Indonesian Puppets

I opted to skip last month’s update since I spent most of May in bed with dengue fever and didn’t get to see very much of Indonesia except for the inside of a hospital. I was back on my feet for most of June, so here’s what I got up to this month.


Baliday Dessert

June saw me continue my recovery from dengue during a 10-day holiday in Bali. I ate myself into a stupor most days in an effort to regain my strength. When I wasn’t eating, I was relaxing in cafes with my friends or out seeing the temples, nature, and culture of the island. Of course, I couldn’t go to Bali without at least a quick stop at a beach, so I did spend an hour or so frolicking in the Indian Ocean one sunny afternoon.


Summer Fun

I thought that I would have a nice consistent schedule now that my in-school is finished. With no morning classes, I expected my working hours to be restricted to anything between 1 and 9 pm. But that was before I learned about “Summer Fun.”

Schools here have about three weeks off in June and July, so EF added a morning program for students to come in for some extra English learning. The issue was that there was almost no organization for the three weeks of classes, so it felt as if a lot of it was a train wreck. Students didn’t receive the workbooks, the supplementary worksheets wouldn’t print, teachers were given more students than they could handle, and there was an overall lack of communication throughout the whole thing. (Though that’s actually all pretty standard for teaching in Indonesia–prospective teachers here, take note!)

I taught a dozen 3- and 4-year-olds each morning, and I was expected to show the students a 30-second video clip and then spend 2-3 hours teaching a lesson based on that video. I couldn’t handle that many students who could barely speak English, so they couldn’t understand my instructions and weren’t interested in the video or any of the projects. It was really frustrating, because I love teaching and I already knew a lot of the students from my other classes, so I hated that I felt they weren’t gaining much from their mornings with me.

More Split-Shift Scheduling

In addition to the new morning classes, most of us teachers had the worst schedules we’d ever experienced. There were several days that I arrived at EF at 9 in the morning and didn’t leave until as late as 9 at night. Every single teacher was in overtime: 23-30 teaching hours puts you in overtime, and we were all very close to 30, which is the most EF can make us work. (Some of us had to pull out our contract and remind the staff that they couldn’t schedule us for, say, 32 teaching hours.)

On top of teaching time, our planning hours were insane because of printer/power/internet difficulties that made it impossible to simply plan a class. And on the off-chance that we did have a nice break in our schedule, it would be filled by another obligation, like a last-minute tutoring session, a marketing event at a mall, or an unpaid session of placement interviews with potential students.

Summer holiday has definitely made everything feel strange and chaotic. Aside from the hectic scheduling, our actual classes were a mess. Our planning time meant practically nothing, as we would plan a class with online resources only for the internet to go down for the rest of the day. Or the power would go out, and we’d have to sit in the dark, improvising two hours of speaking activities with disgruntled students in a hot, sticky classroom. Or we’d have to scrap an entire lesson plan when only one student showed up because everyone else was on holiday.

Sick Again


As I was finally starting to recover from dengue fever, I came down with pertussis (whooping cough). Even though I’ve been vaccinated for it, that didn’t stop me from catching it a few years ago. And just like last time, I’ve managed to bruise my ribs, which makes it absolute agony to breathe, laugh, move, or dissolve into yet another fit of violent coughing. Unfortunately, not much can be done about pertussis other than take some antibiotics for a few days and then wait several months for the cough to go away.

In all honesty, I’m really frustrated at the hygiene in Indonesia. The germ theory isn’t common knowledge (a lot of people still think illness comes from the bad spirits), which means that soap is sort of optional to a lot of people.

Usually I’m pretty healthy–aside from some hormone imbalances, occasional migraines, and two or three colds each year, I haven’t been extremely ill for years. And yet I’ve been miserably sick for more than half my time here in Indonesia, and I can’t help but think it’s from the abundance of strangers and students alike who cough or sneeze in my face.

With only two months left in Indonesia, I’m starting to really look forward to being back in the US, where hand-washing is the norm, power and internet are reliable, mosquitoes aren’t as life-threatening, and I can choose a job that doesn’t make me work 12-hour shifts every day.

This post has been a little more negative than I would have liked, but it’s been a difficult few weeks. I promise I have more positive things coming up in my next few posts, where I’ll write more about Bali!

Love, Elizabeth

Wiped Out

P.S. No matter how awful parts of my month were, I’m so glad my friend Molly came to visit for a few weeks, even if we were both exhausted lumps by the end of her trip!

*All photos in this post were taken by Josh, who has somehow managed to stay entirely healthy the past few months other than allergies.