Tag Archives: students

Favorite Memories from Bajo

Not in any particular order:)

Riding on the motorbike with Ainul: This one has a little back story.  We were all out in Belopa hanging out at one of Faisal’s friends place (Misba) and among other things we got into a conversation about the Muslim religion.  I learned about ‘haram’ (forbidden) and ‘halal’ (allowed) and about proper ways to interact with other Muslim men and women.  On our way back to Bajo, I rode with one of the students, Ainul (Arabic for ‘eye of God’ essentially) and he continued to educate me about the religion during our 15 minute drive back.  He told me that the Muslim religion teaches to love your family, your neighbors and yourself.  To treat others with respect and kindness.  To give what you can and be grateful for what you have.  Then he asked (which still brings tears to my eyes thinking of it) whether I had heard of the recent bombings in France (November 2015).  I replied yes, I had.  To which he said ‘those people are not Muslims.  Our true religion teaches love, not hate.  Those people doing those bad things are not true Muslims.’  Through my welled-up eyes I simply replied “I know.”.  People so often judge others and their religions based on the evil behavior of a few who claim to be of the same religion.  But at the real heart of every religion lies the same undeniable truth: Love one another and be good to one another.  We are each here just trying to live our lives in the best way possible for ourselves, our families and friends.  It’s a shame those with evil intentions and evil in their hearts try to ruin it.

Spicy food:  Ok, so I love, LOVE spicy food!!!  I thought up to this point in my travels that I’d already encountered the spiciest food available in Asia, but I was wrong!!  Indonesia (at least South Sulawesi) has THE spiciest food I’d ever tasted!!  Even something simple like nasi goreng (fried rice) was so unbelievably hot that I was in heaven!!  Truth be told however I couldn’t always finish all my food because of the heat of the meal and the heat of the day!  Indonesia blew both Thailand and Malaysia out of the water in the category of spicy foods!

Cooking with Faisal: Watching this young man teach english was a marvel enough, but amazingly he’s also a talented chef!  I enjoyed joining him in the kitchen several nights a week to watch him whip up  delicious traditional Indonesian dishes full of intense flavors and of course spice!

Meeting his friends: Misba, Ucok, Mita, Iswan, Andre, Aput, Ainul, Lily, Diarah… the list of his beautiful friends could go on forever!

Helping to make Kapurung with Mama and at Iswan’s house with his family.

Amazing Hospitality: Everywhere you went, the hospitality was unbelievable.  Such beautiful people and so giving in every way


Treated like a celebrity: Seriously if you’ve ever wanted to know what it must be like to be a celebrity,  GO TO Bajo!!!  People literally stop and stare, ask for photos and want to get close to you!  They are all of course very respectful and will ask for pictures etc, but once you give the ‘go ahead’ they will come in close and one picture turns into about 70, lol!!  ‘Lagi, lagi’ (again, again) was the common word heard during picture time.  Even just walking down the street to the store I would be stopped by people driving by for a picture with them.  Seriously an ego boost!  Though truthfully there were lots of times when the honor wore off!  I would still always acquiesce to pictures with the people, but after that experience certainly would never want to be a real celebrity!!

Hiking the mountain: The name of it escapes me but it was one of the tallest in our area.  Iswan had a family home at the top of the mountains and after a 2 hour hike, we enjoyed a beautifully relaxing, quiet and calm afternoon chilling at their home.  We practiced our shooting skills with a pellet gun (only shooting targets, no animals!!!) and ate fresh food cooked up by the boys literally plucked from the earth.  So beautiful!

Going to Iswan and Ucok’s home: Such amazing families and homes!!  They were simple yet so gorgeous!  Animals roamed around as we sat on the floor eating home cooked traditional foods and talked.  We tried some palm wine (normally haram, but was only served to myself and the two other volunteers so it was all good!).  We met the most amazing man, Iswan’s grandfather who was apparently over 100 years old, yet looked as if he was maybe 60!  He loved meeting tourists and though he didn’t speak a word of English, his smile and constant laugh said it all.  You couldn’t help but smile and laugh with him non-stop any time you were in his presence!!

Mama: Faisal’s mother was just too cute!  She didn’t speak any English yet was still able to communicate in her own way.  She was warm, welcoming and always a bright spirit to be around!  I loved going to the markets with her or just hanging out with her on the front porch.

Learning Bahasa: I started to carry a little notebook with me so I could write down any new words of Bahasa to refer back to when needed.  I would always write the word phonetically so I could pronounce it correctly and was often corrected in my spelling, lol!!

Salma: One of Faisal’s cousin is an amazing!  She invited me to her beautiful home and served me kapurung (a traditional soup made with sagu, vegetables and meat) then took me to her sister’s house for a tour of their land.  I actually learned the majority of Bahasa words from her.  She couldn’t really construct sentences, but she knew a lot of individual words so as I watched her prepare lunch she would point to items and say their equivalent in Bahasa.  One of my favorite afternoons!

Dressed in local wedding attire: What an amazing experience this was!!  Another cousin of Faisal, brother of Salma was a make-up artist and he turned myself and the two other volunteers into brides complete with the full traditional hair, make-up and gowns!  We were then whisked off to Belopa to several locations to have professional pictures taken by 3 individuals (Aput-the real pro and Andre were 2 of them).  Talk about feeling like a star again!  We even went to the home and met one of the Queen’s of South Sulawesi (one of 8!) and were allowed to take pictures inside her home:)

Karaoke: As part of a going-away gift, Faisal, Ucok and Iswan treated myself and another volunteer from Spain to a night of karaoke!  Sooooooo much FUN!!!!!  We had our own booth and jammed away until our time was cut off, lol!!  Loved it!

The students: Attentive, respectful, full of life, cheery, smart, inquisitive, beautiful students!!  From the 6 year olds up to the 18 year olds, what a wonderful group of kids to have been given the pleasure of teaching!

Visit to recycle center: My first task upon arriving at the request of Faisal was to help set up a recycling center at his home.  Traditionally all trash is burned (not good for the air!) but luckily a recycle center was located in Belopa.  So we visited the center and arranged for us to be able to bring in our recycling.  I set up a little center near the school and we educated then encouraged the kids to bring in their plastics, paper and metals to us so we could collect them and take them to the main center.  Faisal would even get some money from the recycling, which could in turn be put back into helping fund his school!  Visit Faisal’s Environmental Page!

Leaving Bajo: This one was definitely a bitter-sweet memory.  I didn’t want to leave, yet at the same time was ready to.  I received one of the most beautiful send-offs however.  They loaded me with parting gifts and hugs.  I tried my best not to get emotional and cry, but that was just impossible.  I was a big ball of sopping wet tears by the time I got on the bus.  I still carry each of their gifts with me and smile whenever I see or wear them.  My eyes are welling up again…

Building and blessing the volunteer house: I really can’t take credit for this bit as I didn’t actually help build any part of it, lol!!  I kept hanging around and asking if they needed help, but the boys and Faisal’s father had everything under control.  They built a beautiful 2 room home for volunteers just behind the school-house.  I did help with some of the painting however and with a little poem written on the inside of each room, but that was the extent of my contribution, lol!  Once complete, we had a gathering in one of the rooms with food and the entire family and friends and had a little prayer to bless the new space.

Spiderman/Justin Bieber: One of Faisal’s nephews, a feisty character of a young man was often at the house as many other young family members were.  We’d often play games of hide-and-seek or watch them rollerblade around, and the reason he got the nickname ‘Spiderman’ was because you would literally have to look up the walls or to the ceiling to find where he was hiding!  Quite the talented climber that one was.  And he’d constantly sneak up on you from the most random of directions while we were painting or writing on the walls of the volunteer house.  Can’t recall why he also got the nickname ‘Justin Bieber’, but using either of those two nicknames and everyone knew who we were referring to, lol!!

The guitar and songs: Hanging out with Faisal, whether at his home or Misba’s place, one of my favorite times was watching him and listening to him play his guitar.  Self-taught and brilliant!  I could listen to him play for hours while either humming along or simply sitting quietly.

Children, children and more children: Aside from the school children we were accompanied daily by younger family members and in general anywhere around town or other people’s homes would be swarmed by them.  Too cute!!

Invited to an ‘Aquika’: Not at all as you should spell that word I’m sure, but essentially an aquika is a series of blessings given to newborn babies.  Family and friends gathered together to eat and watch the blessings and celebrate the new life.  The first blessing was to ensure good fertility, the second was to ward off bad spirits in her life and the third to grant her good health throughout her life.  Absolutely amazing to be a part of!

Learning the Bajo way of cracking eggs.  Basically use one egg to crack the other!  To crack the last egg they use the table top of course.  I crack my eggs the Bajo way now:).

Going to Faisal’s sisters house to watch her make (and us subsequently eat) donuts and muffins for her bakery business.

On to Learning Bahasa

Back to Indonesia

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Muay Thai Kickboxing Training

Part of the reason I wanted to stay for a month on the beautiful island of Koh Tao, Thailand was so I could dip my toes a bit in the world of Muay Thai Kickboxing.  Though I’m not in perfect shape, I do really enjoy working out and try to get workouts in daily, even when traveling.  As any fitness fanatic knows however, the best way to stay on top of your fitness is to mix up your workouts.  Since I’m in Thailand, I figured why not give their traditional martial art of Muay Thai a try?

I did not originally come to Koh Tao expecting to stay so long.  I had the idea that I would “if and only if” I found a Muay Thai gym I liked.  On the island there are actually two gyms that offer Muay Thai training.  Monsoon Gym and Island Muay Thai.  I checked both places out, dropping by during their training hours just to get a vibe of each place prior to committing to either (if at all).  Dropping by during training hours was purposeful because I wanted to get the sense of two things: first a sneak peek at the training and how the trainers interacted with students (my trainers test) and second to see how I would be greeted during a busy time (my management test).

Blocking a Kick
Blocking a Kick

On the surface, my observations were as follows.  While Monsoon Gym doesn’t have a ring, it has a very impressive workout and training space.  The practice area looks brand new and their gym (to get in weight or extra cardio workouts) is also quite nice!  In addition, they offered a variety of classes such as capoeira and crossfit type classes that you could mix in with the Muay Thai training.  They even offered on-site dorms as accommodation (for an extra price of course) to those training with them.  It was evident that a lot of money was put into the place.

Kicking Away
Kicking Away

By comparison the Island Muay Thai training facility did have a ring but their training area looked rather used and broken in, so to speak.  Their gym area to get in extra weight or cardio workouts really wasn’t anything to write home about as it had outdated machines and not a huge variety of weights.  Whether the gym had a ring or not was not a concern or care to me as I had no intention to fight, only to train for fitness.  So on the surface Monsoon gym had me hands down (especially since they offered more of a variety of fitness classes).  However one huge difference between the two gyms led me to make my ultimate decision.

Gonna Get Ya!
Gonna Get Ya!

They say first impressions are the most important.  And as far as I’m concerned, they can make or break a person or business.  Monsoon Gym, while impressive visually, fell flat on its face when I popped by to check the place out.  It had the feel of where the cool kids and cliques hung out.  I stood around for about 10 minutes waiting to get the eye of someone (anyone) who worked there to ask questions about the courses.  Of course there were posters everywhere giving pricing information and such, and while I technically got all the info I needed just by looking at the posters, my point in going in personally was to get the feel of the place and people.  And based on that aspect, I was not impressed.  I finally struck a conversation with a random person hanging about who had been training there and talked to him about the place.  He was actually very nice and informative and had nothing but praise for the place.  But when he pointed me in the direction of one of the people who worked there (a falang whose exact role I can’t recall) and I went to chat with her, the welcoming was icy and indifferent.  I should mention however that based on my observations of the trainers themselves, I had no negative impression as they seemed very engaged with the students.

Bruised Up_2

On the contrast was my impression of Island Muay Thai.  Again I showed up during training hours and was immediately greeted by someone (who turned out was the owner) with a flyer listing prices and giving information.  And again, while visually the place was lack-luster compared to Monsoon, it felt more serious and more focused.  It had that wholesome “come as you are and let us kick your rear with a killer workout” feel that inspires me to work hard.  Also the vibe felt comforting and made me feel confident to simply show up as I was (even with several extra pounds to lose!) and not feel embarrassed that I wasn’t in perfect shape.  And to boot I was actually acknowledged as I came up to the place!  To me, the vibes between the gyms were night and day and I very happily (after finding a place to stay) signed up with Island Muay Thai for a month.

Bruised Up
Bruised Up

For the past month now, I’ve been going to Island Muay Thai about 4 times a week.  Between working out there and going there for the fight nights (every 10 days!!) it’s practically become a second home to me, lol!  I arrive a little before 8am to get in about 5-10 minutes of stretching, then hit the jump ropes for anywhere between 5-10 minutes, then it’s time to get the hands wrapped and the gloves on for training.  Depending on the trainer, the sessions can go in a variety of directions:  3 minutes on, 1 minute break or up to 10 minutes on and several minute breaks.  Either way the end result is always the same: I leave exhausted, super sweaty and ready for a cold shower!!  What I appreciate most is each trainer has their own focus, or specific set of things that they watch out for, or area of expertise.  What that boils down to is that I learn something new each and every time.  And each criticism from the various trainers compliment each other too.  So learning one specific stance or technique from one trainer compliments what you’ve been taught by another and so on.

Ugly Feet!
Ugly Feet!

I’ve injured myself a bit here and there (blisters, bruises, and feeling like my feet were broken) along the way due to my being exhausted and using improper technique, but I love the training!  They push me to work harder each time and the training is unlike else I’ve done so far.  I sweat buckets during each workout and sometimes feel like I could either pass out (because I’m holding my breath during the punches or kicks) or vomit by the end, but I still show up and am even staying for yet another month so I can train on 🙂  This time it will be 5 days a week just to see how much more fit I can get with it. Let the games begin!!

On to Unique View of Muay Thai Training

Back to Thailand