For Jeff Genders and wife Pennii, who works in catering, it was a yearning for a fresh direction. Indonesia, Genders says, has been a dream come true. The pair and kids Flynn and Matilda have been in Jakarta since 2013.
Genders is formerly a senior teacher at Autism Queensland, and an acting assistant principal and curriculum writer, but these days is a learning support co-ordinator and teaches IB film, media, information technology in a global society and sport at the 200-student Year 7-12 Pejaten campus of Australian Independent School (AIS) Indonesia.
One of the many international schools spreading across South East Asia and into the Middle East, AIS Indonesia is an inclusive school based on the Australian education system.
“We live in a local kampung (village) in a very diverse Muslim majority community of the very rich and the extremely poor,” Genders says.
“The food, culture and landscape of Indonesia is totally captivating! “Everything is very mobile in Jakarta, even down to sewing machines built onto the back of pushbikes.”
Genders says he’s most enjoyed watching his children grow into global citizens.
“Educationally, both Matilda (Year 6) and Flynn (Year 11) have also benefited from a very high quality standard of education here at the AIS and have made excellent academic progress.
“I never cease to be amazed at the kindness and friendly nature of the Indonesian people... “This strong community feeling reminds me of what I used to once see in Australia in the 1980s.”
The family make an effort to embrace everything about their foreign home.
“And as a teacher I spend most of my time teaching and designing quality learning sessions for my students rather than simply managing behaviour.”
According to Genders, the most challenging aspect of living in Indonesia is probably health issues. “In our first year, despite having vaccinations, we all contracted tropical illnesses,” he says.
Late last year both Pennii and Flynn caught Dengue Fever after being bitten by mosquitoes. “There are excellent medical facilities here, but at times ... living conditions in Indonesia can be very third world and you need to take sensible health precautions.”
Drawbacks of teaching overseas can include homesickness, bureaucracy, dealing with corruption in some countries and cultural barriers.
“If you are looking for fresh direction and change then South East Asia is definitely for you,” he says. “Alternatively the people who tend to struggle ... are teachers who are not naturally ‘risk takers’.
“Some people choose to live and work here in Jakarta almost in an expat bubble where they try and replicate everything that they have back in Australia. “To me this is a sad and wasted opportunity ... to understand a very unique and diverse part of the world.”