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.  

The Sights of Medan City

Each afernoon, Pak Pahot, Ibu Erna, Ibu Ana & one of the superintendents. would take us to see various obyek parawisata – places of interest to tourists- in Medan and each evening we accepted an invitation from a different staff member to visit their house for dinner. Our week in Medan was a whirlwind of activities, all thoroughly enjoyable. Here is our schedule as created by Pak Pahot first thing Monday morning, the only time that week  when it felt that a week would be long enough to achieve our intended goals. 

In fact our schedule was so busy that each day, there was at least one thing that we missed because we ran out of time! 

Enjoy this taste of Medan:

Istana Maimun – The Maimun Palace

The Istana was built from 1887 – 1891 for the Sultan and his family and they still live here today! It is a mixture of Malay, Spanish, Italian and Indian architecture. 


Outside the palace was a  place of significance and the source of a local legend. Apparently the brother of a past Sultan turned himself into a cannon during an important battle. During the battle, the cannon fired constantly, so much so, that the metal began to glow red hot and eventually split in half.  The remaining section is housed in a small out building. There is a hole on the canon and we were all encourageed to put our ear to it. While Marg & I could hear the sea, Ibu Ana heard a river!! 


The Medan Mesjid Raya  – The main mosque in Medan

Built in 1906 and took only 3 years to build. While designed by a Saudi architect, the materials used in the build were sourced from all over the world and include Italian marble and German glass for the windows. From the back verandah of the mosque, we looked out over the various graves of past and present Sultan’s family members. 


Pasar Medan – The Medan Market

In the heart of Medan is an enormous market divided into 2 sections.  On one side is the older traditional market and on the other side, the more recently built addition. We only had time to briefly visit the older part and that was amazing.Definitely somewhere I could spend hours pottering around. We began by looking at the tables piled high with large bags of various items in bulk that could be used for oleh oleh (souvenirs) or  as the thankyou gifts I’ve seen handed out to guests on their arrival at a wedding reception. There were fans, pens, purses and keyrings just to mention a few. We toyed with getting a bag of cute pens that folded up into a large capsule shape but in the end didn’t because nothing on the tables were specifically from Medan.  

Here are the only 2 photos I took! Once I got engrossed, I forgot to take anymore! The first shows bowls of freshly made spice mixes. Thje idea of being able to buy the spices already measured and prepared appeals to me greatly. Imagine being able to buy spices for an Indonesian dinner party!! The second photo show the many different grades of small fish (ikan teri) available. The range in size was astounding. 

For the other sights, read the earlier post about our first day in Medan. 

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. 


The Wonderful Staff & Students from SMKN 29, Jakarta

The morning azan (call to prayer) woke me early this morning at 4:15am. The mosque is just across the road but surprisingly the azan isn’t too loud. I jumped out of bed and had a quick mandi because I needed time to write out a long hand copy of my speech that I had written on my ipad yesterday. On Monday, during the staff meeting, the principal asked me to speak at one of the apel ceremonies while I am here and today was the day. Every morning at SMKN 29, students ‘apel’ on the basketball court. This ceremony is a brief assembly for staff and students to gather and listen to a motivating talk before the day begins. Being late for apel has serious consequences however with the terrible traffic in Jakart, I am surprised there isn’t a bigger group each morning! The classes line up on the basketball court, all exactly an arms width apart. They stand ‘at ease’ (arms behind their back & legs apart) until the ceremony begins and then they stand with legs together and hands by their side. It is very regimented. There is one student who is the ‘pemimpin’ (leader) of the ceremony who tells everyone what to do by calling out the orders. ‘Hormat, gerak’ means ‘salute’ and ‘istirahat’ means at ease & ‘siap’ means stand at attention.
Before we left for our one and a half hour journey to school this morning, I had only managed to write out 3/4 of my speech. I then jumped on the back of Bu Valentina’s motorbike and we zig zagged through the back streets (jalan tikus) of her housing estate because of roadworks. We passed an Indonesian Fried Chicken sign complete with an Indonesian “colonel’, several men pulling carts full of recyclables that they have sourced from various rubbish areas (pemulung), people setting up their stalls (warungs) and even though the sun hasn’t risen fully yet, hundreds of motorbikes! At the train station, we hopped off the bike in the parking lot and raced off to the train platform, leaving the bike for the men there to park in neat rows up to 5 rows deep. We passed a lady sitting on the ground with a large bucket of freshly made, warm soy milk (susu kedelai) in front of her. We bought 2 tiny bags each (Rp 2000 each) and a straw which she bagged.20131107-102102.jpgWe paid for them quickly and then rushed to the platform because the bells were ringing to warn us of our imminent train. There were hundreds of people already on the platform. As the train came to a stop, everyone pushed towards the door closest to them like a mob of sheep. How we all squeezed in, I have no idea but thankfully Bu Valentina suggested we headed to the end of the carriage where for some reason it wasn’t quite so crowded. We threw our bags up onto the racks because it is safer, reduces the opportunity for pick pockets to take anything! Quite an odd feeling to relinquish my bag and have it sitting up high on the shelf away from me. But it truly was safer because if anyone touched the bags they would be totally visible to everyone! I enjoyed the luxury of being able to reach a handle and stand swaying with the motion of the carriage safely. However at the next station, more people squeezed in and I was forced to move closer to Bu Valen and in doing so had to grab a new handle. This handle was just above a man’s head so I couldn’t relax any longer or I would have ended up knocking his peci off his head! He somehow read the paper while swaying back and forwards! At the next station even more people squeezed in and by this time, we were all totally truly packed in. In preparation to get off at the next station, we had to retrieve our bags yet there was now several people between us and our bags, yet they happily helped us, even the man reading the newspaper, took a short break to reach over and grab Bu Valentina’s bag for her. Those of us getting off at the next station somehow jostled closer to the door which was no mean feat in such a crowded train. At the station the doors opened and I soon realised that the train driver didn’t align the doors with the mobile steps and there was a meter high drop down to the platform. Thank goodness today I wore slacks! I jumped down and turned back to help Bu Valentina and then we joined the droves of people queueing to exit the station. With the new train station, we now have to exit through turn styles using our prepaid card. Only 2 turn styles were open so it took a while for the enormous queue to move through. We then headed out onto the street and flagged down a bajaj. Once Bu Valen had negotiated the price, we jumped in the back and finally relaxed. We sat back and watched the scenery as we opened our soy milk savouring the warm milk. It was so delicious and just right after the freezing morning air from my motorbike ride and the incredibly cold air conditioning on the train. Such a lovely lull before we arrived at school.
At school we were dropped off at the front gate and we headed into the front office, shaking hands with staff that we encountered along the way. Bu Valentina greeted them with ‘Assalam Walaikum’ (peace be with you) while I greeted them with ‘Good Morning’. Since I am here as a ‘native speaker’, teachers get a real kick out of practicing their English with me. Students that we passed though, gently grasped our right hand and pressed it to their forehead in respect. We headed towards the staff room where I quickly finished writing out my speech and then changed out of my slacks into my long skirt. Much more appropriate for teaching! I wore slacks for the motorbike leg of my morning journey to school. Out on the basketball court, all the students were already lined up with the ketua kelas (class leader/captain) at the front and the 3 kommandens (one for each year level) standing with their year levels. Pak Husin, the principal, motioned for me to stand at the front of one of the teacher lines and before I knew it the ceremony began. A student MC announced the start with the words, ‘The apel for the 7th of November, 2013 will start immediately’. The ceremony pembina (me this time) was announced and I walked out to the podium below the flag pole. She then called the ceremony student pemimpin to come to the front which he did by marching and then did a smart turn to face the students. He then shouted the order for the 3 komandan’s to report to him. The 3 komandan’s took a loud step and then ran to him where they each reported briefly and formally that their students were all ready to start the ceremony. After an extremely formal about face, they each retuned to their spot. The pemimpin, then turned about and marched to just in front of me. He told me that everyone was ready to begin to which I replied ‘Laksanakan’ meaning, “Let the ceremony begin!” He then returned to his position just in front of the students and commanded all students to stand at attention, and then they were then ordered to salute me. I had to return the salute, which I did while looking from right to left to ensure I faced the entire group of staff and students. As soon as I finished my salute, the pemimpin then ordered them to cease saluting and return to standing at attention. The same again was done to salute the flag except this time I joined in on the salute. The student MC then invited me to speak, which I did and here it is:

Good morning Mr Husin, Staff and Students,
Saya senang sekali karena berada di SMKN 29 sekali lagi! Pada Hari Senin dan kemarin saya beruntung karena diberi kesempatan masuk kelas Bahasa Ingris. Murid murid yg bisa saya bertemu langsung dalam pelajaran B.I., sungguh sangat semangat. Karena jarang mendengar a native English speaker, baru saya mulai berbicara, walaupun susah sekali dipahami, mereka semua tidak mudah menyerah dan sedikit demi sedikit, mereka tambah mengerti apa yg saya sampaikan. Hebat sekali! Saya sangat terkesan!
Pada kesempatan ini, saya akan menceritakan sebuah cerita dari Australia. Judulnya: The Ant and The Grasshopper (Si Semut dan Si Belalang).
Pada sesuatu hari pada musim panas, si Belalang bermain dan berdansa karena cuaca panas, makanan serangga banyak dan oleh karena itu dia merasa senang sekali. Tiba tiba dia melihat banyak semut yg berkerja keras dan dia heran. Dia mendekati semut itu supaya bisa bertanya, “Kenapa kalian bekerja keras hari ini? Cuaca hari ini sangat bagus dan jauh lebih cocok untuk main main. Ayo, ikut bermain!” Si semut berjawab, “Kami bekerja keras karena harus menyiapkan untuk besok, bagaimana kalau cuaca berubah? Menjadi jelek?” Si Belalang langsung tertawa dan mulai menggoda semut karena mereka tidak mau ikut bermain. Tetapi, semut semut tidak memperhatikan sama sekali, dan melanjutkan pekerjaannya. Besoknya, cuaca memang merubah. Hujan deras, suhunya dingin, dan anginnya kencang. Si Belalang kelaparan, kedinginan dan merasa sangat sedih sedangkan semut semut puas di sarangnya.

Cerita ini menjelaskan kepada kita bahwa walaupun kita ingin santai terus, lebih bermanfaat kalau selalu rajin supaya selalu siap. Kalau malas, kalau selalu main main dgn teman, pasti besoknya ada konsequense. Harus rajin sekarang supaya besok berhasil. Mudah mudahan kalian semua sebagai semut ya, bukan belalang! Lebih bagus rajin sekarang supaya besok bisa santai dan puas.

Sekarang ada hubungan sister school anatara SMKN 29 dan sekolah saya, Port Elliot Primary School, di Australia dan saya harap besok besok,rombongan murid dan guru dari sekolah ini akan berkunjung sekolah saya di Australia, seperti Pak Asep dan Bu Valentina tahun lalu. Melalui program ini, ada kesempatan belajar tentang kebudayan dan bahasa negara lain apalagi kesempatan pertukaran guru dan murid. Luar biasa kalau staff dan murid di port elliot primary bisa mengucapkan Selamat Datang kepada rombongan dari SMKN 29. S aya juga harap saya bisa kembali lagi ke sekolah ini mendamping rombongan guru dan murid dari sekolah saya.
Berarti, tetap semangat, tetap rajin seperti Si semut dan mudah mudahan bisa kertemu besok besok sekali lagi okay?
Kalau ada kesalahan, mohon maaf.
terima kasih

I was encouraged to include information about our sister school connection and it’s benefits as well as encouraging the students to be ‘semangat’ (enthusiastic) about their learning. Do you think I achieved that?

When I first started speaking, I was so nervous! My right leg shook so badly! Thank goodness I was wearing a long skirt! Also every time I looked up to make eye contact with my audience, I lost my place, so after a while I just concentrated on my speech and by the time I started telling them the Aesop’s story of the ant and the grasshopper (sorry to the purists, I know it isn’t an Australian story!!) , I finally found myself relaxing and my leg finally stopped shaking! In no time at all, I finished my speech. The audience kindly applauded me! The MC then invited the pemimpin to finish the ceremony. He did so by requesting my permission, which I gave with the word, “Bubarkan” meaning to disband. The ceremony finished and the staff all came over and congratulated me on my speech and shook my hand warmly. I was so relieved it was over because it meant I could then relax. What an amazing experience and even though I was terrified and regretted agreeing to be the ‘pembina’, it actually was the perfect way to speak directly to all staff and students about the sister school program very generally as well as explaining to them all exactly who I am and why I was at their school this week. Consequently, students now make a beeline to me to show their respect whether I have met them or not!

After the ceremony was finished, Bu Valentina organised for me to teach in 2 classes before morning recess. Both classes were a kelas 3 (year 12) and as I hadn’t met them yet, I stuck with a lesson that came together yesterday. On Monday, my first day here, I joined 3 English teachers in the classroom and it quickly became obvious that they were not comfortable teaching in front of me. Two of them basically begged me to take the class while Bu Yanti was the only one brave enough to continue her lesson with me in the room.

20131115-161110.jpgSo the following day, I was determined to have something up my sleeve. I wrote out a quick paragraph about myself making sure I included both past, present and future tense as that seems to be what classes are focusing on at the moment. This paragraph was what I used for my lessons this morning. After being greeted formally by the students led by the ‘ketua kelas’ and then introduced to the class by the English teacher (one teacher got a bit muddled and introduced me as the Australian President of Teachers!- WOW!) and then I began my lesson which went something like this:
I first greeted them with ‘Good Morning’ and then asked them ‘How are you this morning?’ My Australian accent took some getting used to and at first I had a lot of blank looks on the faces before me but once we got going they started to nod as they understood more and more of what I was saying. It was also extremely useful being able to speak Indonesian. If they looked puzzled, I would ask them to translate what I had just said into Indonesian by breaking up the sentence into short phrases. I tried not to translate for them, so that they didn’t zone out during the English while waiting for the Indonesian! I explained to them that I was going to read something to them and they needed to listen carefully because afterwards we would play a game based on what they have just listened to. One class immediately got out their pens and paper but after some quick mental deliberation, I told them to put them away as I wanted them to focus on the skill of listening. I read out my script very slowly with no translation and at the end asked them if they wanted me to read it again. Every single class eagerly took me up on this offer. I found that the second read through was the most successful as their nervousness had lessened slightly and they could concentrate on listening. I then explained the game heads & tails – I will make a statement based on what I had just narrated and if it is true, the students have to put their hands on their head however if the statement is false, they have to put their hands on their ‘tails’. Whoever got it wrong had to sit down and the last person standing was the winner. The game explanation needed lots of repetition and student help to translate it but they all got it in the end and we did a demo run with the statement, “Canberra is the capital city of Australia”. In only one class, did the majority of students know that this statement was true! I also tried the following statement, “Bu Valentina comes from South Sumatra” and for this I had 100% of the students know this to be false (she comes from West Sumatra), I wonder how many of my students would know where I come from! A noticeable and interesting difference between Western (Australian) culture and Indonesian culture! I then played the game with questions like, I teach at a high school, My grandmother used to be a teacher” & My daughter is coming to Indonesia next week. The last student standing was presented with a koala keychain (again thanks to Marg!) which was hugely popular.

Depending on how much time I had (if it was a single or double lesson) I would play the game again several times before introducing the students to Monti.20131107-125812.jpgContinuing in English, I explained that I had brought Monti with me from PEPS and he is one of many soft toys I use in the classroom with my JP students. They identified correctly (& easily) that he is an orangutan and could even tell me that we can tell he isn’t a monkey because he doesn’t have a tail! I then asked them to tell me where Monti lives. I wrote their suggestions on the board – Kalimantan, jungle and then asked them to give some describing words to add to jungle and we came up with large, green and vast. At this point I introduced them to the word enormous which was unfamiliar to them! I then asked them to put all those ideas into a sentence which they did impressively. Once they had the idea, I asked them to write a paragraph about Monti in the first person and I gave them a time limit, 5 minutes. In explaining the concept of first person, I gave further suggestions they could include like favourite food, family etc. After the 5 minutes were up, I asked them to count their words and write the number in a circle. This totally perplexed them however as soon as we broke the sentence down, they realised they knew each of the words I was using!

20131109-091804.jpg After the time was up, I invited a student to read out their writing and as you can probably guess, nobody volunteered eagerly. In each class one student eventually agreed to read their writing and instead of focusing on the content which was largely fine, I instead acknowledged the courage it took to get up and face the class to share their writing. I shared with them how I feel in Indonesia using Indonesian all the time (this in Indonesian to push home my point) where I constantly make mistakes and am always feeling embarrassed yet instead of going home and giving up, I persevere and hope that my Indonesian is enough that they understand my meaning at least. I firmly believe that a successful language student must have courage and not worry about making mistakes. Consequently I handed out to the one student in each class who was prepared to share their writing with us all, the final koala keyring. Just before the bell, I thanked the class and told them how much I loved spending time with them. The last class, I added, “You’re a great bunch of students” which lead instantly to a final impromptu mini lesson about the double meaning of ‘great’!

After my first 2 lessons, I returned to the staff room for breakfast. As the school day here at SMKN 29 starts at 7am, and as most staff travel a long time to get to school, we each bring breakfast and eat it at school between lessons. Bu Valentina organises my lunch box which is always a mixture of last nights yummy left overs topped up with freshly cooked vegetables. The first few days I didn’t get around to eating my breakfast until 10am, which was very odd as at home I would be starting to think about recess! Today though, was better as I was able to eat in at the more reasonable hour of 8am.

Another interesting food fact is that staff here have lunch provided. There is a staff canteen area where a lady and her husband each day cook food that is then laid out buffet style for staff to serve themselves. Some days it is absolutely packed in there but today there was hardly anyone and a few even came in and when they saw what was available decided to head out and buy their lunch at a nearby warung. I don’t know what the problem was! Lunch was boiled eggs in sambal, a tempeh and bean dish as well as fried tofu. Admittedly it wasn’t the tastiest meal I have ever had, but it certainly was filling! Because there were so few there, I got a great photo of Pak Asep & Bu Valentina in the canteen. (See NB below)

After lunch, Bu Valentina opened the multi media room for me to sit in and revive. The multi media is a large air conditioned room used mainly for staff meetings. It has 6 long tables arranged in rows facing the front where up on a podium is a matching long table facing in the opposite direction because that is where the principal and vice principals sit whereas the other tables are for staff. There are 5 air conditioners which are on almost 27/7 because of the expensive technology in this room. There is a data projector, a large flat screen wall mounted TV, a loud-speaker system and then behind the head table is a large open cupboard in which plaques and several airplane models are displayed. For most of the time, the multi media room is empty, so it was a lovely cool, quiet spot to sit. I enjoyed having some time to focus without interruptions to write this blog. Absolute bliss. At 1:50pm, I had just finished when students started pouring into the room followed by Bu Valentina. She explained that as their classroom is on the top (3rd) floor of the furtherest building, she thought it might be more comfortable to hold this last lesson in the multi media room. It was a brilliant idea however as it doesn’t have a white board, I asked if there was another spare room nearby. Bu Valentina then had another brilliant idea – use the English Language laboratory. I had been meaning to ask to have a look at the language laboratory, so was delighted to get a chance to teach in there. Wow, what an amazing resource! I now want to watch a lesson being taught in it to see how it all comes together. Language laboratories have come a long way since I last used one as a student at teachers college! My last lesson was just like the others and once again Bu Valentina recorded my lesson to use as a teaching resource for English teachers. At the end of the lesson, Bu Valentina asked the students to tear out the page they had worked on and then on the back of the page, write a a comment about my lesson. Later when we looked at the comments, I was blown away with how much they had enjoyed my lesson! The comments were all so complimentary, I was overwhelmed with how successful my lesson had been.
Here are a couple of the flattering comments I received: *I like study with Mrs Katie. She teach with interactive language. She very discipline when teaching her students. And she give the gifts for brave students. M. Mardiansyah
* Terima kasih telah berkunjung ke Indonesia. Saya sangat suka gaya mengajar anda karena itu sangat baik, bagus dan menyenangkan. Dan terima kasih juga dengan hadiahnya. Fajar Aditama
*In my opinion: I’m very glad to study with Mrs Cathy and she is amazing. She can speak Bahasa Indoneisa very well. Dicky nur R.
*Belajar dengan Bu Chaty sangat asik tapi sedikit agak tegang karena saya tidak lancar berbahasa Inggris, dan pembelajaran sangat asik dengan game2nya yang sangat seru. Dia memberi motivasi yang sangat bagus bagi kita semua. Salam buat pelajar di Australia. Akhmad Farhan

My lessons with the students at SMKN 29 were a blast and they truly all are a great bunch! Today is my last day here at SMKN 29 and there are no lessons tomorrow because students will receive their mid-semester report before having a very early dismissal!

NB Once again I am having camera download issues! Unfortunately I can’t add any photos from my camera at this time (only from my ‘camera roll’) but as soon as I can, I will add them in, so stay tuned!

Morotai to Ternate via Halmahera – The Final Chapter

After out history tour of Morotai, we headed straight to the ferry dock to organise transport to Tobela, North Halmahera. We added our names to the list of people also waiting, and as we were a group of 4, it seemed that we only needed a few more to make it worthwhile for the boat captain to head off. It took about half an hour before a few others arrived at the dock, so it was 4:30 before we headed off. >

20131105-095012.jpgThe boat we all piled in was a speedboat with 2 engines so it flew across the water but because of the engines, it was impossible to have a conversation. To get into the cabin, we had to bend low as the ceiling was no more than 1.5m high. At the front were some seats facing forward, however Ichal grabbed the seats facing inwards at the back where the boats up and down motion would be more tolerable. All in all, the boat would have fitted about 12 people comfortably and we ended up with 11. With the constantly up and down motion, it was difficult to sleep however everyone else managed to at least doze. I sat there enjoying a packet of garlic flavoured peanuts while watching the colours across the sea changing as the sun set behind the mountains on Halmahera. It was absolutely beautiful however getting a photo of it was not so easy. With the constant motion of the boat, trying to fit my camera to capture it through a tiny window and then my camera battery showed that it was almost empty. 20131105-092745.jpg
It took 2 hours exactly to get from Morotai to Tobela where we were met by friends and family of Bu Esty. Ichal & Salfa grabbed a bento while Bu Esty & I jumped on the back on the 2 motorbikes ridden by her cousins. Luckily it was still just light so I could see where we were going. It was great to finally experience Tobela and get an idea of what it looks like. Bu Esty and Ichal often speak about it and I had no idea where it was. Nothing like experiencing something to make it finally resonate. After dinner, Bu Esty headed out to visit her grandmother while I enjoyed a mandi and an early night, so that I would be ready for our 4am start the next morning.
Bu Esty had us in fits of laughter the next day in the car while driving to Sofifi, the capital city of North Maluku, telling us about her visit to her elderly grandmother. She told us that her grandmother had suddenly became bashful when Bu Esty asked to take her photo. First she insisted that someone find her false teeth which she had only just bought. Then on looking at the photo, she decided her hair was too messy so she then insisted someone find her a jilbab (head cover). Only then was she happy with the photo, now that her teeth were in and her hair covered!
The trip to Sofifi from Tobelo took 4 hours however we broke the journey in half and stopped in Malifut, where Bu Esty’s younger brother lives with his wife and 2 children. As soon as I saw him, I recognised him from my first visit to Ternate.

20131105-100246.jpgWhile everyone else raced to the toilet, Ichal & I headed off to see the Japanese Shipwreck which is just off the beach at Malifut.20131105-093213.jpg20131105-093306.jpg
It was a perfect time of day with the sea turning golden with the rising sun and the sky all shades of purple. The steel on the ship was plundered recently much to the locals disgust because they have great plans to develop bungalows and cafes on the the beachfront. I think the plans are over ambitious and slightly unrealistic as to get to Malifut, tourists would have to travel via Ternate which is also struggling to attract the numbers of tourists it dearly desires.

Ichal was delighted to be back in Malifut as he lived here for 3 months when he was in primary school. However, conflict between the Muslims and the Christians, meant Ichal & his family retreated to Ternate where he finished his schooling. We passed through a Christian village where an enormous church was being built however the most noticeable thing about this area was the huge number of dogs. In the muslim area, I rarely saw a dog and then suddenly there were packs of them roaming the roads and each house seemed to have at least 5 in the front yard. Ichal likes dogs as much as he likes crocodiles, so I could see him twitching nervously as we passed through that village!
After a delicious coffee break including freshly deep fried battered bananas, we hit the road again and watched the scenery lighten with the sunrise. We passed several interesting points along the way. One was a small waterfall.

20131105-094036.jpgSoon after we arrived, a man driving a ute pulled up and positioned his ute so that he could connect a long PVC pipe into the waterfall and then ran it into the water tank on the back of his ute. Bu Esty explained that people order water from him and this is where he sources it.

Here are some more photos from the drive:


We also passed several mining operations. Here is the entrance to a gold mine where one of my followers works!

The most interesting thing we saw though was a family working hard to process cassava in desa Toniku. We stopped the car so that we could go in and investigate.

20131105-094257.jpgThey had a piece of material stretched between 4 poles and resting in the middle of the material hammock was grated cassava.

They ran well water through it over and over again.

The collected water will be filtered to make popeda, the traditional food of North Maluku and looks just like glue, and the cassava pulp will also be processed abd then taken to market. Bu Esty and I had fun joining them trying our hand at squeezing the water out of the grated cassava. It was like making mud for mudpies! We got flecks of cassava all up and down our arms and up our legs! So much fun.


We arrived into Sofifi and after paying a very quick visit to the Governors office,

we headed straight to the dock where Bu Esty organised our boat back to Ternate. We arrived in time that we were able to board the boat straight away and soon we were off leaving Halmahera behind us. This boat had 3 engines and while much faster than the previous speed boat, was also that much more noisier too.

20131105-095401.jpg Ichal told me to sit right at the back this time which was outside the cabin and in front of the three engines. While waiting for the fares to be collected, we sat there breathing in the fumes of the engines and the fuel which sat in containers just underneath. The last passenger to get on was a young lady who as soon as she boarded, collapsed into the seat next to me. Once we got going, it was obvious she was not comfortable traveling by boat. She spent most of the trip with one hand on her stomach and the other gripping my arm! For me, the tip didn’t take long at all and in no time at ill it seemed that we were pulling up into Ternate.

What a whirlwind yet amazing trip. Looking back over what we accomplished and how much of North Maluku I saw, it was hard to believe we were only away for a day and a half!
Once again, a huge thank you to Ibu Esty for this fantastic opportunity whereby I was able to see more of the beautiful North Maluku.

Welcoming Home To North Maluku The Faithful From Their Mecca Pilgrimage

On our way out this morning to get our tickets for our boat trip to Morotai, an island to the north of Halmahera, we passed through a traffic jam which Bu Esty explained were the welcoming families for those from North Maluku who have just returned home from their trip to Mecca. There were cars lined up on either side of the road and people standing waiting outside the gates of the Walikota Office. 20131031-202954.jpg
We drove past to the shipping office to buy our tickets for the 10am fast boat only to discover that it became the 12noon boat so that the Mecca travelers returning home to Morotai wouldn’t miss the boat. So as we had 2 unexpected hours to kill, we returned to the gates of the Kantor Walikota so I could witness the reception and for Bu Esty could participate in the reception to welcome home her uncle and aunt who were members of the group.
The travelers had flown earlier in the day and had been transported by what looked like 5 buses to the Kantor Walikota so that the Gubenor (equivalent to our state premiers) could welcome them home formally after their holy pilgrimage.

We followed the crowd to the left hand gate only to discover that the crowd had just been told that the right hand gate would be opened. The families were really annoyed to have been given the wrong information and made their way angrily, pushing and shoving, to get to the open gate to welcome their friends and family. There was a lot of emotion in the air and I think it was due to the fact that the trip to Mecca is a hugely significant and momentous event for Muslims and also because most of the travellers were parents or elderly relatives. The families were so relieved that not only had they had completed the pilgrimage which is quite arduous and requires for most, a decent level of fitness, but also because they had made it home safe and sound. However as soon as we got to the correct gate we all discovered that the earlier thunderstorms had created an enormous puddle just in front of it.

As the Mecca pilgrims were all wearing white and their best shoes, many sons and nephews went to their rescue and piggy backed them over the puddle.



Suddenly Bu Esty pointed out her uncle; he was the tallest man in the group which was lucky for me as I could spot who she was pointing at!

20131101-062510.jpgCan you see him standing towards the back? When we finally caught up with him and his wife, Bu Esty grasped first her uncles and then her Aunt’s right hand and pressed it to her forehead in respect for their seniority and the holy journey they have just completed and then gave them each a hug while pressing one cheek to theirs and then the other cheek on the other cheek, while simultaneously taking a gentle yet deep breathe in, hence explaining why the word for kiss in Indonesian literally means ‘to smell’.


We then headed to the boat at 11am to ensure we got good seats on the bottom level however the Gubenor’s speeches must have dragged on as it was 1:30pm before they finally got to the dock and we could leave for Morotai. Unfortunately this late departure means we will arrive into Morotai after dark as it is a 5 hour trip by fast boat!