The Third Annual Thanksgiving Post

During both my first and second years as an ETA, I dedicated a post to what I am thankful for: 10 items my first year, and 20 my second.  I have enjoyed this tradition, and may continue it in some fashion even after I am completely done with Fulbright.  For now, here are 30 things I am thankful for right now.


Family.  This will be my third year in a row in which I will spend most of my time living on the other side of the world from everyone who makes up my family.  Even though I’m sure my decision to keep returning to Indonesia doesn’t always make sense to them, they continue to support me in whatever ways they can from afar, and keep me connected to the ins and outs of folks at home, and I am forever grateful for that.

Toaster Ovens. Baking for people is one of my greatest joys, but ovens are not usually included in an Indonesian kitchen.  This year, the apartment I live in came with a toaster oven, and I have loved diving back into the world of baked goods: I only hope that my coworkers feel the same about the many plates of cookies I bring to the office.

Friends in America.  I have missed a lot in the lives of my friends back home since coming abroad: new jobs, weddings, moves across the country.  And yet, whenever I have the chance to skype with a friend, they make it feel as though it was just yesterday that we were chatting in the same time zone, and I love them for it.

Potted Plants.  I have always loved having greenery about the house—my poor mother is currently caring for almost a dozen plants right now while I live abroad—and recently my housemates decided to get a few plants for our small balcony.  I love these little sprigs of life, and hope that my norther green thumb can adapt to this equatorial climate and keep them healthy.

Cheap Indonesian Food.  There is something almost sinfully good about fried food bought from the side of the road, and there is so much of it in my area this year.  I probably indulge more often than I should, but what may not be good for the waistline is often good for the soul, yes?

Friends in Indonesia.  I have made so many amazing friends here, in so many different places.  It baffles me sometimes to think that there are several cities Indonesia that I could go to, and have a friend there to greet me.   It is the friends I have made here that make Indonesia not a place I have traveled to, but a home, and I am so thankful for this family that I have made here.

Ojek Applications.  During both of my ETA grants, my main source of transportation was always a motorbike that I rented.  I dare not brave the streets of Jakarta on my own, but I make up for it by how often I use ojek (motorcycle taxies, in which you essentially sit on the back of someone’s motorbike), partly because apps like Gojek have Grab have made it so easy to do.  Seeing the city from the back of a motorbike, especially at night when the tall buildings are lit up in every color of the rainbow, is one of my greatest joys in Jakarta.

AMINEF Team.  The AMINEF team has been instrumental in my time in Indonesia, and I was incredibly thankful for the hard work that they put in to the Fulbright Programs when I was an ETA.  Now, I work alongside these incredible people, and I get to see first-hand the energy they put in to making these programs run as smoothly as they can (no small feat, let me tell you), and am, if it is possible, even more thankful for the work they do.

Sidewalks.  In many of the places where I lived previously in Indonesia, sidewalks were not particularly common.  Here in Jakarta, I walk to work every day, and most of my walk is on even, manicured sidewalks, rather than just in a swath of dust on the side of the road, and it really is like living in the lap of luxury.

Modern Technology.  Beyond the everyday ways that technology makes my life easier at every turn, I am especially thankful this year for the ways it helps me stay connected to friends and family spread throughout the world, and for how much information is at my fingertips at any time.

Roommates.  Two of my friends from Malang (one American, one Javanese), made the move to Jakarta at the same time I did, and they are the brightest part of my day, each and every day.  There are days when being R/C, when just living in Jakarta, seems more than I am capable of, and being able to come home to two people who know me and love me makes everything seem possible.  They are both smart, open-hearted women, and I have learned so much by living with them.

  1. Jakarta is hot. After my walk to or from work, as much as I enjoy it, I am always a tad bit sweatier than I would like to be, and being able to walk into an air-conditioned office building or apartment is blessed reprieve.  After two years of working in classrooms around Indonesia often without even a fan, I am even more thankful for this.

My Education.  None of the opportunities I have had during the past few years would have been possible without the education that I have been blessed to have.  But beyond that, I am thankful for the critical thinking and the desire to be a life-long learner that my education has instilled in me, which I truly believe will help me to continue to strive to be my best self.

Good Wi-Fi.  Though I just joined the world of smart-phones during my second grant, I was still living in a place without a great connection and without particularly good access to Wi-Fi, which made work somewhat challenging and comforts like skype calls home impossible.  Living in the city, Wi-Fi now follows me wherever I go, and I feel like a princess.

Past ETA Cohorts.  I have met so many amazing people throughout the two years I was an ETA, and I still keep in touch with many of them.  They are all doing incredible things following their ETA grant, both at home and abroad, and I feel so proud to know them, and to be so blessed as to call them my friends.

International Food Options.  Jakarta is full of cheap Indonesian food, but there are also restaurants with food from all of over the world, and I have loved having the chance to try new cuisines using flavors I’ve never had before.

Travel.  Throughout my time in Indonesia, and throughout my life generally, I have been lucky enough to see so many fascinating and beautiful places, and meet so many wonderful people, all over the world.  I know I am a better person because of this, and I wish that more people could have the opportunities that I have had to travel.

Cute Surgical Masks.  Jakarta, while nowhere near being the most polluted city in the world, doesn’t exactly provide much in the way of fresh air.  I have never been a fan of wearing masks, even when I should (ask my mother, who was always trying to get me to wear dust masks in the barn), but I have taken to exclusively wearing masks with bright colors and fun patterns, and this makes this necessity much more bearable.

Teachers.  Whether it is my own teachers, or teachers I have had the opportunity to work with in classrooms in the U.S. or in Indonesia, some of the most incredible people I have ever had the opportunity to meet are, or have been, educators.  I am grateful for this profession and I feel so lucky to be a part of it.

Trans Jakarta.  Jakarta has a fairly well-set-up bus system called the Trans Jakarta, and I love it.  Clean, air-conditioned, and often with special sections for women, I have not encountered such comfortable public transport since coming to Indonesia.

Current ETA Cohort.  While my relationship with this current ETA cohort is very different than the one I had with past ETA cohorts, I am still incredibly thankful to be working with this group.  Some incredible work is coming out of this cohort, and they are currently only four months into their nine-month grant.  I cannot wait to see what else they accomplish throughout this year, and am so grateful to be able to do so.

My Journal.  I have journaled somewhat consistently since I was nine, and while there are times when I do not write as often as I should (this grant has been especially busy, and is definitely one of those times), being able to actively reflect has always helped me to gain perspective, and I am glad this is a practice that I have developed.

Rain.  Rain in Jakarta is not nearly as satisfying as rain in Gorontalo or Malang (one of my favorite smells in the whole world is rice paddies after rain, and I haven’t quite yet found those in central Jakarta), but the rain does manage to clear the dust and exhaust fumes for at least a short time, and I love nothing more than to stand on the balcony of our apartment while the rain comes pouring down.  For a moment, the city is cool, and clean, and fresh.

Listening Ears.  Some days are hard.  But I am surrounded by amazing people who are always willing to listen to me and help me through what is challenging, and I am forever grateful for all of them.  They are people who get me through, and I love them for it.

Museums.  I inherited my love of museums from both of my parents, who would take my brother and I to museums of all sorts whenever we had the opportunity to go into a city.   Jakarta is the first city I have lived in in Indonesia that has a selection of museums to choose from, and I am thrilled to be able to explore their various corners.

The Capacity to Learn Another Language.  By this point, I have finally achieved some semblance of fluency in Bahasa Indonesia, though I still have a long way to go before I am fully fluent.  Still, at this point the language barrier does not impede my ability to get around, and rarely interferes with my ability to make friends either.  It took me a long time to get here, but now that I am here, I am so thankful for it.

Yoga.  One of my roommates persuaded me to take on a daily yoga challenge with her, using online instruction, and at this point doing yoga in the evening has become a fairly ingrained habit.  As someone who struggles to workout indoors (and I don’t really have another option in Jakarta), finding a way to exercise during this grant was incredibly important for both my physical and mental health, and I am so grateful that yoga is able to provide this for me.

My Health.  I definitely have not reacted well to living in a place without as much fresh air as my farm-girl lungs are used to, but I am learning how to take care of myself in the big city, and as my health improves, so does my overall semangat for life, and I am thankful that I am able to preserve it.

Past Students.  I have had the joy of working with over one thousand students in Indonesia alone, and they continue to inspire me each and every day.  I have had the fortune to meet up with several of my past students, now attending universities in different cities, and I am so grateful to be able to continue to have a relationship with so many inspiring young people.

Opportunities.  Whether it is meeting wonderful people, exploring beautiful places, or encountering challenges that help me to grow, I have been blessed to have had endless opportunities in my life, and somehow continue to.  I cannot fully express how thankful I am for these opportunities, and can only hope that I meet these opportunities as fully and as openly as I can.