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LAST Sunday afternoon in Lilongwe

Vicki Hodgkinson's blog - June 21st, 2009 9:55 AM

Somehow I have lost track of posting a note about Patricia’s and my adventures last Sunday afternoon (June 14) when we went to visit the Mausoleum for Banda (Malawi’s first President) and the Lilongwe Nature Sancturary.

We were able to walk to both of these places.

At the mausoleum, we learned some interesting things about Malawian history and politics:

The literal meaning of Malawi is “flames of fire”. The fire started burning with Malawi’s independence. The flag depicts dawn. Coming from the dark (under British rule) going into day. Malawi thinks of itself as “the warm heart of Africa”

The four fundamental principles upon which Malawi as a nation was built are depicted by the four pillars at the mausoleum for Kumuzu: unity, loyalty, obedience and discipline. These were the principles that Kamuzu used most to advocate most to Malawians: to be loyal to him and the government of the day. He was a strict disciplinarian.

Kamuzu was never married and had no children. He lived with a personal hostess, a personal assistant, Mama Cecilia Kadzamira. She is a medical nurse by profession and she is still alive. According to her, the picture of Kamuzu placed by the replica of his tomb at the mausoleum was taken when he was in his 20s. In the picture, he is holding a ‘fly whisk’, made of a lion’s or horse’s tale. It was his trademark and a symbol of authority. You never saw him in public without it. He had several of them. He has one in his grave and the others have been set aside for display in the museum to be built near the mausoleum as part of the parliament centre.

He was a Christian, a Presbyterian, and his favourite biblical verse (recorded on his tomb stone) is part of Psalm 23 (Lord is my Shepard). According to his hostess, he used to recite the verse every morning when he woke up. He was a doctor of medicine who studied in the U.K.

Mausoleum to Banda iii

He is embalmed to last for 100 years. Originally, the intention was that he would be on view but the family members (nephews and nieces) refused.

He was also connected with the symbol of the lion. At a meeting of the African Union in Egypt around 1970-71 they were discussing the situation of apartheid in South Africa. Most of the northern and western African states wanted the members of the AU to unite to fight the white South Africans. But of all the people at that meeting, Kamuzu stood up and said, “Oh, gentleman, I do not agree to that position. Our people down south will suffer most. Why don’t we use contact and dialogue. Then the Chairman of the meeting praised Kamuzu saying, “This gentleman has patience like that of a lion.” That’s where the title came from.

A few months before he died, he apologized to the Malawi nation. “I had my time. I ruled Malawi for 20 years and there might have been some other things that were not going fine…maybe some other atrocities. You never know some were done by my followers. But one thing for sure, I am saying sorry for everything bad that happened during my tenure of office.”

Malawi changed from a one-party state to multi-party in 1994. It came out on the national radio … at that time Malawi did not have television …even before the official election results had been announced, Kumuzu came on the radio and said, “I have seen, I think, my rival has won. So, for the winners, I want you to rejoice peacefully and, as for the losers, that’s what life is all about.”. Most Malawians were used to a single-party state and they were wondering what would happen. So, people were very happy and comforted when he went on air and said everything is okay, “This one can take over; I have lost.” So we will never forget him.

“He had his weaknesses but, nevertheless, he was Malawi’s founding father.”

These notes come from the information provided by our tour guide (and caretaker) at the mausoleum, Frederick. Here’s a photo of Frederick:

Mausoleum to Banda ii

As we walked to the nature sanctuary, we walked past the site where the new Malawian parliamentary buildings are being constructed

New Malawian Parliament Building Billboard Depiction

The Nature Sanctuary is a place where they take in injured animals or animals that for any number of reasons need to be rehabilitated and supported to re-enter life in the wild. We saw a crocodile, many different types of monkeys, a lionness (who will not be able to return to the wild due to her injuries), a hyena, a boa constrictor….and, while he was too shy to be seen by us, the lair of a leopard. The area was a pretty walk in itself.

Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary x

Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary xiv

We made it home in time — before dark! — but only to find that the water was not on. We sure could have used a good long shower after the dusty walking. But…..c’est la vie Malawian!!

New Cabinet, Workshops and other sorts of ‘carpentry’??

Vicki Hodgkinson's blog - June 18th, 2009 10:47 AM

Thursday morning arrived with me feeling at 90% and having had an excellent night’s sleep. I grabbed a ride with Patricia’s colleague from YECE again and got dropped off in Old Town. I walked to the COWLHA office and ran into Solomon, the young boy who sells papers among the Ministry of Agriculture offices around us. I was eager to buy the paper because it had coverage of the new Malawian cabinet appointments.

Malawi had a general election in May (the 19th, I believe) and this is only the second such election with multi-party participation. The whole business of multi-party democracy is a learning experience for Malawians. They have had to come to grips with the idea that it’s okay to be a “loser” in the elections. (It doesn’t mean you are out to topple the government and need to be ‘managed’ by the ‘winners.) They are also growing to understand the idea of a ‘loyal opposition’….because in the past if you didn’t agree with the President/party of the day, then you were on risky ground. Interestingly, this past election campaign featured supporting civic education programs and initiatives designed to keep polling activities orderly. They also ran special initiatives to increase the number of women in the Malawian parliament and their numbers were increased such that women are around one-quarter of the elected representatives. One gathers that these various initiatives went very well.

In any event, Malawi had previously ‘enjoyed’ a minority government but, with this May election, it has provided a majority government with a president who appears to have considerable general support among the populace. He has acquired a reputation for standing up for Malawi in dealings with international financial institutions. He’s an advocate for women – 11 women are in his 42 member Cabinet (26% of Cabinet as compared to the last one with only 17% women) – and is giving strong leadership in addressing the challenges of HIV/AIDS. It’s so interesting to see how they are grappling with regional, party and economic politics as the work of the new government is unfolding.

And, like any good multi-party democratic system, many promises have been made by those elected to government. The honeymoon period is still in place, but soon the expectations will begin to call this new marriage with the Malawian people to reality. I suspect the ride ahead will not be easy; clearly the needs are huge and the resources are extremely constrained and often come with ties. (For my colleagues at the University, this storyline may sound a bit familiar!!) Truly, though…..the basic social and economic needs of this country are breathtaking.

So….getting back to my day….I arrived at the COWLA office just before 8:30. Daphne and Victoria arrived around 9:30 a.m. They had gone to an internet café on the way to the office. I took the opportunity to read the paper and some other materials I had with me.

The first thing Daphne wanted to do was prepare a budget for the workshop I am to offer next week. WUSC has offered to cover the cost. So, Daphne sat with me as I pulled out my rusty Excel skills and pulled together a spreadsheet that reflect the budget categories and costs she felt needed to be covered.

I suggested to Daphne that she might like to write to some of the relevant new Cabinet ministers to offer congratulations and offer help from COWLHA, etc.   She seemed to like the idea, so I drafted a template letter to the Ministers for her to tailor to suit each minister’s situation and also one she might send to the President.   She took the drafts to look over.

I then prepared an outline for the workshop program and shared it with Daphne for her input. She agreed with the approach, so this gave me a basis for continuing to work ahead on a set of powerpoint slides. (WUSC will lend a computer projector so we can use it for the workshop. This saves on paper, which is also expensive.)

As I started working, Agnes arrived. I think she was briefing Daphne and Victoria on some of the planning activities for the Candlelight Memorial program that will take place shortly after I leave. They spoke Chichewa and the conversation was quite animated – with lots of howls of agreement and laughter. Not the easiest conditions to work in, but I plowed through.

I didn’t really stop for lunch. My system is still only inching forward to normal eating routines (…but I ate eggs this morning!!). I just snacked on my soya nuts and cranberries which I brought from home (…great move…). I was just about to ask Daphne to sit and chat with me about some of the information we would cover in the workshop, when she and Victoria advised that they needed to be out of the office for the balance of the afternoon. Victoria was going off to a meeting for the Candlelight service and Daphne had to head to Blantyre (..about a 4 hour drive from Lilongwe..) for an important government meeting. Furthermore, neither of them would be in the office tomorrow. They offered to give me the keys to open the office so I could come in on Friday….but only if I wanted to come and work there.

“Go with the flow”, ….I said to myself. Okay. Well. I guess I will take our budget to the WUSC office this afternoon and then head back to the Lodge. I can work there just as easily as I can at the COWLHA office. (Thank goodness I brought my notebook computer!) So, we just agreed to see each other again on Monday morning….that would be the day before the workshop…..! Okay, I’ll just do the best I can with what I’ve got.

I dropped into the WUSC office and provided them with a soft copy of the budget. Tamara thought it looked okay, but she wanted Lawrence to look it over before it is submitted to Jacob for a decision. I left it in her hands.

I also had the opportunity to meet Cathy Stiles who is in Lilongwe. Cathy is the Regional Co-ordinator for WUSC and is based in Botswana. She is here meeting with all the current WUSC volunteers in Malawi and, wonderfully, in order to meet with Patricia and me, she has agreed to go with us to Senga Bay this weekend. Better yet, she has offered to drive….and we are bringing along some other WUSC volunteers. It should be great fun. I look forward to getting to know her a bit and chatting with her about my experience.

As is becoming my habit, I’ve dropped into the Capital Hotel to do my emails and post information on my blog. I enjoyed a cup of yummy Malawian coffee while working.  I’ll then head back to the Lodge. Tonight and tomorrow, I’ll focus all my energy on getting the workshop slides done. If I can make further progress on the complementary advocacy report I’m working on for COWLA, I’ll do this as well. With the workshop on Tuesday, I’ll need Monday to refine details with Daphne. Tuesday will be gone….leaving Wednesday and Thursday to finish up my advocacy report and project report for WUSC. I’ll also have to work in a wrap-up meeting with Jacob. Saturday, I go home. I can’t believe how quickly the time is flying by.

I plan on posting photos tomorrow!

Cabinets, workshops….am I in carpentry???  Yikes.

Random Malawian Things

Vicki Hodgkinson's blog - June 18th, 2009 10:40 AM

Wednesday night, Patricia and I enjoyed a very nice evening in the company of Ben and Annie from New Brunswick. They showed us photos of their experience working in a village on the outskirts of Lilongwe where they are volunteering with a school. The village is about a one hour walk from the Lodge. They take the mini bus there, leaving by 7:30 in the morning. After school finishes in the early afternoon, they walk back to the Lodge giving them time to reflect on the day.

The pictures of the children are wonderful. Ben has introduced them to ‘frisbee’ which has been quite a hit. They also shared photos of their trip to Lake Malawi (near Mzuzu) last weekend. It looks beautiful.

It was particularly good to have their company last night because we were subject to one of the periodic power outages. Randomly, the power will go out. Sometimes for just a couple of minutes, other times 15 or 20 minutes…and other times several hours. Last night it was out for about 2 hours. This is no small consideration when you consider that it is pitch black by shortly after 6:00 p.m…..just a bit too early to head to bed….and it sure can run through the batteries if you try and read by flashlight!

Power outages are just one of the little random Malawian things. The water also goes off – without notice – for periods of time. When we return from the hot afternoon at the Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary on Sunday, for example, the water was out and did not come back on until the early hours of the morning ….at least not before bedtime. This was not ideal as both Patricia and I were in need of a good shower after having walked around outside most of the day.

Which leads to the next little random Malawian thing….actually, more of a Lilongwe thing. It is blessed with rich, red coloured soil. It almost puts you in mind of PEI with its red hue. However, it’s currently quite dry. We were told it hasn’t really rained since April. So, Lilongwe is currently blessed with red coloured dust. It’s everywhere….! Whether you are wearing shoes or sandals….its all over your feet. At the end of a day of walking, it’s like a film all over you. People with cars (i.e., rich people) are constantly having their vehicles washed to get the dust off.

There are other little random Malawian things….like

- men wearing short-sleeved business suits

- men wearing short ties

- ladies with piles of things on their heads, a baby tied with a wrap to her back and her arms full of other items

- bill boards calling for men to have vasectomies or for people to get tested for HIV

- bill boards calling for national action to protect food self-sufficiency

- little stands EVERYWHERE selling pre-paid cards for cell phones (Zain and TNM are the big companies in Malawi)

- people selling pan roasted peanuts ….usually standing right beside the stands selling pre-paid cell phone cards!

- people wandering with flat baskets filled with bananas for sale

- hot milk…for ‘food safety’ more than anything else. (No one is seen drinking milk as a beverage, just a bit with cereal or coffee. It’s very expensive.)

-….and the minibus.  Here’s a couple of mini bus photos (per my neice’s request!).  One is of the “Shoprite” waiting area where I get dropped off in the morning and pick up a bus on my way home from work.  It was taken at noon on a Friday….when it wasn’t yet too busy.  The other is a photo from inside a mini bus.

Mini buses waiting for passengers near Shopite in Old Town Lilongwe

Minibus to Old Town

Moving Forward …already half way through my time in Malawi!

Vicki Hodgkinson's blog - June 17th, 2009 10:50 AM

It’s Wednesday — half way through the second week….half way through my time in Malawi!  The time is flying.

Yesterday afternoon, I managed to do a bit of reading and note taking for my work at COWLHA. I didn’t have a lot of energy and still was not interested in eating very much.

Patricia came by my room when she returned from her work at YECE and we caught up on the events of the day. Her experience continues to be similar to mine….bits of forward progress with a strong emphasis on ‘going with the flow’!!

I settled into bed early (6:00 ish) – listing to the Malawi ‘playlist’ that Justin put together for my travels. A knock came on the door and it was Ben, Annie and Hershey. They are students from the University of New Brunswick who are part of a group doing volunteer work in Malawi. Annie and Ben are also staying in the County Garden Lodge; they work with school children (many of whom are orphans) in a village on the edge of Lilongwe. They have been here since the beginning of June. Hershey just arrived this week and will be joining other UNB students in Mzuzu, about a 4-8 hour bus trip north of Lilongwe. (Yes…4 to 8 hours, the range is wide because the travel is unpredictable!)

Annie, Ben and Hershey had heard that I was sick and came to check on me. When they didn’t see me at breakfast in the morning, they had asked after me. I was very appreciative of their concern and kindness in dropping by. We chatted about the events of the day and I shared the story of my ‘trip to the clinic’! They were helpful in giving advice on using the phone system in Malawi (there are a few tricks, it turns out.) This will allow Patricia and me to make better use of the phone WUSC has loaned to us.

I didn’t sleep particularly well, but I got up and showered this morning, had a bit of breakfast (“Coffey”, toast and a banana), and got myself ready for the day. Fortunately, YECE came to pick up Patricia for work and I was able to get a lift to Old Town by car….allowing me a bit of respite from the minibus! I’m definitely feeling better than Monday but still not quite myself.

I arrived in Old Town by 8:00 a.m. and, before walking to COWLHA, I went to an internet café to check my emails.

I arrived at the COWLHA office shortly after 8:30 a.m. and was greeted warmly by Victoria. Daphne arrived soon afterward. I have suggested that today, Daphne and I work together reviewing COWLHA’s 2007 advocacy plan. I want her to brief me on the status of each of the advocacy objectives (several of which I already know are dated), the role and activities of COWLHA with regard to each to-date, the “lessons learned” and whether they are still relevant given the advocacy directions set out in COWLHA’s recently completed strategic plan.

This will have to wait until later in the day, however, as Daphne has been called on short notice to a meeting with the local office of the UNFB. They want to review the budget proposal Daphne has included in a proposal submitted by COWLHA last week. Daphne departed along with Victoria (so she can run pressing errands for COWLHA while Daphne is in the meeting.)

While I was alone at the COWLHA office, Stella dropped in to leave an invitation for COWLHA members to attend a candle-light church service on Sunday to commemorate those whose lives have been lost to AIDS. She told me a bit of her story. She used to be a teacher with Daphne. She left teaching and joined a local church (Presbyterian, I believe) and was eventually hired to co-ordinate the church’s AIDS related programs. She is assisted by a committee of people from the church that includes COWLHA members. I quite enjoyed my brief time with Stella. As she left she said to me, “I have a story that I could share about my life. Perhaps we will have an opportunity another time.” I hope so.

Wisdom also popped in to pick up an envelope that Victoria had left for him. He was on his way to a community about 200 km outside of Lilongwe to do some work with an organization there. He seems to be doing consulting work (in advocacy??) while on his vacation from his post at the rubber plantation.

My appetite remained submerged. I ate the only thing that appealed to me: a juicy mandarin orange. As I sat in the COWLHA office I could hear the prayers being called from the mosque across the river, near the Old Town market.

The afternoon has proven to be productive. I finally had a great chance to sit and work through various pieces of information with Daphne. We shared stories and I generally had a good feeling that our relationship is advancing.

I am feeling better….still not myself. On my way home on I picked up some crackers and some almonds ….something to work into my system to begin to return it to normal. The mini bus ride was relatively uneventful today….just a stop for gas along the way.

I am finishing this post off around 4:40 p.m. sitting in the lobby of the Capital Hotel. I look forward to an early bedtime tonight. Before that, however, I hope to go over to Ben’s and Annie’s room to see some of their photos of the village where they are working.

I will post photos eventually…..including one of the mini-buses, as Lauren has requested.

Missing everyone….but feeling good and comfortable here despite my health adventures.   (For those so inclined….please don’t worry!!! )


Home again, home again, jiggety jig;

Sean Yo's blog - May 10th, 2009 8:48 PM

I’m home, safe and sound.  The trip from Hong Kong was great – Cathay Pacific is fantastic.  Despite the great service and food, it was an excruciating 15 hour flight since I was so excited about getting home and seeing my girls.

It’s been rough for me and amusing for everyone around me the last couple days as I try to reset my body clock to my normal time zone.  We headed off to my parent’s house today and had a lovely time celebrating Mother’s Day and my father’s Birthday

I have lots to unpack and a ton of photos to sort through.  I will be putting together some catch up posts and hopfully sharing some of my follow up work now that I’m back in Canada.

Sean In Hong Kong

Sean Yo's blog - May 8th, 2009 11:55 AM

Well, the 2nd leg of my long trip home is complete.  Yesterday I flew from Malang, East Java to Jakarta.  I have a really great visit with my Cousin Ay Fang and her family.  Today I spent the day with my Cousin Arief who took me to the airport.

Hong Kong International Airport is enormous.  A sprawling behemoth of glass and metal, built on an artificial island dredged out of the ocean, filled with designer brand stores, smoking lounges and and endless stream of people from around the world (48.6 million of them last year).  I mean, I saw a Montblanc store here…nothing but Montblac…the shopping here is dizzying.

When I was here at HKIA last, with my dad, we had Dim Sum since I am a devotee of this delightful form of Chinese cuisine and Hong Kong has a reasonable claim to being the world Capital of Dim Sum.  It was very good, in fact some of it was fantastic – and I expect the Airport doesn’t have the Dim Sum in HK.  However, the local competition in Southern Ontario stands up very well, especially the fine offerings of Cameron Seafood Restaurant in Kitchener.

This time I went for Japanese Ramen at Ajisen Ramen.  This is the real deal – just like instant Ramen noodles, but, erm…not instant <grin>.  This picture is pretty terrible, but the Big Boy Camera is packed away so I only have my backup camera with me.

Ajisen Ramen @ HK Int'l Airport

I got Combo #3: Ramen with Soup, Fried Pork Chop and Pan-Fried Pork Dumplings.  And of course the requisite World-Dominating (Diet) Coke.  The soup was rich and had a wonderful onion flavour.  The dumplings were quite delicate and very tender.  The porkchop was nice and crispy and not salty at all – I was really expecting it to be very salty.  The Diet Coke tasted like watered-down global domination.

Combo #3T

All in all, it was an excellent meal and a huge portion to boot.  It ran me exactly $80HKD or just shy of $12 CDN, which I think is very reasonable…especially considering this is at an airport.

My flight leaves at 3:05am local time so I still have 4 hours to go.  I should land around 5 or 6am at Pearson Airport in Toronto and I expect to clear customs and have my luggage about an hour later.  It will be fantastic to see the family, and amusing for them to watch me try and stay up all day to beat the jet lag, I’m sure.

See you back in Canada.  Large double-double with sweetner…here I come <grin>.

Visit to MM Univeristy

Sean Yo's blog - May 7th, 2009 12:39 AM

Yesterday I had the amazing opportunity to visit the Universitas Muhamadiyah Malang (MMU), the largest university in East Java.  I was invited by Prof. Soeparto, the head of the International Studies department, and a friend of my Uncle An.  After my teaching was finished, MMU sent a car to pick me up and take me to their beautiful campus.

I met with a visiting scholar from Sudan and his son, which was fascinating.  Our news coverage of Sudan is defined by Darfur and the conflict there.  It was enlightening to learn more about Sudan and very nice to be invited to visit his school, which is an International University.  I have to admit, if Indonesia is almost too hot for me, I might just melt away in Sudan. :)

I then had lunch with the MMU IT Staff – primarily their web development team and networking analysts.  They asked me to give a talk on web development strategies and provide an assessment of their new website.  It’s always hard to give this sort of advice, but with the added mixture of not being from Indonesia and the challenge of communicating in Second Languages, this was a difficult task.  However, the MMU staff were very gracious and I think they understood that I was humbly offering one perspective with the hopes that it could help them.

It was a lot of fun to talk shop, even if we did it in half-English and half-Indonesian.  It’s good to know that Geek is a universal language.  Once we started talking about JQuery and XHTML/CSS validation, I knew everything was going to be okay.  I used the University of Guelph website and the still-in-development Agapé Social Foundation website as examples to compare with the MMU website.

I also asked the MMU staff for some assistance with researching the best option for installing internet at the ASF.  They were very kind and immediately offered to help.  Here’s hoping this project moves forward soon.

After my meeting with the IT Staff, I was surprised with a visit with the University President (referred to as a Rector in Indonesia)!  He was very welcoming and shared stories about his time in Canada, including his time at University of Victoria in the early 90s.  I was given some wonderful gifts of a MMU tie and batik shirt.  I handed out pins from City of Guelph, Province of Ontario, Canada and U of G.  However, since the visit with the Rector was a surprise, I was all out of pins!  On the drive home I remembered that I actually did have 1 more pin…the U of G pin I was wearing <smile>.  So I asked the driver to wait (an impressive task considering I still haven’t figured out how to say “wait” in Indonesia :) and I wrote the Rector a short note and sent the letter and pin back as a gift.  Better late than never…<smile>.

All in all it was great to visit MMU and make some new connections.  There is something very special about working at a University, something about working to educate and make the world a better place that is very rewarding.  It is also something that is especially apparent when you meet with people who are pursuing the same mission…even if they are 15000 km away and speak a different language.

Many thanks to Prof. Soeparto and Om An for this incredible opportunity.  It is something I’ll never forget.  Here are some pictures of my visit:

For those of you wondering how I happened to have a shirt and tie packed and ready to wear on just such a visit, I must give credit to the fantastic training I received for Leave For Change.  I was told to alway bring a tie and always be ready to give a speech because international visitors are often invited to speak when abroad.  It was true in Nepal and it was true in Indonesia.  Thanks to Leave for Change for the great advice that is continuing to pay off. <smile>

Field Trip!

Sean Yo's blog - May 6th, 2009 9:14 PM

I’ve wrapped up the classroom teaching at Agapé.  It has been a fantastic experience.  It went very smoothly – of course there were the required technical glitches, but it wouldn’t be IT Training if everything worked the first time <grin>.

As part of setting up the new website for the ASF, I have also set up their site with Google Apps which will give them access to GMail, GCal and GDocs all with their Agapé email accounts.  It’s a great package for communication and collaboration and it’s free, which makes it just about perfect for a non-profit like the Agapé Social Foundation.

However, since there is currently no Internet at the ASF office, I can’t train them on how to use Google Apps there, where I have done the rest of the training.  So, today we’re off to an Internet Café and we’re all going to take a test drive of GMail and the rest of the GApps tools.

Hrm…maybe I should have got permission waivers from their parents.  <grin>.  Well, it’s the Internet…I mean…how much trouble can they get in?

Wrapping Up

Sean Yo's blog - May 5th, 2009 9:24 PM

Today is my second last day teaching. I’ll be showing the Agapé staff how to use WordPress as a Content Management System to run a website. After class I will be visiting a local university to meeting with their web development team and Networking Services group to provide some advice and share my experience at a Canadian University IT department.

Yesterday afternoon and later this afternoon I am meeting with past participants of the Agapé programs to put together some Success Stories and photos for the new Agapé website.

Busy, busy, busy! And I’m off to hop in the shower and get ready.


Gold Star!

Sean Yo's blog - May 4th, 2009 11:26 AM

I received a very nice compliment today.  As we were wrapping up our lesson for today and I was heading out, my students told me I they didn’t want me to leave Indonesia this week – because they need more time to learn. “You can’t go home!” <grin>.

I was already lucky and very happy because everyone here is so eager to learn and works very hard.  It was amazing to be told that they think they have so much more to learn from me that they want me to stay.  It’s always hard to know, as an instructor, how successful you are in teaching your students.  So this was a very nice way to mark the half way point of my teaching here.

Incidentally, I didn’t say “No”…I told my students they had to call my wife and tell her I wouldn’t be coming home on the weekend <grin>.


Sean Yo's blog - May 4th, 2009 11:14 AM

I was lucky enough to find a Baskin-Robins yesterday.  I’ve been jonseing for mint-chocolate, however this is a flavour combination which is less than popular here in Indonesia.  It was heaven!

I was chatting with my wife tonight, online, and I started talking about the food I missed and list got longer and longer…so clearly I needed to post about this <grin>.

I am really looking forward to Antipasta; good crusty bread, italian coldcuts – capacolla, calabrese salami, mortadella – olives, grapes, some nice cheese.  This is about a far from Indonesian food as you can get <grin>.  I know antipasta is normally served with melon…but I’m not a fan…Jen can have all the melon; she can’t get enough of the stuff.

I have to admit I am missing my Tim’s.  It’ll be great to order a good ole Large Double-Double.  Coffee here can be great…but it also is often instant.  I’ve found it’s better to stick to tea, which is always fantastic.  Especially Es Tea Tawar – plain iced tea.  Just tea, over ice – or if you’re lucky chilled tea.  Fantastic.  You have to be clear and say tawar…otherwise you’ll get Es Teh Manis, which is almost the national drink here.  It too is tea over ice, but its also powerfully sweet with a generous helping of palm sugar mixed in.

Another guilty pleasure I’m longing for is a Bic Mac and fries.  They have McDonalds here…and I haven’t tried it.  But I’ve already been told it’s different. It’s on the list to take the Pepsi challenge with the local McD’s before I return home.

I am also longing for Angels.  It’s a local diner I frequently haunt.  Good food, big portions and reasonable prices.  It’s also one of the few places in the area you can get a decent Montreal smoked meat sandwich.  To be fair, I’m not sure if its the food I miss or the company – since I almost always go with friends and family <smile>.

Anyways, we’re in the home stretch now.  Just a few days before I leave Malang and head to Jakarta to catch my flight back to Canada via Hong Kong.  This is the trip of a life time and my work has also been really great.  Still, I miss my family and as amazing as the food has been here, it will be nice to return to some old favourites as well.

Week the Second!

Sean Yo's blog - May 3rd, 2009 9:35 PM

My first week at Agapé was great. After working out some communication issues – my Indonesia isn’t good enough to teach in and my English is very fast – we had a great week.

I taught IT Training Strategies, PC Security, PC Troubleshooting, Web Fundamentals and HTML. This week we will be covering CSS and WordPress, both as a blogging tool and as a Content Management System.

I had a nice, quiet weekend. My family offered to take me on a day trip to Bromo, a nearby mountain, but I took a pass. Instead I rested, checked out some PS2 games I picked up and worked on the new website for the ASF. I think it’s coming along really well and it should be done before I leave.

I have two other projects I’m working on as well. I’d like to install AVG Free Anti-Virus, Deep Freeze and Anti-Executable on the lab machines here. They often have problems with their computers and I think this combination will do a good job of locking the lab down. The second project is I’m trying to get high-speed Internet installed here at the ASF. Currently they have no internet at all. It’s been a challenge navigating my way so far, but last night I got the number of a direct sales rep for a major ISP so I’ll call today and hopefully get the ball rolling.

Hope your all set to have a great week too!

Family Road Trip!

Sean Yo's blog - April 29th, 2009 9:25 AM

On the weekend of April 11th I arrived in Malang, where I am now.  Originally the plan had been to land in Jakarta and then travel by bus and train to Malang, while visiting Indonesia along the way: Bandung, Pekalongan, Borobodur, Surabaya and then Malang.

However, because of the election – which is a national holiday – everything was all booked up.  So, instead we flew straight to Malang right after the election.  After a lovely day of rest, we packed up and headed off to Pekalongan, the city where my father was born and raised.  It was a long 12 hour drive to Pekalongan, but it was a fantastic way to see Indonesia.  After Pekalongan we visited Borobodur, Prambanan and Jogjakarta before heading home.

The reason I wanted to travel by bus and train was to have a chance to really see the country.  Airfare is relatively inexpensive, so we could just hop over the island, but all I’d get to see that way is the inside of airport and planes <grin>.  Taking the road trip was fantastic, because not only did I get to see Indonesia up close, but we stopped at every town to try the local food.

Indonesia is very regional and every region is fiercely proud of its food – it’s fresh produce and the local specialty, often Soto…a type of soup/stew that is eaten over rice.  It is very common to see Soto named after a place, like Soto Pekalongan or Soto Madura.  Also, every town has it’s own snack – seriously – it’s amazing.  It seems like every town has a store advertising Oleh-Oleh Khas Pekalongan, or whatever the city is, which sells and endless variety of snacks which seem to only be available in that one town!  My Aunt Lan called our trip Culinary Tourism <grin>.  It was fantastic.

I had a great time taking photos on this trip.  I love my new camera a lot :) .  I’m so happy I managed to get a hold of it before this trip.  This camera makes me look great, even when I’m shooting through a windshield :) .

This is a good example of a quiet Indonesia highway here on Java.  Beautiful, lush and open.  The roads here are quite good – I mean…at least as good at Québecs <grin>.

The countryside of Java is filled with farms: rice paddies, corn, sugar cane and more.  I managed to catch a tired farm hand taking a break from the sun and the field on a hot Javanese afternoon.

Cities here are a charming mix of old and new.  You can see the history everywhere you go in Indonesia, in the buildings, streets and faces…and you can also see glass buildings, billboards for Blackberries and iPhones and shiny new Toyota Kijangs, a 5-door car built here in Indonesia.

The mix of old and new always seems starkest to me in the streets, because there are motorcycles, WWII era VW jeeps, giant passenger buses with Spiderman painted on the back, bicycles, gleaming black Mercedes, vintage Vespa scooters, rickshaws, carts and sometimes even horses…all jostling for position as they dash madly off in all directions.

Crossing the street is a very special skill here, requiring keen eyes, nerves of steel and a profound faith that you’ll make it to the other side.  Sometimes, you even need to take a bit of break in the middle <grin>.

A curious, but common, occurrence is that the front of traffic at stop lights is always motorcycles.  It took me awhile to figure out, but its because there’s always one or two motorcycles at the front, just by sheer numbers.  And then, while the light is red all the other motocycles sneak up and line up waiting for the light to turn green.

It’s amazing what people fit on a motorcycle here. Especially the number of people.  I have seen a family of five on a motorcycle – but I didn’t quite managed to get a picture of them <grin>.  This is a good example of what I mean; kids often sit in the front.  I really like that his family is all wearing helmets.

My Uncle has a really nice van that we took on our road trip.  There was lots of room and glorious, glorious air conditioning.   However, what my dad really liked was that we put the seats up in the back and turned it into a bed.

I’m not saying he used it…because I don’t have to :D