LifeInContrast.com

What if you left everything behind, and moved halfway around the world?

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Introducing TalkingSkull.com

May 28th, 2010 · No Comments

This site is going to take a little hiatus for now, while I work on my latest project – TalkingSkull.com! If you’re interested, you can view the archives of this site… I recommend you start at the beginning.

However, if you’re interested in reading about current events and how they relate to history and the human experience, please check out TalkingSkull.com. It’s a place to discuss the bigger picture when it comes to the breaking news of today. I hope you enjoy it!

→ No CommentsTags: Random Thoughts

In Retrospect

July 15th, 2009 · No Comments

Okay, that didn’t turn out quite as I expected. Internet wasn’t easy to come by in the United States, and I had less free time than I expected. Plus I’ve been lazy. So here I am, back in Bandung.

I’m going to wrap up my observations about the US vs. Indonesia in one post. First, I noticed that the United States seemed a lot more aggressive than Indonesia. In our first week visiting the US, we witnessed some road rage as a BMW driver yelled obscenities in heavy traffic at a taxi driver, and the taxi driver returned the favor. The BMW swerved violently at the taxi, and threw a water bottle at him, and more pleasantries were exchanged.

Also in the first week, while Denise and I were sleeping in, we heard a VERY loud shouting match somewhere in Edmonds. Two people were extremely angry at each other, and didn’t care if the whole neighborhood knew it.

And a week or so later, I was at a restaurant with friends, when two big burly men nearly came to blows over some perceived slight. One fellow mentioned his three Golden Gloves awards, and that the other fellow should shut up. I thought we were going to witness a boxing match right there.

The other thing that struck me is that the United States is more sexually charged, especially in media. I guess this should come as no surprise, but surprise me it did. I was watching MTV, when I saw a promo spot for their summer comedy programs. The theme is called “Balls Out Summer”, complete with video footage of skateboarders with their testicles (thankfully blurred/fuzzed) hanging out of their shorts.

Wow. Not to mention Sascha Baron Cohen aka “Bruno” landing thong-first into the face of Eminem at the MTV Movie Awards. I remember pondering, “What are Indonesians thinking about this?” when I remembered that MTV Asia would have different programming altogether.

Differences aside, it was great to be back in the US, and to visit family and friends. Just like it’s great to be back in Bandung now.

→ No CommentsTags: Visiting America

A Fish Out Of Water

May 28th, 2009 · 1 Comment

So, I haven’t been posting to my blog very much lately. This is partly due to blog fatigue. But it’s also partly because many of the things that happen in my life (which might be interesting to others) have become such a normal part of my everyday existence in Bandung, that it’s hard for me to find the motivation to write about them.

That said, I’m planning to post more regularly during the next 4 weeks. I’ve returned to Seattle/Lynnwood to visit family and friends, and I’ll be posting on my experiences and perceptions of the United States.

We arrived late last night, and today is my first day. I really do feel like a fish out of water. I’ve spent 23 of the last 24 months in Indonesia, so the US really seems like a foreign country to me, perhaps more than last year’s visit. It’s amazing to hear everyone around me speaking English, and correctly at that! I had an “Angry Whopper” from Burger King for lunch today, but oddly I felt happy, not angry, after eating it.

People of the Pacific Northwest, be grateful for your clean and good-smelling air! I cannot get over how great the air smells here. And where is the free wi-fi? It’s easier to find free wi-fi in Bandung than it is in Lynnwood!

More to come on my perceptions of this strange land called the USA

→ 1 CommentTags: Visiting America

Found in Indonesia: LAPD & FD Roster with home addresses

May 26th, 2009 · 1 Comment

While perusing a used bookstore in Bandung recently, I came across a “Los Angeles Retired Fire & Police” membership roster.  It had the home address of every retired police officer (and firefighter) in Los Angeles.  The book also had an index sorted by city for easy reference.

Roughly every 50 pages there was a bright neon page (see pics below) that indicated the information was confidential and not to be disseminated to outside sources.

Yes, I know it’s from 1995, but some of those addresses could still be valid.  And doesn’t this constitute some sort of security breach?  This sort of information really shouldn’t be shipped to the other side of the world and sold in a bookstore.  I realize that in this day and age you can find anyone’s address on the Internet, but you can rest assured that police officers’ addresses are protected and not easily found.  If you were a former convict with a score to settle, this book could give you the information you needed to exact your revenge.


→ 1 CommentTags: Bandung · Random Thoughts

Start all over

January 1st, 2009 · 6 Comments

New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday.  It can’t be commercialized by business – not to the extent of Christmas and Valentine’s Day, anyway.  New Year’s is celebrated by people around the world, regardless of creed or religion.  And it has different meanings for everyone.  For me, New Year’s Eve is a chance to say goodbye to all the mistakes and shortcomings of the past year.  We all make mistakes, and if you’re like me, you have a hard time letting go.  New Year’s is the final “letting go”.  “Sayonara mistakes – here comes a new year where I can start over!”  The new year stretches before you like an untouched canvas, ready to be molded into whatever you wish.  The symbolism and significance, to me, is unmatched by any other holiday.

One thing which I would like to forget happened a couple of days ago.  I fell asleep on the couch with my laptop on (surprise!) my lap, and it slipped to the ground and the screen cracked.  Should be very expensive to repair, and who knows how long it will take.  Joy.  In the meantime, please email me at my gmail account until I get it fixed.

The wet season is about halfway through.  This season has positives and negatives.  It cools down the earth to the point where I need to wear a jacket in the evenings, and keeps everything lush and green.  The thunderstorms can be fun to watch too.  But it makes riding a motorbike tricky and messy, and often you just avoid leaving the house so you don’t get soaked.  The roads get torn up by the torrents rushing down the sides.  And it just changes your plans when it starts pouring.  So I’m sort of looking forward to the dry season, although it will be much hotter.

Hope everyone is doing well.

→ 6 CommentsTags: Bandung

Celebrating in Bandung

November 7th, 2008 · 4 Comments

The news of Obama’s victory came via the Internet, about 11:30am on Wednesday morning in Bandung. Motorcycle helmet still in hand, I went straight into the computer room at my school, checked the latest news, and let a huge WHOOP!! When startled co-workers looked at me, I yelled “It’s all over! Obama is the next president! Woohoo!!” My fellow teachers congratulated me all day, and shared in my excitement and happiness. For the first time in a long time, I felt proud to be an American. In a way, Obama’s victory feels like an announcement to the world: “Sorry about Bush, but we got it right the second time”.

All throughout the day, I shared the great news with students, some of whom had already heard. We shared impromptu cheers of “OBAMA!!!” and talked about the results.

It also makes me very happy to see teachers from other countries share in our joy. Russell and other teachers from England, Australia, and Canada have been very supportive. It’s a victory for them too. We toasted Obama’s win many times in the pub that night.

On Wednesday, I really wished that I could be in the US for just one day. Here’s why:

→ 4 CommentsTags: Visiting America

Do you like pina coladas?

November 7th, 2008 · No Comments

Denise and I went to Bali last week, with our friends Lonnie and Eve. We visited Ubud, the artistic heart of Bali, and watched a traditional Barong dance, and feasted on world-class food. We also took a chance on Nusa Lembongan, an island off the southeast coast of the Bali mainland. The total population of the island is 7000, with no cars. We did some great snorkelling (I saw some barracuda!) and relaxed in the sun. Very nice. Denise has a more in-depth writeup on her blog.

When we returned to Bandung on Monday, we found that the rainy season had begun in earnest. It now rains every day. On and off, ALL DAY. Which is nice and peaceful, and cools down the air. But it also makes running errands challenging (or impossible), and it can be tricky to time the ride to school. Overall though, it’s a nice change. I’m sure I’ll feel differently in a couple of months. :)

→ No CommentsTags: Elsewhere in Asia

Beach of dreams

October 3rd, 2008 · 6 Comments

We just got back from an epic beach trip to Batu Karas with six of our friends (who are also teachers). It took me months to plan and involved considerable stress and negotiation. In the end it was totally worth it, as we spent four full days and had a blast.

Batu Karas is rapidly becoming one of my favorite places on earth. It has already become my favorite beach, beating out the likes of Fiji, Bali, SoCal, and beaches from my childhood in Haiti. Idyllic and secluded, it’s situated in a perfect cove, with waves suitable for the beginning surfer, but fun enough for the more experienced. Soft black sand everywhere. Three or four warungs serving cheap & fresh seafood, and a chill beach deck. Friendly local surfer dudes. Nothing really to do except swim, sunbathe, relax.

We swam and tried to surf, with varying degrees of success. We played chess and drank rum, wine, beer, tea, and coffee (not all at once). We had fresh seafood feasts – shrimp, squid, grilled fish, etc. We ate some mushrooms, the local specialty.

I had a mystical experience communing with the stars and the universe while lying on the beach at night. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life, nor been so relaxed. Went night swimming in a trance, swimming with thousands of twinkly little bioluminescent plankton that were floating in the bathwater-warm sea. Stayed up until the early hours of the morning, listening to my friends play guitar on the beach and making up songs while we sang and laughed.

And now, here I am back in Bandung, missing it more than I expected to. It almost feels painful, like a loss of some sort. Batu Karas has taken on special significance for me… almost a place of healing. Definitely a magical place. Can’t wait to go back.

→ 6 CommentsTags: Elsewhere in Asia

Leaked: Homer Votes for Obama

October 3rd, 2008 · 1 Comment

In this leaked snippet from the upcoming November 2nd episode of the Simpsons, Homer tries to vote for Obama but is foiled.

→ 1 CommentTags: Random Thoughts

I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses

September 16th, 2008 · 6 Comments

I study nuclear science
I love my classes
I got a crazy teacher, he wears dark glasses
Things are going great, and they’re only getting better
I’m doing all right, getting good grades
The future’s so bright, I gotta wear shades,
I gotta wear shades

(Timbuk 3)

Let me just say for a moment that I have the best job in the world. I spend my days surrounded by young people who are full of energy – both students and fellow teachers. Thankfully I have enough energy to match (and sometimes surpass) theirs.

Me with some of the other teachers

Me with some of the other teachers

Me with a great class

Me with a great class

Most of my classes are filled with raucous laughter, as my students are simultaneously exposed to my weirdness and to new ideas and new modes of thinking. We have a blast learning a new language while playing games and chatting about silly topics. In the teacher’s room it’s more of the same, albeit on a (slightly) more mature scale. I really like just about everyone I work with.

When I think back to my last job, and how frustrated and alone I felt, how unhappy I was, all I can think is “What took me so long?!”

These days I usually start work around 11am or noon, and finish around 7:30pm, occasionally later. At the end of the day, although I’m physically tired, I’m also full of a peculiar energy that comes from challenging my mind and the minds of my students all day.

I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

And, for the record, although I have experienced some “drama” with some folks here, the overwhelming majority of the people I know & hang out with are really cool people… good friends indeed.

→ 6 CommentsTags: Bandung · Random Thoughts