My fifth month working at EF has flown by. It’s hard to believe that it’s been a month already since Josh and I got home from our Tropical Christmas trip! I still have plenty more to write about that, but for now, here’s what I got up to in January.

Funny Moments

Superman, as depicted by a 5-year-old

My students are all consistently pretty goofy, though I can only think of one moment that stands out from this month. I was covering a class for one of my co-workers, and it happened to be a class of 6-year-olds that I had taught before. One student ran into class a few minutes late and was very excited–at first I thought she was thrilled because I was going to be her teacher today, but instead she proudly exclaimed, “Miss Ellie, I’m not wearing any underpants!” I don’t know if an unfortunate bathroom incident had made her late to class and rendered her undies unwearable, but I’m used to over-sharing students by now, so we moved right along with the rest of the lesson.

I still find myself giggling at one of Josh’s funny teaching moments. As he described it, he “reviewed animal vocabulary with my class of 4 and 5-year olds with flashcards. When they saw the lion one they would say ‘lion’ and roar like lions. Elephant, and they would attempt an elephant sound. On snake, a kid dropped to the floor, slithered over to me, and licked my pant leg.

Of course, our everyday life in Indonesia can be just as silly as our students, and Josh and I are both amused at the fact that our apartment is slowly becoming overrun with geckos. Mostly they stay hidden, but at night, they make the funniest noise as they crawl around our walls and dressers and desks. (At first, we didn’t know what was making the noises and it was slightly terrifying, but eventually we found some “gecks” lurking among our dishes and realized that they were the culprits.)


We’re glad to have these guys around, since it seems like their presence has taken care of our bug problem, but we’ve realized that we have to be on the watch for little gecko piles of poo that appear overnight! Add that to the list of problems that we didn’t anticipate when we moved here!


Many of the other teachers at EF have switched to different in-school assignments, but I love mine, despite how consistently challenging it can be, so I requested to keep mine and will be teaching at this same school until the end of May.

Teaching at a local school here in Tangerang gives me a chance not only to teach more students and learn about Indonesia’s education system, but also to make friends with the Indonesian teachers who work there. I’ve gained astounding insights from some of the teachers, the most glaring of which occurred this month. After asking some questions, a teacher found out that I live in a house provided by EF, where the other native English teachers also live. He asked me why I didn’t buy a house here (as if that was the most obvious solution and I was a fool for not thinking of it myself) and simply wouldn’t believe me when I told him that I couldn’t afford to just buy one. “But you are American. You are rich! You and your husband can buy a nice big house.” 

It was eye-opening that even an English teacher here who knows more about Western culture than most Indonesians has such a simplified perception of the US–of course the US as a whole is richer than Indonesia, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find poverty and lower classes in my country. While I do realize that I’m more economically privileged than some Americans, I’m by no means rich, and I know I’m not the only one who will be paying off college loans throughout much of my 20s.

The Downsides

I’m still enjoying all of my classes, but my actual schedule has been pretty exhausting. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I’m picked up for my in-school at 6:30 am, and I finish there around noon. After that, I have about two hours at EF to eat lunch and plan for my next round of classes that last until 6:30 pm. Tuesdays and Thursdays, on the other hand, are very short, with just one two-hour lesson. Add four hours of teaching on Saturday mornings, and my hours are only slightly more than normal, but the distribution of that time doesn’t make much sense to me–12 hours of work one day and only two hours the next? I’ll probably be getting a new schedule in a few weeks, so hopefully it changes for the better!

Our internet has barely been working at all lately, and while that’s old news, it’s still a frustration Josh and I haven’t gotten used to–most of the times I try to call home, the internet isn’t even strong enough to send the call through. Other daily inconveniences that are barely worth mentioning: everything in our room is moldy from the humidity (we have a dehumidifier, but it turns our apartment into an icebox, and that’s not very compatible with our icy cold showers), the walk to work is extremely muddy from all of the rain which means I’ve ruined a lot of shoes and skirts, and the purified water machine at our house broke for about a week and left us with no drinkable water. Oh, and there’s a chance something died in our shower drain, because our bathroom smells so sulfuric at times that we have to wear our pollution masks when we go in there.

The Upsides

Indonesian scenery

Despite my list of grievances, things here are pretty good. The rainy season has gotten even more insane, but Josh and I splurged on some imported Swiss Miss hot chocolate packets, so we have a nice rainy-evening routine of relaxing with a mug of cocoa and a movie or book (or papers to grade if it’s a testing week).

My classes have been good–I discovered and invented all sorts of new activities in January that my students loved, and I feel that my lessons (and classroom confidence) have improved dramatically since I began in September.

The flooding in Jakarta and our 6-day work week have discouraged Josh and me from doing any travel this month, but we’ve enjoyed spending time in cafes with free and unlimited wifi, “splurging” on fancy meals at the mall ($5 to split a few dishes with each other at the nicer restaurants), and watching plenty of movies–Saving Mr. Banks and The Book Thief are some new favorites, and we may or may not have used some rainy weekends to justify Lord of the Rings and Star Wars marathons!

English Oopsies

An 8-year-old student wore this t-shirt to class, not knowing what it meant. I was unable to give him an answer.

English oopsies

I think that sums up my month, and I hope all of my readers in the US are surviving what sounds like an intense winter. Hang in there!

Love, Elizabeth