How Joey Got His Groove Back

I finished the first full week of teaching last week. I will admit, I was a broken man by Thursday. Starting out has been tough. I have no arsenal of lesson plans and even though the internet is a great resource nothing could get me ready for starting out my volunteer teaching here Sumatra other than being thrown in and being forced to sink or swim.

There was a point last week where my heart literally hurt. I haven’t felt stress like that since I left my collections job so it was pretty disappointing. My night class was a real struggle for me last week. The most difficult thing about this assignment so far is that there is no organization in the classes by skill level and they only separate by age. I have students that are real bright with English and others in the same class who are beginners. This makes lesson planning tricky. I imagine that this experience will only help me going forward as most teaching jobs won’t require as much creativity with dealing with different skill levels. My night class is a group of about 8 girls that come every night and are pretty eager to learn. The children in the afternoon are great and I just took on 2 more classes during the day that aren’t connected to my contract. I technically don’t have to do them but 30 children from the village want to be taught English and I’m here so I couldn’t possibly take that away from them. Even though I have little experience in teaching any exposure to natives speakers for these kids is useful for them. This is a moment where lazy Joey really wanted to take over and act as if he can’t handle when in reality I just need to suck it up and take on the extra classes.

So, after last week’s stress filled freak out after my Wednesday night class I decided that I’d finish out the week on Thursday with the kids and then head into town to spend a few nights relaxing by the river. My accommodation at the clinic is paid for by the organization I’m volunteering for so if I want to stay by the river it’s on my own dime, which is fine by me. I booked 4 nights at a really cheap bungalow right on the Bohorok River and hung out with Frida and Liz, two girls I met on the jungle trek when I was here in February. Frida is a frequent reader of Joey Goes Global and has become a good friend with some really great conversation. She is Indonesian and has experience teaching English already as well as NGO work in Aceh after the 2004 Tsunami. She’s also a great Bahasa Indonesian teacher! Liz has been traveling around South East Asia for awhile and passed through here to keep me company for a few days. It’s been great because after about 10 days at the clinic I was getting bored.


This actually was as dangerous as it looks

The river was just what I needed. The nights have been cooled off from the heavy rains and it set my mind straight. That coupled with getting pep talks from a lot of friends, including Brooke Carleton of Brooke Reviews who is currently in her last 2 semesters of he education degree at the University of South Florida. Frida shared some of her lesson plans with me which will be useful because they include some Indonesian words.

I’m picking up Bahasa Indonesia fairly quickly here which I’m happy about. I’ve been sort of forced into it. I’ve used the language to help get through lessons. I taught mostly in Indonesian today and had the students translate certain vocabulary into English. I have a few students that are really good with English so since they may be bored with the slow pace since I have beginners, I may actually give them assignments on the side that are a little more challenging.

I feel like I’m all over the place with this post as it’s been a few days since an update so I’m trying to cram a lot into a small space. It’s just that I’ve gone through a huge swing over the last 4 days going from a real low point in feeling like I can’t do this to where I am now where the confidence is building. Tomorrow is a public holiday in Indonesia so schools are closed. My night class is not mandatory so I asked the girls if they wanted me to hold class tomorrow. They all said yes and when I told them I’d cancel it if they want they all gave me dirty looks and said “Nooo!” It’s weird being in a position of authority where if I want to I can cancel a class. In the end though, I went with what they wanted and will hold class. Can’t keep students from learning if they are eager.

I’m back in the game! I see hope now where as last week things were looking pretty grim. I just have to keep a few days ahead on the lesson planning so I’m not panicking and stressing myself out. There is a beautiful river with rapids to tube down and plenty of people here that will join me. I have tons of opportunities to improve my Bahasa Indonesia as well. So things are looking up!

I Graduated College!

I finally did it! This weekend I graduated from college! I set out in 2007 with a serious effort to go back to school and complete my undergraduate studies and I pulled it off by going straight through with no breaks, full time every semester. I started out with my sights on an education degree, but ended up going for International Studies. The community college portion of my four year degree felt like it took the longest amount of time but once I transferred to the University of South Florida it seemed to fly by. It feels like just yesterday I was at orientation feeling nervous about the next year and a half ahead of me.



There were a few bumps in the road and a couple stressful times but all-in-all it was a pretty painless experience. I am happy to have been able to finally take the graduation walk for my mother. High school was not the best of times and unfortunately, I dropped out early and earned my GED never giving my mom the pleasure of seeing me finish a level of education. Better late than never! I kept my GPA above 3.6 so I graduated with honors as cum laude, which I’m sure made my parents really proud.

Paving the way for me was a friend of mine, Ashley Hoffenberg, who has her own blog and just recently got back from a trip to Europe. Ash was one of the reasons I switched my degree to International Studies, so she was an inspiration in going down the path I did. While our reasoning for the degrees differ, it was nice to have someone to talk to about professors and classes before I made any decisions on coursework. Ash is on a fast track towards doing some really great things in social work, while my path will take me overseas to teach English as a way to learn more about myself and what I’m capable of accomplishing, as well as a means in which to see more of the world.

I’m excited to start the next chapter of my life and I’m very happy to have my four year degree behind me, so now when things come into better focus I will have the B.A. out of the way and will have the freedom to jump into other areas of study very quickly. For now though, it will be traveling and experiencing the world. I do expect that I will eventually want more than just personal growth and experience and will want to contribute and when that time comes I’ll be ready for whatever goals I set for myself.

When to plan?

The fall semester is coming to an end very soon. I’m finding it difficult to set aside time to plan my trip to Colombia. I’ve got 3 weeks until I leave for Bogota and I have done almost no research on my destination. I figure I’ll be OK either way as long as this time I actually book a hotel for my first night ahead of time. My last trip I ended up in freak-out mode my first night because I arrived late at night in Santo Domingo in search of a hotel. I think this time I wanna just get picked up from the airport by my hotel and transported directly to a place to crash.

Flag Courtesy of

I’ve all but finished my online course for Children’s Literature I just have to do my final exam. I have a paper to write for Globalization in Africa. I have an exam and an interview for my Spanish class and then a final for Hot Spots Around the Globe. The good thing is I only have one exam during finals week and everything else is done the week before so I will at least get to focus on planning the week before I leave. I’ve found it is easier to do it this way since most of the time once I arrive everything gets thrown out the window. There isn’t a whole lot I’m looking to do in Colombia besides relax, walk around and people watch, eat good food and hopefully meet some nice people. I’m really looking forward to practicing my Spanish in real situations. I’m also really excited about getting to see the Andes Mountains.

I’ve never been one to be big on site seeing and museum hopping so I don’t think I’ll throw in any of that on my agenda. I have a couple of coworkers who have friends in Colombia that offered to get me in contact with them either in case of an emergency or to even go out for a night. We’ll see how that goes.

I found an interesting hostel in Medellin that I’m looking forward to staying at for at least a couple nights. They have the Sunday NFL Ticket so I can actually watch my Buccaneers play. I haven’t missed a game in over a decade and would to be able to watch out of the country (No matter how pitiful that may be right now). I know what you’re thinking… travel all the way to another continent just to sit on my ass on a Sunday afternoon watching NFL when I could be doing that at home. My answer to that is I can’t watch football IN Colombia while I’m at home. It’s a fun experience.

Well, for right now this is all I got as my mind will be focused on house cleaning for Thanksgiving tomorrow and paper writing/exam studying all of next week. I’ll try to get a decent update in before I leave for Colombia.

Hasta Luego.