Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The phone rang this morning (Tuesday) a little before eight. We were both still in bed, half asleep. Last week Jenny had told Matt something to the effect of us using this week to set up our house. That was a great relief to us, since we still had not totally unpacked. We have two weeks before we actually start teaching, so it made a lot of sense for us to spend some time making our house comfortable. Yesterday a driver came to pick us up for school at 7:30. Matt sent him back to school, explaining that we did not need to be there this week. Apparently we were wrong.

The phone call confused and frustrated me. It was Jenny, the director of the school. She said that there was a driver outside waiting on us. Matt looked outside and saw that there was. In ten minutes I was out of bed, dressed and ready (more or less) to go. We did not know why they wanted us at school. The classes we would be teaching did not start for two weeks and the materials that we would need to prepare for teaching were not available yet. I was grumbling as I went from sleep to wake to out the door to a situation that I didn’t understand.

When we arrived at school, I was embarrassed and frustrated. What we understood and what was intended was different. I didn’t want us to appear as slackers before we even started. We apologized as best we could and tried to explain how we misunderstood.

They had fixed a cubicle in an office space for us: two desks, four chairs, a bookshelf, and a computer desk. They supplied us each with a pencil, a pen, two highlighters, a ruler, a stapler, and a pencil sharpener and white-out pen to share.

All day I worked on adjusting my attitude. Mornings are the hardest time for me to be flexible. Being awoken and told that we were to leave at that minute (without a much needed shower) to go sit in an office with nothing to do was a really frustrating way to start the day.

Two things needed in order to live abroad are a sense of humor and the ability to be flexible. (In the words of Dr. Terry Carter, “Our word for the day is: be flexible.”) Today I had neither.

We got two memos today. One was telling us that beginning yesterday we would be picked up at 7:30 for school (it would have been nice to get that one last week!). The other announced a program where Matt and I would be welcomed. The program would begin at 4:30, which was the time when we were supposed to be going home. I asked Jane, a teacher from England, what the program would entail and if it was normal. She said she didn’t know, but she didn’t get a welcoming program.

Last night another British teacher named Graham informed us that the administration was not always on top of informing the ex-pats when their bills were due. He didn’t know his electricity was due until he got home one day and had no power. So today, we went by the office and inquired as to if there were any bills we would need to pay this month and when they would be due. The phone bill is due tomorrow and we owe 38,000 rupiah (less than $4).

That presented a problem. Neither of us have ever managed much money in cash. We are accustomed to using our debit cards for everything or paying bills on-line. I could tell you almost to the cent how much money I had in my checking account, but would have no clue as to how much cash was in my pocket. So last night when we went shopping for household supplies, we didn’t keep good track of how much cash we had and thus spent all but about 30,000 rupiah. We tried to get some money out of the ATM, but couldn’t find one that worked last night.

So, while I was trying very hard to have a sense of humor and be flexible, we were trying to think of a place to get some money changed so we could pay all four dollars of our phone bill. We were talking through some of this with Jane, explaining that we wouldn’t have this problem if the school would just go ahead and reimburse us for our travel expenses and the English curriculum we bought. Jane said something that was not encouraging and, on the verge of tears, I asked for something positive. She said, “Well, there is a lovely peaceful volcano over there.” We both looked up at it at the same time. It was completely hidden by a cloud. So we laughed and life felt better.

The program went well, I guess. The headmaster of the school said a few things then asked us to say something. They had a microphone set up even though we were in a small room with less than twenty people there. I think the motto here is “If we can make it louder, we will.” After the short talks, we were to eat, which was great because I was very hungry and we still don’t have much food here at the house. They asked Matt and I to go first. As kind of a gesture as that is, it was very frustrating because I like to watch how the people in front of me prepare their plates and follow in suite. Instead of watching, we asked Jenny, who was right behind us, what was the proper way to prepare a bowl of this type of food was. She is very gracious.

Over half way through the meal, I finally got up the courage to ask the nice teacher sitting next to me what the meat in the broth was (it looked like cut up pieces of hot dog and tasted bland). She told me that it was mock meat; the other pot had chicken. Many people here are Seventh Day Adventist, which sometimes translates into meaning they are vegetarians.

How can a day that ends with mock meat be all bad?


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