A look back on 2011 and ahead to 2012

The last couple of years have been some of the best of my life so far. 2010 saw the completion of my BA from University, my 30th birthday and the breaking free of a job I didn’t like but kept at for the entire decade. I managed to complete my degree in the amount of time I planned once I decided to go back in 2007.

2011 was even better but for different reasons. I set off in January around the world on an adventurous trip through the Horn of Africa and a Middle East journey that fell short due to the Arab revolutions early in the year. I got my TEFL certification in Thailand and did some volunteer work before settling down in Sumatra. I wrote a post back in 2010 trying to predict where I’d end up living this year and Medan, Indonesia wasn’t even a place I knew anything about other than it was a port city in Sumatra. Now here I am finishing my first full year abroad and just getting going!

Here is a look back at some of the things I’ve accomplished and planned to accomplish but fell short as well as an outlook for 2012. Enjoy!

Things I set out to do in 2011…and did

Learn to iron
Learn to tie a tie
Learn another language (in progress)
Learn to play the guitar (in progress)
Live abroad
Drive a motorbike
Get TEFL certified
Become a teacher
Travel to Somalia (Somaliland)
Travel to the Middle East (Lebanon)

Things I didn’t specifically set out to do but happy I did
Live somewhere that I can see mountains from my house
Have an article written about me by ABC News
Volunteer in a small village
Cut back immensely on drinking alcohol
Lost 35 lbs (15 kg)
Have a proper party week in Thailand with old friends
Motorbike road trip through Northern Sumatra

Things I wanted to do but didn’t do
Learn to cook
Live completely alone

Goals for 2012
Have a close friend or family member visit me
Learn to cook
Return to the U.S. at the end of 2012
Survive the end of the world
Get to see one of my best friends get married
Travel to a nearby country
Visit Java, Komodo or Flores

Some of my favorite photos of 2011

INDONESIA

Banda Aceh

Grand Mosque at Banda Aceh

Bukit Lawang

Orangutan in Bukit Lawang

Samosir Island

Batak children on Samosir in Lake Toba

THAILAND

TEFL Course

Getting into it during teacher practice at TEFL International

Royal Temple Bangkok

Royal Temple, Bangkok

LEBANON

Baalbek

Baalbek

MALAYSIA

Petronas Towers

Petronas Towers, Kuala Lumpur

SOMALILAND

Somaliland

Somaliland

Somaliland

Tank leftover from the Somalian civil war

Berber

Camels grazing on the beach along the Gulf of Aden

ETHIOPIA

Harar

Hand and mouth feeding of hyenas outside of Harar

Learning Bahasa Indonesia like a young learner

I keep telling myself that I need to sit down with a Indonesian-English dictionary and each week pick a new topic like medical, sports, food etc. and learn all the vocabulary. My laziness on picking up new words has stunted my growth a bit. I’m really good with memorization so it shouldn’t be a problem but I find it quite boring to flip through a normal dictionary.

I was at Millennium Plaza in Medan and saw a small display of English language education books for Indonesians. They were mostly color picture dictionaries for young children. They didn’t really fit what I needed because it was a bit too simplified but then I came across these two picture dictionaries that were exactly what I was looking for. It had enough vocabulary to be practical. The pictures help even as an adult.

Bahasa Indonesia Dictionary

Popular Situational Dictionary and Kamus Situasi. They each have categories ranging from city/town life, in the kitchen, bathroom, living room, bedroom, on the farm, in the workshop, at the beach as well as pages for common verbs and opposite words. It’s great to leave out on my coffee table and study. I’m going to try to pick a couple of pages to learn each week and then go back and keep trying to memorize them.

Indonesian-English picture dictionary

My housemate has been living in Indonesia for about 3 years and his Indonesian is very good right now. He can communicate effectively with people here but still needs to improve his vocabulary. We both agreed to sit down and test each other. He’ll be a great resource for me because he can answer questions that I have about the language that are difficult for Indonesians to understand. I’ll be able to keep him motivated to continue studying the language since after about 3 years I’m sure he’s hit a wall.

Indonesian usage of “yang”

One of my many goals living abroad is to finally learn another language. I don’t just mean to pick up some useful phrases just to get by either. I want to become fluent to the point that I don’t have to think about what I’m going to say or translate in my head while someone is speaking. I’ve already noticed the basic to intermediate stuff sinking into my subconscious and my response time is more natural. Indonesian is a pretty easy language to pick up the basics and a lot of fun to practice with people.

Language Dictionary

I should be looking at this daily, but unfortunately it stays right there on the table.

I’ll give updates along the way as to how I’m progressing. Right now my biggest hurdle is the vocabulary. I’m learning fewer new words every day and I feel like I’m hitting a wall.

Another really difficult thing about many South East Asian languages is that there are words that don’t have any direct translation to English. One in Indonesian being, “yang.” I have been trying to master it’s usage for awhile now and I finally came across a website that does a pretty good explanation of how it can be used. Like I said previously, I don’t want to just pick up a few phrases. I really want to master the language so that I can speak it confidently and sound like a local. I feel like I have a pretty good ear for the accent and the slang so it’s important that I figure out how to use the non-translatable correctly.

Here is an excerpt: Click Here for the full article

There are several words in Indonesian that don’t have any equivalent in English and “yang” is one of those. “Yang” can mean “that is”, “who is” or “which is” and it can be used in several ways. Let’s have a look at “yang” a bit more closely.

The first use we’ll see is when “yang” emphasises a description of a noun. You’re probaby aware that you need to add the adjective (description word) after the noun in Indonesian. For example, to say “new car” you’d use “mobil baru” – literally “car new”.

You can use “yang” to emphasise the description of the car by saying “mobil yang baru” or “car that is new”. This phrase is very slightly different from “new car” because it emphasises that the car is new.

There are many other words in Indonesian that are untranslatable but I’m going to start with mastering “yang.” I have to really stay focused on vocabulary as it’s easy to become lazy. I think part of the reason I’ve slowed down on the learning process is that I’ve been working for 2 months and I have to use English while at the school. Also, the more busy I am with teaching and planning the less likely I’m out with Indonesians practicing.