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’m not really sure how to feel right now. I found out today that our school closure would be extended, which if I’m being honest, is what I wanted. I was terrified to go back to school next Monday, and quite frankly, I was prepared to refuse to go should the school decide to open. But when I envisioned the school closure extending, I was thinking we’d push it back another month or so, just until it was safe to return. I wasn’t prepared to hear that we would most likely close for the remainder of the school year.
I made the decision a couple of days ago that I would stay in Indonesia, rather than relocate to Texas right now, figuring that it’s safer for me to remain in quarantine here instead of traveling through several airports and spending many hours on an airplane. I am at peace with that decision. While I’m comfortable with the routine of virtual school, I’m not happy about doing it for two and a half more months. However, the realness of what’s happening is starting to sink in.
I won’t get to say goodbye to my students in person. I won’t get to have a going away party before I move away for good. I won’t get to see our 2020 graduates walk the stage. I won’t get to celebrate with my students after their PYP Exhibition (and I now have to figure out how to do a completely virtual Exhibition). I won’t get to hug my colleagues and say a proper goodbye. I won’t get to say thank you and goodbye in person to the parents who have been so supportive of me over the past three years. I won’t get to laugh with students out on the playground again. I won’t get to hand out another Learner Profile of the Month award. I won’t get to see our students perform at the Primary Concert or Swimming Carnival. I won’t get to spend time with my friends before they’re gone (many have already left or will leave soon). I won’t get to have our pizza, movie, and bonfire night at school with my students (and I promised them we would do this). I don’t get to celebrate my Year 6 students’ transition into Secondary.
I won’t get closure. I’ll just work until June 12th online and then leave. That’s it. This chapter of my life will end abruptly, and then it’ll be gone. I don’t think I’m okay with this.
Today marked Day 16 of self-quarantine. Sixteen days that I’ve been cooped up in my house. When the decision was made on March 2nd that our entire community would go into self-quarantine and begin virtual school, I was in shock. That shock turned to bitterness and resentment a few days in, grumpy and frustrated to be a prisoner trapped in my own home. By about day 5 or 6, I was downright depressed at the fact that I couldn’t leave my own home. However, once I passed the first week mark, I had accepted it. While I dreamed of freedom, looking forward to waking up on March 17th and getting to go out to dinner with friends, drink a hot chocolate at Starbucks with a good book, or just do a bit of walking around in the mall, the closer it got to my freedom, the less excited I became.
In the days leading up to my day of freedom, talk of social distancing and staying at home to not only protect yourself but vulnerable populations began to emerge. Reflecting on the what-ifs, I came to the decision that I would continue to remain indoors and in isolation. My newfound acceptance made the decision that much easier.
But today I had to leave my house. I didn’t want to, and it certainly wasn’t for something fun like a dinner date or to hang out at the coffee shop. My teeth had been really sore for several days, and I needed to go to the dentist. I feared that my wisdom teeth might be coming in and pushing on my other teeth. If you’ve ever had tooth pain, you know it’s not something that can easily be ignored. So I made the appointment.
When it was time to go, the nerves set in. Why am I so nervous to leave my house? It’s not that big of a deal. But the number of cases here in Indonesia has been increasing at a rapid rate. And the President said yesterday that he’s intentionally withholding information from the public about the actual number of cases and deaths so as not to create panic. My worry about catching the virus was heightened.
I debated over whether I should taxi or Go-Jek it. Which is the safer option? Is it literally touching the person who’s driving me but being in the open air or sitting in a confined space and breathing the same air as the taxi driver? I opted for the Go-Jek, but wore my pollution mask just in case. Armed with hand sanitizer, wet wipes, and tissues, I headed out.
The first thing I noticed was the ease in which we were able to drive. The usual bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go, weave-in-and-out, drive-up-on-the-curb-just-to-get-ahead traffic was a thing of the past. Clearly the message to stay home had reached a large number of people. What would normally have taken an hour to drive (yet it’s only about 7km away) took about 20 minutes.
As I walked into the office tower, I was acutely aware of my surroundings and my actions. Don’t touch your face. But my nose itches. Don’t do it, Jennifer. You haven’t washed your hands since you left home. I walked slower to avoid walking near someone else, trying to keep at least 1 meter distance between me and other people. Having a bit of extra time to kill, I popped down to the ATM. Using my sleeve as a glove, I typed in my PIN. The change in withdrawal limit from 3,000,000 (about $200) to 1,000,000 (about $65) meant I had to make many additional withdrawals. Sanitizing my hands, I headed upstairs.
After my dentist visit, where I learned that I have two impacted wisdom teeth (oh, joy!), I stopped at the grocery store nearby to pick up a few things. My temperature was taken upon entry. As I wandered around the store, my fellow shoppers and I avoided one another like the plague, the unwritten rule being that only one person was allowed per aisle. After checking out and applying more sanitizer, I headed home.
Once back home, I breathed a sign of relief. While I had my first taste of freedom today, all I wanted was the comfort of my little bubble. I don’t think I’ll be going out any time soon.
Even as I write this, the screen is blurry, as my eyes brim with tears. Maybe it’s the isolation. Maybe it’s the extremely long hours. Maybe it’s the feeling that no matter how hard I work, I can’t seem to feel like it’s enough. Maybe it’s because I feel like I’m constantly letting my students and staff down when I can’t get back to them quickly enough. Maybe it’s because this virus thing is really real to me now. Maybe it’s because I’m sleep deprived. Whatever the reason is, I’ve come to a breaking point.
Last night I worked until past 11:00pm (again), and when my alarm went off this morning, I dragged myself out of bed, knowing that I had people depending on me to release today’s lesson information and videos. After way too many cups of English breakfast tea, I started to get into a groove, but sadly, that was short-lived.
Mid-morning I had a meeting with two other members of the leadership team about how we can better support our struggling students, and for some reason during that meeting, I started panicking about the PYP Exhibition. The high standards I put onto myself, coupled with the (perceived?) expectations of the community, had me worried. How will my students complete their work in time? What about the ones who need more support who are at home fending for themselves? What about the ones with no Internet access? How in the heck will we collaborate on a shared presentation piece as a class when we are all in isolation and learning online? Voicing my fears helped actually, and I was able to move forward with the day, supporting my students through meetings and text conversations.
But this afternoon, while I was on a video conference with a student, one of my teachers called me. I answered, worried that something had happened. He asked what today’s staff briefing would be about. I assured him it would be mostly routine things, but he hesitated, mumbling something about some news his wife mentioned, but he didn’t say much else. I told him I was busy with a student but that I’d get back to him as soon as I could.
I finished the call with the student and clicked on a few chat notifications to catch up on what I’d missed. In our leadership team chat, someone had posted a link to an article with the announcement that Indonesia had had its first Coronavirus-related death today. As I read the announcement, my heart stopped. The gender and age were the same as our teacher who tested positive for the virus a couple of days ago and who is in hospital in isolation. That, along with the fact that the article stated it was a foreign-national, made me fear the worst. With my heart in my stomach, my hands shaking uncontrollably, I typed, “Please tell me this isn’t our teacher!”
With bated breath, I waited for the reply. A simple “no” came back with no explanation. Shortly after that, we received confirmation that someone had spoken with them on the phone. Relieved that they were still alive and doing okay, I still couldn’t shake the fear that gripped me. What if it had been them? What would I/we do? What does this mean for our community and the wider community? I don’t have answers, but I will say that while I wasn’t afraid before, I am today.
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!
Read alouds are those magical times in class where you can share your love of reading, come together as a group to listen to and discuss a shared text, and model good reading strategies, such as reading with fluency and expression, stopping to think, making connections, making predictions…the list goes on and on. Creating a shared experience like this is much more challenging when your students are quarantined at home and you only have a computer screen with which to interact with them.
For those of you who’ve been following along with me this month, you know that we closed our school last Tuesday due to Coronavirus, are all in self-quarantine for two weeks (today’s day 6), and have been teaching virtually since Wednesday. It’s been a steep learning curve for all of us, but we are doing our best to engage our students in learning.
On Friday I posted a video of me reading from our read aloud Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech that we started before the closure. I read with as much expression as I could muster, stopped to think about tricky vocabulary, and made connections to what had happened earlier in the book. At the end of the read aloud, I asked students to make some predictions and post them as a comment underneath the video post on Seesaw. I was so excited to read their comments and see their thoughts about the chapter. They were so engaged! 🙂
Here are their comments on the read aloud:
When I recorded the video for Chapter 10, I started by discussing their predictions and sharing my excitement over their engagement with the story. I hope that their enthusiasm continues as we begin week two of virtual school tomorrow.
In case you’re interested, here’s my video of Chapter 10…
What started as an isolated virus a few short months ago has now spread to nearly 90 countries around the world. It’s in the news every day. You can’t escape it, even if you wanted to. Everywhere you look, there’s an article, video, or some sort of reminder that Coronavirus has made itself known. There’s a lot of fear-mongering and panic-inducing information being circulated about the virus and its impact, and it’s hard to know what to believe anymore.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m an expat who has been living in Jakarta, Indonesia for nearly three years. When news of the Coronavirus broke, I wasn’t worried. When it continued to spread, the number of confirmed cases and death toll rising, I knew it would eventually reach us. For one thing, we are in Asia, but more importantly, Bali is a huge tourist spot, drawing millions of travelers a year. Someone with the virus was bound to come here, infecting others. The weeks and months passed, and while every country around us had it, Indonesia had still not confirmed any cases. The country’s top health official said that it wasn’t here because the country was praying. We all knew it was just a matter of time.
When news broke on Monday that Indonesia had their first 2 confirmed cases, we all knowingly nodded, wondering what took it so long to be confirmed. What started as a mild concern that it was here quickly turned into anxiety, as a colleague of mine was hospitalized and put into isolation for suspected Coronavirus. That night we decided to close the school for a 14-day period as a precautionary measure and have been teaching online ever since.
When will they run the test to see if they have it? When will we get the results? What happens if it’s positive? Who needs to self-quarantine? These and more questions filled all of our heads, but the answers were illusive. What might make sense in other countries in terms of protocol usually doesn’t happen here. There’s a lot of ambiguity and conflicting information out there, and rumors run rampant. I never know what to believe.
Initially we were told that the test results would be known in 48 hours, but when Wednesday passed, we were left wondering and in the dark. On Thursday we learned that we wouldn’t be receiving the results first so that we could draft communication to be sent to our community. In fact, the patient wouldn’t even receive the results of their test until it was announced in a public press conference outside of the hospital where all of the suspected cases are being held in isolation. I’ve never heard of this in my life. The patient can’t even know first?!?!
Thursday came and went without a result. Friday morning we were told the announcement would come at 1:00pm. I’m sure you’ve guessed it by now, but no press conference was held then either. It wasn’t until this evening that a press conference was held where they announced that Indonesia has 2 more confirmed cases, both Indonesian citizens. The other suspected cases were not confirmed but they weren’t negative either. They were kept at ‘suspected’ status, so no real answers.
Meanwhile, our entire school community will remain in self-quarantine for the remainder of the 14-day period, which means 10 more days stuck at home. Not being able to leave your home is okay for the first couple of days, but it quickly begins to wear on you. I think the things I miss the most are social interaction and being active. Despite being in constant contact with people all day while teaching online, it’s isolating. It’s a strange concept. Interacting with others should appease the desire for connection, but communication through a screen isn’t real connection. I’ll be very glad when this is all over.
The xenophobia is real here, as I know it is in other places. Prior to Indonesia confirming any cases of Coronavirus, local newspapers speculated that in order to avoid catching the virus, one needed to refrain from eating Chinese food and watching Chinese TV shows. It also said that you could get it from “breathing the breath of a Chinese Indonesian.” The ignorance and hate toward people of a particular nationality is sickening.
Much like the information coming out of other countries in similar situations, with the Coronavirus fear setting in, Jakarta has experienced some empty shelves and price gouging. I haven’t personally experienced it since I’m in quarantine, but friends have reported extremely long lines and shortages of particular items in the stores. The obvious one is masks. There are next to none to be found in the city, not that I’d want one anyway, but people are panicking and stocking up. The strange one I find is a shortage of onions and garlic. When you do find onions, the price is ridiculous. The normal price is around $2.00/kg, but due to the shortage and demand, the price, if you can even find them, is between $8.00-$10.00/kg! For onions!
I’m so disgusted by the price gouging I’ve seen. Today in our group chat, when we asked everyone to take their temperatures to make sure they were healthy, a few teachers mentioned that they didn’t have a thermometer. One teacher shared that she had just bought a digital one online and had it delivered the other day, and the price was 100,000 Rupiah (about $8.00). She looked up the link to send to the chat only to find that the same thermometer she bought on Tuesday is now 2,000,000 Rupiah (about $160)!! Insanity! People who take advantage of people who are ill make me sick to my stomach.
Are you dealing with Coronavirus in your community? What’s your perspective?
Despite the craziness of yesterday and utter exhaustion I felt, my mind was racing last night and I didn’t fall asleep until after 1:00 am. The call to prayer at 4:00 followed by my alarm at 6:00 were very unwelcome disturbances. After peeling myself out of bed and trying my best to cover up the tired on my face with makeup, I made a cup of tea and got ready for my day. First up was a meeting with the Academic Leadership Team, followed by posting all my videos, lessons, and communications to students and parents.
The excitement of the morning, with eager students ready to check out this new way of learning, energized me, the fatigue no longer wearing me. We all went live at 7:30 and encouraged one another through our various chat groups and channels of communications. By mid-morning, I felt like a yo-yo, bouncing around from platform to platform, approving students’ posts, fielding questions from students, teachers, and parents, responding to emails, reacting to situations we hadn’t thought of yesterday, and creating video tutorials on the fly when students weren’t sure how to access this or that.
Throughout the day I was messaging with students on and off in our Teams chat, checking in with them, answering their questions, and encouraging them. A few of them didn’t understand a math concept or were confused about how to get started, so we video chatted so I could work with them 1-on-1. Their reactions were adorable! They were shy, giggled a lot, and commented on how weird it was to see me on the screen. They’ve just seen me two days ago, but I guess the newness and strangeness of talking to me through a computer screen threw them off. It’ll get easier as we go, as they become more comfortable.
I was a little better at eating today, snacking every few hours, but the incessant screen time and lack of movement wore me down. A little after noon I noticed my mind wasn’t as sharp, I was not as motivated, and I had a hard time getting things done. Pushing through only made it worse. At 2:00pm I had to step away. I messaged the students that I needed to take a break and laid down for a 30-minute power nap. I definitely didn’t want to get back up, but I have to say, the nap really did help. I was able to get back to students and teachers and finish up my lessons and videos for tomorrow.
Throughout the day, I was reflecting on how it was going, what I needed to do differently tomorrow, and what new techniques I wanted to try. This is the most intense PD I’ve ever had. You’re learning all the time, out of necessity. You know how you hear about this new tech thing or that new teaching strategy and you think, yeah, I should learn more about this or try that out? Well, this is forcing me to learn so much and by the end of it, I’m going to be a much better educator. Gotta look on the bright side, right?
For me, the hardest part is trying to balance everything. I’m not taking breaks or caring for my physical or mental health like I should. This year is a unique year (understatement of the century) and I’ve taken on many new roles, which if I’m honest, I wasn’t balancing well even before this virtual school started. Officially I’m the Head of Primary at my school, but due to a staff reduction in October, I took on the role of PYP Coordinator, and then when a staff member left suddenly in November due to health issues, I took on a full time Year 6 (Grade 5) teacher role, too. So while trying to balance virtual school with my own class of 20 students who are in the midst of the PYP Exhibition, I’m also supporting my teachers and support staff through the process. It’ll get easier, I know it. It’s just going to take a bit of time. Fingers crossed for a negative result and quick healing of the teacher in question!
For those of you who read my slice yesterday, you know that my school is now closed for a minimum of 2 weeks due to Coronavirus. It’s now 11:30pm local time on 3 March, so all I’m going to be able to do today is a “Today I…” slice. Here we go.
Today I was in crisis management mode all day.
Today I sat in front of my computer and worked nearly nonstop from 6:30am to 11:30pm, only stopping to pee and take 20 minute walk outside.
Today I toggled between email, video chats, What’s App messages, phone calls, group chats, and Seesaw messages as I tried to respond to the hundreds of messages I received.
Today I forgot to eat, until my tummy started rumbling. Lunch at 5:30 is normal, right?
Today I blew my screen time out of the water.
Today I learned so much about this new world of online learning we’ve been thrown into, but know there’s still so much more to learn.
Today I prepped for all my lessons tomorrow. At least I can go to bed and not have that on my shoulders!
Today I typed about a gazillion words. On a positive note, my typing skills have greatly improved!
Today I realized what I’m made of when faced with a crisis.
Today I realized that I can really focus on something when I need to. No breaks for social media, TV, or reading for me today.
Today I logged a whole 4,005 steps, and that’s with taking a walk to clear my head when I was going stir crazy. Man, this is going to be a long ride.
Today I realized that this whole self-quarantine thing is no joke! I need to be more balanced and move my body so much more tomorrow.
Today I realized that rumors spread faster than wildfires.
Today I realized that when push comes to shove, my team comes together and just gets it done. We really played off one another’s strengths and pitched in where needed.
Today I realized that working at this pace is not sustainable. With that being said…it’s time for bed!
All that’s been on anyone’s mind these days is Coronavirus, especially for people like me who live in Asia. Until today, Indonesia has claimed that we have had no cases of the virus here, and while the world scoffed at the idea that we could possibly have zero cases, Indonesia was steadfast in its resolve that we didn’t have it.
All of us have known that there had to be cases here since we are so close to other countries with confirmed cases and we’ve had lots of tourists visiting from other Asian countries, but due to the level of healthcare and lack of testing kits, not to mention how it would look to the rest of the world, we’ve not confirmed any cases. Well…all of that has changed. Earlier today, the President announced that there were two confirmed cases. Upon hearing the news, I was not the least bit surprised, nor was I worried.
It wasn’t until this afternoon, when we learned that one of our teachers had been hospitalized and put into isolation for a possible case of Coronavirus, that anxiety set in. The teacher has been sick, but it wasn’t until today that she was admitted into the hospital and learned that she had been in contact with the two confirmed cases. After a long meeting, we’ve made the tough decision to close the school beginning tomorrow while all community members go into self-quarantine for 14 days (unless the test results are negative, at which case we will reevaluate the situation).
We’ll be planning tomorrow and meeting virtually as a staff, with online learning beginning on Wednesday. It’s a less than ideal situation and we are all apprehensive about what all this means, but I hope that the results are negative and that the teacher is okay and heals quickly. In situations like this, you question lots of things, wonder about what will happen, and pray that it doesn’t happen to you or those you care about.
It’s been a mentally and emotionally exhausting day and I’m ready to try and get some sleep.