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Borneo Day 6: Wednesday, July 26

Pink mosque and rice field

Ripening rice field and a pink mosque in Barito Kuala Regency, South Kalimantan.

The counselor at SMAN 1 Mandastana was celebrating the birth of a new baby and invited us to his home, along with the other teachers. School would be let out early so the teachers could attend. After we had rested a bit from our morning teaching and had re-hydrated, Nazar drove us to his home.

Coal barge on Barito

A coal barge on the Barito River. Sorry that it’s a bit blurry – I took this from a moving car as we crossed the bridge.

He lived out in the country beyond the Barito River Bridge and past the river town we had stopped in a few days before. This was the furthest we went to the west. Nazar hadn’t been to his house before and had to call him a few times for directions and turn around a few times. Google Maps isn’t as accurate out here. I had the chance to observe people as they were beginning the rice harvest.

Mosque and rice field

A field of rice ready to harvest and a blue mosque, out in the country of Barito Kuala Regency.

Rice can be grown twice each year in Indonesia. I’ll write about the process of planting and growing rice in a later post, but let me here talk about the harvesting. As the rice becomes ripe, the fields are allowed to dry and the rice heads and stalks turn golden, although never as golden as wheat. Some of the farmers use mechanical rice pickers (there is my obscure Star Trek reference for the day – what episode of the original series discusses Spock’s unfortunate accident with a mechanical rice picker?). Some still harvest by hand with machetes and carry the bundles to their house courtyards, where they use a hand-cranked threshing machine to separate the grains from the stalks (chaff). I saw quite a few of these threshing machines as we traveled today, as the harvest is beginning and farmers have brought them out to use. Once the grain is threshed, it is placed on top of the courtyard or on tarps by the road to dry. The farmers rake it around to help it dry faster. Then it is collected, bagged, and sold. We saw people on motorcycles carrying the bags, and stores by the roads selling the rice.

Drying rice in front of house

Harvested rice is laid out on tarps in the courtyard or driveway of the house (or sometimes at the edges of country lanes) to dry. The rice is raked frequently to aid in even drying. I’m not sure what happens if it rains (as it did later this afternoon).

We finally found the counselor’s house, by a rice field next to a pink mosque. This was his own rice field. We were welcomed into the house, where we removed our shoes and sat on the floor to eat the ceremonial meal.

Drying rice

Laying out tarps for drying rice. The wooden wheel-shaped object behind the farmer is a rice thresher. The stalks are placed inside and a crank is turned, causing the rice grains to be separated or threshed from the stalks. It is then placed on the tarps to dry.

The baby naming/presentation ceremony is an important one in Banjarese culture, and we were treated as honored guests. Different dishes were brought out on a carrying rack for us to choose from, as well as trays of the plastic water cups and steamed rice that he had grown and harvested himself in the field next door. The food was good. After the meal, as other people were beginning to arrive, we took photographs with the mother and mother-in-law and got to hold the baby.

Baby naming ceremony

Food for the baby naming ceremony. The blue plastic cups in the trays are sealed cups of purified water.

Nazar drove us back to the hotel to rest as clouds were beginning to gather.

Rice field and pink mosque 2

The counselor’s rice field and the pink mosque next door.

House and mother in law

The counselor’s house where the ceremony and meal took place. The mother, baby, and mother in law are on the porch. The rice field next door is his field, and we ate rice he harvested from it last year.

David holding baby

Getting to hold the baby. The father is to my left and the mother to my right. He is the counselor at SMAN 1 Mandastana.

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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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Borneo Day 3: Sunday, July 23, 2017

Popular spot

Water taxis unloading at a popular spot on the Martapura River. We were to eat here for lunch.

Nazar, his wife, and daughters picked us up at the hotel at 11:30. We drove along ever more narrow streets leading out of the city toward the northeast. I noticed we were paralleling the Martapura River, which we had just traveled on earlier that morning to visit the floating market of Lok Baintan.

Soto bang amat place

Our restaurant for lunch, specialing in soto bang amat, a type of soto (stew) popular in southern Kalimantan (Borneo).

Nazar was a bit cryptic about where he was taking us, saying it was a surprise. We were on a kind of frontage road leading along the river; I had seen motorcycles and bicycles traveling along this road while on the river. Then I realized where we were heading – to the very restaurant I had noticed this morning where water taxis were dropping boatloads of people off and smoke was rising from grills.

Soto bang amat

Soto bang amat. It is a stew with chicken, boiled egg, noodles, vegetables, rice, and lime. Very delicious!

This restaurant is famous as the best place to get soto bang amat, a type of stew with rice and noodles, boiled egg, and other ingredients. Each region of Indonesia has its own style of soto, and which is best is a hotly contested argument. We each got steaming bowls while another band playing traditional music entertained us. The restaurant was crowded and the sota bang amat was good. I tried not to think of what the “other ingredients” might be and just enjoy the experience, and found I quite liked it. Grills were smoking, cooking up skewers of meat which we didn’t try but which had quite a tantalizing odor.

Craig and David with band

Craig Hendrick and David Black with a traditional band at the restaurant.

After the meal we posed for photos with the band, then picked up the car and headed back through Banjarmasin to our next destination: a major bridge across the Barito River.

Nazar's family

Nazar’s family (except his son, who was practicing for the Indonesian Independence Day celebration).

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Borneo Day 3: Sunday, July 23, 2017

First approach

Approaching the floating market at Lok Baintan. Ladies in traditional clothing paddling long boats converged on our water taxi to sell fruit, vegetables, and souvenirs.

The sun rose up over the Martapura River as we reached the floating market of Lok Baintan. Ladies in traditional clothing were paddling small boats around the many water taxis, selling everything from fruits and vegetables to donuts and a sort of green gelatin. People in the taxis were paying money directly to the ladies for what they wanted and a brisk trade was going on, but mostly people were taking photos. I’ve never seen so many selfie sticks! There was even a drone flying overhead videotaping the market.

Floating market

The Lok Baintan floating market near Banjarmasin on the Martapura River. I love the stacks of oranges!

The early morning sun, which had just risen, shone brightly on the colorful boats loaded with wares. It was all good fun and quite picturesque. I enjoyed the carefully stacked oranges and soursop fruit, the small sweet bananas grown locally. A lady was cutting slices of mango to wrap in plastic for a customer, another selling huge shallots, a man and wife selling small souvenir recreations of the very boat they were in.

Lady in traditional hat

Lay in a traditional banana leaf hat selling wares from her boat at the Lok Baintan floating market.

All of these boats were weaving in and out of the water taxis crowded with tourists, who had climbed onto their roofs for a better look. I did the same – the slippery roof of our boat had dried enough that I could do so without too much danger.

Fruit to sell

Fruit and vegetables to sell. Notice the stubby bananas that are common here – they are much sweeter and have a slightly peachy flavor compared with the bananas we are used to.

After watching the selling proceed for about 45 minutes, our boat backed away from the others and turned about to head back down the river. There was another foreigner staying at the Swiss Belhotel who was on the boat with us. He is from Austria and is in Indonesia setting up an online training program for the Indonesian government.

Two ladies in boats

Ladies selling fruit and vegetables from their long boats at the Lok Baintan floating market on the Martapura River.

On our journey back to Banjarmasin we passed houses on both sides of the river with their back porches actually acting as docks into the river. The Banjar people are traditionally river people, living their lives on and making their livelihood from the river itself. Mothers and wives and grandmothers sat on the docks washing clothes or dishes, children splashed and swam, older gentlemen with bare chests were pulling up buckets of water to splash on themselves while vigorously scrubbing; this is how they shower. Women were doing the same, while remaining clothed in sarongs. Shops and stores lined the river and people were buying goods. Fishermen checked their nets; goods were transported up and down the river. I saw a man pass us with a load of coconuts.

Laughing lady with shallots

The Lady of Shallots. If you understand that reference, you win the Grand Sweepstakes for obscure literature quotes.

As we approached the city, the mosques (masjid) became more common, their domes and minarets shining in the early light. Near one, several water taxis were unloading people at what appeared to be an open-air restaurant based on the smoke from grills. It looked quite popular.

Craig-David-Nazar at market

Craig Hendrick, David Black, Muhammad Nazaruddin, and his wife at the Lok Baintan market.

I enjoyed the bright colors of the houses and mosques. The Banjar people seem to like things brightly painted. Not all of the houses were in good shape – some were leaning, some were sagging, some were in poor repair or abandoned. It must be difficult to build and maintain houses built on stilts along a river that can flood at times. Nazar told us that Banjarmasin doesn’t have many tall buildings because the ground is too unstable and swampy; with its thousand rivers, and the boat traffic and water taxis, it is definitely the Venice of Indonesia.

David at floating market

David Black at the Lok Baintan floating market on the Martapura River near Banjarmasin.

What had been a comfortable if humid morning had become hot in the bright sun as we approached the city. It was a Sunday morning, which is like Saturday for us, and many people were out riding water taxis, walking along the pier at Siring, dancing in the spray from the mouth of the giant spitting monkey statue, and generally enjoying the morning.

Along the river

Shopping at a small market along the Martapura River.

We arrived back at our hotel at 8:30. Nazar and his wife needed to go to the funeral of a neighbor, so Craig and I took the opportunity to have breakfast at the hotel and take naps. As we entered the hotel lobby there was a four-piece band playing traditional Indonesian music, dressed in beautiful costumes. I recorded them playing for a few minutes; now I have a soundtrack for my video. I took so many videos on the river that it required three tries and moving files to my hard drive before I could upload everything from my camera.

Morning swim

Taking a swim in the Martapura River. The people who live here bathe, wash dishes, drink, fish, and transport their goods all on this river.

Purple tower mosque

Purple mosque and colorful waterfront on the Martapura River near Banjarmasin.

Early morning mosque 2

SIlver-domed mosque along the Martapura River in the early morning light.

Green tower mosque

A mosque with a green minaret along the Martapura River near Banjarmasin.

Soto bang amat from river

Several water taxis were unloading passengers here. Based on the smoke from the barbeques, it must be a popular restaurant. Notice the traditional Banjarese roofs.

Coconuts in boat

Transporting a load of coconuts up the river. Notice the water taxis docked at the house in the background.

Water taxi

Another water taxi as we neared the dock in Banjarmasin. This was Sunday, which to people here is like Saturday for us – a day to enjoy the river and the morning.

Colorful waterfront

Colorful houses along the Martapura River as we approach Banjarmasin.

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Borneo Day 2: Saturday, July 22, 2017

Bark hats

Hats made from the inner bark of the breadfruit tree, I couldn’t find one that fit, or I would have bought one.

Our first full day in Borneo was a Saturday, so we were going sightseeing. Craig and I met for breakfast in the buffet downstairs from the lobby. The food was pretty good, but not as extensive as the Le Meridién. The orange juice (jus jeruk) was delicious, and they had fresh pineapple and the small Indonesian bananas that are sweeter than what we get in America. They have an omelet bar where we could get scrambled eggs, and small waffles with honey. There were also some Indonesian and Italian foods, such as penne pasta, that were good but not exactly what I wanted for breakfast.

Nazar picked us up at 8:15 along with his wife and oldest daughter. We drove out of town on the Jalan A. Yani back toward the airport. The road was busy with early morning traffic – people heading to work or to market. We passed motorcycles laden with ducks and chickens, bundles of noodles, or other items to sell. The morning markets were obvious as there would be hundreds of parked motorcycles and many stalls by the roadway. We traveled on through the roundabout by the airport and continued on past it toward the city of Banjarbaru.

Bark britches

A bark shirt and britches, made from the inner bark of the breadfruit tree.

Our first stop was the Lambung Mangkurat Museum, about 36 km from Banjarmasin. This is a museum of Banjarese and South Kalimantan history and culture, built for the Ministry of Education in the 1970s. The central building is shaped like a stylized Banjarese house with a red roof. We first went into a side building that showed Banjarese art, including weaving and the sasirangan that is Kalimantan’s equivalent to batik. It is more like tie-dye and doesn’t use a wax resist process. It also displayed clothing such as loincloths, trousers, shirts, and hats made from the inner bark of the breadfruit tree, which is pounded until soft and formed into clothing.

Bark clothing

Clothing made from breadfruit bark at the Kalminantan culture museum. This type of clothing is still made for ceremonial purposes by the Dayak people of Kalimantan.

Sasirangan patterns

Here is a description of the different types of patterns produced by sasirangan techniques.

Next door was a display of pottery, including some local wares and jars that dated back quite a long time to the Buddhist and Hindu kingdoms of the 8th Century and from the Dutch colonies in the 17th through 19th Centuries. Some of the pieces shown were brought here from China from the Sung and Ming Dynasties. Quite valuable! Who knew I would see them here?

Sasirangan red stripes

Sasirangan is Borneo’s answer to batik and is more like tie dye (actually, I believe tie dye probably started as sasirangan). Here is a nice shirt with a wavy pattern.

The main building housed a variety of historic displays, including bones from the indigenous pygmy elephants that used to live here. A subspecies of Asian elephants still lives in a small area of northern Kalimantan. There were tools from primitive cultures going back to Java man. They had royal costumes and Dutch cannons, gamelon orchestra instruments and recreations of thrones and other artifacts. They had displays about Pengaran Antasari, a hero who led a revolt against the Dutch.

Sung dynasty bowls

Bowls and vases traded to Banjar rulers by Chinese merchants. These pieces are of Sung Dynasty age and origin.

Outside the main building in a shaded area under the stairs was a model of Borobudur. It is a giant Buddhist temple shaped like a mandala near Yogyakarta. I will be visiting there on my five-day extension trip in two weeks.

Kalimantan pottery

Native pottery from Kalimantan.

We got back in the car and continued on.

Piring bowl

A large Ming Dynasty bowl, or piring.

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Borneo Day 1: Friday, July 21, 2017

Jakarta airport terminal 3

Terminal 3 at the Soeharto Hatta International Airport, waiting for our flight to Banjarmasin.

Our flight to Borneo was about 9:20, so we had time to eat breakfast at the hotel and meet our taxi to the airport. Other teams had already left. Most were flying, one team was driving for eight hours, and one team was staying here in Jakarta but moving to a hotel closer to their school (MAN 4 Jakarta that we had visited on Tuesday).

Waiting in Jakarta airport

Craig Hendrick waiting in the Soeharto Hatta airport.

The taxi delivered Craig and I to the Soeharta Hatta airport at the upper deck of Terminal 3 and we unloaded the trunk. I found a baggage cart and we rolled up to the front door to go through the first security check. Once inside, we walked to the Garuda Indonesia counter and waited in line. Once my two bags were weighed, I found that they were about ten kilograms over the allotted 20 kg total, so had to pay about $35 to check my second bag. They gave me a payment form to take to the service desk, then with the receipt I was able to get my boarding pass.

Garuda flight

Preparing to board our airplane to Banjarmasin.

We passed through the final security check. With my two bags checked I only had my carry-on computer bag and camera, but it was still a long walk to our gate. We had over an hour to wait for our flight, so Craig found a place to plug in his phone while I wrote up blog posts.

Jakarta Garuda plane

A Garuda Indonesia airplane at the Jakarta airport.

We boarded the airport sat on row 21 on the right side behind the first bulkhead. We had to wait a few minutes, then taxied out to the runway and took off. We flew out of Jakarta over the ocean and headed northeast toward Borneo. I listened to the best of Bread on the music channels and dozed a bit.

Thousand Rivers

View of Kalimantan from the air. You can see why this is called the land of a thousand rivers, all of which is the estuary of the Barito River, the largest river in Kalimantan.

As we descended toward the Banjarmasin airport, we crossed over the coast of Borneo. We could see yellow and green rice paddies below with frequent rivers winding and joining into larger rivers, lined with green trees. There were a few roads, lined with buildings, stretching through the countryside. I took some photos as we dropped toward the airport.

Borneo rice fields

Rice fields as we approach Banjarmasin from the air. Notice how houses and businesses cluster around the roads, with the fields beyond.

We landed and deplaned, walking off a mobile stairway the way we used to before jetways and boarded a bus to the terminal. We walked into the terminal, grabbed a baggage cart, and waited for the bags to arrive from the airplane. A music group collected their instruments, and our bags came through.

About to land

Approaching the Banjarmasin airport.

As we walked out of the terminal, we were met by our host teacher, Muhammad Nazaruddin and his wife. I had seen his photograph from the e-mails he had sent, and of course, we were fairly obvious. He likes to be called Nazar, and was an ILEP alumnus at Kent State in 2010. He teaches English at SMAN 1 Mandastana, our host school, which is about ten miles north of Banjarmasin in a country area with rice fields.

We loaded our bags into the trunk of his car and drove out of the small parking lot onto a the road leading to the airport. After a short distance we turned around a traffic circle with an airplane on a stick and headed onto the main road to Banjarmasin.

Landing approach

Final approach to the airport near Banjarbaru.

The airport is located about 26 km from the city, nearer to Martapura and Banjarbaru, and the main road is called Jalan Ahmad Yani or the Trans Kalimantan Highway. As we drove toward the city, I looked at the businesses, houses, and mosques that lined the road. There was only one fairly tall building, the Aston Hotel, which at ten stories is the tallest in southern Kalimantan. That is because the ground here is swampy and won’t support tall buildings without extensive piles being driven into the ground. The Aston is on one of the more solid areas. I took some photos of the many Wong Solo places along the way, including a Wong Solo delivery truck, so that I could put them in the shared group folder because of the running joke we had the other day.

Welcome to Banjarmasin

Welcome to Banjarmasin (selemat datang di Banjarmasin). Craig Hendrick about to enter the Banjarmasin airport terminal building.

Nazar wondered why I was taking these photos. His English is excellent, as he had gotten his masters degree in Australia and spent six months in the U.S. with ILEP at Kent State. His wife (he said her name but I didn’t quite catch it) is also a teacher at the same school, and they are both from families with parents who are teachers or college professors, so a well-educated family.

Wong Solo delivers

Wong Solo delivers. And he is guaranteed to be discrete, or at least halal.

Along the road I could see that houses and buildings have a different style of architecture than Java. Roofs are steep in the center with a high ridgeline, but then change slope and become more shallow at the bottom. The closest equivalent in America is the style of roofs for Pizza Hut restaurants. In fact, the Pizza Hut logo looks a lot like a Barjarese house. The corners of the roofs are adorned with symbolic wings that stretch up further.

Provincial school

A provincial school built in a traditional Banjarese style. The corners of the steep part of the roof often have crossing timbers decorated as wings.

Our first choices of hotels had been the Hotel Mercure Banjarmasin or the Golden Tulip Galaxy near the Duta Mall, but Mercure requires walking through the mall itself to get to the entrance, and the Golden Tulip didn’t have rooms for the nine days that we will be here, so we booked rooms at the Swiss Belhotel Banjarmasin instead. This wound up being an excellent choice, as it is located in a good position next to a bridge along the Martapura River in the heart of the city. It even has a dock onto the river and free trips to the Lok Baintan floating market.

Green-yellow mosque

Large yellow and green mosque on the road to Banjarmasin.

Nazar dropped us off at the hotel and we checked in at the main desk. They have us in adjoining rooms in the newer section of the hotel, where the air conditioning is better. The concierge put our bags on a standard hotel luggage cart and walked with us to our rooms, which are through a long hallway in the older section, around a corner and up a small ramp. I am in Room 243.

The room is set up so that one must insert the room key into an electronic receptacle in order to turn on the lights or air conditioning in the room. It will be tricky not to walk out without the key card. The room was muggy, so I cranked up the AC and turned down the thermostat as I laid out my bags. My room has a nice view down to the pool, but the drapes are a bit hard to open. Overall it is pretty nice, and one of the better hotels in the city. This will be my home for the next nine days.

I took off my shoes, socks, and the concealed leg holder for my passport and credit cards that my sister had loaned me. I laid down on the bed for awhile to rest.

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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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