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Yogyakarta Day 1: Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Approaching Yogya

Approaching Yogyakarta on my flight from Jakarta: August 2, 2017

I’m sitting at Gate 16 in Terminal 3 of the Jakarta airport awaiting Garuda Flight 204 to Yogykarta, or Jogja, as people call it. I’ve been right here before, about 12 days ago, when I flew to Banjarmasin with Craig Hendrick.

Steaming cone

An active volcano in central Java, one of 125 in Indonesia that are part of the Ring of Fire.

I set my alarm for 4:30 this morning, got up and showered, got dressed and finished packing. I decided to leave my black shoes behind, as they are pretty much worn out and I haven’t really been wearing them much on this trip anyway. I spent last evening repacking, putting everything I wouldn’t need over the next five days (including all of the gifts I’ve bought) into my blue IHC bag and TGC bag and keeping my clean clothes and toiletries in the red bag. My intent is to find a storage locker at the airport, as my research says there are, and only taking my camera bag, computer bag, and red bag to Jogja.

Merapi and neighbor

Gunung Merapi (on right) and Gunung Merbabu from the air on my flight to Yogyakarta from Jakarta. Merapi last erupted in 2010, killing over 300 people.

But it didn’t work out that way. I met Nikki Moylan downstairs at 5:30, as we have arranged to share a cab to the airport. We checked out of our rooms, then ate a quick breakfast accompanied by Jennifer. The cab was waiting for us and we had a quick, non-traffic ride to the airport. I was dropped off first at Terminal 3 and got a luggage cart, went through the first security checkpoint, and checked in at the Garuda Economy Class counter. When I asked the agent where the storage lockers were, she told me that they don’t have them in this new terminal, only the old terminals. So much for research. So I had to bring all my bags with me after all and pay at the overweight baggage counter. Again.

Merapi volcanoes

Volcanoes near Yogykarta. In the foreground are Gunung Merapi (bottom left) and Gunung Merbabu. Beyond are Gunung Sumbing and Gunung Sindoro. Yogykarta lies off the image to the left, and Borobudur is in the valley between the two sets of volcanoes. This image was created using data from the USGS Earth Explorer website.

I waited at the same gate (16) that Craig and I waited at on our flight to Banjarmasin. I was writing up this post and was so intent on it that I almost missed the final boarding announcement, so I had to jump up and run through the boarding pass checkpoint at the gate. Once on the airplane I settled back and tried to find something to watch on my hour flight to Jogja.

Merapi and Merbabu

Mt. Merapi and Mt. Merbabu from GoogleEarth.

We took off over rice fields and turned toward the mountains that form the central spine of Java. As we flew along this ridge, the peaks of the volcanoes poked up through the cloud layer. Some had smoke plumes rising from their summits. There are about 125 active volcanoes in Indonesia as part of the Ring of Fire around the rim of the Pacific Ocean. The Philippines Plate is pushing into the Indo-Australian Plate, creating a subduction zone noted for its explosive volcanoes, severe earthquakes, and deadly tsunami. It is an Earth Science teacher’s dream come true to get to see this.

Central Java from air

Central Java from the air

I decided to listen to music from the selection on the in-flight screen, and started listening to the Best of Bad Company album, which rocked me all the way in to Yogyakarta. As we approached and lowed ourselves toward the city, green rice fields, streams, and trees became more obvious with beautiful clouds above and mountain peaks rearing their smoky black crowns.

Over Yogya

Approaching Yogyakarta.

We landed and I deplaned and walked across the tarmac to the Yogyakarta airport terminal, which is quite small for the number of flights it handles. It was crowded inside. I found a luggage cart and waited by the carousel until my bags came through, right after each other. There was a desk to arrange taxis into the city, so I asked them to help and a porter wheeled my bags through the crowds, through an underground walkway, to the curb where he hailed a taxi for me. We loaded up my bags and he drove me into the city to my hotel.

I am staying at the Hotel Jambuluwuk Malioboro, chosen because it has good ratings and is within walking distance (20 minutes or so) of the main shopping center, Malioboro Street. Outside the hotel is a large billboard advertising cigarettes with the required government anti-cigarette campaign on the bottom, which certainly sent mixed messages. But at least the billboard provided a good landmark to find my hotel with.

Yogya airport

The airport in Yogyakarta. It could use an expansion, because it is too small for the number of people traveling through it.

Jambuluwuk lobby

The lobby of the Hotel Jambuluwuk Malioboro, where I stayed for three nights.

I checked in and found my room on the top floor. It is a nice room with a small bathroom but nicely appointed. The carpets are a bit worn, but otherwise nice. I dropped off my bags and unpacked a few items. It requires a keycard in the slot like other hotels here to activate the lights and air conditioning, and I worked out the controls and got the room cooled down. Since it was barely noon and I was hungry, I ventured out to find at least a snack. I asked at the desk how to get to Malioboro Street – they said to go left, then left again at the first intersection and walk along that street until I crossed a river, then beyond to Malioboro. I didn’t take the first left and soon found a Alpha Mart store, where I got some Pulpy juice, a Happy Cow, and some other snacks to tide me over until I could find supper.

Yogya from hotel room

Yogyakarta from my hotel room. I had a good view of the city and could hear muezzins from several mosques at once.

It seems strange to be entirely on my own now, after having been driven and pampered for three weeks. Even with a map of the city from the front desk, I am likely to get lost. But the day was still young and I felt like exploring, so I backtracked, took the correct turn, and continued on until I crossed the river. Noon prayers were being called, so I paused and recorded some video and audio. There weren’t really any good sidewalks to cross the bridge, so I had to dodge around stalls selling red and white bunting that were in the way.

Yogya near river

Crossing a bridge from my hotel to Malioboro Street.

I stopped at a store selling batik and looked at the wares, but didn’t really like anything. I continued on another two blocks and came to Malioboro Street at last – obviously so because of the many shops, horse drawn carriages, becak drivers (pedicabs), and tourists thronging the street. I am not much of a shopper, but decided to try to get everything I needed here if possible in one afternoon and evening.

Ice Durian fruit

A stand selling iced durian fruit. The “ES” is pronounced “ice.” The smell will knock you over . . .

I smelled something unpleasant and discovered I was standing next to a cart selling durian fruit drinks. You can smell it just walking past. As I took a photo of it, a man approached me and asked if I was interested in batik. He said he knew of a place a few blocks further on that was having a batik art exposition and that this was the last day. I was interested; all the batik I saw here was simply printed, not hand drawn, and I wanted to buy some of the real thing. As we were talking, I spotted an unusual hat make of leather dyed many colors – tan, aqua, pink, and black. It actually fitted, so I had to buy it. It was about $8 U.S., or 100,000 rupiah. I put it on and wore it to keep off the hot sun. The man drew me a map, and said it was easy to find.

Atmosfear footwear

I passed this store on my way to Malioboro Street. I rather doubt this brand would catch on in America. I can’t imagine why . . .

As I walked across Malioboro Street and on down the road, a lady approached me and asked where I was going. When I told her I was going to the batik exposition, she said she lived near there and would show me the way. I was getting a bit suspicious of all this unsolicited help, but walked with her anyway. It wasn’t as if she were taking me into some small alley. I realize now that this batik workshop hires people to act as collectors of tourists, funneling them into the store to drum up more business. Pretty smart tactic, and since I wanted to see real batik anyway, it was good for me too. And there was no indication that this was the last day – it seemed to be an ongoing thing.

Little boys on bridge

Young boys in traditional clothing crossing the bridge to Malioboro Street.

I found the workshop and went inside. Since there wasn’t any big sign, it was a good thing they had these agents out scouring the streets for potential customers.

Bridge to Malioboro

Crossing the bridge from the Jambuluk Hotel to Malioboro Street. The air in Yogyakarta was much clearer than Jakarta.

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Jakarta Day 8: Monday, July 31, 2017

Mosque and tower

A modern styled mosque in front of a high rise office building as we walked to supper in Jakarta.

For supper, four of us walked from the hotel to a nearby shopping center building called Citywalk. There are no sidewalks on the sides of roads, but there are pathways if you know them. I didn’t, and followed Doug and the two Jennifers around corners, through alleys and small staircases, around parking lots, and finally to the Citywalk Center. We thought there might be some shopping we could do there, but it wound up being more of an office building with food courts on three floors, most of which were Japanese food. This whole building must be owned by Japanese interests. We looked around and found a place that served fried chicken. I got some Hawaiian and Louisiana Rub flavoring on my boneless ribs, French fries, and a refillable blueberry Fanta.

We talked of many things, and Doug asked us where we wanted to go to next in the world. I’ve thought about this, and talked to my wife about it, and we are saving up for a Mediterranean cruise, from Spain to Italy to Greece. It will take several years to save up enough for all four of us, but at least we’ve begun.

In the meantime, I plan to apply for the Einstein Fellowship program again; although my experience interviewing and not being selected wasn’t very positive last time, I am willing to give it one more shot. If that doesn’t pan out, then I will take the plunge to get my PhD, something I’ve always wanted to do, not because I think having a PhD is necessary per se, but because I now have the experience that will help me make sense of the theory I will learn and be able to apply. I want to contribute to fundamental research on project-based learning, global education, and STEAM education and test the theories I’ve developed over the years. I know I will never work long enough to pay off the investment, but I’m not going to do this for the money but for what I know I need to learn and the time it will force me to spend on a dissertation and research. I also want to contribute to teaching as a profession by training new teachers, something I’m already doing informally.

This coming year will therefore be my last one teaching at the middle and high school level. I plan to make it my best one ever, and to apply to several other opportunities to travel, such as the Transatlantic Outreach Program or Goethe Program for a 10-day trip to Germany next summer to study their STEM organizations, or the Grosvenor Fellowship with National Geographic to spend 10 days on a research vessel in Iceland or elsewhere, or to spend a week at Space Camp in Alabama, or to travel to Chile for the Astronomy Ambassadors program. There are still many other opportunities, grants, and awards I will apply for, one last time. We’ll see what happens.

When Jen spoke of her desire to go to Ireland, I told them stories about my ancestors and the coincidences in my heritage and life. I’m afraid I talked too much, but they seemed interested. After an hour of talking, we walked back to the hotel and I spent the rest of the evening writing up these blog posts.

Although the formal part of this experience is almost over, I don’t want it to end. I am still learning so much, but eventually I have to go beyond learning and start to share what I’ve learned. That’s why I’m spending so much effort to write these blog posts, so you can share my experiences and maybe learn from them. Eventually, what I’ve learned will be reflected in what and how I teach.

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Jakarta Day 8: Monday, July 31, 2017

Sticky notes

One of our activities was to write down our guiding questions on a large poster paper, then write sticky notes to add observations or suggestions to each other’s questions based on our own experiences in the field.

Now that we had completed our field teaching experience and had returned to Jakarta, it was time for reflection and evaluation. What had we learned from all of this? How will this impact our teaching going forward? How will we answer the guiding questions we chose at the beginning of this experience?

We met in a conference room near the elevators on the second floor after having breakfast. It was nice having the larger buffet at the Le Meridien Hotel.

We started by reflecting on our guiding questions through writing them up and conducting a gallery stroll. My own question was: How do different human cultures approach the common problems or needs of humanity? This is a very general question, so I further defined it through some sub-questions:

1 – How do we solve the need for materials (for shelter, food, clothing, transportation, etc.)?

2 – How do we solve the need for self-expression (through art, humor, play, etc.)?

3 – How do we solve the need to understand the universe and its mysteries (through science and religion)?

Let’s look at each of these as I have answered them so far. I will add more and create final reflections after my five day extension, where I will be exploring these ideas further.

Question 1: How do we solve the need for materials (for shelter, food, clothing, transportation, etc.)?

Sasirangan swatches

We saw how humans have a desire to decorate and design through art. We we don’t need to dye cloth, but all cultures do it as these samples of sasirangan testify.

This has been an ongoing quest of mine over the last ten years as I have created the Elements Unearthed project and this website. I have explored how the chemical elements and materials were discovered, how they are made, how they are mined, refined, and turned into finished products. I continued this project while in Indonesia, although more will come later this week. I’ve brought my students along for the ride.

I took students to record video of a tour of Novatek, a synthetic diamond manufacturing company in south Provo, Utah. I had an adult student at the time that worked there and organized the tour. He acted as our tour guide and explained the history of how Tracy Hall invented the process at Bell Labs. He showed us how graphic dust is compressed and heated to form industrial diamonds for oil drills. He showed us the tetrahedral press I had seen in operation as a high school student. My students turned the footage into a short video that is on this website under the Videos tab.

Dyeing green cloth

Dyeing cloth green to make Borneo sasirangan.

But that was only part of the story. Now I have been to the Cempaka diamond mines to see have natural diamonds are recovered from deposits laid down millions of years ago. I have written about it on this blog site, and my chemistry students will turn the photos and videos into a final product for YouTube.

Dyed cloth

Dyed cloth hanging up to dry in Banjarmasin at the sasirangan factory, although it won’t dry very well in this rainstorm.

Through my batik class in Jakarta and seeing the sasirangan made in Banjarmasin, I have continued to research how fabrics and dyes are used for make clothing, following up on what we’ve been doing in my chemistry and STEAM it Up classes. This will also continue later this week.

This is all to say that this question is still being answered and will continue to be. My quest to understand materials isn’t over yet.

Question 2: How do we solve the need for self-expression (through art, humor, play, etc.)?

This is probably the most culturally unique question, as every culture has its own methods of self-expression. However, there are some common threads that I have observed here in Indonesia compared with American or western culture. We all have a need to self-express, despite it taking different forms.

Batik pattern

A batik pattern ready for dyeing. The wax (called malam and a brownish-yellow color) is applied to a penciled pattern on both sides of the cloth, then the cloth is dyed leaving the dyed portion white.

All cultures and people have a sense of the beautiful. The batik I’ve seen at the Museum Tekstil Jakarta and the sasirangan in Banjarmasin is beautiful to me, even though I don’t understand the origin of the patterns. We all have a love for colors and textures, and although the details change with culture, this love is ubiquitous in all societies.

Nikki and Jen doing batik

Nikki and Jennifer practicing batik. The small wax pen, or canting, is held at a 45 degree angle to apply the wax resist. This is definitely an art form and takes great practice.

All cultures include physical art (painting, carving, sculpture, fabrics), music, dance, puppetry, drama, etc. These take uniquely beautiful forms in different cultures – for example, the gamelon orchestras popular here that use percussion instruments, xylophones, cymbals, and drums. This might not be your particular taste in art, but the more you research its history and meaning, the more interesting it becomes. I didn’t much care for Beijing Opera in Taiwan, but that is because I didn’t understand its symbolism and history. The more we study other cultures, the richer our appreciation of their art becomes. Yet despite the differences, I am amazed at the similarities. I can enjoy and recognize harmonies and melodies from a traditional Banjarese band without ever having heard one before.

Traditional band

Traditional Borneo band in the lobby of the Swiss Belhotel in Banjarmasin.

Another form of self-expression is in the stories and jokes we tell that describe and explain the human condition. I found the Indonesian people to be ready with a smile and a joke, to be a humorous and kind people and the sort of people I would like to hang out with if I could understand their language better. We might have different beliefs and life experiences, but we are more alike than different, and we have the same goals and desires in life.

I often think that the best thing that could happen to humanity would be to meet a truly alien intelligent species, whether they are hostile, friendly, or indifferent. Seeing that we are all humans, all brothers and sisters in a very real sense, would unite us more effectively than any international movement ever could.

Question 3: How do we solve the need to understand the universe and its mysteries (through science and religion)?

I saw directly from my experience teaching science and engineering lessons in Banjarmasin that science and math are the truly universal languages. I was afraid of a communication breakdown as I attempted to teach my lessons, but with the help of Nazar’s excellent English and our universal understanding of scientific principles that the students were able to understand. I was able to teach them despite cultural and language barriers.

Laying down planets

Laying out the planet rings for the human orrery activity.

This was the question I most wanted to explore, knowing that I would be going to a largely Muslim country. I tried to observe the daily lives of my host teacher and his family as well as the people around us – the other teachers at our school, the people we met daily, the students at the schools we visited, etc.

I am a Christian. I have studied world religions and lived for two years as a missionary in Taiwan, where I experienced the religious practices of the people (and myself) every day. I have been to Israel and Jerusalem where I saw Judaism and Islam practiced. But this was the first time I saw Islam closely and on a daily basis, and try to build some bridges of understanding.

Buddha-s

A statue of the Amita Buddha at the Fwo Gwang Shan monastery near PingTung, Taiwan.

As I have found elsewhere, people of all faiths have much in common. The first is their faith itself, the desire to believe in something beyond themselves, a truth higher than themselves. Religions, if practiced purely, should teach people to do good and to be better citizens of the world. They should teach us to respect each other. It is only when people misinterpret their religions and see hate where they should see understanding that we get the extremists that cause so much damage.

Duomo-s

The cathedral and baptistry in Florence, Italy. The large dome (called the Duomo) dominates the skyline of the city and was designed by Brunelleschi.

This can happen in any religion. Back in the Middle Ages, the Crusaders were the terrorists of their day, slaughtering innocent people in the name of their supposed faith. In one horrible case, they killed Armenian Christians in Jerusalem just because they didn’t look like the sort of Christians they were used to. Whenever we start treating people in other cultures as “foreign” or “other” than ourselves, we start thinking of them as less than human, and it becomes all too easy to justify persecution or prejudice or worse.

This can only be overcome by understanding the others – getting to know them personally and seeing that we are more alike than different, that we have much in common. This trip to Indonesia has had that benefit for me, as I hoped it would. I tried to see all the people I met as potential friends if I could just learn how to communicate with them. We have common ground to build on.

Large temple-s

A large Buddhist temple in southern Taiwan.

This journey is not over, and I will continue to explore Buddhism and Hinduism as I travel to Yogyakarta and Bali later this week. I will report more fully on these ideas once my trip to Indonesia is over.

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Jakarta Day 7: Sunday, July 30, 2017

View from hotel

Traffic in Jakarta as seen from the Le Meridien Hotel. I had gotten used to clear skies and stars in Banjarmasin, and Jakarta seemed very crowded and smoggy now that I was back.

Our flight back to Jakarta was uneventful. We landed and pulled in toward the terminal building, but there was no room at the jetways so buses came and got us to the terminal. I was separated from Craig because the bus door closed right behind me, but we met again at the baggage claim. I got a luggage cart (I’m beginning to know where everything is in Terminal 3) and we got our bags. We were met by a taxi driver with our names on an iPad, and we walked with him up the elevator to the parking garage. Our ride had been arranged in advance by Sarah Sever. She’s really good at the details.

Walking to dinner

On our way to dinner after our return to Jakarta. We had a lot of stories to tell about our nine days in the field.

We drove back to the Le Meridién Hotel and got our new rooms. I’m on the 8th floor in room 820 this time. We had several hours before our reunion/welcome back dinner, so I laid down and tried to sleep but wasn’t very tired. Plus they were doing some construction work on a nearby room and it was noisy with hammers and buzz saws. I worked on these blog posts and uploaded photos. I went downstairs and got the TGC bag out of the Concierge room.

Walking to dinner 2

Another photo of us walking to dinner. We were anxious to talk and share our experiences now that we were back together.

At 5:00 we met in the lobby downstairs and were all excited to share our experiences. Matt and Doug were the last ones to arrive after another eight hour drive. They and some others had been to Borobudur yesterday with long drives, and another long drive today. My trip to Loksado didn’t seem so bad now.

Nikki Sarah Novianti

Nikki, Sarah, Novianti, and Anu at our Italian dinner.

We boarded a Pariwisata bus and traveled to an Italian restaurant. All the other teachers have been using an app called WhatsApp as they all have smart phones (except Anu and I) to communicate with each other and send photos while we’ve been on our field experiences. As they talked about some of the funny things they’ve been saying back and forth, I felt a bit left out of the loop, as I had known none of this. Yes, I do need to get a smart phone and join the revolution.

Group at dinner

Our cohort group at the Italian restaurant upon our return to Jakarta.

I had crab linguini and wasn’t expecting to have it actually stuffed into a crab shell. It was not quite as good as I had hoped, as it didn’t really taste very Italian to me. Matt’s birthday had been two days before, so we sang happy birthday and had cake. He got some black and white balloons.

The atmosphere was very relaxed and fun. I talked with Jenn who was sitting to my left. She is from northern Louisiana and actually knows the people who star in Duck Dynasty – they live just down the road, but their house is much nicer than the one shown in the show. I’ve never watched it, and have no desire to do so.

Crab linquini

My crab linguini. I wasn’t expecting it to come complete with crab shell, and was a bit more spicy than I thought.

We walked back through the lobby of the plaza where the restaurant is located and re-boarded the bus. Our trip back to the hotel was fairly short for Jakarta. Although I still didn’t feel like going to my room, I didn’t see anything else to do, so I called it a night.

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Borneo Day 6: Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sasirangan hanging up

Sasirangan patterns hanging up to dry at the factory along the Martapura River in Banjarmasin.

After resting for a couple of hours, we met Nazar, his wife, and his older daughter in the lobby. He was taking us to see how sasirangan, the Banjarese form of tie-dye, is done. As we drove across the river the clouds that had been gathering all day were turning dark black and rain was immanent.

Threatening clouds

Threatening storm clouds over Banjarmasin. This is supposed to be the dry season.

We crossed the Martapura and traveled along a series of ever smaller roads leading us along the west bank. The dyeing process requires a lot of water, so the factories are located inside some of the Banjar style houses along the river we had seen on our trip to Lok Baintan. As we drove along the roadway just to the west of the river, the skies opened up and the rain began. Nazar commented that this wasn’t normal for the dry season. It came down in torrents and buckets, and before long it was impossible to tell where the rainflow ended and the river began – it was all just one sheet of water. We parked under and overhang at the factory outlet and watched the rain for a minute. I took some photos and video.

Rainstorm on river

The rain begins – it came down so fast it became hard to tell where the runoff ended and the river began.

This was quite a storm, but not the worst I’ve ever seen. I’ve been through the edge of a typhoon in Taiwan, and I was once in a downpour in Minneapolis in April 1986 that was beyond belief. The rain there came down so fast that the drainage system couldn’t handle it, even though the city is along the Mississippi River. The pressure in the drains was so great that manhole covers were being blown into the air and fountains of water eight feet high were geysering out of the holes. On my way to the airport a short time later, my shuttle van drove through what looked like a shallow puddle that wound up being five feet deep. The engine got wet and stalled. They had to call another shuttle van to come get us – it drove more carefully into the “puddle” and I had to climb out the window and over to the second van with my suitcase so they could take me on to the airport.

Sasirangan choices

Sasirangan samples in the factory showroom. You can find all types of colors and patterns.

As we were looking at samples in the sasirangan store, a load thunderclap and lightning stroke boomed out and the power went out. I was able to use my flash for photos, but not for video. Craig got his cell phone out and set it to flashlight mode so that I would have some light. We crossed the road to the dye factory on the other side along the river. A man showed us how they use stencils to trace the traditional patterns onto white cloth. The cloth is then tied tightly with small ties to follow the pattern of the stencils. Parts that aren’t to be dyed in the first color are covered in plastic bags.

Tied green cloth

Died green cloth with the ties in place. Where the ties gather in the cloth, the dye won’t penetrate and will leave white places, just like western tie dye. This may be the origin of tie dye.

Next door were the dye vats. Since dye works better in hot water, the room was like a sauna with steaming vats of various colors. My camera wanted to fog up, but I did get some good photos and video. The men there were wearing gloves and dipping the cloth repeatedly into various colors. The bags are moved to the previously dyed areas so that other colors can be applied where the bags had been. The cloth is then rinsed and hung up to dry on railings between the two buildings, something a bit hard to do in this rain.

Plastic covered parts

Dyeing the sasirangan cloth. The dye area was a sauna bath from the steaming hot dye vats. To protect color in areas, plastic bags are tied on to prevent the second color from reaching the first color.

The rain soon let up, and we returned to the outlet store. We looked through the colors; there were many beautiful combinations, and I bought two different bolts of cloth. One was purples and magentas, the other oranges and brick red. These will be for gifts for my sister and daughter.

Dye vats 2

The dyers used rubber globes to repeatedly dip the fabric into the dye vats. The power was knocked out by a lightning strike nearby in the storm. Between the humidity from the rain and the steaming dye baths, this room was like a sauna. They had many types of dye powders and could do any combination of colors and patterns.

Now that the rain was ending, we got back in the car and drove through winding streets to find a restaurant for supper. Nazar knew an excellent place for bakso nearby, and we drove past alleyways and along narrow roads to get there. The late afternoon light after the storm provided a silvery golden cast to everything as it reflected off the wet pavement along the alleyways. It was extremely humid after the rain, but the air was cooler and quite comfortable, so I rolled down my window to get better photos. We passed a cemetery, including the memorial to a local hero. After a few minutes, we reached the restaurant. Nazar’s son rode a Gojek to the restaurant and met us there. I had beef bakso and chilled bottled water for supper, and it was excellent. I like bakso a great deal, and have had some good stuff, but this was the best I had anywhere in Indonesia.

Alley near bakso place

Alleyway near bakso kitchen after the rainstorm.

Bakso kitchen

Bakso kitchen in Banjarmasin where we ate after visiting the sasirangan factory.

Bakso soup

The best bakso in Banjarmasin.

Road after rain

Traveling through the narrow streets of northern Banjarmasin after the rainstorm.

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Borneo Day 5: Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Country lane near school

The country road leading to SMAN 1 Mandastana.

On our second day at SMAN 1 Mandastana, I was faced with a bit of a challenge. During my presentation yesterday on my school (American Academy of Innovation) I showed slides of my students doing chemistry demonstrations, including the well-known flame test demo, where nichrome wires are dipping into solutions of potassium, lithium, sodium, calcium, barium, strontium, and copper salts, then heated in a Bunsen burner flame. These elements have fairly simple quantum structures (one or two electrons in an outer shell) and emit very definite colors. As the electrons are heated up, they absorb energy from the flame and jump to specific higher quantum levels. They then emit the same wavelengths of light as they fall back down to their ground states.

Doing flame test lab

Doing the flame test lab with chemistry students at SMAN 1 Mandastana near Banjarmasin in Southern Borneo.

The students asked, through Nazar, if they could do the same lab. My response was, “I don’t know – let’s look and see what you have and maybe we can.” I didn’t want to commit the chemistry teacher to do a lab, but she seemed willing, so we looked through her supply of chemicals after the class and found cupric sulfate, sodium chloride, potassium chloride, and barium sulfate. No lithium or strontium, which give off the best colors, but at least these four will work. Then we looked at her equipment. She has a lab assistant, and we unlocked the cabinets in her storage room. They have one nichrome wire, alcohol burners, and a good supply of beakers. So we could make this work.

So this morning I went to the chemistry classroom first thing, about 45 minutes before the students were to come in. The teacher got out the chemicals, and I discovered something interesting: none of the chemicals had been opened, not even the sodium chloride. The equipment also appeared to be unused – not brand new, as the storage cabinet had some dust on it, but sitting there for I don’t know how long. No stains on the beakers, and the alcohol burners had never been lit. We had to scrounge around to find a cigarette lighter. At least the container of alcohol for the burners appeared to have been used – about 1/3 of it was gone.

Flame test 2

David Black helping students with the flame test lab at SMAN 1 Mandastana near Banjarmasin in Southern Kalimantan.

Now I know this is not the norm throughout Indonesia, as I had seen the Assistant Principal at the elementary school we visited do the Priestley Experiment, the chemistry equipment at the SMAN 8 Jakarta school was well-used, and I found out later that other teachers saw science experiments being done at their host schools. So I don’t know why the equipment and chemicals have not been used here. The teacher certainly knows her stuff, as I saw from the class the previous day when the students were taking notes on mole fractions. And she is very willing to do this lab. So it seems to me that she either hasn’t had the training/professional development of how to conduct labs and use her equipment or she is unwilling to use up her supplies.

It also appears to me that the chemicals and supplies were part of a package provided by the central government, with a set list of materials. As chemistry classes go, she was fairly well supplied, but the chemicals were stored inside the fume hood as well as underneath, and the hood looked as if it might not function or be hooked up properly. The school is 20 years old and all the sinks in the chemistry lab were rusted out and nonfunctional, so that I had to get water for my solutions from a container on the counter. It was not possible for me to inquire further to see if this condition is general throughout Kalimantan Selatan or other provinces, but I guess that this might be a common problem in rural schools in Indonesia. After all, it is a common enough problem in the United States. Many teachers in both countries do not do the types of inquiry labs that students need to understand the practical side of chemistry.

David with chemistry teachers

David Black posing with the chemistry teachers (left) and English teachers (right) of SMAN 1 Mandastana. I really need to get my name tag straightened out . . .

Once I had the solutions made, I lit an alcohol lamp and saw that its flame was orange, not the blue I’m used to in Bunsen burners or with methanol. But with repeated dipping and heating, the colors were visible except for the barium, which is always the hardest one to see. We were able to find or make five wires, and divided the students into five groups. They traded off the four solutions. I told them what the five chemicals were and what colors to expect. I found that most of the elements are named the same in Bahasa Indonesia, except that the ones with Latin symbols are also pronounced with their Latin names. For example, sodium is called natrium in Indonesia and potassium is kalium. The only chemical I had to learn was copper, which is common enough that an Indonesian word exists for it: tembago. I labeled the solutions A, B, C, and D and told the students that they would have to observe the colors in the flame, then make their best guess as to which chemical each solution was. It took some doing and many dips. The copper kept contaminating the results for subsequent chemicals, but the potassium was good and the sodium simply made the orange flame oranger.

Flame test lab

Students in the chemistry class at SMAN 1 Mandastana conducting a flame test lab. I had to improvise for materials and chemicals, but the lab turned our fairly well. It was a true challenge in global education!

When we finished, I had the students shout out which solution they thought each was, and they got it right. I understood the names of the elements in Bahasa Indonesia by this time, so I didn’t need as much translation. Barium had to be guessed by a process of elimination. Given the challenges of the materials and the alcohol lamps, which simply didn’t get hot enough to really see the colors well, this lab turned out quite well. I will never forget this experience of teaching a science lab in a foreign language using scrounged materials.

As I observed the chemistry teacher the day before, and as I taught this class, I was struck by how impossible this would have been if this had been any subject except science. Yes, Nazar helped translate, but I was able to use Indonesian words for the elements and explain a few things where he didn’t know the words, since he is an English teacher and not a science teacher. Where Nazar couldn’t translate and I didn’t know how to explain, the chemistry teacher and her assistant were able to. Science is truly a universal language, but I have never put it to the test like this before. I was even able to do some explanation of quantum leaps and color emission, which the students seemed to understand. I don’t know if they have studied this before, but I saw comprehension on their faces despite some fumbling with the translations, more so than I usually see in American students’ faces.

Flame test

Looking for the blue flame of copper (tembago) sulfate.

Nazar said we could treat him to American food today, so we drove back to the city. We passed a large mosque at a roundabout that we had stopped at on Sunday in order to say prayers and use the restroom, but now there was a protest going on in front of the mosque in the traffic circle itself. The signs said this was a protest in favor of Palestinians in Israel. We didn’t stop, as we had been told not to get to close to protests as the mood of the crowd can turn ugly fast. This protest seemed pretty peaceful, with a few banners and people chanting but nothing else.

PE class with Nazar and Craig

Before the chemistry class, we went out with some of the students during their PE class to visit the junior high school next door and to see the area. Notice that the students are walking (and running) on a rough road surface in bare feet. The girls wear PE hijabs which seem very hot to me to wear in this heat.

We found a Kentucky Fried Chicken place near the Duta Mall in Banjarmasin. It was fairly standard KFC, except for the steamed rice they served. You can’t get away from that. But I think I’ve had about enough fried chicken for a while. I was running short of money, so we found a currency exchange place not far from the hotel and I exchanged the rest of my U.S. dollars (about $60) into rupiah, which was quite a pile.

Interesting name for a store

We passed this store on our way to the school, and I got a photo of it this morning. It is the old logo of my college alma mater, a strange thing to see in Borneo.

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Jakarta Day 3: Monday, July 17, 2017

Global Ed imageOn Monday we spent most of the day at the hotel learning about the Indonesian Education system. I’ll provide a summary of what we learned in this post.

We began in the conference room with Mariya, the director of ILEP (International Leaders in Education Program), which is the mirror program to Teachers for Global Classrooms. Teachers from 15 or so developing countries apply and are accepted to the program each year. The U.S. State Department pays their way to the United States for five months to attend universities, learn English, and take education pedagogy classes. These then return to their home countries and become our host teachers once there are enough in a country to support an entire cohort of 12-16 teachers.

Indonesia’s education system is definitely a top-down hierarchical structure, beginning with President Widodo at the top, then overseen by the Minister of Education, Muhadjir Effendi, and the Minister of Research, Technology, and Higher Education, Muhammad Nasir, for public secular schools (about 84% of the total). From there, it is directed by the provincial governors. There are 12 years of compulsory education: six years of primary school, three years of junior high, and three years of senior high, which can be in an academic or a vocational school.

Jakarta skyline

A smoggy day in Jakarta.

There are two parallel systems of schools in Indonesia. The first is the regular public schools, or negeri schools, such as the SDN or Sekolah Dasar Negeri (primary schools); the SMPN or Sekolah Menengah Pertama Negari (school medium first public, or junior high schools); and the SMAN or Sekolah Menengah Atas Negeri (school medium upper public, or senior high schools). The second system is the madrasah, or religious schools (usually Islamic). These are also supported by government funds under the Ministry of Religious Affairs. At the high school level, for interested students or for students that don’t pass the mandatory senior high academic entrance exams, there are vocational schools teaching technology, engineering, art, crafts, hotel management or hospitality, tourism, IT, agriculture, forestry, cooking, legal clerking, and other fields. These schools are called SMK schools, or Sekolah Menengah Kejuruan.

There are some private schools and some students are home-schooled. Private schools charge fees and tuition and usually have better facilities, such as more labs, Internet access, lower class sizes, and air conditioning. Trust me, air conditioning is a major plus. About 7% of the population attends private schools.

Panelists

Sarah Sever with panelists. Dewi is on the right in red.

Students with special needs are not mainstreamed in the pubic schools but attend a Sekolah Luar Biasa or Extraordinary School. These are usually boarding schools and costly, so must students with special needs are simply not educated. When I asked about this, the common answer is that teachers/schools lacked the facilities or training to handle such students or that it would cost too much to make regular schools accessible or to provide accommodations.

No training is provided for special education, and the disabled are not often seen in public. During all my time in Indonesia, I saw one man in a wheelchair without legs (he was at a restaurant parking lot asking for handouts – this was the only begging I saw in the country, and he was treated with respect, not as a beggar), and one child with Down Syndrome in a shopping mall being led by his mother. No one else. Surely there are more people with disabilities. It seems they are out of sight and out of mind. As the father of a child with Down Syndrome, I hope this changes for them. Mainstreaming is good for disabled students and regular students as well, but it took an act of congress and a great deal of commitment for it to happen here.

Teacher training is provided through various universities across Indonesia, and some programs have laboratory schools (such as the school we were to see on Thursday). All teachers are employees of the government and have comparable salaries across all provinces, which can be an issue as it therefore becomes difficult to attract teachers to some of the more remote provinces such as Papua New Guinea. Teachers can request to teach in their home provinces, but they are ultimately assigned by the central government.

Group with panelists

Indonesia cohort of teachers with the Teachers for Global Classrooms program in Indonesia with our panelists.

Education standards and curriculum are determined centrally by the government and leave very little room for local interpretation. Textbooks are centrally decided and provided, as are lab supplies such as beakers, alcohol burners, and chemicals. As I was to discover, this doesn’t mean they are used equally from school to school or that all teachers have sufficient professional development for doing hands-on labs. All teachers are required to provide a detailed syllabus with a complete breakdown of how many days and hours spent on each concept and an academic calendar with analysis of effective days, or days per subject/concept. They also must provide lesson plans for each day (some flexibility is allowed), and both syllabus and lessons are placed in binders in a central location in each school so that substitutes can access them. Teachers are also required to keep attendance lists, journals/notes on the effectiveness of their lessons, and student journals.

Day to day operations are somewhat different than American schools, as students basically stay put in a room and teachers move around, except in specialized classes such as science where students need the lab spaces and therefore move to them. The exact schedule each day was something I never quite figured out, as it seemed to be rather fluid from day to day. In general, a teacher was in a room for about 90 minutes divided into 45 minute sections. The overall calendar for the year is hard to figure out – I looked over the large one at SMAN 1 Mandastana and there were no-school days for Ramadan and Idul Fitri (post Ramadan feast days), Christmas Break, a break in the fall and spring, but also days blocked out for testing, etc. Since Ramadan progresses with the lunar phases each year, the school calendar has to make adjustments around it.

Le Meridien Hotel

The Le Meridien Hotel, where we held our training session today.

By the time students get to high school, they are either in an SMK school in a specific area of study or they are in an academic high school (SMAN) in one of three “major” tracks: sciences, social sciences, or languages. There are some general education courses, such as Islamic studies, that cross all majors, but the students specialize. Language students take classes in 3-4 different languages, including Bahasa Indonesia and English, if teachers are available. Science track students take Civics, Bahasa Indonesia, English, Math, Biology (Biologi), Chemistry (Kimia), Physics (Fisika), Economics, History, Sports, Art, and Local Studies. There is no earth science, geology, or astronomy taught in high school as separate classes, although concepts from these fields may be incorporated into other classes or be taught at the junior high level. I didn’t see any evidence of them being taught in high schools.

After lunch we had several educators at the college level provide a panel discussion. They spoke of some of the training and distribution challenges and how there are gaps in quality in various parts of Indonesia. Because of a government requirement that a school must have at least nine teachers, some small schools have a very high teacher to student ratio, whereas teachers in Jakarta can have 36-42 students in a class. Overall, Indonesia has a 1:15 ratio, one of the lowest in the world. In addition to inequalities in teacher quality and student ratios, leadership is an issue. School administrators typically are selected from the ranks of regular teachers without additional training. They are “teachers with extra tasks.”

But given all these issues, education is seen throughout Indonesia as a valuable and respected career path and teachers are treated as professionals. Parents generally trust teachers and don’t ask questions or challenge them (this can be both a good and a bad thing). Because teachers are relied on so much, most parents are not very involved and parent teacher organizations (PTAs and PTOs) are almost non-existent.

Hotel pool

The pool at the La Meridien Hotel. I never actually went swimming in it.

Indonesians seem open to making changes in their education system, as seen by the yearly tweaks made to the curriculum and course schedules, but because of a centralized hierarchy, change is slow. Certification programs to improve teacher qualifications are only about ten years old, and older teachers are still resisting. Decentralized education is beginning. Differentiation in salaries is starting to be used to draw teachers to remote provinces. Additional control over education is moving to the provinces, such as the now required local studies course, which is decided at the provincial level. Infrastructure improvements to old schools and outdated labs are a continuing challenge and always will be.

It will be interesting to see how things change here over the next ten years as Indonesia enters the ranks of the developed countries. It will be interesting to see how education in the United States changes over the next ten years as well. I hope to be a part of that change.

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