Archive for ‘Adventures’

December 9, 2013

Where Have you Been Part 3: Christmisc.

by Tabitha Kidwell

Probably the most exciting thing I have been doing recently is opening Christmisc., an ugly sweater pop-up shop. Actually, let me revise that. It’s probably the most exciting thing I have ever done. That’s saying a lot – If you’ve read the rest of this blog, you’ve seen how many exciting things I’ve done!

This all started with a conversation my friend Nate and I had back in August. Nate owns Pursuit, a men’s clothing store that specializes in selling slim-fit suits to college kids and young professionals. Nate is the best spotter of trends and opportunities I know, and he saw that young guys were going to Macy’s and Men’s Warehouse to buy the same poor-fitting, low-quality suits their dads and grandfathers buy. Pursuit filled that gap, and it is doing great in its third year. Having also noticed how hard it is to find ugly sweaters in thrift stores this time of year, Nate would stock up on trips home to Wisconsin in the summer. He sold them out of Pursuit the past two Christmases, and could barely keep them in stock!

So, last summer, Nate mentioned to me how he was too busy doing his actual job to get sweaters for this Christmas. I pointed out that I was unemployed and a great funny-clothing enthusiast, and a brilliant idea was born. I spent most of the autumn buying sweaters at thrift stores all over the place. Nate told the boss what’s what (not all that hard when you are self-employed) and got out quite a bit himself, too. Even by October it was getting hard to find sweaters in stores; there are lots of other dealers looking for them to sell in vintage stores and online, where they can go for as much as $100!

We spent two hectic weeks in November setting up the store in the vacant storefront next to Pursuit. The landlords love Nate, who is the only local tenant, and realized that the store would bring in a lot of traffic, so they gave us a steal on the rent! After hours of painting, building, sorting, tagging, cleaning, decorating, wassailing and decking the halls, the store was ready to go for its soft opening on November 20! Okay, maybe not quite ready to go – we had a few kinks to work out before our grand opening on November 22:

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Since then, it’s been a jolly whirlwind. We knew people would love the store, but we were unprepared for how MUCH they would love the store. Some people literally freak out when they walk in. I’ve heard “This is the best store ever” so many times I don’t even care any more. Ha! Just kidding, I still love it! It’s so fun watching people getting excited over all the sweaters and Christmas apparel we lovingly selected. Nate compared it to an adoption agency – we brought these sweaters out of desperation to get them to people who will love them as much as we do!

So, if you’re in the market for an ugly sweater, you’d better get in to the South Campus Gateway soon! They are going faster than we ever imagined! We’ve been featured in Columbus Underground, Business First, UWeekly, the Columbus Dispatch, and Good Day Columbus. We were on Channel 4 with Monica Day this morning, too, so the sweaters will be disappearing faster than Frosty on a warm day!

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September 30, 2013

Grad School Tour

by Tabitha Kidwell

I’ve just gotten back from an 11-day, 1,500 mile road trip that took me to visit 4 PhD programs, my dad, 2 cousins, my step-brother, 3 former college roommates, 2 friends from Indonesia, and 2 babies. Doesn’t sound like I had time for all that, does it? Now that I think about it, I do feel pretty ambitious. In fact, this blog post is also fairly ambitious, so I won’t judge you if you just skip to the end right now.

Oh, still here? Great! So, the main purpose of the trip was to visit grad schools. I tried to start the grad school search last year from Indonesia, and got totally overwhelmed – every website looked the same and I felt like I couldn’t even begin to sort out which would actually be best for me. Plus, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in an education program, or applied linguistics, or second language studies, or TESOL, or one of the other variations on the theme of language teaching. I’m so glad that I decided to wait a year, even if I feel like my life is on hold right now. If I had applied to the schools I was thinking about a year ago, I would have ended up in a program that was totally wrong for me! Better to take a year now and end up in the right program rather than rush into somewhere where I would be miserable for 5 years… or 6, or 7, or more! Actually visiting programs made it all so much clearer.

I started out at Indiana University, which was great. At Indiana, they actually have two doctoral programs that touch on foreign language education: Second Language Studies, in the College of Arts and Sciences, and Literacy, Culture, and Language Education, in the School of Education. I talked to faculty from both, and learned that the SLS program focused more on non-traditional language learning and adult learning. Given that my interests are traditional language learning in a school environment, it was clear I belonged in the School of Ed. This is too bad, because the most promising source of funding is associated with the other program. Still, they were great hosts and planned a busy visit for me – I even got to visit a class on foreign language teacher professional development, which pretty much exactly matches my interests. The department had a great vibe and it was clear that there was a supportive community. But it’s in Bloomington, Indiana. I met up with my cousin Brendan, who is a senior there and president of his fraternity. “What do you think about living in Bloomington?” I asked. “It’s sweet!” he said “The bars are always packed, there are always huge parties!” “Ok, but you do realize I’m 31, right?” “Oh, yeah, right… yeah, that would suck.” So that’s a drawback. The jury’s still out on IU.

Then I continued on to Madison, Wisconsin, which definitely would not suck. It is such a fun town, surrounded by lakes, with lots of fun neighborhoods to poke around, and no shortage of good cheese and beer. I stayed with Autumn and Esteban, two fellow fellows from Indonesia, and it was a treat to see them on American soil! The University of Wisconsin had the same situation as IU, with a Second Language Acquisition and a World Language/ESL Education program, and it was again clear that I belonged in the latter, though it seemed easier to take classes from both programs. The education program seemed good, and I think I will probably apply to UW!

After that, I swung through Milwaukee and had dinner with my college roommate Sebass and her two little girls, then drove to Chicago to stay with my cousin Kelly and her boyfriend. We ate pancakes, went to the OSU bar, we went to another bar, I told fortunes, we got pita pit, we went running. It was a bit of a blur. We also met up with my step-brother and step-sister-in-law (is that a thing?) for the Bears game, which I gather is an important thing in Chicago.

Then I continued on to East Lansing, Michigan, where I stayed with my dad. I wasn’t thinking too seriously about Michigan State, but thought I would go talk to the program director since my dad works with her and had already talked to her about me and, hey, you can’t hurt anything by making another contact, right? At Michigan State, the only program that was quite right for me was the Second Language Studies program, but it seemed like a great program with a strong chance of getting funding! It was clear that there was a lot of support for graduate students and a good community. But it is located in East Lansing, which, after years of visiting my dad, basically seems like Bloomington with a mall. So we’ll see about MSU.

So then (almost finished here) I went to Detroit, where I stayed with Gibbons, my college roommate (I will insist on calling her by her maiden name until… oh, forever) and her husband, Mr. Gibbons (not his name). We had a blast going on a couple of long runs, hanging out in Royal Oak, and going to Beerfest at the Detroit Zoo (tigers love beer). I also made it to that school up north. As a born and bred Ohio State fan, it is difficult for me to say this, but… I LOVED MICHIGAN. Shh, don’t tell Brutus. I kinda just visited U of M because it was on the way – they don’t actually have any program specifically focused on language learning. I would be in a “Teacher Education” program there. But I realized I already have a B.S. and an M.A. in foreign language education, and I want to be a teacher educator, so a Teacher Ed PhD might not be a bad idea. Also, they said the words “guaranteed tuition, stipend, and healthcare for 4 years for all PhD students.” And they clearly had a strong and supportive community. And Ann Arbor would be a really fun place to spend the next 5 years! So, with apologies to Woody Hayes, Jim Tressel, and Urban Meyer, Michigan might just be my first choice at the moment.

After a little jaunt through Cleveland to see my friend Michelle and her newborn son Henry, I was back in Columbus. Now it’s time to start applications – definitely to Michigan, Wisconsin, and Maryland, and maybe a couple others. It’s funny, before I came home this summer, I pictured myself going to grad school somewhere exciting and urban. When people asked what PhD programs I was interested in, I rattled off a list including Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, Columbia, NYU, UPenn, BU, Harvard, Georgetown, etc. Now that I am home, I picture myself somewhere calm and midwestern. Part of that is related to the type of program I want – big state universities are where you can find big schools of education with a variety of doctoral programs and – very important – funding. But it also is related to the fact that I’ve been far away from home for the last two years and now I don’t want to go so far away. I’ve gravitated to schools and places that are comfortable and familiar to me. I was born in DC, within metro distance of UMD; my dad lived in Wisconsin when I was in high school and college; and you cannot be grow up a Buckeye fan without being acutely aware of the existence of Michigan. My life has been, and will be an adventure, but there is nothing wrong with having adventure somewhere familiar. Say, somewhere with beer, cheese, and Big Ten football.

August 7, 2013

Movie Montage Race Day

by Tabitha Kidwell

When I was in Indonesia, I pictured life in America like a movie montage:   a parade of one wonderful event after another, surrounded by friends, under a bright blue sky. I quickly realized, however, that most days in America consist of dragging yourself out of bed, spending a few hours on the internet, going to Target, and maybe staying awake long enough to see a friend or two after they finish work.  Yesterday, though, the dream became reality – just in time for my friend Jackie’s 30th birthday!

We started the day by waking up at 5 AM for the Cleveland Triathlon. (Okay, that 5 AM part was terrible, but it gets better, I promise.) Jackie and I started doing triathlons together in Indonesia – we even bought our (identical) bikes at a Jakarta bike shop together. We did a few triathlons in Southeast Asia, and did fairly well, given that most of the races (and racers) were tiny. So we were nervous for a normal American triathlon with lots of normal American people with fancy bike gear.

It was so cold before the race that we were actually happy to get into the polluted but warmer-than-air waters of Lake Erie:

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After a cramped, treading-water start that left us out of breath, we swam…

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…biked…

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…ran…

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…and got medals!

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Then, just as we were about to leave, we stopped by the results board and were shocked to see this:

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To celebrate, we went to Gospel Bunch at Cleveland’s House of Blues, where we listened to amazing gospel music and ate chicken & waffles.

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Then, we went to a festival in the Warehouse District where I played cornhole with cute boys and Jackie danced in the street.

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I mean, can you get any more “movie montage” than dancing in the street?!?!

Though I understand that this isn’t typical of an average American day, it holds lessons for me as I re-adapt to life here. Jackie explores this connection more poetically in her blog about the day. So I will just say this: at the moment, I may be metaphorically kicking and scratching to keep my head above the stinking waters of Lake Erie at 7 in the morning. But once I move past current challenges (e.g., unemployment, living with parents, love life going nowhere) and get started on this race called life, I’m basically going to kick butt. And really deserve some chicken and waffles.

July 13, 2013

Lessons Learned: Travels with Debbie in Bali and Vietnam

by Tabitha Kidwell

On our month-long journey through southeast Asia, Debbie and I met one young backpacker who said that he had dropped out of college and used the money he would have spent on tuition to travel around the world. He said he could learn more traveling than he ever could in a classroom. While I’m not about to pawn my diplomas for bus fare, the kid is on to something. My varied experiences in countries around the globe have helped me grow as a person and gain incredible lessons about compassion, justice, and human nature. Also, it’s helped me get really good at trivia.

In any case, Debbie and I definitely learned a lot on our adventures. Here are some of the lessons we will take home:

Be decisive.
Ho Chi Minh City is known for its crazy traffic. There are apparently more motorbikes than residents! With minimal traffic regulations, this means you need to be daring if you want to cross the street. What seemed to work best was to start walking when you saw any tiny break in the traffic and to continue at a steady pace. Hesitation can lead to catastrophe – the vehicle darting around you will end up careening directly into you.

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Take a rest.
This a phrase that Indonesian people say all the time. (It’s a close translation of a common Indonesian verb). I had assimilated it into English without realizing that it was awkward English, until Debbie pointed it out to me. Nevertheless, after spending way too many days on this trip walking around in blinding sun and 100 degree heat, we came to see the brilliance of this advice. We would walk a bit, then have some fruit…

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…then walk some more, have some beer and donuts…

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…walk a little more, have some more beer…

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You get the idea. Days we didn’t follow this advice and tried to have more ambitious plans, we typically ended up like this:

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Pay Attention.
Walking was a difficult task in Vietnam – what sidewalks do exist are encroached upon from one side by shopkeeepers plying their wares, and on the other side by motorcycles looking for parking spots. So we spent a lot of time looking down. We had to remind ourselves to take the time and make the effort to look up and notice the many wonderful things going on all around us.  If we weren’t noticing it in exotic Vietnam, we realized we must just walk by magical sights at home all the time.

Like these sweet motobikes…

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… this sidewalk barber shop…

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… and this street-side hang out.

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Also this transcendental advice…

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…these cats sleeping in a basin…

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… and these bird cages hanging at the park.

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This ambitious motorbike…

 

 

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… and this guy.

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Don’t be afraid.
Growing up, I was kinda a weenie. I mean, I was in the marching band and national honor society. I didn’t exactly live on the edge. I was never one to look before I leapt. But we did lots of scary things on the vacation, and the more we did, the easier they seemed to be!

Like riding a motorbike on terrible Vietnamese roads…

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and drinking whatever is in this plastic bag.

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Holding this snake…

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… and crossing this bridge.

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Jumping off this boat…

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… and playing with this alligator.

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Be attractive
Debbie and I kicked off out travels by meeting up with 9 other ladies from the English Language Fellow program. For our last hoorah in Bali, we were ready for full-on-sleepover-girl-talk-style-fun. The best day of vacation may have been when Debbie shared her American junk food and People magazines and we caught up on all the celebrity gossip and high fructose corn syrup we had been missing. Poolside.

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And just when you think it couldn’t get any better, I pulled out the “Angel romance cards” my mom had sent me for Christmas. They were like tarot cards – they were supposed to give you messages from the angels about your love life. I don’t remember most of the advice we got, except for Deirdre’s card that told her to “just be attractive.” This was memorable for its apparent absurdity: “Oh, the reason I don’t have a boyfriend is because I’m not attractive. Let me just change that real quick.” As the advice sunk in, though, we realized its brilliance. We spent the rest of the trip trying to be attractive, and look how well we did:

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Okay, this was mostly just a shameless excuse to put up of pictures of us looking hot, but it did become our catchphrase. “Just be attractive!” We attracted lots of vacationing fun, at least!

As you can see, the Bali/Vietnam trip was a blast!  Most important lesson learned:  Tabitha and Debbie are great travel partners!

 

 

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.

April 12, 2013

The Simple Life

by Tabitha Kidwell

Two years ago, I was basically trying to live two or three lives at once. I was teaching full time, coaching track, training for a marathon myself, going to grad school classes at night, studying for the M.A. exam, volunteering at church, and, oh yeah, trying to have some kind of a social life. I needed, like, 35 hours in a day. This is more or less how I spent most of my twenties, which is how I managed to run 4 marathons, earn a masters degree, and get nine years of teaching experience (in 6 different countries!) before my 30th birthday.

Now, I barely have enough activity to fill one life. I really only need like 16 hours in the day. My contract only requires me to teach 14 hours a week, and, through scheduling genius, my classes are only on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings. I still do 3-4 workshops, conference presentations, or other special projects per month, but after 16 months here I can kinda go on auto-pilot for those and usually repurpose something I have put together in the past. I’m training for a marathon again, which is good since otherwise I would basically have no reason to wake up on the 4 mornings a week I don’t teach. Most days, I work out, go to campus to teach or just put in an appearance at the office, have lunch, go home and do “work” on my computer until about 6 PM, then watch Mad Men DVDs and get in bed to read by about 8:30. Out of compulsive devotion to “working hour” norms, I force myself to sit at my computer “working” most afternoons, but “work” could include any of the following: lesson planning, presentation preparation, report writing, job searching, e-mailing, travel planning, blogging, posting pictures, looking at my friend’s babies on Facebook, catching up on celebrity gossip, and watching cute cat videos on YouTube. The hours between 2-5 PM are some of those I would totally be willing to give up. I don’t really mind this life. It’s fairly stress free. My house stays clean and my laundry gets done, thanks to my housekeeper. My house is quiet and I cook and eat whenever and whatever I want (well, not whatever, given that red wine, kalamata olives, sea salt and vinegar chips, etc., are nowhere to be found). I sometimes turn down social invitations based on the contents of my fridge. Dinner Friday? Sorry, I have plans (AKA leftovers). I can’t let that expensive jar of pesto sauce go to waste, can I? At the moment, life is clean, neat, and easy. I always get 8 hours of sleep and I always finish my to-do list. I really enjoy the peace and solitude.

But something about it doesn’t really seem right. It seems a little like a descent into an obsessive compulsive focus on routine and order. This is the first step to becoming a hermit who lives in a cave or a lady who dies at home and gets eaten by her cats. This isn’t real life. Real life is coming home to a sink full of dishes, an overflowing trashcan, a lost TV remote, and an empty carton of milk in the fridge. Real life is staying too long at happy hour with your friends and having to meet your running group just a little bit hung over the next morning. Or a lot bit. Real life is going over to your cousin’s house to watch the season finale of The Bachelor only to find that your crazy Uncle Bob has erased it and you have to go over to your cray Aunt Noreen’s house to watch it (side note: the more stories I tell about my crazy Uncle Bob, the more I realize that everyone has a crazy Uncle Bob. But most don’t have a crazy Aunt Noreen too. I’m lucky like that). Real life is thinking you are going to spend a Saturday afternoon catching up on grad school reading until your sister comes home with a slip ‘n slide and you realize you have to host a cookout. Real life is thinking you are going to stay in for the evening but instead going to a party at your neighbors house, meeting a C-list celebrity, stealing a car, and waking up in Montreal dressed like Carmen Miranda. All of those actually happened to me! (Okay, not the last one, but I feel like it could have.) I feel like real life is on pause right now. The past two years have been relaxing, healthy, and a good chance to read The New Yorker every week. But I’m ready to get back to real life. Who knows what adventures await me? I’ll have to find that Carmen Miranda costume.

March 22, 2013

St. Patrick’s Day in Singapore

by Tabitha Kidwell

Last weekend, I met up with my friends Deirdre, Kate, Holly, Autumn, and Esteban in Singapore. Esteban needed to renew his visa, and we just wanted to get away from Indonesia for a little bit and celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. We mostly just walked around, checking out Chinatown, little India, and the Riverside areas…

Some people don't cross the street fast enough!

Some people don’t cross the street fast enough!

We also ate a lot of delicious food – Mexican, Mediterranean, Indian, Pizza. We kinda forgot to eat Singaporean food which is too bad since it is apparently amazing. Oops.

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The best part was Saturday night (March 16th, but close enough for St. Patrick’s Day), we happened upon an awesome percussion ensemble on a bridge. We had been looking for a cheap place for a drink (which is impossible – alcohol is so highly taxed that it was hard to find even a beer for less than $10), and we noticed that everyone was just buying 6-packs from the 7-11 and sitting on the bridge. Great idea, we thought… so we joined them.

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Unfortunately, that’s pretty much it for my pictures of the trip. But fortunately, I recorded memories in a different form! I used to break out my digital recorder during tailgates on football Saturdays as an excuse to talk to strangers. Turns out the same trick works great in Singapore – even better, actually, because all the strainers here were from different countries all over the world! Here are some of the transcripts from the “interview” recordings I did while hanging out on that bridge Saturday night. This probably gives you a better idea of exactly what I was up to than photos could, anyways!

Tab: So are you guys from Singapore?
Filipino Guy: No, we’re from the Philippines.
Tab: Oh, how long are you here for?
Filipino Girl: 3 years.
Tab: Wow! Long trip!
Filipino couple: …

Tab: So, let’s see, um… your shirt’s very sparkly, do you have a comment?
Girl: What?
Tab: You have a very sparkly shirt, do you have any comments… about the sparkle… of your shirt?… I like, like it.
Girl: Thank you. Are you wasted?
Tab: No!
Girl: Drunk?
Tab: No!
Guy: Why are you doing this?
Tab: For fun!
Guy: No really, why?
Tab: I’m trying to practice my English.
Guy: But you’re from the US.
Tab: You can always get better!
Guy: No, come on!
Tab: Okay, I’m just kidding… it’s just for fun. Do you guys know it’s St. Patrick’s day?
(Blank Stares)
Guy #2: Hey, I’m wearing green!
Tab: Hey, good job!
Guy #2: But that’s because it’s the flag of Pakistan.
Tab: Ah-ha! Are you from Pakistan?
Guy #2: Yeah, I am! But I’m not celebrating St. Patrick’s Day because I don’t know what the hell it is.
Tab: It’s the day that St. Patrick drove all the snakes out of Pakistan.
(Laughs and protests from group)
Tab: Oh, I always get those two confused! No, she’s right, it’s Ireland.

Tab: How long have you guys been in Singapore?
Irish Guy: Since January
Dutch Guy: About 3 months.
Tab: So since you’ve been in Singapore, what’s the best thing you’ve done?
Dutch Guy: Go to a different country.
Tab: Oooh… the best thing about Singapore is “get the ef out of Singapore?” ouch!
Irish Guy: The best thing about Singapore…
Dutch Guy: The food, yeah, the food.
Latvian Guy: (Inaudible) crabs.
Tab: You have crabs?
Latvian Guy: Chili crabs
Tab: Ooh sounds painful.
(Drums drown out conversation)

Tab: So what’s the best food here?
Guy: No speech English.
Tab: It’s probably for the best…

Irish Guy: We’re going to the parade tomorrow.
Tab: There’s a PARADE? Are there going to be real leprechauns?
Irish Guy: Yes.
Dutch Guy: Yeah, they import them.
Tab: If anyone can import them, like, Singapore, of course they can get leprechauns! Are you one of the leprechauns?
Group: Ohh! Ouch!
Tab: To be fair, I haven’t seen you standing up yet. You look pretty tall, so I think you’re not a leprechaun. But maybe, through the magical powder.
Irish Guy: See, down from my knees, they’re fake. That’s not my real legs.
Tab: You have…? That’s…! The leprechaun union provides you with prosthesis?
Irish guy: Yeah, they subsidize it.
Tab: Where’s the pot of gold?
Irish Guy: If I told you that… Well I can’t tell you that!

Tab: So what are you studying here?
Electrical Engineer Guy: Electrical Engineering.
Tab: Electrical Engineering! Nice! Somebody’s going to make money!
Irish Guy: Not me.
Tab: He’s going to make way more money than you guys!
Irish Guy: Well, that depends.
Tab: Hey, you’re a leprechaun! You don’t even need to worry about money, you have pots of gold!
Irish Guy: See, a lot of places, though, they don’t take gold as a currency.

Tab: What about alchemy? How do you feel about alchemy?
Electrical Engineer Guy: Alchemy, well!
Tab: I feel like that could still happen.
Electrical Engineer Guy: Well, if you get a degree in it, and you work really hard…
Tab: If I get a doctorate in Alchemy?
Electrical Engineer Guy: I mean, that’s up to you to decide, if you want to work that hard, you can make some serious money.
Tab: Can I do a doctorate in Alchemy here in Singapore?
Electrical Engineer Guy: I think they offer that at NCS, not at NTU.
Tab: I’m going to look into it.
Electrical Engineer Guy: Go for it. But warnings – if everyone gets doctorates in alchemy and is suddenly able to turn lead into gold, then gold is no longer going to be valuable.
Tab: But you know what the problem is? I don’t even know where to find lead. What am I going to do, buy a billion bic pencils, that’s not even lead, that’s graphite!
Electrical Engineer Guy: I would recommend buying bullets.
Tab: Always got an idea! Signing out!

Tab: What do you think about the Dutch king? In 10 words or less?
Dutch Guy (who has a beard): He should grow a beard.
Tab: Yes! Everyone should grow a beard! What do you think about my beard? I’ve been working on it for, like 10 years.
Dutch Guy: It sucks.
Tab: I know… I’ve been trying to eat the crusts of bread, but it doesn’t seem to help. Do you have any suggestions?
Electrical Engineer Guy: Eat a lot of peanut butter.
Dutch Guy: Take testosterone.
Tab: I’m going to try the peanut butter before the testosterone.

Tab: Where’d you guys come from just now. You just appeared, as if from nowhere… are you guys leprechauns?
Leprechaun girl: We are…
Black shirt guy: Leprechaun? In a black shirt, grey pants…?
Tab: Well, obviously you’re incognito until tomorrow.
Leprechaun girl: Yeah, we stored our money safely away.
Tab: So where’s the gold? Will you just give us a hint where the gold is?
Leprechaun girl: No
Tab: Just a little hint?
Black shirt guy: It’s a secret.
Tab: You guys are so lucky. What’s your St. Patrick’s day fortune for us?
Black Shirt guy: I think it’s going to be a great time, just like every year.
Tab: That’s a terrible fortune. Do you have a better one?
Leprechaun girl: No. Can you give us an example of a good fortune?
Tab: Ok, an example of a good fortune, okay, I’m going to give a hint for a good fortune for tomorrow. I know you’re incognito, you can’t give your fortune yet, I get it, I know you have a bunch of fortunes saved up. If, IF I were a leprechaun, and it WERE St. Patrick’s day, I would give a fortune like… you’ll find the love of your life under the light of a blue moon on a sad Thursday in July
Black shirt guy: Good fortune, wow! I admire your fortune telling!
Tab: See! And I just made that up, I’m not even a leprechaun.
Leprechaun girl: You should become one!
Tab: Are they hiring?
Leprechaun girl: We are.
Tab: ‘Cause I’ve been checking leprechauns.org for like 5 years!
Black shirt guy: Well, maybe we’ll talk to our boss.
Leprechaun girl: We could try.
Tab: That’d be great. Tell them about the fortune!

Tab: … and apparently he got beat up…. What’s this going on here?
German guy: Oh, I dived from a boat into the sea, and the sea was lower than I expected it to be, so I hat the bottom, and there was a stone, and… yeah…
Tab: So you just got in a fight with the ocean?
German Guy: Yeah…
Tab: And you lost…
German Guy: Right.
Tab: You will always lose to the ocean. Remember that! Signing off.

Greek Guy:… Greece.
Tab: Huh! Really? Alpha,beta… zeta?
Greek Guy: Huh?
Tab: What?
Greek Guy: I’m from Greece.
Tab: Cool. I’m from America.
Greek Guy: Oh, you vote for Bush.
Tab: H*ll no… I vote for Obama. I love Obama.
Greek Guy: I like, who is it, the one from the north.
Tab: From Alaska?
Greek Guy: Yes!
Tab: Sarah Palin? You just liked her because she had big boobs!
Greek Guy: Yes!

Tab: What’s the funniest thing that’s happened to you in Singapore?
Indian Guy: Probably this interview.
Tab: What’s the best thing that’s happened to you? Also this interview?
Indian Guy: No.

I thought that was a good time to stop. But looky-looky what I found later:

Guess this is what happens when you interview a bunch of leprechauns.  Didn't even need a PhD in Alchemy.

Guess this is what happens when you interview a bunch of leprechauns. Didn’t even need a PhD in Alchemy.

February 8, 2013

6 Reasons Erica Carlson is awesome!

by Tabitha Kidwell

Erica and I had an amazing trip through Bali and Central Java – we had some kind of fun adventure everyday! I can’t even begin to relate everything amazing that we did, so I will just list some of the many ways that Erica Carlson is amazing!

1. She wanted to work!

Erica quit her job teaching secondary English last year, and now makes way more money working as a children’s entertainer! She makes balloon animals, does story-times, and even does magic tricks! Because of this, she has a flexible schedule and was able to come for almost three weeks. That meant I had a couple of work commitments while I was here, but it wasn’t a problem at all – Erica was totally willing to help! Plus, her M.Ed. and children’s entertainment know-how made her a great asset! As a counselor at an Access Microscholarship English Camp in far flung Kupang, she knocked the kids’ socks off with a ballooning workshop.

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She also helped lead a workshop for elementary school English teachers in Salatiga about maximizing their English use in class. Her presence helped so much – and made me enjoy “working” a lot more!

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2. She’s like the Pied Piper

As if working on her vacation wasn’t enough, Erica also did free-lance children’s entertainment walking down the street. When we rented a television on the sidewalk for an hour of karaoke, the kids came out of the woodwork and Erica charmed them!

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She also gave an impromptu English lesson in the middle of a market to some middle school girls.

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3. She wasn’t afraid to try new things

I’m pretty adapted to life here, and not much grosses me out or scares me anymore, but I will acknowledge that there are many aspects of life here that are distressing or anxiety-inducing, like fish with the heads (and eyeballs) still intact, squat toilets, and motor-biking in traffic.

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Erica was up to any challenge we came accross, even daring to eat gado-gado, mixed-vegetable and peanut sauce dish, at my favorite (but somewhat dirty) roadside stand. I guess she felt like she had to get her money’s worth from that Typhoid vaccine!

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4. She made me try new things

Again, since I’m pretty at home here, sometimes I skip the “touristy” things, but I think I often miss out on fun things because of my “cooler than a tourist” mentality. Having Erica here gave me a great excuse to do touristy things I wouldn’t do
otherwise, like a Balinese cooking class…

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…and a Batik painting class…

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…and making a wish while walking blindfolded through the Banyan trees in the Yogya town square…

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… and getting a fish pedicure!

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She also gave me a great excuse to do adventurous activities that I might not have made time for otherwise, like climbing Mt. Agung in time for sunrise…

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…and scuba diving off the east coast of Bali.

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But, perhaps most importantly, we used our many evenings together to get through the first two seasons of Downton Abbey. Is it sad if that was my favorite part of her trip here? Maybe, but it was amazing! Matthew and Mary! Mr. Bates and Anna! Sybil and the driver! Edith and the weird-face-bandage soldier!

5. She kept her cool in the heat of the moment

Like when there was a cockroach in her suitcase, or when a giant bee was buzzing around us. Or when there was a baby cockroach on her iPhone. Or when the giant toke lizard was in our hotel room in Ubud. Or when a giant spider was hiding on the scoop she was using to pour water over herself to take a shower. Or when there was no water to even take a shower. NBD. She’s tough! Plus, she took care of me when I felt sick and only wanted to do this:

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6. She noticed things I have started to ignore

Erica brought a fresh perspective and reminded me of all the things that make life charmingly wonderful here, like the wildlife…

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…and the funny statues…

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… and the “traditional Balinese Starbucks.”

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… and the amazing sunrises and sunsets.

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All in all, it was am amazing trip! I miss having her here, but I’m comforted that we’ll get to see each other again when I go home in just a few months. Especially since then we can watch Downton Abbey season 3!

Cheers to a great trip!

Cheers to a great trip!

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February 1, 2013

Ode to Durian

by Tabitha Kidwell

Durian fruit is one of the most intriguing things I have come across during my stay in Indonesia. It is incredibly divisive – people either love it or hate it. It is often banned in hotels and on public transportation. Apparently it can’t be harvested, so you just have to wait for it to fall. I’ve heard stories of people being killed when the very fruit they were waiting to enjoy fell right on their heads. There are also stories of men running through the forest after hearing the distinctive clunk of a Durian hitting the ground, only to turn and run the other way upon finding a tiger already eating it. Because of all these perils, Durian is very expensive, but it is worth the cost to the many Indonesian durian fanatics. Indeed, Javanese people describe Durian as the “fruit of the Gods.”

Foreigners are more likely to compare it to stinky feet. It is incredibly hard to describe to someone who hasn’t actually tried it. Here is an example of my conversation with Erica, my visitor from America: Is it like melon? No. Is it like fish? Yes. Is it like cheese? Maybe a little. Is it like garlic? Yes. Is it like tomatoes? No. Is it like ice cream? Yes. Is it like bananas? Maybe a little bit. Is it like plain yogurt? No. So what is it actually like?

Well, it starts as a green spiny fruit the size and weight of a watermelon. Duri actually means thorn in Indonesian, and the spikes are surprisingly pointy. You chop it open and find three small sections each made up of two or three seeds surrounded by creamy white flesh. There is surprisingly little meat in the giant, heavy fruit, but what is there is unlike anything else in the world – sweet and pungent, creamy and rich.

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I first tried Durian during training in Bandung last year. While I didn’t think it was horrible, I definitely didn’t like it. At the height of Durian season, I would get to the grocery store and turn right around because of the stench coming from the produce section. But somewhere around the six-month mark here, I inexplicably started to crave it. Something about it’s sharp taste and intense smell appeals to me in the same way as Roquefort cheese, black coffee, lemon juice, and liquorice.

Javanese durian season started a couple of weeks ago, so I was excited to get back home, if only for a few days in the middle of Erica and my travels around Bali and Java. Almost as soon as we showed up at my house, a man rode by on his motorbike with a basket full of durian! I called him over, picked the smallest one, and cracked it open.

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Erica was almost immediately put off by the smell, but she was a good sport and gave it a try. Here’s what she thought:

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I think it may have been the only food in Indonesia she actually didn’t like. Yet. Like so many aspects of like here in Indonesia, durian takes time to grow on you, but then you love it… and you know that when you leave, you won’t ever have quite that experience ever again.

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!