Keep Calm and Quirion

Lake Toba; manual mode

How to get to TukTuk Island (Samosir) like a pro

Hey friends!

I’m here to share the easiest way to get to Samosir Island so you all can enjoy the beauty of what I get to enjoy this year. To know more information on Samosir and the culture behind it, please visit my Batak Culture blog post (soon).

You are probably landing at Silangit airport and there are usually transportation methods to take you to Parapat, where the ferry take off is which will get you to Samosir Island. If there are no busses that are able to take you, there is always the public transportation method. You will find a KBT bus and let them know you are going to Parapat for about 15-20,000 Rupiah or 1.10-1.50 USD–super cheap. BUT, definitely stop by Balige and check out all the amazing views this little town has to offer!

SO Step 1: Land, take transportation by bus provided from the airport and if there is no transportation, take the KBT bus

Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 4.15.59 PMOnce you are in Balige, you will do the same exact thing, except you will be going to Parapat from Balige. For the same price; 15-20,000 Rupiah or 1.10-1.50 USD, you will be taking a KBT van to Parapat. KBT Vans ALL look the same. There is usually someone you can ask on the street and they will always help you flag one down. If you’re a foreigner, you will stick out like a sore thumb and people are always willing to help.


Step 2: Hop in the KBT van and tell the driver you are going to Parapat 

The KBT van will drop you off near Tiga Raja and make sure you tell them that! My first time, they just kept driving and then they made me pay more because it required them to drive more. I didn’t argue so I just gave 5000Rupiah which is literally under a 0.50USD. Just tell them Tiga Raja and they will understand. They will either drop you off within walking distance OR you will hop aboard another form of public transportation to get to where the ferry stop is.

Step 3: When you tell the KBT driver you are going to Parapat don’t forget to mention TIGA RAJA!

Once you get to Tiga Raja, you will come to a short walk through the market. You will see the ferry stop right ahead and again, many people will be there to ask where you are Screen Shot 2017-11-01 at 4.43.27 PMgoing. Just tell them Tuk Tuk Island! They will guide you to which ferry to take and there you can just plop a seat down and enjoy the 30 minute ride. Some ferry rides have seats inside and on the top deck. Definitely find a seat on the top deck and enjoy the cool views.


Step 4: Once you get to Tiga Raja, walk to the ferry stop and tell them you are going to Tuk Tuk Island

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Ferry Times take off every half hour/hour. It’s Indonesia so it’s usually whatever time they say it is. For the most part, it is every half hour to get to TukTuk. Make sure you get to Tiga Raja BEFORE 5:30, otherwise you’ll be waiting until the next day.


Step 5: Choose from the list of hotels (below) and tell driver which hotel you are going to and they will drop you off right there!

Once you arrive to TukTuk island, there are many hotels you can stay in. Some of the best hotels are Samosir Cottages, Samosir Villas, and my absolute favorite; Tabo Cottages.    For about 400,000-600,000Rupiah or, 29-45 USD per night, you can get a really nice room with a great view of Lake Toba. Samosir Villas is the only hotel that I know of with air conditioning, but you really don’t need it since you’re getting the cool night breeze of Lake Toba. But, everyone’s different and if you need AC, Samosir Villas is your place!

Ah, now, Tabo Cottages. If you want a quiet secluded hotel away from the hustle and bustle of TukTuk island, this is your place. If you want to wake up and have a peaceful walk to the lake; Tabo Cottages is the place to go. If you’re in need of an American or Western breakfast with toast and waffles, this is definitely the place you will enjoy. Breakfast is included and it’s not just mie goreng or nasi goreng (fried noddles/fried rice) AND there is even peanut butter! Yes 


Happy November

November; my favorite month. Not only is it my birthday month, it is also National Novel Writing Month. Writing has always been something that is enjoyable, soothing, and therapeutic for me. Throughout my school years, I have been able to whip up writing pieces that were quick, witty, and always right to the point. I was also able to BS a research paper that was due that very day with ease. Give me a quiet room, some old school rap, and I’m off in my own writing world. In high school, creative writing was my most memorable class. I will always remember my teacher that for that class because she told us that creative writing could be anything we wanted it to be. As long as you had words on paper and it came from within, then it was creative because it was yours. Although I often times skipped that class to be with my then boyfriend and smoke cigarettes behind the bushes in the school parking lot, (I wasn’t the best student), I have vivid memories of her writing pieces she shared with us. Much of her writing was about her beloved cats and she often ended her stories in tears because she loved them so much. Her writing was emotional, sentimental, and right from the heart. I loved listening to her stories, but I hated sharing mine. I always felt like they were stupid, pointless and not creative. I lacked confidence in my writing anytime it had to be creative because I was afraid about what others might think. When it was factual, such as a book report or essay, I had no doubt in my mind it was going to earn me a high grade, which it did. This makes me reflect back to when I was a child in elementary school and created some of the best writing pieces that I still hold close to my heart. Fairytales, stories about my stuffed animals coming to life, owls being my best friend, and finding a bear in the woods that turned into my pet, were all stories that I have such fond memories of writing about. It makes me wonder what changed in my writing style? Why did I become afraid of sharing my creative writing to the world? Even when it came to journaling, i have piled of notebooks and drawing pads of all my creative pieces from when I was a kid. Why did I stop? In honor of National Novel Writing Month, it’s time to put those fears aside and continue my creative writing. Stay tuned!

Lessons learned by 28: Authenticity 

It’s okay to be different. It means you are unique, special and authentic. I think that one of the most important things to teach students is to teach them authenticity and what it means. Being here now for almost three months, I have built some great relationships with my high school students. They are smart, talented and and have so much potential. Today, I went a little off the traditional curriculum, which those are my favorite lessons. This week students are learning descriptive text and learning how to describe famous tourist attractions from their hometowns. I asked them to describe places that are authentic to their culture and why they would want a tourist to visit this place. Their answers were really great so I decided to take it further by posing this question:

We made a mind map of synonyms that relate to the word “authentic” and for ESL students, I was really happy to see these answers. While they were writing, I couldn’t help but think of how important it is for students to learn how to be themselves and that it’s okay to be different. It is really making me reflect on how I was taught as a child and how different teaching is today. It also made me think of how happy I am that I made the choice to move out here and I guess, “be different” and move away from the traditional lifestyle I was living. I’ve always felt deep down that settling down and having a Monday through Friday job and also working weekends to pay more bills was not the life I wanted. I wanted to branch out and do something different. Sure, almost everyone my age is either engaged, married, has children, etc., but I don’t and it’s because there’s more out there at the moment for me to see. If I stay cooped up in the same M-F job, only working to pay bills with the occasional vacation here and there, how will I stand apart from the majority of the almost 30 something year olds? These are questions that I often times lost sleep over when I was living at home and the same questions that I thought about when asking my students what makes them authentic today.

Well, that’s me on my soapbox and lesson #2. Be different, be authentic, and do what’s right for you.

28 Lessons Learned by 28: C’est La Vie

Number One: C’est La Vie

I have found myself to be saying this much more recently. In these last few months here in Indonesia, there are many things that have been out of my control and well, c’est la vie. You might remember this song from one hit wonder group, B*Witched in the late 90’s (depending on how old you are). A cute, little catchy pop song by a girl band, who disappeared after this one song. I wonder where they are now? Anyways, this little phrase has much more meaning to it for me.

Side note: I have 15 tattoos and this is one of them. Every tattoo I have definitely does not 024have some symbolic meaning attached to it and most of them were spur of the moment, “hey I want a tattoo of this today” from my dear friend and tattoo artist. I have a compilation of flowers, birds, quotes and some religious tattoos that represent my Catholic religion, which I hardly go to church, but I thought they were cool to have. Although few have meaning, (probably three were tattooed because of meaning behind it), as the years go on, I find the meaning for them.


Back to C’est La Vie. In essence, this little French phrase, which I only got because of my French-Canadian roots, translates to, “It’s Life.” In other words, when things happen that don’t go your way, well that’s just the way it is. It is what it is. Deal with it, move forward and move on.

For pretty much my entire life, when things have not gone my way, I have cursed up and down, lost my cool, and probably lost some hair. No really. I never dealt with the things life throws at me in a positive way. It wasn’t until I wrecked my car in 2016 because of a random school bus who cut me off, causing the car in front of me to slam on their breaks (in the rain), and it just so happened that because I was behind them, I was at fault. Well, I had two choices; 1) freak out, start crying and call my dad, as I did with any other car trouble I had or 2) Breath, get out of the car, make sure everyone was okay and to just keep breathing. It took me about a full minute to compose myself and get out of my car and do option #2. I thanked God (about the only time my religiously symbolic tattoos have meaning) and figured it out on my own. Got my rental car, took care of the insurance BS and four days later, I decided to splurge on my dream car that I’ve wanted for 10 years. It just so happened that because my totaled car was not paid off (I’m pretty sure that I was lied to about this..C’EST LA VIE), I still owed money to the dealership! It also turns out that because I didn’t take down the bus number and the bus drove away, it was not the school districts problem! C’EST LA VIE!! Because honestly, the things that were going through my mind after my airbags deployed was to take down a school bus number.

Well again, C’EST LA VIE! I had a few options here. Either stay pissed off at the world, blame my problems on the universe being a jerk to me, or the classic, “why is this Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 5.44.34 PMhappening to me???” Instead, I simply shrugged my shoulders, called a dealership in Saco, Maine and asked them if they had a 2017 White Jeep Grand Cherokee available. They did. I drove down, signed the paperwork, put down a hefty down payment (because why save all your hard earned money.. YOLO)  and the keys were in my hand.

I love that vehicle because that in fact is a symbol of my hard work, my “adulting”, and my very first C’EST LA VIE eye opener. Sure, it’s a thing, and things don’t mean much. Experience is more and I know that. Right now, I am experiencing many c’est la vie moments here in Indonesia and you know, I love every single one of them. The fact that I’m still paying for a leased jeep in America that I am not driving could make one very angry and feel stuck, but to me, it is what it is! C’EST LA VIE!

Why I Ran

This weekend, I successfully completed my first running event. I have never run a marathon, half marathon, 10K or even a simple 5K, but I did manage to sign up for a half-marathon in 2013, one in 2015 and another one in 2016. All these times, I paid the registration fees, bought new pairs of expensive running shoes, and told myself that I was going to run everyday to reach my goal of completing 13.1 miles. Did I ever make it to any of those three races? NOPE. I quit training after three days because running was too hard and I told myself that I just wasn’t a runner and maybe I’ll try in a few months. 
The usual “next time” or “maybe tomorrow” has been an excuse that I have used one too many times and I know it all too well. “I’ll run three miles tomorrow” or “I’ll start training next week, I still have 6 weeks left” yah amyQ..good one, we all know you’re fooling yourself here. This time I made sure to have a goal in mind and that was to push myself to run every morning before school no matter what. I did just that. I had an end goal in mind that I kept to myself and that was to run a full 25 kilometers. 

Now that I am reflecting back, notice the key phrase there “I had an end goal in mind that I kept to myself.” I’ve learned one too many times that if I open my big mouth, it’s not getting done. 

Well, race day came and to be honest, the first 8 miles really wasn’t that bad. Sure there were difficulties along the way like the massive hills, the foot cramps, and the fact that I wore a sweater in Indonesian weather, but I pushed myself and I didn’t quit. Of course the awesome cheerleaders I had along the way made it that much better as did the crowds of people standing at the water stops, but what really kept me going was the fact that I needed to finish this because I had worked so hard to achieve this goal. The only person I would be letting down if I quit this far was myself. ​​

​when I was at this point of my race, I stupidly realized that 25kilometers in fact was not a half marathon in accordance to what I thought it was. 25K is actually 15.53 miles. The video above is at mile 12, where I was SURE I only had one mile left to run. Well, surprise surprise, I still had 3 1/2!! At this point my left foot felt like it was going to fall off, I was starving and I felt like I was taking a bath in my own sweat. The fact that I still had 3 1/2 miles left, made me want to cry, but keep going. That is exactly what I did. I blasted Sia’s “the greatest” and “unstoppable” on repeat and kept going until the finish line, which was by far, one of the best feelings I have ever felt.this is just an example, among others, that you can truly do anything you put your mind to. I ran because for too long I have made goals that I haven’t achieved out of fear, doubt, and excuses. Fear at the thought of what others may think, doubt at the thought of not being able to accomplish it, and excuses to cover up my fears and doubts. This state of mind gets you absolutely no where in life and only brings feelings of negativity. Instead, set a goal, work your butt off and keep your mouth shut about it. You’ll see the miracles that start to happen!

The last 17 Days

Ahh, finally have some time to sit down, reflect and think back! These last couple of weeks have been very busy with visa and immigration processing, countless adventures and of course, teaching! Here are some pictures to sum up what I’ve been up to here in Indonesia! From amazing waterfalls to carnivals to exotic fruits to culture and teaching!

My way of adjusting to life out here through pictures


Inspiration vs. Motivation

I woke up at 2:00am this morning and was wide awake. Why? Maybe because I’ve been going to bed 8pm for the past few nights and for the last several years I have survived on 5-6 hours of sleep. Maybe it was also because of the Mefloquin I’ve been taking to prevent malaria, which gives me terrible nightmares. But hey, I’d rather have nightmares than malaria. Anyways, I started thinking because that is what I do when I wake up in the middle of the night and I try to connect the dots of my life. One thought leads to another, which leads to another and the next one and eventually I am fast asleep. Usually these thoughts are about words and what words really mean. Yes, I have picked up quite the passion for etymology; aka the derivation and origin of words. If you don’t know about this, it is actually really interesting to read into and think about. Yes, I am a language nerd. This time, I began thinking about what the word motivation means and why people are so “hung up” on the act of being motivating. Whether it’s being motivated by an extrinsic force, motivating another human, or listening to (I can’t even say this with a straight face) a “motivational” speaker and miraculously having their lives changed by this so called “speaker.” Lord have mercy. When did this craze even begin? When I say motivational speaker, I’m talking about the motivational speakers that people pay hundreds, even thousands of dollars to go see for a workshop or seminar just to be told that their life sucks and that it needs to change. Don’t get me wrong, I have had amazing conversations with people; REAL conversations that have definitely INSPIRED me to make a change, and all were free and came right from within. But paying to listen to a speaker? What is wrong with the picture here? An hour later, I was still hung up on this thought and found an article on this exact topic because apparently, there are other people who think the same way I do about this.

If you don’t have time to read it, here’s a little summary: Basically, motivation is a force acting on a person to initiate behavior. The word is derived from the Latin term motivus; a moving cause. Moving is an external stimulus, therefore motivation is from the outside. Hm, so this made me think, what is the opposite of motivation? Words, words, words. Think, think, think. Ahhah! Outside vs. inside. Bam: INSPIRATION.

“Inspiration is from within. It is not external. It’s not characterized by euphoria. Instead, it is a constant nudge that can drive you all day without a lick of lactic acid”

Screen Shot 2017-08-31 at 6.00.34 PMInspiration even has the word in right in it. So what those so called “motivational speakers” are doing for you is providing you with an external stimulus to make a move, or to say it better, an illusion. If you are forced to make a move and it is nothing powered by something from within, you will lose that feeling of motivation and go right back to the same cycle you were originally in. Find that passion, what makes you happy and what makes you smile; regardless of what others think. Otherwise, you will be in the hamster wheel of life, wondering why nothing is changing. So when you post that “motivationmonday” hashtag on instagram, think about it, is it truly from within, or is it just an illusion?

A look at the 2013 Curriculum

Awesome article. This helped me to differentiate between the 2013 curriculum vs. the curriculum that is being used now.

Children seem to be everywhere one looks in Indonesia. The central importance of family within Indonesian culture means that people have a lot of children and those children must be educated. It is a key duty of the Indonesian government to provide a sound education system. In fact, it is constitutionally mandated that education account for twenty percent of the country’s national budget.

Students take a break from studying with their new English textbooks to pose for a picture. (Elizabeth Kennedy/ Indonesiaful) Students take a break from studying with their new English textbooks to pose for a picture. (Elizabeth Kennedy/ Indonesiaful)

Since 1947, the Indonesian government has created and implemented no less than ten different national curricula. The latest curriculum reboot came earlier this year with Indonesia’s new 2013 Curriculum. Although the last curriculum change occurred as recently as 2006, many felt another curricular iteration was necessary to address what some Indonesians see as a rising flood of immorality and intolerance among Indonesia’s youth. Indeed, the Deputy Minister of…

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