Tuesday, 24 February 2015


Since January I have been having stomach and digestion problems and spent many an hour on the toilet wishing for a smell free day. Me being me, I considered it just a bout of food poisoning which is common here due to the lax hygiene routines in food preparation and really bad local toilets and dirty tap waterand oft badly stored but not cooked food. So I let things rumble on despite warnings from the wife that I should see a doctor and get it sorted out.

So on valentines day I decided to take my wife out for the evening to the hospital where we could while away the hours waiting to see a doctor. We went to the nearest one, which is Tria Dipa about 1km from my house and it is a good hospital and is well respected even if it does need a lick of paint.

The doctor I saw, seemed to know his stuff. I have met him before and he treated me for my back pains. You should know there are no GPs but doctors that you can see, therefore no real records or history of patients unless you keep returning to the same place. So to see the same doctor twice is a good thing I guess here.

I was told to go and have a blood test which was a first for me because I have never had a blood test before and after a syringe load of blood was removed, I had to wait 20 minutes while it was tested for the chance of Typhoid Fever or Tyhoid. One is never quite sure what it is out here but to mention you have 'Tipes' or Typhoid and you are instantly considered ill and wished a speedy recovery. There was also a chance that I would be admitted to hospital which I was not too impressed with, Yovita even less so and with having to stump up a large deposit first to get a bed I was not looking forward at all to that prospect.

1 form does it all for the tests in hospital

Back to the doctor for the result and I was told, it was Typhoid and I needed to rest not eat fried food and drink as much water as I humanly could before saying everything was OK and goodbye.

This ones says TY-O is + positive rather than negative

We were given a big bag of antibiotics and a letter declaring I needed 5 days bed rest. Bed rest being made to rest in a bed and off home we went.

Bed rest is boring and almost impossible with my son who is  not sick and wants to play and jump and crawl and play more with me all the time I was at home. So I spent my rest with him taking life easy resting at home and sleeping more when he slept so much so by the following weekend I felt so so much better. The drugs worked, the water worked and the rest definitely was a good thing.

Jeremy behaving while I was resting

Ironically, the doctor said that Typhoid was common for westerners to catch in Indonesia and looked a little lost when he was told I have been here for 8 years and only had the flu a few times and some back problems. But then he said my blood pressure was good for my age and my heart was strong so that was good.

So what is Typhoid?

Wikipedia describes it like this

"Typhoid fever — also known simply as typhoid[1] — is a common worldwide bacterial disease transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person, which contain the bacterium Salmonella enterica subsp. entericaserovar Typhi."

So now you know. Happily the antibiotics kicked in and cleared it up and I am back at work and the world continues to revolve. And just maybe I will go to the doctors next time a little sooner!!!!

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Happy Birthday EF

Somedays its hard to imagine that EF English First is 50 years old and that it was created a Swedish man with a vision and who saw a gap in the then developing tourist market and exploited it to the max.

But EF (Education First and its other familiar name English First) is 50. And last Tuesday we had a party.

This is I think, the only corporate birthday I have ever attended. A global party for all employees to attend and all at the same time. I imagine non Islamic countries enjoyed sparkling wine and champagne as the toast. I enjoyed the grape juice. Our party was for all the staff who work in the building for EF, which meant all teachers and staff and the administration people who live upstairs.

Decked out in our very best EF t-shirts, we listened to a short welcome and then watched a few videos about EF and its history plus how the organisation got into the Guinness book of records for the most people who participated in a dance world wide.

Cake and lunch then followed by the inevitable round of photos.

Somedays its good to belong to something.

The video:

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Floods in Jakarta

Well after 2 months of threatening the city with floods of near biblical proportions it finally happened. The city has in some places been flooding in areas since Christmas but this week with a high tide from the north,  heavy rains in the mountains in the south and torrential rain in the city, Jakarta in places finally became overloaded and the place flooded and ground to a standstill. It should be noted that this happens pretty much every year, and more than once. However, it being the rainy season the expectation is that the rain is worse, the floods bigger and the chaos more than the rest of the year and this year for some it has been.

The rains started over the weekend and on the Monday I had to be at school by 6am to go into the city for my school classes. It rained all the way from home to EF and then carried on into the morning at St.Ursula. There was a power cut for a while and then after around 9am the rain began to fall at a rate which you realise is going cause problems for people.
At 11am, parents were picking up there children from the school to get them home and the school itself started to flood. By 12 noon, my classes were cancelled and I was free to go (where?) back to EF for the day. Happily I work with another teacher whose classes were also cancelled so we waded out of the school without shoes and socks to Dunkin Doughnuts to wait for the driver who did arrive around 1.5 hours later. While waiting we watched the rain and floods rise.

My bike in the rain

The gloomy skies out side my school at 6am

St.Ursula in the rain
The floods starting inside the school

Leaving the school

The floods outside the school

Getting Deeper

The trip to EF was on clear roads but I had 3 teachers unable to come into the school on the Monday due to the weather. On the way home from EF I encountered the biggest floods I have ridden through ever and that was exciting but happily I made it. It was hard to do as the water was higher than my front wheel. But other than that, the traffic was very light.

The view from one my teachers houses

One of my teachers took this while trying to get to EF

Another view

The rain calmed down on Tuesday and I only had 2 teachers absent due to floods but they returned on Wednesday. The city itself got back to normal from Tuesday night and since then there has been no real heavy rain but there are many people claiming the rain will return this weekend or in the next week or so.  Lets see.

This was a 1km away from where I work

The city itself was stuck. The buses, trains and taxis stopped running. Large parts of the city was under 50-80cm of water and these are government areas, business areas as well as residential areas. Still it happens every year and every year nothing really changes, it just continues to rain and the floods come and go.

And some endearing photos of why I like Jakarta. People never give up.

From voanews,com

from floodlist.com

from thewatchers.adorraeli.com

Monday, 9 February 2015

Working as a teacher

Next year, I will celebrate 10 years away the UK and the year after 10 years of teaching. But for now I will settle for 8 years.

I have worked for EF since coming to Indonesia and overall it has been simply a magical experience and I am not even being paid to write this. My role has always been teaching and whilst I have become a Director Studies/Principal/Academic Controller whatever, my role is one to teach and to improve teaching and therefore to improve the levels of English of those that come to my center which is in Puri Indah, West Jakarta..

Thinking back over the years I have done some pretty random things which seem to continue, therefore it is coming the normal.

Here are some of things I have found myself doing (in no more particular order)

1. Judging Fancy dress
2. Judging a Rap contest
3. Making Hamburgers in McDonalds
4. Teaching in a school where the students would play football at the back of the class and ignore me completely
5. Teach in Head offices of Banks through the City
6. Present my School in some of the number 1 companies in Indonesia
7. Tell and make a room full of adults sing the alphabet when challenged to how I would make their children learn English.
8. Hold a puppet show for 6 year olds who actually yawned and cheered when the puppets were thrown in the bin
9. Watching highly paid banking professionals pay tag around their office as they were bored.
10. Judge 5 year olds reading poetry
11. Teach in the number 1 Catholic school in the country
12. Teach in the best Islamic school in the country
13. Break up parents fighting
14. Stop the kids from fighting
15. Play a dead body in a murder mystery
16. Tell really scary stories to the students every halloween
17. Teach in another business where every morning I arrived I was given coffee and croissants to help me wake up
18. When I was teaching in the city, both the staff in the cafe in the basement and Wendys fast food staff learned what I like to order and would ask if I wanted my normal.
19. Presented teaching skills to University lectures
20. Sat and ate Crocodile Satay and snake soup with a class of business students
21. Had to deal with first aid emergencies resulting in taking various staff to hospital
22. Standing in Shopping malls handing out leaflets
23. Spending countless hours in the airport waiting for new teachers
24. Killing mice in the teachers house
25. Giving presentation lessons to children and as a result losing part of my hearing
26. Administering trial testing and lessons to help provide data for new courses
27. Provide Interviews for EF websites
28. Teaching high school teachers grammar and structure even though they have been teaching far longer than me
29. Read to children in a book store
30. Giving guided city tours and finding more random places to go

and so on,

Of course I also do my day job of teaching different classes and age groups and talking about Grammar and structures and singing and dancing and helping students to develop their skills as well I hope, the teachers that I work with improve theirs. And the teachers here are the best I have had the pleasure to work with and with they have all been here at least a year for the western ones and my Indonesian teachers range from 4 years to a week. Hats off to the those who have put up with me for that long, it shows how cultures are different. Mind they don't have to deal with me first thing so I guess that helps.

As for EF, it has changed so much since I have started working here. Gone have the crappy old Apple Macs (which are lying in a garage somewhere would be worth selling on Ebay!!) and the bad EF books and CD players. In have come, up to the date media loaded programs for students from 3 to what ever. Clearly I cant load the videos from one of courses which were made by Cartoon Network however if you click this link, it takes you to a place where you can watch one.


We have interactive whiteboards, Apple Apps and all our books have been written in collaboration with Cambridge University. EF works with Harvard, Peking and Moscow University as well and I am sure many others. In Indonesia there are over 65 centers and it is growing. Does that make the teaching any easier? Well, not really but it makes it more fun and interactive and at the end of the day, the kids like it.

All the teachers still need to plan lessons and ensure that they use the materials provided and that the students are given the best chance learn English and practice it. All with a sense of fun and that is another reason I enjoy working here, the fun and energy that the place has. The amount of work and effort everyone is under pinned by the amount of noise the teachers make and laughter the teachers room generates makes for a perfect day.

A snippet of life at where I work. Always a challenge but a worthwhile and for any of my teachers reading this, yes that is called praise.

The teachers, oh and me, Christmas 2014 (courtesy of Liana)

Saturday, 7 February 2015

A recent Interview

A while back I was asked to do an interview for Expat-Blog which is a site dedicated to those living away from their home countries and on the whole is a good place to be.

British expat, Luke settled in Indonesia in 2007. Teacher by profession, he is also a happy dad with a two year old son with whom he spends a lot of time.

Where are you from, Luke?

My name is Luke, I am English and left England in 2006 to travel the world. At the end of 2006, I landed a job teaching in Indonesia, which I thought would be for a year. But liked it so much that I decided to stay and here I am 7 years later, married to an Indonesian. I also have a 1 year old son. I am still enjoying life here as much as I did when I arrived.How did you land in Indonesia?I was looking to work in Asia after traveling through it and it happened on Indonesia. I then decided to give it a go and it proved to be a good move.

What were the procedures to follow to move there?

My company arranged all the legal paperwork for me. So, all I had to do was to arrive there. I was met at the airport and taken to my new home. It was made very simple for me.What has attracted you to Jakarta?Jakarta is the opposite of my home in England and there is always something interesting here for me to do or discover. It's true that the city is over-crowded and full of pollution etc. But if you look past that, for me, there is so much worth seeing and exploring. I am constantly visiting different places and learning new things about Indonesia and the city.

What are the local labor market's specifications?

I am currently employed as a teacher and I have been teaching for a long time. The market has changed due to more strict guidelines and regulations. Teachers need to be over 25 years old and possess the relevant teaching qualifications demanded by the school where they would be working and also to meet the government regulations.

Was it difficult to find accommodation? What are the types of accommodation available there?

When I arrived, I was placed in a teachers house as part of my contract. I have since lived in apartments and houses. There are many options for living here and all at different costs. It all depends on your needs, location and lifestyle. However, I would advise new people to make sure that when looking at property, they have someone who can read the Indonesian contract and be prepared to hear how the price increases just because you are not Indonesian.

How do you find the Indonesian lifestyle?

I find living here a lot less stressful and more simple. Jakarta is the gateway to the country. So I am able to choose and discover so much more outside of the city. The lifestyle is easy because of the availability of services, food and transportation, and also the amount of that. Whilst it makes the living environment nosier and more hectic, it does mean that you are not often wanting anything extra. Moreover, you can get the English Football on TV, and with Satellite TV you can still watch the most popular western TV shows. I eat Indonesian food through the week and then a more western menu during the week-end and that suits me fine.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

I think I am still adapting. It is not my country, so I just accept what happens. After all, I have no power to influence any change and to be honest I am not sure what I would want to change.

What does your every day life look like?

For me, a typical working day is caring for my son before the house keeper takes over. Then, riding a bike across the city to work where I teach for most of the afternoon, and then back home for late supper and bed. Week-ends are spent with my family, with Saturday just for my wife. So we can go shopping or see a movie, or eat somewhere nice. And then Sunday, after a lazy brunch somewhere, spending the day with my son. It is not the most glorious lifestyle, but family and two-year old children tend to reduce the time you want to spend drinking in bars and clubbing. When we can, we escape to Bandung or Bogor for a week-end or just find a cheap room in a 4 or 5 star hotel and stay there on a Saturday night.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

The moment I walked into the arrivals at Jakarta Airport, I realized that I was no longer in the West. It was and still is Orange and Brown, and the signs are limited. There were lots of people trying to sell you something or wanting to take your luggage, and it was so hot. I knew then that Jakarta and Indonesia would be an adventure.Any particular experience you would like to share with us?I have many experiences to share, some good, some bad. But I think my wedding was a special moment for me. It was held in Bali, on a hotel lawn overlooking the sea and the sunset. My parents, whom I had not seen for a few years had come and it was a fantastic moment for me and my partner.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Jakarta? Is it easy for a British expat to live in the country?

The cost of living depends on the salary you earn. You buy almost anything here and it makes it harder to save. The cost of living as a expat on a short contract is cheap as you like. But once you settle and start having bills and responsibilities, then I would say that the costs become more expensive. Prices have risen on basic things, but overall, my salary covers that. 

For a British expat to live here is easy enough. There are not really many British food products available but in some supermarkets you can find simple things like baked beans and HP sauce and digestive biscuits. Moreover, apart from BBC News and World, the English TV availability is limited, but most things can be found through the Internet. Clothing and shoes, if you are taller and have big feet, can be hard to find and more expensive. Whilst most of the UK fashion chains are here, they are more expensive and limited in range. My experience of living here and with fellow British expats is that everyone adapts to what is available and enjoys the heat and the lifestyle that they have made here.

How do you spend your leisure time there?

My leisure time is limited to stealing time with wife to go out with out the family for a few hours, and also spending as much time as I can with my son watching him play and grow. I also enjoy reading and watching TV if I have time.

What are the differences between life in Indonesia and in the UK?

Far too many. I think overall people need to see Indonesia and understand it first before deciding if they want to be here long term. The easiest and fastest way to help new people who come here and work with me to help them understand how different life is here, is by me pointing out the lack of Fire Exits, Fire Extinguishers and any kind of Health and Safety signs that are every where in the West, but are not present in my building and elsewhere such as malls or hospitals etc. People think and act differently here. So if a new person can grasp that, then they will do fine. Oh, and its always nice and warm here.

Would like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates?

When you come here, come with an open mind and a sense of adventure and humor. It's not for everyone, but if you accept this is the way it is here, then you wont have so many problems settling in. People are not angry, often arrive late, and appreciate a smile more than anything else. Moreover, there is more to Indonesia than Bali. So, go explore and enjoy.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope to remain here for as long as possible. My family is here and my work is here. Indonesia has everything I need and want.

I have done other interviews and I will put them on here as well.

The site for this interview and the only forum I feel really comfortable on is