My time in Makassar is sadly over. I’m leaving tonight to take the overnight flight back to Papua. I’m so incredibly grateful that I’ve been able to spend a month here improving my language skills and getting to know new people; it’s been such a positive experience! I’ve made some incredible new friends, seem more of this huge and diverse country I live in, and I feel much more equipped to communicate with local people. I couldn’t have asked for more! I’ve experienced such wonderful hospitality here from both ex pats and Indonesians.
The above are photos of our language teachers at the local university we’ve been studying at. They were such wonderful people; so friendly, helpful and kind. I learnt so much and am so happy with the language program I was a part of.
Alicia & Melsy as we watched the sunset at Pantai Losari
Not only did we take a class everyday (and sometimes 2 classes a day), but we also saw a language tutor (Melsy) 3 times a week. We’d spend a couple of hours with her just talking and practicing the things we’d been learning. It was incredibly helpful and she was incredibly lovely. She’s getting married tomorrow! I’m sad I won’t be around for it. She invited me, but I’d already booked my flights back by then :(
We got to try heaps of new food here! It’s quite different to Papua. Makassar has a particular favourite called coto (which is basically a delicious soup) as well as pisang epe (baked bananas covered in chocolate/lots of other things) & pisang ijo (banana covered in a sweet, green dough served in a sweet, cold soupy thing). I also managed to eat some incredible sushi from a real Japanese restaurant! So amazing!
It’s been interesting being in a huge city that is almost entirely Muslim during Ramadan. Everyone is fasting during the day, so you can’t eat or drink in public, and everyone breaks fast as the sun sets (so the traffic is INSANE before 6pm). We went and broke fast with some people one evening and they shared their food with us after evening prayers.
As Ramadan ends, everyone celebrates together by going visiting for a couple of days after the month of fasting. Hospitality is a huge value here, so we went around to different people’s houses and ate with them, which was such a cool experience. Everyone was so welcoming and generous. The trick though is not to eat too much at any house because you have to eat at every house!
I spent the first 3 weeks staying with Chris & Amy (Aussies I’d met before I came to Indonesia), and I’ve spent the last week and a half at Sarah & Marc’s (Americans I met in Bali that are friends with Chris & Amy). I’m so grateful for amazing friends who have shown incredible hospitality to me.
Chris & Amy with their kids Josiah & Eliana
I got to spend the 4th of July with some of my favourite Americans, the Howells.
I’m both sad I have to go home, and looking forward to the next stage of my Indonesian adventure. I am truly grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given to see more of the world. I love seeing new physical parts of the world as well as seeing the diversity of people the earth has to offer.
As a side note I might be online less as of tomorrow because a few weeks ago an earthquake damaged the internet cable that goes to Papua, and apparently it won’t be fixed for a while. No one seems to know how long it’ll take. Another week? Another month? No idea. Sigh… Just when we’d gotten used to having decent internet…
Driving around Makassar
I’m currently in Makassar (on the island of Sulawesi) for a month learning Indonesian. I’m here with a friend from Sentani, Alicia (our school nurse), and we’re studying at the local university. So far it’s been excellent! We’ve learnt so much in the first week already! Our teachers are so lovely and make us speak almost exclusively Indonesian, which is hard, but good for us! I’m really enjoying feeling more confident with my language skills so quickly. There are 9 units as part of the language course and we’re doing unit 2.
We have 2 hour lessons in the morning 5 days a week, and starting this week we’ll be doing much more. We’ll now have tutoring sessions in the afternoons to practice more what we’ve been learning. This will be with a woman who doesn’t speak English, so there is no crutch to fall back on! Again, this will be really good for us, but hard.
We get to uni each day on a bentor (a motorbike powered carriage). They’re extremely common here.
Local public transport. The blue van on the left is an ancot (taxi) and the red thing on the right is a bentor.
Makassar is an amazingly huge city, and having come from small Sentani, I’m really enjoying it! We even got lost in the local mall this week it’s so big! Although that was more due to the horrific layout of the mall! People who’ve been here for months still get lost in that place. We’re enjoying more diverse food options and shopping, even if it is just window shopping, although I did buy a $4 selfie stick and it’s awesome. Judge away! This way we can get photos of us AND the background instead of just close ups of our faces.
Batik (local fabric)
Local kids pick the berries from the tree in the front yard
Looking after the kids we’re staying with
Eating a local speciality called coto with Chris, Amy & the fam
Yesterday we went on a road trip to the mountains. Chris & Amy (who we’re staying with) were kind enough to let us borrow their car. We went to a HUGE tea plantation where we drank delicious green tea and incredible fresh strawberry juice. The trip was problematic though because google maps told us to go the wrong way, so it took about 45 mins longer to get there than it should, then both of our phones died and I had to get us back without the aid of maps. I got us home without a single wrong turn! Winner!
Next we went to a strawberry farm and went a little overboard with picking strawberries But they were super cheap so it was fine! We’ve eaten a lot of strawberries in the last 24 hours! We can’t get them in Sentani, so it’s a wonderful treat.
The public toilet at the strawberry farm. This was a really good one. No bad smell, hardly any flies and relatively clean.
On the way home we stopped by some rice fields just because they were pretty
Today I spent most of the day lazing around because I’m sick. Boooooooo! My throat is swollen and my nose is totally stuffed up. The asthma isn’t much fun either. Sigh…
All in all it’s going really well here. I should be back in Papua by July 9 or 10. I can’t wait to see how good my language is in another few weeks!
I’ve had a really cool time recently exploring more of life here; there’s always more to see! Last weekend I went with some friends to a nearby island to have lunch with some locals they knew. It was so interesting seeing a coastal kampung (village/settlement), not having spent much time in one before myself. There was no electricity or clean water, so you can imagine that life can be hard there. It was beautiful and sad all at once.
I also went for a drive around part of Lake Sentani with a friend yesterday, just enjoying the views and the lake culture. People are so friendly there, always waving and smiling.
I’ve also enjoyed spending time hiking around parts of Lake Sentani with friends, often watching the sunset. It’s absolutely stunning.
The rest of this post is just going to be photos, showing you what life here looks like.
Part of the coast of Jayapura (Papua’s capital)
Arriving at the island
Having lunch. That goopy stuff you can see is papeda. I don’t like it much… That’s my knee you can see on the left!
A kampung in Jayapura
Local street in Sentani that I drive past on my way to get petrol, some friends of mine live down there
Part of the markets where I get most of my fresh produce
Some more outdoor markets I often pass on my way to the lake
Batik shopping. They have such beautiful material!
Long exposure. Sentani by night
Hanging out at Lake Sentani with some friends
Hiking around Lake Sentani
More Lake Sentani
Hanging out at Lake Sentani
I hope this helps you picture some of my life here in Indonesia
This week was budget week in Australian politics! Who cares you say? ME! Judge away, I don’t mind. I love all things politics, and budget week is no different.
There were winners and losers as always and it wasn’t particularly unsurprising who the winners were. As we head towards a July 2nd election, the Liberal Party know where their votes are. This is both good political strategy and horrible predictability that benefits the wealthier of our society. There are some things in it for everyone, but the winners and losers are not balanced across the socio-economic spectrum. Here is a run down of the big winners and losers, but I’m going to talk about other stuff here too.
They’re addressing bracket creep, which sounds good, and sort of is; but the devil is in the detail. If you earn between $80,000 & $87,000 a year, you won’t be pushed into the next tax bracket, which saves you $6 a week. At $87,000 a year, I’m not sure $6 a week makes the slightest bit of difference to your life, but anyway… This tax ‘cut’ will cost the government $4 billion, an absurd amount of money that makes little to no difference to the people getting it.
Imagine the schools and hospitals they could have funded with $4 billion! Oh yeah, they cut funding to education and health again too. This decrease in funding is meant to be offset by an increase in state funding, but there is no guarantee that’s going to happen.
Those with large amounts of superannuation will be worse off because of a tax hike. This only affects the top 4%.
One of the things I do like is a bit of a crack down on multinational corporations not paying enough tax. These reforms don’t go far enough, but it’s a good start. We are missing out on SO much revenue because of corporate tax loopholes. We should also stop subsidising big business and fossil fuels so much too, but that’s another issue.
We have both a spending problem and a revenue problem. You can’t look at one half of the equation without addressing the other half. We’re spending beyond what we’re getting (the deficit is up again, more on that later) and that is because of many things. Our resources are no longer as valuable. The mining boom is over and commodity prices are down, which means revenue is down.
There are some exceptions to this. Iron ore prices went down substantially in the last few years, but actually they’re up again. They’ve gone from $37 a ton to $55 a ton. This is good for our economy, but we can’t rely on commodity prices to prop up our budget.
This budget also assumes nothing will go wrong or substantially change in China. This may be ok, but it may not. China has been moving from a manufacturing based economy to consumption based economy over the last few years and that trend is continuing.
Growth was slower that previously predicted, which again has contributed to lower revenue and therefore increased debt.
In case you’re not sure what the difference between deficit and debt is; debt is the amount of money we owe, the deficit is how much we are spending over the amount that we’re earning. Being in deficit means that we are spending more than we earn and this has increased under the Libs who claim to be bringing us back to surplus. I’m not sure how if we’re actually spending more than we’re earning, and that amount increases every year… Some of this using deficit is due to global issues that aren’t the government’s fault however.
We’ve just spent $32 billion on defence submarines, but only $1.7 billion on defence innovation. I’m not sure our priorities are in the right place here. Do we really need 16 new subs?
Jobs and growth was the focus of this budget, and some of that sounds good in theory, but some of these measures don’t translate to the jobs and growth they’re promising. Trickle down economics does not work and never has. There has never been any evidence that it works. The idea that economic growth means more jobs isn’t always true. It often means people doing the same jobs for less money (less pay means more money floating around in the company which can look good) or more jobs, but also for less money (more jobs looks good on paper and is technically job growth, but at what cost?). The people at the top usually benefit from the extra money, not the workers.
Unlike previous budgets, Scott Morrison was talking up our economy for once. We are still the envy of much of the developed world in terms of our economic stance. We survived the global financial crisis basically unscathed (not that the Labor party got any political credit for this) and have been working towards balancing our budget once again. But have we?
One of the platforms of the conservatives is that they are responsible economic managers and Labor wastes everyone’s money. The numbers do not support this statement. Since the Libs took over, not only have we been increasing our debt, we have also been increasing our deficit! Here is our net debt as a % of GDP.
And a budget balance graph.
The conservatives also tell us that they want to lower tax. Well if they want to do that, they should, or stop pretending they actually do, or that it’s practical. Taxes are actually higher under the coalition government. They might want to genuinely lower taxes, but they can’t, because then we’d have even more of a revenue issue. And frankly I’m happy to pay my taxes if it allows the government to provide adequate support and services to the community. Lower taxes = less services, and that may be ok for the well off, but it really only serves to widen the gap between the haves and have-nots.
Even though Morrison talked up our economy in this budget, earlier that day, the reserve bank actually cut interest rates. Not a sign the economy is going really well.
The government is assuming a 0.5% increase in real GDP over the next year, but according to analysts, that’s unrealistic, which just means less revenue for the things they’ve promised to fund. Not good.
Then there is that new jobs/internship initiative thing. Basically the government will give a business $1000 to take on an unpaid intern. So… the business gets money for slave labor. Seems rife for abuse to me. I understand the idea that it helps people get experience so they can gain employment, but at what cost? You can’t work for free and still survive (although you would be receiving unemployment benefits as you’re technically unemployed. Work for the dole anyone?). They are also making this internship mandatory if you’ve been unemployed for 5 months. This seems like a good idea on the surface in some ways, but I can’t imagine it working well in reality.
There is some new infrastructure money for roads, and this is a good thing. However there is no where near as much money as expected being poured into infrastructure in general.
Tertiary education funding was cut.
Childcare subsidies were cut.
Aged care funding for nursing homes was cut by $1.2 billion. How awful.
There was zero mention of climate change. Pathetically predictable.
The tax on cigarettes is going to sky rocket. I’m not really sad about this. Maybe it’ll help fund health care. Except that it won’t because health funding was cut. Sigh…
There is $1.6 billion of spending unaccounted for. We’re yet to fund out what this is.
There is better super flexibility at the low end of the the superannuation spectrum, and this is a really good thing. This affects people earning less than $38,000, which is particularly good for part-timers and low-income couples.
Another brilliant thing is that the de-regulation of uni fees has been postponed. I hope it never goes through, although they’ve said they’ll reintroduce it next year. I guess it’ll be post election time then… But they can’t get these reforms through the senate. Hopefully that problem will persist.
The NDIS was fully funded, but isn’t really anymore. It’s now been pitted against pension funding. Basically we can fund one or the other, but not both. What an appalling choice.
ALL company tax is to be lowered over the next 4 years. This seems like it’s just going to cause more revenue problems. Decreasing income for the government is not going to help the debt and deficit problem. I know their plan is to stimulate the economy, but how does that help our nation instead of just benefitting share holders? I’m not even sure this helps workers, just those in charge. Again, trickle down economics has never been shown to work. To a point lowering company tax is good, there are certainly benefits, but everything is a two sided coin.
The vision for this budget is that business produces growth, which produces jobs, which stimulates the economy. It’s just never that simple though.
This budget seems to disadvantage those on the lower end of the socio-economic scale. If you are a single parent on $87,000 and you have 2 high school aged children, you get that extra $6 a week tax cut, but because of education cuts, you are actually $86 a week worse off. You’re down $80 a week. This doesn’t seem like a fair budget to me.
There are some winners here, but there seem to be a bunch of losers. The Libs certainly know who their voter base is and seem to have gone easy on them, pre-election. It’s not that their voter base has escaped unscathed, but it’s nothing too bad. It seems to benefit the wealthy more than the poor who get no tax cuts at all, and effectively get an increase in their cost in living because of health and education cuts.
On a completely different note, I was watching a live Q&A with Annabel Crabb on election night where she was answering questions on Facebook. Most people were asking budget related questions, of course, but there is still a percentage of the population who are ludicrously sexist. Women have to look a certain way and it’s acceptable to tell them when they don’t live up to your standards. Please. One commenter said that Annabel’s face didn’t look great, and she basically fobbed him off lightheartedly for being ridiculous. I would not have reacted so nicely, but I bet she gets this sort of thing a lot being in the media, even though she’s ridiculously smart, talented, great at her job, and gorgeous. I mean really, her face doesn’t look great?! Seriously? She’s not 19 and she looks fabulous! Even if she didn’t, we’re here for her mind, not her beauty. Shallow idiot.
(In true Indonesian fashion, as soon as I opened up a new blog post and began to type, the power died leaving me sitting on my couch in the pitch black. Oh Indonesia…
To begin, here is my current favourite photo of Lake Sentani. I took it about a month ago.)
It’s probably time for me to actually post something again. I’ve been very bad at blogging over the last year. A large portion of that has been our utterly crappy internet, but it’s also been a lack of clarity in my thinking about how to communicate my life. More on that in a second, but WE HAVE FIRBRE OPTIC CABLE INTERNET!!!! As of 13 days ago we now have really good internet! I am truly excited! We’re getting speeds of 2MB/s for those of you who are more technically minded. This means I can Skype people without delays and constant drop outs. I can even video Skype! I can watch videos that people send me & it doesn’t take forever to load Facebook photos. This might sound like a small thing, but when you’re this far from home, it’s a huge thing!
Now that I have no such excuse for not writing I hope to get back into more regular blogging. I often struggle to find the balance of talking about the positive things about living here, and the struggles. It’s hard to communicate the difficulties without sounding like I’m just complaining, and it’s hard to communicate the good things without making life sound wonderful and easy. I hope you have understood that life here is both. It is beautiful and disgusting, fun and difficult, rewarding and frustrating.
At the beach with some of my girls. And yes, I have blue hair now.
Since I last wrote school has plodded along nicely, but our big event was heading to a remote village for 2 weeks. As we do every year, we took our entire high school (years 9 – 12 here) into a new remote location to serve the local people and learn more about the culture and ourselves. This year we headed to the Ilugwa area, specifically to the village of Danama. We hiked to small villages (each group went to a different village) for a few days and spent the rest of the time in Danama doing various projects. The projects varied from setting up clean water systems to sustainable gardening setups to HIV/AIDS presentations to medical surveys to kids’ clubs to meal prep and many others things.
The goodbye feast in Danama
It’s always an incredible time of personal growth as well as service to local villagers who don’t often (or ever) receive the kind of help we are able to provide. It’s a truly unique experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. It’s not the easiest of experiences, with 80 kids to organise and no access to clean water/showers/toilets etc, but it’s definitely a worthwhile one. This year we had some electricity because this village had a few solar panels, this meant that we had some light in some places at night time which made things a little bit easier than last year! Although it attracted all the bugs. I (and everyone) was bitten by soooooo many mozzies! I also fell through a bridge on the first day (as did 4 others…) and still have a scar.
Dancing with the locals in Danama
The local people were so friendly, welcoming, kind, generous, grateful, fun and lovely. It made our experiences really memorable. They gave all the girls nokens (hand made bags) and they gave lots of other things to a huge variety of people. They put on dances for us, spent time telling us their history and life stories, and cooked a huge feast as a thank you for us on the day we left. We were so blessed to experience life with these people for 2 weeks. Here are a bunch of photos from our trip.
A welcome lunch with the locals in the village we hiked to
The view from the building we stayed in in small village we hiked to
Lunch in our small village in one of the local’s kitchen
The honai I slept in with some of my girls. It was warm and comfy but I got flea bites on my legs and a rat ran across my back during the night…
It was pretty muddy… it rained every afternoon. We were in the highlands this year and the weather is much cooler.
Kids’ club in Danama
Preparing the goodbye feast. They put all the food in huge pits in the ground with hot rocks to cook.
Paul & Pete were given headdresses and thank you presents
Eating the goodbye feast
There are only six weeks left until graduation now, so we’re getting to the pointy end of the school year! It’s strange to think I’ll have to say goodbye to all my seniors as they head to various countries to go to university. It’s always a hard time of transition here in May when everyone departs either for a break or for good. We’re losing a number of staff at the school too which is always sad.
My seniors (year 12s)
If you’ve ever thought about teaching overseas, just let me know! I’d love to send you some info on our school. Here’s a video. There is a fair bit of footage from my classes here (even though I’m nowhere to be seen!) and my choir even made it in!
Over the 2 month break I’ll be heading off for a while. I’ll be gone about 5 weeks and I’ll spend 4 of those weeks in Makassar, a city on another island, doing language school. It’s been a challenge to learn Indonesian when I’ve never had proper lessons and I spend all my time teaching in English. Living on the school compound has not helped me learn the language at all. I have the basics down, but I can’t have a meaningful conversation with anyone, so I’m looking forward to improving my language skills for the final 12 months of my time here. The plan is for me to stay until June 2017 then move back to Australia.
Part of my Geometry class
At the moment I’m feeling terrible about the decision to stay an extra year. I know it won’t last, but I’m missing home right now. I missed a good friend’s wedding today, I’m seeing photos on Facebook of other friends having babies and I get sad that I can’t be a part of any of that. I feel so removed, yet so connected at the same time because of the internet. It’s both a blessing and a curse. My friends are lovely in that they still invite me to Facebook events, which I love, but it often just makes me sad because I’m reminded of all the things I’m missing out on. Removal from the people you know and love is a truly difficult thing. I’ve been here almost 2.5 years now, and that’s a really long time to be away.
So like usual, life is both good and bad. I know I’m in the right place for now, but it’s also hard to be away from home. Through it all however, God is good.
(Editor’s note: My photos are massive and I can’t seem to shrink them without making them very tiny. I’ll work on that…)
The internet is finally working again! YAAAAAYYYYYYYYY! As of Friday we have the internet again! It’s been more than a month without internet here, and whilst it’s still dial up speed awfulness, it’s better than nothing. I’ve been using the 3G on my phone in the meantime and that’s hardly sustainable.
The exciting part is that we’re getting actual fibre optic cable internet! It was meant to be here in November… but it is coming. The cables are up on the hill, just not connected yet. I. CAN’T. WAIT.
It’s been a while since I’ve written because my laptop hasn’t been able to connect to the internet, so here I go.
On the way home from the beach
Over the Christmas break my mum and aunty came to visit! It was so awesome to have people from home come to see where I live and understand more about my life here. I had such a great time showing them around and seeing life through their eyes for a while. We went to the beach, the capital of our province, flew out to a remote village, went to the lake, looked around town, etc. I wanted to show them what my life is like day to day as much as possible.
The village of Mamit
Mum in Mamit in front of our plane
They were also here for New Years Eve, and it was pretty great. The fireworks are incredible! (photo cred to Andrew Kimball)
Sentani on NYE
After a great week in Sentani we went to Bali together for a holiday for another week. It was so nice to go somewhere full of convenience and ease for a while. I truly had a brilliant time!
The rice fields in Bali
Hindu temple in Bali
At a coffee plantation in Bali
After Bali it was time to immediately get back to school. Christmas is not our big break here as we go mid year to mid year instead of calendar years.
This semester I gave up Algebra II (year 11) and picked up Pre-Calculus (year 12). We had a teacher leave at the end of last semester so we had to do a bit of reshuffling. I’m really enjoying it, but it’s definitely more work because I’ve never taught this subject arranged quite like this before. Second semester is almost all trigonometry and it’s been a while since I did this level of trig. It’s actually fun though! Choir is still going well. I love the challenge of arranging music.
My incredible choir
We’re preparing for OE at the moment. That’s where we take our whole high school into a remote village for 2 weeks. We’re going from Feb 22 – March 4 this year. I can’t wait! No electricity, running water, toilets, showers, anything. This year we’re going to the Ilugwa area to a village called Danama. We’ll be doing more water projects like last year as well as running kids’ clubs, doing AIDS/HIV awareness training, medical stuff and anything else they need. Whoooo!!! This is my brilliant group.
My 2016 OE group
And there’s a bit of a summary of the last couple of months.
Aussies + honorary Aussies
Also, I now have purple hair. Well, some purple hair.
I had more to say on Monday, but I decided 1700 words were enough for one blog entry. Then I wrote something else on Wednesday about responses I received. Now here are some more reflections on the whole thing.
I’ve had some interesting residual effects from being assaulted. One of the awful things was that I was assaulted by one of the very people who was being paid to protect me against such things. This man was a Christian from one of the local churches, and was married with children (I feel particularly bad for his wife and kids. I have no idea why they think he lost his job). If I can’t trust him, then who can I trust? This has created some trust issues in me, particularly around local men. The national people who work at our school are wonderful people. We have lots and lots of Indonesian staff and I have developed friendships with some of them. They’re friendly, caring, generous, kind and pleasant people.
I’ve had lots of good experiences with local people and one very bad one. Now my first inclination on meeting new national men is mistrust. I assume bad intentions, but I don’t want to. I catch myself making bad assumptions about people. It’s not fair and it’s not right.
I want to see the good in people.
Whilst the community here is full of lovely people, it is also full of violence, poverty and all the issues that go along with that.
It is right for me to make sure I am safe and behave in a pre-emptive, protective way to a point, but what does that mean for how I interact with new people? It’s a delicate balance.
The reality is that it isn’t always safe for women. White people get stared at a lot because we’re obviously different. We stand out. I get it. Sometimes random Indonesians want photos with you just because you’re white. It can be a little uncomfortable, but it’s fine. What I don’t appreciate is the men who come up to me and ask me lots of questions and try to find out where I live. The drunk ones can be particularly stubborn and unpleasant. I don’t mind talking to strangers, but I’m always weary of strange men who talk to me because usually their intentions are not wonderful. I’ve never had anyone actually do anything bad whilst I’ve been out in the community, it’s mostly just questions that can be intrusive and sometimes annoyingly persistent. I’m never out in public alone without it being a very populated place like the busy main road.
I don’t get approached by men when I’m with other people, only when I’m alone, which says something about why I’m getting approached.
Some ex-pat women (especially some of our high school girls) carry pepper spray or occasionally tasers to protect themselves. I know of a number of women/girls who have been groped while on their motorbikes stopped at traffic lights. I get yelled at when I’m riding my bike sometimes, but I can’t usually make out what’s being said.
I hate that it’s safer for my 16 year old male students to go around town alone than it is for me. They can go on long motorbike rides to enjoy the scenery, but I shouldn’t go out of town to do that. I’m loathe to go riding around the lake on my own, even thought I’d like to. I’m an independent adult who is used to being able to do as she pleases and be physically safe. No longer having that assumed freedom is both frustrating and unjust. I have lived my life in relative physical safety and now it’s something I have to think about as a daily reality. It’s not like someone is waiting to attack me around every corner, but I do have to consider where I go and what I do.
Life here is more complicated than life back in Australia. I still want to be here, and these sacrifices are worth it for me at this point in my life, but I don’t enjoy everything about living here.