One of my annual traditions is reflecting on the past year through photos. Here are my past year in photos reflections- 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. While I love telling stories through words, pictures are a great way to tell my story, too.
2020 was a year like no other, as we all know. While most of my previous year in photos include pictures from all the places I traveled that year, 2020 was the year of quarantine, therefore I have fewer places than usual represented in this year’s reflection. I started out the year in Texas, flying back to Jakarta via Dubai on January 2nd. I was able to travel to Borobudur and Lembang in Indonesia before we were quarantined on March 2nd. I went back to Texas in May, where I spent the summer, and then moved to Jeju, South Korea in July. After quarantining in Seoul, I spent the rest of 2020 in Jeju, apart from a couple of quick trips to Seoul. Here are the highlights of my 2020, in chronological order. Which ones are your favorite?
I’ll be honest, this week has been pretty shitty. I’ve dealt with some rudeness, hardly had any time during the day due to loads of meetings, been stressed out with the amount of work I’ve had to do, and on top of that, I started my period, which has been unpleasant. I was proud of myself for just making it to Friday.
Tonight, a few friends and I went out to dinner at Donato’s, a pizza place near Hyeopjae Beach. It was my first time here, and let me tell you, this place is legit. The pizzas were made with quality ingredients in a wood-fired oven, something that’s rare to find in Jeju. We each ordered a pizza (mine was the Chevre made with goat cheese from France) and all shared a Caesar salad. The pizza was served with a balsamic glaze and local honey on the side. I loved everything and will definitely be going back.
The conversation was easy, sometimes involving all four of us, but other times, we broke off in twos to chat. We told stories from this week and from years in the past, empathized with one another, laughed (maybe a little too loudly), and teased each other. I enjoyed taking a trip down memory lane and sharing bits of my life from the past decade as an international school teacher, and I loved getting to know my new friends even more through their stories. It was the perfect antidote to a crappy week.
Toward the end of dinner, I went over to say hi to a student from my school who was eating with her family. I noticed her when we got there, and I waved, but she didn’t come to say hi, so I thought I would go to her. She’s one of those students who always has a smile on her face and chats with me whenever she sees me. I also talked with her family briefly, as they were getting ready to leave.
On the drive home, I blasted my 90’s playlist on Spotify and we sang (mostly out of tune) loudly along with the Backstreet Boys, Wilson Phillips, Shania Twain, Hanson, and Boyz II Men, laughing all the way home. My mood was lifted, as I shook off the negativity of the past week. Fridays should always end like this!
Who remembers playing MASH as a middle-schooler? If you don’t, you are entirely too young and clearly don’t know what fun you missed out on growing up. During this time of boredom, I made up a new game, MASH: Quarantine Edition, and I got to play it tonight on a Zoom happy hour call with two of my besties, Michelle and Linner.
The original version of MASH is a game where your life is decided for you. You know, the big stuff like who you’ll marry, which car you’ll drive, the type of house you’ll live in, and how many kids you’ll have. My version is a bit different.
You still have MASH, which stands for Mansion, Apartment, Shack, and House, but you are deciding which type of house you’ll be quarantined in.
Who will you have to be quarantined with?
What activity do you do the most in quarantine?
What time do you wake up each day?
How many pounds will you gain during quarantine?
What do you wear each day?
What’s your favorite snack to eat during quarantine?
To play the game, we each took turns giving 2 choices for each question. As you can imagine, some were good and others were awful. Once all the choices were written down, I drew a spiral until they said stop. That tells you how many to count before you cross off a choice. The game continues until you have one choice left per category. We laughed quite a bit during the game, as our friends were stuck with the crappy choices.
Here are the results:
In summary, I’ll be quarantined in a shack with Grumpy Cat. I’ll wake up at 3:00 am each day, wear crotchless undies, and spend my time eating beans and Cheetos. Despite this healthy diet, I won’t gain any weight though. At least there’s one good thing!
What are you doing to combat boredom during the quarantine?
Spring Break, Quarantine Edition began today. I was able to catch up with so many of my favorite people throughout the day. This is definitely a perk of being in isolation…you have time to talk to people without being too busy. Silver lining!
My morning started off in Texas with Lisa, my sister-in-law, and my niece and nephew, Randi and Logan, where I got to hear about how their week off from school has been going. Lisa’s a teacher, too, so she has the tough job of teaching online while homeschooling 2 young children. I can’t imagine how she’s going to do all that and stay sane!
Next up in Vietnam was Michelle, whose birthday is today. It’s such a bummer that she doesn’t get to properly celebrate it now, but she is getting together with a small group of friends later tonight. We commiserated about online school and how much we miss having our kids in the classroom and debated whether it was safer to go back to the states or stay abroad. The verdict was it was probably safer to stay rather than braving the trek home.
Late morning took me to Canada to see Shaggers, who also just finished her first week of online learning, and like me, is on Spring Break. With both her and her husband teaching, Marlowe (their 4 year old daughter) is struggling to understand why her parents are preoccupied and not able to devote all their attention to her while they’re home. They’ve been working on an alternating schedule to make sure she gets what she needs. I imagine that’s a tricky line to walk. Of course, we also talked about Marlowe, her budding writer!
This afternoon I got to catch up with Annie, my temporary roommate, who moved back to her place once the self-quarantine went into effect. While we are both glad we have a week off from school, we both plan to take advantage of the week to get ahead for the next week of virtual school. We also weighed the pros and cons of going back home during this uncertain time. The verdict’s still out.
After Annie, Vanessa was on deck. Since we usually chat on and off during school days, it was weird to not talk to her all day. We briefly chatted about her fun family day spent in PJs, where they watched movies, ate yummy food, and played Monopoly. Everyone is glad for a brain break from school!
Wendi, my friend I originally worked with in Albania and who now works with me here in Jakarta, called to talk through whether it’s best to stay put or go back home. She’s got more to consider, with a baby and a dog, but no matter the reasons we came up with, there was no clear answer. She’s going to sleep on it tonight.
Rounding out tonight was my parents in Texas. We discussed whether or not I should come home (sensing a pattern?), but again, there was no clear decision. I have to weigh up whether it’s safer to stay here, where I am quarantined in my house, or risk the airports, airplanes, and long lines once I arrive, plus the 14-day quarantine in a hotel once I am stateside. I’m likely to catch it on the way home, but the medical care is better at home, I’d be near my family, and I’d be guaranteed to get out of Indonesia. Who knows if/when flights in and out will be shut down…with so many unknowns, there’s no easy answer. Our conversation ended on a positive note, where we talked about non-Coronavirus topics, which was pleasant.
When I moved to Indonesia in July 2017, I didn’t really know what to expect. I’d only been once before, and that was just for a few days when I was interviewing for the job earlier that year. While I wouldn’t say that I fell in love with living here, after 3 years, I will miss a few things when I move on in June of this year.
Since moving abroad 10 years ago, I’ve solely lived in apartments until moving to Jakarta. Because I was so used to apartment living, I looked for one here, but ended up falling in love with my house, despite the fact that it’s entirely too large for me. What I love most about it is all the windows and the greenery outside. Most people who visit can’t believe this oasis is in Jakarta, a metropolis with a population of over 10 million. Another thing I love about it is that I’ve made it my own. Everywhere else I’ve lived has been fully furnished, which left me with limited options when decorating, and while I had to spend a lot more initially, I was able to pick out the furniture that matched my personal tastes. I just feel at home here.
I’ve really grown attached to the students, families, and colleagues at my school, and I’m definitely going to miss them when I’m gone. I know all of the kids’ names in Primary school, and they are some of the nicest kids I’ve ever met. Becoming a teacher again a few months ago has allowed me to develop relationships with the Year 6 students and our class bond is very strong. I’m going to miss seeing them transition into Secondary school next year. I’ve also developed a few close friendships with colleagues that I’ll miss, but I’m not worried since we will definitely keep in touch!
My Live-in Pembantu (Maid)
As much as I am embarrassed to say it, I have a live-in maid. It’s pretty common to have a maid when you live in Asia, but it’s more common in Indonesia to have a live-in maid. At first, I was really put off my the idea, but once you get used to it, it is hard to give it up. Rohana is such a sweet lady and we have gotten to know each other over the years. When my friend Linner visited last month, she said Rohana and I had our own little language. I think she’s right. We speak in a mix of English and Bahasa, and most of the time, we know what the other one is saying. 🙂 She cleans, does my laundry, and helps with the cooking. I love that I have my breakfast and lunch ready each morning to take to work so I don’t have to worry about it. I also love cooking when I don’t have to worry about the prep or the clean up. I’m most definitely spoiled and will really miss having her around next year!
This is something that is growing in popularity around the world, but I have to say, being able to order up almost anything and have it delivered is an absolute luxury! There’s the obvious take-out and grocery shopping, but you can also have someone go buy you anything you would ever want (alcohol, movie tickets, random things from any store, etc.) and deliver it to you for a very small fee. In a way I will really miss this, but in a way I won’t, because it makes it way too easy to never have to leave your house!
Going along with the deliveries is Go-Jek, a ride-sharing service with motorbikes and cars, a delivery service, and a services service, meaning I can Go-Jek a massage, a mani/pedi, a car wash or oil change (if I had a car), a cleaning lady, a hairstylist, or make-up artist to my house. This is so convenient when you live in the city with the worst traffic in the world, but again, it makes you so lazy. The fact that these services are dirt cheap makes it even better. I can Go-Jek to work for 10,000 IDR (about $0.75) or order a massage for an hour for 80,000 IDR (about $6.50). It’s heaven!
Being so close to Bali is a real treat! Who else can say they weekend in Bali?!? The fact that Bali is a quick plane ride away (about 1.5 hrs) and is so cheap (about $100 round-trip) makes it easy to get away. Bali is one of my favorite places to visit. It’s so unlike Jakarta. It’s quieter, has less traffic, has delicious, healthy food, is close to the beach, is walkable in many places, and is just so darn cute! I know that even when I move away, I’ll still come back to visit. Sadly, it just won’t be as often.
There are definitely things that I won’t miss about living here, but I’ll save those for another slice!
One of my annual traditions is reflecting on the past year through photos. Here are my past year in photos reflections- 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. While I love telling stories through words, I enjoy trying out different methods.
2019 was a year with many ups and downs. One of the highlights of my year was my summer of travel, where I spent 6 weeks traveling to 6 countries, visiting friends and family, eating delicious food and taking in the scenery and sights. Here are my favorite memories from the year, in chronological order. Which one’s your favorite?
Today was a perfect day. I need more days like this.
A Perfect Day
Sunny and breezy
The wind in my hair
Ninety minutes of stretching and kneading
Melting into a Thai massage induced coma
A short walk through the familiar neighborhood
My favorite Penang curry by the lake
A bit too spicy this time,
But still delicious
Quick stop for some Thai snacks
Before heading to the pool
Water the perfect temperature for lounging
And catching up with not one,
But two friends
Sunkissed, heading back as the sun set
Showered and in our pj’s
Pizza, laughs, and Netflix
The perfect end to
A perfect day
After landing in Bangkok, I breezed through immigration, and having traveled with only a carry on, I was chuffed with myself that I wouldn’t have to waste precious time waiting on my luggage. Ready to get to Callie’s, I made my way down to the taxi queue. What in the world are all these people doing just sitting around? Maybe they’re waiting on people to come pick them up, I thought.
Making a bee line for the booth, I asked the attendant for a taxi, showing them Callie’s address in Thai. She gestured for my ticket indicating it was my turn in line. Thoroughly confused by this new system, I grabbed a ticket from the machine. Number 614. Ah crap! The number on the screen was 567. The realization hits me that this is why all these people are waiting around.
Surprisingly, the wait only took 20 minutes, after which I was loaded into a taxi on my way to Callie’s. Since it’s Bangkok, I know I’m in for about an hour’s worth of traffic. As anyone who’s lived in Bangkok or Jakarta can tell you, travel time has nothing to do with distance. ‘How far away are you?’ is never a question met with 5 km. It’s always explained in time. Being 5 km away could be anywhere from 10 minutes to 2 hours depending on traffic.
Cruising along the toll road, we were making good time. The sun was out, so I picked up my book, diving back into the stories of Jack and Libby. As the sun started to set, I switched my book for some tunes, happily lip syncing along while I smiled at the city passing by outside my window. We’re making good time. I should make it by 7:00, just in time to go to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in the area.
No sooner had the thought passed through my mind, we came to a complete standstill. Red lights as far as the eye can see. Feeling myself getting frustrated, I tried to think happy thoughts, but the stop-go-stop-go wasn’t doing anything to calm me down. In fact, it only made it worse.
Well, maybe we just need to get past this one jam. We’ll pick up speed again, making up lost time. As the minutes ticked by, I kept making deals with myself, guessing what time we would arrive, adjusting the time frequently. Unsuccessful attempts to communicate with my taxi driver only fueled the frustration. How far away? “Close,” he said, whether he really believed it or not.
The maximum speed of 10 km per hour was taking its toll. I became antsy and resentful. Frustration built up in my chest. My jaw clenched. Looking at my watch only increased my anxiety. Staring at the red light we’d been stopped at for what felt like eternity, I willed it to change. Of course, it didn’t. Finally, I gave in.
I’ll get there when I get there. We’ll miss dinner. Callie’s probably wondering what happened to me. She’s probably starving and ready for a meal, too. Maybe she’ll have given up and eaten at home by the time I arrive.
After my driver missed the turn to Callie’s, I refused to let him make the u-turn and try again, knowing that would add even more time to the journey. Directing him with hand signals, I led him through the back streets and we eventually made it. Two hours after getting in the taxi, I was finally able to give Callie a hug! And, we made it for dinner.
You know those friendships that can withstand time and distance? Those ones where you can just pick up right where you left off, no matter how long it’s been? Lauren’s one of those friends. We’ve both had a lot going on and haven’t been able to catch up in way too long, but when she called me tonight, it was like being enveloped in a big hug.
Not wasting any time, we launched right into our conversation, catching one another up on the details of our lives, celebrating one another’s victories and empathizing with the low points. I’m honestly so damn happy for her. She’s had a lot to overcome these last few years, but she’s in such a good place now. Of all the people out there, she deserves it. Lauren’s the kind of person who would do anything for the people she cares about, oftentimes putting herself as the last priority, so to see her looking after herself and thriving instead of just surviving makes my heart swell.
As we meandered through topics of conversation, time stood still. Before we knew it, well over an hour had passed. With both of us needing to wake up early for school, we reluctantly ended our chat, knowing we could have kept on going for at least another hour. It’s definitely a to be continued conversation. Luckily the next time we pick up where we left off, we’ll be able to do it in person. We will both be in Bangkok next week and have already set aside Monday as our day to hang out, doing all the things we love- eating yummy Thai food, getting massages, sitting by the pool, and engaging in deep conversations, of course! One week to go…I can’t wait!
Talking with Lauren was good for the soul. I needed that tonight.
After our massage, we met up with Anna at the mall. Hunger pangs setting in, we strolled through the maze of food stalls set up this weekend. Weaving through tight spaces between the throngs of people, we saw that everything from dumplings to mie goreng to mac ‘n cheese grilled cheese to fish and chips to tacos to desserts was on offer.
Having seen what there was to buy (so we didn’t experience FOMO), we got to the end of the line and turned back. As Miriam and Anna headed to the Mexican food stall, I got in the fish and chips line, but before it was my turn to order, I had second thoughts. Miriam had just ordered a taco when I got there, and noticing I didn’t have anything in my hand, she quickly cancelled her order, opting to find a sit down restaurant for us to eat in peace and quiet.
The three of us discussed where to go. Deciding we wanted something Asian, we headed over to Sushi Tei, where there was a wait to get in. We out our name down and were told it would be about 20 minutes. Wandering around a bit more, Miriam suggested that we just eat at Classified, since she was really hungry. Despite it being a Western restaurant, we all agreed. We were seated at the table, menus in hand, when Miriam announced that she didn’t see anything she wanted. After asking us if it was okay if we left, we slinked out of the restaurant, leaving the menus on the table. The old me would have never done that, for fear of embarrassment, but after living in Asia, it hardly phases me now.
Stopping by Sushi Tei again, we see that we are still way down on the list. Scratch that. Still jonesing for Asian, we grab a table at White Elephant, a tasty Thai restaurant. Seemingly happy, we place our order for 4 dishes to share. A few minutes later, the waitress comes back over to tell us that a few of our dishes are out of stock. OMG…this is one of my biggest pet peeves in Asia! Rather than noting it on the menu or informing you upon arrival, they let you get your hopes up, just to shoot them down later.
Deciding that we might move yet again, Anna runs over to Sushi Tei to see where we are on the list. Defeated, she comes back with a sad face to inform us that they’ve given our table away. So we decide to stay put, but at the end of the meal, I did give the manager some advice about ordering proper quantities of food and beverages, letting him know this is the way to lose customers. He smiled (a lot) and apologized. I’m pretty sure it went in one ear and out the other.