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Housing – Part 2

17 Nov 10
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Getting to a final decision on a house took us the better part of two weeks, and during that time my expectations of the place where we would live for ten months changed drastically.

Traffic here is a nightmare. Noise is a constant. Pollution is everywhere. So I quickly began craving a home that could provide a respite from all those assaults on our senses and psyches, or at least most of them. Rather than a quaint village, I wanted a safe, secure refuge.

One major reason for this change of heart turned out to be medical. Malaria, while rampant in some parts of Indonesia, is almost non-existent in the largest cities, including Bandung. But it turns out that Dengue Fever is common here.

Dengue is also called break-bone fever. It got that name because of the way it can make you feel – like pretty much every bone in your body has been snapped. It is transmitted, just as malaria, by mosquitoes (although human-to-human transmission has also been documented). The mosquito species carrying malaria, can more easily be avoided, because the Anopheles mosquito comes out mostly at night, and it’s only the female that transmits malaria. So if you stay indoors at night, and use mosquito nets in regions where malaria occurs, you can drastically reduce your chances of becoming infected. But malaria is not much of an issue here.

Dengue, on the other hand, is transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes, and near as I can tell it is carried by both males and females of the genus. More importantly, these mosquitoes feed during the daytime, when people are outside. This makes them harder to avoid. The disease can be transmitted by a single bite, and outbreaks often occur in crowded areas, because more hosts are available. In other words, the denser the population, the more targets that are available, and consequently the greater likelihood that the disease will spread.

Several of our new friends here have had dengue, including one just a few weeks after we arrived, making the threat real. So my new priority became finding a neighborhood with low population density. And that meant a wealthier Kampung, with bigger houses and more open space. In other words, bye-bye local color, we’re moving uptown.

Since I was going to be a single parent for 10 months, I wanted the area secure as well. Crime is not a problem here (although that could be changing – our neighbor had his house broken into recently and a computer was stolen, all while he was asleep in another room) and I really feel safe whenever I am out, any time of day or night. But I just didn’t want to have to worry.

After a day of looking at houses, we settled on the very first one we had been shown. Komplek Parahyangan Rumah Villa, or PRV for short, is about 10 minutes north of the kids’ school. It’s what we would call in the states a gated community. It is filled mostly with Indonesians, but those of some amount of wealth. Our landlord lives two doors away from us, and owns at least three buildings here. She is a doctor, her children are doctors, and her granddaughter, who was married in this house just before we moved in, is also a doctor, and she married a doctor. Families like this can easily afford to live here.

PRV has just one car entrance, and it is protected by gates and several guards. Other posts throughout the compound of about 75 houses are also manned by guards, including one right outside our front door. Needless to say, we feel relatively safe here. And when we have food left over from dinner, we will generally offer it to the guards outside. They really like us now, which is a good thing.

The house itself is not all that large, at least compared to other expat homes we have been in. There are four bedrooms and three full bathrooms, but its total space is not much larger than our three bedroom home in the states. There is no basement, and the construction is concrete, with tile floors everywhere. Other than some ornamental trim, there is little wood. One night I began worrying about a lack of smoke detectors until I realized there is very little in the house that could catch fire.

We have a small backyard, with a patio, a small patch of grass, and a fish pond with a water fountain. Most days there is a good breeze blowing out back, which is a puzzle to me because there is a brick wall behind us that rises at least 30 feet, blocking us from a farmer’s field.

The complex has a swimming pool with a great community center. There are tennis courts, a playground and a Mosque. Oddly, the playground is on the Mosque’s grounds, and has a replica of what I would seem to think is Noah’s Ark. But clearly that’s just me.

We’ve been here for more than a month now, and life is good. I’m comfortable with the kids running around outside, and while they haven’t made any friends in the compound, they enjoy playing. It’s good that they can get out and get some exercise. We try to swim on the weekends, and several friends live nearby. (The party in the picture is Elana’s birthday, likely the only November birthday she’ll have outside at the pool)

While it’s not the idyllic little neighborhood I had hoped for, in the end it’s probably the best place for us to spend the rest of our time here. And it’s a pretty great option.

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