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.
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:
Driving around yesterday: http://instagram.com/p/mH0FvWkYP1/
Driving around last week: http://instagram.com/p/l62e47kYJb/
Well, that’ll do for now. Thanks again to everyone who stays in touch with me via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Skype, physical letters, etc. Much love to you all xx