Independence is…

We recently spent our ‘summer’ school break in the glorious Australian winter, savouring the abundant lifestyle on offer in our home country.  The little things we completely took for granted when we lived there (visiting family and friends, well-stocked supermarkets, walking on the beach, driving a car, eating out, good internet/download speed, clear phone lines, going to the movies, bike riding and playing with pets to mention but a few!) are appreciated so much more now.

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Loved hanging out with Aunty Tricia!

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Lunch on the water for Daddy’s birthday

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Loved catching up with our cousins

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Bike riding without training wheels!

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Sydney on a stunning winter’s day

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Movie madness!

While we do miss all of these first world luxuries (and many more), the experiences we have in our new jungle life are similarly rewarding.  For now it seems that the hot topic is ‘Independence’ and the life lessons are many and varied.

To begin with, on one of the three aircraft we take to travel from Townsville to Tembagapura, the girls got a taste of what life as an independent woman is like when they were invited into the cockpit of an all-female crew.  Now that was fascinating and fun!  The pilots were friendly and accommodating and had Gracie talking all about ‘driving’ planes when she grows up.

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We expect our expat lives to be full of contrast, but we have somewhat unexpectedly returned to challenging times in our little jungle community. West Papua is firmly in the grip of a significant drought, thanks to a substantial El Nino phenomenon forming in the region.  In a place where water collection is dependent on daily rainfall, drought is a serious issue.  We have two reservoirs which supply water to the Tembagapura township and, given that annual rainfall is usually around six metres per year, keeping them full to overflowing is rarely a problem.  Now that we have not seen rain for over a month and the El Nino effect is likely to prevail until November or so, we have a real problem.

In terms of impact, our running water availability has now been limited to two periods per day – 4am to 10am and 4pm to 10pm.  And yes, while living a life independent of a constant running water supply is indeed possible, it is very challenging and inconvenient!  Lack of water is also proving to be a big problem for mining operations within the region, with some mines across the border in PNG closing down until the situation improves.  We are hopeful that the water limitation strategy will not worsen for us and that El Nino shoves off soon.  In the meantime, if your life currently boasts an uninterrupted water supply, pop that near the top of your ‘Things to be Grateful For’ list, and think of us!

I had hoped that the upside to an extended dry spell and the absence of daily inclement weather would be an improvement in the quality of our internet service.  Alas, this wishful thinking has not proven true, with our dismal internet speed remaining a big challenge for me up here.  Loading an internet banking page before it times out or downloading an attachment bigger than one megabyte from a received email are big wins for me when they happen!

Slow internet

We are however very grateful for the return of fresh milk to our shop shelves – something else we were trying (unsuccessfully) to getting used to living without.  Living life with young children independent of a fresh milk supply is also not fun!  However, thankfully it’s back and as a sweetener, we even had a (very) brief supply of salami to go with it!  Like I said, it’s the little things!


Copper and Gold aren’t the only commodities up here…

Necessity dictates that I am also very independent in the kitchen up here, making most things from scratch these days in the absence of store-bought alternatives.  Aside from regular baking items like biscuits and muffins, we make our own savoury scrolls and slices for lunch boxes, bread loaves and rolls, tortillas for wraps and tacos, ice cream for a sweet treat and if the butter supply situation is not resolved soon, I’m going to give churning my own butter a go too.  Feeding the family is a busy proposition in Tembagapura!

On August 17, we celebrated Indonesian Independence Day with the whole community.  A day that saw many VIP’s – including Freeport Indonesia’s President Director Maroef Sjamsoeddin – arrive in Tembagapura to join in the celebrations.  Every enclosed space was transformed into either an entertainment venue or a dormitory to house the swollen town population for the weekend.  An unexpected benefit was that we had uninterrupted water supply for two whole days too!

Indonesian Independence Day is taken very seriously here and the date of August 17, 1945 marks the start of Indonesia’s National Revolution – a War of Independence between Indonesia and the Dutch Empire.  The revolution commenced following the occupation of Indonesia by Japan for three and a half years during World War II, an occupation that the ruling Dutch Empire had little ability to defend.  The Japanese occupation encouraged nationalist sentiment while degrading Dutch-created infrastructures and leadership.  On August 17, 1945 two days after the Japanese surrender, Indonesian nationalists self-proclaimed Indonesian Independence and a day later elected their first President.  A four-year diplomatic and at times bloody battle followed until Dutch recognition of Indonesia’s Independence in December 1949 marked the end of colonial administration and the establishment of an independent nation.

Freeport’s favourite Anthropologist and Kamoro tribe chaperone, Kal Muller, also visited our school to talk to the kids about the true meaning behind the fun celebrations of Independence Day which prompted lots of interesting discussion on the topic.

The Independence Day ceremony here in Tembagapura centred around an early morning traditional flag raising ceremony, led by President Director Maroef and carried out by students and community members.  The red and white Indonesian flag symbolising courage (red) and purity (white) was slowly and solemnly raised while a local ladies choir sang a beautiful rendition of the Indonesian national anthem, Indonesia Raya.


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We were also treated to some fantastic entertainment on the day including an acrobatic military marching band, dancing and singing acts from local schools and a special performance from the Kamoro tribe.  The celebrations culminated in a traditional food festival with more entertainment, singing and dancing continuing well into the afternoon.  I especially enjoyed the choir’s spirited performance of the Freeport Company Song which, like any good footy song, proclaimed the Freeport qualities of teamwork, drive, endurance and success – it really got the crowd going.

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All attendees were encouraged to wear traditional Batik dress which contributed nicely to the spectacle.  John even donned a special little hat gifted to him for the occasion, emblazoned with the Indonesian National Emblem, the ‘Garuda Pancasila’. The golden Javanese Eagle holds a shield symbolising the five principles of Indonesian ideology (faith, humanity, unity, democracy and social justice) and grips a scroll containing words that loosely translate to ‘Unity in Diversity’.

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So, there you have it.  Our latest adventures, brought to you by a family independent of a first world internet connection, but delivered nonetheless.  As the old saying goes, where there’s a will (and a LOT of patience), there’s a way!

Now, time to get our skates on (it’s our latest fad):

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Until next time,

Sampai jumpa.

(See you later)

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Our Indo Adventure

An Aussie family in the jungle of West Papua

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Our Family's Adventures in Indonesia

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