Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Grabe & Stoller Come to Town!

I have encountered the names Grabe & Stoller several times in my TESOL career. I think I first became aware of them was when a friend and I were doing a mammoth assessment project on reading and writing ability in grad school. I just checked our references – their names appear no fewer than six times. Then last year I saw them present at the TESOL conference in Denver. Their presentation on “Debunking Myths about L2 Reading Instruction” was dynamic, interactive and made a lasting impression. Needless to say, I was thrilled when my supervisor from the U.S. Embassy informed me that Grabe & Stoller would be coming to Gorontalo as English Language Specialists to present two 90-minute workshops on reading and vocabulary at UNG. It was hard to imagine two such big names in the TESOL field coming to my remote little outpost in Indonesia, but they were here, it’s true! Here’s a picture of us to prove it:

As we shared meals, car rides and even a bentor sightseeing trip around town, Grabe & Stoller became Bill and Fredricka. What an amazing opportunity to get to know two such big movers and shakers in the field on a very personal level. We chatted about what it’s like to live and teach in Gorontalo and they asked for my opinion about how the workshops went and what I thought the participants got out of them. Interestingly, Fredricka told me how she and Bill found the reading text she used in her workshop here years ago when they were preparing another TESOL presentation. The text just so happened to be about biodiversity in Sulawesi! She never dreamed that she would actually come here, let alone use the text as a basis for a vocabulary workshop here.

Fredricka was especially interested in taking a bentor ride around town. Bill decided he was too tall for one, so he stayed back at the hotel while Fredricka and I went exploring. I’d like to mention here that I now have the next best thing to a personal chauffeur – an English speaking bentor driver who I can text to pick me up anywhere. Ahmad has made my life here much easier since I met him last week. A friend of Tia’s, he attends a hospitality professional school in the mornings and is free to drive me around town in the afternoons and evenings. So, he was the man I texted when Fredricka announced her interest in seeing the town with this special type of transportation. We only had half an hour to spare, but we managed to visit the oldest mosque in town, go down an arcaded shopping street and most importantly, Fredricka got a taste of what it’s like to ride in this type of public transportation that sort of feels like riding in an awkward Epcot center amusement park ride. Here’s a picture of Fredricka, Ahmad and I at the end of our little tour around town:

Bill and Fredricka’s short stay in Gorontalo ended with a group dinner at a new seafood restaurant right on the ocean. We arrived too late to catch the sunset, which I image must be magnificent from this spot, but we did see a fantastic lightening show in the distance. Over non-alcoholic mango, soursop, jackfruit and avocado cocktails, we talked about the events of the past two days with my supervisor from the Embassy, his assistant, my counterpart, the head of the English department at UNG and another lecturer in the department. Getting to know Bill and Fredricka on such a personal level is a great perk of being an ELF!


  1. You sound like the ideal host! And what a surprise to have such big names in Gorontalo.

    My thoughts now are far from ESL. I arrived in Italy on Saturday and just made it to Venice today. It's my 2nd time in the country: the first being exactly 10 years ago. No bentors here, but it's got charm all the same.

  2. Haha you were such a groupie, Julianne (without the ridiculous screaming). So happy you got to meet the head honchos :)