It’s my last day in Singapore. I can’t tell whether I’m happy to be leaving or not. This is the first time I’ve travelled internationally alone and I haven’t enjoyed it. I’ll try to avoid it in the future if I can. However, there have been some great things about being in a developed country again; good public transport, easy access to shops, English, comforts, etc. I went to Ikea on Tuesday, which was amazing! I limited myself and only bought what I needed. Also, the limiting was mostly due to the fact that it all had to fit in my suitcase! I came here with hardly anything in my suitcase so I could fill it up with things I needed (and also a few things that other people asked me to get for them).
I’m so glad I moved hotels after that first night (not that the first place was a hotel as such). The one in Chinatown is in a fantastic location, right in the middle of things, so I’ve had easy access to food and public transport. It’s been nice to be able to go downstairs and immediately be surrounded by markets and restaurants. Although that does mean it’s not the quietest hotel in the world, but I’ve had no problem sleeping. The photo below is from the window of my third floor room. There is only one floor actually, the floor below is a restaurant.
I’ve managed to get my visa. Phew! I picked it up yesterday afternoon. I’ll still have to leave the country again at the end of the semester to (hopefully) get my proper work visa. This visa still doesn’t allow me to work. Very frustrating. I had to go to the embassy 3 times in 3 days, but it’s all sorted now.
Sadly I didn’t get to do a lot of touristy things, but frankly I wasn’t really in the mood. I’ve wandered around some shops and taken it easy, which I’m happy with. Running around to visit touristy things wouldn’t have been enjoyable for me in my present head space anyway.
I take a flight back to Indonesia tonight and arrive at 8:40am back in Sentani. And guess what day that is? March 7th. My birthday. I’m going to be so awake and happy…
I’m struggling in Indonesia at the moment. I’ve been here for 2 months now, and I know that’s about the time that culture shock starts to set in. It’s setting in. Blerg.
Well I’ve had just about the worst 2 days I’ve had in a very long time.
If you’re not one for whinging, perhaps skip this post.
I left Sentani at 8am yesterday. 12.5 hours and 4 flights later I was in Singapore. I am a very anxious flyer and I get travel sick, so by the time I arrived I was not in the best of moods. I had the world’s worst headache and I was sweaty and tired. I was grumpy. All I wanted to do was go to my accommodation, have a shower and go to bed. This did not go so well. My taxi driver took me the wrong way and it took a while to get there. I finally arrived at The Salvation Army Praisehaven guest house and wanted to cry. It was nothing like I expected. I had a room down in the basement level that was the smallest, crappiest thing I have ever seen. I’m not exaggerating. I can’t describe how small and awful it was without sounding like I’m lying. There was the world’s smallest bathroom attached, but no soap or towel. I sat on the single bed feeling tired and miserable and discovered the bed was rock hard, which made me cry. I like a firm mattress, but this was literally like a rock. There were ants in my room and some in/on the bed. I woke up with a sore back and neck and I hardly slept. Also, the curtains did absolutely nothing to keep any light out. The website was less than useless in describing the place, so I felt incredibly misled. Also, they charged me $50 for the night. Unbelievable.
I couldn’t handle a second longer there, so I left this morning. I looked up last minute cheap accommodation and moved myself to a small hotel in Chinatown. The hotel is on the 3rd floor of a restaurant and it’s not bad. The room is tiny, but it’s nice. I’m much, much happier here, and there is lots of delicious food and markets outside my front door. Oh, and the taxi who took me here (because I didn’t know where it was and couldn’t look it up to catch a bus) didn’t know where he was going and I had to direct him using a map. So frustrating.
I’ve skipped a bit in the middle of my day about the Indonesian Embassy; one of the most unhelpful places I’ve come across. The customer service was appalling and I felt like I wasn’t really sure what to do most of the time.
I decided to go straight there from checking out of the Salvo place (before going to my new hotel) so that I didn’t miss applying for my new visa, which you can only apply for in the mornings (if you don’t know what I’m talking about in terms of my visa, you missed my email update earlier tonight). My tourist visa has run out, and my work visa hasn’t been approved, so I’m here in Singapore getting a 6 month permit to be in the country, but it still means I can’t work.
I had spent almost all the Singapore money I had on taxis and accommodation, and for some ludicrous reason, the embassy would only take cash to pay for my new visa, so they sent me off to get some money. There was no ATM in sight so I had to catch a bus and go find one. By the time I got back they had closed for lunch. Apparently they close each day for 2.5 hours and reopen again at 3pm. I finally got in to pay, and now I have to go back in 2 days to pick up my visa. If it’s not approved I think I might cry. This whole experience has been ridiculous.
I got back to my new hotel at 4pm and finally had a shower. It felt amazing! I then wandered around Chinatown, looked at the markets and had some yum cha. This evening has been much nicer and I’m finally feeling like I don’t want to curl up in the foetal position and cry. I pretty much did that last night.
I meant to do some exploring today, but I never got the time. Tomorrow is Ikea!
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was an incredible man. If you don’t know the details of his life I highly recommend reading a biography, then reading his books (particularly ‘The Cost of Discipleship). The short version is that he was a pastor in the German Lutheran church during the second world war. After the church was driven underground he joined a plot to assassinate Hitler. Obviously the plot failed. He was captured by the Gestapo & imprisoned in 1943, then executed by the Nazis 23 days before the end of WWII.
His words are challenging. Especially in the context he wrote them.
“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”
“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
“Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”
― The Cost of Discipleship
“In normal life we hardly realize how much more we receive than we give, and life cannot be rich without such gratitude. It is so easy to overestimate the importance of our own achievements compared with what we owe to the help of others.”
―Letters and Papers from Prison
“We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”
“Do not try to make the Bible relevant. Its relevance is axiomatic. Do not defend God’s word, but testify to it. Trust to the Word. It is a ship loaded to the very limits of its capacity.”
“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”
“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.”
“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists of listening to them. Just as love of God begins with listening to his word, so the beginning of love for our brothers and sisters is learning to listen to them.” —Life Together
“A God who let us prove his existence would be an idol”
“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes. Battles are won, not with weapons, but with God. They are won when the way leads to the cross.”
“God does not love some ideal person, but rather human beings just as we are, not some ideal world, but rather the real world.”
— Meditations on the Cross
Abbott has announced that the Australia Network is going to be scrapped. Think the Australian version of the BBC world service. This is a huge deal! It’s where I get all my Australian news shows and other Australian programming.
This is a much bigger deal than me wanting to watch Aussie shows.
What citizens in Indonesia, China, or the Pacific think of Australia can seriously affect our interests. Getting rid of our foreign service is a crucial diplomatic mistake.
Tony Abbott’s indication that he will scrap the Australia Network means surrendering yet another instrument of Australia’s rapidly depleting public diplomacy toolkit.
Public diplomacy is essential for a middle power like Australia. It enables us to influence international public opinion in a way that supports our national interest. In today’s world, with growing democratisation, revolutions, and mass protests from the Middle East to the Ukraine and Southeast Asia, it is clear that citizens want to have more say over government policies. This includes policies toward other countries. What citizens in Indonesia, China, or the Pacific think of Australia can seriously affect our foreign interests.
Public diplomacy is key to tapping into this growing power base. It is in recognition of this that over the past two decades, government funded international broadcasting has expanded rapidly around the world. For example, in 2008, the BBC World Service expanded from radio into television with Arabic and Persian services, and Germany’s Deutsche Welle has expanded into Asia, Latin America, the US, and the Middle East.
Public diplomacy is particularly important to Australia as it enables us to use our immense potential in terms of “soft power”. The term soft power was coined by Harvard professor Joseph Nye to describe the ability of a country to obtain its objectives through attraction, rather than through security or economic means. As a middle power, this is critical for Australia. We must appeal to other countries in ways beyond their security and economic interests – we must attract them.
This is something that Australia can and does do well. Our values are attractive to others, particularly within our region. Ideals of generosity, equality and a fair go are appealing to our Asian neighbours. These values were manifested in foreign policy initiatives like the Cambodia peace plan and efforts to end apartheid in South Africa. Our stable democracy, free speech and respect for human rights appeal to many, including young populations in our region.
If we do not get our story out, it allows more negative images of Australia take root, as they are by nature, more sensational. Unfortunately this is what occurred in India a few years back after several despicable assaults on Indian students in Australia, leading to a drop in international students and a loss of revenue for our education providers.
Public diplomacy does not mean pro-government propaganda. Rather, having a BBC-like, impartial approach to the government of the day gives Australia more credibility in foreign eyes. While governments come and go, our democratic institutions like freedom of the media remain.
Among international audiences, public diplomacy can help develop an almost subconscious affinity and familiarity with Australia, something that runs far deeper than an individual’s opinion of our government’s policies. From quality news, to drama, comedy, and children’s programming, the Australia Network strengthens our security by cultivating an affinity with Australia and shapes the attitudes of the millions of TV viewers within our region.
The money currently spent on the Australia Network pales in comparison to the tangible economic and security benefits public diplomacy can yield. The importance of investing in public diplomacy was highlighted in 2007 by then US defence secretary, Robert Gates. Gates called for a “dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security — diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance … and economic reconstruction and development”. Two of Gates’ instruments can be described as public diplomacy tools. Unfortunately for Australia, both of these have been targeted for cuts by the current government; the Australian aid budget has been slashed by $4.5bn and AusAID has been damaged.
Development assistance projects Australian values through solid, immutable action. During my visit to the Pacific, I was impressed by how much AusAID’s work and its brand had done for Australia’s image. The goodwill Australia’s aid investment generates improves long-term security and stability in the region.
What Gates described as “strategic communications”, in our case the Australia Network, looks likely to be next for the axe. While the Australia Network and other official initiatives are of course not our sole mechanisms for public diplomacy, they play an important role in projecting Australia’s complex national image. Instead of gutting our tools of public diplomacy, we should be expanding them into areas such as social media, where we already lag behind countries like India.
Nye argues that in the information age, the focus is increasingly on whose story wins. Australia has a great story. It deserves to be told. For the benefit of all Australians, we must continue to tell it.
A few people have asked me when I’m going to blog again, so here it is! A new blog post! Ta da!
Now to actually write one. Here we go!
The military are practicing (shooting) again today so I’ll be staying indoors for a while! It’s a good thing Prince Caspian is on TV.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the beach. Sadly I haven’t been back yet, but I definitely will! So beautiful! It’s just the hour long ride on the world’s worst roads to get there that deters me… talk about giving you a headache! This is a picture of the main road in Sentani. The road itself is quite good (it’s just all the side roads that are terrible), but as you can see there are massive deep drains that are uncovered. At least there are some coverings here, some places don’t have coverings at all. You’ve got to watch your step!
If you’d like to see some more of my photos/videos on Instagram you can find me there under the name ‘Ludicrousity’, or go online here: http://instagram.com/ludicrousity I update this all the time.
The structure of the town is a long, skinny one. I can’t remember if I’ve said this before, and I can’t be bothered checking! The town doesn’t really stop to the west, it just eventually turns into other towns along the road somewhere, to the east it gets rural after about 10 minutes and believe it or not the roads get even worse. That was the way to the beach I went to. I live on the school complex on the edge of town (about a 1 minute drive off the main road, that’s how skinny the town is) to the north.
This is the sunset from the front of my house. Nature is truly stunning here (not that it isn’t in other places). As you can see I have a big open grassy area opposite my house. My apartment is the last one before the complex ends and everyone keeps telling me I have the best views. I don’t disagree!
It’s still hot here (well, the humidity is the real issue) all the time. I’m acclimatising a bit, but I’m still not there yet. I’m not sure how long it’ll take. I usually have 2-3 showers a day. One in the morning and one at night, and sometimes one when I get home from school. Occasionally I have 4! Although in my defence most people here have 2-3 showers a day. Speaking of being sweaty I joined a social volleyball team. We play on Tuesday mornings. It’s lots of fun, but I have NEVER sweated this much in my life! Seriously, by the time we’re done it looks like we’ve been swimming. We haven’t been swimming. Gross. You sweat just standing outside here, imagine playing sport. Ew. Speaking of swimming I’ve started going to the local (not as clean as I’d like) swimming pool once or twice a week to swim laps with some others from school. That’s been nice.
Here is a panorama of the view from the front of my place at dusk. The school is to the right, down the hill to the left is the town.
I’ve started playing piano and singing in a band at church some weeks. That’s been great. I always need a musical outlet! I’m having to learn a lot of new music because they play hardly any songs I know! A lot of it is American stuff I don’t know.
We have chapel services at school on Friday mornings and one of the cool things is that it’s student lead. At my last school it was technically student lead, but they just read what was pre-prepared for them and followed a formula. Here the students decide what to say and lead worship. I love it! The band is made up of different students each week and there are all sorts of nationalities, although American is the most common passport country. One of the cool things about this is that we get songs in different languages. Yesterday we sang in Korean and a couple of weeks ago we sang in a Papuan village dialect. It’s so cool to hear how people express themselves in their heart languages! An international school has a wealth of diversity!
The photo on the left is part of the elementary (prep – 5) school. We have pondoks (that little open hut thing you can see on the left) everywhere for students to sit under so they can either get away from the sun or the bucketing rain. When it rains here it really rains!!!
I’ve eaten from roadside food carts a couple of times and I’ve had no food poisoning! YAY! And it’s been DELICIOUS! It’s been food we don’t have back in Australia and some of it is AMAZING! Some of it not so much…
There are lots of chickens by the side of the road, and sometimes other animals too, particularly dogs. Animals here really are free range! Sadly I found out that some of the roosters are sold for cock fighting. Just awful!
Since I last blogged something incredibly exciting has happened. I HAVE PET TURTLES!!! I got 2 girls and a boy, Fran, Manny & Bernard. Sadly Fran has since died, I think she was sick when I got her. She always slept a lot and was never very active. I’m sad that she didn’t make it, but the other 2 are doing quite well. Manny is a bit crazy, as befits his name. They’re very happy swimming around in their tank
Nothing here runs on time, or is particularly reliable. You need to be flexible and just go with the flow. Punctuality doesn’t really exist and things may or may not happen as you’ve been told they will. This includes things like flights! It certainly is different to our western obsession with time. I am having to learn to be ok with a very lax version of time. I’m a very punctual person!
One of the things I love about my new school is the student enthusiasm. One of the things about Australian high school students (not all of them of course!) is that it’s uncool to be enthusiastic. That’s not a thing here, and I love that the kids get excited and involved in things without having to worry about their image.
Another brilliant thing about this school is a program they have called ‘Outdoor Education’. It’s sooooooo much more than it sounds! For 2 weeks all high school students (years 9 – 12) go to internal Indonesia and spend 2 weeks going to 2 or 3 remote villages helping locals with projects. Sometimes they build things or paint things, sometimes they help with water projects, they do HIV/AIDS education programs, they do kids club activities, hang out with locals their own age, and all sorts of fantastic stuff. I am so impressed with this as a concept. It’s been running for a number of years and it’s meant to be unbelievable. Not all staff go and I won’t be going this year, but I definitely plan to go next year. It seems like such an incredible thing! They do lots of hiking and have to bathe in local rivers. There is a risk of disease and it’s a hard slog, but from what I understand a very worthwhile one. I think it’s an amazing program. They leave in a week and a bit, Feb 24th – March 7th. Things can often not go according to plan and they don’t always make it back on time! As per usual in Indonesia
Here is a picture I took driving (I wasn’t driving!) into Jayapura last weekend. Jayapura is the capital of Papua. It looks rather pretty, but all those colours on the houses are just mismatched building materials, it’s not an aesthetic choice. The blue is either tarps or exposed walls, mostly tarps. There are very few decent houses here by western standards. My house is very nice by Indonesian standards, but by Australian standards it’s very plain. Most things work, but it’s a small, basic apartment. I have ants in my kitchen and my bathroom which I spray every day, and I have geckos in my house, but they’re ok coz they eat the ants. Also, spiders…
My visa still isn’t ready. We checked on it again this week and there seems to be absolutely no reason why it’s not ready. It’s just stuck. I’ve done everything right and they have everything they need, it’s just sitting there, unapproved. The problem with this is I can’t work, aaaaaand I have to leave the country soon! My tourist visa was for 30 days. You can extend that once for another 30 days, which I’ve already done, so I can’t extend it again. I’ll have to leave the country at the end of the month and if my work visa isn’t ready I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m going to talk to some people this week about my options and try to figure out a plan.
I am also still short in my financial support. I’m only sitting on about 85% of what I need, so if anyone wants to partner with me in my work here by supporting me financially each month I’d LOVE to hear from you!
Life is so completely different here. Nothing is the same, but I am enjoying the experience of seeing how others in the world live and relate.
Ok, that’ll do for another blog. Here is a photo of the military jogging down the main street, singing like in the movies. We drove past them the other day. Brilliant!
Today I’ve been in Indonesia for 4 weeks! It’s certainly gone fast!
I’ve been exploring a bit of Sentani & Papua in general, trying to work out what my new home has in store for me! I’ve been to a few different shops, and I’m trying to work out what sorts of things/food I can buy here. I basically need to get a whole new set of recipes. There are so many foods I’m used to buying that I can’t buy anymore.
The structure of the town is that there is one main street and everything else comes off the side of it. It’s basically a long, skinny town. I’ll take a photo of it when I remember! It’s double lane both ways. The town doesn’t really stop when you travel towards the west. It just eventually stops being one town and starts being another. Towards the east is a bit different. It becomes very rural. We went that way to go to the beach yesterday. Oh the beach! I’ll get to that in a minute. Let’s first talk about the roads. Well, calling them roads is being very generous. It’s more like some (crappy) concrete that sort of is together in parts. It’s all single lane in both directions and has more pot holes than not. It’s not always concrete, it can just be a dirt path. Also, in a couple of places the bridges had washed away so we just drove through the river. There are bits of it that have been built up so they’re shallow enough to drive through.
Now to the beach. WOW! This is where we went.
We drove about 45 minutes to a place called Depapre. When we got out I was disappointed. The place was really ugly and there was rubbish everywhere. It didn’t look like a place you could swim. But… we got on a boat and drove 10 minutes out to a stunning bay. That’s where we spent a few hours, swimming, chatting, lazying around. Soooooo wonderful! There were a few families who went and another few who met us there. What a perfect day! Considering that it was BUCKETING with rain in the morning it turned out to be a stunning day.
The picture on the right is of someone’s house in Depapre. It’s very common to have houses built out over the water like this.
The panorama below is a picture of a fresh water pool about 50m behind the beach. Lovely! When people go camping here they often wash in this. I think I’m going to go camping with some people in August-ish on a beach like this. Can’t wait!
Annoyingly I’m very sunburnt now. I put on heaps of sunscreen, but the anti-malarial medication I’m on makes me very sun sensitive, so I resemble a lobster today. Booooooo!!! When I go to Singapore to get my visa I’ll get some different medication that won’t have this affect on me. I can’t get the stuff I need here.
On the visa front I have no news. I’m getting my tourist visa extended for another 30 days because my work visa still isn’t ready and I have no idea when it will be. Hopefully not much longer!
I’ve put my hand up to play in a band at church here. I need some music in my life! In a couple of weeks I’ll play piano & sing here for the first time. I got given the music today and I know ONE song! I’ll actually have to do some practice!
I think I’m acclimatising to the weather here. The only times I still get all hot & sweaty is when I go walking outside, and that’s because it’s ALWAYS hot! Although it’s really the humidity rather than the actual temperature that’s the issue. Sometimes it feels like I’m breathing in an actual cloud.
I recently went without hot water for a few days, as did my next door neighbours. All that’s sorted now, but these are things I have to get used to. Also, there are blackouts almost everyday, but because we have a generator at school we’re never without power for more than a few minutes before that’s turned on. It’s different for those who live in town. They regularly go without power for hours. Not good for the food in the fridges!
I have to keep my kettle in the fridge because otherwise I have to clean the ants out of it every day. Also, I have geckos in my house. Lots of them. They’re tiny and I don’t mind them because they eat the ants and other insects. I just have to check my toaster in the mornings to make sure I don’t actually cook one up for breakfast!
I’m really glad I came here. It’s been a great experience so far. I’m enjoying being immersed in a different way of life and a different culture. It’s certainly been a huge adjustment, but I’m getting there. I’m looking forward to knowing people better and forming some real friendships. I’m enjoying my job and the people here. I can’t wait to be more settled in and know both my students and other adults better.