I feel like I need to catalogue this for the future, and in case anyone reading is interested in where I’m at at this point in time.
I mentioned previously that I’m staying in Indonesia because Malaysia was locking down and I didn’t think I had anywhere to stay there. I entered on a tourist visa hoping things would blow over within a couple of weeks. Obviously, it didn’t. Indonesia did announce back then that emergency stay permits would be automatically applied to any foreigners stuck here, so I’ve been living on that until now.
It hasn’t been entirely easy. I had a lot of issues with living arrangements. That’s a story on its own. I tried applying for jobs, but it seemed to be a pointless endeavour since no one was hiring. Being a teacher is the most recent work experience I have and thus the most relevant thing to look for, but with no one sponsoring visas and businesses losing money that would be and continues to be a challenge.
Online teaching makes sense in that regard but carries its own problem: it doesn’t give you any kind of residency. Before the end times of this pandemic, there were a lot of teachers who would work as digital nomads who just needed a white wall and a stable Internet connection to live on those wages cheaply and in a flexible and mobile fashion. This is not a lifestyle that corresponds well to travel restrictions and potential infection.
Indonesia seemed to escape bad infection rates, but it’s likely that they just weren’t testing as much. The primary concern of the government seemed to be managing the potential social unrest, which is probably why they never fully locked down the country. They closed schools and recommended many businesses to go online or close down, but didn’t substantially enforce it. The big concern was the normal tradition of people in the capital to go home after Ramadan, and with Jakarta being the centre of the epidemic in Indonesia that seemed like a very bad idea.
Now that Ramadan is long over however, they wanted to start rolling out reopening procedures and trying to adapt to a “new normal.” To me, that translates as “everyone, go back to normal, but take precautions” which makes a sort of sense, except that Indonesia is now the most infected country in South East Asia and the number of cases is rising.
In a more direct sense, the immigration office announced that as part of this transition, they also wouldn’t be supporting emergency stay permits anymore. They’re giving us 30 days from that announcement (until August 11th) to either extend our permit or leave. They provided a WhatsApp number to contact for questions, so I did, and they said it would be possible to extend.
Assuming there’s nothing lost in translation, that sounds good. However, the announcement seemed to make it clear that Free Visa holders would have to leave anyway. They have not responded to further questions from me.
On looking it up, I need to physically go to an immigration office and ask directly.
Still, all this is the immediate problem. What about long term? Like I said, I’m prioritising jobs which will give me a residency. It’s definitely problematic that Indonesia thinks it can transition back to some kind of new normal while the rest of the world is still dealing with its first wave, and many regions which reopened their economies ended up having to shut back down again with spikes in covid-19 case numbers.
Still, in the process of trying to apply for jobs for security and survival, I’ve picked up a few points of interest:
- I’ve been trying to get my old company to rehire me, and they said that they couldn’t until July-August because the immigration offices were closed, which makes sense. They’re opening now, but the new issue is that individual schools are unclear about whether they want to hire foreign teachers since they’re also haemorrhaging students. This makes sense in the short term, but I think medium-long term it doesn’t. Part of their whole selling point is giving students the opportunity to interact and learn from native speakers, and it doesn’t seem like they’re going to get new native speakers anytime soon and I’m sure a number of them have left. It would be good for the business to be able to still maintain their key selling point.
- I saw a post to teach in Spain, which intrigued me. Spain got hit pretty badly with covid-19 early on, but I think they’re evening out now. A company was offering positions for a similar arrangement to come be a cultural ambassador in Spanish schools and give students a chance to learn English from a native speaker. Sounded good to me, but on further investigation, it seems like it’s something the Spanish government is in charge of, and the company was just offering to be a middleman for a sizeable fee of $1400 minimum. I decided to try and just apply through the Spanish government, since I do speak the language and $1400 is a lot of money to just get assistance with the move. However, I discovered that they closed applications for the coming academic year.
- One program I applied to in South Korea asked for a full-length picture of myself, which I found rather puzzling.
However, probably the most sobering lesson learned is that having an official teacher’s license or degree would help my chances way more than what I have now. It’s been a particularly depressing education in the challenges of trying to work in a field where I don’t have a degree. The field I do have a degree in, hotel management, is in a terrible situation. The hotel and tourism industry is understandably in the toilet right now, so they’re not likely to hire me either. This has led to a large amount of personal soul searching and not being happy with what I’m seeing, which hasn’t been fantastic for my mental health.
Going back to the U.S. presents a lot of other issues, not just because the pandemic is going nuts there and the social politics also set the country on fire, so to speak. It hasn’t been home for almost 10 years now if it even ever was. I only have extended family there, who I’m not comfortable dumping myself upon. Plus, flights from here to there are very expensive right now on this short notice, coming to around $1000 one way.
The best-case scenario is finding a job here, and it’s not one that I’m honestly that comfortable with anyway considering how Indonesia is handling the pandemic, but it’s still something I would happily take because financial security is important right now to ride things out for at least a year, or however long this lasts.
As the last point to add, my last grandfather passed away a few weeks ago. It has added to my complex feelings of the moment and deserves its own post. Suffice it to say that it hasn’t made things easier.