Prior to arriving in Jakarta in August, ETAs knew their site placement but did not know their accommodation type. Nearly two months later, as Fulbright English Teaching Assistants across the archipelago settle into their new communities, we asked a few ETAs to share pictures of their new homes as well as their thoughts so far.
Name and Placement: Shalina Omar in Manado!
Accommodation type: Kost
Distance to school and preferred mode of transport: Around the corner, about at 10 minute walk.
Pros of housing type: Easy to meet neighbors, good for practicing Bahasa Indonesia and/or local dialect, ridiculously close to my school, reminiscent of college a la dorm room, convenient laundry service, if anything goes wrong there is someone you can go to who probably knows why and how to fix it, living near my site mate is incredible.
Cons of housing type: No sink, a VERY sparse kitchen area that is also kind of outside, only one room (plus bathroom), I can’t really understand anything the guard/handyman/main dude of the kost is saying because he speaks a heavily accented local dialect, not super easy to entertain guests, you have to pay for electricity at least part of the time.
Other comments: Sam Geary (a fellow ETA) and I live across the hall from each other at Rocliva Kost on Mango Street. Luckily for me, SMK Negeri 1 Manado (my school) is just around the corner and a mere 10 minute walk. Sam’s school is in another neighborhood so she has to take 2 angkots or get a ride with a nearby teacher. We have a nice neighborhood with a number of schools, a nearby church, and many warungs and rumah makans within walking distance as well as both an AlfaMart and an IndoMaret less than 10 minutes away on foot.
The kost itself is quite nice. It seems that this one is on the newer side and the rooms are fairly clean and well-kept. Up on the second floor we don’t have much of a bug issue except for lots of ants but even that problem is gone thanks to the almost concerning effectiveness of Bagus Kapur Ajaib (aka anti bug insecticide chalk). That stuff will KILL THEM ALL. The rooms aren’t gigantic (though mine is a hair larger than Sam’s) but they come equipped with a closet, a desk protruding from the wall, a chair, a bed and bedding (with a second trundle bed underneath!), a TV fixed to the wall, and a bathroom attached to the room. And, of course, AC in the room.
The bathroom has a toilet and toilet hose, a faucet with water bucket and hand bucket underneath, and *gasp!* a shower head! There is no sink… but you can’t have it all!
There is a nice area on the second floor outside of our rooms with a small table and couches for socializing. Sam and I like to use this area to hang out with our neighbors and help teach the young ones English. The nice thing about living in a kost is that there are always people around to hang out with or talk with. Or you can stay in your room and relax in solitude. My room doesn’t have a fridge but Sam’s does, and downstairs there is a small kitchen area with a sink and 2 burners. We had to buy kitchen supplies and it’s definitely no Iron Chef layout, but now we are able to make our meals whenever we want! Or we can take a short walk to the local warungs, rumah kopis, and restorans in the area. But sometimes we just boil water for Mie Sedaap from the IndoMaret.
The people who run our kost are pretty helpful (if you can understand their Manado dialect!) and are quick to offer advice or whip out a table from nowhere when they see that you are eating on chairs. They also provide a daily laundry service for 10,000 rupiah per kilo.
The kost is not luxurious but it is nice. The rooms are not gigantic, the bathrooms are lacking sinks, and the Manadonese accent is sometimes hard to decipher. Also, the people who run the kost can often be found on the first floor playing fairly annoying Indonesian songs from tinny phone speakers late into the night. But I really enjoy our housing situation. It is nice to be around people if you want to be around people, but to also have the option of staying in your room. The neighborhood is friendly and there are always people willing to chat or help you find your way. And you can see most of Manado, the local volcano, Flying Jesus, and the ocean from the roof.
But I think the real gem of this living situation is that I am living so close to my site mate. Living near Sam provides a comfort in a situation that can be very uncomfortable at times. We can commiserate and discuss and we never have to be alone if we find ourselves alone. It doubles our social circles because we meet each others friends and are invited to things together. And in social situations it can lessen the burden of being “on” all the time–being present, being bule, thinking in English and trying to listen and respond in Indonesian. We naturally tag-team with each other when one of us is fatigued. And often it’s just nice to have a partner.
Name and placement: Savannah Trifiro, Magelang
Accommodation type: School hotel (SMK N 3 Magelang, Hotel Citra)
Distance to school and preferred mode of transport: Upon walking downstairs, it takes me approximately 60 seconds to walk from my room to the teacher’s lounge.
Pros of housing type: I live at my school, so despite the early classes I can sleep a bit longer and do not have to worry about running late due to transportation. It is relatively quiet at night despite being off of a main road. Students do not live on campus, so that adds to finding enough quiet time.
I do not have a curfew, and there is a security guard to let me in through the main gate. When something malfunctions, it’s relatively easy for me to contact someone to help me get it fixed. I have AC. I have hot water and a shower head. I have a western-style toilet and a sink. I have a giant bed, with bedding provided. I have a mini fridge, and my school provided me with a small gas stove. Outside of my room, which is where my stove is, there are several chairs and a coffee table that I like to consider my living area, although it is technically not my personal space. There’s a laundry service, and I am also given the key to use the washer and dryer on the weekends. When my water dispenser runs out, or breaks as is my current situation, I can get into the teacher’s lounge to use the dispenser in there. I can access the hotel WiFi, and it is 75% reliable. I have a small balcony.
Cons of housing type: My AC unit houses a very, very large kingdom of ants, which I must drown in Bagus several times a week, leading to slightly toxic air. The door to my balcony is incredibly stubborn, and I can only get it to open every so often. I do not have much counter space, or any for that matter, for cooking, so I use my small desk/vanity. My bathroom always has a leak somewhere, without fail. Living at the school’s hotel, I don’t exactly have neighbors.
Other comments: Safiyah is my site mate and we are super lucky to live a manageable distance from one another. Magelang feels very safe, so we have had no problems walking home after dark. There is a supermarket right near my school. I am a 15-minute walk from the city center. There are sidewalks and the streets are clean and well lit. I live right by a track. My room sin’t too spacious, but it has everything I need and has been very comfortable. The ceilings are also high which makes it feel a bit bigger than it actually is.
Name and placement: Caitlin Jordan in Pangkalpinang, Bangka Island
Accommodation type: 3-bedroom house shared with Kelly, another ETA.
Distance to school and preferred mode of transport: 10-12 minutes by bike or 5 minutes by car or motorbike; I prefer biking as I feel bad having my teachers go out of their way in the morning to pick me up. Also biking keeps me healthy!
Pros of housing type:
– In a great and safe neighborhood – we’ve already made friends with pretty much all the kids and by default their families
– Close to school (for me at least, though not so much for Kelly)
– On call fixer-uppers and people to check in on us
– WASHING MACHINE
– Big kitchen with already stocked utensils, stovetop, pots/pans, fridge
– Nice to have space to ourselves away from school and neighbors
– Shared with site mate
– Rent/Utilities/etc. are paid for
– Single car garage in order to house my bike
Cons of housing type:
– Crazy ghosts! (But really though! Story below.)
– The water pump doesn’t like to work most of the time
– Cleaning tends to be non-stop
– To lock/unlock our various doors it takes about 4-5 keys that can be rather awkward when people are waiting
Other comments: First, living with Kelly is pretty much the best thing ever. It’s great to have someone to talk to right there and to check in with pretty much every day. We talk about the day-to-day and overall frustrations and successes and work through them together. It helps to keep both of us mildly saner.
Also, I’m the type of person that needs some space to rest and reorder my mind, so having a house to ourselves means that I can have that space away from the neighborhood, school, and sometimes people in general. We each have our own room so that’s also an additional space factor, though I’m so used to living with someone (since I have a roommate in the US) that the company – even if we’re not in the same room – is a great feeling. I think it’s helped a lot for my adjustment period here in Indonesia and I am grateful everyday for being here.
I also love the neighborhood that our house is in. Most of the locals have gotten used to us walking around or riding bikes and always say hello. We’ve dubbed ourselves the Pied Pipers of PkP (the short form of Pangkalpinang) because we seem to gather children whenever we go on these walks. It’s been easy to make friends here and I’ve really enjoyed the interactions that we’ve had! It’s a great way to practice our Bahasa skills and learn the local dialect and also some slang.
I think we’ve been lucky because both of our schools have been wonderful when it comes to taking care of us. The fact that we have a working washing machine still blows my mind every time I think about it.
One of the downsides to having our own house, however, is the cleaning. It’s a constant battle with the dust and grime that collects from living day-to-day. We have two front porches that need to be swept every day to stay clean and a lot of square-footage inside to sweep and sometimes mop. Neither Kelly nor myself use the bathroom with the showerhead so we share one of the smaller bathrooms and that, as well as the water basin in it, has to be cleaned every three days or so. Thankfully the only critters that seem to like our space are of the boring (but not yucky) insect variety with the occasional lizard friend.
We have a bird that lives next door who whistles and sings during daylight hours and both Kelly and I enjoy chirping back. We also have children who sometimes yell by our gate to try and get our attention. It can be frustrating but we’re working slowly on a solution.
As for the ghost story, let’s just say that it required Kelly and I to hide in my room each holding a pot and Kelly armed with the addition of mosquito spray because we though that someone was taking a shower in the bathroom we never use. After frantic phone calls, it turned out to be our ‘water tank expelling excess water.’ The pots are back in the kitchen but Kelly and I remain somewhat unconvinced.