Saturday, 20 November 2010

First week in Flores

Well, wow! I just don’t know where to start! This is what the last few months have been about, I’m in a new country, tackling the language, making headway in a new job, manoeuvring a bike horribly, cleaning up a new house, figuring out where to buy things, talking with locals.... it’s all going on!
Ende is at the top of a peninsular, on the south coast of the island. The first thing I saw when I came out of the plane was a huge volcano, totally covered in green plants, and with a flat top. There is another one knitting the town in between the two volcanoes and the two seas nicely...well, as far as active volcanoes can be nice.
Everything is different, different to Bali and a world away from Scotland! Let’s start in the office. I am in a room with 7 others. We sit on wooden chairs, at wooden desks. There is one landline, which is attached to the fax machine. The printers are like ones you would have at home, but ones that are slow and don’t scan or do anything other than guzzle ink. Most people have laptops but there are a couple of computers. There is one internet connection per room. They sometimes use a typewriter! A little mouse ran past me the other day... I didn’t gasp or scream, I just lifted my feet pretty fast and was spotted much to the amusement of my colleagues. There is no electronic diary, if you want to see the regional head, you sit outside his office and wait in line, its work Jim, but not as we know it!
Somehow it works. I have been reading some huge documents, full of stats about the country, attended workshops, lasting 9 hours, watched a room full of 20 people whittle down, priorities and allocate responsibility of the budget request list, in a single day! No-one can accuse these people for not having drive! It’s been great and eye opening. Google translate is my new best friend...looking up every word in the dictionary is unproductive, though since I moved out of the hotel getting access to it is not easy. I’ve been able to feel productive making little graphs of data and jotting down ideas, questions and issues for later, whilst getting my bearings.
Using the language every day is tiring. But good tiring, because I know I am learning. Being immersed like this, with the basics to keep me afloat is definitely the way to make leaps of progress. My brain is working really hard translating questions and figuring out how to answer them with the little vocabulary I have at hand! I’m learning new words every day. I feel like I’m moving in the right direction. I have an agreement with the head of our office I talk in Indonesian and he talks in English so we can both practice, which has made me feel relaxed and welcomed in the office. It all helps!
I spent my first four nights in a hotel, while we found, contracted, painted and furnished the house. I was in there faster than Clark Kent becomes superman! On the day I saw and picked the house, a call was made to get the contract drawn up. The next day, that was done and the following it was painted. The very same day we picked the bed and wardrobe, it was delivered and constructed with no extra charge!  
Speaking about my house......ooooooh its so cute!!!! But the kitchen and bathroom are soooooo dirty, and Im already in there! Wait until the new year, you are going to be impressed! It’s a small house that feels spacious, with a corrugated zinc roof  and a little garden.  I bought all the cleaning products (which was a bit of adventure in itself) and am tackling it bit by bit. I really wish I brought a pair of trusty marigolds! I don’t think I will find them anywhere and the dirt in this place, eurgh, i will be glad once the job is done, put it that way.
During this first week I had my first pets, let’s start outside, I have some chickens who have decided to visit my garden regularly...and leave their mess just incase their clucking wasn’t enough, then there are a couple of cats that skulk around, and sometimes I hear fighting. Inside, a few cute little geckos, always welcome, 8 cockroaches (I may not have marigolds but sweet relief I had roach spray, the stuff is amazing!) and a spider as big as my hand. The neighbours kids (about 8 of them) were in to save me from that one, one girl went out and got a leaf (from my mango tree i might add) and just picked it off the wall, and threw it out the door! Brave!
The water is sporadic so I’m going to have to get used to that, and there is no rubbish day like at home but if you put it out, it gets taken away! Colleagues from the office have just been out of this world helpful. They have led me home, so I don’t get lost, helped me fix my bed, put up my mosquito net, lent me plates and furniture, brought spare desk from the office, helped get my electric fixed when it went out, they have really been super. Even when I tried to go my motorbike (I was appalling) they were there trying to support me, explaining the function and going along the road with me, I won’t ever be stuck here which is a really big deal.  
I went to the market which was quite something. There were loads of stalls with fish and vegetables, all really fresh so that is exciting. Although I did (Sarah Dee, look away now), get offered a dolphins head, which still makes me feel queasy at the mention of it. I don’t know what I will buy to cook here aside from fish, veg, rice and fruit....the shops just have packets of stock, instant noodles, biscuits and nuts. Im not sure what I am looking for, bread, milk, mince, cereal, cold meats, tinned tuna, mars bars!!! My cooking utensils are different here too. I have a gas stove, a wok and a couple of pots, a chopping board and a  kitchen knife. Oh and spoons and forks, because they don’t use knife and fork here. When we went shopping I was surprised to see pretty much the same thing in every shop, and all very much the same as in Bali. Lots of things are plastic or aluminium, I don’t see anyone with nice wooden furniture which was a surprise because they have a lot of wood here, but I guess it like everything else all gets exported. Its very odd to be living in the place where all our stuff comes from and see they have none of it themselves!
As well as visiting markets and shops, I visited the police station, which was a lot more fun than it sounds. I went from the Government office I work, where everyone wears uniforms that are similar to a security guard outfit in an American movie, to the station where they were sitting around in jeans, chain smoking and eating snacks and fizzy drinks! I was surprised and a bit intimidated by such a macho environment but when we started talking, (I talked to about 5 of them), they were all really nice, helpful and enthusiastic. Got my fingerprints taken again which is quite an amusing experience, and then sat watching them study the prints through a magnifying glass...can he see my future?! I guess its a good sign when the police aren’t overrun with criminals! One of them asked to have his picture take with me. Some school girls did the same the other day. Apparently a lady at my work told her daughter a Scottish girl was working with her and she wouldn’t believe her mother, so she brought her in to show her I was real! There are one or two tourists here, but its more of a base to see the Kelimutu  coloured lakes, where I am going tomorrow.
All in all I think I have had a successful first week. I feel like i have done a lot already, long may it continue like this!

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