Thursday, January 24, 2008

Three Big Answers by ESL’s Biggest Star





On Words

Three Big Answers by ESL’s Biggest Star

By ANDREW GREENE

Jakarta – For educator and thespian Jason O’Donnell, all the classroom truly is a stage. The American, a long-time Jakarta resident, graces our living room television screens and our children’s English classes. O’Donnell recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer three questions for OnWords.

OnWords: What productions have you been a part of in Indonesia?

I hosted more than 30 Turis Dadakan, Sudden Tourist, prime-time episodes. This has been my favorite shooting gig, since I got to travel all over Indonesia, stay in luxurious 5-star hotels, and explore this amazing country. All this while inviting a poor, hard-working Indonesian fellow to join me for the trip of a life-time. It was a reality-travel program. We stayed in presidential suites well out of most people's budgets, some upwards of eight million rupiah a night! It did, of course, spoil me immensely.

On the other hand, I enjoy fiction, though not Cinetron so much. I especially like acting in comedies. There's such a challenge in comedy, and it's just a lot of fun to do. I have been a guest star on a variety of shows like, Rumpi Talk Show, Selebriti, Kontes Dangdut Indonesia and Dangdut Mania.

I really have a passion for acting and have enjoyed the roles I have played on made-for-television films, Layar Komedi and various roles for Tawa Sutra.

In addition to the acting, I have been a contestant on Bule Gila, (Crazy Whitey), Indonesia’s Family Feud game show, and Super Deal 2 Milyar (billion). Non-fiction is easier; I just have to be myself when I'm a host or a contestant on a program.

OnWords: How did you get involved in teaching and what do you enjoy the most about it?

Teaching for me is very similar to being onstage, it's all in the performance and delivery. If you can teach and entertain at the same time, it makes it all the more enjoyable, and therefore memorable, for the students. I first started teaching in Taipei, Taiwan. I lived there a couple years attempting to learn Mandarin. Soon, I discovered that teaching English was a lot more rewarding than studying Chinese!

I love teaching young people. They're more likely to be as gila, crazy, as their bule gila teacher. I often like to do dramas and role plays in class, and the students are less reticent to just jump up in front of the class and do it. Business classes I find a little too dry so I try to avoid those. Teaching to my strengths is important to me.

I have been lucky to have an understanding director of studies, Justin Roberts at English Education Center, who has been very accommodating to my turbulent schedule. Last year was especially tough, I was shooting three or four episodes of Turis Dadakan each month and my classes were affected and cover teachers often had to be found at the last minute. Justin was a great help. Students, for the most part, didn't mind too much. I think they liked the fact that they could see their teacher on TV, if not in the class. I always told them it was homework to tune in and help ratings at the same time!

OnWords: Why did you first come to Indonesia and how do you like it?

I basically came as a language refugee from Taiwan. Indonesian proved far easier to learn. It should really be the international language, rather than English. But then we'd be out of a job.

I had come to Indonesia first as a tourist and found it intoxicatingly fascinating. And I've always been a fan of islands, and what better a country than Indonesia.

It’s a bit cliché, but honestly Jakarta is like a durian. It smells and tastes awful at first, but then you get used to it, and it pulls you in. It tugs you in such a way that escape is impossible. And there are a ton of negative adjectives that could be used to describe Jakarta, but boring would never be one of them!

OnWords: Thank you for your time O’Donnell. I look forward to catching you on the screen in the near future.

Until our next column,

Cheers,

AG

This article was originally published Nov. 26, 2007 in The Jakarta Post.

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