Those smiles are dangerous.
This is Dini. She and I met yesterday at the Jonooge Primary School near Palu, Sulawesi, Indonesia. I spoke to her in my incredibly bad Bahasa Indonesia, and she stared at me. I spoke to her in my language, English, and she stared at me. I smiled and she stared at me. I walked away…and she followed me. We became friends yesterday. I don’t know what she thought I was, but she, to me, was innocence and beauty and everything worth protecting in the world.
This is Dini. My little friend.
There they are. Day 1 of the service trip to Palu, Sulawesi, Indonesia, after we landed in the Palu airport. I am supervising, along with my Head of School and his wife, and the amazing Miss Erina, a group of twelve students from my school while they extend their hand to the people of Palu.
Our school has a week wherein all the students are supposed to be working in some sort of service. My students are in Palu, working in a Primary school, two childrens’ homes (not orphanages, because not all of the children are orphans – some live in the home because their parents can’t afford to keep them, but they still have parents), an “agro bisnis”, and a school of 2000 students. All of these places are run by the Salvation Army here in Palu.
I need to clarify one major point here: it is a service week, and my students are working here, but the week is really about exposing the students to a part of their world that is unfamiliar to them. In a very real sense, my students are aware that the world does not live as they do – they are well off, they attend a private international school, they have drivers and helpers – but many of them have never experienced the world that is not like theirs. So…we are offering them an opportunity to make a connection, a personal connection, with that world. Today they met the primary school children and my students were overwhelmed by these children and their love and generosity and attention and beauty and energy. As we debriefed the day, my students couldn’t help but gush about how the day went.
Tomorrow is day three, and it looks like this trip might be life-changing, and life-affirming.
The building you see behind them, by the way, is not the Palu airport. That is the future Palu airport. The current one rivals landing next to an auction house in which everyone smokes and people jockey for your luggage as soon as you have it in your hand. Good times.
…for the end of the first day back to school after the Christmas holiday.
That’s all. Just a sunset.
This year has been momentous. I have watched as my family and I have adapted to our move from Chilliwack, British Columbia, Canada, to Jakarta, Indonesia. I moved from teaching in a public school to an international, private school. I moved from one of the most beautiful places in the world (nah…it is the most beautiful) to a place I haven’t figured out yet. I moved from mountains and rivers to busy streets and overpopulation. I moved from ease and comfort (with a bit of financial challenge) to a place of challenge.
2012…the year of the move.
I took this photo while shooting on the fly. I was walking to work and a couple of students got our of their car ahead of me. As we walked up to the school, the brother placed his hand on his sister’s backpack and guided her to where she needed to be on the path. It was a small, kind gesture…a brotherly gesture. I got this shot off just before he removed his hand.
I remember being this age. I thought I knew everything. I knew that I knew more than everyone else, at least. I felt like the world was waiting for me. My boys, my friends, were the only thing that was important to me.
Man…I knew nothing back then.
These girls, and the boy in the background, all attend a school that is run by the Bala Keselamatan (Salvation Army). They are a few of the more than 2000 students who attend the school in Palu, Sulawesi. It is a remarkable school, but what’s more remarkable are the students.
Beautiful, curious, enthusiastic, and energetic, their stories will inspire and break hearts. Many of them do not live with their parents. The reason? Their parents know that an education is important, but living in rural Palu with little means to a good education has left parents with one option – send their children to Palu to live and learn. Many of these children rarely see their parents.
They choose an education over family. That is a choice I’m glad I don’t have to make.
I was in Palu, Sulawesi, Indonesia, for the last two and a half days. I was looking at opportunities for service for my 10th grade students. I got to visit two schools, an orphanage, a couple of churches, and a nursing academy. The photo above was taken at one of the schools.
Yes, that is chicken wire acting as a window. Yes, that is a corrugated steel roof. Yes, those slats letting in daylight are the wall of the Kelas Satu (1st grade) classroom. Yes, students come here daily from 7:00 am to 1:00 pm, and they’re grateful and enthusiastic for the education they get.
If you work in a place like I work (a highrise-housed, private, international school), or where I worked in Canada, or where friends of mine work in America, let me assure you…it is as bad as you can imagine to be a student in a rural school in Indonesia. It is like this all over South Asia, Asia, the Middle East, most places. Not every school is like this, but there are schools like this everywhere. The problem isn’t reading Three Cups of Tea and donating to your local educational charity. It also does not require all of you reading this to drop whatever job you have and come roaring over to Indonesia intent on saving the day.
The problem is that there is no one solution. No single fix-it approach. These students need teachers. The schools need financial help. The people need to believe that education is important. The world needs to wake up and start investing in the things that matter, the future of their children, not what fills their gas tanks or funds wars or…
I take a twenty minute walk to work each day. I am going to show you my walk to work, but it’ll take a few days. It’ll also take quite a few photos. Here’s the first part. We live in an apartment complex that’s part of a much larger complex of condominiums and townhouses. We’ve got lots of security. You’ll see them soon.
We walk past our security gate and some really nice guards every morning. I used to walk with headphones in my ears all the time, but I hear, “Selamat pagi,” so often in the morning that I keep my headphones out until I’m well on my way up the hill away from home.
We’re past security and on the way to school, and so are a lot of other people. Our school is a couple of kilometers away, but another school, an Indonesian National school, is located right outside our Villas. From what I understand, this education is free, and so many students and families want their children educated that they send them to a school that is so overpopulated that they run two schools in one – one that starts at 6:30 and another that starts at 12:30. I feel hope and sadness at the same time.
I don’t know if you can see them, but the bajaj drivers are waiting for my wife and children, who drive to school, and then I start up the hill. Once I crest the hill, the rest of the walk is easy. Flower shops on the left, miscellany on the right.
I can see my school from here. I walk to work each morning, and lately I’ve been taking this new route. It gets me off of Kemang Raya, a major road, and onto some back alleys that zig-zag me through the neighborhood. It’s quiet and calm and I’m meeting some new local people. When I get near the end of my walk, I can see my school building looming over the neighborhood.
“Looming” makes it sound ominous, which it’s not, but it certainly is a major contrast to the surrounding areas.
I took photos on my entire walking commute today, to show you what life looks like from home to work in the morning, but I’ve not finished processing them yet, so you’ll have to wait. But soon…
My school is situated in an amazing complex called Kemang Village. It’s pretty amazing. My school is one of eight high-rise buildings – we’re the shortest of the buildings – and under the school and three of the buildings is a mall. It’s a pretty nice mall, or it will be when it’s done. It won’t be long before it officially opens, and I’m pretty psyched about the whole thing. My school will also be my one-stop shop.
The photo above is one of the entrances to the mall.
Before I left my former school in Canada, I moved from the third floor to the first floor. I did this for two reasons: 1. All of my student leadership activities were on the first floor, and; 2. I hated running up and down flights of stairs just to get from my classroom to the office to the gym and back again.
Then I moved to Jakarta. My school is in a high-rise building. There are something like seven floors of parking before you even get to my school. Once inside, my school has LG (lower ground), G (ground), and UG (upper ground) floors. Then, floors one through eight. Here’s a little math for you: take 400 students; divide by two elevators; multiply by eleven floors…and you get a great number of stairs that must be negotiated every day. It’s easier, and harder, to run the stairs than it is to wait for an elevator. Plus, it’s a good workout. I guess I can eat a little more at dinner tomorrow.
The photo, above, was taken on the sixth floor looking down to the Ground Floor. I guess that makes it nine floors down that you’re seeing. Weirdly abstract.
On my way home from a haircut (“Saya potong rambut” in Bahasa Indonesian), I snapped this photo of a flower seller reading a book. He seemed deeply engrossed in the book, as there was total chaos going on around him. Bajai and Ojek drivers moving past, cars going by, some white guy snapping photos…and he stayed focused on his book. Here’s hoping that, as we start the school year tomorrow, my students are as dedicated to their reading as this man is.
The architecture at SFU is evocative. It inspires double-takes and depression. Yeah, you heard me. Depression. It’s probably because it’s mostly concrete, which is grey, and at the top of a mountain, so it’s often covered in clouds that only exacerbate the grey-ness.
But it also inspires those double-takes. The “tunnel” above is a walkway leading from the Academic Quadrangle, featured in a photo two days ago, to the W.A.C. Bennett Library, featured in yesterday’s photo. During a sunny day, it is lit in all kids of angled lines and the light keeps shifting as the sun moves through the day. The entire Convocation Mall, the area you can see ahead through the tunnel, is lit in strange angles. At the right time of day, the shadows and light look like they were designed by M.C. Escher. Awe-inspiring.
This is what it looks like when I arrived at SFU yesterday morning. I have to arrive, to mark exams, between 7:30 and 7:45 in the morning, as we start marking at 8:00. With the incredible weather we’re currently enjoying here in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia, the sunrises are gorgeous.
Well, I guess you might have already guessed that.
Enjoy your Sunday!
I was marking Provincial Exams at Simon Fraser University today and the weather was insultingly beautiful. Insulting because it was beautiful and I was contractually obligated to sit in a room and watch the sun pass across the sky through our classroom window.
I got out during lunch and shot some of the area and managed to get some wonderful candids. The one above is a photomerge of two captures taken one after the other. He was really moving, apparently. I was just playing around but it seemed kind of fun so I’m posting it. It’s about the most obviously manufactured photo I’ve ever posted here. I hope you find it amusing.
…and tomorrow’s the first day back to work after two weeks off.
Wish me luck…and clarity.
Where I’m going to be in a week? At school, back at work for the next ten months.
Where I wish I was going in a week? Back to the sandy beach of the Oregon Coast.
I guess there’s always the lottery to make that come true. Or, another 21 years and then retirement.
Tomorrow morning, at 8:00, I’ll be welcoming up to 240 9th Grade students to my school. Along with forty-eight student leaders, I’ll be attempting to entertain and inspire these students to greatness in their first year of high school. It won’t be easy. It will be fun. I will pass out when it’s all over. This post ends now, because I have to go read the script you see above one more time. And probably again. And once more…
This is the ceiling of the Maggie Benston Center at Simon Fraser University. It houses the university’s bookstore, the Student Services center and a myriad of other student services. It is also where I’ll be marking exams again tomorrow. I’ve already marked for a day, but there’s at least two, maybe three days of marking left. The room in which I mark exams overlooks a large grassy area on which students lie around a suntan while I read the papers of a couple thousand students. I missed marking today (although, if I am completely honest, I didn’t miss it that much) due to a medical concern yesterday.
After nine hours in emergency, x-rays and blood tests, the doctor diagnosed a complication in my abdomen. After ruling out appendicitis and most likely ruling out a kidney stone, Doc decided that I’ve got a little (well, Large) intestine issue. So I’ll be eating a ton of fruit and drinking enough liquids to drown myself over the next couple of days and I’ll get it all sorted out.
Well, that was more personal than I meant it to be.
There’s a line in a poem by Taylor Mali (I think the poem is “Train of Thought”) wherein the speaker ponders whether people who think in “trains of thought” aren’t lacking creativity. That people should be thinking in “dirigibles” and zeppelins. They can go anywhere, back, forth, up, down, where train of thought thinkers can only move forward or back at a relatively slow pace.
Now that the school year is finally over, I’m happy to say that my line of thinking is less line-like than ever.
On the other hand, I seem to be gleefully moving toward summer and I’d like that line to be as short as possible.
I took this photo while I was at school today. In fact, I’m still at school. My friend Kris and I will be attending a scholarship dinner tonight in Abbotsford, so we decided to stay late, get some work done (or in this case, some photography), go to dinner, then go home.
This is a “lug” on the side of a conga drum in our band room. I, once upon a time, wanted to be a drummer. What I found was that my feet work or my hands work, but they don’t like to work together. Yes, I can walk and move my arms, but anything more demanding than that and all heck breaks loose. So I accepted my lack of coordination and moved on. My obsession with things that make loud noises, however, has never been stronger.
Anyway, I’m off to Indian food for dinner. Or, in other words, I’m off to show my stomach who’s boss and ingest more butter chicken and rice and naan bread than I really should.