It’s been another lovely month here in Indonesia, and it’s time for me to share the highs and lows of the last few weeks.
In one of my classes, my 6- and 7-year-old students were practicing talking about their ages. When one of them asked for my age, I told them to guess. The five students in my class guessed the following ages: 12, 32, 100, 200, and 100,013.
During a 5th-grade lesson about transportation, my class had to practice telling each other about trips they took “on foot,” “by train,” “by car,” “by airplane,” etc. One of the students was bored with the normal transit options and instead launched into tales of journeys “by camel,” “by jet pack,” “by UFO,” and many more. His delivery was so funny that everybody stopped to listen, and by the end of his turn, we were all nearly in tears from laughing so hard. One of the best parts of teaching is getting to witness such active imaginations!
And, because the students don’t completely understand the connotations of certain off-limit English words, we end up with very interesting arguments and debates at times. (They have seen f-bombs used for emphasis in American movies and don’t completely understand that it’s not a classroom word.) Such is true for this wonderfully irreverent poster that some students created to advocate environmentalism.
I spent the first week of October working mornings at a nearby private Catholic school. While my first in-school was a little rough, this one was much better. There was an established curriculum for each of the grades (first through sixth grade), and as a native speaker, it was my job to supplement the students’ regular English lessons with communicative activities like games, role-plays, and guided discussions. The classes each had around 40 students, so it was sometimes a little more overwhelming than the typical EF class, but overall, things went smoothly.
I was just working as a substitute at that school while the usual teacher was on holiday, but later in the month, I got my own in-school. Until at least February, I’ll be spending Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at a private Muslim school, where I teach pre-kindergarten all the way up to grade 5. Again, there is a loose curriculum, and I plan communicative activities based on the topic that the school gives me for each grade. It is a wonderful school, and the students are all very well-behaved. Even though the classes here are also much bigger than I am used to, the students are usually attentive and eager to put their English knowledge to use. My mornings at this school pass very quickly, because the lessons go so well, and I really love being there.
I’m hesitant to complain about this, because it’s such a “first-world problem,” but I think it’s worth mentioning that the internet situation in the entire country is pretty awful. (It’s not hard to find free wifi in public, but the tricky part is getting anything to work on the horrendously slow connections.) There are certainly worse problems to have than being disconnected from the internet for a few weeks, but it did feel like a major hindrance to both me and Josh. The internet is how we communicate with our friends and families back home, it’s how we keep up on news, it’s how we learn new Indonesian words and phrases, it’s how we look up a lot of teaching resources, it’s how we do most of our reading (English-language books are scarce here, so we read a lot of online articles and blogs for entertainment), and of course it’s how we both maintain our websites.
Our current internet set-up is that we have to pay by the amount of data that we use online, but for a while, it wasn’t working at all. It’s running at the moment, but we are still limited to what we can do online since the connection is so slow, and too much internet usage could easily burn through all of our pre-paid data.
In other news, the end of the month wasn’t so pretty for me–I finally succumbed to the ubiquitous Indonesian germs. Something that I ate gave me terrible food poisoning, and I was violently ill for the better part of a week. I spent all weekend either in the bathroom or in bed, and it was a pretty miserable time. I was very fortunate to have Josh taking care of me; he even managed to find some all-natural juice boxes for me to slurp down, so I have stayed well-hydrated.
This month, I was really pleased with my new in-school. Since I have to wake up so early for these classes, EF has dropped most of my late-night classes, which is a nice change.
The lack of internet did end up being somewhat of a good thing, because it enabled to me do a lot more reading than I have for a long time. After discovering that I could still use my library card to check out ebooks from Cincinnati’s library, I went to town on fun-reading. Using the internet connection at work, I downloaded my borrowed ebooks onto my iPod, and I read about a dozen books during my free time this month. (I spend about two hours in the car on my in-school days, so it’s nice to have something to read.)
As far as teaching goes, my month has been overwhelmingly positive. I feel a lot more comfortable in front of my classes than I did at first, it’s getting much easier to plan effective lessons, and I’m getting the hang of the administrative side of things–completing online forms for each lesson, filling out student certificates at the end of each term, and other kinds of paperwork.
And finally, for the best language mistakes I have seen this month, we have the following.
A great place to find glorious misuses of English is at the mall. Shirts, bags, and signs all make noble attempts at the language, but many fail miserably. (In the end, I think English words on apparel is more of a fashion statement anyway, but it’s amusing for us native speakers who happen to notice.)
One of the many other nonsensical shirts we saw contained this phrase: “He is mimicking you. Am sure to become the loveres.”
And many translated phrases seem to have been run through Google Translate and immediately printed. I’ve noticed this when reading labels for some of the products we have. Sometimes it’s just a few words left out–the meaning is conveyed, but it does raise some eyebrows. Such was the case for our bathroom soap refill and its warning to “keep out of children.” Which my brain interpreted as: “Don’t put this inside kids–a bathroom cabinet would be a much more suitable place for this.”
These are just a few examples, but suffice it to say that I am surrounded by things that constantly make me think about English, whether I’m teaching at work or out on the weekend.