I’m back! I left Melbourne on Wednesday morning and arrived in Sentani Thursday morning. It’s so insane that it takes 24 hours to get somewhere that isn’t actually that far away. The way I feel about arriving back is rather telling about how I feel about my life here now. I’m actually glad to be back.
I had a wonderful time in Australia and I loved spending time with family, friends and cafes, but I was actually ready to come home. This has been a positive mindset shift for me. I’m truly happy to be here now. I love my job, I have great friends and I really like my life here. There are obviously difficult things about living in a third world country (shopping is still difficult, road rules are again optional, as are proper roads, my stomach is having to get used to Indonesia again, etc etc), those things haven’t gone away, but I now like living here. And the views aren’t bad either. The top photo is the view from behind the school office looking up to Mount Cyclops. The next photo is the view from my new place. Not bad eh?
I moved house about 4 days before I left for Oz, and now I have 2 housemates, Jennifer (ESL teacher) & Cherie (Grade 4 teacher). Up to this point I’ve been living on my own, but I’m enjoying having housemates. I moved to the next building and now live in a 3 bedroom apartment. It’ll be nice to have some company at home (not that I’m home a whole lot).
Teachers start work this Thursday, then the kids are back next Tuesday. I’m looking forward to getting into a new school year, with all the challenges and opportunities that brings. This year I’m teaching Algebra 1 (year 9), Geometry (year 10), Algebra 2 (year 11), Year 10 English and Psychology (years 11/12). Pretty similar to last year, but I’m swapping grade 6 Maths for year 10 English. I’ll also be running the high school choir again, I absolutely loved doing that last year! I spent some time over the break arranging music.
So all in all, so far so good. Here’s hoping the feeling lasts :)
Here is a wonderful video that two of my students made about our school. It should give you some insight into what it’s like. There are HEAPS of shots of my classes (although I’m in none of them) and my choir even made it in!
My time in Australia is almost up.
I’ve been here about a month and a half and I go home in 9 days. We’re down to single figures. I feel conflicted about this. I love life in Melbourne and I’ll miss my family and friends when I go. I’ll miss all the amazing things there are to do here and the ease of life. However, I’m looking forward to getting back and getting stuck into another school year. I love my job, I’ve made some really great friends, and I adore my students.
People keep asking me what it’s like to be back in Australia and I think the best descriptor I have for life here is ‘easy’. Transport is easy, buying food is easy, drinking water is easy, there is so much to do and see, I am safe here (well, I feel safe and have physical freedom), everything is just so easy. Life in Indonesia is hard. Whilst there are good things about living there, there are also lots of difficult things about living there. My housemate Jennifer wrote recently about how much of an ordeal shopping is; you can read her awesome blog entry here, complete with photos. Getting around can be tricky with the insane traffic (road rules are more guidelines rather than actual rules) and appalling roads. It’s always hot and that in itself can be draining. Life isn’t all terrible, it’s just much harder than it is in Australia. You live with a certain level of background stress, and that’s ok. It becomes your new normal.
However, when I come back to Australia there is a huge sense of relief because I can let go of all of that and have life be easy again.
I had a really bizarre reaction when, the day after I got back, I walked into a big supermarket. I walked into the fresh food section and got a bit teary!
Don’t cry in a supermarket Megan, It’s not a good look…
Looking at the abundance of fresh food that was able to be eaten was just wonderful! I’m used to seeing food covered in bugs; from cockroaches, to flies, to who knows what. Fresh food in Sentani needs to be washed in potassium permanganate before it’s safe to eat, but not here! I could pick up an apple and eat it! After I paid for it obviously… The sheer variety of food and the ease of availability was slightly overwhelming. It was that moment when I felt my background stress melting away and it was kind of emotional. A very strange occurrence in a weird place, but that’s how it happened.
I’ve heard people tell stories like this before about going back to their home countries and I never really got it. I thought they were exaggerating. After almost crying in a supermarket though, I believe them!
It’s been so nice to hang out with old friends and people who know me. I love my new friends in Indo, I really do, but it’s different when you’ve known people for years as opposed to 18 months. I’ve loved catching up with so many different people and reconnecting with wonderful friends!
Now that it’s almost time to go back I feel both excited and sad. I can’t wait to get back, but I also don’t want to leave. That’s the ongoing problem. Now that my heart is embedding in Sentani I want to live in two places at once, and that can suck. I can’t be in two places at once, so I’m always going to miss one place and one set of people. It’s hard to leave here, but it’s also going to be incredibly difficult when I eventually leave Indo and come back to Oz. Leaving my people in Indo is going to kill me.
This might all sound a bit melodramatic, but it’s a bit of an insight into the emotional turmoil of moving and living in such vastly different places with such vastly different experiences.
Also, I chopped my hair off. See photo on the right. I’m still getting used to it…
I know it’s been a ludicrously long time since I’ve blogged, but I’m back again. I can only account for my absence by saying that I haven’t felt the motivation to write. It’s one thing to want to communicate in depth, but it’s quite another to actually communicate in depth. I’ve never had that problem before, so this is a new experience for me. I want to share, but having the mental energy to write is actually another thing.
I haven’t even written about OE, and I will. That will be my very next blog, but I can’t do a summary of the last couple of months and that all at once. Spending 2 weeks in a remote village with nothing (and I mean nothing) was something else. No electricity, no toilets, no showers, no anything. That was back in Feb and it was one of my most amazing experiences I’ve ever had, but again, that’ll have to wait for another time.
Life here is as it always is.
That is; it is hard and wonderful and terrible and slow and fast and busy and boring and challenging and great and awful and terrific and joyful and sad.
There are so many things here that I love, and so many things here that I hate. I love my people here. I adore my colleagues, friends and students. I have made such amazing friends that I never want to leave. There are people here who inspire me and live life in such a way that anyone would want to emulate. I can’t imagine life without some of these people, and I don’t want to.
It is still hard to live here.
I might be selfish and accustomed to luxury, but I miss supermarkets. I miss cafes. I miss my family. I miss my long term friends. I miss the life I had. I feel teary as I think of the people I have left behind and the lifestyle I have left behind. In part, this makes me feel selfish, in part this makes me feel ok.
I love my friends here and I love my students. I adore my job. I honestly do. It’s hard at times, but it‘s also amazing and rewarding. Teaching in a new system has been different, but good.
I love the friendships I have built here and I really do love my new life. I honestly don’t want to live without these people.
I love camping holidays at isolated beaches where we laze around all day and talk and play cards and read and just spend time. I love the way we have dinner and talk and enjoy the fun things about each other. I love the way we understand the challenges we each face and can relate in a way that we don’t get to experience in western society. I also just love the ‘normal’ friendship of truly good people. I say ‘normal’ because I don’t know how else to say it. It is normal, but it also isn’t.
I am constantly looking forward to going back to Australia and visiting the people and places that I love. However, I know that when I leave here it’s going to kill me. I know it’ll be devastating to leave the people I love here, and I don’t know how to prepare for that.
I both want to leave and don’t want to leave; and I have no idea how to reconcile those feelings. I don’t think I can. Eventually I just need to choose one and deal with the sadness that comes with it. I’m due to leave here in June 2016, and whilst I think that is the right thing to do at this point, it’s still kind of painful.
Anyway, there is a rather emotional and confusing insight into my very stable mind…
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 :)