My New Home

This is weird.  It’s the first time I haven’t lived in Australia.

I wasn’t sure how to start this post, so I glanced behind me out the window down the hill and noticed a gecko on my wall, so that’s a pretty good first impression for you.  Very normal.  Actually, that was the first thing I saw when I walked into my new apartment, a gecko running away from me as I opened the door.  I hope they at least eat other bugs!

I arrived early yesterday (Tuesday) morning after an overnight flight.  I can’t sleep on planes so I got about an hour of dozing so I wasn’t feeling at my best when I landed.  To add insult to injury I didn’t get to see the last 15 minutes of the movie I was watching (Enough Said).  Boooooooo!

photo 2I was picked up from the airport when my flight got in and taken to my new apartment.  I’m living on campus in one of the staff apartment blocks.  There are 4 apartments in each block (2 on the bottom floor, 2 on the top) and I have one of the top ones.  It’s very basic and not very flash, but it’s something I can live in.  There are tiles everywhere which suits the climate.  I have no air con and I was very skeptical as to how I’d cope with that, but as I was told (and thankfully it turns out to be true) it’s fine without air con!  We’re up on a hill at the base of a mountain so we get good breezes flowing through.  I have my windows permanently open (as does everyone) and fans going to keep the air circulating and it’s fine.  I slept well last night thankfully.  I’ve got a double bed and a comfortable mattress.  My shower is kind of dodgy though.  I need a new shower head, the one I have is rubbish.

On the right is the view from my front door by the way.  The thing at the bottom is the concrete barrier going down my stairs.  The views are stunning, it really is a very beautiful place.  Although the nature around here is amazing, the man made things are very ugly.  There is rubbish everywhere, the roads are in bad condition (although safe to drive) and the buildings are all run down and ugly; like Bali.  Indonesia doesn’t seem to be big on external aesthetics.

I can’t even describe the traffic.  Just think of chaos, no one bothering with road rules and you’ll get a bit of an idea of Indonesian traffic.  You can’t really imagine it until you’ve seen it.  I’m shocked that there seem to be very few accidents.  I mean, they certainly have accidents, but given the state of the traffic it’s remarkable how few there are.

photo 1This is another view from my front door, looking just to the left of the previous picture.  That road goes out of the school down to the town, about 1km away.  We have guards and a gate at the entrance for safety.  Any tension here is usually just between the Papuans & the Indonesians, westerns don’t tend to be involved unless they involve themselves.  Although I think we’ll be fine because next door is a military base.

This is a thing in itself.  Interesting that no one told me this bit until I got here!!!  Mum and dad, you may want to skip this paragraph.  No really, just skip to the next one.  You’re still reading aren’t you?  Oh well, I warned you…  The military have a shooting range next to the school where they [obviously] do their shooting practice.  Great place for it huh?  Next to a school.  It seems that they were there first so they think it’s our problem for building here.  Anyway, the things they shoot into aren’t absorbent enough to stop the bullets from ricocheting off and going other places.  So… guess where they end up?  Yup, at our school.  Apparently the students love to go out onto the soccer field with a metal detector and find bullets.  This means that whenever the military do shooting practice we have to stay inside.  Just in case.  A few years ago a boy in grade 4 was shot in the bum while in a PE class on the soccer field.  Yup, he was shot by a ricocheting bullet from the military next door.  So now we just stay inside when they’re practicing.  This happened this morning, and it went for about an hour.  Lots of automatic weapons.  I definitely stayed indoors.  Another teacher a few years ago, who lived in the same apartment as me, found a bullet casing on her front step once.  Ok mum and dad, stop freaking out.  I’m ok.  I just read on my bed for that hour over the other side of my apartment.  There were lots of concrete walls in the way and I was safe.  I guess this is part of my life now.

Oh the noise!  There is constant noise!  Because the windows are always open you hear everything.  The wildlife is ridiculously noisy all day and all night, living amongst the jungle will do that I guess and the town noise floats up here too.  Birds, you are lovely, but SHUT UP!  Also the mosque plays very loud chanting over their loudspeakers at prayer times.  And I mean loud!  I can’t imagine how loud it is down there if it’s that loud all the way up here!  There are other people in the villages that play really loud music over loudspeakers that we can hear very well.  I can’t fathom why they play it so loud!  Sometimes there is competing noise coming from different parts of Sentani.  Noise is definitely the right word for what it is…

The noise level is not particularly conducive to sleeping in… although I guess that’s ok given my school times.

HISThe school day here is insane.  There are eight 45 minute lessons a day.  EIGHT!!!  Guess what time school starts?  7:30am!  What the?!  Here is our daily schedule.  As you can see we still finish at 3pm.  Looooong days.  It’ll be interesting to see how the kids cope with that.  I guess they’re used to it.  It’s a long day for the little kids though!  This is a K-12 school.

Unlike Australia the school schedule doesn’t change from day to day.  You do 8 subjects and each subject is on at the same time every day.

The aerial pic on the right shows the layout of the school.  I live in the building down the very bottom on the right.  I’ll be teaching in the building right up the top and the first one to the right, that’s the high school.  The elementary school is those buildings you can see over on the right.  The other buildings near my place are other residential places.  I’ll take some photos of the school eventually and give you a look.  It looks a lot smaller than it really is in this shot, it’s quite a large place.

As I’ve said before, my visa isn’t ready so I can’t teach yet, but I can take one class as a volunteer apparently.  This means I start teaching tomorrow!  No rest for me!  I’ll be taking Psychology only until my visa is ready, then I’ll pick up two Maths subjects; Algebra 1 & Algebra 2.  Hopefully this will happen by the end of the month.  Next semester, which is our new school year, I’ll pick up another two maths classes, so I’ll eventually be teaching four Maths and Psych.

Psych hasn’t run here for a while and not much documentation was left, so they’re basically letting me redesign it!  Yay!  I’ve got the Australian year 12 Psych course and taken things out to condense it into one semester.  I hope it’ll be good!  Only four year 12s have chosen not to take it.  I spent today writing my curriculum up so I’m all ready to go tomorrow.

I’ll also be doing language classes three times a week from 9-10am with three others who have already been learning for six months.  I’ll have to do some catch up!  That starts tomorrow too.

Back to my arrival story (I clearly got sidetracked).  Yesterday after I put my stuff in my house I got a tour of the school and met the staff and some students.  Everyone was really nice (phew!).  I had lunch with the staff then headed home for a nap.  That night the two girls who share the apartment next to me had me over for dinner, which was awesome not only because they were lovely, but because I had no food in my house yet!  They were really nice and so helpful.  They gave me an extra serve of dinner so that I could have lunch the next day and some bread and butter for breakfast the next morning (I already had vegemite).  They also gave me mozzie repellent.  So lovely!

This morning I spent some time at home (Home!  Eeeeeeeeep!) settling in, unpacking, reading etc then a guy I met at the conference (Craig) took me shopping so I could get some groceries.  My fridge and cupboards were depressingly bare.  This afternoon I’ve been preparing for my classes.

I also got the internet in my house today.  It’s slow, but not as slow as I thought it’d be.  Yay!

So all in all, things are going well.  I’m coping with the weather, the people are great, I have a home, and I’m excited about starting my job tomorrow.  Oh, and I re-enrolled for uni today.  I’ll be taking an algebra/calculus subject starting on March 3.  Thanks to everyone who has sent me messages (email, Facebook or otherwise) and made me feel loved, missed and supported.  I really appreciate you all.  Truly.


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