Tag Archives: living abroad

Feeling it today

uncertainty breeds fear
the unknown
makes you question
what’s the right thing
to do

when you’re not given
accurate information
or it’s being withheld
anxiety sets in

should i stay
or go
what would keep me
safe

over two weeks of
isolation
no end in sight
loneliness
a new way of life

the need
for human contact
growing stronger each day
all i need is
a hug

Five Stages of Grief: Bangkok Traffic Edition

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 Never Know What You’re Gonna Find

I love grocery shopping in other countries. You never know what you’re going to find when you look around. Some things are familiar, others are odd, quirky, or unusual.

After the gym tonight, I popped into Hypermart, a local Indonesian grocery store, to pick up a few things. As I wandered the aisles, I started to notice the differences in stores here and back home, so I snapped a few pictures.

You can buy a bunch of random frozen food in bulk, such as hot dogs, french fries, fish fingers, chicken tenders, and strange colored meats. This idea really grosses me out…all the germs (plus the weird mystery meats)!

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Looking for some fruit covered in styrofoam and plastic wrap? Check! If only nature had a way to protect the inside of the fruit…;)

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How about some oil in a large bag? You’ve got many, many choices of brands!

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If you’re craving a Jell-O like snack in a small plastic container, look at all of the colorful choices you have to choose from!

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Buying small quantities of rice in Asia is hard to do. Hope you like a lot of rice!

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To ward off the would-be thieves, all the jars of Nutella have anti-theft sensors on them. Who would have thought Nutella was such a hot commodity?

If you’re in the mood to try some different kinds of meat, you can grab some chicken heads or feet. Ewwwwww!

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Think all cheese needs to be refrigerated? Think again! You can buy some disgusting processed cheese right from the aisle.

What is the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen in the grocery store?

Year in Photos 2018

They say a picture’s worth a thousand words. In some ways, I agree. When you snap a picture, you freeze a moment in time. You capture the essence of the experience so that when you look back at them days, months, years later, the details conjure up the feelings of that moment. As much as I love writing my stories, I also challenge myself to tell a story through the photos I take. The angle and framing of the shot, what you include and what you don’t, and the focal point all contribute to the story. To my story.

I love reflecting on the past year through photos (you can click here to see my year in photos from 201720162015, and 2014). The process of looking back over the photos from the past year takes me on a reflective journey and I smile, remembering the memories once again. 2018 was full of family, friends, food, and travels- all of my favorite things. Without further delay, here’s my year in photos, in chronological order.

Confession

I have a confession. I’ve actually debated on whether or not to write about it. I mean, it doesn’t exactly make me look good. But in the interest of authenticity and writing the truth in my slices, here goes nothing.

I have a live-in maid. You may be thinking…well, I’m sure she has a big family and has an elderly parent to care for and works three full-time jobs in order to justify a full-time maid. Nope. I’m a single thirty-something with no kids. Let the judging begin.

It’s not something I planned on doing when I moved to Indonesia. I mean, I wanted to hire a maid to come in twice a week to do the major cleaning and laundry, as I have had in the other countries I’ve lived. It’s a perk of the international educator lifestyle- one that I’ve embraced with open arms. But when I visited Jakarta a couple months before the big move, a colleague who was leaving highly recommended that I hire her pembantu (Bahasa Indonesia for maid). Based on the recommendation, I was keen to hire Rohana. It wasn’t until later that I found out she was only looking for a live-in position, not a part-time one. After much consideration, I decided to go for it, mainly because I had such a big house and was worried I wouldn’t find someone who was as good, could cook well (Rohana is an excellent cook), and spoke a little English.

At first it was awkward trying to figure one another out, learning to live with someone after living alone for the past 15 years, and communicating with someone whose first language isn’t English. However, we quickly fell into a routine and I came to appreciate having someone around to help clean, do the laundry, prepare my breakfast and lunch to take to work, and cook dinner or at least help prep for dinner so I can cook when I get home. It’s also nice to have someone to deal with any repairs that need to be done during the day or bring me my laptop when I forget it at home.

For the past year and a half, I’ve become accustomed to having Rohana around and rely on her quite a bit for the day-to-day life stuff. Simply put, she makes my life easier and there’s less stress when she’s around. But she’s been away for the past three weeks and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s been hard. Like, really hard. Harder than it should be, especially considering the fact that I was used to making my own breakfasts and lunches, washing up, doing laundry, etc. before moving here. It wasn’t a big deal. It was just a part of life. I’ve come to realize that this part of being an adult is no fun at all.

Since I’m confessing everything tonight, I may as well tell you the whole truth. I haven’t done it all by myself the past few weeks. For one, I’ve learned that I have just enough clothes to last roughly a month (including undies) without having to do laundry. If she doesn’t come back this Sunday, I’m going to have to figure out how the washer works. A huge fan of Go-Jek, I have tried out a new feature called Go-Clean a few times, where I can have someone come to my house to clean on an hourly basis. It’s insane to think about, but the hourly rate is 35,000 Rupiah (about $2.50 USD). This nice lady (luckily the same one each time) has washed dishes and cleaned the counters and floors. I’ve also cooked less often than I normally do, opting to order Go-Food delivery instead, to cut down on dishes. It’s all pretty pathetic when you think about it.

So there you have it. My confessions laid out for the world to see. Hope you don’t judge me too harshly. But I wouldn’t blame you if you did.

 

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The Magic of Camp

There’s just something about going on camp that sparks a bit of magic. Breaking out of the normal routines of school, pushing yourself mentally and physically, disconnecting from technology, surrounding yourself with nature, all the while working as a team, brings about a sense of connectedness and excitement.

A 3-hour bus ride with 30 ten and eleven year olds doesn’t sound like much fun, but when they all randomly burst into song, a boring bus ride turns into a good time. Between the bouts of singing, we told stories, played cards, made each other laugh, and ate all the snacks! Before we knew it, we had arrived in Lembang. Checking into our hotel, students set up their rooms, excitedly making the space their own. Being able to share your own room with your friends is definitely fun!

From there, we headed up the mountain in our huge bus, barely fitting on the narrow, winding roads. More than once we caused a traffic jam and nearly got into a wreck! While the adults were stressed, this only added to the students’ excitement.

Our visit to The Bandung Treetop Adventure Park was a true adventure! Not only were we tasked with a physically challenging ropes course high up in the treetops of a forest, where we walked across swinging logs hanging from thin wires, climbed rope ladders, crawled through too-small wooden tunnels (my knees!), walked across wires that swayed in the breeze, and shot through the air on zip lines, a thunderstorm blew in quickly while we were all in the middle of our courses! Thunder boomed and lighting cracked as the sky opened up. Being high up in the air next to tall trees and connected to metal wires during a storm isn’t anyone’s idea of a fun time. The workers scrambled to rescue everyone by bringing us down one by one using a rope/pulley system. I was one of the first ones down, so I provided comforting words to stranded children who were understandably scared. We eventually all got down safely, and although we were thoroughly soaked and coming down from an adrenaline high, we were proud of the risk-takers we were!

Our first evening, after we were all showered and rested, was loads of fun! We had a traditional Indonesian dinner followed by some outdoor play, journaling about our day (nearly everyone wrote that the thing they were most proud of is not getting struck by lightning and dying!), and playing an intense few games of Mafia, a game they fell in love with and begged to play throughout the rest of the camp.

Day Two was full-on! Following an early morning wake-up call and a quick breakfast of Bubur Ayam, we piled onto the bus and headed for Tangkuban Perahu, a volcano with three huge craters, that last erupted in 2013. Hiking around the volcano, seeing the craters up close and hearing the history and myths surrounding the volcano, was exciting. The students (and me) were in awe!

After seeing the volcano, we spontaneously decided to go on a hike to see the natural hot springs. Not knowing what to expect, we headed off down the steep trail, with uneven steps carved into the path. The bulk of the group quickly went ahead, leaving a few of us behind. We hoped we were going in the right direction, but the stillness and quiet surrounding us was eerie, and more than once we doubted ourselves. Deciding to take it easy, we stopped and took photos of the natural beauty surrounding us. Craig is a budding photographer who captured a few amazing shots!

The hot springs were worth the trip down, and the students eagerly rolled up their pants to wade in the warm, muddy pools. Fearing that we had to make our way back up the trail that took us about 45 minutes to come down, I was excited to hear that a bus would be picking us up. Little did we know that the pick-up spot was another 1.2km hike away, about a third of it uphill! Bracing ourselves, we hit the trail, huffing and puffing our way through. Coming upon a natural spring with cool, clear water gushing through a pipe, we stopped to drink the delicious water. After making it to the bus stop, everyone was surprised to hear that we’d hiked nearly 10km (based on my FitBit). Boy were we tired, but at the same time, energized. After stopping for lunch and a quick swim at a hot springs resort, we headed back to the hotel, our bodies spent.

After dinner, the real fun started! We built a campfire, told scary stories under the stars (made more scary by Mr Marc’s well-timed screams), and roasted marshmallows to make s’mores. Many of our students, having lived in Jakarta, a major urban city, most of their lives, had never roasted marshmallows before. The excitement and sheer joy of this new experience was rewarding to watch. Fully hyped up on sugar, students danced to their favorite songs, ran around outside, played Jenga, and discovered what happened when you heated up a stick in the fire and swirled it above your head (it makes an orange circle!). We ended the night with a few more games of Mafia, staying up past our normal bedtime. But it was definitely worth it!

The next morning, after a nerve-racking room inspection by Mr Marc, where the students were rated on the cleanliness of their rooms in an over-exaggerated way, we had breakfast and played a few games before the students loaded up on the bus for the long ride back to Jakarta.

Earlier this week, I was able to attend camp with our Year 6 students. Being from America, camp is something that occurs over the summer, so the concept of students attending a camp during the school year is foreign to me. Until this week, it’s not something I necessarily bought into. But now, after getting to experience how camp bonds students together, allows students to partake in new activities, and gives them a chance to shine in different ways, I’m a camp convert.

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!

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.

Just a Trip to the Hospital… #sol18

Even as I waited for the bus to arrive, tears filled my eyes, knowing what was to come. Despite being somewhat of an irrational fear, I couldn’t stop the worry of the dreaded needle from taking over. As we headed to the hospital, my friends and colleagues tried to distract me, chatting about last night’s Oscars, memories from when we all started together last summer at ACG, and the usual friendly banter that occurs with people who are familiar with one another.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect. All I knew was that in order to process our work visas for next year, we had to have drug and HIV testing done (and pass, obviously). I’ve only been to a clinic and the dentist here in Jakarta, which I assumed wouldn’t be too different from a hospital. I couldn’t have been more wrong in my assumptions. I had forgotten one crucial difference. I had visited Western-style clinics, and we were going to a local hospital today.

Upon arrival, we were taken to a large waiting room to get a number (much like you would at the deli counter at your local grocery store back home). Swarms of people filled every available seat, fanning themselves from the heat. Those who couldn’t fit inside were perched outdoors on the rows of metal seats. A few unfortunate souls were laid out on stretchers, outside in the heat (not that it was any cooler inside, but being outside seemed worse to me), while their loved ones fed them something that looked a lot like porridge. There was even a man in a wheelchair who had his leg propped up, an old piece of wood underneath acting as a splint.

As we stood in the middle of the waiting room, taking it all in, sweat slowly dripped down my back, and I was reminded of earlier this morning when I was getting dressed and debating whether I should wear long pants and a cardigan, seeing as hospitals are notoriously cold. I thanked myself for choosing the skirt and sleeveless shirt today.

A little while later, our driver ushered us over to another building, where we assumed the ‘VIP’ area was. We came to find out there isn’t a VIP area at this hospital. While we waited outside chatting (and sweating), we were just thankful we weren’t in that other line. We did have to get back to work at some point today. When we were finally called in, the fear came back, but it was short lived as I realized this building was for checking your weight and blood pressure and signing your name. The five of us each took our turn, and then it was onto the next one (building, that is).

As we made our way through the throngs of people seemingly waiting in lines, we were met with another large, overflowing waiting room. Taking the only available seats, we ate our snacks (thankfully, we came prepared!) and waited. A little while later, we were taken to a smaller, yet still crowded, room to wait in line for our blood tests. In the middle of the communal room, the numbered stalls sat waiting for people to be pricked. I guess privacy wasn’t a top priority here. As we stood in line right in front of the door, so as not to lose our place, we were constantly in everyone’s way, shuffling this way and that way. The heat and the screaming babies only added to my anxiety.

One by one, people were taken to a vacant stall to be pricked (i.e. stabbed) with a needle, the line inching forward with each prick. Rebecca went to the toilet, and upon her return, informed us that there was no soap or towels in the bathroom. As in they don’t exist there, not as in they’re out. I’m disturbed that the hospital where I was about to have a needle put into my arm doesn’t have soap in the bathroom. My wavering confidence took another nosedive.

My turn. I begrudgingly followed the attendant to stall #4, where I apprehensively sat down. Armed with funny videos on my phone and Rebecca and Miriam’s constant stream of conversation to distract me, I steeled myself for what was to come. After triple-checking that the nurse was using a new, clean needle and gloves, I looked away and shut my eyes tight, bracing for impact. I felt the needle pierce my skin, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d built it up to be. A few seconds later, it was over, and I didn’t even cry!

Our last stop was at yet another building, which, to our surprise, was blasting cold air, clean, and virtually empty. Here we were asked to fill out paperwork, pee in a cup, and talk privately with a doctor. The doctor’s chat was a bit unusual. We were all asked basically the same questions, with a few variations. The most interesting bits from my conversation were:

Are you drink alcohol? Yes, occasionally.

What? Vodka or Whiskey or… Ummm…rum I guess, and sometimes cider.

Are you drug user? No, I’ve never used drugs before. (What an odd way to ask that…why not ‘Have you used drugs before?’)

Show me your arms. (She then checked for track marks before recording “Track marks- negative.”)

How about your feeling now? (After realizing she was asking about my mood…) I’m just fine.

You have hallucination? No.

Or delusion? No? No.

Okay finished!

I’m always intrigued by the different experiences I have as an expat. Before moving abroad, I took for granted that basic things like going to the doctor, shopping, and getting around town could be so different. I just assumed the major things like the type of food, language, and locale would be different, but culture runs deep and seemingly little things can be a whole new experience!

My Life in Numbers

Several of my fellow slicers have written their own ‘life in numbers’ posts this month, which is a list of facts about them, corresponding to the numbers 1-10. I enjoy these posts, as they give an insight into the author. Here’s mine, but as the rule-breaker I am, mine doesn’t follow the 1-10 format. Instead, it’s a list of number-based facts using any numbers I deem necessary. But I’m not an animal…they are listed in numerical order. 🙂

1- I have 1 brother, Andrew, who’s just shy of four years younger than me. We are quite different, starting from our heights. He’s a full foot taller than me! We have different careers, different tastes in food, I live abroad while he lives where we grew up, he’s married with kids and I’m single, and the list of differences goes on. Despite our differences, I love my bubba and look forward to seeing him whenever I’m back home.

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2- I’m an aunt to 2 adorable kiddos, Randi and Logan, who are some of my favorite people on this earth. They make me smile and laugh whenever I’m with them. I think about them all the time. And they are so full of personality! I love them soooooo much!!

4- I’ve broken 4 bones in my lifetime. Two fingers, one on each hand, and both arms simultaneously. Yes, that really happened. I earned the nickname “Monkey Girl” during my eighth grade thanks to my accident on the monkey bars. As a middle schooler, naturally, I was mortified. As an adult, it’s a funny memory.

5- So far, I’ve lived in 5 countries (soon to be 6). USA for my first 29 years, Australia for 6 months, China for 5 years, Albania for a year and a half, and Thailand for the past 2+ months.

7- I’ve been slicing as part of the Slice of Life community for the past 7 years, and it’s been so instrumental in my development as a writer. I cannot thank all the co-authors enough for this opportunity, and all the slicers over the years who have encouraged me as a writer!

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9- In order to feel fully rested, I need 9 hours of sleep each night. I usually don’t get this much, but I strive for at least 8 hours of good sleep.

11- In my lifetime, I have lived in 11 different houses or apartments. This may not seem like very many, but considering that I lived in the same house until I was 22 years old, I think it’s quite a few places. One of these places was a townhouse I owned from age 26 to 29, my first and only place I’ve ever owned.

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My first home I owned 🙂

13- I’m currently in my 13th year of education, and in those years I’ve taught Grade 3, Grade 4, and Preschool, been a literacy coach and a part-time PYP Coordinator, and served as an elementary principal at two schools.

19- Not counting babysitting when I was younger, I started working at the age of 16 as a skating Sonic carhop, and over the past nearly twenty years, I have worked at 19 different places. Reading that you probably think I can’t hold a job, since it averages to about one per year, but most of these jobs were part-time and held simultaneously. With the exception of one job at age 17, my stint as a nanny in Sydney, and my summers as a camp director, all of my jobs were held for at least a year, the longest being 5 years.

22- I have 22 cousins, including their spouses and children, who I now consider my cousins. I love seeing many of them at our annual Kesler family reunions. Can’t wait to see them again this summer! 🙂

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35- So far, I have visited 35 countries, including the ones I’ve lived in. Check out my Where I’ve Wandered page to see where I’ve traveled across the globe. While 35 may seem like a lot, it just seems like a drop in the bucket to me. There’s so much more I want to see!

43- Last year, I read 43 books. I’m hoping to read more this year though! 🙂

9,156- I’m currently living 9,156 miles away from home in Bryan, Texas. No wonder I’m tired traveling to and from!