Going on a cruise

Saturday we went on a one-day cruise around the island and its surroundings. We had the opportunity to go round the outermost part of Indonesia, which is absolutely stunning. I never knew there was a plenty of tropical islands, where wild and exotic creatures live in the lush, untouched tropical jungle, just a few kilometers away from the city. We also passed by the first and second Barelang Bridge that connect the islands of Batam, Tonton, and Nipah.

On board activities we luxuriated included traditional dance and band performances, karaoke, seafood, games, interacting, and sightseeing from the upper deck. This trip was sponsored by the school for the faculty and staff to celebrate the end of this school year

A photo posted by Deny Setiyadi (@dgsetiyadi) on

I had a thoughtful conversation with the secondary school headmaster this morning. I just wanted to say goodbye because I’m leaving the school soon. Turns out he is actually leaving, too — quite earlier than I am. It’s really unfortunate that the school has to lose such a well-rounded, persevering leader like him, whose capacity and dedication were taken for granted. Well, he might be a bit too idealistic once in awhile but I can’t deny the fact that he was named one of the best school headmasters in town for 2 consecutive years!

During his short tenure he has truly inspired me in so many ways. I really admired how he kept on going through it all in stride with a big smile on his face, when everybody was completely against him. Through him I learned that strength is not merely the ability to persist, but also the ability to start over. He is the definition of endurance, a truly remarkable person. In a few weeks, both of us have to start over again with a blank page as our foundational move and it’s up to us how we are going to fill that page. One thing’s for sure, he is not going to intentionally leave it blank.

It’s glorious

It’s been more than two months since my latest email and I’m finally back with blogging! Three weeks ago we went to Singapore and Malaysia for the weekend. It was Friday after school, we gathered at Batam’s Harbour Front ferry terminal and there were five of us. We arrived in Singapore at 20:00 and continuously took the train and buses all the way to Johor Bahru, Malaysia, which took about 45-60 minutes.

The next day we went to Legoland! I’ve been to Legoland before but this time was different because we spent like 7 hours there, from 10 to 5:30 and we went to the water park as well. It was super tiring but really fun! Sunday we crossed the immigration checkpoint and travelled back to Singapore to do some shopping and yesh, everybody shopped crazily! We were pretty careful though, and I still managed to haggle somehow so that was great. Everything runs extremely fast in Singapore but I love this city. It’s super clean!


The next weekend I flew to Jakarta to get my visa sorted out. I didn’t really have a chance to explore the city much, which was okay because I wasn’t in shape and very tired! Sunday evening I came back to Batam and had this delicious meal for dinner (can’t remember the name). So basically I haven’t been able to sleep well lately, and I have tons of things to do at school so this Wednesday, I nearly passed out. Fortunately Lea came to help! YESH, LEA THE SPANISH GIRL! SHE IS HERE since last week! She’s now taking over my English classes in Primary 6 so that means, I only have 41 hours – 8 hours = 33 hours a week now, and she’s helping me with German classes as well! We haven’t seen each other for like eleven months. Cool things happening:)

Last Tuesday I got to teach P4 Prudence and yeah I’m talking about the B boy. I gave them a paperwork but this guy didn’t do it. He was just moving around instead and wasn’t paying any attention to it. So I asked him to go to the faculty room to do it. Later at lunch time, I saw his paper and it was empty! He said he couldn’t do it. Well, of course he couldn’t. I tried to converse with him and asked why he never followed my lessons and kept ignoring me. I told him I was tired his behaviour. He then cried. There was a moment of silence. I used to be just like him when I was younger. I knew how it felt like, I really did and indeed, it was HELL. From that moment I realised how hard my teachers back then struggled with my learning difficulties. I could barely see him in the eyes because that’d bring me to tears. I motivated him just to make him feel better and told him that I came here to help. I asked him again about his parents but he didn’t reply. But I knew they never cared about their only son.

The next day I gave him another dyslexia test and this time I was shockingly thunderstruck. His reading skills are comparable to those of Primary 1 students! I gave the result to the headmaster and she was shocked, too! So we called the parents and last Friday the mother came and I showed her his son’s dyslexia results. Well, she seemed concerned but I didn’t believe it. I asked her to see to a psychiatrist and do a real diagnosis test for him and I wanted her to do it ASAP, so I threatened her a bit and looks like it worked. Let’s see!

These past weeks I have noticed something really important, that it’s okay to be a little bit different. Well, someone has to be prettier, or smarter, or younger, or richer but those don’t matter, because they will never be YOU. So, instead of asking “Why am I different than others?”, try to ask “Why do I have to be like others?” That’s the actual challenge of life, to be yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else. Yes, I try to fit in sometimes, but I’ll always try to be the best of whoever I am and proud of it. Anyway, HAPPY NATIONAL TEACHER’S DAY! Lea and I have prepared a video dedicated to teachers! I miss everyone and I can’t wait to see your beautiful faces again later soon:)

Independence Day #RI70

It’s Monday, at last, and a lot of things have happened these past days. So let’s talk about it!

Last week our head of administration, Ms V, had an issue with the internet connection at one of the teachers’ houses and she didn’t have time for it because she is such a busy woman! So I helped her fix it. What happened next might get you jealous! She brought me some pizzas and nachos! What a lovely day! I LOVE PIZZAS SO MUCH!

Do you guys remember B? A few days ago I spoke to Ms V about his situation and she told me that B’s parents are extremely busy with their jobs they cannot take care of him, and that his nanny is taking care of almost everything. I’m not judging here but it’s just sad that some people are still blinded by worldly, materialistic possessions and equate them to happiness and fulfilment, even put them ahead of their own innocent child. Sometimes I just don’t get it. I’ve made my commitment to help him overcome his learning barriers and provide motivational support. Wish me luck!

We also talked about things that make a great teacher. I have narrowed down the most essential characteristics of a great teacher to so-called 3P’s, which stand for priority, punctuality and professionalism. As an educator, the students are obviously my top priority. Whilst a good teacher’s primary concern is education, a great one is playing other roles as well, such as advisory, counsellor, disciplinarian, and friend. Then teaching comes to a close second. Well, teachers spend most of their day delivering lessons and working with curricula and lesson plans, and all those things require dedication. So far, this is the only ‘P’ I need to work on.

A great teacher also has to master time management, whether it’s simply coming to the classrooms on time, or scheduling built-in overflow time. By being punctual, I can end tasks on time so I can do a better work for the other upcoming tasks. And last but not least, a great teacher must build and maintain professionalism—dress well, prepare well, and most importantly, behave well. A good teacher teaches the subject matter: science, maths, languages, but a great one teaches what matters: discipline, confidence, passion. I really learned so much from that conversation. In fact, I learn new things every day and that’s something to be grateful for!

We’ve just had a flag-raising ceremony at the school this morning. Every Kallistan; students, teachers, staff and even the janitors participated. Although, one of the flag raisers face planted during the speech, everything went pretty well… kind of. Happy Independence Day, everyone. Be proud and celebrate the day! #RI70


First email from Batammm 2.0

Today marks my third week of teaching at Kallista in Batam and I’m loving it! The school is amazing. I actually planned to write every Sunday but it just seems impossible due to the amount of time I have to spend for teaching and preparing the curriculum materials. Oh I wish I had more hours on a day! I’ll be teaching 37 hours of Science and an hour of German (or two, still unclear), means I’ve got about 38 hours a week in total, and so far it’s been industriously fun!

There is a student in P4 Prudence named B. He is an Australian-Indonesian who has to repeat his year in P4. Some teachers said he is a slow learner. It takes longer times for him to fathom and really get ‘it’. So on Monday two weeks ago I’ve got to teach P4 Prudence for the first time and I noticed something different about him. He might be dyslexic. How do I know? Well, as a student who used to have learning difficulties in school, I could notice something other teachers couldn’t. First, he can’t spell and pronounce simple words like ‘tell’, ‘through’, and even ‘funny’. I told the principal about this and she thought he was just lazy and his English was just poor. Later I spoke to his Bahasa Indonesia teacher and turns out he also has problems with spelling and pronouncing Indonesian words like ‘nyata’ and ‘pendidikan’. I don’t think he is that lazy. Dyslexia has nothing to do with low intelligence or laziness whatsoever. His brain just works differently and again I know how it feels and how challenging the struggles are, because I used to be just like him. So, without the knowledge of the principal and counsellor, I did a little research about dyslexia and dyslexia tests. He’ll be doing the tests in my office after school for about 5-10 minutes. I’m not a psychologist or anything but this tests will be very useful for him as I can send the results to his parents and ask them to do a real dyslexia test as soon as possible.

Now let’s talk about P5 a.k.a. my favourite classes, especially P5 Harmony. The students are great and extremely curious! Curiosity is one of the most important things a student must have. Even greater, I’ve got to be one of their advisers (along with Teacher A and Teacher Z), so I can spend more time with them, like sitting in the cafeteria together during recess and lunch time.

Anyway I’ve just had a nice Skype conversation with my family back home last night and it was exciting! I know I’ve just left three weeks ago but I miss them already! And I miss you guys! So 11 months to go?

Several days ago my old ‘friend’ just paid me a visit. Perhaps I’m just lonely and quite a bit tired of the busy schedule. Sometimes I just want to give up and cry it out loud. But whenever I feel like giving up, a mysterious voice comes to me and whispers, “Just keep going.” Well, I don’t know exactly where I’ll end up but I’m definitely on my way. Dreams aren’t supposed to be easy, right? I’m so grateful for the people I have met, who are really supportive and encouraging, and I’m so grateful for what I have become. I’m so grateful that I can never say I wish it didn’t happen. I hope you guys are doing well and always remember that you are loved!

Millions of love.

Pantene Chrysalis

This video of a shampoo commercial is pretty worth checking out like seriously, it really got me thinking. People always told me I had a really low self-esteem and they were sort of true because I always felt like I wasn’t good enough and this week has taught me a lot about strengths. I realised strength is not about being better or more capable than anyone else. It is actually about how to turn your weaknesses into your greatest weapon and you’re comfortable with it. Tons of love.

Thailand (Lamplaimat), Week Two

This week has been pretty emotional because I had to say goodbye to everyone here. Can’t believe it has been 2 weeks already and time has passed by so quickly. But of course I’m glad I got the opportunity to be involved in developing our first centre in Thailand.

Tuesday I went to a local market, which is like 15 minutes away from our school and had a lot of Thai treats that we got from food stalls on the street. It’s not just that. I found Tesco here! It’s not as fancy as the Irish ones you find in Dublin but seriously, finding Tesco in this tiny little town no one have ever heard of is like finding a needle in a haystack. No joking, I have been starving for days and I lost about 2 kg in a week. The food we have at school is great but we have to share to 40 people so most of the times I didn’t eat much.

Saturday after the farewell party, I had an amazing conversation with George. His wife is actually a good friend of mine, too. We met in Cambodia, where we worked together in the same department. I spoke to him about a lot of things and turns out he’s actually pretty cool. I learned a lot more about him in those 3 hours than I did in my 3 month period in Cambodia. I also learned so much from him and it felt good to have all these thoughts released.

My time here is really short but that doesn’t mean I didn’t learn anything. In fact, I learned lots in 2 weeks, from things like how to use a washing machine to something very spiritual. These past few years I have been living in the past, mourning and regretting things that should have happened and I thought time would heal the pain and the sorrow. I was wrong and this experience proved Elder Eppley right. He once said, “Just because time is moving, it doesn’t mean you’re progressing. A lot of people just sit with issues for a long time, expecting them to fix themselves or something. You’ve got to move yourself forward, too!” I’m so blessed and grateful for him! Hope everyone is doing great!

Thailand (Lamplaimat), Week One

I’m back to basic living. I landed at Don Muang Airport, Bangkok Tuesday morning. Then I still had to take a bus for 6 hours northeast. I’m in the middle of nowhere with the closest town being 90 km away. But I like it here! We’re surrounded by so many beautiful trees and flowers. Funny is, even though we’re physically in Thailand, there are no Thai people at our centre at all! It’s because our first centre in Thailand is pretty newly built so we are not able to start classes here at the moment. So, the teachers go to public schools nearby and teach there. Instead, There are about 28 Cambodians here, who were once our students in Cambodia and now they have become teachers so I feel like I’m in Cambodia, speaking Khmer, even I can smell prohok every day.

Wednesday I got to go to a Bamboo school to pick up our dinner with this 32-year-old Japanese woman. I met her in Cambodia a few months ago and now she is the school’s new driver. So cool! Anyway Thai food is amazing! It’s really spicy but so mouth-wateringly tasty.

Thursday we celebrated our founder Big Teacher’s 58th birthday, and at the same time launched our new name, which is AHHA Education. SOLS is no more. We were also joined by three Haitian people who came to learn more about our organisation. Then the Cambodian performed Khmer dance and the children a drama. It was fantastic! The treats were adorably delicious :9

The next day was my birthday and it was sort of weird… It was Friday evening and I was still working hard at the office, then someone told me that Big Teacher wanted to see me. Well, okay. I thought he was going to talk about our progress, so I went to the house and surprisingly, everyone was there and one of them was holding a birthday cake. Then they sang happy birthday to me and asked me to deliver a few words. I just said whether anybody had seen my towel, because I lost it and I couldn’t have a shower without it haha but thank you guys after all! It was so fun!

On the first three days I stayed at the boys’ dorm with other 13 Cambodians but now I got my own room, which is pretty basic. So on the weekend I was busy adjusting with it. The only problem I have is the water. It’s a scarce thing here. So what are you up to guys? And Lulla, I heard you are coming to Thailand soon. I’m really excited and we certainly are going to have a hell of a party!

Batam week four, baby!

I got a new job as a volunteer teacher at a tuition centre, located about 25 minutes away by public bus. The children there are amazing but they’re pretty shy. It’s a bit tiring as well because I had to sweep and mop the floor of the two-story building at 7.00 in the morning and go back to the house at 19.00. At least I have something to do on Mondays instead of procrastinating and then regret.

Tuesday, I got to teach P6 Solidarity. They broke my watch. Nuff said. Moving on. Wednesday, I went to P6 Purity. I got to deal with two students fighting each other again, a girl and a boy. Just in case you guys were wondering, the girl won #postmoderngirls

Thursday in P6 Purity, I divided them into 5 different groups. Each group was given a bread covered in colourful fungi and they had to observe them under the microscope. There was this group who was just playing around with the bread and then broke it into pieces. It took me 2 weeks to grow the fungi and the bread actually belonged to some P6 Solidarity students so I got so pissed off. I asked them to replace it and they were suspended until the fungi grow. I felt really bad for them but I’m fed up with all the troubles every darn day. Then in the evening I got to meet an Irish friend who just came in town. She was lovely… and so friendly… typical Irish wan haha. She lost her money and bank cards in Australia and she couldn’t afford staying in a hostel. She didn’t even have money to buy food. I took her to my friend’s and she stayed there for a couple of days before she left. She really needed some money to get the ferry to Singapore, which is quite expensive. I wish I could help but I couldn’t, not with 24 euros in my pocket and I have to make the most of it. So I told her I could only buy her food for lunch and dinner, which means I needed to skip breakfast for a few days to buy some food for her. But it was really nice to have some conversations with her. We talked about Dublin and its hustle and bustle.

Friday, I taught P6 Solidarity again. And unsurprisingly, two students squabbled each other, but this time involving chemical powder and one of them got it right in his eyes. He fell over and cried because it’s got to be extremely painful and he might be BLIND. Oh .My. God. I took the guy who had got powdered to the loo with the help of another teacher and the other one to the faculty room and just let the other staff handle it. I just couldn’t.

Sunday I got a call all the way from Cambodia and I GOT TRANSFERRED TO THAILAND!

Well, some of you might already know that the founder of the organisation Madenjit Singh (we call him Big Teacher) was nominated as one of the top 50 finalists of the Global Teacher Prize. It’s like a Noble Prize for teachers and on the 8th of February, he was chosen as one of the top 10 and it’s such a big deal for us. In early January we opened a new centre in Thailand, where Big Teacher is currently based in and he wants me to help build the new centre. So, I’ll be in Thailand for 2 weeks and I might come to Cambodia, too!:)

When I was walking down the street on Friday because I missed the school bus, a stranger offered me a ride. It was kinda random, but really nice of him. Then I went to the laundry to get my clothes cleaned up, the woman told me I didn’t have to pay for it. I was confused, and a little bit shocked as well. But she didn’t tell me anything but ‘it’s okay’. It’s just a simple thing but in the right time, the right place and with the right person, it can be a HUGE DEAL. A simple act of kindness can make an endless ripple that comes back to you. I don’t mind skipping breakfast every day if it means feeding someone who hasn’t eaten for days. Because if I were the Irish woman and I really needed help but no one would help me. Suddenly a stranger came offering a hand, how would it make you feel? Pretty good, right? Here’s to the guy who gave me a ride so I didn’t have to sweat. Here’s to the laundry lady for her kindness. Here’s to the people who try their hardest to be good for everyone.

Anyway I’m headed off to Thailand in a few hours and I can’t wait to spend 2 weeks playing with the elephants! How are you guys? I’m pretty sure you have a much better story. Have a wonderful week ahead! Share the love.

Your Danny Boy whose pipes are calling.

Batam week three, baby!

It has rained all week so apparently everyone seems to get sick but I didn’t want it to stop me from being productive!

Tuesday I took P6 Solidarity to the science lab to do a little research about yeasts and fungi and THANKFULLY no students karate chopped each other. Wednesday I got to play the piano and sing at a nearby coffee shop. I did Piano Man as always!

Thursday I got to teach P6 Solidarity again, which means I had to deal with 24 monsters with rage issues and a special-needs student. It just makes living in a room full of rats and daddy long legs, and oftentimes with no water and electricity for 9 months in Cambodia seem way easier to do. Seriously. I thought a fancy bedroom with air-con, a nice toilet and 24-hour electricity were going to make things easier. I was all but wrong. Things are getting harder and tougher and I’m starting to question myself; how am I going to fix mentally ill people and teach them about how wonderful their lives are, when I’m also suffering from several mental illnesses?

I remind myself again. I will never go down without a fight. I am here for them. I will give all my best to serve and provide support for those who need it. Then I am doing this for myself. Some random guy on the Twitter wrote, “If you are not able to help yourself anymore, then you got to start helping others.” And it’s true. So, let’s do this!


Sunday I met with two Malays and we had lunch at this restaurant by the seaside. BATAM IS SO BEAUTIFUL! The city is surrounded by small and medium-sized islands and in Batam, the major 7 islands are connected by 6 beautiful bridges. Man, the colour of the water is just PERRFECTA! Then we got to visit a Vietnamese Refugee Camp, which is located in one of the small islands. There were a lot of monkeys! The island used to be where the Vietnamese escaped during the Vietnam War.

How are things going in your areas? Tons of love.

P.S. Thanks for the early birthday present from Ireland! I wore the shirt on Sunday with pride:)

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