Improbable Phrases

Who says that?

More Force than Necessary

So, there are occasionally mid-sized cockroaches that live in a crack in the baseboard in the bathroom. Seemingly one at a time, but I’m sure that’s a failure of imagination on my part. As they are discovered, I smash them with shoes. I have these really solid shoes that I wear to work that make very satisfying thuds against the tile floor.

In any event, the most recent one was startled out of the bathroom and into the kitchen area on Saturday night/Sunday morning when I got up to go pee. I went back to my bedroom to get a shoe and it was huddled back in an awkward corner where I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get it. So I tried to scare/coax it out by swinging my foot at it.

Disaster. The cockroach got agitated, then confused, and ran up my leg and onto my nightgown. At which point I started squawking “No!” and shaking my night gown as hard as I could. Within a few (long) seconds, it hit the floor and I hit it with the shoe. Hard, and likely long after it was dead. I left the shoe laying on top of the dead bug, went to the bathroom, and then back to bed.

In the morning I discovered that a bunch of carnivorous ants were working on the body and carrying it off, teeny piece by teeny piece. I left them to their industry and in the afternoon, when they were gone, I swept the parts left behind onto a landing that no one really uses.

It’s the circle of life, and whatever, but it was also fiercely, upsettingly gross.



This post is largely visual. There are two fruits I have discovered in Indonesia that are wildly different on the outside, but the same on the inside.

Exhibit A, Rambutan inside and outside:


Exhibit B, Longan inside and outside:


As you can see, they’re very similar. We were discussing fruits in 5B and these two fruits totally divided the room. Some kids hated longan and loved rambutans, and vice versa. I had never noticed any real difference in taste, but apparently the kids thought they were very different.

After a few rounds of one side attempting to exert fruit dominance over the other, we decided to agree to disagree. But not until after one of my kids said that he agreed with me that the fruits were the same. “They’re like twins; but in different sweaters,” he announced.

As I was getting photos for this post, I noticed this picture, and so I guess maybe they’re triplets?

Source here.

Jupiter Ascending

You guys. I went to see Jupiter Ascending, because I strongly believe in rewarding intricate, wide and expansive space operas with money. If people like you and me go see them, then the powers of Hollywood will see fit to make more of them. Right? Right.

The problem was that I sort of lovehated it. The graphics were beyond exquisite. Some of the spaceships were in the shape of fishes! The skies and the space stations were also done up in full, gorgeous CGI glory. The costumes were lovely, imaginative and highly detailed. The earrings on Kalique? The best ever. I’d be friends with her just for the jewelry tips. The women were strong, they did the right thing, and their bodies were respected. It had the right balance of technobabble and stuff I could understand.

It was the plot that bothered me. There were these wonderful moments, where you get just a glimpse of some sweet and glorious concept, but only for brief seconds. It had what I will call a rose petal problem. Imagine a flowergirl at a wedding. She has a basket full of vibrant, soft, red petals. And she tosses them out of her basket in small bunches here and there and then walks away from them. This is the plot of Jupiter Ascending. All throughout the movie, somewhat compelling minor characters, fascinating ideas, and single sparkling lines floated in the air for mere breaths before they dropped to the floor of the center aisle. Look! Here’s a girl who’s sick! Why? Who cares! Look at this minor character pilot a police ship! No wait! Look over here instead! There are bees!

It was interesting. I am not saying it wasn’t. I’m just saying that it didn’t always commit to telling you the story. Oftentimes it just wanted to drop the next red petal. Look how pretty it is! I don’t disagree on the beauty, just on the execution of it. Show me lovely things that are in service of the story and I will happily watch them. Show me lovely things solely because they are lovely and it will only take 30 minutes for me to get jaded and cynical. Within 30 minutes, I’ve got your number. You’re only going to show me that until you find something else to show me. And I’m going to be briefly disappointed, but mostly just uncertain which parts of the story I need to remember and which are simply more petals.

Had the story been cohesive, I would have died for this movie. Had all of those petals been gathered up into a rose by the end of the film, I would recommend it wholeheartedly. But it didn’t. It had beauty to spare, but no idea how to streamline it into one story that really resonated. Jupiter Ascending was so frustratingly close to what I wanted, but it never really got there.

Full Disclosure

I do enjoy well crafted scripted dramas, but sometimes I lean towards some truly ridiculous reality TV. I will gladly watch Game of Thrones or Survivor. This is going to be about the latter.

StarWorld Asia is one of the few TV channels that I can get at the apartment that is in English. They do not buy quality television. StarWorld shows a handful of scripted TV shows, but they’re mostly of the soap opera variety: Mistresses, Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, Switched at Birth. However, they seem to have bought all the reality TV that the Earth in its wisdom has ever seen fit to bring to bear.  In the time that I have lived at the new apartment, I have either watched, or seen commercials for: Million Dollar Listing LA, Got to Dance UK, The Rachel Zoe Project, Fit for Fashion, Master Chef and Master Chef Jr., America’s Next Top Model, Styled to Rock, and DC Cupcakes, not to be confused with The Cupcake Girls which was shown at a different time slot and followed a different set of women.  These are the ones I could think of. There are definitely more. I have only seen commercials for most of these because I have no intention of watching something called Fit for Fashion, or anything involving million dollar homes and the spoiled folks who want to sell them, and so on.

On Wednesday nights right now they show Master Chef Jr. and America’s Next Top Model back to back. I watch these and I order pizza. Every week. I’m not proud, but it’s true. However! I am learning a little Indonesian, since they are subtitled.


This basically says, “She has two ingredients. It will depend on how she cooks.” Hey! I didn’t say it was useful Indonesian. And I had to use Google Translate for some of it anyway.


This one I got without Google Translate’s help. “I’ve been here 3 nights? I have to move.” Though, to be honest, he doesn’t look like he’s in a hurry.


Regardless of the quality of the programming, the pizza’s pretty good.

How The Adult Became Disenchanted

Did everybody but me know that Rudyard Kipling is not appropriate for children? I had a little space in my teaching schedule this week and I thought I’d read the kids a couple of the Just So Stories, since we had just read a few fables in the unit I was covering. And then I spent an hour and a half trying to find one to read. Project Gutenburg has the vast majority of the tales free online, so finding the texts wasn’t hard. Finding one that I was comfortable reading in front of the kids was much harder. The Elephant’s Child is full of domestic violence. Several of them, including one about a Rhinoceros, are VERY RACIST against Asians. This is problematic for obvious reasons. There were a few that were super boring, including one about the creation of the alphabet (?!?). And so I ended up reading them How the Camel Got Its Hump, while taking out the words that were way above their vocabulary level. They liked it and asked for a second one, and I had to tell them that I didn’t have a second one for them to listen to. It was the only one that I could find.

I remember as a child listening to radio adaptations of the Just So Stories. They were full cast works with narrators and Bobby McFerrin, I think, providing music for it. Now I wonder how much they were adapted. Did I think that these were children’s stories because National Public Radio took out all the parts that I didn’t want to read to my 6th graders? Or did the various horrors just not register with me? I don’t know for sure, but now I want to try and find them to re-listen to them.


Anytime I moved to a new apartment in Chicago, one of the first things that I would look for in each new neighborhood was the closest post office. I would sometimes need to mail things, and also apartment mailboxes were so small that I would occasionally need to go to the post office to pick up packages. Generally, the post offices would be within easy walking distance of wherever I was living.

When I moved to Indonesia in 2012, the first thing that I noticed was that no one had mailboxes. It turns out that Indonesia does not have much of a postal system. Most people do not receive or send letters. In my first apartment here in Indonesia, my landlord would text the electric bill information, which would include a bank account number preset with the bill amount, which you would transfer the money to at an ATM. At my new place I at least get a paper bill slipped into the apartment under my door. This is the preferred method of “mailing” things, throwing them into the gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. But the electric bill and various flyers from shops in the apartment complex that are scattered on the floor just inside the front door when I get home are the only “mail” I receive. I have no idea what an Indonesian stamp even looks like.

Earlier this week I got a notice that the package that my parents had sent me for Christmas had arrived. But it hadn’t come to the school, I would need to pick it up at the local post office. Apparently postal laws have changed since the last time they sent me a box, and now all international packages are opened, inspected, closed, bagged, and then kept at the nearest post office. I would need to go to Kelapa Gading’s Kantor Pos Indonesia and pay to retrieve it. The fees are figured by a combination of the value of the contents and the overall weight of the package. I had to pay 7,000 rupiah (about 60 cents) for my Christmas box.

I got in line for the package retrieval counter (Loket 14) and stood there for about 90 minutes. I shuffled very slowly forward during that time. Since the post office in general is an underused commodity, there are very few people working there. There was only one guy working the package retrieval line. He spent between 5 and 10 minutes on each of the 12 people in front of me. It was perhaps the slowest line I have ever been in outside of an amusement park. And there was no rollercoaster at the front of the line either, just a surly guy who clearly hated his job.

When he came out with the box, I double checked that it was mine and then had to sign two different forms in three different places verifying that I had picked up the correct box. The ziptied bag that they put the resealed box in actually made it easier to carry, so that was nice at least.

I sort of hope to never need to go to the post office here again.

Imaginary French People, and Other Issues

Last week, I was washing my hair and accidentally sprayed water into my mouth and nose. I coughed, spluttered, and ultimately caught paratyphoid fever.

I’m generally very careful of my use of the water here because I cannot handle having it against my skin for very long. Having it inside my body? Disaster.

Monday night: Right at bedtime I spike a sudden fever so high that I could not stop shaking. I eventually settled down enough to sleep, but it took a while. During the night, the vomiting started.

Tuesday: Haze of fever, vomiting, diarrhea. I made the mistake of thinking that juice (which I had in the house) would be an acceptable substitute for a local version of Gatorade (which I did not). This choice of convenience was incredibly inconvenient for most of the day.

Wednesday: Watched TV between incidents. Discovered that Seth Green is (was? Stuff on the StarWorld channel might be very old) in a very sexist sitcom. At this point I’m psyching myself up to go to work on Thursday. At my job you aren’t permitted to miss more than two days in a row. If you do, they dock your pay.

Thursday: Drag out of bed. It takes 15 minutes to walk down to the place where I wait for the bus because I stop a couple of times. I have two classes on Thursday and I throw up in the break between them. My vice principal sends me home after I finish the second class. I try to see the doctor in the complex when I get back, but he’s out for the day.

Thursday night: Having watched a very dark French movie (subtitled) about the First World War, I wake up in the middle of the night with the very compelling idea that I have to find a French person. Because I do! But how will I find them? I need to get up and find them. Because I have to find a French person! I run this particularly nonsensical script for several minutes before a more rational piece of my brain catches up and reminds me that I know no French people. Exceedingly creeped out, I sit and watch some StarWorld (no French!) until I calm down.

Friday: To the doctor. He almost immediately diagnoses me with paratyphoid fever. Symptoms: fever, vomiting, diarrhea, erratic pulse and pressure, and occasional short bouts of psychosis. Nice to have those French people explained. He also tells me that my pulse is the lowest he’s taken all day. Bottom of the class pride! I take my bag of antibiotics back to my apartment and settle in to get better.

Saturday: Discover that the local version of Gatorade comes in a two liter bottle. Buy one, but quickly discover it’s cumbersome and requires both hands to tip it back to drink from.

Sunday to now: Feel essentially back to normal.

Paratyphoid fever? I don’t recommend it at all. But it responds to antibiotics pretty quickly.