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.]
I often get asked what my favourite song is. I honestly don’t have one. My favourite music is constantly changing. I have a few all time favourite singers, or albums, or a few songs I always come back to, but my favourites really do change regularly. So I decided to share a few of my current favourites. I’ve included links to where you can listen to/buy these songs if you’re interested.
If you’ve got some you’d like to recommend, please put them in the comments. I’m always after good, new music.
Here they are in no particular order:
Open Window – Tobias Hengeveld (this whole album actually!)
Gullible Few – Dan Sultan
Like This – Al Parkinson
Begin Again – Megan Washington
Home Is Where He Is – Brooke Russell and the Mean Reds
A Sky Full Of Stars – Coldplay
Oh Darling – Gossling
Chandelier – Sia
Sigh No More – Joss Whedon
Wasting My Young Years – London Grammar
Big Giant Me – Shawnee Kilgore & Joss Whedon
Mess Is Mine – Vance Joy
Shark Fin Blues – Missy Higgins
Speaking of old favourites, I never get sick of Katie Noonan. She sang at the MH17 memorial the other day and it was too beautiful. Here it is.
“It is a luxury to do something that serves no purpose: the luxury of civilisation” – M. L. Stedman, ‘The Light Between Oceans’
This is a quote from a book I read a couple of years ago and I just found it written down in my notes. Firstly, it’s a great book, give it a read. There’s not a lot of action though, it’s more of a character story. I mean, things happen (unlike in a Tim Winton novel), but it’s not action packed.
Ok, enough book recommendations, although if you want some, HERE are some I did a while ago.
This quote struck me as really profound at the time, but has now taken on a whole new depth. Given that I now live in a developing nation, this has become part of my reality, not just an interesting concept to ponder. I hadn’t only considered it as an abstract concept before, but now I’m faced with what this actually looks like on a day to day basis.
Let me first say that the word ‘civilisation’ is pretty loaded. I don’t meant it (and neither did the book) in a derogatory way. It was addressing the issue of people having enough and not having to work desperately hard for everything. The book is set just after WWII when people are coming off rations and starting to have disposable income again.
When you are poor, your time is taken up with a lot of things that are necessary. There are lots of things that we buy to make our lives easier and quicker, such as washing machines, dishwashers, having plumbing, hoses, having lots of clothing, toiletries, cars, bikes, TVs, radios, computers, books, etc. Having a washing machine saves me a lot of time. Being able to go to a shop saves me a lot of time. Having electricity and running water saves me a lot of time. You get my point.
For a few months I was hand making my own bread. It takes a long time and is rather inconvenient. Someone recently gave me a bread maker and now I have a few extra hours a week. Brilliant! If I didn’t have a washing machine I dread to think how awful doing my laundry would be. Very time consuming.
Money makes things easier. No, money isn’t the most important thing, not by a long shot, but wow does it ease life! I have time to watch TV. I have time to read. I have time to play cards with my friends. If my time was taken up by necessities, I couldn’t fit in reading for pleasure, it’s a luxurious thing that I want to do. I don’t have access to a lot of English books where I am, and certainly nothing new, but I do have an e-reader. Again, something that helps me do something luxurious that I can only do because I have money.
Having the time and money to do things I want to do, for no other reason than I want to do them, is a luxury that a lot of the world do not experience. Walking for exercise is a purely western thing. Adding exercise to your life is a relatively new concept, and it still doesn’t exist in lots of parts of our world. I walk for exercise, but I don’t see any Indonesians doing it. I see some of them running (mostly the military) and lots of them play sport, but needing to incorporate exercise into your schedule is definitely not something that a lot of the world do. Having enough food to give you enough energy is more of an issue than finding ways to work it off!
I live very well compared to the average person in Indonesia, but my time is still taken up by things that it wasn’t taken up with before. Not only do some things take more time than they used to because of a lack of conveniences, but there are limited things that are luxurious and unnecessary even when I have the time. Luxurious in the sense that they aren’t necessary. There is no form of entertainment here, there is nothing to do and no where to go. Hence all the beach trips every other weekend, there is nothing else to do and the weather is always perfect for it, even when it’s raining! We play cards and chat and stuff, but there are no places to go for entertainment, we have to make our own fun. Which is fine, it’s just different.
I have the luxury of choosing my own career. I don’t have to work a particular job to survive. I don’t have to grow my own food to survive. I don’t have to carry clean water a long way to survive. I am so blessed.
I have always had, not just the resources, but also the time to do things that I want to do, and I need to appreciate how special that is. It is not the experience of everyone, (even in western society at times).
It really is a privilege to be able to do anything that is a luxury. I am blessed indeed.
(Photos 2, 3 & 5 courtesy of my brother from his time in Uganda)
That is the sound of me sighing with delight. Melbourne is just so wonderful!
I have truly enjoyed being back here. I love the familiarity and the ease of this place. I can get around easily, both by car and public transport. I am physically safe here, something that I truly appreciate now on a level I never have before. There are so many options for things to do that if you don’t want to be bored, you never have to be. My family and friends are here (well, I now have new friends somewhere else too). I love the sheer variety of [good] food available. I am just really enjoying myself.
Yesterday I meandered through the city, and at one point I was sitting outside a small restaurant in a laneway under a heater while it gently drizzled (I was under an awning), having a pot of tea and listening to a man busk, playing classical music on a cello beautifully. I was just so content in that moment.
I adore the laneway culture of Melbourne. I love the little shops and the tiny restaurants. Something about them feels cosy, intimate and special.
Another thing I have really missed about Melbourne is the live music scene. Live music makes me happy. There is something about the interactivity of hearing music live that makes the experience of the music better somehow. I don’t know how to explain it, but that’s been my experience. Well, GOOD live music anyway! I’ve been so lucky to know so many talented musicians in my life and I love discovering new ones. And the great thing about Melbourne is that you can walk into so many venues, not knowing who is playing and find great music. Most of the time anyway. That makes me happy.
Tomorrow I’m heading up to Hamilton for the weekend. It’ll be good to see everyone back up there and speak at my church about my time in Indonesia. Hopefully the weather isn’t too abysmal, but knowing Hamilton I don’t have high hopes…
That’s another thing I’m pleasantly surprised about. It’s been cold here, but I haven’t really minded. The change in weather has been a nice variation actually. The weather in Sentani never changes. It’s 32 every day and 23 every night, give or take 2 degrees. And it’s ALWAYS humid. That’s the part I don’t like. I’ve been a bit cold here, but I don’t mind too much. My sinuses are freaking out about the dry weather though! I can’t stop sneezing! I’m getting a taste of what it must be like to have hay fever. I don’t like it…
I also LOVE snuggling up under my doona! I miss being able to do that!
I leave to go back to Indonesia on July 28th, and it’ll take just over 24 hours to get there. I’m happy to be going back, I’m not ready to leave for good just yet, but it will be a bit hard to leave Melbourne. I have really enjoyed my time here and I know it’ll be hard to go back to a place that isn’t so easy to live in.
For the next 2 weeks I’ll be soaking up my love of Melbourne and my love of my people here :)
I’m also going to enjoy my last 2 weeks of wearing scarves, jackets, and being able to wear my hair out without it feeling utterly gross from sweat!
It’s come to my attention that I’m perhaps giving the wrong impression of my life and/or finances. I’d just like to try and clear things up for anyone who isn’t clear on what life is like for me these days.
It’s been a difficult transition to a very different life. Not only have I had to move to a new location, but also a new culture and a new language. To add to that, most of the western culture I am exposed to is American, which may not seem like a big deal, but it’s definitely a shift from what I’m used to in lots of subtle ways that all add up to being a bit of a challenge. I spent the first 3 months wanting to go home every single day. I’m ok now, but it wasn’t easy to begin with.
I am used to being a strong, confident, independent person who is in control of her own life. Now I have to abide by cultural norms that I don’t always agree with and I have to limit my freedoms in order to stay safe. That has been a big challenge. One of the things I adored about being in Brisbane the other day was not having to think about my physical safety, it was truly liberating! This isn’t a theoretical concern about safety either, it’s a very real problem that I have to deal with.
It’s been a fine line to walk, trying to be honest with my struggles, and not wanting to come across as a whinger who gets annoying. I want to be honest about how life really is in Indonesia, but I also want to share the good things.
I have met some wonderful people and I really enjoy my job. I have loved getting to know new people and seeing the wonderful and dedicated way they are committed to both the people and the work here. There are lots of incredible stories to share about what goes on here, but alas they are not mine to share, although with permission from others I might start passing some of them on so you can get more of a picture of things here.
On the other hand, life is hard. Basic supplies are not always readily available, people are constantly sick from some sort of tropical something (although thank goodness I’ve only been mildly sick!), you can’t drink the water, you have to wash your fruit and veggies with potassium permanganate because otherwise you’ll get sick, there are black outs pretty much every day, the noisy airport drives me insane (as does the noisy wildlife), the traffic is insane, almost everything is unreliable, I can’t buy the foods I’m used to (which creates some challenges as a vegetarian), the internet doesn’t always work and is terribly slow when it does, my phone doesn’t work either, and I have such a language and cultural barrier that it’s hard to live my life the way I’d like. Ok, I’ll stop complaining now.
I know I tend to post lots of pictures of beaches and gorgeous sunsets, but that’s because they’re so pretty! I certainly don’t spend all my time at the beach and it’s a bit of an undertaking to get there because the roads are so atrocious. In fact roads is a very generous term for what they are. A friend here described them as ‘places where there aren’t any trees’, which is probably a better description of some of them! Sentani is a beautiful place, but it’s also a place filled with poverty and lots of social issues. There is rubbish everywhere, the buildings are run down, and everything seems to be in a constant state of reconstruction. It’s been a huge adjustment just getting used to the different physical environment let alone everything else.
I don’t live on a whole lot of money in Indonesia. Things are very cheap so it doesn’t cost a lot to live there, but I also don’t indulge in many things so I am able to live off a small amount. The financial support I have been receiving is just wonderful and I am truly thankful and grateful to those who have decided to partner with me in this way, however I am still under supported and the money I am filling that gap with is fast running out, and in 6 or so months it’ll be gone, so that is a concern of mine.
Having said that it might seem odd that I am currently in Vanuatu. I am not on holiday for the sake of being on holiday. I had to leave the country for visa reasons. To get a new visa I have to leave and re-enter on a different one. The original plan was to go to Thailand because it’s close and cheap. A couple of my friends from Australia were going to come and meet me there so we could see each other and have a bit of a holiday. Another reason I was happy to go overseas is that an awful lot of people (mostly teachers & families with students) leave Sentani over the big school break (June to mid-August) and go back to their home countries, so there aren’t many people left and I wouldn’t be working so I’d get rather bored.
Once the coup in Thailand happened we decided that it wasn’t a great idea to go there. These things can escalate quickly so we had to find a new place to go. We picked Vanuatu because it’s also close and we thought it’d be relatively cheap. We were mistaken on that point. Sadly Vanuatu is not a cheap place to holiday. We’ve been doing everything on the cheap here, not going on any tours and doing it all on our own. I’m trying to spend as little as possible really.
Once I looked into flights to Vanuatu I realised that I couldn’t get here without going through Brisbane! This means it’s going to cost hardly anything extra to come back through Melbourne and visit! I had no intention of coming back to Australia so soon, but it’s a wonderful surprise! I plan to spend most of my time freeloading off my parents. Hi mum and dad! :)
My friends had already gotten their leave from work approved by this point so it wasn’t fair of me to bail on them once we’d started planning our trip. In hinds sight I should have just come to Australia instead of going to Vanuatu first, but it was too late to cancel on my friends.
I haven’t spent a cent of anyone else’s money on this trip, it’s all coming out of my own pocket (my savings account is being drained a fair bit for this visa run). All the financial support I have received is going to support me while I live in Sentani.
I hope this clears things up a little and lets you know why I’m doing what I’m doing.
I hope to see some of you next week in Australia!
(I’d love to have attached some photos here, but they won’t upload)
It’s been a while since I ranted, so heeeeeree I go!
I’ve become more and more aware over the last few years of the unusual upbringing I have had in terms of women and leadership in the church. I grew up in churches where it was normal for women to preach, be pastors and be in all sorts of positions of leadership. It is a baffling concept to me that women are somehow less able or less worthy than men to preach the word of God and be in positions of power. We are all made in his image and if God has something to say, isn’t it up to him who he chooses to use? Why do some people discount half the population? Is God that limited? I think not.
Not only is it illogical, it is unspeakable offensive to say that women cannot preach or lead. I heard a young man a couple of months ago flippantly say that when a woman speaks it isn’t really preaching, and it took all my self control not to scream in his face. What misguided arrogance! And the devastating thing is that he had no idea that he was being offensive. This was normal and acceptable to him.
Not long after that I heard a woman say that some people have a problem with women leading, so in order not to offend anyone, it’s easier to just let men do the leading, at least that way no one is offended. Again, it took all my self control not to yell about how offensive that was! What does a woman think and believe about herself to say that she is less worthy than a man to lead? And that it is ok for people to discriminate against us within the church? I feel desperately sad for women who have bought into the notion that they are somehow unequal, that God made them lower than men. What must they believe about themselves to think that way? If we are not all equal before Jesus then I think we have a fundamental misunderstanding of the gospel.
The Bible is full of women stepping outside the patriarchal model of the day. Jesus treated women in a scandalous way for his time. He gave them roles and dignity and respect that was uncommon. All throughout the Bible women are given status beyond what was normal for the time. No where in the Bible is it suggested that we ought to live by old societal standards for how women ought to behave. In fact the opposite is true, the status quo of the roles of women is constantly being challenged! Women were regularly treated by God in ways that defied what was acceptable at the time, why are we not following that example now? Thankfully some of us are…
There was a big Lutheran conference in Australia last year where they voted on whether or not to even discuss the idea of allowing women to be ordained as pastors. They voted not to discuss it. Appalling.
I can’t even believe that we still need to have this conversation and it makes me crazy that there are people who think it is their job to judge and belittle and crush women into the mould that they have decided they ought to fit into. There is no biblical precedence for it and to pretend otherwise is using the Bible in a way that diminishes God’s beautiful creations. It belittles both men and women. We are all better than that.
Let me be clear, I am not saying that everyone who tells women they are not to lead is doing so with a bad heart. In fact it is my experience that most people who do this think they are being humble and simply following correct doctrine. They think they are being obedient. This is hard to combat because this idea of a woman’s role gets equated with obeying God. It’s hard to argue against someone who tells you that you are disobeying God and not just them, it takes away all your power. Just because you are well meaning, doesn’t mean you aren’t hurting others with your ideas.
There is a much more sinister application of this line of thinking that can turn into abuse (not just physical) where men laud power over women and the women must ‘know their place’. Disobeying men becomes disobeying God and can have disgusting consequences. I’m not going to talk about this side of it here, but I think we all know where it can lead. If your fundamental understanding of men and women is that men are above women and that God has ordained it that way, you can see how this kind of behaviour can manifest. I’m not saying this is the normal progression of this way of thinking, but it certainly can happen. Mostly I think the consequences are much more subtle than that.
If you honestly believe that it is not biblical for women to lead and preach, then I challenge you to look at what texts you think support that idea and look at them in their contexts. I would suggest that it is your traditions that have taught you this rather than any real scriptural basis for the idea. The main one we all hear is Paul saying that women ought not to speak in church (1 Cor 14). He was speaking to one church about one specific group of women who were a big problem for that particular church, it is not a general principal to be applied, as other parts of Paul’s teachings that contradict this idea, confirm.
We lose out on the richness God has made in us as a community when we limit people to roles they were never meant to be contained in. Let’s not limit what we can do as people who work together by having outdated ideas about the roles of men and women. We are all more powerful and more effective when we help each other reach our potential instead of telling each other what spaces to fit in.
Well, semester 1 is over! It’s weird having come from Australia to know that the school year is over and it’s only June. Graduation was last Thursday and most people have fled Sentani, as they tend to do for the ‘summer’ break. It’s not really summer given that we’re in the southern hemisphere, but we’ll allow the Americans their quirks :)
Not that the weather ever changes here. It’s 32 every day and 23 every night, give or take 2 degrees. The humidity is still a killer, although I’m definitely more acclimatised than I was. I think my most common pastime these days is sweating…
It’s been a great semester of finding my place and getting to know new students, colleagues and friends. The first 3 months was incredibly hard and I wanted to go home pretty much every single day. Now I feel like I’m ok. It’s still a hard place to live, and there are still challenges, but I’m finding my place and feeling more at my ease. I’ve enjoyed getting to know people on more than just a surface level recently and building a life here.
I’m sad that 7 of my students (year 12s I taught) are going back to their home countries to go to university/work/take a gap year, and another couple have gone home for furlough. I’m looking forward to building more relationships and making a difference, that’s why I love teaching. That’s what I’m here for.
Some of my friends have left for good, and some are just on furlough, but this summer is going to be a little empty of company. I have to do a visa run and I was going to go to Thailand (close and cheap), but given the political situation there we’ve decided to give it a miss, so Vanuatu it is instead! However, I can’t get to Vanuatu without going through Brisbane, so I’M COMING BACK TO AUSTRALIA TO VISIT!!! I may as well pay a little extra and spend some time in Melbourne with the people I love (and freeload off my parents). I can’t wait! I didn’t realise I was going to be able to come home so soon!
It’s been eye-opening and indescribable to experience such a different way of living. The day to day reality of living in such a place has given me a practical perspective that had only ever been theoretical. I’m blessed to have had this chance.
I’m looking forward to the challenges of the next year, and beyond that, God only knows. I have also included some stunning beach photos designed to induce jealousy. There has to be a perk of living in a place like this, and there it is! I just adore the beach :)