Archive | May, 2015

A Springhill Summary

26 May

At the time of writing, my blog is the only English blog written about Springhill. I often get requests from potential teachers asking for information about life in Springhill and, as we will be leaving in the next few months, I’ll try to summarise everything I know.

Springhill is a tiny town between Port Dickson and Seremban. There are no ATMs or fresh food stalls. There are two small cafe type shops where you can buy soap, a juice and a packet of dusty chips. The bigger supermarkets are located in the bigger cities about 20 minutes away. In Lukut, there is a Giant (and rumours of a Tesco) but in Seremban there are a few nice malls, including Aeon, Tesco, Palm Mall and Giant. There are two private hospitals in Seremban called KPJ and Columbia Asia. Consultant fees are about RM60 excluding special procedures. In Lukut, there is a private clinic called Klinik Lou (near KFC) where you can go for basic things like colds and flus. The consultant fees are less than RM40. There is a new doctor who has just opened up in Springhill but I haven’t made use of him yet.

While Malaysia is well known for it’s gorgeous beaches, Port Dickson (and the West coast) are not among them. Everyone always comments that the waters are so dirty because of the trade route along the Meleka straight. While I agree it’s not the most beautiful beach, it’s good enough. We often spend a day at the beach on the pretty white sand and usually brave the water for a few minutes. There are no waves obviously so if you are a surfer, you might be disappointed. There are a number of fancy hotels where you can book in for a Saturday night if you need a close getaway.

You can drive from one side of Springhill to the other side in 4 minutes. There are cows in the road, monitor lizards in the gutters, geckos in the houses, swarms of mosquitos and a seasonal influx of flies! There are also cockroaches – no matter how clean your house, they find a way in – and they are BIG! The quiet lifestyle is both magical and lonely. It’s extremely lush, the grass is always green, the sky is always blue and the trees blossom spring flowers one week and drop autumn leaves the next week. The streets are quiet enough to safely ride bicycles or go for a run. Many teachers walk home from work.

You could probably only walk home from work if you lived in Park Residence where is close to the school. Most of the teachers live in terrace homes about 10 minutes walk from the school. The houses are built next to each other in a long row and they have two floors: upstairs and downstairs. Some of them might have a tiny garden but most look out onto the other houses. Depending on your landlord, these places go for RM700 – RM1300 a month (correct at the time of writing). The cheaper ones are unfurnished, the more expensive ones are well furnished with AC, TV, washing machine, bed, pots, pans, knives, forks – basically everything you need to live. The neighbourhood can be a little dirty and feel like you are on top of each other (personal experience).

There are two neighbourhoods further away from the school which have more sort-after houses. Springhill Gardens and Springhill Heights are middle to upper class areas where the houses are bigger, with bigger gardens. They can be semi-detached or single story bungalows. They aren’t that much more expensive than the terrace homes and they offer you more privacy. All the areas are guarded by 24 hour security and boomed gates (except at the time of writing the guards at Springhill Gardens had stopped working because they were not getting paid.)

Although some teachers manage without a car, I’m going to say that you really need a car to make your life pleasant here. It’s very hot to be walking around and there’s so little in Springhill in terms of entertainment, I think you could go mad without some mode of transport out of the town. There are two bus stops on either side of the town (on the main road) which have buses travelling between Port Dickson and Seremban but it’s quite a walk to get to the bus stop (about 1-2kms). You could hitch a ride with the other teachers but I still think the lack of independence would cause for an unhappy time here. Expect to pay between RM7000 – RM20 000 for a car. The alternative would be to buy a bicycle or motorbike.

Taxis don’t come to Springhill so don’t expect to catch a ride into town with a taxi. You would need to have a phone number and call the driver in advance.

Most of the houses here have Asian bathrooms and kitchens: The bathroom means that there is no separate shower door. So the shower sprays right into the middle of the bathroom and everything gets wet. I don’t think any of the houses have a bath. The kitchen often doesn’t have a cupboard below the sink. It’s just an Asian thing!

The locals seem to think that security is a problem. Springhill was once known as an area riddled with crime and gangs. In an effort to improve the town, security guards were hired, land was sold to the UCSI group for relatively cheap, new smarter homes were built and shopping lots have gone up (unfortunately, there isn’t anyone to fill the shops so they are all empty, along with the large number of abandoned and empty homes.) When you drive around looking for a house, you will see a number of potentially beautiful homes that have been neglected. Many of them are bank repossessed as people bought in Springhill with the belief that the school and hospital were going to attract a large number of people looking to rent homes. The develop of the school and hospital took much longer than expected and a lot of homes have not been maintained.

It is possible to get someone to help you clean your house. The price can range from RM10/hour to RM20/hour, depending on who you hire. In general the cleaning is minimal.

If you have friends who come to visit, Springhill is fairly easy to reach. It’s a 40 minute drive from the airport (taxis can be arranged for RM80 – RM120, depending on the time of day). There is a bus stop and train station in Seremban and the train from KL is clean, safe and comfortable. The train to Singapore is old, rickety and loooong!

The locals are friendly and welcoming of foreigners. They don’t all speak English very well but there’s enough English to get by. There are a number of restaurants (well, road stalls) in Springhill where you can pick up a rice dish, noodles, fried chicken etc. None of it is particularly healthy or exciting but it’s cheap and easy to get.

The advantage of this small town is that the saving potential is very high. Unlike KL, there aren’t too many financial temptations. Because the town is pretty boring, you are forced to get out and travel. The younger teachers on our staff are always away on weekends, travelling abroad during long weekends and seeing new and exciting places. There is plenty of time to relax and the area is really very pretty. The school has a beautiful big swimming pool which you can use to cool off. I haven’t spoken much about work conditions as I think the school environment will always change. There will be new teachers, new leaders, new expectations and new students which will change what work is like. Be sure to come ready with a positive attitude and ready to face the challenges and rewards of a new school still trying to establish themselves!

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