A heavy sigh is probably not the best title for a blog entry, but that pretty much encapsulates my current mood. I had a great birthday weekend in central Java with 3 other ELFs. So great, in fact, that I saw myself staying in Indonesia a second year. I had been leaning toward leaving when this contract ends, but enjoying fantastic tours in beautiful scenery made me think I could gain so much more from staying in Indonesia a second year.
Friday I visited a batik factory. Indonesia’s most famous handicraft is a fascinating process and seeing it first-hand made me really appreciate the artistry and hard work behind it. Then I had a girls’ night out at a delicious Italian restaurant, complete with wine (hard to come by in a predominantly Muslim country)!
Saturday I took a bicycle tour through scenic rice paddies …
visiting small villages where I could see local products like tempeh, rice crackers and gamelan instruments being made.
Sunday I rode on the back of a motorbike for more than 3 hours through hills and hills of scenic tea fields and rice paddies to visit old Hindu temples.
Sometime during the motorbike ride it struck me that I am a very, very lucky girl to live on such an exotic and pretty island having these breathtaking experiences. It was a good weekend.
I came back to my house to find my front porch sopping wet. This is normal since the rainy season began because a design flaw in my roof means some of the rain flow always pours onto my porch instead of into my yard.
I also found my back door open from when my colleagues had attempted to fix some water pressure issues over the weekend, meaning any number of bugs, rodents, and other creepy crawlies could freely wander into my house while I was gone. Luckily the only intruders seemed to be a few extra mosquitoes.
I also found that my water pressure was not fixed. In fact, it had deteriorated to the point that I couldn’t take a shower. I made arrangements with my coworker to have a repairman come in the morning. Knowing that Indonesians start their days much earlier than I do, I requested that the guy come after 8 am. My counterpart scheduled him to arrive at 7:30 am. Okay, being the flexible and culturally-sensitive person I am, I accepted that I have to make some adaptation to the culture in which I live. And besides, I want my faucets fixed, so 7:30 seemed like an acceptable compromise.
The next morning I was awoken by a knock at my door. It was 6:15 am. It was the repair guy, exercising that frustrating Indonesian concept known as “rubber time.” Seriously? 6:15? In the morning?
Then my laundry service came to pick up my laundry. I asked them about my previously white but now black-and-blue-marked camisole. I suspected the discoloration was from their drying racks. They suggested it was from my colored clothes. Huh. Do they not wash whites and darks separately? Shouldn’t a laundry service know to do that?
And then my mail was delivered. In its normal place, which is on the floor of my porch. My wet porch. So it was with a great sense of frustration that I opened my soggy mail: some adorable birthday cards from my loving family and a save-the-date for my good friend’s May wedding, which I will miss because I will still be in Indonesia in May.
Admittedly, none of these issues are particularly bad – most days I can shrug them off. But these sorts of challenges are a normal part of living here, and facing them on a daily basis does eventually grow wearisome. This was a wearisome day. So now you may understand the heavy-hearted sigh at the beginning of this post. It’s heavy because it holds a lot:
- my ache at being far from home and missing loved ones
- the clash between my type-A personality and the realities of living in an early-bird culture with a relaxed view of time
- my frustrations with continued home repair problems
- my lack of understanding of how Indonesians think, and my decreasing confidence in their critical thinking and problem-solving abilities
- my disappointment that, no matter how much I wanted to love living here, there are many things I don’t like about it
- my fast-approaching deadline to decide about staying in Indonesia a second year
- and my knowledge that staying in this sometimes gorgeous country also means another 10 months of rubber time, malfunctions, confusion, and misunderstandings.
I’m pretty sure I still want to live abroad, I’m just not sure that I want to stay in Indonesia. Maybe 10 months here is enough. My career gives me the luxury of being able to work in almost any country, so why, of all the places in the world, should I stay where things usually don’t work quite right and the views (even the most beautiful ones) are marred by litter? I could live in a more developed country. That won’t take away the difficulties of living far from home, and it will only replace cross-cultural misunderstandings with those of a different culture, but I could be living in more comfort while dealing with those issues. And so my heavy sigh also carries with it sadness to think that I’m probably leaving Indonesia in June. But at the same time, the prospects of a new place with new adventures seem to keep me moving.