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.


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.

Not Fun

So, on Saturday I went to Ancol with a group of primary students for a math competition. Ancol is a northern neighborhood in Jakarta, so it wasn’t supposed to be a big deal. Going there was fine, the event itself was fine since all I had to do was be present in the building (I played solitaire and read Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell), but we hit an accident-related traffic jam on the way back and were on the bus for TWO AND A HALF HOURS. Sorry to yell, but it was awful.

Have you ever been on a bus, solely in charge of 8 children between the ages of 8 and 11, in a non-moving traffic jam? I insist that you must never, ever do it. It is the worst.

Being a national plus upper primary teacher, I knew none of the children, since they were a mixture of international students and lower primary students. This makes scolding more difficult when there is hitting, screaming, or most commonly, standing. I treated standing most harshly, as we had the potential to move at any moment and I did not want to deal with falling and crashing-related injuries.

On the plus side, I didn’t have to wait for any parents because we had told them that their children would be back at about 1 p.m., so when we rolled in at around 2:30, everybody was sitting in the parking lot.

Have I mentioned already that this happened on a Saturday? Because it did. It was on my Saturday.

A Haze of Numbers

I’m trying to price new laptops since the one I have now is over 5 years old and I don’t anticipate it lasting much longer. This has been a hugely dramatic process. I have done a ton of reading and after a while, all the numbers I don’t understand are starting to look the same. I’m not very good with numbers anyway, but the fact that the differences are so slight is NOT HELPING.

There’s the laptop’s physical size, its memory, speed…..

The problem is this. If I go in to talk to someone, they will try to sell me the most expensive one, not the one that’s best for me, so I have to do all my own research. Which I am not enjoying.

Oh well.

Tales from the First Floor

So, the apartment complex I live in is a cluster of 5 buildings that are each over 20 stories tall. So, to wash the windows, they have these lifts that fit two people. It takes more than a day to wash windows on one building, so they store the lifts overnight, either on the ground or on a service balcony.

I had forgotten this. See, I didn’t use to live on a floor with a service balcony. My new place has one, though.

Last evening as I was brushing my teeth I noticed a guy in a hooded sweatshirt (hood up) standing out on the balcony. I know that workers can get out on the balcony on my floor, but I thought that it was weird that anybody was out there after dark. I stood there for a minute, trying to decide what to do. Then I noticed that there was a rope tying the sweatshirt guy to my balcony railing. So that’s creepy. I was too scared to go out on the balcony, so I went back to my room, waited an hour, and then checked to see if sweatshirt guy was gone. He wasn’t. So, I went back to my room, locked the door to my bedroom, and went to bed.

This morning I realized that sweatshirt guy was a small portion of a window washing lift stored on the service balcony, visible through my balcony door, covered with tarp and tied to my balcony railing for stability. Had it been light out when I first noticed sweatshirt guy, I would have seen a large wheel along the side.

So that was fun. Hopefully they finish window washing today.