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roaming the world and enjoying the scenery...

Schoolpix through the years

We’ve had a tradition of taking a “first day of school” and “last day of school” picture of the kids through the years, and it has been really fun to watch them grow up. Here are the shots, taken in Serbia, the US, India, and Indonesia over the past 12 years:


School trip to the Riau Islands

I got to accompany a group of 8th graders on a week-long trip to explore local communities in Indonesia. We flew up to a series of islands just south of Singapore and spent 5 days learning about the local ways of life, mostly centered around fishing. We hiked, swam, boated, and interacted with kids at a school. All in all, a pretty good way to spend a week in May!

Borneo Orangutans

Here are pictures from our recent trip to the island of Kalimantan (as it is known in Indonesia) or Borneo (as the rest of the world calls it. We had a fabulous 4 days/3 nights of living on a boat and exploring the back waterways of an enormous orangutan preserve.

The area was set aside in the early 70’s, thanks to the efforts of Birute Galdikas, one of Louis Leakey’s famed “Trimates” (or “Leakey’s Angels;” 3 female researchers that he worked with establishing long-term study centers for primates. Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey are the other two). The efforts have focused both on studying the animals and discouraging poaching and land misuse.

We took way too many pictures, relaxed far too much, and just generally enjoyed ourselves more than we deserve. We’d posted these pictures previously on Facebook, but also wanted to make the gallery available here.


Keep us posted!

That title doesn’t just apply to this entry (which it does, as you’ll see), but also to the general state of our blog. I have been remiss in the past few weeks in terms of keeping everything up-to-date, and I do apologize to both our readers out there. It is a beautiful Sunday afternoon, after a rainy morning, and I plan on sitting out by the pool with some chill music in the background and a cold drink in the foreground. Hopefully I’ll be working on a few posts as well, and schedule them to take place during the week. Let’s see if that happens…

But for the news of the day: this morning, we received an email from our head of school regarding a post that appeared on the “International Schools Review” website last week. He stressed that, while the language in the entry was alarmist, our school works in close conjunction with the appropriate ministries in Indonesia and has had no indication of any drastic changes coming for next school year.

On the other hand, he also used the entry as a “teachable moment” – the sort of opportunities which provide a learning experience in a real-life situation. As we move into a digitally-infused educational environment, it becomes even more important for us to help kids “question authority,” or in this case, question “on who’s authority?” this anonymous posting was made. Heady stuff for a Sunday morning, to be sure, but one that made for an interesting discussion around the Stutz breakfast table!

In any case, we will be sure to keep posted as (if?) anything develops from this. My gut feeling, based on nothing, is that – even if such a law is enforced – our school is so highly international in character that it would have very little impact.

Article text:

In 2013 an alarming education policy will take effect in Indonesia. The new legislation, Peraturan Pemerintah Republik Indonesia Nomor 17 tahun 2010, has far-reaching implications for international educators wishing to teach in Indonesia. Here are the basics of the legislation as explained to ISR:

1. “National Plus Schools” [nat’l curriculum + internat’l curriculum, eg: Cambridge] will now be called “International Schools.” This means that for every foreign teacher there must be 3 local Indonesian teachers. Foreign teachers will only be allowed to teach English and NOthing more, as all other subjects will be taught by locals.

2. Schools currently called “International Schools” will become “Foreign Schools.” NO Indonesian citizens will be allowed to attend these schools.

It appears international teachers in Indonesia will be relegated to teaching ESL.

(Just FYI, here is the response from a teacher at one of the other international schools located in Jakarta)

Mendut Temple

(last of the write-ups from our winter break trip this year!)

A few kilometers from Borobudur is the much smaller Mendut temple.  On the inside are three amazing statues of Buddha and 2 Bodhisattvas.  The Buddha is over 3 meters tall and is exceptional as he sits western style with his feet on the floor (not in the cross-legged position).  This temple is also exceptional because its panels of carvings are huge.  Borobudur and Prambanan have narrow frieze panels that extend horizontally, one on top of the next.  The panels in Mendut are huge squares; they reminded us of Greco-Roman temples more than Buddhist temples.  We found ourselves recognizing many of the characters and carvings: human-headed kinnara, trees of life, monster tongues…  a very special place.

Tofu (Gesundheit!)

(still more info from our Winter Break trip – we’ve already spent time on the islands of Gili Trawangan snd Lombok getting certified to dive,  spent some time in the city of Yogyakarta and visited the Hindu temple at Prambanan. This entry is from an afternoon while we were staying outside the Buddhist complex at Borodubur)

Gunung Merapi (Fire Mountain), at 2911 meters, is just one of the many active volcanoes that construct the spine of central Java.  The United Nations has declared it a ‘decade volcano‘ because of its active and destructive nature.  This is a dubious honor; there are only 15 others on the planet.  We saw signs of its latest work when we drove to Borobudur; roads and river beds washed out by ash and rock flows just last February.  Our hotel guide in Borobudur told us 3-5 cm of ash had settled on the village and they couldn’t see for a day.   1-3 cm of ash had fallen on Borobudur temple and it needed to close for 2 days so more than 200 local volunteers could clean it up and ready it for more visitors.   The Sultan still does annual offerings to Merapi to appease its ‘voice’.

Merapi volcano propped above the cloudsNear the highway back to Yogyakarta, we passed the evidence of the volcanic eruption
Mud slides from Merapi wiped out this villageAgainst the dark of an approaching storm, the volcanic damage is evident
One afternoon we went on a village tour.  The views were sublime – green as green can be; rice, chili peppers, eggplant, corn, beans…  We visited during rainy season, so farmers were busy planting rice.  We saw terraced paddy fields stretching for miles, full of seedlings ready to thrive in the Java rains.  Our guide told us that central Java is located such that farmers can take advantage of two seasons; they plant rice during the rainy season (October – March) and tobacco during the dry season (April – September).  According to him, they plant rice to eat and tobacco to make a living.
We could see Borodubur as we explored the rice paddies around the areaWe saw tons of older people at work in the fields, including this man on his bike
This woman was pretty friendly about us stopping by (but some of her peers were not!!)A man tends his flocks among the green
One village had several tofu home industries.  If a home had a big pile of firewood outside the door, you knew they were a tofu-making family.  Inside, they had a small crusher that crushed soybeans that were imported from the USA and/or grown in Indonesia.  Once crushed, they were put to soak in water.  When soggy, acid and heat were added to encourage separating the product into meal – which was skimmed and used to feed animals – and tofu.  Our guide said it was much like the process of making cheese by separating curds and whey.  The mass was then placed into a box frame and settled over a bamboo rack.  It was pressed down to drain all the excess moisture.  When solid, a woman popped it out of the frame, cut it into slices and threw the small chunks into a vat of boiling oil.  Once covered with a fried coating, she sorted them by size into big buckets filled with water.  Early the next morning, they were driven to markets all over the area.   Such a neat process!
Tofu in its raw form and in fried chunksMoving the heavy racks of tofuIt is an all-family affair, with the son helping out as well
Cutting it up to be friedThe cut chunks get boiled in hot oil
Sorting the chunks by sizeTasting the finished product (with a bit of salt)
Susan shows off her new tofu rack!
In another village, we had a go at making our own pottery on a hand wheel.  This home industry took local orders from as far away as Jakarta, employing locals and providing them with a trade and steady income.  This is important, as most villagers in the area do not benefit from the millions of tourist dollars that are generated because of Borobudur.  Most tourists come to the area for a few hours from Jogyakarta and then leave again.  Our local guide was working hard to encourage tourists to spend time in the area, learn about what the locals were doing, and support their entrepreneurial efforts.
We got down and dirty, creating potteryworkBreck had quite a lot of fun getting his candle holder "just so"
Alea takes her turn, making an incense burner/aromatherapy thingySusan works hard on her piece
But the favorite part about the pottery place? The baby ducks!As everything was drying, the kids cuddled with the ducklings kept in the family's home
Our stuff came out before it was completely set, but we were able to pack it back to Jakarta (almost) completely fine


(more info from our Winter Break trip – we’ve already spent time on the islands of Gili Trawangan snd Lombok getting certified to dive, and spent some time in the city of Yogyakarta. This is the recap of a day trip we took from Yogya to the Hindu temple complex at Prambanan)

Prambanan is the largest Hindu temple ensemble in Java.  Constructed between the 8th and 10th centuries, it represents the peaceful co-existence of Buddhism and Hinduism in Java before the arrival of Islam.  The three largest temples are dedicated to Brahman, Shiva and Vishnu, but Buddhist symbols are sprinkled everywhere.  Some historians believe a violent eruption from Agung Merapi in the 16th century caused the evacuation of this site and subsequent move of Javanese rulers to East Java.  2006 brought an earthquake which caused severe damage to the site.  Fortunately for us, much repair work has been done.  However, tourists are still unable to enter the interiors  of several of the temples because of on-going restoration work to stabilize the ruins.

Overview of the Prambanan siteStutzes on the stairwellPrambanan's silhouette against the rain clouds

Candi Shiva is the largest and tallest temple.  The story of Ram, Sita and Hanuman, which we know so well from our years celebrating Diwali in India, is carved along its lower panels.  Medallions around the base have the kalpatura (tree of life) with half-human/half-bird kinnara flying overhead.  There are three statues on the inside of the temple, but tourists are not able to view them.  Copies are in the museum – a four-armed Shiva (notable because he stands on a lotus flower – typical symbol of Buddhism), Agastya as an incarnation of Shiva the teacher, and Ganesha, the familiar Elephant-headed God from our time in India. In a separate chamber, there is a statue of Durga, Shiva’s consort, killing a monster-demon.

Inside one of the templesPrambanan spiresSmiles among the ruins

Candi Vishnu has the story of Lord Krishna on its panels.  Visitors can ascend this temple and see the huge four armed statue of Vishnu as Preserver in the interior.

Breck expresses his displeasure at being photographedMeditatiingThe storms roll in

Candi Brahma has the final episodes of the Ramayana carved on its panels.  It, like Candi Vishnu, has a huge and fascinating ‘monster‘ mouth for it main portal.  Our guide at Borobudur said that temples that have this mouth are designed to remind people to control their words and think about the power that words have.  We are not sure that this is true, but it is a good reminder, none-the-less!    A huge four-headed statue of Brahama the creator resides inside this temple.

Candi SewuThe family exploring Candi Sewu

Candi Sewu, built during the same time period, is a separate temple in the same compound.  It has one main Buddhist temple with 240 guard temples around it.  The interior has four rooms facing the four cardinal directions.  These are full of beautifully carved niches that must have held statues at one time.  We were not allowed to ‘explore’ Prambanan, so Alea enjoyed the opportunity to get up close and personal with a few secret spaces at this temple.

Alea and Susan in Candi SewuSusan and Alea ding around