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Return Flight Part 4: Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Fremont-Oakland hills

A view out my window of the hills east of Fremont and Oakland, California.

We landed on time at San Francisco, circling around the south Bay Area to come into SFO from the south across the Bay. This is a big plane, and it took some room to slow down and pull into the gate at the International Terminal.

I had been told by the Korea Air Lines lady in Jakarta that my luggage was checked all the way to Salt Lake City but that I would have to come out of security, go through customs, and check back in at the Delta Counter for my domestic flight’s boarding pass. The customs process was automated – you go to a kiosk and fill out the electronic form, then it prints a summary. I didn’t have any currency over about $5 worth of rupiah (yes, there were 1000 and 2000 rupiah coins and bills, but it was still less than $5). I had bought less than $200 worth of souvenirs, so nothing much to declare.

Sierra foothills

The foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We passed just south of Lake Tahoe, so this view takes in the area I first started teaching at, in Groveland, CA just south of Sonora. You can just make out the smoke from a grass fire near Mariposa. Sorry about the smudges on the windows.

The people at customs glanced at the form and waved me through, pointing vaguely to the security checkpoint without a word. They were almost rude in their bored lack of concern. I found a baggage cart for my carry-ons (boy, wheels are highly underrated) and took the elevator upstairs to a monorail that carried me over to the domestic terminal and the Delta counter.

I wasn’t able to get the electronic check-in kiosk to work – it wouldn’t find the ticket for my flight. So I went to the counter (the line was short) and the lady there couldn’t find it, either. One last gasp of poor customer service from United! Thankfully, the Delta lady was able to see that I had had a ticket before United canceled it and was able to fix the problem and get me a boarding pass.

Sierras

Looking down on the Sierra Nevada Mountains as we traveled east to the south of Lake Tahoe.

I found my flight’s gate and walked through Security. It was the same concourse and security checkpoint that Martin Horejsi and I went through after the 2011 NSTA conference in San Francisco, when we ran into each other in the airport and changed our seats to sit next to each other on the flight back to Salt Lake. He then flew from Salt Lake on to Missoula, where he runs the Teacher Preparation program at Montana State. I’ve known Martin since the old days of the Solar System Educator Program in 2000-2004. This time there was no one I knew in the line.

I ate lunch at a bar and grill place – a very nice hamburger. My intestines are finally coming back on line after backing up so badly in Indonesia. I sat at the bar and talked with the guy next to me, who used to be a physics teacher in Texas but is now back in industry.

High Sierras

A view down on the high Sierras. Yosemite National Park is to the south in this photo.

I had about two hours to kill, so I snoozed, charged up my computer, and wrote more of these blogs while trying to keep my right leg elevated, which is hard to do on those uncomfortable benches. Both my legs were aching fiercely after wearing the compression socks for two days. I changed my shirt into the fresh one I carried in my computer bag, and we finally boarded the plane after my seat was re-assigned to an exit row. That’s great – I have more leg room and a better view this way.

On our flight to Salt Lake I took some photos of the Sierras on our way over. We flew just south of Lake Tahoe, and out the right side of the plane I could just make out the smoke from the fire near Mariposa and what I think was Lake Don Pedro and Moccasin, where I first started teaching in 1990. I could see the High Sierras still had patches of snow, although I couldn’t make out Yosemite specifically.

Salt Lake City

Downtown Salt Lake City, Utah as I land after having been in Indonesia for four weeks.

I fell asleep once the Sierras were past us, and only woke up again as we were making our final approach to Salt Lake City. I took a few excellent photos of downtown as we flew over I-80 and landed. I packed my carry-ons off the plane. You have to pay for all the baggage carts in Salt Lake airport, so I lugged my carry-ons up the concourse and into the baggage claim area. There weren’t many people waiting by the time I got there (I had a restroom stop on the way) and my two bags did not show up.

When I checked at the baggage claim counter, the man was able to use my claim tickets to track them. Apparently, I misunderstood the lady in Jarkarta; when she said my bags were checked through to Salt Lake City and that I would have to go through customs, she meant I would have to take the bags off the luggage carousel in SFO and take them through customs with me before re-checking them onto my final airplane. Or the Curse of United and the problem with my missing flight reached out from the grave to haunt me one last time. Regardless, my luggage full of smelly laundry and souvenirs did not make it to Salt Lake with me.

Salt Lake City landing

Landing at Salt Lake City International Airport after my trip as an education ambassador in Indonesia.

I got my phone working again and called Becca, who was waiting outside the terminal with Jonathan and William. I walked to the curb with my carry-ons and she picked me up in the Dodge minivan. It was great to see them again. I hugged them all, got in the front seat and took my shoes and compression socks off before my legs fell off, and we traveled home.

My luggage took several days to arrive, the red bag on Thursday and the blue bag (which somehow made it to Seattle) on Friday. With its arrival, I was finally home. It took a couple of days to readjust to Mountain Standard Time – I was jet lagged in reverse – but by the time I reported back to school on Friday, July 11, I had pretty much recovered.


 

And now I am home after four incredible weeks in Indonesia, learning about their education system, teaching, and exploring. I saw the Southern Cross for the first time, as well as Alpha Centauri. I visited religious shrines, World Heritage Sites, went bamboo rafting in the rainforest, explored a diamond mine, saw silver jewelry made, learned batik, and did so very many things. I’ve written over 80 blog posts about the Teachers for Global Classrooms program and this journey.

Hat sampler

A sampler of hats that I bought in Indonesia. The large rice farmer’s hat was a challenge. I put it in a large plastic bag and ties the ends of the bag to the outside of one of my carry-on bags. In addition to these, I also bought a Yogyakarta cap and a Borneo prince hat for my son. The black hat in the front right is the same as worn by Javanese officials such as President Widodo.

As part of the requirements for the TGC program, I had to create a summary of what I learned from my experiences; a series of reflections that tie in to the guiding questions I decided on before coming to Indonesia. I had one overarching question with several sub-questions, so I made a separate reflection post for each one. Since they had to be done before September 5, I created them on a separate page so they wouldn’t be out of order. You can find them here:

https://elementsunearthed.com/reflect/

The page includes the following four parts:


Reflection 1: Finding Common Ground

Reflection 2: The Need for Self-Expression Through Art

Reflection 3: The Mysteries of Life

Reflections 4: The Extraordinary Adventures of an Ordinary Educator

As for what I did myself after returning home, I spent the remainder of August writing up these posts, in between starting school again. I had written as much as I could while in Indonesia, but decided to write the whole experience as one large document so that I could be internally consistent and chronological. I managed to stay up on editing the best photos as I went along, but my last few days needed work.

By September 5 the writing and photos were done and I began the process of posting the parts, creating a record 36 posts in September including the reflections posts. The TGC reviewers said I had made a good start but needed more required pieces, so I did edits and re-arranged the site, adding more pages for links to TGC materials and online resources by the end of September. You can check them out here:

Resources and Links:

https://elementsunearthed.com/assignments/

Global Education materials:

https://elementsunearthed.com/global-teaching/

In October, November, and December I worked hard to get all of these posts done by the end of the year. I still want to create a large Adobe InDesign book document with this text and photos and print it all out in a binder for posterity and my students. I’ll work on that in January.

As for this blog site, now that my TGC experiences are done and I am an official alumnus of the program, I can return to the central purpose of this site: to tell the stories of the chemical elements and important materials. I did do some of that through my Indonesia experiences (diamond mines, coal, batik, rubber, silver jewelry, rice farming, cinnamon, luwak coffee, Mt. Batur and Mt. Merapi, etc.) but it will now be my majority focus.

David by Lake Batur

David Black overlooking Lake Batur with the composite volcano cone in the distance.

It’s been almost five months since I returned from Indonesia, yet because I took the time and effort to write all of this down and share it with you, my memories of the experience remain fresh and detailed and hopefully always will. I thank the people at the U.S. State Department and IREX for supporting this amazing program, and I will do all I can to promote it and share it with other teachers and students. I hope my writings here will promote bridges of understanding in a world that needs more global citizens.

Thank you for staying with me. Please read on!

 

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Eleanor Roosevelt quote

A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt at the Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C. It sums up the philosophy of global citizenship.

On Feb. 16-18, 2017 I had the privilege of attending the Teachers for Global Classrooms symposium in Washington D.C. It was held at the Fairmont Hotel in Georgetown, not far from Washington Circle. I’ve written about our first day and evening there and the opening reception in my last post, so this post will focus on the actual symposium sessions and getting to know my Indonesia Cohort of teachers.

The main part of our symposium occurred on Friday, Feb. 17 and the morning of Saturday, Feb. 18 as we learned of our responsibilities through the U.S. Department of State and found out more about the culture and expectations of our host countries. In some sessions, we were all together as teachers but separate from our administrators. Some sessions we were with the administrators, and some we were just with our own cohort in smaller side sessions. We were given a complete packet upon arrival with detailed schedules, paperwork, and biographies of all the teachers. We were given a nice notebook to write notes, but I used my standard notebook that I write everything in, knowing that it will be easier to find that way. The following paragraphs are based on my notes.

Me by TGC sign

David Black at the TGC Symposium, mugging for the camera . . .

Prior to my flight to D.C., I had familiarized myself with Indonesia in the best way I know how – by drawing a map of the country by hand in my notebook. I labeled the major features and cities, the volcanoes I’d heard of, and researched culture and cuisine trying to get a few words of Bahasan down. I found having a decent knowledge of Indonesian geography to be very helpful at the symposium.

My roommate – if I had one – hadn’t shown up by the time I got ready and went down to breakfast in the Grand Ballroom. It was served buffet style, and we were assigned specific tables with nameplates mixed across cohorts, with teachers and their administrator together. At our table was Betsy Devlin-Foltz of the State Department, and once we were done eating (it was all very excellent food), we were greeted by Jen Gibson of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs (ECA) of the State Department. She introduced our keynote speaker, Mark Taplin – the Acting Assistant Secretary for Education.

Fairmont exterior

Exterior and entrance of the Fairmont Hotel in Georgetown.

Mr. Taplin spoke on how the Teachers for Global Classrooms program was an outgrowth of the ideals of Senator Bill Fulbright, who first created the legislation that became the Fullbright Scholarships. His goal was to promote mutual understanding through real experiences – no virtual experiences allowed, or “fake news.” We will truly be citizen diplomats and ambassadors for education in the countries we visit. This is meant to be a transformational experience for us and for our students so that they can become global citizens. He spoke of the craft of quality education and of his teacher, Mrs. Darling of Woodson High School in Fairfax, VA who inspired him as a student through her 30 plus years of managing the Model UN program, and how many ambassadors and Foreign Service people came through her program. He went on to say that Sen. Fullbright’s vision was more imperative than ever, and how we need more “outwarders” than “inwarders” with our recent turn toward isolationism and protectionist policies. He encouraged us to throw ourselves wholeheartedly into this experience, then share what we see and do in our communities and classrooms.

Washington Circle

Washington Circle, near the Fairmont Hotel.

I enjoyed his remarks more than I expected to; he had a great sense of humor considering his high level diplomatic rank and wasn’t afraid to speak differently than what we hear our own national leaders saying. It’s good to know that programs still exist (and will continue to exist) that try to counter the inward turn we’ve made as a country, because we need a global perspective now more than ever.

Panel Discussion

Grand Ballroom at the Fairmont Hotel, preparing for the alumni panel discussion.

Following Mr. Taplin we heard from a panel of five TGC program alumni, including Kirsten from South Carolina who went to Senegal, Camille from Florida who went to Columbia, Jasmine from Philadelphia who went to the Philippines, Tyler from New York City who went to Senegal, and Seth Brady from Illinois, who went to Indonesia in 2012. They spoke of how their experiences changed their classroom practices and how they were able to connect their students with the outside world. Seth helped to promote and get passed legislation in Illinois for a Global Competency certification for Illinois teachers. He spoke of talking to stakeholders and not being shy to say, “Here is what I want to do. What is your advice?” We should take our mandate as global educators seriously and push for real change and buy in at our schools and districts. They finished with questions and answers from the audience, which included what we should bring as gifts/cultural exchange items.

Spanish Embassy

The Spanish Embassy in Washington, D.C. Our hotel was located near Embassy Row.

Rebecca Bell of IREX, the group that administers TGC for the State Department, spoke on the six years of the TGC program and lessons they’ve learned. So far, this is the most organized program I’ve seen – they appear to have thought of every detail.

We then moved into separate smaller rooms on the basement level of the Fairmont to meet with our individual cohorts. This was the meeting I was looking forward to – getting down to the details of what to expect. Sara from IREX led the meeting. She will be traveling with us to Indonesia and has previously led a cohort to the Philippines. Ashley, who has lived in Indonesia for a year and helped to coordinate our stay there, also led the meeting. They officially introduced us to Sofia from Ambon Island, who has been here as an ILEP exchange teacher this year. She will become a future host for U.S. teachers in Indonesia.

Cohort session

Some of the teachers in my Indonesia cohort during our breakout session.

They spoke of the two exchange programs offered to foreign teachers to come to the United States. The first is called TEA (Teaching Excellence and Achievement program), where teachers from developing countries come to the United States for six weeks and take courses at one of over ten universities. This year, teachers are here from 61 different countries. The second program is called ILEP (the International Leaders in Education Program) and allows selected teachers to stay in the U.S. for a full semester (five months) at four host universities.

They went over some of the logistics of who does what – we will be assigned as partners to travel to a host (ILEP) teacher’s school for at least one week. IREX will manage all the details of travel and our first week in Jakarta, where we will meet with U.S. Consulate officials, Indonesian Education officials, take tours, and visit schools. Then we will travel to our host schools for about 9-10 days, then return to Jakarta for 2-3 days of debriefing before flying home. Our agenda will be packed, but we can request items and will work with out host teacher on the agenda for when we’ll be in their school. We will find out our host teacher’s name and school in April. This delay is because the first cohort will be leaving for Morocco in three weeks and we will be one of the three summer travel cohorts. But that means we get a full three weeks trip (that’s why I asked for a summer slot) whereas the others get two weeks.

Washington Monument with cherry

The Washington Monument with cherry blossoms just beginning to bloom; Feb. 17, 2017.

All our expenses will be paid through a stipend/grant for hotels, transportation, tours, and food while at the host teacher’s city, which we will need to arrange ourselves. All other details (flights, Jakarta hotel and food) will be arranged by IREX.

Our responsibility is to have fun, stick to the rules of our agreement, and be ambassadors of U.S. culture and education. This is an exchange program in every way – we will bring back Indonesian culture with us. We need to provide a guiding question, and develop our shared unit plan upon return, which is due by September 5. We will need to apply for visas on our own through their service using an online link to the Indonesian consular office.

Sofia provided a Powerpoint on her school, SMA Negeri 4 in Ambon. It has 923 students and they have one computer lab and five projectors for the whole school. She teaches for seven hours per day, six days a week (and Sunday School on Sundays). Students wear uniforms and must pay fees, which can be a difficulty for many families, but they are able to work off what they owe by cleaning classrooms, etc. She showed us photos of the Maluku Islands, where Ambon is the largest city. There are 1725 islands just in the Malukus alone, and up to 17,000 islands in Indonesia. 90% of Indonesians are Muslims, but the Maluku Islands were colonized for many years by the Dutch, so there are more Christians. I would love to go see the Malukus (if for no other reason than to say I’ve been where Columbus intended to go), but she will probably not become a host for another year or two since she is still here in the U.S. through May.

Capitol Bldg

The Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. with remodeling completed.

We had lunch back in the lobby before the Grand Ballroom, with a choice of meats and salads – they are certainly keeping us well fed and hydrated.

For our next session, we talked about instructional design for teaching global competency. We were asked to bring examples of globalized lesson plans, and we proceeded to do a gallery stroll of our lessons. I shared my STEAM it Up class’ dyeing cloth inquiry lab, and how they research natural dyes used in world cultures. I was impressed with many of the ideas and hope to use them – using a database of newspapers from around the country to get an international perspective on current events, collaborating with students in other countries to collect and compare weather data of our local areas, figuring out the total supply chain of raw materials from around the world (and their true cost) for common products we use, and others. I was too busy looking through the lessons to take many notes, but I incorporated some of these ideas into the presentation I made at the UCET conference in March.

Pacific Theater

Part of the World War II memorial in Washington, D.C.

In our next session, we talked about how we will bridge the gap between our field experiences and our classrooms, schools, and communities through the stories we will tell. We discussed what constitutes a great story or powerful narrative. How will we rise above the “single story” narratives we often hear about a country and its people? That people in China eat “fish heads and rice,” for example (this is one I heard before my LDS mission to Taiwan – all my family thought I would starve to death. I didn’t. I came to love Chinese food. And I never actually ate a fish head). How do the people in Indonesia see us? The fat, lazy, over-privileged, Bermuda-shorted, only English speaking stereotype? How will we show a different story about what Americans are like?

Jefferson Memorial

Jefferson Memorial. My iPad is hard to hold still for nighttime photos, so this is the best shot I have.

We also talked about redemptive versus contaminating stories, which I wrote about in detail three posts ago when I introduced this new chapter of my life. It was here that I thought of what will be my underlying guiding question (or at least one of them): In what ways are people in American and Indonesia alike? How do we all show our common humanity? This guiding question will be an ongoing theme as we write our blog posts and report on our experiences through the stories we’ll tell. There are many overarching, cross-cultural themes that we can explore,

Seth Brady was with us in our cohort meetings and gave us a presentation on his experiences in Indonesia in 2012. He went to a school on Bangka Island, which is between Sumatra and Borneo and has one of the largest tin deposits in the world. He shared some books we might want to read, and told us how he was treated as a celebrity – asked to sign autographs, sing at a wedding, speak at spontaneous neighborhood gatherings, take photos with people, etc. We will bring prestige to those we work with, and we will be asked to do some interesting things. He suggested that we just roll with it. It is a good thing that we will have individual rooms at night, as the press of people will become difficult without some time for personal space. The humidity and heat will exhaust us (this I know about from my experiences in Taiwan – but this is much closer to the Equator). He spoke of how to dress, health notes (bring mosquito repellent and get immunized for malaria). Yes, this will be an adventure. It’s going to be amazing, difficult, challenging, fun, and beyond any expectations!

FDR statue with dog

Bronze statue of Franklin Roosevelt. And his dog.

This was the last session of a long and interesting day. As a group, we decided to go out to eat for Indonesian food. The IREX people had prepared a list of possible restaurants that served food of our nationality (that’s what I mean by every detail being planned out), so we made reservations for a restaurant called BKK Cookshop at 1700 New Jersey in Northwest Washington D.C. After resting in my room for a while, I headed downstairs and met the others in the lobby of the hotel. We arranged for Uber cars to drive us, and it was fairly close to where I had supper with the group at the Einstein Fellowship interviews last year – we passed the same metro station. Not everyone could come, but we had about 12 people at the restaurant, which wound up being Thai food, not Indonesian. It was still good and we had fun.

Afterward, five of us decided to get another Uber car to take us down to the Mall to walk around. I don’t have a smart phone (I pick and choose which technologies to use, but eventually I’ll have to make the transition to mobile connectivity), so I more or less tagged along.

Fading light on Embassy Row

Buildings in Georgetown near the Fairmont Hotel; Feb. 16, 2017.

The weather was cool and windy yesterday as I had taken a walk around Washington Circle, too cold for my thin jacket. But tonight the weather was warmer and we had a nice walk from the Smithsonian Castle down to the Washington Monument, then to the Korean War Memorial. It was nice to see the Capitol Building all finished from its remodeling, and cherry blossoms were just beginning to open around the Washington Monument. We crossed the road to see the Martin Luther King memorial (which was new enough that I had not seen it before). We walked on around the tidal basin to see the Franklin Roosevelt memorial, which I had never visited either. I took as many photos as I could using my less than ideal iPad as a camera. I took multiples of each shot just to make sure that most of them would turn out well. We found a final Uber driver to take us back to the Fairmont at about 9:30. I called home while we waited – Becca was still awake. These were my first experiences with Uber, and it seemed to work out well.

TGC Symposium-Thurs night

A photo of the TGC symposium taken Thursday, Feb. 16. I’m wandering around in the background.

I was very tired by the time we got back and basically crashed. I never did have a roommate – perhaps he paid to have his own room. Fine with me – it means a room of my own without paying extra.

On Saturday, Feb. 18 the symposium continued. After another excellent breakfast, we heard more speakers together as an entire group in the Ballroom. I won’t go into much detail, as this post is long enough. After hearing from two speakers we went into the Kennedy Ballroom next door for a “dealers room” style open house, where various organizations that promote global education had booths that we could visit. These included National Geographic (I asked about the Grosvenor Fellowship again) and many programs I had heard of and some I had not. I picked up quite a bit of freebies and information packets to go through when I get home.

We had a lunch and a final meeting in the Grand Ballroom, with a group photo. It has been an amazing conference and I’ve learned a great deal, met my cohort of exceptional teachers that I am excited to work with in Indonesia, and were even given three books to read to help us prepare. Now I’ve got to do my homework and go through all my notes and get ready. Five months will go by quickly.

TGC whole group-Feb 2017

The entire group of teachers and administrators attending the TGC Symposium in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 16-18, 2017. I am at the far right in back.

I had booked a somewhat later flight so that I would not have to be rushed getting to the airport. I’d already packed up and left my bags at the hotel front desk. I called a taxi and had him drive me back to Reagan National Airport. I had plenty of time to check in, go through security, and wait for my flight. I arrived home in Salt Lake City near 11:00 and landed in a mild snowstorm. Oh well, back to the reality of winter weather. At least I have a day to rest up before returning to school.

Fairmont room

My room at the Fairmont Hotel.

The hardest thing about these expanding experiences is “pouring” myself back into my everyday life once I return. In the rush of normal events, the feelings I’ve had at these conferences soon evaporate. So I need to remember what I’ve learned, and that is why I write such long blog posts. It’s my way of remembering even if no one else ever reads them.

 

Lincoln Memorial

The Lincoln Memorial. I snapped this photo as I was being driven back to the airport on Feb. 18, 2017.

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