Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Let me tell you a couple secrets. First, I love summer. (OK, that's not a huge secret). But I really do love summer. I love having the kids home all the time. I love lazy mornings with big breakfasts. I love letting the kids stay in their pajamas. I love walking up to the swimming pool mid-morning and staying there until our hunger drives us inside for lunch. I love baking in the kitchen with Madi making cranberry coffee cake and homemade macaroni and cheese. I love staying up late watching movies - or lately, an episode of "Once Upon a Time." And I love answering "yes" to the request for just one more page from "Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry."

Now, more of a real secret.

Years ago, I gave up on my dreams of travel. I think once the twins were born, and the cost of life doubled, I put my desire to see the world, on a very dusty back shelf. I watched as friends and family traveled to far off places like England, France, Italy, Iceland, Holland, South America, and Turkey. I looked at their pictures, I listened to their stories, and while I was happy for them, I was sad for me.

Around the time that I was pregnant with CJ, I fell in love with a poem by Anne Campbell called To My Child. My friend, Karen, knew I liked the poem and framed it for me. It sits on my dresser. Here is a stanza:

You are the trip I did not take;
You are the pearls I cannot buy;
You are my blue Italian lake;
You are my piece of foreign sky.

I find peace and comfort in the words because they remind me that my children are so much more precious than any place I could visit...and they are worth any sacrifice. 

And now. Now, because of living in a third world country, my prospect of travel has changed.

Tomorrow our family will board a plane to go to Italy. For one week we will tour the Tuscan country side and visit Florence and Pisa. Then we head to Rome for a week where we will meet my parents. There we will explore the Colosseum and the Vatican and eat lots of Gelato. From there, the kids and I fly to England where we will stay with friends who live an hour outside of Oxford. (Just typing these words seems absolutely surreal).

To think that I get to see this...
And this...

And explore this...

When I try to wrap my mind around it, I get all weepy. Weepy with overwhelming gratitude.

And it is no secret that I am counting down the hours to a dream coming true - a dream that I had parked on that dusty back shelf years ago.

There is something truly sweet about the full circle idea that it will be with my children and dear husband that I will finally get to see my Italian landscape and experience my bit of foreign sky. we come. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Things I Don't Want to Forget

With the school year wrapping up in warp speed, I haven't taken the time to write. And there have been quite a few moments, like snapshots, that I don't want to forget...

Three Indonesian boys huddle under a broken payphone in a rainstorm. The boys are barefoot. The smallest one wears spiderman pajama pants. Rain drips down their noses and chins.

I find Madi in her favorite teacher's classroom at lunch. She sits on the giant floor pillows surrounded by friends. They are laughing and chatting and playing games on their laptops. And I, one year has made such a difference.

I see my classroom for the first time. It is on the second floor. Big mural windows on the far wall open to a beautiful view of trees. I imagine lessons, discussions, wall-decorations, and I am thrilled.

I drive by a garbage picker in a rainstorm. She has three young children with her. One is just a baby that she carries in a sling, the other two children are just toddlers. She drapes a tarp over her garbage cart to form a make-shift shelter from the rain. They are filthy, and their eyes are sad. And I think my heart will break. I am on my way to buy pearls with some friends. Yes, pearls. The dichotomy rocks me to my core. And I cannot reconcile these two worlds that are really just one. 

Tman shows me his slideshow on the computer at school. He looks almost shy with pride (if that makes sense) as he hears his recorded voice recite all the accomplishments of the year.

Meya asks me if I want to eat a cookie not once, not twice, but three times during her class workshare presentation. She is such a nurturer, wanting to make sure I am enjoying myself.

I watch my children play hide-and-go-seek, "beckon", and capture-the-flag until after dark with the neighborhood kids. Hearing squeals of laughter as they duck under bushes, run through the grass, and charge down the road. Tman and Meya's cheeks are flushed when they come inside for a quick drink of water. It is almost a throw-back to a previous generation when people lingered on porches, neighbors chatted, and children played. And for a moment, the craziness of the world halts and I count my blessings.  

Leasie makes the difficult choice to join her class to go to the Indonesian school. She is completely out of her comfort zone, and her best friends have opted to stay home. I love seeing the confidence in her stride as she comes off the bus and announces that she was glad she went.

The heart-stopping phone call that CJ has hurt her leg while jumping on a trampoline with friends. Suddenly everything blurs except for getting help. Riding with my husband in the car to the SOS (International hospital here in Jakarta), praying for a good doctor and quality care. I am humbled as suddenly all priorities realign with absolute clarity. My children.

Watching my husband comfort CJ in the hospital. Her blond hair is a messy tangle (with remnants of gum) over his shoulder as he gently rocks her.

The flurry of kisses and hugs as we return and are greeted by four worried, loving siblings.   

Monday, June 4, 2012

I Never...

Since moving to Jakarta, I've had to swallow quite a few "nevers" that I'd uttered in the past.
For example, if you had asked me even five years ago if I thought I'd live in Jakarta, Indonesia someday, I would have said, "No, never." And yet, here I am.
I also never thought I'd run at 4:45 in the morning.
I never thought I'd substitute teach in Middle School...and like it.
I never thought I'd fall in love with a third-world country that is overpopulated and polluted.
And at the same time, I never thought I'd miss America so much.

As of last week, I can add another "never" that I need to amend. 

When I was in my high school history class, two decades ago (yikes), our teacher, Mr. Frank, went around the room and asked us students if we would ever teach high school. 
I replied, "Never."

 And yet, here I am.
I just signed a contract to be a part-time high school English teacher for the 2012-2013 school year at Jakarta International School.  

I get to teach this novel:
 And this one:
And this play:

And I never thought I could be so thrilled, nervous, determined, scared-out-of-my-mind, humbled, and excited all at the same time.
Life is full of surprises.