It’s almost time for OE! OE is ‘Outdoor Education’ although I think that’s an incredibly misleading name if you ask me. Every year for 2 weeks the entire high school heads into remote villages in Papua to serve the local missionaries and communities. They do work projects (such as fixing airstrips, installing water tanks, digging, painting, fixing buildings, pretty much anything), they also provide HIV/AIDS awareness training for locals, run kids’ clubs, do short dramas, have worship times, play games with the villagers and anything else that comes our way.
This is my brilliant group!
We do HIV/AIDS training because whilst Papua only has 1% of the total Indonesian population, it has about 50% of all documented HIV/AIDS cases in the country. It’s a very serious problem here.
In Kosarek there are no toilets or showers. Some of the villages that our school has gone to before have solar electricity, but this village has none.
No electricity of any variety.
I have never been to a place with no electricity.
Not only will we have no electricity, but none of us speak the local language. The village of Kosarek does not speak Indonesian, so… we’ll have some fairly significant language challenges!
I’m so excited about going and getting to experience such a unique thing. I know of no other school in the world that does this. And… there’s a pretty good reason for that.
People always get sick. Sometimes people have had to be airlifted out. We will all definitely get sick, just hopefully not seriously sick. Although that happens too. It seems every year people come back with malaria, dengue or both. I hope I’m not one of them this time!
Speaking of sickness, we just found out this week that there is a measles outbreak in Kosarek at the moment, so anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated can’t come (we’re getting all the medical records sorted at the moment). Measles is a very serious thing out in a remote village. Children are dying. There are no vaccinations out there, and if you’re unvaccinated and come into contact with measles, there is a 90% chance that you’ll get it. For goodness sake, vaccinate your kids.
Another thing about OE that you may have gathered is that it’s quite physically demanding. We’re spending about a week and a half in Kosarek doing physical labour and a few days in an even more remote village, which we have to hike to. Some groups are hiking a couple of hours (a very optimistic estimate, it’ll definitely take longer with a group), and some are hiking about 5 hours (again, it’ll definitely take longer than that).
As a part of OE the kids all have assignments to do, it’s like a class. They have to write an anthropology paper (part of that is learning some of the local language), do a photography project and keep a daily journal. It’s a great way to make sure the trip gets documented.
I am both super excited and kinda scared about going on OE. I know it’s going to be amazing and provide me with a lifetime of incredible memories, but I know it’s going to be really difficult and be incredibly challenging as well. I can’t wait to share all my incredible photos and stories when I get back!
I feel so inadequate to serve here.
I look at who I am and what I can do, and I know that I can’t do this on my own. I have moments of clarity when I realise this anew. Who I am falls so far short of what others need and deserve.
I need to be more patient, more loving, more generous, more forgiving, more merciful.
Without God I am utterly lost. I cannot measure up. I know that God takes up the enormous slack that I leave behind. He fills my gaps. He runs the end of my race. He picks up my missing pieces. He sustain me. He guides me. He fills my inadequacies with grace and mercy.
I am serving amongst amazing people. People whom I know God is also sustaining and drenching in his gifts. We are all inadequate and God uses us anyway. These are people I often feel are doing better than me on this path of letting God reign and allowing him to take control.
There are times when the voices within speak louder and times when I can quiet them. I am acknowledging my severe limitations. I am not good enough on my own, but by the grace of God he allows me to serve him anyway. There are people here who are far better than me at letting God reign and letting his grace and mercy fill their gaps. I strive to be more and more like that. I have a long way to go. Their examples are an inspiration.
I do not deserve to be here. I am so much less than I could be. I do not live up to my potential. I know that we are never finished, but I am painfully aware of my inadequacies.
This is ok.
It is ok to know I am not enough.
Without this knowledge I am even more limited.
It is both painful and freeing to know that I am not enough.
God will keep sustaining me and continue to grow me into the person he created me to be.
I did it. I’ve made the hard choice. I’ve decided to stay another year.
I initially signed on to be here for 18 months. The school year here goes mid year to mid year, as opposed to the Australian calendar school year, so I came in half way through a year. I came for semester 2, then signed on to do another. Now I’ve been deciding on whether or not to stay an extra year.
This now means that I’ll be here until June 2016.
There were so many things to consider and it took me ages to make a decision. I miss my family and friends and the ease of Melbourne. I miss having things to do, cafes to go to, restaurants, a live music scene, good roads, public transport, shops, clothes, a language I understand, a culture I am familiar with, being safe, no constant ant infestations, and so many other things. It’s been a huge transition and initially I hated everything here, but there are things keeping me here now.
The beaches are pretty good for one thing.
You form good friendships here, even with people you’d be unlikely to connect with in any other situation. The bond of living in a difficult place really brings people together.
I truly love my job. I adore my students and I work with such an amazing group of people. I have felt so supported in my job here and have really loved teaching such a diverse bunch of kids. The people I am surrounded with have made all the difference.
My house is on the right of this photo. This is behind my apartment building.
I wrote a couple of posts ago about what it’s like to try to still be yourself in such a new and confronting environment, and all of those challenges will be ongoing, but this is something I’m still willing to go through. The difficulties of life are highlighted in this place, and seem to confront you in a more intense way than they do back in a cushy lifestyle, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Accelerated, uncomfortable personal growth!
I’m looking forward to coming back to Australia in June/July and spending time with everyone at home. It’s good to get a mental health break from the daily problems you face here. Everything is such a big deal. Shopping is a big deal. I wouldn’t think twice about going to the shops in Australia, but here I consider if it’s worth the hassle. Getting petrol is an issue. The little things of life become bigger things here. Something that would take 20 minutes in Melbourne can take at least an hour here. We certainly change our definition of ‘success’ here. I went to the passer (local market) a while back with some friends and we got a flat tyre, but got it fixed, got most of the food we wanted and made it home within a couple of hours. Success.
You spend more time in nature here. The things we do for fun mostly include going to beautiful places. There’s nothing else to do really (apart from play band hero at the Bergs’). As a throwaway line the other day I said there was nothing to do here and some of my girls disagreed and said there is heaps to do. I asked what. They started listing bodies of water. Lake Sentani, the waterfall, the beach, kali biru (another lake). Hilarious! Hmmmm, what should we do today? Go see some water or some different water? Don’t get me wrong, the water here is beautiful, I love going to those places, but yeah, that’s all there is to do :)
The sad thing about nature here is that it’s not looked after. There is rubbish everywhere and everything is broken (and made poorly in the first place). It’s awful seeing so much beauty not being cared for. This photo is of a rubbish dump just outside of Wamena spilling out onto the road. Right behind it is a traditional kampung (compound where people live) and a small lake. I can’t even imagine the hygiene levels and how sick everyone must get there.
I’m so glad I got to go to Wamena last week. We have a small annex school there, 20 kids from grade 1 – 8 and lots of our students either come from there or their parents are now working there. There are heaps of Dutch families out there for some reason. The weather is cooler and much more pleasant. I really enjoyed seeing another part of Papua.
This next photo is of a naked gourd man at the airport as I was about to leave. There are lots of them in Wamena, it’s the traditional way men dress in that part of Papua. The gourd size and shape denotes their status. I’m not sure what his means.
I am so grateful for all the people in my life who have supported me over the last year. It’s been one of the biggest years of my life. There has been so much change I don’t know how to describe it. I’ve been challenged personally, professionally, emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically. I am so thankful for those that have supported me by listening to me vent, by just spending time with me, by distracting me with fun and silliness, by writing to me, by sending me packages, by praying for me, by supporting me financially, by doing any number of things that have made a difference in my life. Even the small things mean a lot to me. So thank you to everyone who has done anything for me over this last year.
This next 18 months is going to continue to grow me and change me. I can’t wait to see what God has in store, and hopefully it includes lots of beach trips :)
How do we define power? I’m going to use Doctor Who as my analogy. Please don’t tune out just because you’re not a Whovian. Let me explain what I mean. I’ve been re-watching Doctor Who over the last couple of months, and I’ve just re-finished season 4. Season 4 is the best season there is, and I’d forgotten how amazing it was. Not only does it have incredible writing, but it has an utterly consuming story arc. The last 4 episodes in particular tell a story that demands to be retold. The writing is brilliant within each episode, but it tells an even bigger story to the humanity within us all. Donna (the Doctor’s companion) believes that she is unimportant, she’s just a ‘nothing’ temp from Chiswick. She finds The Doctor accidentally and knows that she means nothing to society, but she is vital to those around her and doesn’t understand her own worth. It isn’t until she sees life through the eyes of another that she truly experiences the potency of her potential. Only then is she is able to unlock her own possibilities. Donna is a powerful woman, but she is not very useful in her own right. She is powerful, potent and often poisonous. She needs those around her to help her channel her power for good. When she is in the right place with the right people, she is unstoppable and will push through any and all obstacles. We can’t fully realise our potential until we work in conjunction with the right others. We are meant to live in community. No man is an island, or at least no man is good as an island. The Doctor is a genius. He is smarter than anyone in any room, but on his own he becomes a dangerous man. He is no good alone. We are no good without each other to keep us in check. We cannot be everything. That is unsustainable. No man is an island, remember?
Donna becomes an amalgamation of what we could be, the best in all of us. (You’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen the finale of S4) No one can be everything. We are meant to work as a team. Community is best. The power required to be all things to all people isn’t something any one of us can sustain alone. The bible talks about this using the analogy of the body. We are all needed and we all perform different tasks, together we function as a whole.
All the characters in Doctor Who are the best of one or a few aspects of humanity.
Captain Jack Harkness does everything within his acknowledged limitations. He knows who he is, loves who is is, is passionate and cares desperately for those around him. He will sacrifice his own safety for the ones he loves, over and over again. (This could be a blog post in itself)
Martha does her best using her intellect and her willingness to work within systems. In the end she lets go of what she wants to look after both herself and to serve the greater good.
Rose does her passionate best within her unending love. She is committed to the end. She knows who she is and goes for it wholeheartedly, putting others ahead of her own needs. She gives her all for those around her, and strives for what she needs without apology.
Mickey serves everyone regardless of how he feels. He gives up everything. He knows what he wants, but he lets it go when he realises it’s right to.
Jackie knows that she has nothing to offer, but despite only caring for herself and her daughter initially, offers her whole self anyway. She knows that she is very limited, but gives it all anyway.
Sarah Jane goes beyond her wildest expectations. She is a nobody (whom society would say is past her prime) who constantly gives her everything to prove that she is vital to all. She is a least likely hero.
Harriet Jones thinks no one knows who she is, despite being one of the most powerful women on the planet. She gives her very life for those she doesn’t know, without wanting recognition. She is the best that we can be. She doesn’t always get it right, but always has the best intentions. Harriet lives to serve. She never thinks she above anyone, and lives that attitude to the very end.
Those who resent the Doctor resign to follow him, because they acknowledge it serves a greatest purpose.
The Doctor is our intellect, our emotions, the best we can be without being driven by the hate and disappointment that inevitably devours us. He can only function well with people alongside him who help draw the best out of him. Others see who he can be and they allow him to become that. He responds to the ones who allow him to love them, as well as society in general who disappoint him. He gives to everyone, even the worst of us, the endless second chances that we don’t deserve. We all need second chances. The Doctor gives himself to Rose when it is not him (this will make little sense if you haven’t seen the show). He knows they will be happy, even though he will be miserable. He looks to the interest of others. His love drives him to suffer more than he can imagine for the sake of his lover. He lets his emotions move him, but doesn’t let them stop him from doing what is right. He doesn’t let his feelings drive him to be selfish when most of us would. This is the best writing of any season and I refuse to let anyone tell me otherwise. I had forgotten how amazing it was and I cried desperately throughout the last two episodes. I couldn’t stop. I sort of worry about what my neighbours think of my crying given that we don’t close any windows in this climate… This season connects with the humanity that we all experience. We all want to be the best we can be, but we all relate to the characters who are exhibiting those flaws that we fear the most. Donna is brash and abrasive because she wants to keep people at a distance. She is very protective and very passionate.
Mickey is tough because he doesn’t want others to see his weakness.
Jackie is overly protective because she doesn’t want anyone she loves to ever get hurt.
Rose doesn’t speak up and misses out on what she wants most.
Jack is too controlling because he knows he can’t be hurt and wants to protect those around him.
Martha clings to what she wants, even when she knows it’s not good for her.
Gwen is stubborn and her pride makes me fight with the people she loves.
Ianto looks to others to tell him what to do instead of making decisions for himself.
However, despite all their flaws, people ultimately give themselves to serve each other. We all want to protect those we love, but we can rise above even that to protect humanity as a whole. Who do we want to be? Season 4 has the best ending to any season. I don’t just say this just because I cried like a child for at least an hour (even though I’ve seen it twice before), but because it speaks to the best and worst of us. Everyone can relate to someone. We all want to be the best we can be, and the best media helps us experience that vicariously. These episodes do this. I want to be the best I can be. When Doctor Who is written well (which I admit hasn’t been done very often in season 8) it helps us recognise what we love about the human condition, and it helps us recognise those parts of us that we’d rather leave behind. It is not only entertaining, but it can help us become better people. The Doctor is within all of us, if we would only work together and accentuate our best parts.
Also, I love this comparison between Hermione from ‘Harry Potter’ and Bella from ‘Twilight’. I think Rose fits in the Hermione category.
The delightful Bree asked earlier today what we were hoping to achieve in our writing this year and I wrote something rather vague like
I don’t know how to sum up what I plan for my writing this year. I guess I’ll just keep exploring what it means to follow Jesus and be the best person I can be in very different contexts in the world. How do you engage with such different cultures and remain essentially the same?
Bree replied with
Maybe you don’t.
That’s not exactly what I meant, but it made me think about things. As I am prone to do.
I didn’t mean that I need to remain the same in all contexts. Obviously I don’t need to be the same wherever I go. It is right for me to change depending on what is good and best, but there is a difference between changing how I behave and speak, and changing who I am.
Context is everything.
I know that I have grown and changed over the years. I am more self aware and more in control of what I do and say. I still have lots to learn and lots to do (don’t we all), and it has been a significant experience of working through these ideas in a new and different culture. I am not only working within a different western culture, but also a new island culture. I have to work out how to function within two new cultures whilst still remaining essentially myself.
This has been an enormous challenge at times.
Those who know me know that I am one to speak my mind, and not doing so at times has been challenging. Part of my identity is my strong mind and my desire for rigorous conversation. I love to discuss ideas and engage vibrantly in political and social ideas. I realise this is not something that everyone loves to do, but it is hard when others speak in a manner that offends my intellect and I am unable to defend my ideas.
Actually, I am not unable to defend my ideas.
I choose not to defend my ideas because I think it would damage my fledgling relationships.
I hate doing that. I really do.
I want to be kind.
I want to be generous.
I want to be caring.
I want others to interact with me and leave knowing that I care about them.
I want to be confident and strong.
I want to know who I am, be ok with who I am, and have others know that I am ok with who I am.
I want to know my own mind and speak it.
I want my confidence to give others permission to be confident in themselves.
I want to know my limitations and be ok with them.
I want to be constantly aware of the grace and forgiveness I have been given, and let that awareness drive me to extend the same grace and forgiveness to others.
I want to be quick to assume the best in others.
I want to be more patient.
I want to be more like Jesus.
There is a lifetime of work to be done.
Well, there are only a few more hours left of 2014.
This has been one of the biggest years of my entire life.
(This is my house)
I moved to a country I’d never been to before, to a place where I didn’t know a soul, to a new job, to a new education system, to a new (and very different) culture, to a new climate, to a new… everything basically.
It has been both horribly difficult and truly amazing.
But with all the ups and downs, I don’t regret moving here for a second.
God moved me here for a reason. I love my job and I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to live and serve in such a different place. These experiences have been good for me; I have learnt a lot and grown as a person, and hopefully I’ve made a valuable contribution in return. I am so grateful for the people here that have had input into my life and have helped me transition into a new experience. I am very blessed, by both God and others. Some of these great people are here in these photos from Christmas day. Lunch with one set of people and dinner with another. I have so appreciated these people in my life. Truly.
Life has been tricky, from having my bank details stolen and my account emptied, to not always being physically safe. There have been some serious issues as well as some annoyances (such as constant noise pollution and horrific roads), but they have all shaped my life here and allowed me to experience new things.
I miss my people back home, and being away for Christmas was kind of sad, but it was nice to chat to my family on Christmas day, even though the connection was awful and our conversation was rather confusing as a result :)
The Aussies here put together a ‘Carols by Candlelight’ night on Christmas Eve, something Americans don’t due (due to the weather they have at Christmas time). It was such a great night! I played in a brass quartet and about 170 people came and sang songs together. It was nice to do something familiar. It’s been great having a small contingent of Aussie here to share things with. Sometimes it’s nice to spend time with people from your own culture. It can be less exhausting.
Part of the difficultly in living here is my being an extrovert. I love to be surrounded by people and I love having lots of things to do. There is nothing to do here… that drives me a little nuts. Also the fact that lots of people go away during the breaks isn’t awesome for me. I’m going to Wamena next week, so that’ll be good. It’ll be nice to see another, even more rural, part of Indonesia. Lots of my students’ parents live out there. I’ll take plenty of photos!
I still haven’t made a final decision about whether to leave here in June 2015 or June 2016, but I’m leaning one way. I’ve told myself I’ll make a final decision by the time school resumes in two weeks. Eeeeeeeeeep! Stay tuned!
Is it really December 23rd? Christmas is in 2 days? Really?
It just doesn’t feel like it.
(I don’t normally use photos I don’t take, but here is a great photo of a children’s choir in Jakarta)
This time last year I knew nobody I am going to be spending Christmas with this year. Part of Christmas is spending time with your loved ones and this year will be different. This is not to say that I don’t love my new friends, because I do. I love the people I have begun to know here, and I’m looking forward to spending an important day with them, but it won’t quite be the same. This will be the third Christmas I have ever spent away from my family and that’s going to suck. I’ll definitely miss them. I’ll Skype (audio Skype, video doesn’t really work here) them, which is a poor replacement, but at least it’s something.
I was talking to a couple of friends today about why it doesn’t really feel like Christmas, and I think it is largely to do with the fact that all my cues have been taken away.
Australia has seasonal cues, but not here. It’s always hot and humid, and the weather doesn’t change all year ’round. I’m used to hot weather signifying summer, but now it’s just every day normal.
In Australia the school year is a calendar year, so December is the end of things. You wrap up, say goodbye to your students, and head into the big summer holidays. That doesn’t happen here. We go mid year to mid year, so this is a 3 week break and it’s just the end of the first semester.
Here is a fractal Christmas tree, fractal Christmas star, and fractal present my grade 6s made.
It seems weird to say that it doesn’t feel like Christmas because there is so much here reminding me that it is Christmas. There are Pondok Natals (Christmas huts) that BLAST Christmas music 24 hours a day. And I mean that. They do take breaks, but you can’t predict when that will be. I get woken up at 5am pretty much every day because the music is too loud to sleep through. For those of you that know what I’m like in the morning, you can imagine how this makes me feel. I am soooooooo thankful that Josh gave me a set of earplugs today! I might actually not feel the need to murder someone every morning now…
There are also fireworks every night, but that’s been going on for a couple of months, and all year actually. Maybe not every night, but at least once a week we get fireworks. For no reason. Absolutely no reason. It’s a running joke here actually.
“Oh it’s September 14th*! That explains the fireworks!”
*replace date with any date. There is no rhyme or reason to the fireworks.
Fittingly fireworks have gone off multiple times as I’ve been writing this (and there goes a ridiculously loud one!). At least it’s close to Christmas now. And don’t get me wrong, fireworks are fun. Usually I love them. I go out on my balcony (I live up on a hill) and watch them often.
This is a photo of a street at the bottom of the hill, I know people who live here and I drive past it all the time.
Part of my experience of Indonesia has been that I feel like I’m missing out on village life. I live in a town, a pretty underdeveloped town, but a town none the less. In early January I’m going to go to Wamena for a few days to experience a different part of Papua. A bunch of my kids’ parents live there, while they live in the dorms at school. I’m looking forward to seeing a place I’ve heard so much about! Our school has an annex campus there, and there are about 40 kids from kinder to grade 8.
The next photo is from a village here in Papua called Soba, taken by Clive Gray (a guy I know here). There was recently a bible dedication there, the first translation in their native language. Very cool.
There are so many things I love about living here, particularly my job, my kids, and my friends. But there are so many hard things about living here. I still haven’t decided if I’m going to stay another year. I need to decide before school goes back in 3 weeks. I’m praying about it, but haven’t come to any conclusions yet. Please pray for me.
Oh, and just to brag, here is the view from school. This is what I see every day. Remember that I live on campus :)