Mother Nature, and a Bit of Malaysia

Things have been a bit exciting around here lately, both on the clock and off. Between earthquakes and earthquake drills, festival holidays, upcoming projects at school, an unexpected trip to Malaysia to finally get my paperwork all sorted out and an aggressively stormy beginning to the rainy season, this week has been sort of hectic.

Let’s start with Mother Nature, shall we? Anybody who gets here through facebook probably saw my post earlier this week and knows that Northern Sumatra experienced a “massive” earthquake this previous Monday night. The earthquake was evidently pretty large, registering 6.6 and only about 110 km (68 miles) away from us, but it was over 9 km (5.2 miles) deep. Closer to the epicenter the quake did cause some houses to collapse, and unfortunately at least one child was killed as a result; here in Medan, though, it was just a moderately mild shaking. I was almost asleep and thought, that’s odd, I wonder why my housemates upstairs are stomping on the floor? and then., as the cobwebs receded from my brain, I realized that my bed was shaking and my closets and windows were creaking pretty loudly. At that point I figured, since the shaking was still going on, I should probably go stand in a doorway, so I got out of bed, unplugged my computer and headed for the door, and stood there for a good 15-20 seconds before the shaking stopped. All told it lasted a full minute or more, and certainly got my adrenaline pumping.

Well, that got us to thinking we’d better get serious about emergency drills at the school. So the students have now been roundly instructed in what to do if there is an earthquake. Unfortunately, when the Primary 4 class did a presentation on How To Behave in an Earthquake, they were somewhat… interpretive with emergency procedures (there may have been a song and dance, it was pretty cute) but the upshot is that now all the students run around putting their hands on top of their heads since that was the dance move when P4 instructed everyone to “cover their heads.” Also unfortunately, a lot of the teachers didn’t learn it the way we did, so we have a lot of teachers with hands on top of their heads instead of actually, you know, protecting anything. That’s a battle we’ll be fighting for a little bit.

Mother Nature’s also been gifting us with quite the storm season. We’ve now moved into the “Rainy Season,” which as far as I can tell is different from the dry season by roughly an extra hour of rain per day, and a bit of increase in the number of thunderstorms. The second weekend in September saw 6 thunderstorms in 2 days, and more than one morning this week we’ve awakened to torrential rain pelting our windows. Last weekend we had a windstorm that knocked a huge branch into the building’s transformer and killed our power for the better part of 2 days. It’s been interesting, to say the least.

I’m going to talk about the Festival in a separate post, because it just went on today and it was actually quite the production, with lots of funny little incidents and goings-on. So next post I’ll tell you all about that.

I’ll wrap up here with a quick description of my trip to Malaysia. As many of you know, the visa situation has been rather frustrating and drawn-out, what with having to get a new passport and then a week-long trip to the States. It’s finally all sorted. Here’s how that happened:

Friday afternoon I got called into the principal’s office, because she had just received news that my work visa was finally ready to be put into my passport. The thing can only be picked up, by me, from an Indonesian consulate, and because of our location it made the most sense to have it sent to Penang, Malaysia, which is an island city on the western coast of Malaysia. So Friday afternoon I’m told I have a flight to Penang at noon on Sunday, and I’ll need to be gone for two days (the first day to drop off the passport, the second day to pick it up), and can I please have detailed lesson plans ready for substitutes by Monday morning? So I’m scrambling to figure out what materials I can take home, what I need to leave for subs, how I’m going to get all my worksheets printed so that the subs will have them before I leave (that didn’t at all happen, I wound up emailing everything to the school) and generally working in a frenzied state for most of that afternoon.

Plus, then the internet went out. All weekend.

I have a dial-up broadband modem (broadband is a loose term), a little USB attachment that I plug into my computer to get internet at home. Well, the thing is incredibly slow, and only sometimes finds a network to which it can connect, so my internet at home is spotty at the best of times. I mentioned about the weather this weekend – as a result of the wind and rain, the broadband networks were all unavailable for most of the weekend. I wound up going to Starbucks for about 5 hours on Saturday just to try and get any work done, and of course it was packed and there is one outlet in the entire cafe (this is not unusual here, at all) so I sat smiling serenely with my cup of coffee, all the while going slightly mad with stress.

Thus, I wound up spending a goodly portion of Sunday afternoon, after reaching Penang, checking into the hotel, getting switched to a room that had working lights and internet, and scrounging some food, I sat down and finished downloading all my materials and emailing out my lesson plans. For Monday. At 10pm on Sunday night.

Also, whilst checking my email on Sunday night, I found out that I was supposed to be in charge of coordinating the Chinese portion of the Festival this week, which meant being in charge of figuring out activities and performances for 3 class grades. Whew! I told them I would figure out something the next day, and went to the bar for a much-deserved glass of wine.

Monday I got up at 7am to get breakfast and shower (blessed, blessed hot water in the shower! I should stay in hotels more often) and then head over to the consulate as soon as it opened. I got in, waited patiently in the madness, a complete lack of queues, for all of 5 minutes before decided to pull a China-style line cut and just walked up to the visa window. After some finagling, we managed to work out that I’d come back and get my passport that afternoon, so I had some time to go back to the hotel and finish my lesson plans before returning for the passport. I also wanted to wander around the city a little bit, since I had been out walking in search of food the previous evening and stumbled upon two Buddhist temples just a few blocks away – one of them houses the Largest Reclining Buddha in Asia (refer to first Spring Festival post of last year for discussion of ridiculous Buddha superlatives), but I actually did wind up working for most of the day, getting my lessons sorted and then making plans for the Chinese Mid-Autumn festival portion of today’s activities, though I got out to try some Malaysian street food (delicious) and go for a swim in the hotel pool. It was pretty hazy and gray for most of the two days I was there, which precluded a trip to the beach so I wasn’t too sad to miss out; next time I go to a tropical island, though, I want a drink with a tiny umbrella and a beach towel and several hours of uninterrupted reading/iPod listening/sunbathing. Thank you very much.

Okay. Back soon with tales of the combined Idul Fitri/Moon Festival celebrations, because they were epic.


Posted on September 16, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. You are certainly living the life of a teacher and then some. I can completely relate! I was up until midnight on Wed. writing out lesson plans for a sub for Friday so we could leave immediately after school on Thursday to catch a plane to San Diego. Every copy machine and printer in the school was down or out of ink (which never happens!) so it was a bit of a mad scramble early Thurs. morning to finish getting materials ready. It worked out in the end as it always seems to. It’s been a lovely (though much more familiar) start-up for me this year. Welcome to the teacher (the work is never done) club! The best club you’ll ever be a part of! P.S. It has been wonderful to be with Megan, Dale, Calder, Ashlee and Tanner this weekend. Wish you were here!

    • Oh man, that totally sounds like something that would happen here!! It always works out in the end because we won’t give up trying different solutions until it does. We’re tenacious that way 🙂 For all the stress, there is a tenfold reward though; couldn’t ask for a better job. Miss all you guys, I’m so glad you got to be there for Tanner. Wish I could be, too, but this week (despite all of the craziness) has really reminded me how lucky I am to be where I am, doing what I’m doing.

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