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Jakarta Day 2: Sunday, July 16, 2017

Trania

A mango-coconut-lime smoothie, or what I prefer to call “Tronia.” This is my obscure Star Trek reference for the day . . .

Now that I am in Jakarta my blog posts will be a bit different. I am actually writing up all of the posts as one document, which I will continue to edit throughout my journey before starting to post them. I am trying to write them as much “in the moment” as I can to retain how I feel about each experience, yet some days I am skipping over to get other moments of deeper feeling written before my memories fade. I want to retain as much of a chronological order as possible for these posts, so that you won’t be confused, so I am waiting to post them until they are all done. But although largely in order of what happened each day, they will become more topical as events reinforce each other. Some small details that aren’t enough to discuss on one day may add up to more important ideas later. So I’m not writing them in order, but will post them in order. Maybe it doesn’t make sense to you, but it will work for me.

So my first topic is the relationship between food and feeling “at home” in a country. I am all for trying out Indonesian dishes, within reason. I’m not about to eat something from a roadside stall where I can’t be sure of how hygienic it is, but if I’m reasonably sure it is safe, I’ll try it. But I also know that eating unfamiliar food for a long time can do more than test one’s intestinal fortitude. It can lead to major feelings of homesickness. On my LDS mission to southern Taiwan, my parents would send occasional care packages from home. I always requested foods such as buttermilk powder and maple flavoring that I couldn’t get in Taiwan, so that I could cook buttermilk pancakes with maple syrup. I really missed good pancakes, for some reason. All the other ingredients I could find, but not those two. Eating food from home from time to time helped me accept being a stranger in a strange land.

And of all meals, breakfast seems to be the one I missed the most. Yes, I enjoyed the occasional sou bing you tyau (long scones like churros wrapped in a sesame bun and dipped into sweetened soy bean milk) or mantou (steamed bread) or even syi fan (runny rice), yet I still came back to pancakes with maple syrup as often as I could get the ingredients. I became a great pancake cook, even though I had never really made them at home. It’s funny what you miss, and how a little home comfort food can help you feel better.

Breakfast

The breakfast buffet at the La Meridien Hotel. They have a little bit of everything, and it is all good. I especially liked the smoothies.

The Le Meridién Hotel has an excellent buffet for breakfast. On my first morning in Jakarta, after not sleeping as long as I had hoped (I woke up about 4:00 because my body thought it should be daytime), I wandered downstairs to the buffet at 6:30. It was good to shower and feel refreshed, but a good breakfast also helped with the psychological stresses of jet lag. I appreciated that the buffet included Indonesian and American foods (as well as some Chinese, Japanese, and other nationalities) so that I could try new things as I wanted but still have some comfort foods from home. There were pancakes and waffles (with maple syrup), an egg bar, pastries and donuts, and an array of more exotic choices. I tried many small samples to see what was good.

The mango-coconut-lime smoothie was excellent, and looked to me like Tronia from the Star Trek episode The Corbomite Maneuver. When I sent a picture of it to Becca, she posted it on Facebook and said anyone who could understand the reference deserved extra points. Terry Bruning, my old mission companion, said it looked like a drink a kid named Clint Howard might serve. Kudos to Terry for knowing it was Clint Howard who played Blayloc in the episode. He wins the obscure Star Trek reference prize for today!

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Jakarta Day 1: Saturday, July 15, 2017

Mie Yogya hot stuff

Mie Yogya, a very spicy dish of fried chicken, steamed rice, and vegetables. And I didn’t even add any sambal sauce.

We met in the lobby of the Le Meridién Hotel in Jakarta at 6:15 to board the bus to our welcome dinner. It was nice to see the other teachers, and they welcomed us and heard our tale of woe and our unexpected detour through Sydney. They arrived about 1:00 last night and at least had a good sleep all morning before heading to the National Monument this afternoon.

The restaurant was called Tjikini Lima, and we sat at a long table near the entrance and ordered various Indonesian dishes. I decided to try Mie Yogya, which turned out to be a very spicy chicken stew with steamed rice and carrots. It was delicious but my mouth was on fire. There is a good reason why they call these the Spice Islands. I was glad to have a water bottle, and I had also ordered a berry shake, which was more like an Italian soda in consistency but very good. It helped to cut the burn of the food. The flavor was amazing.

Welcome dinner

Some of the educators in the Teachers for Global Classrooms program at the Tjikini Lima restaurant in Jakarta, Indonesia.

I managed to stay awake enough through dinner, but found I was clumsy and very jetlagged – I dropped a bunch of utensils on the floor. Kate and Christie were kind enough to try to keep me talking and engaged, but I found I could not stop nodding off. I hope I can sleep well tonight.

Our in-country consultant is Dewi, a high school English teacher from Jambi on Sumatra. She is very funny and positive, the perfect host. We were also met by Novianti, the host teachers for Mike and Ursula, who will be staying in Jakarta for their host school experience.

Welcome dinner 2

Teachers at our welcome dinner for the Teachers for Global Classrooms program in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Once we got back to the hotel I headed for my room and fell asleep almost immediately. This has been a very, very long journey and my first time across the Pacific Ocean in over 36 years. I’m happy to finally be here in Indonesia. Except for some major jet lag, I am ready to go!

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Trans-Pacifica Part V: Saturday, July 15, 2017

Sydney international terminal

The International Terminal in Sydney Airport.

The final leg of our journey to Indonesia began in Sydney, Australia. The Garuda flight wasn’t in any hurry to board, probably because the plane got in a bit late. I walked over to the gate and asked if it was time to get our official boarding passes and they told me yes, but it took some time as the attendant wanted to know a complete, detailed description of my baggage, despite the customer service person in San Francisco going through the same details. As it turned out, I’m glad she did. Once the boarding began, they didn’t call out groups as in most boarding procedures except that they boarded business class first, then everyone else in a kind of mob. But we got onto the plane eventually, taxied out, and took off.

Sydney departure board-relax

The departure board at Sydney International Airport. I like their advice for waiting: Relax! It’s also interesting to see departures to places like Ho Chi Minh City that you can’t get to from the United States.

This is wintertime in Sydney, but its latitude gives it a climate something like Southern California. The bays and inlets of Sydney Harbor shone invitingly from the air. I could see the downtown area, but never spied the famous opera house. No little clown fish or blue tang in the water, either. But it looks beautiful. I must return sometime. I don’t think staying in the airport without feet actually on the ground counts as having visited a place.

Currencies

International currencies in a donation box at Sydney airport.

We flew south, then turned west and flew over the center of Australia. There wasn’t much to see, and I spent most of the time talking with my seatmate. His name was Paul and he was originally from Germany, working in Australia among other places, and on his way home to visit his wife and children in Jakarta. He had served for many years in the German Army as part of UN Peacekeeping forces around the world. He had five brothers, and all had been in the German military. Two brothers had died in the line of duty, one while rescuing hostages in Mogadishu, Somalia (I tried to find more information on this, but haven’t been successful). Paul had lost his left eye and been wounded in the left arm and leg when a land mine exploded, which he was tried to disarm in the former Yugoslavia. After this accident, he was put on Embassy duty, eventually winding up in Indonesia. Lost in the streets of Jakarta, a kind man took him home and fed him. He met the man’s daughter, became friends with the family, and married the daughter. Now semi-retired, he runs a security firm on the side.

Coast near Sydney

The coastline of Australia near Sydney Harbor as seen from our flight to Indonesia.

We crossed over Alice Springs – not much to see below, just flat desert with some meandering watercourses. At the northwest coast there were many ridges and islands, evidence of submerged valleys from the rise of oceans after the last ice age. Our flight attendants were very attentive (I guess that’s what their job title implies) and kept us well fed and watered. I learned a few Indonesian words, such as kamar kecil (restroom) and keluar (exit) from reading the signs on the airplane. After Australia a large stretch of ocean appeared with occasional rings of atolls below. I tried to sleep without much success. Finally, after six hours of flying, we saw the coast of a large island made visible by the stacks of clouds above it, clustered around a central volcanic peak. I took a few photos out the window. I’m not sure which volcano it was, but it was definitely a composite cone. Let’s hope I get to see a few of these up close! If one of them ever erupted while I was nearby, I would be like Pliny the Elder, last seen running toward Mt. Vesuvius as it erupted.

Sydney Harbor

Sydney Harbor as seen from our plane’s window. I was using an iPad camera here with low resolution and I am zoomed in quite a bit, so the image isn’t very good. Plus, it’s taken out of an airplane window, after all. The white blob at center left may be the Opera House. Hard to tell.

We crossed Java and turned for Jakarta as more clouds appeared below in ordered puffs over the sea. We landed about 30 minutes late and deplaned. We walked through embarkation (I got my passport stamped) and were met by representatives with a sign. Both Mike and Alicia had been told as they boarded the airplane that their luggage had not been transferred to the flight, so they had to fill out claims in the luggage department. Alicia had a change of clothes in her carry-on, but Mike was forced to wear the same clothes for three more days until his bags finally arrived at the hotel. My bags were on the flight, thank heavens, so I got a trolley and walked through customs (basically a hand-wave as the representatives just handed our forms to the officials and we walked on through). We had a car waiting for us outside the terminal. As we walked outside, I could feel the humidity soak into my clothes. I’m back in the tropics again. It’s been a long time – over 36 years.

Volcano from air

A volcano on Java as seen from our Garuda Indonesia flight to Jakarta.

We drove into Jakarta and it was a bit disconcerting to have the driver on the right side of the car – I kept thinking the driver was missing or that we were in an automatic car. Maybe in 10 years this will be true, although I don’t see it being successful in Jakarta’s heavy traffic. It took some time to get to the Le Meridién Hotel, as Jakarta is a huge, sprawling city. But we did arrive finally, put our bags through the security scanner at the front door, and got our rooms. Sarah Sever met us in the lobby and was visibly relieved to see us, after missing our connection through Narita with the rest of the group. She will be our mother hen for the next three weeks. We arrived at the hotel at 5:30 and our welcome dinner departs at 6:15. I had just enough time to go to my room (620) and shower and change, which felt wonderful after two days of flying in the same underwear and compression socks. My right leg is not happy.

Garuda flight from Sydney

Our Garuda International flight before leaving Sydney.

I am here at last. My adventure in Indonesia can finally begin!

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Trans-Pacifica, Part IV: Date Unknown

Interactive flight map

Interactive flight map of our approach to Sydney Airport.

Our alternate flight on our journey to Jakarta took off on time, departing at 10:50 pm from Gate 92 at San Francisco’s International Terminal. It will be a 14.5-hour flight to Sydney, Australia on one of United Airline’s newest Boeing 787 jets. We were able to upgrade to Economy Plus class for a little extra legroom. Mike said it could be measured in inch-hours – how may extra inches of legroom you get per hour. I said we should make this the Metric Unit of relief from discomfort.

It’s a beautiful airplane, and one with digital screens in the back of the seat, which allow you to choose and watch a wide variety of movies and TV shows. I finished watching the National Geographic “Mars” series and watched “Rogue One” as well as trying to get some sleep. My daughter’s pillow came in handy, or my bum would have been even more sore than it already is. When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I got up, used the bathroom, and stretched out my legs. I’m glad I went to the gym and worked my legs out well Wednesday morning.

Sydney flight economy class

The economy class section of our 777 to Sydney. Most passengers are looking at the interactive map as we approach Sydney airport. We followed a great circle route across the Pacific Ocean.

It was interesting to chart our progress. One of the apps showed the current position of the airplane on a world map, alternating between close and worldwide views, and giving constantly updated information on airspeed, wind speed, distance traveled, distance yet to go, and the current time at our destination. Our own current time was a bit relative. It also showed the night and day portions of the world map, and I saw how we were chasing the night, heading southwest. This was the longest night I’ve ever had – about 18 hours all told from sunset in San Francisco to sunrise in Sydney. But as fast as we were going (about 540 mph), the Earth rotates faster. At the equator, it rotates about 25,000 miles in 24 hours, or 1100 miles per hour. At Utah’s latitude, it is more like 700 mph (I worked it out once – a nice problem in geometry for students). That means that even though we were chasing the night, dawn would eventually catch us. I saw how the dawn terminator moved slowly across Utah and California, across the Pacific, gradually but inexorably running us down.

We crossed directly west of Hawaii and headed southwest to Brisbane, then down the coast to Sydney. At some point we crossed over the equator – my first time to the southern hemisphere. I look forward to seeing the Southern Cross for the first time. Isn’t there a song about that? At about the same time, we intersected the International Date Line and lost a day. We’ll get a day back going home, but I will never know Friday, July 14, 2017. Jakarta is 13 hours ahead of Utah, almost halfway around the world and in a different hemisphere entirely.

We arrived on schedule at Sydney, circling around to land from the south as dawn began to brighten a pink-orange eastern sky. We checked our carry-ons through the International terminal and are now waiting for our flight: Garuda Air 714 out of Gate 50 to Jakarta at 11:00, if everything goes well.

Mike looks at map

Mike (center) following our progress on the interactive map.

I tried to talk with a retired law professor from Beijing who is flying with her daughter and two grandsons to Boston. My Mandarin Chinese is rusty, but we made ourselves understood. She has been to Taiwan before, where I lived for two years, and even visited Ah Li Shan there. I’ve been to Ah Li Shan and seen the sunrise over the mountains. It is a thought-provoking coincidence that two people from such distant places and backgrounds could have our lives intersect in these interesting ways. I once wrote a blog post about this – how as teachers we hope to be understood most of the time by our students, but how all individuals live in separate worlds that only intersect occasionally, and trying to communicate through these intersections is like trying to teach someone from another planet. My post is located here: Riding the Shadow Line.

How can I hope to intersect and communicate with students in Borneo, when we are from such different worlds? That is why my guiding question is to look for the commonalities between us, and science will be one such intersection. The laws of science are universal, and many of the words and processes are also universal. I hope to find other intersections, other points of common ground.

Sydney pre dawn

My first view of Australia from Sydney Airport.

Here’s hoping our flight today goes well and we arrive in Jakarta as scheduled. After our adventures over the last day, I won’t take that for granted any more. But then, this whole trip will be one adventure after another. They say adventures are what happen when things don’t go as planned. And they won’t, especially traveling to an unknown place to work with unknown people. Bring the adventure on! More stories to tell!

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Trans-Pacifica, Part III: Wednesday, July 13, 2017

After waiting in an excruciatingly slow line to get our alternate tickets, we had to work our way through Security again. We made it all the way through and discovered we had forgotten to empty our water bottles. I had completely forgotten, because I hadn’t thought I’d need to go through Security again. So I volunteered to go back out, dump out our bottles, and go back through. Fortunately, it was faster the second time

Alicia and Mike had gone on to Gate 92 for our 10:50 flight and had gotten some supper already. After plugging in my laptop to start re-charging it, I went upstairs and stood in line at a marketplace to get some fresh pizza. I was about to order when I heard someone calling “Dave! Dave!” I turned around and saw it was a former student of mine from Walden School named Libby. She graduated about four years ago, and has since finished her associate degree and is traveling to Bali through China to celebrate. Although I’m going to Bali, too, we won’t be there at the same time. She told me of others from the school that I had taught, and that she hopes to go on the one of the University of California schools and eventually get a law degree

It was great to see her, and what a coincidence to run into her here of all places, on her way to the same place I’m going. I got thinking about the influence I’ve had over 26 years of teaching, the number of students I’ve taught directly, the number I’ve impacted indirectly through workshops and other professional development activities I’ve done for their teachers, and how many people have read my blog posts and at least been slightly influenced. I tried to calculate this altogether and came up with somewhere between 750,000 and 1,000,000 people whose lives I’ve at least touched to a small degree, and thousands of people I’ve taught directly. This blog has been visited by hundreds of thousands of people itself, and my videos on YouTube have been seen by tens of thousands more. Now I’m traveling half way around the world in the hope that I can spread a bit of global perspective. Ultimately, however, it comes down to one student at a time, one day after another, one more chance to influence someone for good.

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Salt Lake skyline

The Salt Lake City skyline as seen from the airport, July 13, 2017.

Here I go on another adventure – I’m heading west, then south, on my way to Jakarta, Indonesia. I’ve been chosen for the Teachers for Global Classrooms (TGC) program sponsored by the U. S. State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs. About 75 teachers out of 500 applicants were selected to travel to six countries: Indonesia, Senegal, Morocco, India, Columbia, and the Philippines. It is a teacher exchange program, in that teachers from developing countries are chosen to study English and education theory at colleges in the U.S. for up to one semester or five months, then return to their own schools to act as hosts for two American teachers.

I will be working with Muhammad Nazaruddin, who teaches English at SMA Negeri 1 Mandastana, or Mandastana Public High School # 1. This school is located in southern Kalimantan, the Indonesian part of Borneo, near the city of Banjarmasin. I am also working with Craig Hendricks of Indianapolis who teaches six grade STEM classes. We’ll be observing classes, teaching of American culture and STEM related lessons, and conducting a professional development session on technology integration for teachers from throughout southern Borneo. While in Kalimantan, we’ll get to see batik making, visit an actual diamond mine (wohoo!), see an island sanctuary for proboscis monkeys, visit the famous floating markets, and get to know a part of the world I never dreamed I would ever see. Me? This guy from a Podunk town in western Utah get to visit the rain forest and wilds of Borneo? No way! Yet, here I go.

I’ve been preparing for this for over a year now, what with taking an online course, having medical exams, attending a symposium in Washington, D.C., packing and repacking, getting a passport renewal and visa, etc. Yesterday (Wednesday, July 12, 2017) I spent at the gym to work my legs out, as they tend to swell up when I travel. I took Jonathan and William to swimming lessons, got some brochures from the Utah Valley Visitors Bureau down at the convention center to give to students in Mandastana, bought last minute supplies, packed, cooked baked ziti for supper and egg/sausage muffins for breakfast, watched the Season 10 premiere of Smallville with Becca, sent the receipts for the STEM Action Center grant, charged up all my devices, got the Kindle up and running, gassed up the car, dropped off The Year of Living Dangerously  and an Indonesia travel video at the library, and prepared in every way I could think of. I am as ready for this as I can be.

I got to bed at 2:30 and had to get up this morning at 4:15 to make my flight. We got the boys up and into the car in their pajamas and left home at 5:30. Becca drove me to the airport as a pink to orange sunrise lightened over the Wasatch Mountains. She dropped me off at United Airlines at Terminal 1. I waited through the lines and got my bags checked and my boarding passes. Security was busy but fast, although they had to pat me down and look over my laptop thoroughly. Given the recent ban on laptops coming in to the Unites States, I’m relieved that I made it through so easily.

I arrived at Gate B9 with an hour to spare before boarding, so I worked on cleaning up photos of our recent trip to Four Corners for my presentation in Borneo, until I realized that I was late boarding the plane – but they hadn’t started to board yet. So I looked at the status board above the gate counter and it said the flight was delayed for “air traffic control” issues in San Francisco. It was supposed to depart at 8:15 but was delayed until 9:38. I had a three-hour layover so I was still good. I went back to cleaning up photos. Then I saw that the board now read that our departure would be at 10:05. I asked the gate agent if there would be a problem and she said I should still be fine, because the international terminal was “just around the corner” from our incoming gate, and I’ll have about 45 minutes to reach my flight to Narita, Japan, before it departs. She said they would look after me, but this is United Airlines and I’ve had problems with them before (I will eventually post about my trip to Omaha). I would have chosen a different airline, perhaps Singapore Air, to take me to Jakarta. But since this is a U. S. State Department program, we have to fly under the regulations of the Fly America Act and use an American carrier.

Boarding flight from SLC

Boarding our flight to San Francisco.

At about 9:00 it was announced that we had a window of opportunity to reach SFO through a lull in air control, so we quickly boarded the plane and got our seats for a 9:25 departure. I’m all for seizing an opportunity when we get it. We taxied out and took off, and I hoped to myself this would be the only glitch in my journey. If only. Little did I know that worse was yet to come.

I sat by Stan Jensen from Castledale. He’s traveling to the Bay Area to see his grandson in a baseball tournament. He knows Duane Merrill well – they even coached little league baseball together. This world keeps getting smaller. While boarding the plane, I spoke with two different families who were Chinese and was surprised that my Mandarin was understandable at all. One family was from the mainland and heading back to BeiJing. The other was from Taipei in Taiwan who now live and work in America. They are on a vacation to ShangHai. Things have changed in the 36 years since I lived in southern Taiwan, when there were no relations between the mainland and Taiwan and no one traveled between them. Now relations are almost normalized.

I took some time on the flight to start my notebook/journal from which I have taken these notes. As I thought of the title for this post, it occurred to me that I’ve been fortunate with the opportunities I’ve had as a science teacher. I’ve kept my ears open to hear about these programs, and I’ve been even more fortunate to be selected for quite a few of them. Other opportunities will come, if I can only open up the windows to find them.

When other teachers ask how I’ve managed to do all of these things, I’ve responded, “Because I applied for them.” That seams to be a flippant answer, but what I mean from it is that I’ve looked for opportunities consistently and opened the windows by applying and re-applying if necessary. I’ve made my own fortune, so to speak, and haven’t given up if something is important enough. It took applying four times, once per year, to finally get accepted as the Educator Facilitator for the NASA Explorer Schools program, and so many other opportunities have come because I refused to let that particular window close. Success breeds success, and participating in the TGC program will undoubtedly lead to further opportunities later on. So as I finish the first leg of a grand adventure, I know great things still lie ahead, in Indonesia and beyond, even if I don’t yet know what they will be.

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