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Trip Start Jul 24, 2008
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

Hullo again!
Where was I? Where was I? Can't remember so will have to pick it up with school!
I arrived to the school to be met with what, at first, seemed a paradise... Grass lined pathways and brightly coloured classrooms surrounded by rice paddies and tropical jungle foliage. Nature everywhere, including a fat toad living in my shelving. There are pictures on my facebook of the school and toad! In my first few days, without kids, I learned some interesting facts concerning Canggu;

1. The building of the science lab had been done quickly and it had been sort of half dug into the hillside... so every time it rained the floor flooded to a depth of 2 inches... A problem as the electrical outlets were in the floor! But they were excavating a drainage chute around the sides of the building which will hopefully rectify the situation, I guess we'll find out when the monsoon season hits - a couple of feet of rain every day will prove a very sound test I feel!!!
2. Although there are some lovely bright yellow gas pipes connected throughout the back end of my room... They are connected to, nothing... No bunsen burners but that is immaterial really as there are no gas taps anyway, (I later learn that no-where in Indonesia produces them and they are being specially made, with an unspecified time-frame!) Intrigued I look at the electronic copy of the 'science departments' inventory... How to sum it up? Imagine a corner shop in Britain that is slow and has only one of everything, everything is brand names you've never heard of and sound a bit dubious... now picture a really rich man has come and bought everything in the shop, including some of the shelving units and the cash register... Can you see the sad empty place? That is my room... The best set of resources there are those of the maths, English and D+T departments! Highlights include: 1 microscope without light. 11 beakers of various sizes and age, yes that is it! Oh and undoubtedly the best part... fish oil in the chemical cupboard being one of the more technical items. 
3. There is no real assessment structure in place and in fact the math's teacher made up end of term tests based on his own knowledge... that is the only real record of achievement within Science and Maths and English... Not quite the level of data I am used to!
4. My laptop is too advanced to connect to the printers at the school and the comp in my room was produced as a substitute for the abacus previously in use.
5. Ordering equipment is an ingenious process where by you have to find the items you want, fill out an ordering form specifying in painstaking detail what you need or risk the arrival of random items eg. I order some baskets for my books and receiving giant washing baskets, I order a set of mirrors only to realise just in time and run to tell the supplier that they do not need to be 4ft by 2 ft! Hand mirrors will suffice. Once you have decided what you want, sourced it, in some cases, apparently, from a man down an alley last night, costed them and submitted the requests they have to be approved. I asked how long this can take and was told three days. I asked the previous science teacher, (maths teacher really) and was told the microscopes had been ordered two years ago! Oh fuck!

I decided the only response was careful, calm, planning. I spent the first day writing out ten pages of orders coming to a total of about 20,000, on a good day. I then sat back to wait for feedback. Needless to say my orders had been the least amounts of everything a basic science department would need. After a calm, positive, discussion with the head I cut these down to my needs for the first term... these turned out to be about 2,500. For one page... In the end it was agreed that I could have most of it... when will it arrive? We will have to see!

In the meantime I am bust planning a scheme of work virtually from scratch with no data about previous years results as everyone seems to think everyone else has the data. No-one has really been talking about levels here so the kids are clueless... Oh and they couldn't fit in all the topics in the last couple of years so the previous teacher skipped a couple each year, 'mainly the ones we had no equipment for', (all of them? flashes through my mind at this point!).
So at this point my attitude is one of mild hysteria. How am I going to teach cells? Chemistry? Science!!! How have they? The sneaking suspicion that actually they have not begins to dawn! Rumours, that we are moving the secondary kids to a new site next year, surface and suddenly I understand... they are waiting... Nothing is going to arrive that can't be moved! Armed with this new knowledge I go into battle.
Having time to reflect over the quiet drink after school I decide that it's not so bad... looking out over the glorious red, orange and purple sunset, from the exclusive members club whilst sipping my third vodka I start to see the benefits... By the time I am slurring 'Umalas Tolong' to the taksi driver I am fired up with the knowledge that every, single, solitary, thing in this department will be based on my vision and ideas. I will mold this department choosing it's resources, assessment, even the God-damn topics to teach - It's going to be Fan-bloody-tastic!

Next morning, in a blistering haze as I forgot to turn the A.C. on last night, I wake sweating... and it's nothing to do with the heat! Stumbling to the mirror, past the cockroaches still trapped under the glasses and still attentively following my every move like miniature assassins waiting for their moment, I look at my reflection, take a deep breath and compose myself... I pick up my toothbrush and start to brush my teeth... 'Oh shit!' I spray out the contents of my mouth all over my reflection... that was tap water... from the well!!
Love you all and miss you all, well some of you anyways,
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