. Then I’ll be in Salatiga for just over a week before I go to Singapore to meet my friend Debbie, who will come back for my going away extravaganza week before we travel to Bali and Vietnam!

So, as you can see, being an English Language Fellow in Indonesia is a pretty sweet gig. I can manage to teach all my required classes and present at extra conferences and still travel to amazing places, like when I got to travel to ACCESS camps during January an dFebruary. I was only able to get all the way to Lake Toba, in North Sumatra, because I was presenting in Medan. It’s going to be rough when I go back to America and have to just work at one job in one place all the time. But that is in the future…

At this point, I’m something of a professional vacationer, and I have learned a lot about what kind of vacation I enjoy. I like to be active – to be able to run, bike, swim, scuba dive, do yoga, kayak, whatever. Even better if I am active for a reason, like a race, a bike tour, or climbing a mountain. I like to eat healthy food with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I like time to read and relax on a comfortable chair with a beautiful view. I like to have internet access. I like eating gelato. I like getting spa treatments. I like cold drinks.

More importantly, I have learned what I do NOT like on vacations I don’t like to walk around when it it hot. I don’t like to be sweaty. I don’t ike insects or rodents. I don’t liek for people on the street to pressure me into taking a tour, eating at a restaurant, or buying a csouvenir. I don’t like hills (I do like mountains.). I don’t like feeling compelled to visit obscure toutist attractions just because they are “famous.” I don’t like to be thursty or hungry. I don’t like too many choices on menus. I don’t like carrying heavy things. I don’t like stray dogs. I don;t like unreliable public transportation.

So, I think that sums it all up for me. I’m glad I figured it all out so I don’t have to waste my precious vacation time in the future carrying heavy things in hot places and being pressured to take unreliable transport to an obscure tourist attraction while being pursued uphill by stray dogs. No, if you will excuse me, I need to go eat some gelato.