Along with the usual “family with two young kids living in a foreign country” bedlam, we’ve been moving nonstop since the beginning of May. Sarah was busy closing shop in the library for the summer, and I was holding up my regular teaching requirements while picking up tasks as next year’s upper school liaison. Not to mention juggling end of school and graduation events, a last-minute vacation, and prepping for our trip to France and the States. I finally have a commercial break from our current whiplash-inducing American tour to look back at the end of the school year.
International schools, particularly K-12 schools like NJIS, tend to indulge in what I call the “Smurf Village mentality“- if there is any excuse for a celebration, festival, parade, etc. they jump on it. You can imagine, then, that the end of the school year is a petri dish of opportunity. Cian’s pre-K class presented an assembly for the lower school which they had practiced for weeks. It only reinforced the fact that Cian loves to be on stage. The NJIS fun fair, organized by the Parents and Friends Association (PAFA) and run by the staff, transformed the school into a mini carnival, raising money for next year’s PAFA projects. Adrian and I ran the dunk tank for most of the day, making fools of ourselves but cleverly keeping cool in the Jakarta heat. Our all-school field trip to Waterbom was a favorite for everyone.
Teacher friends David and Darlene invited the teachers’ kids to Sea World Indonesia for their daughter Sarah’s birthday. Manatees, river otters, and the touch tanks were definite highlights for the young people. The highlight for the adults, however, was the new exhibit featuring feet-cleaning fish tanks. Oh, yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like- large, coffee table aquariums surrounded by benches. You sit on the edge of the aquarium, stick your feet in, and let the hundreds of small sucker fish clean the dead skin and debris off your feet, sticking onto your heels, between your toes, and in your cuticles. The practice originated in Turkey where the fish are from and perfected in Japan. Even though there were five other people soaking in the same tank with me, most of the fish were attached to my feet. Whatever that means.
A four-day weekend at the end of May snuck up on us, and since we were so busy at school and our trip back to the States was on the horizon, we really didn’t put much thought into making any plans. We were pleasantly surprised, then, to be invited with Adrian to spend the break on the island of Bangka with the Jotis, a prominent, wealthy family whose three daughters attend our school. Jonny and Tina Joti, originally from the island located just off of Sumatra, were gracious hosts, putting us up in their luxurious guest house on their property, despite also hosting their extended family while they performed the ceremonial requirements for the passing of Tina’s father a few weeks prior to our arrival. We spent most of our time lounging and swimming in their pool, visiting and feeding the various animals on their extensive grounds (including endemic deer, farm animals and Jonny’s pond of humongous arapaima fish) and eating until we were impossibly full. The dinner table swelled with food for every meal, a delicious combination of Chinese and Indonesian cuisine reflecting Tina and Jonny’s heritage.
For those of you who have been following this blog, Adrian’s name has popped up regularly, because for the past year he and I have been inseparable both in school and out. A type of friendship you might encounter a couple of times in your life, when conversations need only verbal shorthand or telepathy and possessions and responsibilities like money, food, chores, and errands are instinctively shared. Back in October, Adrian accepted a job at the prestigious American School of Lagos in Nigeria for the next school year. And that is a rather grim reality of teaching abroad- teachers in the international circuit move often to gain new experiences, see another part of the world, or to work in an upper tier school. International teachers are nomads, and despite Skype, Viber and What’s App, the day-to-day life you enjoyed with your friends is tenuous. Cian and Áine already tell me they miss their Uncle Adrian.
Not all is lost, however. When I walk into a bar next school year, the wait staff won’t nervously eye their stock and realize they don’t have enough Albens for the evening. Those mysterious injuries I experienced last year are bound to decrease. A pile of great stuff Adrian couldn’t bring with him is waiting for me when I get back. There is a certain pool hall in Kelapa Gading I might now be allowed to enter. I may even get a healthy night’s sleep for at least part of the week. Just think of all the extra blogging time I’ll have, readers. But I say to you this- I’d give it all up in a second, because life in Jakarta next year will not be nearly as brilliant.
Before we knew it, Sarah, the kids, and I were on a plane headed for France to eventually rendezvous with my parents and sister for a week tour on a houseboat along the Canal du Midi. We had three objectives for the trip: cheese, croissants, and wine.