I may as well blog about my time in Korea now seeing as I’m sitting at the Jakarta airport at 2:15am, having been here for more than 3 hours already. I’m sitting here while Paul sleeps on a bench seat, waiting for our 6am flight to Singapore. We both need to do a visa run. I can’t exit and re-enter the country on my visa, so here we go again. Fun times…
In case you missed the info, I’ve been in Daejeon, Korea (about 2 hours from Seoul) for the last week at an international Christian teachers’ conference. There were 16 of us from the school that went.
I’ve really enjoyed visiting a new country and getting a break from my less than easy life in Indonesia. I’ve really enjoyed different weather, different food, some great speakers and getting to know some of my colleagues better. This first photo is from the day we spent in Seoul. I really liked Seoul! Lots to do, great night markets, wonderful Korean food, and great theatre. We saw a show at night called “Nanta”, which is quite similar to “Stomp” but set in a commercial kitchen. It’s been all over the world and has won stacks of awards. It’s well worth seeing if you ever get the chance!
Here are a couple of photos from the palace we went to in Seoul on Monday. It’s an ancient palace right in the heart of Seoul. It was really cool to see the old and new side by side. I didn’t know a lot about Korean history, but 50 years ago it was pretty much burnt to the ground and has all been rebuilt since then. Quite an amazing feat for 50 years! It’s a very advanced country in lots of ways, and has the world’s best internet. We’ve all been going a little crazy with the downloading! Given the internet speeds we’re used to, this was incredible!
I spent some time on Tuesday going to some cultural things in Daejeon. After some morning shopping and a delicious French lunch, a few of us went to a science museum and saw a brilliant exhibition on the brain (I WISH I could take my Psych kids to it!!!). We also went to a really interesting art gallery and wandered around Daejeon a little, particularly the expo bridge. It was so nice to be able to go out and have things to do, particularly cultural things! Such a nice change! This photo is out the front of the science museum we went to.
We headed out to dinner most nights, having a combination of Korean food (yummy, although difficult to order given our complete lack of Korean language) and western food (a lovely change). I ate practically no rice the entire week! Whoo! I had a delicious Korean dumpling soup the first night. Mmmm… Here’s a photo.
The rest of the time was mainly spent at the conference. It was a pretty relentless schedule without much breathing room. 12 and 13 hour days. There were some great things, but there were also some pretty average things (like at any conference I guess). Dr John Dickson from Australia was one of the keynote speakers. I was so excited that he was there! I’m always a huge fan of his, and thankfully all my colleagues loved him too (I’d talked him up a fair bit…). I got some good practical help from some of the workshops, and I got some philosophical things to think through. A worthwhile experience.
It was surprising to me the lack of English that Koreans spoke. I didn’t expect most people to be fluent or anything, but I did expect that a lot of people (particularly those working in large stores) would have at least some English. I assume it’s taught in schools here. It was really great to have a couple of Koreans hanging out with us for the first couple of days, otherwise I think we would have struggled a lot! The first night a random Korean guy (who mercifully spoke English) had to help us order dinner because we couldn’t talk to the waitress! Very confusing and funny for everyone :)
It’s been a great experience seeing a new place and culture, and having a mental break from the daily slog of Indonesia. I get back on Wednesday morning (after an overnight flight) and there are only 3 weeks left of school until the semester is all over! The year is getting away from me. It’s been such a huge year of change, challenges and rewards. Now it’s 3am and all I want to do it get some sleep… I can’t WAIT to finally get to a proper bed in Singapore, even if it will be late morning by the time I arrive.
I have every confidence that this blog is rather disjointed and probably sounds like I’m half asleep, which I am. Traveling is exhausting! Also, the lack of sleep I’ve had over the last week is largely self inflicted so I don’t expect any pity :)
I couldn’t resist the Clash song for my title. If you don’t know it, you’re clearly very young and you should use Google to educate yourself as to how cool with Clash are :) It’ll become clear later what the title means, although I’m sure you’re not a moron and you can guess.
I’ve been having a great time lately. Mostly. I’ve been a bit sick and that’s never fun. I had a violent stomach bug, then a cold that’s been going on for a couple of weeks, but I guess that’s the nature of living in a place like this. Stomach bugs are all too common.
First, let me tell you a little of what’s been happening lately.
Saturday night was the ‘fall’ (it’s the southern hemisphere Americans…) concert. It was Disney themed and the most fun! I loved every second of it! The rehearsals, the performances (2 of them), everything! Sometimes I want to give up everything and just be a musician. I’m sure that’s not a surprise to anyone who knows me! I played the trumpet in a jazz group where we did a song from ‘The Jungle Book’, and I also sang ‘Mother Knows Best’ from ‘Tangled’ with one of my year 12s as Rapunzel. Sooooo much fun! It really was incredible fun. I miss performing.
Here is a photo of Chloe & I on stage. So much fun!
Now to the crux of what the title means. I’m considering staying here one more year. And I mean considering. I have by no means made any sort of choice. I change my mind every second day and I don’t know how to make a final decision. I’m due to leave in June and that’ll make 18 months since I first arrived. School here goes mid year to mid year, so I’ll be finishing out this current school year, but I’m considering staying one more school year and returning to Australia in June 2016 instead of June 2015.
I love my job and I adore my kids. I really do want to keep my job and stay at the school. I love what I do.
Life here is hard. Life is complicated and difficult. Nothing works, we have constant black outs, you often can’t buy food that you want, the water isn’t drinkable, the weather is so hot and humid all the time, it’s terribly noisy (people, the airport, the military base next door), it’s often unsafe (especially for a woman), there is rubbish everywhere, the environment isn’t cared for, there’s nothing to do, etc etc. There are so many other things I could mention…
I know it sounds like I’m complaining, but it’s true. There are good things about living here, but there are plenty of bad things about living here. I honestly don’t like living in Indo. It’s not a nice place to live, despite the beautiful beaches. The only reason I would consider staying is the people. I seriously adore my job and I’d desperately miss my kids if I left.
I don’t want to leave them, but I also don’t want to live here. How on earth do I make that choice?
I miss Australia and I miss convenience. That might sounds selfish, but anyone who has lived in a developing nation will know what I mean. Holidaying is not the same thing either. You can’t really understand what it’s like unless you’ve done it long term.
I also don’t want to leave a job I adore to get a job that I don’t love. That’s the nature of teaching though I suppose. You never know how you’ll like your next job until you get it.
So, all of this is to say that I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to make a choice. I don’t want to stay and I don’t want to leave. I have great reasons for both decisions.
But then again… sometimes I think I’ll just run away to London and hide there for a while. I do love London…
I recently read an incredible book by Annabel Crabb, one of my personal heroes. She is a journalist and tv presenter who hosta one of my very favourite shows, ‘Kitchen Cabinet‘ (a political cooking show; it sounds odd, but it’s brilliant). She is intelligent, classy, sassy, funny, interesting and many more things. Ok, I’ll stop gushing now and talk about the book.
(As a side note, Annabel Crabb & Leigh Sales started their own podcast this week and IT IS THE BEST THING EVER!!! Here is the link.)
‘The Wife Drought‘ is a fascinating look at Australian life and how relationships tend to function in society. The issue that the book centres around is that most married men have a ‘wife’ (and most men are married statistically speaking) and women don’t. ‘Wife’ in this context is a partner who either doesn’t work, or works part time so they can take care of unpaid work that goes on in any household. Having a ‘wife’ enables a man to continue their career despite circumstance. They can have children and have it make almost no impact on their working life. This is rarely the case for women. Women tend not to have ‘wives’, that is a partner who reduces their working hours to take care of the unpaid work of a home, and this effects their ability to remain in or advance in the workforce.
“It turns out that in Australian work-places, 76 percent of full-time working dads have a ‘wife’. Three out of four. But among the mothers who work full-time, the rate of wife-having is much, much lower: only 14 per cent.”
Not only do women not usually have partners who work less than full time, but statistically speaking they almost always do more of the domestic work, even when their partner works equal or less hours than them outside the home. This statistic concerns me greatly. There are numbers on this in the book.
This arrangement can work well for those who choose it, but what of those women who want to remain in the workforce and not exit it to raise children and run a home? How do we accommodate those women?
One of the central points of the book is that workplaces are generally excellent at helping women work more flexibly, but are terrible at doing this for men. Mothers are seen as primary caregivers, so they are given flexibility to help them accommodate both family and work. Men are not seen as primary caregivers, so they are not afforded the same flexibility. We need to look at how families function for both of the sexes and help everyone work in a more flexible way.
Look at politicians as an example. Men have multiple children whilst being sitting members of parliament and no one bats an eyelid. This is because they have a ‘wife’ who takes care of the child raising and domestic work. This is rarely the case for women. Usually full time working women also have full time working partners. So, when a woman is a politician and a mother they get pounded with questions about how they do it and how they can ‘have it all’. One of the interesting things about the Labor leadership debate in 2013 was when Bill Shorten was potentially up against Tanya Plibersek. It was thought by some that she might be a bad choice because she has 3 young children, so she couldn’t commit herself to the leadership position. Bill Shorten also has young children almost exactly the same age and no one even mentioned that. As a society, we have extremely different expectations of the roles mothers and fathers ought to play.
“…’caregiving’ fathers were subjected to more mistreatment at work than traditional fathers, and in some workplaces more than twice as much mistreatment as ‘caregiving’ mothers. Of the women studied, in fact, those without children were hassled more than mothers. In fact, patterns of mistreatment – the researches found – was much more to do with how closely workers conformed to traditional expectations of them, much more than it was to do with gender. The least mistreated people tended to be men who had children but did not take anything beyond customary responsibility for them, and women who had children and did. Those in line for a tougher time were women without children, who were thought cold or indifferent, and men looking after their children, who were thought soft.”
There is also some pretty funny stuff in it too. Some of the book looks at what was going on in society in the past and how that affected our needs in the workplace and how we spend our time outside of it. This next part was looking at the industrial revolution.
“It triggered, in time, an extra ordinary burst of economic growth that established a sizeable middle class, enjoying not only reliable wages, but the fruits of the labour-saving devices they were employed to make. The car. The refrigerator. The washing machine. The tumble dryer. (Such is the irony of the human condition, of course, that in 2014 some of the richest beneficiaries of these labour-saving devices use their spare time to make cheese, spin wool, or grow their own vegetables. A magazine devoted to artisanal hobby coal-mining cannot be far away.)”
I won’t dissect the whole book because Annabel says everything way more articulately than I ever could (and with more jokes), but do give it a a read. It’s brilliant!
And as a bonus, here is a brilliant interview of Annabel Crabb by Leigh Sales about the book.
My blog entries seem to be few and far between these days. One of these reasons is that I don’t want to repeat myself and I’m not sure how much new information I have to share, another reason is not one I can share publicly, hence the not sharing. Email me if you’re confused about what I mean.
Life here is still plodding along. It’s a fair mixture of good and bad. Good in that I love the people I’m surrounded by and I truly love what I do. Bad in that I’m surrounded by poverty and social problems. Everything here is broken, and when it gets fixed it doesn’t remain fixed for long (the roads are a great example of this).
People here live in very basic housing. My house is fantastic by Indonesian standards, but if I looked at a place like mine in Australia there is no way I’d live there! I have very different standards here! Everything is relative. I’m including photos of pretty standard Indonesian housing so you can get a bit of a feel for how people live. It’s so hard to show you what it’s like here using only photos. If anyone wants to come and visit and see it for themselves they’d be more than welcome :)
Shopping is always an ordeal. Fresh produce here can be iffy at the best of times. It’s usually really good at the local market, but at the shops it can be pretty dodgy. There are bugs and flies and all sort of things crawling on them and you have to wash everything thoroughly to make sure you don’t get sick. Eating raw veggies can be problematic. Also, you can’t find half the things you want. I’ve had to learn a completely new set of recipes because I can’t buy most of the things I want. I can no longer get zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, coriander, chives and many, many other things. It makes me sad. I also used to eat some seafood, but not here. I don’t trust it. I’m getting very sick of Indonesian food because there isn’t a huge variety.
One thing I haven’t shared is that I’m going to Korea in a few weeks! There is an international teacher’s conference that 10 of us are going to. I can’t wait! It’ll be nice to be in a western country for a while. I’m looking forward to things that work, public transport and different food! I’ve never been to Korea, so I’m heaps excited about going! It’ll also be a nice mental health break to be somewhere where life is easy. Easy is not a description I would use for life in Papua.
Things are still going well here, but there are always challenges to living in a developing nation.
I read an unbelievably depressing article yesterday. I’m sure some of you saw it, but in case you didn’t, basically a significant proportion of the Australian population believe that there is an excuse for domestic violence and/or rape in certain cases, usually where there is stress or alcohol involved. There is so much victim blaming I don’t even know how to express my outrage! Some of these stats may seem small, but if 19% of the population believe that it’s excusable to rape, no wonder we have so many sex crimes. 19% is a huge number of people! To think that we can so easily excuse such appalling behaviour disgusts me. The fact that we even need to have this conversation still says a lot for our need for feminism! At the end of the article it also talks about the gender pay gap (and attitudes towards it) too, which is very interesting! Here is the article, complete with graphics of surveys.
The article is from the SBS website here.
Drunk women to blame for rape according to 1 in 5 Australians, survey finds
One in five Australians believe a woman is partly responsible for rape if she’s drunk, while more than one in five believe that domestic violence can be excused if people get so angry they lose control.
However, the national survey of 17,500 people found that the majority of Australians believed that domestic violence was a criminal offence and could not be excused if the offender was stressed or drunk.
Results of the survey conducted by VicHealth showed that on the whole, Australians’ understanding and attitudes remained stable between 2009 and 2013.
However, there was a deterioration of attitudes in numerous areas of violence towards women, including decreases in the number of people who believed that stalking, fiscal control and forced sex were forms of violence within a relationship.
Less than one in 10 Australians believed that a woman could be raped by someone she is in a sexual relationship with, while 12 per cent believed that domestic violence could be excused if the violent person was abused as a child.
VicHealth chief officer Jerril Rechter said partner violence contributed to eight per cent to the total mental illness burden among Victorian women aged 15 to 44 years.
“VicHealth’s emphasis has always been on primary prevention: stopping this violence from occurring in the first place,” she said.
Senator Larissa Waters labelled the survey results as “shameful”.
In a statement, the Greens Senator – whose party initiated the ongoing inquiry into domestic violence – said the results must be acted on.
“It’s shocking and revolting that one in five people beleive that if a woman is drunk or drug affected that she is partially responsible if she is raped,” she said.
“It’s simple – nobody deserves in any way to be raped or attacked. The blame lies with the attackers and the rapists.”
‘Nobody deserves to be raped or attacked. The blame lies with the attackers and the rapists’
Senator Waters also urged the Abbott Government to increase funding for prevention services.
Chair of the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children Natasha Stott Despoja said violence against women had serious impacts on children and the economy.
“This survey tells us that we have been able to challenge a culture that allows violence against women to occur,” Ms Stott Despoja said.
“We know that further change is possible. But the findings are also a stark reminder that vigilance will be required to maintain the momentum of change seeded in the efforts of the women’s movement in the 1970s and kept alive by governments and the community in the decades since.”
The survey also gauged attitudes to gender equality, gender roles and relationships, as “people with weak support for gender equality tend to be more likely to hold violence-supportive attitudes”.
It found that one in four people believed that men made better political leaders and that one in 10 believe that men have more rights to work than women – both an increase on 2009 results.
The survey did find that most Australians acknowledge that women still experienced inequality in the workplace, at 87 per cent.
Life back in Indonesia is actually going well! I am genuinely surprised to say that I’m enjoying it here. The first half of the year I was unable to truthfully say that. That doesn’t mean that it was all awful and I hated every second of it, but it does mean that it was hard, and I would have rather been back in Australia on any given day. It takes time to find your place in a new school and a new society. I had to find friends, and not just people who were nice to talk to, but I had to develop some real friendships. I had to get to know my students. When I started they were all strangers. I love teaching because of the relationships you form, and that takes time. I love seeing them grow and learn, but they need to feel comfortable to open up to you before any of that can happen. I feel like this semester I’ve hit the ground running.
(The top photo is of the main street in Sentani)
This is my house (top floor, right half) and my bike. If I was in Australia I’d say it was a pretty rubbish house. By those standards it is incredibly basic, and things seem to go wrong regularly like constant ants, losing my hot water for 3 or 4 months, getting geckos caught in my toaster, regular blackouts, rotting flywire etc… However, by Indonesian standards, my house is fantastic. I live quite well compared to the average person here. And I have a motorbike. It’s great to be mobile and have my own way to get around.
I just got back from a 3 day beach camping trip with the whole high school (years 9 – 12). What a great experience! It was such an amazing time of getting to know the students heaps better as well as some other staff. Lazing around on the beach, swimming, talking, playing music & singing, napping, reading… what a great few days! However, amongst the good there was some terribleness scattered.
This is our ‘shower’. Not my favourite. As least it was fresh water. Also, no toilets. Booooooooo! Makeshift jungle pit toilets are not my favourite. I thought I had a terrible night’s sleep on the first night; I was super uncomfortable and hardly slept. But… on the second night it POURED with rain! I had decided to sleep in my hammock instead because I’d has such a bad sleep the night before, so I transferred all my stuff to my hammock and strung up a tarp in case it rained. However… the rain was so torrential that my tarp lasted a good 2 minutes and my stuff was sitting in a decent pool of water. The hammock couldn’t drain away fast enough for the incoming rain. Ew. So, I lost all my bedding. It rained from about 10:30pm til 1am, so a bit after 1am I finally decided to try and get some sleep, the kids had all managed to get to some sort of bed by then, even though a number of them had been rained out too so they were sleeping on the sand. I tried to sleep on the sand with just my mozzie net over me, but within the first 10 minutes I had 3 rather decent sized crabs crawl on me, so I gave that up! I decided just to go and sleep in my wet hammock instead. At least nothing would be crawling on me there. It was cold and unpleasant, and I hardly slept, but it was at least somewhere to lie down.
I must say I was pretty happy to be back in my own bed on Saturday night! I slept a good 12 hours! Oh yeah! Below is a photo of our transport to and from the beach. You can’t get there by car, so we took a 20 minute boat trip out there after driving to the coast.
I’ve had a great transition back into Indonesia and I’m actually happy to be here now. It’s taken a while, but it’s finally happened. I think being back in Australia was an excellent mental health break for me. Getting away from all the everyday difficulties for a while really helped me to feel ok again. Plus with so many people away for the school break (and no job) I think I would have gone a little stir crazy if I’d stayed here!
This next photo is my brilliant beach trip group!
I absolutely adore how these kids care for each other. There is such a genuine regard for others that makes my heart sing. I love not only hanging out with them, but watching them hang out with each other. They are so kind and generous towards each other. They are more concerned with others than they are with them selves and that is a true mark of maturity and love. Everyone is welcome and there don’t seem to be the kind of social boundaries that normally exist in schools. For high schoolers, this is remarkable. I have seen this before in students, at my last school I was truly blessed to have some kids like this, but there aren’t SOME kids like this, they’re ALL like this! It’s hard to believe at times. I truly adore and admire these kids. God is at work in and through them and it is obvious to us all.
All in all, things are pretty good now, and I am so grateful. I am grateful to God for caring for me, and for the wonderful people both here and back in Australia who look out for me.
Well I’m definitely back in Indonesia. Nothing works. That may sound a bit melodramatic, but it’s pretty much true.
I absolutely loved my time back in Australia. It was so relaxing, fun and easy.
That last word, easy; that is the number one descriptor for my time in Oz.
I could get around to wherever I wanted to go, the roads are excellent, there is good public transport, I was free to go anywhere I wanted to go without fear for my safety, I could buy anything I wanted at a shop, anything that needed fixing could get fixed. Here, things are not as simple. Mundane tasks can become a big deal when a lack of convenience stops you doing seemingly simple things.
When I arrived at the Jakarta airport from Singapore (which is AMAZING by the way, the airport that is) I didn’t know where to go and there were no signs telling me, just a hundred people trying to get me to use their taxi. I ended up having to ask a security guard how to get to my connecting flight. Public toilets in Indonesia are also something you don’t really want to know about, let alone use… But at the airport you don’t have much of a choice. Ew.
My Indonesia SIM card was fine to use now that I was back, so I put that in and had forgot how slow the internet is here. I got used to Australia and Singapore speeds again pretty quickly. I bought a drink at a shop and no one bothered to serve me for ages, I had to go and ask someone if I could pay for my drink. The announcements in the airport are done in Indonesian, then again in English, except for some reason most of them weren’t being translated, so I just had to hope that I wasn’t missing anything important. My Indonesian isn’t very good and I could only understand snippets of what was being said.
When I arrived in Sentani there was a baggage delay. Of course there was. I stood there for ages, in the heat, after an overnight flight (it was almost 8am by this point) just wanting to sleep.
I got home to ants in my house (a normal occurrence even if you don’t go away), something I had really enjoyed not dealing with for a few weeks. It’s also pretty normal to find them crawling on you. I hate that. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t a super hot day. Sure the humidity was 86%, but it was only 27 and there was a breeze. It got hotter in the afternoon, but it was pretty good again at night, so I slept well. I went to make a loaf of bread ready for breakfast the next day (I make my own bread here because bread in Indo is awful!) but I couldn’t get to any of my measuring cups because my drawers had swollen and wouldn’t open because of the weather. I got most of my drawers open after a while, but the one with all my kitchen utensils and measuring cups still won’t open (I’ll try and get that sorted today). I just had to guess the measurements for my bread. It turned out ok, but not great. [Addition: it turns out it wasn’t the weather swelling my drawers. I have termites. Great] Also my kitchen tap is now leaking from the base. I guess that’s why so many ants were hanging around it. Usually they hang out in my shower for the water.
Given that I had no food in my house I went out for lunch with some friends. You would think that if you order lunch, you’d get lunch, but we’d all finished eating and Rachel’s food still hadn’t come. She ordered a sandwich, so it shouldn’t have taken long. She ended up getting it to take away because her kids needed to go home to sleep.
My phone works in my lounge room, but not my bedroom. Apparently my wall is too much of an obstacle for decent reception. It also doesn’t work properly at school. Yes, I live on the school campus, but at the opposite end to the school buildings. Speaking of phones, smartphones are notorious for having terrible battery life, but when your phone has to constantly struggle for signal it dies even faster. Usually I fully charge my phone overnight, then again after school.
I have no hot water in my apartment. Granted, this is not the norm for the people I know here, but my hot water system has been broken for months. Although cold showers aren’t as awful as they sound. It’s hot anyway, and the water gets heated up in the pipes because of the weather, so it’s cool, but not cold. It’s still a bit of a shock when I first turn the shower on though!
I went to a friend’s place last night and when I got back to my house a gecko dropped on my head as I was trying to get into my front door! Let’s just say it would have been funny to anyone who was watching…
I’m going food shopping today and that’ll be interesting, as always. The supermarket has terrible fresh produce, so I usually go somewhere else for that (the local market is the best place), but the supermarket has more non-perishable foods. If you have a shopping list you usually need to go to 2 or 3 different places to get everything, sometimes a lot more. I usually give up after 2.
The point of all these stories is that everything is just that little bit harder here, normal activities take a lot more time than they should. It can be mentally tiring, but it’s also just time consuming.
Having said all this, there are of course some lovely things about living here. I love my job and I’ve made some great friends and met lots of wonderful people. And, as you’ve seen, there are some very beautiful places. It’s not all doom and gloom.
I’ve tried to strike a balance on this blog between talking about the good things, and the hard, daily realities. I am not persecuted, but life isn’t easy, especially for a single woman. Sometimes it’s good to share the hard and annoying things too. It’s not all beaches and sunsets.
I am certainly back in Indonesia!
[Addition: I wrote this yesterday, but the internet hasn’t been working in my house until just now.]