There is a famous quote (and title of a book) that does the rounds online every now and then:
“Well behaved women seldom make history” – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
Let me first say that I get the point, and I agree with the original context. To make an impact on society at large, you can’t be ‘well behaved’. You have to be exceptional, in either a specific field, or behaviourally. This is not specific to women by the way. To be remembered you have to stand out, and that often means going against the tide, or not being ‘well behaved’.
The rebels of society are the ones who are remembered, and I don’t mean rebel in a negative sense, I mean someone who bucks society’s norms.. Albert Einstein was a rebel, Marie Curie was a rebel, Mother Teresa was a rebel, Martin Luther was a rebel, Jesus was a rebel. Being a rebel can be a wonderful, powerful and transformational thing.
Under these conditions, I completely agree. Well behaved women [people] seldom make history.
What I’m more concerned with, is how people are using nowadays use this quote to justify their behaviour. It seems to have become a license to behave badly, or more accurately, selfishly. Apparently doing whatever you want makes you a great and free person.
What utter codswallop.
(Ok, so I really wanted to say codswallop)
The great irony of life brought to light over and over and over again, is that it is in giving that you receive, it is in serving that you are fulfilled. This doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat, but it does mean that putting yourself at the centre necessarily leads to misery. Looking out for number 1 never leads to happiness.
Again, this does not mean that we shouldn’t look after ourselves, definitely not. Too many people have been trodden down by feeling guilty for doing anything for themselves. We need to care for ourselves and make sure that our needs are met too. A good sentiment about caring for yourself has been twisted and taken to an extreme. It has been changed to mean that you are the most important person in the world, and that looking out for yourself is more important than everything else.
I know most of us already know all this, but I get increasingly frustrated at what is peddled to us about how great it is to misbehave and not care what others think. We were made to live in community. No man is an island. None of these great truths are about any person as an individual, these truths are about what bind us together and make us human; it is each other.
Of course we ought to care what others think. This doesn’t mean that we should compromise our values or change who we are to win the approval of others, that’s not what I mean at all.
This sentiment came about in a good way, it’s just that again, it’s been twisted. It was a way to free people from the expectations and control of others. We ought to be free to follow our own paths and create the kind of lives for ourselves that are good and right for us, and this doesn’t always line up with the opinions of others. We ought not to be shouted down by anyone for living in the way that we have chosen in good conscience. However, this pendulum seems to be swinging too far in the opposite direction now. It seems to be a positive thing to not care what anyone thinks. Do whatever you feel like and to hell anyone who disagrees with you! Really? That sounds pretty lonely and selfish to me. I certainly don’t want to live that way.
So really, it’s true. Well behaved people rarely make history, but don’t mistake not being well behaved for being selfish and stupid. That’s not the kind of history I want to make.
(Hmmm…. reading over this has made me realise that it’s not a very cohesive piece of writing, but I hope you get my point)
I’ve been here for almost 3 months now. It hasn’t flown by and I’m not going to say ‘I can’t believe it’s already been 3 months!’ because it’s simply not true. Life here has been challenging. Let’s not dwell on the negative though.
Yesterday a group of us tried to go swimming at a local waterfall. I was really looking forward to it as I haven’t been to any waterfalls yet. We had to go through an army base to get there and when we got to the entrance they wouldn’t let us through. It turned out they were doing some training up there (as was evidenced by all the machine gun fire we could hear in the distance throughout the rest of the day). So we turned around and tried to go to a part of the lake no one had been to before. When we got there (pictured on the right) there were too many people (not that you can tell from this photo) so we left again. After all that driving around on truly awful roads (and at times dangerous bridges), we ended up at the swimming pool instead (next photo). The pool was pretty clean which was nice, because sometimes it’s not so clean. The water in the pool is never cold because of the weather here. On a hot day I’d rather the water be cooler, but there’s not much you can do about that. None of the water here is very cold. I never bother using the hot tap in my shower, the water isn’t that cold anyway because it warms up in the hot pipes. I burnt my hand with hot oil when I was cooking a couple of months ago and ran it under the tap, but it wasn’t cold enough to help! I had to soak it in a bowl of ice water instead.
I’m about to buy some more turtles and hopefully these ones will stay healthy and survive. Since I last blogged all of my turtles have died. Tina was the last one and she died about a week and a half ago. Poor little guys. I’m going to quarantine any that get sick this time and hopefully they won’t all catch it. I’m hoping to go shopping this afternoon.
This is the pool we went to yesterday. I go there to swim laps once or twice a week with some of the other teachers.
I’ve been going shopping on my own every now and then. I have to walk down the hill to the shops, then walk up the hill with whatever I buy. If you’ve seen the hill, you’ll know this is no easy task! Especially in this weather! It’ll be better when I have my own transport. I’m planning on getting a motorbike at some point. I need to be able to get around. People have been great in driving me around, but it’s frustrating having to rely on others all the time.
I still have trouble understanding some things, but I can speak enough to get by in shops, which is nice. I can order food and buy groceries. My language is still very limited, but I’m getting there. It’s hard to learn a new language when you spend most of your time with English speakers. I can understand a lot more than I can say because I know lots of words now, but can’t always form complete sentences. Watching tv helps actually because the Indonesian subtitles are helping me learn new words, especially common ones I see over and over again.
This next photo is one of the trees outside my house. If you look carefully you’ll notice a guy in it cutting down coconuts. I can’t believe they climb these things! Especially given that it’s above a barbed wire fence! I should ask for one next time. Fresh coconut is yummy, but I can’t say I’m a fan of fresh coconut juice. It sounds so delicious, but when I’ve had it I haven’t enjoyed it at all.
I’ve done a lot of reading since I’ve been here. If you’re a reader then here are some of my latest recommendations:
The girl with all the gifts (by M R Carey), the book thief (by Markus Zusak), the secret keeper (By Kate Morton), and the racketeer (by John Grisham) to name a few.
I sent out a new newsletter last week, so if you want to be receiving them and you didn’t get it, let me know. Although if you’re a regular reader of my blog there isn’t much new information in it, maybe just a few things I don’t want to say in a public forum.
This next photo is looking down the hill from the school. If you look at the previous photo, you walk down that road and about 50m past the end of the photo, this is the view you get looking down into the town. It takes about 10-15 minutes to walk from my house to the main street. It takes about 15-20 minutes to walk back up it though, and then I always need a shower by the end of it. Ew. I usually have 2 or 3 showers a day here. One in the morning, sometimes one when I get home from school, then another one before I go to bed. The constant high levels of humidity mean that I’m always sweating to some degree. I was talking to someone recently and we agreed that everyone’s most common pastime here is sweating. Gross.
Speaking of sweating, I started playing in a social basketball team on Friday morning and I simply cannot believe how much a person can sweat. Wow. I sweat when we play volleyball on Tuesdays, but it’s nothing compared to basketball. It’s been good to get involved in some team sports, I’ve missed playing a sport.
I went to an Indonesian church for the first time last week and it was a really cool experience. I hardly understood a word (obviously it was all in Indonesian!), but I’m glad I got to experience it. It was in a massive pondok (pictured below), which is a kind of hut thing with no walls (it’s impractical to have walls in some places because you need the air flow). It had part of a wall at the front for projecting things on to, but that was it. It was an impressive, huge permanent pondok, not some shabby, falling down thing (like some pondoks are). The singing was interesting, some of it was in Bahasa Indonesia, some of it was in various tribal languages. Some of the songs (well, two of them) were ones I recognised. They’d had the lyrics translated into Bahasa Indonesia, so at least I knew what it was by the tune. I don’t plan on going to that church regularly because I couldn’t understand anything, but I’ll go back again in a few months when I have some more language skills. For now I’m going to an ex pat church here at the school.
If you remember, I spoke about pinang (betelnut in English) in my last post. It’s a red, cancerous berry thing that lots of people chew here. Well Alex Ellinghausen (a political photographer) is in Papua New Guinea at the moment and took a photo of someone chewing it. This is what is does to your face. You can see why I’m not a big fan…
I’m slowly learning more about what I can cook here. The available foods are completely different to what I’m used to. Hardly any of the same vegetables are available, so I’m learning to use different things. Tempeh is a big thing here. It’s like less processed tofu. And there is lots of fresh, cheap tofu here. I’m learning about all the things you can do with tofu that I’ve never done. It’s really very versatile. I had no idea how delicious tofu cashew cheese can be! It might sound yuck, but I promise it’s actually delicious! I’d be skeptical too if I hadn’t eaten it myself. I got a vegetarian, Indonesian cook book for my birthday which is really coming in handy!
One of the big things here is swapping DVDs. We don’t really have access to anything new, so everyone shares what they have. I’ve got some good things from others and I’ve leant ‘Miranda’ to my next door neighbours. I can hear them giggling from next door on a regular basis! If you haven’t seen ‘Miranda’, I HIGHLY recommend it! It’s an hilarious British comedy. In true Miranda style I made Sarah & Jennifer a new friend. This is Oscar the onion. I made Lewis the lime for myself a few weeks ago, but in this weather he did not last well. Not at all…
If you want to see some more of the scenery, here are two 15 second videos of driving around the back streets of Sentani:
Well I’m back in Sentani. I have a visa. However… it’s still not a work one. I’m not allowed to work with my current visa, but I am allowed to observe and consult. If you want more info on all that stuff, you can ask me somewhere that isn’t a public forum. I can stay here on this visa for up to 6 months, so this means at the end of the semester I’ll have to leave the country again and HOPEFULLY by then I’ll have my work visa approved and I’ll be all set to start teaching properly in the next school year (which starts in August here).
I had a pretty hard couple of weeks recently where things really started to set in and the culture shock hit me. I’m feeling much better this week, but the last couple of weeks were not good ones. I’ve been feeling lonely and frustrated and fed up. Everything here is so different and it’s hard to adjust to absolutely everything being other than it has been, not to mention no one I’ve known longer than 2 months. Australia is such a lucky, convenient place to live. Here, things don’t always come easy. Electricity isn’t a given, neither is phone reception or hot water, and the humidity never goes away! If you go shopping with a list of things to buy, you’ll never get all of them, and if by some miracle you manage to, you’ve had to go to 5 different shops to do it. Also, my clean dishes are often either covered in dirt that has blown in through the kitchen window during the day (it’s been super windy lately!), covered in ants that are looking for food, or I find geckos rummaging through my things. Everything in the kitchen either needs to be kept in air tight containers (cheap ones don’t do the truck, ants still get in) or kept in the fridge. I have to keep my kettle in the fridge because otherwise I have to clean the ants out of it before each use. Also, things go mouldy really quickly, so some things I normally keep in the cupboard now live in the fridge (like vegemite).
The noise is unbelievable. I live quite close to an airport and the planes taking off are very loud! If I’m watching tv I usually have to pause it while the plane takes off because I can’t hear anything else. As if normal planes weren’t bad enough there are ludicrously noisy cargo planes here that are banned in most parts of the world due to the noise pollution they create, but not in Indonesia! They’re welcome here! And you can’t close the windows to help insulate against the noise, not that you’d want to with the weather as it is, air flow is vital for not drowning in your own sweat.
It sounds superficial, but having to adjust to utterly different routines and ‘things’ is actually a big deal when it’s everything at once. I miss not being able to do the things I’m used to doing and the easiness I’m used to. It’s also hard not having my own transportation. I’m going to get a vespa style motorbike, probably not ’til June, but I think that’ll really help me feel (be) more independent.
My poor turtles haven’t been doing very well. I’m sad to say that Fran, Bernard & Manny have all died. Fran was sick when I got her, and I think she passed it onto everyone else. I still have Tina & Miranda, but they’re both sick too and it’s not looking good. I’m loathe to buy more in case they just get sick too. If both Tina & Miranda die, then I’ll look into getting some more. It’s very sad. Apparently this is very common here and everyone who has had turtles has had many of them die. They don’t seem to be well cared for in transit or in the shops here.
On a completely different note, there is this thing here called pinang. It’s a red berry that people chew. There are red spit marks all over the ground here, and it’s quite disgusting. It turns your tongue, teeth and lips bright red and looks just awful. I heard it was like a bit of a narcotic and that’s why people chew it. It’s so common here that I thought I’d look into it and see why it was so popular, and I’m rather confused… It gives you a buzz roughly equal to drinking a cup of coffee, so yeah, big deal. Also, it causes cancer, particularly mouth and throat cancer. I can’t understand why anyone would risk cancer for a buzz equal to a coffee. Just drink a coffee! I can’t tell whether people don’t know this, or don’t care.
Last Friday was my birthday! I can’t believe I’m 32. I have no idea how I got so old! I must say it wasn’t a particularly great birthday. I left Singapore at 6:45pm on the Thursday and arrived in Sentani at 8:45am on my birthday… As you can imagine I wasn’t feeling particularly awake or enthusiastic about anything. I went home and slept for a lot of the day, then at night I went over to the Thompsons’ for dinner, along with the Webbs and the Doriots. It was nice to hang out with great people and have a delicious meal together. Belinda even made me an orange and cashew cake. Yummo! I have a good birthday night, even if I had a rather lame birthday day.
All in all I’m having a much better week this week, and I’m starting to get used to life here. It’s been a hard adjustment, harder than I thought it would be, but I’m persevering. I’ve said I’ll be here til mid 2015 and I have every intention of sticking to that. I have some good people here to support me, wonderful people supporting me back home, and God, who knows everything about me and exactly what I need.
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.