Visiting 2 Very Different Bridge Partner Schools in Medan. 

Our 4 days in Medan are a bit of a blur for me when I try to think back on what we did. This was largely due to heat exhaustion quickly followed by a 2 day virus for which the main symptoms were a blinding migraine and extreme hyper sensitivity to noise and light. 

Our departure to Medan was delayed 6 hours. Citilink claimed the delay was due to engine problems but when we saw the passenger numbers on the later flight we joined, we guessed that the true cause for the delay was ensuring that the flight was financially viable!! 

We were met at the airport by the principal of our Bridge Partnership School, Ibu Erna Julia together with the kepala dinas. The airport has changed significantly since our last visit to Medan and the front entrance into the airport is now dominated by a huge train terminal which we later discovered ends almost in front of our hotel. Had we travelled by train, we would’ve reached the hotel considerably faster than it took both Ibu Erna Julia and the kepala Dinas to drive us, even though part of the journey was on the newly built toll road. 

Our first full day in Medan was Easter Sunday and the PE teacher, Pak Ramses, happily met us at a nearby Catholic Cathedral so that Marg could experience an Indonesian Catholic Easter service. The service had begun by the time we were delivered to Pak Ramses by Ibu Erna Julia’s son- in -law. The church was absolutely packed and our enterance thankfully was during the singing of the first hymn. Before the singing finished, red plastic chairs were provided and we sat in the aisle, one behind the other near Pak Ramses’ wife. The sound of the congregation singing the Easter hymns was like listening to an enormous choir and it sounded heavenly. The service lasted a couple of hours and included communion. We had been handed a copy of the written service which I followed intently, enjoying the formal Indonesian. I wished that I could have inderlined unfamiliar words/ phrases for later perusal but considering our position in the middle aisle, where we already were under intense curious scrutiny, decided the lack of a pen in my bag was probably a blessing! The pews were arranged into 4 groups of 16 pews with about 8 people on each – therefore communion thankfully was streamlined and provided simultaneously to each bank of 16 pews. Very smooth operation. After the service, the congregation headed outside while wishing those nearby, Selamat Hari Paskah (Happy Easter). The exodus from the church moved very slowly passed a trestle table supporting boxes of water, cakes and a box of boiled eggs. As each person passed, they were handed one of each and then greeted again with, ‘Selamat Hari Paskah!’ 

The church building itself is absolutely beautiful and perfectly designed for the Indonesian climate. The cross ventilation was impressive with many well positioned windows and doors and I only began to feel uncomfortable towards the end of the service. The marquee structure you can see in front of the church was set up for children which allowed them to chat amongst themselves without disturbing the adults. 

The following day we headed into school. Being Monday, the first thing on the agenda was the flag raising ceremony. While we stood in the shade, many students stood in the hot sun for the hour long regimented ceremony that includes hoisting the Indonesian flag, listening to the choir sing the national anthem, repeating the 5 principles of the national Pancasila before finally promising to be diligent students. 
We were then ushered into the principals office to have a break before heading off to Pak Pahot’s year 6 class to teach them ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ song. They all did such an awesome job singing the various verses that we gave each group a packet of stickers to share. 

After this we returned to the  slightly cooler principals office, where the poor air conditioner was struggling overtime to cool a room where not only was the door constantly open but the walls were a couple of feet lower than the ceiling!! By this time we were melting in the heat and the cold water we were provided with was greatly appreciated yet the beautiful traditional cake could not tempt me beyond a taste of the soft red jelly pieces. It was delicious, but I was too hot and dehydrated and had absolutely no appetite. 

We headed off afterwards with Elizawati to her year 2 class. Her students are so little and were very overawed with our presence. Encouraging them to  sing ‘Old MacDonald’ with us was hard work as they were sooo timid and shy. On top of this, her classroom ventilation was non existent. All the middle level windows were closed and covered with instructional posters. With the increasing midday heat, I deteriorated so quickly that we were taken back to our hotel early afternoon where a quick dip in the pool and a short nap revived me enough for us to join Pak Pahot and his family for an evening jaunt to the PRSU (expo celebrating the establishment of the city of Medan). All ethnic groups from North Sumatra were invited to showcase their traditional foods, costumes and dances at this expo. As this was the final evening of the month long event, groups were gathering in front of their pavilions preparing demonstrations of a significant aspect from their culture. We enjoyed the Batak pavilion and had our photos taken here wearing traditional ulos making the traditional hand gesture which accompanies a well known Batak dance. This group below are from Nias island which is famous for its rock jumpers who can launch themselves 3 metres over rock walls. 

The following day, I felt considerably better thankfully, as Pak Pahot had arranged for us to spend a day with another of the Medan Bridge Partnership Schools.  This school could not be more different to ours. It is actually 2 small schools occupying a single site and operating separately yet simultaneously. The 2 principals work in the same office which is devided right down the middle by a row of cupboards. Both were extremely professional and respectful towards each other which created a friendly and welcoming atmosphere throughout the entire school. 

The principal and staff of the Bridge school welcomed us with a student drum band and we were then each presented with an ulos (red Batak shoulder shawl) representing our now close connection to their school. 

We thoroughly enjoyed our time there with the staff and students. We taught classes a few new verses for a song they knew extremely well – ‘If You’re Happy & You Know It’ and one class had a quick lesson on the Madison!! Our final class was without a doubt our most challenging. It was a double class of year 2’s working in the same room!! Boy, were they loud & chatty!! We sang ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ to get them out of their seats and active! Imagine 40+ active year 2’s in one tiny room, desks all squished in cheek by jowl!! 

Our visit to Erin and Mel’s Bridge partner School finished with a relaxed lunch of nasi pecel – lonton with green vegetables covered in spicy peanut sauce! Delicious! 

From here, we were returned to our Bridge School where we were collected by the amazing chairperson of the parent committee and his gorgeous wife, Ibu Siti, as well as Ibu Carin (also a parent rep) who drove us and Pak Pahot and another teacher out to a man made lake for rujak and es doger.   The lake is the result of a huge earthmoving exercise carried out when sourcing fill for the new toll road! 

Our final day in Medan was spent firstly at the school with a low key yet thoroughly enjoyable farewell that included a very talented student singing a few well known songs including a Batak number that requires everyone to stand and gently bounce while shaking hands slowly in the air simultaneously. We exchanged gifts of appreciation before heading out for lunch. I felt terrible for the afternoon teaching staff who were very disappointed that once again they could not join our excursion due to teaching commitments. 

We ended up at a river mouth where 2 restaurants were situated one on each side of the river.  Next to the one on our side of the river, was a small market selling seafood. A couple of the women from our group gathered to select and bargain for the seafood needed for our lunch.  Laden with several bags of seafood including prawns, squid, fish and crab, we crossed the river by boat to the restaurant on the other side where there were many groups already seated and enjoying listening to a man up on the central stage singing karaoke very loudly.  My heart dropped while around me, the Indonesians clapped their hands with joy and started dancing along. Unfortunately my head felt like it was going to split open with the noise, so I followed the Ibu-Ibu giving instructions to the kitchen staff about the preparation of our seafood. I then crept through the kitchen and joined the group who thankfully had chosen a spot not too close to the stage. Our coconut drinks were delivered first and then our dishes arrived thick and fast. What a feast. We sat down around with our backs against the outside of the compartment, lesehan style (cross legged on the ground) helping ourselves to the food we wanted and then eating it with our fingers! The best way to eat Indonesian food! There was so much food, yet somehow we got through it all!  

Afterwards Ibu Mei kindly gave me a massage and while she pinched my scalp and loosened my shoulder and neck muscles, we listened to the others from our group singing karaoke up in the stage. Margaret was invited to sing but she graciously declined and merely joined the backup singers/ dancers swaying in the background. The Restuarant Terapung Percut was such a fun way to finish up our visit to our partner school and an outing we will definitely include should a group of staff and/ or families ever decide to join us one day to a trip to Medan. 

A huge thankyou to the staff, parents and students of both the Medan schools (080643 & 080623) who helped to make this visit so enjoyable. We were spoilt rotten as usual and once again ate so much delicious food! Terima kasih banyak!! 


Sekolah AIS Batam  – The Al-Kamfi Islamic School

The AIS School (pronounced ‘ice’) is a Muslim school operating in at least 2 campuses that I’m aware of. While discussing the visit, Ibu Mia explained a few of the rules that we would have to follow; wearing a head scarf & no singing or clapping. The headscarf rule was the easiest one to follow however the no singing or clapping eliminated our plans to sing either of the songs Marg had created resources for, so instead we planned to teach a game popular with our students. 

In the car on our way to the middle school campus, Ibu Mia handed us the head scarves we borrowed for the day. She also pulled out her chador which is a black face covering that ties over the jilbab and covers her entire face except for the eyes. Ibu Mia wore this only briefly; to get from the car to the girls only school building and once inside the door, she untied it and put it back in her handbag. However many of the teachers and students, instead of removing the chador when inside, flipped it over their head once inside the building, where it can be repositioned quickly should a male appear. Occasionally male teachers from the boys school teach here too. 

This campus is a boarding school where the genders are strictly segregated with only minimal & I’m  guessing, fully supervised contact between the sexes. As we only visited the female student building, we can only assume the boys building operates in exactly the same way. 

The female students’ building has 3 stories. On the bottom floor, one of the rooms was being used as a canteen and as this was the only room on this floor that we entered, I’ve no idea what the other rooms off the corridor are used for. The second floor was all dormitories for the boarding students and the top floor is currently being used as classrooms even though originally designed as dormitories. They are currently building more classrooms to meet growing enrolment numbers. 

The game ‘heads down, thumbs up’ was enormously popular, even though volunteers had to be slightly coerced!! Ibu Mia offered a house, a bike and even shopping vouchers to whoever volunteered which had us all in fits of laughter. While it relaxed them all, we still had to resort to eenie meenie minne mo to nominate volunteers. 

Due to time constraints, we only played this game with 2 classes. Other students were also keen for us to visit them, so in order to visit them all briefly in the remaining time, we didn’t play any more games, we simply invited questions however this too required coercion. After choosing a random student using eenie meenie minnie mo, if they didn’t have a question for us, we asked them a question instead. We asked about their favourite food, their hobbies, their families or their pets. Most of the questions we were asked centred around our impressions of Indonesia/ Batam (what do you like about Indonesia/ Batam?) and my ability to speak Indonesian (where did you study Indonesian?).  Once we had finished talking, we were swamped with girls asking for our signature!! We felt like movie stars!!

From this campus, Ibu Mia drove us to another campus much closer to Batam Centre. This campus caters for students from playgroup to year 12. As we parked, we noticed that young kindergarten students were being collected by parents. This campus is for day students and it was interesting that only a few of the mothers collecting their children were wearing the chador; most wore just a head scarf or jilbab (hijab), which we also put on once we got out of the car. 

As with the previous campus, just inside the door were shelves for shoes and this one also had room for motor bike helmets. It was lovely walking around on the cool tiles in bare feet. This campus was air conditioned which was gorgeous after the previous campus which purely relied on ventilation through open windows. 

Ibu Mia had included this campus in our day to give us the opportunity to work with primary aged students. After a welcome cup of tea, we were accompanied to a year 4 class where the boys sat on one side of the room and the girls on the other. No matter what we did with the class, there was a clear division between the genders; they did not mix together. When playing heads down, thumbs up, the boys only selected boys and the girls only chose girls and when guessing who had touched their thumbs, the possibility that it was someone from the opposite gender was never considered. 

We made 2 friends in this class who stuck to us like glue whenever possible and provided us with a steady stream of  drawings, letters and finally a banana each, wrapped in pastry, which by the time we ate it was a little stale but still tasty. 

The teachers at this school were incredibly welcoming and so grateful that we were happy to spend time with them. While teaching, we were filmed and observed by several teachers who stood at the back of the classroom watching us. 

While teaching, my scarf kept falling down off my head into my shoulders. It was a large square, folded into a triangle which was possibly why it kept slipping backwards. Catching my reflection while wearing the scarf made me smile each time as it totally changed my appearance!! Thankfully, the teachers encouraged me not to worry about repositioning the scarf while working with women and children. Marg’s head scarf though, was a length of material which sat perfectly over her hair and did not once slip off!! 

After our first lesson, we were ushered back into the staffroom where we were provided with a delicious lunch and beautiful mango juice!!

Meanwhile all the students also enjoyed a break from lessons. Some ate and some enjoyed the freedom to run up and down the staircase connecting the 2 floors. Also allowed in the staffroom were children belonging to staff. While we ate they either ran around or lay down together on the tiles playing on their mums phone. 

Lunch time also gave the principal and a few of the English teachers time to chat with us in English about education. I really enjoy and appreciate opportunities such as this to chat candidly about a variety of topics. 

While chatting amongst women, the chadors were lifted but were replaced when the cameras were taken out. 

Our day here finished with us talking in front of the entire school to enable everyone to have the opportunity to ask us questions. Once again the genders sat separately with the boys st the front and the girls towards the back. 

The students were very noisy and Ibu Mia had to threaten several times that we would leave if they continued to be noisy and disrespectful. Thankfully, they quietened down well before Ibu Mia counted to 3!! As we listened to the staff introducing us, we noticed that each child had a sheet of paper and a pencil in their hand. My heart dropped. How on earth were we going to provide them all with our autograph? Ibu Mia came to the rescue with a clever suggestion – class photos!! We all trooped outside and stood under the school entrance to have our photo taken with the various year levels & genders!! 

What a brilliant day. It was truly amazing having the opportunity to meet and work with the staff and students of this terrific Muslim school. We are incredibly grateful to Ibu Mia for connecting us with them and look forward to distributing the penpal letters given to us by the older students once we get back home. 

Visiting SMK1 Batam – Sekolah Ibu Mia 

We have been so fortunate that Ibu Mia organised visits to several schools while we were in Batam. With Good Friday also being a holiday here in Indonesia, we had to squeeze our school visits into 2 days which has actually worked out well. 

Our first school visit was to Ibu Mia’s own school where she is one of the English teachers as well  as the first aid officer. SMK 1 Batam has over 100 staff and 1600 students and is situated on a 5 hectare campus. Unfortunately the principal was absent the day we visited and in her place, we were warmly welcomed by 5 of the 6 deputy principals. 

After the obligatory photos in the (absent) principal’s office, where we appreciated her air conditioning, we headed out to the reception area to photograph the official presentation from our school. Our gift was graciously received by one of the deputy principals on behalf of their absent principal. 

Ibu Mia’s school is a ‘SMK’ school, which in SA we used to call a technical high school and now has more in common with the programs offered at TAFE campuses. The pathways available for students at her school include computer, automotive,  engineering, welding, architecture and megatronics. SMK schools pathways vary from school to school just as TAFE programs vary from campus to campus.  

From the 1000 who apply each year to study at SMK1 Batam, only 400 are accepted. It is a highly regarded school for students seeking training in the above courses. 

Ibu Mia invited us to work with 2 classes from her school so that they could experience interacting with native English speakers. Thus, after some deliberation, we decided to use the materials Marg had created for our partner school in Medan, even though Ibu Mia’s students are considerably older. The ‘wheels on the bus’ props were disregarded in favour of ‘Old MacDonald’ which turned out to be hugely popular with 2 of her year 10 & 11 classes. 

I was able to incorporate some TPRS circling questions which was very exciting. They responded so well which was encouraging………   Is Budi a cow? No Budi is not a cow! Is Budi a cow or a mouse? Yes, Budi is a mouse!! For this reason, we disregarded the dog prop!! Didn’t want to upset anyone by suggesting they were a dog!! I also used Jason Fritze’s idea of a rhyme like eenie, meenie, minnie, mo to select volunteers when necessary! Worked beautifully!! 

Ibu Mia then played a game where the students sang the song together and then had to guess which animal Ibu Mia was going to sing about next. Anyone who called out the incorrect answer copped a penalty. They had to sing an Indonesian children’s song in front of the whole class. Before the lesson, I had mentioned to Ibu Mia my hope to video students singing this song, so it was a clever way to achieve this!! Two students, even though very embarrassed, sang beautifully with the rest of the class joining in the chorus. 

The next class offered to sing for us in appreciation of us spending time in their class and asked for our requests. I happily requested 2 songs; firstly the song my year 6/7 students are studying at the moment: Lupa, Lupa, Ingat and then secondly ‘Aku punya anjing Kecil’. Jeffery lead the singing with the latter and did a beautiful job even though it’s no doubt been a long while since he last sang it!! Stay tuned for the video!! My plan is to collect various people singing the song throughout this trip and slice them up to create one video. 

After visiting these classes, we were taken out for lunch to a kelong restaurant which was located after the 4th bridge past the Barelang Bridge (see previous post).  The restaurant is called a kelong, and like the kelong we photographed on Bintan, floats above the sea yet is much lower to the surface of the water and obviously is a restaurant and not a fishing vessel! This kelong also rested upon enormous plastic barrels and was connected to a building (the reception) that was anchored to the ground with concrete pylons. Around the edge of the platform where customers sat to eat were several enormous ponds with their frames made from PVC and covered in netting. Each pond contained a different type of seafood from which you could choose either prawns, squid, shell fish, crabs or fish. Following Ibu Mia around while she chose what she wanted, was a young lad carrying a stack of buckets and a fishing net on a pole (think butterfly net size). Once a choice was made, he dipped his net into the water, caught the required amount and placed them into their own bucket to keep everything separated. Then the buckets were stacked inside each other to keep those that could, from escaping. 

In the very centre of the restaurant was a larger pond in which were several enormous fish (see above). There were some in this pond that looked remarkably like ugly puffer fish!! There was also a long stripped snook looking fish and a humongous barramundi shaped fish that would win any fishing competition!! All were deemed too large for eating. 

Once we’d finished choosing the seafood, we sat at our table enjoying the cool breezes and es kepala mudah (coconut water with ice) which was delivered in an enormous green esky from which we served ourselves using a ladle. The ice was delivered on the side for those of us who can tolerate icy cold drinks. 

Our dishes were carried out to our table by waitresses as they were cooked. Altogether they made a colourful display. There were ginger/chilli prawns, chilli crab, steamed fish with ginger, capcay and kai-lan in kecap manis.

A huge thankyou to to Pak Hudawi, who drove us out to the kelong and then paid for our lunch. We are especially grateful considering that he had eaten earlier and wasn’t all that hungry! 

Thankyou so much to the staff and students of SMKN 1 Batam for your enthusiastic and warm welcome. And an even bigger thankyou to the amazing and entertaining Ibu Mia for making it possible. It was truly a memorable day.  

SDN Medan 060843 – Our Partner School – Teaching Experiences

On the Monday morning, we arrived at school a little late as we had slept the night before with Ibu Elizawati who lives in Binjai, a nearby city & considered by locals, to be a long way from Medan. At 7am, while still on the road, Ibu Elizawati rang the school and told them to wait a bit longer for us!! Thus, when we arrived 30 minutes later, the entire school was waiting for us. They were all lined up in classes out on the asphalt in the sun facing the flag pole. The ceremony began the minute we stepped out of the car. The  flag raising ceremony is conducted in all Indonesian schools every Monday morning and is extremely formal. While not as polished nor as regimented as is done by high school students, the students at SDN Medan 060843 were still very impressive.  

 After the ceremony, all classes were dismissed, yet one of the junior teachers asked her students to line up and present their hands to her for a nail inspection. Once checked, they would kasih salam to her – take her hand and touch it gently to their forehead or cheek – to show/confirm their respect towards her. It is such a lovely gesture and one I’ve seen throughout Indonesia in schools and at home. One day I’m going to discover the understanding behind it.

Our days at SDN 608043 were largely spent observing teachers in their classrooms. Due to the number of classes at SDN Medan 608043, Pak Pahot put a timetable together for us to ensure that as many teachers and students as possible were given the opportunity to work with us.  

 We observed in a range of classes however the timetable often changed, sometimes with minor alterations and once with a significant change due to a public holiday  – Wednesday’s timetable was almost entirely abandoned due to the Muslim festival of Idhul Adha – which was both a relief and a disappoinment. The cancellation of lessons, meant we could get away to Danau Toba 2-3 hours earlier but it also meant over 100 students missed sharing a lesson with us – mutually disappointing. 

In each lesson, we were introduced to the class by the teacher and then greeted by the students. We would then make our way to the back of the class where inevitably there were spare chairs. This also allowed us to sit with students and chat with them while they were working. In most classes, desks were arranged into groups of 4-6 students; the back groups dominated by one or two vocal and confident students while the other group members preferred to chat &/or day dream whereas the table groups towards the front of the class had 100% student participation and involvement. Fascinating  that high achieving, capable students were seated closer to the teacher than those who obviously struggle academically and are less engaged.

Most lessons we observed were largely teacher centric. The teacher stood out the front, talked and then handed out worksheets to be completed by the students. 

Lesson blocks always began with a prayer.  

 In some classes this is lead by the teacher and in others, the ketua kelas leads. While acknowledging that some students may not be Moslem, the prayer was always Islamic.  

Then the lesson began. Here are some year 2 students demonstrating they understand the task of hefting classroom objects before working in pairs to complete a worksheet:

 One lesson we observed, the teacher instructed her student groups to collaboratively write questions about a picture representing the Indonesian motto; unity in diversity. Groups then, one by one, were instructed to share their questions with the rest of the class. Strangely, the questions were never answered, instead the teacher distributed a teacher generated comprehension sheet – complete with a passage of text and questions!

The junior primary lessons were fascinating because it demonstrated to us clearly how structured their new curriculum is. Each half semester, junior primary teachers are provided with a teacher handbook containing detailed instructions for every lesson to be taught that semester, including complete lesson plans which had to be rewritten out by hand!! Pak Pahot was questioned once because he had typed his on his lap top!! The junior primary curriculum is thematic.   


On Tuesday morning, we observed several JP lessons and each lesson followed on from the last, even though we were visiting different classes.   While visiting one classroom, we could hear the class next door doing the exact same lesson – right down to the songs!! The only difference being teacher delivery. It was fascinating.  


 Each teacher talked about the pressure of covering the content and how difficult it is given the time and the constant interruptions. 

The lesson I enjoyed the most was delivered by Ibu Ana to her year 3 class because it gave us the opportunity to interact with students while they were working. The lesson’s focus was animal features.  Ibu Ana introduced the topic, gave several examples before distributing to students a piece of paper with the picture of a different animal glued at the top. Because each animal was different, there was no copying yet students still worked collaboratively. Lovely to see capable students assisting less accademic students. Students had to identify the characteristics of their animal. One student had the picture of a bird of paradise. Only one leg could be seen so she thought that they must only have one leg!! When asked how would it walk, the penny dropped. 

I enjoyed asking individual students to tell me what features their animal had and then writing exactly what they told me before posting it on Facebook. They too got a huge kick out of it! The power of the internet!! 

 To be a successful junior primary teacher in Indonesia, it seems essential to have a powerful voice. Students are encouraged to contribute at the top of their lungs and the louder the better!! Songs were bellowed by the students with the teacher valiantly singing along too attempting to set the pace. The noise level was deafening which must be so overwhelming for students who are sensitive to noise, let alone teachers! 

After each lesson we observed, the teacher would approach us and ask for our opinion and for suggestions on how the lesson could be improved.  It was tricky being diplomatic. Marg excelled here. She acknowledged that the lessons incorporated aspects like collaboration and group discussion and then would add suggestions on how to increase student participation. Our partner school is recognised provincially as being very progressive and indeed it is yet there is still a huge reluctance by teachers to surrender control to the students. We observed an English lesson where all the language games were controlled by the teacher. Small groups of students were selected to come out the front and play the game  while the rest of the class were supposed to watch. After the lesson Marg suggested to the teacher that the games be played by students in pairs so that not only are all students participating, it saves her voice!! This teacher had the most impressive classroom management techniques. Unlike other teachers, her voice was soft and quiet and she used the teacher glare very successfully on students who weren’t istening! 

We also observed the PE teacher teach Pak Pahot’s year 5 class. He began in the classroom by explaining that they were going to learn forward rolls. They then went outside and did a warmup lap of the asphalt and some stretches before he dragged out the gym mats.  


 One by one, students were called out to do a forward roll. If a student completed a smooth forward roll, oother students cheered and if a student had difficulty, the rest of the class hooted with laughter which attracted students from a nearby class who joined the audience!! It was hot and dirty out on the asphalt and I did not envy the students! Most students sat orderly while watching, probably because sitting quietly was preferable to racing around in the hot midday heat and humidity on the asphalt!  


Lunch times at school were always spent in Ibu Erna’s office where we would be served a beautiful lunch, sometimes cooked for us by various generous staff! The food we were served was always delicious and never the same.  


In fact, towards the end of our stay, we could not do the lunches justice because the constant stream of food pressed upon us was overwhelming. Some days, we were encouraged to order for the following day!! One day a teacher approached us and announced that she wanted to coook fish for us for lunch the next day and then asked us how we wanted it cooked! 

Each morning, straight after the first bell, the school day begins with a whole school focus. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, the students grab a sheet of newspaper and a book and sit out on the asphalt  to read for about 30 minutes. Most students chose one of their school text books 

and a few brought ttheir own book from home.


The whole morning contingent of the students (there are so many students that 2 school days run consecutively – a morning shift and an afternon shift) sat on the asphalt except for the year 1’s. They stood because “they don’t know how to read yet.”   

 The supervising staff  consisted of a few class teachers, on of whom stood out the front with a microphone and several support staff. Other class teachers were either doing last minute lesson preparation or had yet to arrive to school. 

While most students were out reading, small groups of rostered students were in their classrooms cleaning. The floors were swept and mopped, the teachers desk tidied and dusted and the bins emptied.


Marg also taught. We both came prepared to teach but for several reasons this only happened formally once. Firstly their teachers were very keen to be observed and secondly we were constricted by my lack of voice. My laryngitis was very frustrating. The more I used my voice the worse it got. Luckily when Marg taught her lesson about Australian animals, the English teacher was in the room and helped with translations. Marg was also given a few minutes at the end of an  English lesson after helping to lead in the singing of 

Marg then led them in her choice of song – heads & shoulders. 


Welcome to Sekolah Dasar 060843 Medan

From the airport to Pak & Ibu’s school, it took Pak Pahot 1 hour to drive. Just before we arrived, Ibu Eliza phoned to update the principal of our imminent arrival. We drove into the school grounds and ready waiting for us was a group of about 6 girls dressed in traditional clothing complete with makeup. They looked gorgeous and each was holding a piece of beautiful length of material identical to the one Pak Pahot & Ibu Eliza presented out school with. No sooner than we had got out of the car, than hundreds of students streamed out into the school yard from their classrooms laughing and chattering excitedly to greet us. Pak Pahot insisted that they kasih salam as we were inundated with the throng of youngsters. They all clamored for our attention and held out their right hand to us while we one by one offered our right hand to each in turn so that they could place it on their forehead or cheek. 


The welcome dance then began which we thoroughly enjoyed and tried to take photos which would do it justice.    

We were then ushered into the staff room and invited to sit in the chairs out the front while the staff and invited guests sat in chairs in front of us. Seated with us out the front were various people from the education department, 2 representatives from their parent committee, the principal and staff. 

Once everyone had sat down, bottles of water were handed out  

 and special guests were also offered a plate of lupis – a local cake made from glutinous rice which was boiled in a banana leaf and then a brown sugar syrup was drizzled before sprinkling grated fresh coconut over the top. It was absolutely delicious and just what we needed as all we’d eaten that day was a tiny packet of peanuts. While not hungry, we appreciated it as it put something in our stomachs!  
 Ibu Elizawati began the welcome ceremony by explaining about the Bridge Project and then invited Masrul Badry, (kepala bidang pendidikan dasar, dinas pendidikan kota Medan) to speak. He spoke about the new curriculum which is currently only being used by a few schools while the other schools are still using the old 2004 curriculum. The new curriculum is only being implemented by schools who have chosen to do so and schools like Ibu Eliza’s who have been nominated to trial it by department; an honor they are reluctant to refuse! Pak Masrul then spoke about the importance of ICT in education and how we are living in a global world now where we are all connected by the internet. Once he was finished talking, the microphone was passed to me and I introduced both Ibu Margaret and myself and spoke briefly about our school before inviting questions! The silence that greeted this offer made me suddenly doubt the wisdom of asking for questions, but then one of the governing council members asked me about the ages of our students and once that question was asked, more followed in quick succession. They were fascinated learning about the specialist subjects, our timetable, the fact we have no canteen, the new curriculum, 

Once there were no more questions, the microphone was handed back to Ibu Elizawati and she introduced the entertainment. We first watched a performance by 3 drama students reciting a very nationalistic poem about Indonesia’s independence, then next was an ‘orchestra‘ of 50 students who played a cool song with angklungs, air organs and a group of boys played drum on the desk top. It was a fabulous performance

The final performance was also entertaining. A young boy told a kancil story via wayang made from cardboard. It was excellent, especially as we are learning a kancil story next term with the junior primary students. 

Once the performances were finished, we were invited to have lunch in the principals office. It was a very fancy and very delicious nasi bungkus in a box. It included urap (vegetables in spicy coconut), fried chicken, spicy sweet tempeh, a cup of water, a potato pergedel, a banana and a tiny bag of delicious stock which I poured over my rice.  

 After lunch Pak Pahot took us on a tour of the afternoon classrooms. Most junior classes consist of over 30 students!! Just about all the classes we dropped in to visit were year 3’s. Some classes were well behaved and polite and others were so excited to see us we were once again mobbed. One class was without their teacher and quite unruly. Some were in the classroom and some were out on the verandah. They wanted to follow us but Pak Pahot told them to return to class and wait for their teacher. The very next class we visited, we met their teacher who was unabashedly enjoying a chinwag. Pak Pahot informed her that her students were misbehaving so she left briefly to tell them to get back in the classroom and then quickly returned to resume her conversation!!

Soon afterwards, school finished so we too headed off. Pak Pahot informed us that we would be staying the first night with the principal, Ibu Erna Julia. As it was still early afternoon, they decided to show us a few local sights before dropping us at her house. We firstly went to the port, a popular destination for locals on a Sunday. A section of the port has been set up as an entertainment area with a huge eating area looking out towards a stage built out over the water and protected by a breakwater. Beyond the break water were several fishing ships anchored side by side so closely together the crew could walk from one to the other easily.  

 Soon after we arrived, the boats separated and motored off to sea for the nights catch. The breeze here was welcome after the still hot humidity at the school which is situated in a built up area on a busy main road. From here we visited a nearby school where Pak Pahot taught many years ago. We parked by the side of a very rocky dusty road in the process of being steamrolled. Even the steam roller struggled on this road!  

 As we walked to the school, Pak Pahot was greeted warmly by both teenagers and adults who recognised him. All were delighted to see him again. He loved catching up with past students and hearing what they’ve been up to. His school was up a narrow road which ran alongside remnants of a mangrove with several large wooden boats in various stages of disrepair moored in the mud.  


 The houses were all made from planks of wood and on stilts yet the school was built from bricks however it too was looking very shabby and neglected. While it was much smaller than Pak Pahot’s current school, he said there are over 1000 students and they have classes of 60 students! He also told us that at high tide, the sea comes into the school and that students once had to stand on their tables, it was so deep!  

 Nearby was a place selling ‘fresh’ seafood. It was tucked at the back of another narrow road in a large wooden building backing onto the mangroves. Inside were several young men relaxing who happily showed us all tubs of various sized prawns, crabs and a few squid kept fresh with a huge block of ice in each tub. Goodness only knows when they were caught! After bargaining a price, Pak Pahot bought 2 kilos of prawns  

 and then we returned to the car before heading to Ibu Erna Julia’s house with a brief stop along the way to buy crabs sold by people standing on the side of the road. Apparently the crabs had been caught in the river behind them! While the crabs were still alive, I wondered how long it had been since they were caught. 

We arrived at Ibu Erna Julia’s house,  

 our bags unloaded and shortly afterwards, Pak Pahot headed home. 

Ibu Erna Julia and her 2 daughters live in a tiny compact house consisting of 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, a sitting room and a kitchen.  

 A tiny outside area out the back (just visible towards the back of the kitchen area) fits in their washing machine!! 

The first thing we did after Pak Pahot left was enjoy a mandi with freezing water that was very refreshing before lying down briefly in the air conditioned bedroom. So lovely to finally have a chance to enjoy a quiet rest before a delicious dinner which was delivered by a younger sister!

Stay Tuned – Heading off again soon….

In 4 weeks, I will be heading off again to Indonesia and I am sooooo looking forward to it. As usual, this trip will include visiting a mixture of familiar and unfamiliar Indonesian cities.  My travel partner will be Ibu Margaret and we will be traveling to Medan, (Sumatra Utara), Jakarta & Yogyakarta with the Bridge Project.

We plan to fly to Medan via Kuala Lumpur, which will be a totally new point of entry into Indonesia for both of us.  Our time in Medan is to provide us with an opportunity to visit our partner school so that we can meet the staff & students. We also will be able to evaluate the completed student projects and plan for new ones. We met Pak Pahot and Ibu Elizawati, from our partner school,  earlier in the year when they enjoyed a visit to our school and were able to meet our staff and students.



After Medan (will we have enough time to ‘pop’ down and see Danau Toba??), we fly to Jakarta where we join up with a group of Australian teachers for a study tour. The study tour includes visiting places of significance both in Jakarta & Jogyakarta. The tour finishes in Yogya, so Ibu Margaret and I will remain there for a few days where we will have hopefully enough time to complete any last minute planning with Pak Pahot & Ibu Elizawati while still in Indonesia (Skype & cultural exchange projects) as well as joining one or two Via Via cultural tours.

At this stage we hope to return to Jakarta by train!!

What do you think???

Perternakan Babi di Bali – Pig Husbandry in an Eastern Balinese Village

I worked on this video with Kadek for just about the entire time I have been in Indonesia. Every time I returned to Pengeragoan, (Jembrana) we would work on it a little bit more. It is finally finished, after much editing and ‘gotong royong’ (collaboration). The text was written by Kadek and her daughter Putu Ari and then narrated by Kadek; no mean feat as she was also dealing with her young son who didn’t enjoy sitting still and quiet while we were recording!