Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Not My Week

So, with the help of some pretty serious third-world drugs (not, fortunately, the kind that gets you into some pretty serious third-world trouble), I was back on my feet by Tuesday morning, albeit a little bit shaky in stomach and legs. (I sound like a sailor in this description.) My friend called me at 5.40 AM, ready and waiting to pick me up. I put on some cute clothes and a happy face, and set out for her house, ready to enjoy my days of holiday festivities at all costs. I arrived, put down my bag, got the grand tour of her beautiful place...and was straightaway bitten by her dog.

So now I've got a perfect set of angry red teeth marks, overlaid on a giant, swollen, blue and purple bruise about the size of, well, a dog's mouth. The worst part is that the bruise is on the outside of my upper thigh, in a place impossible to show anyone without completely taking off my pants. So I've finally got a decent wound, and I am denied the pleasure of displaying it. What a cruel, cruel, mad, cruel world.

Monday, October 23, 2006

11.5 Things to Do While Travelling Solo

1. Pay $3/night for a hotel with a Western toilet, shower, and fan, but without a trash can or electrical outlet.

2. Go to a wayang orang show. Get adopted by a very chatty old woman, and a man who she claimed was her husband but looked more like her son. Go backstage to see the performers in various stages of dress/undress. Practice a meagre amount of Javanese. ("Yes." "No." "Please." "Thank you.")

3. Walk everywhere, just to kill time.

4. Spend an afternoon exploring the environs of the city with a total stranger. (He offered me a motorcycle tour of erotic Hindu temples. How could I say no to that?)

5. Go to a movie, all in Indonesian, and understand most of it.

6. See missionaries on a public bus, and randomly hop on to say "Hi, Elders!" and ride with them wherever they're going. (I think they were far more confused than I was.)

7. Eat pineapple pancakes.

8. Visit old Javanese palaces. Marvel at items in the Sultan's collection, such as traditional Javanese gold dance accessories, ancient medicines, Belgian crystal, French statues, and Italian swords. (Apparently, the Sultan had connections.)

9. Get sick. Long for death. (I guess that's really two things. Or maybe one and a half.)

10. Read Tom Jones.

11. Think of blog entries like this one.

Get Me Away From Here, I'm Dying

Or, How to Lose Five Pounds in Two Days

It's actually quite easy, and takes very little self-control; rather, a good deal of the opposite is the issue. (Ha, ha.) All that's required is picking up a very nasty case of something, Allah only knows what, that necessitates frequent trips to the bathroom for diarrhea and/or vomiting.

I'm four days into my vacation, and two days into being incredibly sick. I'm quite impressed with myself, actually, as I'd say this is about the sickest I've ever been. It's getting a little better now, but Saturday night was one of the low points of my existence, and I include the time I threw up on the ground of a train platform in Cairo with 300 Egyptians looking on. After coming home from the day's activities around 4.30 PM, I climbed straight into bed, and spend the next 16 hours throwing up--loudly, to what I'm sure was the regret of my neighbors in a hotel with paper thin walls--shaking with fever, and sleeping only intermittently due to frequent trips to the toilet to "buang air besar," or "throw out big water," if you catch my drift.

It's been a little over 48 hours now, and, surprisingly, I'm not better. With food poisoning, these things usually come and go, and one night of expelling everything I've ever put into my body is usually enough to solve the problem. Not so this time. Sunday morning I felt just as awful, and it took all I had to drag myself out of bed and into a taxi to try to get to district conference; I ended up missing it entirely, which is a pity, since that's the main reason I went to Solo. I arrived at the church just in time to ride the bus to Salatiga, my next destination; I had originally planned to stay with a friend in Salatiga, but as I was too sick to be fit for human company, I found a hotel and collapsed upon my bed there. I essentially spent all Sunday alternating between my bed and the bathroom, hoping that, with enough rest, I could defeat this thing.

And yet. I had to cancel my plans for today, going out to my friend's village to celebrate the holiday with her and her parents and her grandparents and whatever other random people might come along, in favor of lying in bed and moaning, with occasional sprints to the toilet. I also mustered up the energy to let my friend drive me to the hospital--okay, so it didn't require that much energy--where, for a mere 75 cents, a doctor listened to my stomach with a stethoscope, asked me if I had thrown up, and prescribed some medication. I'm taking the meds, but I'm not sure if I trust them--with all the numerous things that can cause diarrhea, how on earth can he know what I've got with only a 2 minute consultation? At least I didn't pay much.

In any case, I'm miserable and I want sympathy. I haven't even anything in more than 48 hours (57, to be precise), because I know I won't keep it down. (Also, I'm not hungry.) I have to be near a bathroom, because I have to, as they say, "paraphrase Bloom" roughly every half hour. I'm exhausted, despite all the rest I'm getting. My head hurts. I'm vaguely nauseated. Oh, and, worst of all, I can barely walk because my calf muscles are so cramped from dehydration. I'm valiantly trying to replace my fluid loss by drinking water, soda, Pocari Sweat, and oral rehydration salts, but since I can't keep anything down, it's not doing me much good.

What a way to spend a vacation. At least this illness has managed to undo some of the maids's efforts to fatten me up. Only two days, and my hipbones are more obvious than ever before. If this continues for much longer, I could start acting as a spokesperson for some grand new diet: totally easy! totally effective! totally free! All it takes is a small sacrifice of time, energy, and any shred of dignity you still possess.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Going Solo

Idul Fitri, the major Muslim holiday better known as Eid al-Fitr, is next week, and my vacation begins tomorrow. (Or, more properly, today at 12, since school ended early.) Thus, I'm off for a week or so of adventuring around Java, beginning with an early-morning bus ride to and three-day stay in Solo, completely alone.

The possibilities for puns are endless. I'll let you all console yourselves in my absence by making them.

Something Old, Something New

As part of our morning activity at the marina, I asked one of my twelfth grade students to tell me something funny. He thought for a minute, and then his face lit up with an idea.

A: Miss Hannah, can I ask you something? It's a little personal, so you can choose not to answer.
Miss Hannah: Go for it.
A: Are you still a virgin?
Miss Hannah: [Silence. Do I say yes and dispel the stereotype of whorish Americans, thus fulfilling my role as a "cultural ambassador" and blah blah blah, or do I keep quiet, thus maintaining the appropriate teacher-student social distance?] Ummmm....
The other students: Whoa! I don’t think you should ask her that!
Miss Hannah: Well, I’m not married yet, so yes, I am.
A: Okay, cool. Did you know that Alex here—pointing to one of his friends—is not?
Miss Hannah: Ummmm….
The other students: Whoa! I don’t think you should tell her that!

Yeah, I guess that's something funny, I'm just not sure why that's the first idea that sprang* to mind.

*Suggestive word choice edited because, come on, people! My grandma reads this blog!


Remember how I mentioned I had a student who answers to the name of Christ? I take it back. He's named Christ, but that's his first name. He actually answers to his middle name: Conan.

That's right. Christ Conan. I asked if I could call him "The Barbarian." I don't think he got it.

One Yell Is Not Enough

My "teaching" job was pretty much a joke this week. One of the physics teachers was taking the students on a mini field trip to the Marina, for a morning of games and activities, and he invited me along as one of the supervising teachers. This means that instead of sitting in a classroom desperately trying to speak slowly enough for the students to understand, I sat on a bench by the Java Sea and desperately tried to speak slowly enough for the students to understand.

The activity was that each group had to invent a group cheer of some kind--coordinated cheer routines, or "yel-yel," being a popular pastime among the students and teachers both, for some strange reason--and then I had to give them a task to complete, in English.

The physics teacher wanted me to force the students to be creative and funny, so I simply told them to make me laugh. There was only one rule, I said: they had to speak English. (Upon hearing this, one of the boys' eyes lit up. "So we can tickle you?" he asked. I quickly added another rule.)

I have a healthy sense of humor, so the students were mostly successful at their task. I heard some Indonesian jokes, translated into broken English with my help, I saw some funny dances, and I even watched a silent skit. (This, in my mind, violated the "must speak English" rule, but since these poor girls took about 30 minutes to invent the skit, I decided not to mention it. The fact that it wasn't at all funny was another problem I overlooked on that basis.)

In any case, the best part of the morning was definitely watching the students perform their cheer routine. I don't know about you, but, in the past, when I've been assigned to create any sort of creative cheer expressing esprit-de-corps, it has always ended badly. Either the best minds of my team could only invent something lame--"Go yellow group, go! Yay."--or, at best, one girl sang something cute and well thought-out, while the rest of us stood in the background and tried to clap rhythmically. (And, in my case, mostly failed.)

Not so with these students. Each group, including a group made up entirely of 17 year old boys, had long, involved routines—songs with different verses sucking up to each of the supervising teachers, including a stanza for me, in English, to the tune of James Brown's "I Feel Good"; lengthy chants that sound better in the original language, about how "physics is hard but we know that with time and patience we'll master it"; and intricate dance steps that were definitely more than just clapping rhythmically. Not only can I not imagine a group of American high school seniors performing, or even inventing, these routines with such creativity and good cheer, I definitely cannot imagine any American high school senior boy shimmying--shimmying! In broad daylight! Sober! In front of a teacher!--with a smile on his face.

My only regret is that I didn't have a camera.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

At Least It's Not Crabs

My school principal recently taught me an Indonesian phrase, in reference to my stalker: ada udang di balik batu, or "there is a lobster behind the stone." It means that someone has hidden intentions: a wolf in sheep's clothing, as it were. I get the image, and I get the point, but what I don't get is this: who on earth thought of this phrase, and why? Who first saw someone with an unclear and possibly malicious motive, and said, "Hey, guys, I've got it! It's like a lobster, see, crouching behind a rock. How perfect!"

Hm. Maybe this is a question for the 100 Hour Board. How much would you hate me, Katya, if I asked?

Wonder of Wonders, Miracle of Miracles

I came home this afternoon, and lo and behold:

And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they wist not what it was. They also wist not where it came from, but, frankly, they didn't really care. I mean, they may been silly enough to melt their jewelry for an idol, get lost in the Sinai for forty years, and tire of manna from heaven, but surely not even the children of Israel could look a gift doughnut in the mouth.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Here Comes the Sun

Indonesians get up early. By six in the morning, when I leave my house, the day is in full swing, the streets crowded with families of five commuting on motorbikes and becak drivers desperate for work. Many Muslims, exhorted that “prayer is better than sleep,” get up around four for the morning prayer and never go back to sleep. Most dedicated housewives, even the Christians, get up at four-thirty to begin a busy day of caring for the family. The “early to bed, early to rise” mentality clearly still prevails over this society.

So much so, actually, that Indonesians are shocked and appalled to learn that I sleep in until six-thirty, and sometimes even seven, on my days off. When they call or text message at five-thirty and wake me, which happens oh, just about every week, far from being apologetic, they mock me for still being asleep. Not being fully awake at five-thirty is shameful: that’s definitely sleeping longer than is needful. One of my friends, when she heard about my wasteful sleeping habits, eyed me reproachfully, and said, “Here in Indonesia we have a saying: a girl who sleeps longer than the sun will never find a husband.”

Let that be a lesson to me. So, for now, I wake up at precisely five the mornings I have school, in order to catch the school bus at six-fifteen. It’s relatively easy, because the sun is already up, but it still brings back memories of high school—dragging myself out of bed in the cold and the dark, only to go sit in early morning seminary and mentally chastise myself for mentally cursing my boring, uptight, and rude seminary teacher, all while mentally willing myself to stay awake. It was enough, most mornings, to drive me mental.

Here, once I throw off the covers, it’s a little easier: the marble floors are cool and soothing to the touch, the sunlight streams in through the bathroom window as I shower, and the birds chirp a cheery wake-up call. I don’t exactly like waking up so early, being more a nightingale than a lark, but I’m slowly starting to get used to it.

I will continue to sleep in on my days off, though: there’s no way I’m getting out of bed before six without a pretty darn solid reason, and “the sun is already up” is not--definitely not--that reason. And that’s why no man will ever love me.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

My Topic Today is Globalization

[Originally written for The Collegiate Post]

Good morning, brothers and sisters. For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Hannah, and I’m from Boston. When The Collegiate Post first called and asked me to write an article about globalization, I thought, “I don’t know anything about that!” But then I did a little reading and realized this is a really interesting topic, so I’m excited to share what I’ve learned with you all today. I just have a lot of scattered thoughts that I’ve strung together, so I hope it makes sense. I’m also really nervous about this, though, because I’m not a very good writer, and when I get nervous I write really fast, so you’ll have to bear with me.

When I started my talk I wasn't sure what "globalization" really means, so I went to the dictionary. First, I found out that the word comes from the Latin root globus, meaning a round body of mass. I think this is really cool to think about, because we’re taught that the Lord’s course is one eternal round; the Lord’s course, today, can include globalization! In fact, Elder Neal A. Maxwell said that “in time there will be globalization of the Church.” Isn’t that exciting?

Webster’s dictionary defines “globalization” as “to make global in scope or application.” This means, basically, that as our world gets smaller and more globally-oriented, we have to shift our scope from just our little neighborhood to the whole world. It also means that globalization isn’t just a fancy concept to think about sometimes; it’s something that has application in our daily lives. I for one haven’t been very good at noticing this in the past, but while preparing this article, I realized how important it is, so I have made a goal to be more aware of the effects of globalization in my life. I’d like to challenge you all to do the same; reading this article is a good start, but we can always try harder. I know we’ll all be so much happier if we are aware of current events and trends in the world, especially globalization

In closing, I’d like to relate a personal experience I had once with globalization. Due to its effects, I could break my Ramadan fast in Alexandria, Egypt by eating a McArabia at the local McDonald's.

I know beyond the shadow of a doubt, with every fiber of my being, that globalization is an important trend in our world today, and that it affects many aspects of our lives. Even though I wasn’t happy about it at first, I’m really grateful to The Collegiate Post for giving me the opportunity to write this article. I think it was probably more for me than for you, because I learned so much while preparing it. I just hope it hasn’t been too boring (girlish giggle). I’m also grateful for the chance to be at this university, which is definitely the Lord's University. Oh, yeah, one more thing: I love my roommates.

Friday, October 13, 2006

And how will your product help?

I opened my email this morning to see a spam message with this title: Your mother has always dreamed of beautiful kids but you can’t provide her with them.

This blows my mind. How on earth did they know?!?

That Means "No" Where I Come From

The last blog post represented a breaking point for me; the day after writing it, first thing in the morning, I marched into the teacher's lounge, threw my cell phone at Ibu Maya, my favorite teacher, and told her the whole, long, sordid story. I was a little worried she would regard this as semi-normal behavior, or laugh it off, but, as I told the story, and Ibu Maya translated for the benefit of the rest of the listening audience, all the teachers gasped and said, as one, "He's crazy!"

So Indonesians think it too. I was relieved. Moreover, they instantly took action to help me: Ibu Maya drafted, in "good and clear" Indonesian, a text message telling him that I do not, hate him due to differences of religion, but rather deplore his methods of trying to get close to me, and that this is absolutely, categorically, the last text message from me. The other teachers forbade me from leaving the house for the next week. (Yeah right.) The school principal, upon hearing the story, volunteered to pick me up and drop me off from school for the next few days, saving me the walk home through public areas. I think that's a tiny bit of an overreaction, but I do appreciate the gesture; plus, it means I don't have to ride the overcrowded and overheated school bus.

As for this crazy guy himself, he didn't give up quite so easily. The last barrage of messages has swung wildly between surrender and threats, hope and disappointment. In one message he claimed he couldn't sleep for thinking of me, in the next he asked what he could do to make me forgive him. "This is just a miscommunication," he said. "Let's start a new relationship." He messaged once that he was sorry, and regretted everything, and didn't mean to bother me, but five minutes later he claimed he loved me, even though I hated him, and that he needed me, and would never surrender. "Love is a gift from God, right?" he said. That's all well and good, but it didn't feel like love when, directly after that, he messaged that "If you don't respond to respond to my texts or see me again, I'm coming to your house. You are the one who started this whole mess. Why don't you understand my feelings?"

I don't understand your feelings, dear sir, because they're not the same from text to text. You're unstable, and I refuse to be bothered any longer. I told the story to the servants and told him never to let this man into the house, and as far as I know, he hasn't tried.

The last few texts ended, as they started, on a somewhat contradictory note: first, he wrote that, "maybe I misjudged you. I thought you were a communicative person, happy to be friends, because you're a language teacher, and, besides that, you're a foreigner. I guess I was wrong." Happy to let him think that, since that text contained a note of surrender and resignation, I was steadfast in my silence, and about an hour later received another message saying, "It's already been a week since I've seen you! How long will I wait for you?"

Funny: that's exactly what I was wondering. One would think that having sent dozens of messages and received precisely three in reply would act as a strong hint not to wait. Moreover, the icy and clearly refusing nature of the replies--and I quote, "I do not want to be friends with you"--should also lead one to conclude that waiting will not create a friendship.

So far, though, it seems that a week, plus several straightforward rejections, is the upper limit of his waiting. I have now gone two days without any text messages from him, besides a chain text promising money for President Suharto's birthday that I've already received from three other friends today. I've got my fingers crossed that this means he's given up. As my school principal commented, at this point he's only embarrassing himself, Islam, Indonesia, and all males everywhere.

As for me, I've learned several things from the experience. Every story needs a moral, right? First and foremost: lie. When I first told Ibu Maya the story, her spontaneous reaction was, "What? You told him your real name?!?!" Second, I work at a good school, where they care about protecting me. (Maybe a little too much, actually, but that's a story for another day.) Third, I have good friends, who give good advice. And fourth, if I hint that I'm in danger, my mom will offer to pay for Tolkien Boy to visit. Mom, have I ever told you about the time an Asian Mafia leader threatened to release hundreds of poisonous snakes, made hyper-aggressive by pheromones, onto the school bus I ride every morning?

Monday, October 09, 2006

Take My Stalker--Please!

Recently, I have, quite unwittingly, made a friend. While shopping at the mall, one of the salesmen decided that I was the coolest thing ever and that we should be bosom buddies from then on out. He eagerly asked me the full panoply of Indonesian getting-to-know-you questions: my full name, my religion, where I was going, and where I live. Without thinking too much, I responded to most of them truthfully.

Big mistake. One thing that can be said about the guy, he's resourceful. Oh, actually two things: resourceful and persistent. Since I told him the name of my neighborhood--not my street, not my house--he figured out where the house was and came over to visit, uninvited, several times. The first few times, I (luckily) wasn't home. The third time, he was waiting outside the door as I came home. He asked to be invited in; I made up some excuse about how I was going to bed. He asked when he could come over next; I made up some excuse about how busy I am. (Not true. Clearly not true.) He asked for my cell phone number; I made up some excuse about how it's only for emergencies. He saw through that one, and demanded again. I realized that if I didn't give him my cell phone number, he would continue to dog the house, embarrassing me in front of the maids. I gave him a fake number; he called it right away to check if it was real.

So now he knows my address and my real phone number. On the up side, he doesn't show up at the house anymore. On the down side, he makes good use of the number. I hate to think how much money he's wasted texting or calling me. I could probably count it, actually: in the course of a week since I gave my number, he has sent me roughly 7 text messages a day. (That's an average. Today the count so far is 21, and four of those were received in the time it took me to write this entry.) In the course of one night, between 10 PM and 6 AM, he called or texted me 16 times. (When does he think I sleep?)

Normally, I'm open to new friends, even ones I meet randomly in the mall. I am here, after all, partially to get to know Indonesian culture and language, which means getting to know Indonesians. This guy would ordinarily be prime language-practice time: I know he's willing to use Indonesian with me, even though he knows some English, and he's even willing to speak slowly. However, something about him just creeps me out. I don't get a good feeling from him, and I mistrust his intentions, no matter how many times his text messages say he just wants to "dialog" about "science."

I'm not sure what to do. I've told him several times that I don't want to be friends, and that I don't think this is appropriate. Semarang is a little more liberal than some places, but it's still not quite right, in this Muslim country, for a single man and woman to meet and go out alone. I think he knows that, and I think he thinks I don't. I'm trying to just ignore him, but the text messages are getting increasingly more desparate, as he tries everything he can think of, from "I miss your smile" to "your perspective is so broad and interesting" to, his latest attempt, "Jesus says love everyone; if Jesus was so open and loving, surely you as a Mormon should be open and loving."

Ouch. The guilt tactic. Maybe I should come back with, "Mohammed said when a man and woman are alone together, the third person in the room with them is Satan; if Mohammed was so strict and reticent about male/female interactions, surely you as a Muslim should be equally strict." I doubt it would work, but I have no idea what else will make this man give up. Blocking his number is an option, of course, but I'm afraid he'll start hanging around the house again. Restraining orders are not an option and neither, apparently, is simply telling him to stop texting me. Aside from going back in time and telling him off the very first time he ever tried to talk to me, I think I'm stuck. Ideas, anyone?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I've Prepared Charts and Graphs

So, for yesterday's 12th grade lesson (and tomorrow's 11th grade lesson, because I'm lazy), I took the students to the language lab for a listening exercise. They had been there the period before mine, listening to TOEFL practice tests, mostly simple conversations about the weather and how to get to the airport; they were also clearly bored out of their minds. So, to pep things up a bit, I brought in the Postal Service song "Nothing Better," and had them fill in the blanks on the lyrics sheet.

I left the classroom feeling like the coolest teacher ever. Not only did we get to review vocabulary, and then discuss who was right in this situation, both valid teaching techniques, the students loved the song. The first time through, a few of them bobbed their heads or quietly tapped their desks. The second time through, about half the class was stomping their feet or rapping their desk or clapping along; several students were even singing along, in that awkward I've-forgotten-I'm-wearing-headphones-and-so-shouldn't-be-singing sort of way.

These kids are seriously cute. And they like the Postal Service. Suddenly, being stuck in a room full of 17 year olds for the next eight months doesn't seem quite so bad.

(Just wait until next time, when I bring in Joanna Newsom.)

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Because Optimistic Might Not See It Otherwise

Optimistic. said:

It's Q-36, isn't it?

Actually, I don't need clarification on that. It's Q-36. I'm quite positive.

Posted by Optimistic. to purplepetra at 10/03/2006 06:59:33

Wikipedia said:

Some people mistake the sound of "PU" for a "Q" and say "Q-36." However, the weapon's name is derived from the letters "PU" which coincidentally is the atomic symbol for Plutonium—named for the dwarf planet Pluto.

Never go in against a purple when...well, never go in against a purple.

Monday, October 02, 2006

You Naughty Earth Specimens

I have, in one of my tenth-grade classes, a boy whose voice sounds exactly like Marvin the Martian, minus the British accent. When he first talked today, I had to lean over to the real teacher and ask her if that's his real voice. It's fantastic, but it's also rather hard to resist the urge to giggle and teach him phrases like "Oh goody! My Illudium PU-36 Explosive Space Modulator."

(Surely there must be some situation that phrase could come in handy...)