Living and working in Ngada

Contributed by Tibor van Staveren - a VSO Science teacher in Mataloko, Ngada, Flores.

General Information | Mataloko | St Yohanes Berkhmans | Teaching Duties Summary

General Information

Situated somewhat west from central Flores, the Ngada region is one of my favorite regions. Beautiful volcanoes, a lot of hot springs, deep valleys, and steep mountains. For a Dutch guy like me totally different from flat Holland. Ngada is likely to have rain throughout the year although the coastal areas show flora getting brown in the dry season. It is quite heavily agricultured but because of the small scale and the oppressing 'wildlife', it still seems pretty natural to me. Different kind of fruits and vegetables are available all seasons, and so is rice. For pork (or dog for that matter), you have to arrange something. There are loads of them, but you can only buy the whole animal. It can mean very big hotdogs (literally), but if you are not having a good fridge or a big party, you will have to stick to chicken, fish, or dried meat. The smaller towns still sell fashionable clothes and tertiary living goods like radios. However, because of supply and demand, they will be more expensive than in the bigger towns. For example, in Bajawa, the closest town to my village Mataloko, things like note-books, pens, photocopy-service, and electric cable is usually some 10% more expensive than Maumere, which is already 10% more expensive than Yogyakarta. Therefore, planning is necessary if you want to save money for your diving in Maumere, your long weekend on Komodo, or your snorkeling in Riung. And all three are worth the savings. Riung has very calm and clear water and the most beautiful rural sea-garden I have seen in Indonesia.



Mataloko is a small village near Bajawa, on the road to Ende. Most important it is situated at almost 1000 metres, nights are European and days are comparable to a nice spring day in England or Holland. However, this is also including the fog. In the afternoon the already low clouds are falling down to earth, giving strange effects like bodies walking without heads or soccer matches that have to be stopped because the ball is lost in the damned stuff! The sun's up at 5AM and down at 6PM. Especially the latter is really fast: within 15 minutes you can't see anything anymore. With that comes a change in temperature as well. When going to Bajawa, I always take a raincoat and gloves, because returning after six means driving through cold clouds. The local people wear long sarongs, local thick fabric, which can be worn from head to toe in the evenings and customized to a short version during daytime. Maybe you have been to Mount Merapi. The climate is somewhat the same, although Merapi is much damper. There's fog over here, but the overall climate is, luckily, not damp. My shoes and belts are still the same color as when I brought them, no mushrooms growing out of them…


The Seminary - St Yohanes Berkhmans

Mataloko is primarily known for its Seminary, a secondary boy's school from the ages 12 to 18, run by priests. I am currently working at this Seminary. Mataloko also has a girl's school, run by nuns, and a mixed school, from a Catholic yayasan. I think you can imagine now how much religion is affecting every day life in Mataloko. I live in a room inside the seminary, just like the priests. The main reason for this is that it is much more convenient than living outside. My clothes are being washed, my food is being cooked, and there is satellite TV, billiard, and a library. The seminary also has it's own power generator in case electricity does not reach Mataloko (often). The buildings are made from stone and concrete and I have a flushing toilet and running water in my room. The school is managed by priests but most teachers are, well, just teachers. Because the seminary almost has 400 students who live inside the complex, it is somewhat a world on its own. They can afford to have their own water tower, power generator and parabola. They also have plenty of sport facilities like two soccer fields, two basket fields, a badminton field and a room for table tennis. The seminary bakes it's own bread! Students get up at 4:45, but I usually wake up at 6:30. Just in time for breakfast. The breakfast is Indonesian, meaning rice and noodles. Nevertheless, they have their own bread as well. The students have a busy schedule involving a lot of praying, working in the gardens, or cleaning the buildings. In addition, of course, they have the regular lessons, from 7:30 until 13:00. Lessons are taking care of by teachers. However, the seminary curriculum involves many lessons on religion (bible knowledge and Latin, things like that). Priests are teaching these. In general, students get a specialized form of education, which bears a high standard. There is a continuous screening of students. Every semester students should have an average of seven on a scale of ten, and lower than five is not allowed for most subjects. Besides that, students are also screened on politeness and sociability. After lunch (13:15), everybody goes siesta. At 15:00, there are sports, and at 16:15 students have to study again until 18:00, the time they go to church. After dinner (18:30), they study again until 20:00. From 20:00 until 20:45, they are allowed to watch television, but lights are out at 21:00. I usually join the sports when I manage to wake up (I tend to like siesta very muchos!), but else I have a totally different schedule. I watch TV after dinner, or play a game of billiard. I have to do a lot of writing, so that keeps my evenings filled as well. Every day there are movies on TV. Basically your average Hong Kong Kung Fu Beat The Shit Out Of Somebody Else Movies. Indonesian people love them. The movies are in (Hong Kong) English with Indonesian subtitles, so you can actually learn a bit from the darn watchbox... Once a week I visit Bajawa to send faxes, make telephone calls home or just get out of the seminary a bit. Up till now, I do not feel the walls crushing down on me. The priests I live with are friendly, like having a chat, and we laugh a lot. I think the seminary provides a living environment that is actually less constricting for me than living outside. Because of their better education, priests here do not condemn me on having a different approach on things like relationships or churchgoing.


Teaching Duties

I am not functioning as a regular teacher but work as a science upgrader for the teachers. The job comes down to taking care of the lab, preparing practicals, and discuss practicals or methods with teachers. I am repairing, cleaning, making, and organizing. Usually all four together. When there is a practical, I will explain and the regular teacher will correct my language or phrase conclusions. As a rule, I only do that for one class; the teacher should do any parallel classes by him or herself, whilst I am observing. It is a very irregular job, and I like to keep it that way, because it gives me a great amount of freedom. Just recently I got myself into teaching and it's hard work. If you have to use Indonesian, don't go for thirty hours a week. It will kill you One of the aims for this placement is implementing practicals in other schools as well and become involved in local 'working together' programs. So, I tried to visit four other schools for half a day each and do the same thing over there as I do in the seminary. However, the teaching is taking up a great deal of time so that I leave that for a while. Other schools differ a lot. First, they all have less money than the seminary. Second, the governmental schools once received equipment for a lab from the education department. Yayasan schools don't have such a convenient source. Third, although governmental schools have more equipment than the others do, it is exactly in those schools that teaching practicals is on a zero level. Giving materials is not the solution. Generally speaking, Indonesian teachers are not keeping themselves informed about changes in educational materials. They will not write to publishers or manufacturers of lab equipment. They will not make regular lab inventories. They will not make budget proposals. Therefore, you will have to push them into the right direction. Do not do everything yourself; it will stop the moment your contract ends. Try getting them to do things. I try. Sometimes I see progress. It is this progress that makes the job worthwhile. And the weather, of course. And the people. And the food. And the culture. And the… This document is (I hope) accurate for Flores. Although many of its contents will apply to the whole of NTT, different islands in NTT can have totally different approaches on certain matters. It is this richness in difference that makes NTT such a wonderful province to live and work in.