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Life in Surabaya

Written on: Tuesday July 4th, 2006

A journal entry from: Indonesia Summer 2006

So far I'm enjoying life in Surabaya. It is incredibly hot and humid here, but I'm growing accustomed to perma-sweat. Our house is pretty nice, and pretty huge. I live with Karen, the only other Canadian teacher (but she's going back to Canada in a few days), Tari and Susi, who also work at the school, and 3 maids, who don't speak English. It's a bit strange living with the maids, as there's a definite language barrier, but they're always smiling and cheerful. Tari is great; we have spent many nights on our balchony, chatting and listening to the call to prayer.


Surabaya is a very conservative place, and the predominant religion is Islam, followed by Christianity. Everyone here has a religion, and I've been asked by the kids a million times to go to church with them. It's pretty hot wearing jeans all day, but I'm getting used to it, and it's not so bad. Our house is right by a mosque, so numerous times throughout the day we hear the call of prayer, which I like the sound of.

Working at Maple Leaf has been good so far. I don't have any experience teaching, but that doesn't seem to matter. I've been helping out in different summer school classes, playing sports, helping out with math, language arts, etc. The kids are all really well behaved (well, most of them are).

There isn't too much to do in Surabaya. There are huge shopping malls though, which Karen has taken me too. We go to Nescafe for real cups of coffee (usually we drink very sweet instant coffee, which is slowly growing on me). I also joined a really nice gym complete with 2 swimming pools, and it's only a bike ride away. Cycling in traffic is a bit scary though... there's no such thing as stop signs or traffic regulations.

Surabaya is not a touristy place. I have yet to see another foreigner (besides Karen, of course). I am getting used to be stared and pointed at, no big deal. Still a little weird when the becak drivers grab my arm and try to make me go for a ride, speaking in Indonesian. Everyone is friendly though... I am greeted by "Hello Miiisterrrr" at least 1000000x per day. (Those that dont speak English know that it's polite to say "mister," so apparently I'm a man now). People also like to take my photograph when they think I'm not looking. Haha!

All of the teachers have been really great to me. I've had many offers to go to different places, and one teacher, Dini, has become my food guru. Everyday she brings me some traditional Indonesian dish to try, which is always really good, and either very spicy or very sweet. I never cook here, mainly living on the meals served at school, papayas and the good stuff from the Bakery down the street. In the evenings, vendors walk their carts around calling out what they're serving. Tari and I have bought a few meals from the vendors, and the food is sooo good. I was warned about eating watermelon and food from vendors, but I've decided those warnings were all lies.

I feel very dependent on the teachers here, as not many people in Surabaya speak English. It's a bit frustrating to always have to go places with others (except the gym and grocery shopping). Turns out there's not much of a night life here anyway... I spend my free time at the gym or reading. I'm definitely learning how to spend time by myself and settle into a different lifestyle.