Some of you have asked how this whole teacher training/ Indonesian adventure unfolded. So before I talk about how it went, I will explain.

Last summer, my dear friend Hope and I were traveling Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam together. We had an ambitious itinerary which included, among other stops, Angkor Wat, the Killing Fields, Hanoi, and Ha Long Bay.

We took an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay on one of the famous “junk” boats called The Golden Lotus. That is where the picture on the top of this blog was shot. It was a great trip for so many reasons.


After cave touring and kayaking on day one, Hope decided, and I was persuaded, to jump off the three-story uppermost boat deck into the bay. This stunt HAD to be captured on film. We did it a few times with no photographic luck. My little camera just wouldn’t cut it.

Through the tour and kayaking, we got to know Ranan, another guest on the boat who was traveling with his wife and daughter. He is an avid photographer who was kayaking around the bay with a very impressive camera that I feared might fall into the water at any moment. Not that he appeared careless; rather, if that camera had been in my hands, it would end up at the bottom of the bay.

Long story short, Ranan shot a multi-frame action sequence of us jumping off the second deck of the boat (by this time my adrenaline was pumping and I couldn’t go up to the third any more without having a heart attack). I asked him to email me the photos, and he did. Here’s one:


I kept in touch with Ranan via Facebook throughout the year, learning that he works in a resort town in Bintan, Indonesia – a favorite retreat for Singaporeans, who travel there via ferry for holiday.

On a whim, when I was thinking about how to continue the Asian adventure started last summer, I emailed Ranan and asked him if he had any contacts in Indonesia for whom I could volunteer. I pictured maybe doing some kind of physical labor or help in tourism. Little did I know that he had bigger ideas based on my teaching career.

Ranan connected me with super- Principal Dina and super-woman Merda who both jumped at the opportunity to have a teacher trainer at their disposal this summer. A few million emails later and it was all set: after a month of being a tourist in Vietnam, I would travel to Bintan for eight days and then to Tana Toraja for ten, to train teachers and learn about education in Indonesia.

It has been great to have a “purpose” on this trip other than mere tourism. I have learned and experienced more than I imagined was possible in such a short period of time. Working with Dina, Merda, and these teachers put me in touch with two very different areas and cultures in Indonesia that I would have never seen as a typical, street-level tourist.

So that’s the how/ why this adventure was born. It’s crazy how life works, isn’t it? I’m pretty sure I’m committed to come back to both communities next summer – just need to work out the details and save pennies. And now that I have more of a clue about Indonesian education and teachers, this training can only get better.

I want to send a huge “thank you” to Ranan, Dina, Merda, and all the teachers and others I’ve met here. You have changed my life and worldview in a tremendous way.