Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Fundamental Joy of Teacher’s Sacrifices: Teacher’s Appreciation

The world of teaching has always been a complex, inundating and more often than not, immensely challenging. It is therefore not a wonder to find ourselves overwhelmed by the ambiguousness of our chosen profession. However, it is through this confusion that we must find the affirmations of our worth and eventually afford ourselves with the immeasurable joys of teaching.

Amidst the chaos and noise, it is a joy to know that we are part of the journey of the world’s future. It is a comfort to be reminded that the small knowledge we plant and the way we shape little hearts, will have a big impact on how the future would be defined.

In spite of the long, arduous, not fully compensated sacrifices, it is a joy to know that our labors are not in vain. The amount of love we pour on our students are not lost in sight for we do not know the extent of our influences on the students’ lives.

Through the monotonous activities that teachers face each day, we are empowered with creativity. As teachers, we are gifted with the minds that continuously seek to provide interesting and challenging tasks. It is a joy to have that special job of orchestrating complex activities for little minds and shape them to be the future full of innovative ideas.

Conversely, while teachers face the everyday test of disruptive students and lack of supplies, there is the overflowing of graces and hopes through hearts that are resourceful. It is a joy as a teacher to know that we could teach hunger and apathy and teach the little minds how to face them in real life and eventually lay groundwork for lifelong learning.

Finally, what an immeasurable joy to know that the act of teaching itself is already a JOY. We are part of something greater than ourselves. We are part of instilling values, beliefs, experiences and goals. We are part of teaching diversity, faith and hard work.

Indeed, there’s pain but also immeasurable joy in the art of teaching.

Weekend Travel Guide to Indonesia’s Small Paradise: Cirebon

Cirebon is widely known for its batik creations. 

One of the pleasures of teaching in Indonesia is the luxury of travel that the country offers. There are many places easily accessible by car and weekends are enough to indulge in a quick visit to unique places such as Cirebon.

Goofing around with my head coordinator from Singaporean and a co-teacher from Mauritius, Ms. Mazlinda and Ms. Marie. 

With the mom and sister of my friend. 

At one of the remnants of a palace. 

Some of the structures in this old palace are flooded with water. 

The city is considered of historical importance because of its opposition to Dutch colony and famous sites dated back as far as 16th century. It only has about 300, 000 population. The city sits in northern West Java, Indonesia with two known palaces; the Keraton Kasepuhan and Keraton Kanoman.

Aside from the palaces, the city has also mosques which are adorned with striking gold and calligraphy on its walls and giant pillars. Mosques are largely influenced by Arab culture.

Welcome sign of Cirebon. 

The city’s main industry is fishery so it is famous for the products such as shrimp paste and shrimp crackers. It also offers wide variety of batik art influenced by Chinese culture. A stroll around the city would give you a glimpse of highly industrialized factories.

Cirebon is also known for its milk tea so we got to try it! 

More batik choices. 

Amazing experience at the remnant of a palace. 

The travel with my head coordinator, her mom and sister, and a co-teacher include going to batik shops, enjoying unique cuisines, drinking its famous milk tea, and visiting historical places such as Sunyaragi cave (which is technically not a cave but a remnant of a palace). On the way home, we also decided to stop over the hot spring. Warnings are all over since it’s too hot and the danger of burning yourself is so real.

This is a hot spring which is too hot that I could only dip my feet for about 10 seconds!

If you enjoy historical and heritage places, here are some that you may visit for a short stay in this Indonesia’s small paradise:

1. Sunyaragi Cave
Jl By Pass Brigjen Dharsono, Cirebon, Indonesia

2. Keraton Kasepuhan
Jalan Kasepuhan, Cirebon, Indonesia

3. Kanoman Market
Jln. Winaon, Cirebon 45117, Indonesia

4. Shrine of SunanGunung Jati
Jl. Makam Sunan Gunung Jati, Cirebon, Indonesia

5. Kanoman Palace
Jl. Winaon | Lemah Wungkuk, Lemah Wungkuk, Cirebon 45117, Indonesia

The city is considered of historical importance because of its opposition to Dutch colony and famous sites dated back as far as 16th century. It only has about 300, 000 population. The city sits in northern West Java, Indonesia with two known palaces; the Keraton Kasepuhan and Keraton Kanoman.

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Ultimate Guide to a Perfect BALI Experience

The name Bali is more famous than the country where it belongs to- Indonesia. This is not without credence since 80% of Indonesia’s tourists visit Bali and Bali alone. A co-teacher from the U. S. once told me that she never heard of Indonesia before but she was familiar with Bali. In fact, part of the reason why she decided to teach in Indonesia was to be able to visit Bali.

The perfect tropical paradise sits on the beautiful array of beaches, volcanoes, and wide expanse of temples and rice fields. While majority of Indonesia’s population has Islamic belief, Bali is the only Hindu-majority province with 83.5% adhering to Balinese Hinduism. An interesting trivia I found out from our tourist guide was that the reason why Bali did not allow skyscraper buildings despite of being one of the top destinations in the world was because buildings could not be higher than temples as a sign of respect to their gods.

My travel to Bali was suffused with wide array of experiences which were truly unique amongst different destinations in the world.


Bali’s richness in culture could be attributed to its spirituality. A visit to different temples would give you a glimpse of how their culture and traditions were elaborately influenced by their spirituality.

Our visit to Penglipuran village was extremely unique. Many tourists visited Bali thinking of beaches but the island offers more than that. The village alone was like being transported to something so extraordinary in the world. Houses were built differently and the customs and traditions were so unique which made the experience more unforgettable.


Indonesia's well- known for its thousands of authentic cuisines and the best are found in Bali. We indulge ourselves to the unlimited choices of foods and spices which were famous in the world. There’s the ‘satay’ or marinated chicken in the skewers, nasi goreng or fried rice, vast seafood made more delicious with different sauce and spices.


Bali is renowned for its distinctive arts. Even without entering museums and art exhibits, very detailed statues and other form of arts are prominently displayed all over the island. In fact, the Indonesian Film festival is held every year in Bali.

One of the highlights of our visit was watching a cultural play showcasing the different cultures and traditions of Indonesia. It includes an exhibit of different art works which was unique in the world.


With Ms. Joana, my former co-teacher who is a native of India. Just like me, she's also a Form Teacher (Lead Teacher) in one of the Secondary 3 classes. 

Beautiful Bali sunset! 

The sunrise and sunset in Bali is exceptional. You could totally lose yourself to the tropical beauty of the different beaches. There was a distinct sense, a quintessence of the authentic Balinese experience.

Our sunset experience included visiting a beach with a temple that you could reach by traversing knee-deep water. It has also a cave with what they call as the, “holy snake”.

The corals were perfect for divers and there were myriad waves for surfers. Shores were adorned with fine white sands which was perfect for your feet as you allowed the sun to kiss your skin.

Tanah Lot Temple 

Bali was definitely unparalleled with the combinations of food, beauty, culture and unique experience. It was a living postcard with its beautiful places and it was a fantasy that evokes thoughts of utopia.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Winter in Michigan (Polar Vortex, Ice Storm, Freezing Rain)

“In winter, the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity.” 

As someone who came from a tropical country, nothing has prepared me for this winter experience. For more than 30 years, I have never experienced snow. The coldest temperature that I probably had was 70F in an air-conditioned room. In normal days, we have about 80-90 degrees. This is just my third winter and this is by far the most extreme in terms of the freezing temperature, destruction, and amount of snow.

White Lake is one of the tourist attractions in our area and people fish at the other side during winter.

Winter Wonderland in Michigan. 

I love snow and I have always been spellbound by the surrounding panorama when huge crystal flakes fall. They are soft, lush and cold to the touch. Where there was once pallid, dead grassland, scenes are transformed with the trees covered with decadent ivory jewels and the ground is coated in a hefty blanket of solid white.

The snow covered lake at Whitehall which glistens like diamonds when the sun shines.

Enjoying the scenery with my husband. 

It never failed to amazed me when picturesque sceneries are abundant as the sun shines and the frosty ground glitters like diamonds. The ineffable scent drifted through the air unmistakably speaking of the crisp bluster and ice.

However, the recent polar vortex has proven that beauty could be deceiving. The colossal destruction was unimaginable as the coldest temperature in decades blanketed the state.

Grand River Hotel during the Polar Vortex effect. 

Grand River Hotel during the Polar Vortex effect. 

Grand River Hotel during the Polar Vortex. 

Grand River Hotel during the Polar Vortex. 

My husband’s dad was on schedule to have a surgery at the time that the coldest temperature was felt across the nation. We were at the road on the way to the hospital around 4:00 a.m. and the zero-visibility, below freezing temperature, exacerbated by strong winds greeted us. We arrived at the hospital safely and spent hours of watching the city blanketed by the heavy snow. The drive to the hotel that night after his dad’s surgery continued to be a challenge when we grappled with slippery roads and plunging temperature. My fingers and toes were numb, cold nips at my nose, and my eyes hurt just in a short walk going to the lobby.

The following day, temperature continued to drop and the road on the way home was zero visibility. There were many car accidents and classes and businesses were suspended.

Grand River Hotel during the Polar Vortex. 

Grand River Hotel at Grand Rapids where we stayed over night after my father-in-law's surgery. 

Grand River Hotel at Grand Rapids during the Polar Vortex. 

Grand River Hotel at Grand Rapids during the Polar Vortex. 
Grand River Hotel at Grand Rapids during the Polar Vortex. 

Grand River Hotel at Grand Rapids during the Polar Vortex. 

Grand River Hotel at Grand Rapids during the Polar Vortex. 

Grand River Hotel at Grand Rapids during the Polar Vortex. 

Grand River Hotel at Grand Rapids during the Polar Vortex. 

Grand River Hotel at Grand Rapids during the Polar Vortex. 

The polar vortex was not the worst part of this winter, the cold taste (literally) finally hit us during the ice storm. Snow is beautiful and soft to the touch but ice is dangerous and could be fatal especially when you lose power. The power lines that veer down between poles become dense as they were laden with the heaviness of the ice formation. Before long, massive power outages gripped different places in Michigan. We were ones of those who lost the power when two transformers in our area gave in. And the battle to keep the house warm ensued.

Bridge overlooking the Lake Michigan at Whitehall. 

Ice formation during the ice storm. 

Glass window of the hospital. 

For some, staying in the hotel during a power outage is a more viable decision. But, it’s more complicated when you are scared of water pipes bursting and little dogs freezing. Thankfully, we have gas stove and the water heater is also run by gas. We had our power back on after almost three days of struggling to survive.

Ice formation during the ice storm. 

Ice formation during the the ice storm. 

The experience was unforgettable. I have always thought of heavy snow fall as being transported into the winter wonderland and fun at sledding. Winter is absolutely beautiful BUT it can also be destructive.

Sledding at Double JJ. We don't let the snow stop us from having fun. 

Sledding at Double JJ. 

One of those days we woke up and the car is covered with several inches of snow. 

Shoveling is a must if you don't want to be buried under these thick snow. 

“What, I sometimes wonder, would it be like if I lived in a country where winter is a matter of a few chilly days and a few weeks' rain; where the sun is never far away, and the flowers bloom all year long?”

-Anna Neagle-

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