Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Balinese Thanksgiving

If you cannot be home with the family on Thanksgiving, then spending time with a bunch of friends on an Indonesian island is still a good option.  That is why me and 11 of my co-workers decided to take off after school on Wednesday and fly to Bali, where we stayed in a beautiful villa near the beach.  It was a wonderful getaway from the Urban Jungle of Singapore, and plus it allowed me to strengthen my Bahasa vocabulary!

The first day the group just lounged around our local beach for most of the day.  I tried surfing but was only able to catch one wave as the waves were pretty small and spotty, but we still had a good time.  That night we went to a Hindu temple called Tanah Lot that is on the coast and was a BEAUTIFUL place to watch the sunset.  After the sunset, we walked over to watch this "cultural fire dance".  With thought this meant that people were going to be dancing with fire, so we were supremely let down when we discovered it was just a group of people doing an Indonesian form of beat-boxing around a few candles while some ladies with stoic faces and a few guys with weird masks danced and acted out a story.  However, it got more interesting when the monkey-god, died on my lap and then some type of headdress was placed on my head and I was handed a giant foam sword with the instructions to go fight Rama (one of the gods).  The play ended with Rama shooting a bow and arrow at me and with me dying.  Considering it was my first theatrical performance, I would say it went pretty well.  I may just have a fall back plan now in case this whole teaching thing doesn't work out!

The next day we went to a town called Ubud (To my family: it is in the 1001 Places to See Before You Die book, so I can finally sign off on one that nobody else has been to!).  It is known for it's art and crafts and has a pretty large market for shopping.  Haggling and bargaining was the best part.  It was so easy, that I felt I got ripped off if I paid more than half price for anything.  After shopping for a few hours, we went to the near by Monkey Temple.  This is another Hindu temple (their are over 15,000 in Bali) that has hundreds of monkeys that roam the temple completely wild.  These monkeys were very playful and would climb over any visitor that had food or water.  With a false since of security, I was finally able to coax one to climbing on me.  The next thing I know I had two or three climbing on me, and since I didn't have any food they began to bite me!  Only one of the bites really left a mark, and the workers at the temple cleaned it for me and assured me that there was no rabies.  But lesson learned: monkeys may look cute, but they are greedy and evil!  We made one more stop one the way home to look at the terraced rice fields in Ubud, which were pretty despite all the rice having just been harvested.

For the last day, most of our group left early in the morning to go on a day cruise and do some snorkeling. Me and a few others just felt like having the day to lounge around and just chill. We went to a different nearby beach that someone had told us about and the waves there were MUCH better!  The only problem was I didn't have my wallet to rent a surf board.  However, I was lucky enough to make friends with a couple sitting near by and they let me borrow theirs for a few minutes.  The rest of the day was spent lounging around our villa, watching a beautiful sunset, and then having a Balinese dinner cooked at our villa by a private chef.  All in all, a great day.

Now I am back in Singapore, drinking a tall glass of reality, and preparing myself for the remaining three weeks until I fly home for Christmas.

 Sunset at Tanah Lot

Me at Tanah Lot 

My acting debut

 James photographing the Ubud Market

 A monkey (not the one that bit me)

 Terraced Rice Fields

Sunset from our Villa

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Time to be Thankful

We had our staff "Pilgrims and Indians" Thanksgiving dinner yesterday and it included all of my Thanksgiving favorites: greenbean casserole, deviled eggs, turkey, stuffing, rolls, and OF COURSE sweet potato casserole (which I made because marshmellows are the ONLY topping, and people try to mess it up all the time).  The only thing missing was family and football haha, but I was really glad to still get to celebrate with a bunch of new friends who are also away from their families.  I had intentions of taking pictures of all the goodies for this blog, however I got too caught up with all the socializing and completely forgot, so just take my word for it.

A Thanksgiving blog would not be complete with out my listing off what I am thankful for, so here it goes: my family who supports me in whatever I do, a job in a time where so many are without, friends that constantly offer me encouragement, my school, my students who bring smiles to my face daily, my health, my freedom to profess my faith openly, getting to see the world, and saving the best for last, my continually growing relationship with God.

I hope everybody enjoys the holiday, the good food, and all the time spent with friends and family.  Don't forget to take a minute and think about how blessed you are.  Maybe even write your own "thankful" list in the comment section :)

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Middle School Service Trip to Indonesia

So I was fortunate enough to get to chaperone the Middle School service trip to Indonesia.  We stayed at a beautiful Island called Telunas, and we went to Moro Island by way of boat each day to spend time with kids at a school there.  It was such a neat experience getting to learn a new culture, especially one with so many particulars as the Indonesian culture.  There is a certain hand that is exceptable to eat with, different ways to shake hands with people depending on who it is you are shaking hands with, exceptable rules about how you interact, and not to mention a completely different language!

The first day, we left school and headed to Telunas Island. The first night was just for the students to get settled in at the place we would be staying.  This place was beautiful, as you will see in the pictures, and was such a nice change of scenery from the big city of Singapore.  The students swam, jumped off of a high dock, played on the beach, and just had fun.

The next day we got up early to go see the school at Moro Island.  The students had spent the past two months planning English lessons that they were going to teach these students, and I was so excited to how they were going to do!  When we arrived at the school, it was so heart-warming to see the Moro kids lined up at the gates of their school waiting to meet all of us. We walked in, shook a bunch of hands, and my students began teaching their different lessons.  My students did such an awesome job, and really interacted well with the Moro kids, despite only knowing a few Bahasa words.  Meanwhile, I was walking around taking pictures.  After the lessons, we had a little time to play with the kids and they were so happy to play with all of us, each one trying to show off a little bit.  Sadly, due to the Muslim holiday, the school day was cut short and we couldn't stay very long.

The next day we went back to the school to do some construction projects.  We had been warned that due to the holiday and no school, that there would likely be few if any students at the school that day.  HOWEVER, when we arrived there were almost just as many students there as the day before and it was awesome to see how excited both my students and the Moro students were to see each other again.  The construction projects we did were painting some walls, and plastering some other walls with cement.  Again, my students attitude in serving and doing this HARD work was so impressive and such a pleasure to see.

Now back in Singapore and reflecting on my thoughts from the trip.  I word first say that I am so thankful for the time to get to know my students better, thankful the reminder as to how blessed we are to have the things we have, but the most important lesson I learned from the trip is that you do not need to speak the same language in order to show them love.

 Where we stayed

 Some of my students

 Walking through Moro Island

 Entrance to the school

 Curious spectator

 My students teaching their English lesson

 A game that is a variation of marbles.  They called it Rollie or that is at least what it sounded like.

 Getting swarmed by kids who wanted to take a picture...almost blocking out the sun :)

 Then I let them take hold of the camera...

 Chasing some kids

 All the kids playing

 Christopher with the fish he caught

 The students all came to school on their day off just to see us again

 Handing out silly-bandz as gifts

 Mixing concrete