“Seriously, you guys are the only singles here!”

March.

I dread this month. Pile of wedding invitations. There are 5 couples getting married this month and that is just the people I know. It must have had something to do with ‘good date’ in Javanese calendar or something I don’t know.

I used to love to come to weddings but lately I don’t. (I’ll save the ‘I don’t see the point of getting married’ rant for later). I grow tired of it lately because everybody is getting married it’s ridiculous. I know the married couples don’t exactly share the same point of view with me, but I try to make some logical points in my reason:

1. Eat standing up: Most wedding parties in Indonesia have more than 500 guests, I’ve actually been to a wedding with 3000 guests. Tell me, how do you manage to eat with your high heels, holding you clutch bag in one hand, and try to eat spaghetti without looking stupid. Tough, man. Plus, you have to queue before you are served. Ridiculous right?

2. It costs ridiculously a lot of money: I know this because I’m in the wedding industry. Just when I need some extra money, actually. I arrange flowers. Sometimes I can’t believe how easy it is for people to sign checks for dozens of million rupiah or hundreds sometimes just to make their parties look pretty. That is just the decoration, it takes  40% of the budget, the biggest goes to food. Don’t forget the dresses for the family members, the hotels for relatives, rent for the venue, invitations and souvenirs, the pre-wedding photos and the video guys. A wedding can cost you from 100 – 500 million rupiah. For a day show. Ridiculous, right?

3. Too many people : What I like about wedding is that you get to catch up with your old friends. See what they’ve been doing and share updates about each others lives. You can see that being apart since graduation day, that is 5-6 years ago, actually shows. Some with their kids, some with their husbands/wives, some lose weight, some gain weight. You meet your ex, you meet your boyfriend’s ex, you meet people that actually dislike you but you pull a smile anyway. Too many people and even though it’s nice to meet your old friends, standing and chatting and sweating are not really a good combo for a reunion.

4. The heat : Wedding usually takes place in downtown during weekend. Imagine that. And this month it seems like everybody is getting married, there are people in party dresses on their bikes, using angkot, walking down the street. Crazy. Wedding usually starts at 11.00-14.00, when the sun is just right above you. The heat, the traffic jam, the 2 inches makeup on your face that you can feel it melts, (and in my case a grumpy boyfriend),  are not a good way to start Sunday.

5. The preparation: Sometimes I envy men. They wake up, take a bath, put on a nice trousers and shirt, put on the party shoes and voila, they’re ready to go. But for us, women? Oh no… we have to suffer the 10 steps of makeups (start with moisturizer, concealer, foundation, powder, eyebrows, eye shadows, eye liners, mascara, blushes (use 2 tones if you want it to look natural) and lipsticks – finally). The night before you have to mix-match your dress and your shoes to avoid morning-chaos. Then you have to do your hair of course. Some women use traditional hair-do that requires them to go to hairdressers -some at 6 am- to get it done. We look pretty yes. For how long? Max, 45 minutes inside the venue. Life is cruel for women, it’s ridiculous.

6. Western or Eastern: We just can’t decide. In Eastern culture, let it be Javanese, or Padangese or Sundanese, we have a really rich traditions – most of them have old-religious reasons behind them. Example, in Java there are certain djarik (a traditional batik cloth) that can’t be used in weddings, there are prayers and rituals held for the brides by their make-up artist, there are keris ( a traditional weapon) that men in the family should carry, the kind of music that can be played, the color of the dress the brides can wear, the types of flowers should and shouldn’t be in a wedding. Every single details represent our culture. But now? We have all the western traditions in a wedding reception, a photo spot (what?), contemporary wedding dresses that clashes colors, western-style makeups and of course…throw the bouquet tradition.In a wedding I attended this ritual was also performed by the bride, ironically-nobody stepped up because ironically-everybody was married already. Well not everybody.. my friend who got married last year, said to me and my single friend (we were chatting) “Get in the front! You guys are the only singles here!”. Thanks, but no, thanks.

So there you go, 6 reasons why I dread wedding parties. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against weddings. I’m pro wedding. You guys, get married it’s fabulous! If it’s not then why there are so many people doing it?

But for me, my ideal wedding reception gonna be somewhere in a different continent where nobody knows us.

I don’t think we’re gonna have problem with parking spot, dear

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The Magic Button

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Jeremy Harmer’s workshop held in Jakarta. For you guys who are not in the ELT world, Jeremy Harmer is like the David Foster in English Language Teaching. I cited his words and read (and re-read) his books for my CELTA last year and even without knowing him in person or without even googling him, you can spot a genius just by their writings. Not only that, I kind of had a feeling that he is a nice person *don’t ask how, but that’s just the kind of feeling when you read someone’s writing, somehow there’s a part of them in it.

So, when the day came (I got into the workshop for free because I won a draw in my office. Can you believe that? It’s like God knew that I needed this and He understood my financial problem) I was excited and hungry for something. I wanted to get something, learned something, I wanted to be motivated. I needed fuel for my motor. And just like Gandalf saved the hobbits from orcs, Jeremy gave it all to me. (Okay, I might have exaggerated it a bit, but you’d understand)

The orcs in my case was this long hour of teaching, exhausted mentally and physically having to put together a lesson plan and then perform it in front of people hungry for education (or in a teenager class, hungry for education/entertainment). But does it stop there? No. Before the lesson-planning shit I have to do my research. How do you think a teacher looks so confident in front of a class explaining the different between object relative clause and subject relative clause? Wait, to add more spice, how do you think a teacher explains that to a bunch of 11 years old that, truth to be told, give no shit about which is which unless there’s a picture of people making out on the board.

Jeremy understands all of these (d’uh, of course he does). He, then, like a magician cast a spell, told us a story about a magic button. He told us about a lesson one of his fellow music teacher that he had observed. There were four old ladies who were in a quartet played (or at least tried to) a Mozart piece. Needless to say, it was horrible. It was so bad that he wondered what would his friend said after they had finished? “That’s great” ? Even those ladies knew it was a lie. But what his friend did was surprising him. He said to one of the ladies that played the Cello. “Play it with more power”. Then just like a magic, their music got better like, 100% better. They played with more power and more confidence, and when they were confident their playing got better and better.

Mr. Jeremy Harmer

Mr. Jeremy Harmer

After the class, Jeremy asked his friend how did he know which player needed more power (because it seemed for him all of them were equally bad), his friend shrugged. “I don’t know, I just know.” Jeremy than realized, his friend had just pushed the magic button, and the magic happened in front of their very eyes. The students were improving significantly.

He said to us, all the teachers in that room, all we need was to find the magic button. Then it would transform your students and before you knew it, it also transformed you. It made the learning experience wonderful, it made you think that maybe, in this tiresome line of work, miracle does happen.

But the big question still lingered in the air that day:

How did we find the magic button?

It’s like asking Shakespeare how did you write Hamlet? There were no formulas. Sure there were guides and principles and books and loads of methodologies you could learn. There were endless papers and journals had been written about teaching. And of course, there were countless workshops and courses you could always take. Then there were certificates to validate yourself as a teacher from world-known universities. People have spent their entire life to solve this mystery so it would be a nice handbook telling new teachers a How-to in bullet points.

But still, every human being is unique – our DNA has proven that, and how is it possible for every classes to be similar?

Do we have to follow every guidelines available? Is passing CELTA or TESOL enough reassurance that you are – stamped, signed- a good teacher? And what if you failed? Does that mean you are not a good-enough teacher by Cambridge standard?

After the workshop, I felt : Oh Shit, there are no infinite answers. Just when we thought we almost nailed it, with all those ICQs, CCQs, language lesson or skill lesson, how to drill and how to write “three” in phonemic scripts, how to do a barely-manageable class management and how to do a precise to second lesson plan, we were just being told that it wasn’t enough.

Shit with capital S.

But strangely, it didn’t put me down. It was almost like a quest and I was a newbie magician trying to.. I don’t know, protect the ring from Sauron or to find the door to Narnia. How?

No fucking clue.

But maybe – just maybe – bits of clues are there, in the classroom. When you tried to explain the difference between subject relative clause and object relative clause and then just out of the blue, your student shouted : “miss, do you want to see my video kissing my girlfriend?”

Perfect.

ps : what I did was this, I wrote 2 sentences on the board and told them to discuss which was which:

” The boy who likes Maroon 5, had just kissed a girl.”

“The boy that I have in my class, told me he had just kissed a girl.”

completely got their attentions.