Welcome to Pangkal Pinang

20150824_165714Dear Readers,

First of all, the culmination of much work and anticipation has finally occurred: I made it to Pangkal Pinang! The flight from Jakarta was a brief 50 minutes (child’s play after the previous aerial journey) and I as well as my sitemate Caitlin was received warmly by teachers and students from my school, bearing welcome signs and garlands of flowers.

Secondly, the title of this blog post is a bit of a misnomer as I am actually currently in Bandung, a decent size city (with great weather!) in West Java. I have been trying and trying to get a post up, but we have a jam-packed schedule that leaves me exhausted at the end of the day.

But alas! Here I am. There is a lot to share and plenty that you probably want to know, so I will try to address some of the basic questions, post some pictures, and leave the rest for a later post. Ya? Ya.


Prior to getting on the first of many planes to take me to Indonesia, I hadn’t a clue what my living situation would be. I mused on it plenty, but whenever people asked about it I gave the same answer: I’ll find out when I get there. Well now I know! I live in a rather large house in a neighborhood called Bukit Tani in Pangkal Pinang. Tani means hills, which is an apt description of the area. Bukit has something to do with farming, but I assure you my placement is quite residential.

I share the house with a fellow ETA named Caitlin. We are quite the power team when it comes to getting out and meeting the neighbors, and it is infinitely nice to have someone around for laughter and moral support. At the end of each day we do some reflection by talking about our Challenges and Successes of the day. I learned this technique while volunteering in Nicaragua and find that it is a great way to approach reflecting on potentially challenging situations. Caitlin is also keeping a blog of this experience and you can check it out here.

Some pictures of my new crib:


The light you see is coming in from the front door. This is the receiving room for guests, complete with plenty of formal seating and refreshments to offer anyone who pays a visit. The first morning in Pangkal Pinang, my counterparts took us to be formally introduced to our neighbors which was excellent as that is the best thing to do to start getting to know the community. In Indonesian culture (as in most other cultures), guests don’t proceed into the private chambers unless invited.

And yes, that is a hula hoop. It is not very sturdy but is the best I can do…For now.


The front room leads into this room, which is pretty big but also pretty empty. The desk in the back is our shared teaching supplies. There is a TV with lots of channels, though I doubt I will watch more than the music videos and maybe sometimes NatGeo. Caitlin’s room is on the immediate left and mine is straight ahead in the picture below.


The living room from another angle. The receiving room is to the right, my room is straight ahead, and the kitchen is to the left.


Caitlin and I both brought a fair amount of teaching supplies, seen above. These were our pooled resources until…


…Sarah Parker, the previous ETA at my school, sent a box of other teaching goodies!!! Thanks Sarah!! I owe you an email and more than a few hugs. 🙂


This is my bedroom! I have a huge bed, AC, a nice desk, and peace and quiet in here since the window opens into the garage and not the noisy outside. Note the long pillow on my bed as this is very much an Indonesian thing that I already know I will miss.


From one closet of worldly possessions to another. This one is, ah, much less stocked. But at least I have the basics clothing-wise and a miniature but fully-stocked pharmacy. The purple thing hanging off the door is my first batik purchase! The quality is pretty low but I like the style.


From the living room, this is the view of the kitchen. Pretty spacious, eh? I can only imagine how old I will have to be to have a comparable house.


Another kitchen view. Note our brand new ironing board to the right, which is next to the door to the garage.


The house has 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. This is bedroom #3, with an attached bathroom. We don’t use it for anything, as you can see.


Even though there are three bathrooms, Caitlin and I both use the same one that is attached to the kitchen. This is it! It is pretty small, which means there is less to clean. And boy does it need cleaning…I have an entire post planned to be dedicated to the fine art of Indonesian housekeeping.

The big basin with the orange bucket on top of it is the water supply, meaning that I take “bucket baths.” There is no hot water, but this isn’t a problem since I now live on the equator and it is about a bajillion degrees, even at night. I take three showers a day and wouldn’t mind taking more.

Other features in the house:

  • There is a brand new washing machine, meaning that time spent toiling on laundry is severely reduced. Yeah! I’ll still have to handwash some things and iron anything that needs it (sharp personal appearance is paramount in Indonesia) but at least I don’t have to deal with hand washing everything.
  • We do not currently have Internet, though while in Bandung I will do my best to remedy this situation.
  • The house is about as secure as it gets. All of the windows have locks, we have a heavy-duty front gate, and the two front doors have a total of four locks. My bedroom also has a lock, as does my closet and a drawer inside my closet. If I choose, my passport can have no less than 6 locks protecting it from the outside world.


The neighborhood itself feels safe. Many of my fellow teachers live nearby, and I have been making a point to be friendly with as many neighbors as possible. My interactions thus far deserve yet another separate post, but for now suffice it to say that I am extrememly happy with my placement.


The name of my school is SMA Negeri 3 Pangkal Pinang, though it is locally known as SMA 3 (es{S} em{M} ah{A} tigga{3}). There are about 700 students, with eight different sections of 10th graders. I’ll be teaching all eight sections with my co-teacher, Ibu Isnaini. I will also be working with the English club on Friday afternoons.

The school day starts at 07:00 and ends at 14:30. Classes are 45 minutes long, and students stay in the same classroom all day while the teachers move around. Pak Alex, a fellow English teacher, suggested that this might change in the next semester but that remains to be seen. Personally, I would prefer to be able to stay in the same room so that we could personalize it and make it a fun, friendly, English zone.


Pangkal Pinang is a decent sized town. It is the capital city of Bangka-Belitung province, which means that it has all the comforts and amenities that I need to be, well, comfortable. The worries about Indonesia not having what I need appear to be unfounded, though some products (like tampons…bring your own or go without, ladies) remain elusive. PP does not have a mall or a movie theater or any major attractions really, but it seems like a good place to live for this year simply because it is so modest. Most people have never seen a foreigner, or if they have they have never had one on their porch trying to talk with them before.

One thing is that the town is very, very hot, which is pretty much to be expected. I sweat through clothes in five minutes or less, but I have accepted the fact that this will be a sweaty year. The heat is compounded by the fact that I have to cover up from ankle to collarbone to wrist when I go out. This is to show modesty and respect for the local social mores as well as reduce any harassment that baring extra skin might invite. The outfit below is even a little scandalous for showing so much decolletage:


50 Shades of Beige


Fulbright. What else can I say? The folks at AMINEF (American Indonesian Exchange Foundation) who administer the grant are beyond fabulous. Orientation is busy, but necessarily so. Everything is running smoothly, I am thrilled with my site, and I am so happy that this adventure is finally underway!!

6 thoughts on “Welcome to Pangkal Pinang

  1. Thanks for the update Kelly. You accommodations look fantastic. What an exciting year this will be for you. Love, Mom


  2. Off to a splendid start. You are already getting comfortable with the people. That is great to see. The house looks like a very nice place. Enjoy yourself and sharing as much time with the local people as you can!
    Love dad


  3. Hi Kelly, your new digs look very nice. Plenty of space and clean as well. The year will fly by I’m sure. Do you have a big hat to keep the sun off your face and shoulder? Is that even appropriate? Love the post, you had Ezell laughing with the “neighbors porch” and fifty shades of biege. Besides tampons, is there anything else you might like us to send for Christmas? Keep up the fine work, we love you.
    Uncle Daves


  4. Hi, Kelly! I’m at The Daves’, having dinner. Miss you and love your posts! Looking forward or hearing more! Thinking of you! Try to stay cool! And let me know what you want sent to you!!! Love you!!!


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