Catching Up Is Fun #sol18

Social media has made the world smaller. Because of social media, I am able to keep up with people, no matter where they are. As we scatter around the world, we can continue to make connections with others.

I’m in Singapore for the IB Global Conference this weekend, and because of social media, I was able to connect with a high school friend I haven’t seen in nearly 20 years! She and her family now live in Singapore, so when I knew I was going to be in town, I looked her up and it just so happened that our schedules matched up.

Miranda and her son came down to my hotel, and we had dinner at Din Tai Fung before strolling down by the river to take in the city. It was so great to catch up with her. In high school, we were friends, but didn’t really hang out outside of school. Talking to her, we realized we are much more alike than we even knew. Our experiences in the past few years are very similar, and I found myself nodding along in agreement many times throughout the night. We are now looking forward to continuing our friendship, and hopefully she can come visit me in Jakarta!

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I Love Surprises! #sol18

I ❤️ surprises! I love getting them, but I love giving them even more. Yesterday I got to surprise people twice, and it was so much fun!

My school hosted Student-Led Conferences on Thursday, which is an incredible day of students teaching their parents all sorts of things they’ve learned in language, maths, their units of inquiry, PE, music, and more. While it’s loads of fun to experience, there’s much work to be done behind the scenes to get it all ready. To show appreciation for my teachers, I ordered cookie cakes and surprised them with a Friday afternoon pick-me-up. I loved seeing all the smiles as they came into my office for a sweet treat. 😍

As it was the end of the term, and the day before Spring Break, I thought we should have a little fun. On the sly, I had the maintenance guys set up the big speakers out near the field. Then I walked around to all the classes just before 2pm and invited them all to a surprise dance party. The students (and teachers) were so excited!! We all descended upon the field, shaking our groove thangs to the beat. It was such a fun way to end the day and term. Everyone was smiling, laughing, and being silly. I will totally pull this trick out the next time we’re in a slump or things are stressful. Everyone needs to dance it out every once in a while!

The Countdown is On #sol18

The Countdown is On

One more day
just one
until
Spring Break is here
The words
that make
every teacher
around the world
jump for joy
do a little jig
high five everyone they see

One more day
just one
until
I’m packing my bags
carefully selecting the
perfect outfits
for my two trips-
one for work and
one for play

One more day
just one
until
the weight of the
term is lifted
just for a bit
and I can breathe a
sigh of relief

Just over a day
until
I’m boarding the plane
for country number
thirty-six

Singapore
here I come
in just
one more day

My Person #sol18

You know when you’re friends with someone who just gets you? Someone who knows you almost better than you know yourself? Who has seen you at your worst, knows all your flaws, yet still manages to love you? Well, if you have someone like this, you can count yourself lucky! Michelle is that person to me.

Michelle and I met back in the summer of 2010 when we both took a leap of faith and moved to Shanghai to teach at this little school in the zoo. Little did I know then that eight years later, not only would we still be in contact, but we’d be such close friends. At first, we were more acquaintances than actual friends. If you ask Michelle, she’d attribute it to “2010 Jen” as she lovingly refers to how I was back then. However, when I met Michelle, I knew we’d end up being friends, it just took her a little while longer to figure out that she couldn’t live without me. 😉 Fast forward to 2013, the year we both moved into admin positions at our school. There’s something about being thrown in the fire to bond two people together. We experienced so much in those two years that tested us in every way possible, and while we weren’t always happy with one another (I think at one point, we were both yelling with tears in our eyes, stressed to the max at some school crisis, taking it out on each other), we had to rely on one another to get through it. Through that time, we developed an unbreakable bond that has kept us close, despite the oceans and miles that separate us.

As only best friends can have, we have so many ridiculous inside jokes, stories, and nicknames that only we know. We can crack each other up by simply shouting any number of phrases that only we get-“Reeeeennnnnyyyy!” “Jammed up and jelly tight.” “You name the babies, I’ll name the dogs.” “Rascal!” “But we both know that you’re basic.” “Rock the Kes-Baugh!” “Beck-ster!” “At least yours isn’t refurbished!!”…and the list goes on and on!

In the past three years, during which time Michelle repatriated to Texas and I moved to three different countries, we have kept in touch with our regular FaceTime dates, text messages, and travel adventures. We’ve taken two cruises, a couple road trips to NOLA, and, most recently, a trip to Paris together. On top of that, Michelle’s spent the past few Christmases with me and my family. I know she’s going to be one of those people who’s always in my life. We’ll always find a way to see one another, even if it’s on another continent! (She’s coming to visit me in Jakarta in a couple of months!! Eeeeek!)

Today’s Michelle’s birthday, and as I look back over the past year, I couldn’t be more proud of her. This past year has been a roller coaster for her, and she’s had to handle more than anyone should ever have to, especially at our age. After deciding to move abroad again, and getting a killer job, something happened with the school and the job fell through. Set back, but not defeated, she worked hard to find a new job at a reputable school.

During the physical (a necessary step to obtain a work visa), her doctor found that she had a mass. A biopsy confirmed it was Stage 3 Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The C-word. Something no one ever wants or expects to hear, but certainly not a young, active, healthy 30-something. Instead of feeling sorry for herself or giving up, she fought it. Taking on aggressive treatments and making changes in her life, she’s been able to greatly reduce the size of the mass. While it’s not gone, the doctors are hopeful that with monthly treatments, it will continue to shrink. She’s regained a lot of her energy, and has a positive outlook on her future.

On top of that, there have been other stresses that have tried to knock her down, but the fighter that she is won’t allow herself to be beat. She’s the strongest person I know, and she’s not going down without a fight! So today, on Michelle’s 36th birthday, I want to wish her the best day ever! This day, this year, is going to be your year. I can feel it. I love you and wouldn’t want to do this thing called life without you!

Happy Birthday friend!! 🙂 Love ya!!

Food, Colleagues, and a Sing Along #sol18

A few weeks ago I decided to host team dinners at my house as a way to get to know my staff on a more personal level and to give us some much-needed down time to just relax and enjoy one another. Today was my third one, and we had so much fun!

I rushed home just after 3:00 so I could finish up cooking and get everything ready for my colleagues to arrive at 4:30. Getting caught in the rain on the back of the motorbike meant I had to shower when I got home, so I got started in the kitchen a bit later than I wanted. Luckily, I have Rohana, my pembantu (maid) to help! She spent most of the day shopping, washing and cutting veggies, and making a few side dishes for dinner. I couldn’t have done it without her (unless I wanted to order pizza). All I had to do was throw together the appetizer, bake the dessert, and cook the panang curry.

People started arriving just after 4:30, and after getting them all a drink, I finished up the curry and took the blueberry bread out of the oven. Once everyone arrived, I gave them a tour of my place, and then we all grabbed a plate and sat down to eat. The spread included gado gado, tempeh with a sweet soy sauce, Indonesian corn fritters, rice, and curry, with blueberry bread, fresh pineapple, kiwi, and strawberries, and chocolate truffles for dessert. As we ate, we chatted, swapping travel stories and getting to know one another beyond our usual school chatter. As we began teasing one another, I noticed people’s guards coming down.

Throughout dinner, I’d had Amazon Prime Music playing in the background. Not knowing what type of music to put on, I had it tuned to an All 90’s station. As dinner was winding down, everyone made their way to the couch or the floor in the living room. Heri grabbed the iPad and started punching in song titles. Mita asked me to turn up the speaker since “this was a party, after all!” Doing as I was told, the music got louder, and the smiles got wider. Song after song, we belted out the lyrics, whether we really knew them or not! Laughing, we kept passing the iPad around, everyone trying to find that perfect song for the group. My favorite song of the night had to be “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen. Everyone (except Heri, who had never heard of the song…don’t worry, I gave him a really hard time about it!) sang the lyrics at the top of their lungs! When the Macarena came on, Ms Eny and I jumped up to dance, urging others to do the same. No one else joined us, but we had a great time anyway!

Today was the perfect end to a hectic day. As the year gets more stressful with increased responsibilities and due dates, it’s always nice to take a step back and relax.

The World Through My Eyes #sol18

Next week is Spring Break, and I’m really looking forward to my trips to Singapore and Penang, Malaysia! I’ll even get to add another country to the list…Singers will make #36! Since I have been thinking about my trip, I started reminiscing about my past travels, which prompted this poem. Rather than write about every country I’ve visited, I decided to limit to places I’ve been in the last two years. In no particular order, here’s my poem, a glimpse of the world through my eyes.

The World Through My Eyes

Indonesia is motorbikes, gado gado, macet, and the call to prayer.

Belgium is waffles, street art, and fruit beer.

Albania is colorfully-painted buildings, a perfect mix of old and new, and all the fresh fruit, veggies, and bread you can eat.

Montenegro is rocky beaches with crystal clear water, road trips, and weekend getaways with the girls.

Hong Kong is dim sum, the mid-levels, lots of hills, and like China, but better.

Mexico is beaches, pina coladas, and tourist traps.

Italy is stunning architecture, gelato, and literally the best homemade pasta of your life.

Canada is water taxis, clean and manicured, and friendly.

Senegal is bright colors, traffic, pushiness, and sand everywhere.

USA is home, comfort food, baseball, and familiarity.

Thailand is the land of smiles, tuktuks, mango sticky rice and kao soi, and three-showers-a-day hot.

The Netherlands is the most amazing cheese you will ever taste, bikes for days, and canals.

France is croissants and crepes, The Lourve, and walking two hours to see the Eiffel Tower sparkle at night.

Morocco is an assault on the senses, mint tea, and getting lost in the medina.

Getting Back on Track #sol18

I’ve gained 5 pounds (1.8 kg) since January.

Is this a setback? Yes. Is it the end of the world? Definitely not!

Today at the gym was the first day I’ve really been able to work out for the better part of three months, and while I was rusty, it felt good!

Back in mid-July, when I moved to Jakarta, I set a goal to change my lifestyle. I began working out almost daily, which was a huge change from the working out almost never that I’d been accustomed to for a long while. While I didn’t go on a diet (because I always fail diets), I did start slowly eating much better, cutting out most sugars, drinking mostly water, and eating more fresh fruits and veggies (as a vegetarian, this one was easy). Another change I made was keeping a food and exercise journal. While I didn’t care if I ate “something bad” every once in a while, I found that writing it down somehow made me more accountable to myself, and as a result, I saw positive changes in what I ate.

Since my arrival, I’ve weighed myself around the 15th of every month and recorded my weight in my journal. In the past, I’ve been really caught up on weight, so I tried to limit my weigh-ins to once a month. I mostly succeeded at this goal. From July to December, I managed to lose 20 pounds. While I was proud of myself for losing the weight, I was even prouder of the non-scale victories I experienced. I found that I actually enjoyed working out (well, most of the time). I was getting stronger, and could see tiny muscles beginning to show. My clothes fit better, and I even had to take them in and buy smaller sizes. I had more stamina and didn’t lose my breath as often when climbing stairs or doing cardio. And the biggest one– I felt happier and had more energy.

However, I hit a snag in December. After traveling home for Christmas, I was put in a boot for about 2 weeks (pain in my ankle led the doctor to think I had broken my leg) and told I couldn’t work out. After I was out of the boot, I was still traveling, and working out was difficult (I didn’t make it a priority). And let’s not forget the holiday and travel food I was eating…a definite deviation from my norm! When I got back to Jakarta, I started back at the gym, but about 2 weeks after being back, I fell and sprained my ankle and was once again in a boot, only this time I had to wear it 24/7! The doctor told me no working out until I was healed. And even then, I would need to take it slow. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement.

Feeling sorry for myself, in a lot of pain, and unable to do much, I became very sedentary. I also turned to foot for comfort, eating more heavy foods laden with carbs, sugar, and fat. I stopped keeping track of my food in my journal. I began drinking tea and sugary drinks again. While I worked out with my trainer a handful of times in the boot, it just wasn’t the same. I was unable to do any cardio, and everything I did do had to be modified. What was the point?

Back to today. After walking without my boot for the past week and experiencing little pain, I decided to ease back into it by hitting the gym today. I worked out with my trainer for 30 minutes, and boy was it hard! But I didn’t whine and I didn’t give up. I even got to do some cardio for the first time in 8 weeks! The rowing machine is one of my favorite things to do at the gym (I’m not a treadmill fan at all!), but I’ve been hesitant to start again because of my ankle. I set a goal of 10 minutes. I managed to make it to 18 and a half before my ankle started to hurt a bit. Not wanting to push it too far, I stopped.

There was a spring in my step as I left the gym today. The old me is coming back and she’s not gonna let a little setback stop her!

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