Someone asked me for my thoughts on moving back to the "west". This was asked of me last year however the delay in getting round to writing it is not indicative of any malaise regarding the topic. Rather the issue is one of time. Anyone who has followed my travels and travails over the past 3 or so years will understand that my focus has been elsewhere. Nevertheless, I have committed myself to writing more opinion(ated) blog pieces than I have been doing. This has already been a successful venture considering last year I wrote two and this year I have already written three. But, I digress...
Presumably, the question is one of what is it like to move back to Australia after having spent the best part (almost the whole part) of fifteen years living and working in Indonesia. In a lot of ways it is a story of reverse culture shock. To be honest I am not sure it is even a story of interest but for me and mine (family). Simply, it is the story of my life with my family and our adjustment from one day to another and making the best and most of what we have at the times we have it.
Yet, moving anywhere is a challenge and I guess moving from Jakarta to Sydney and then to Collarenebri is a challenge of considerable proportions, particularly when one factors in raising a son, pursuing a Masters degree, and embarking on a new career. And, all the while, I am still being a husband and father.
This is a post that could run for tens of thousands of words as I explore every possible facet of what happened, how it happened, and what those happenings then triggered. The simple reality is perhaps as basic as death and taxes. Indonesia afforded us many opportunities to live a particular lifestyle. For example, when I first went to live and work in Indonesia it took me a considerable amount of time to come to grips with maids and other servants at my beck and call 24 hours a day if I so wanted it to be. Yet, it took no time at all to get used to other people having responsibility for paying my taxes and doing all that side of the financial equation.
In many ways I was young and naive and therefore incredibly open to the adventure of a new way of life. Indonesia provided that opportunity for an unbelievable adventure. I was fascinated by the little things--public transport, roving food stalls, ojeks (motorcycle taxis), becaks (bicycle rickshaws), eating food with chillies that made you wonder whether you were eating food or just chillies, and the people.
One thing that lingers, and it lingers because I still get the question, what are Indonesians like compared to "us"? I have always found this an interesting question for no other reason than it often is asked to draw a positive / negative comparison. The "us" and "them" dilemma amuses me no end as I am a "we" person. We are all human, we all have our human frailties, and we all at the most base level want better things for our children and grandchildren. But, once again, I digress...
Moving back to Australia, and Sydney in particular, was something that we wanted to do. So, in that regard it was much easier for us than for, say, someone whose job ended and another opportunity did not open up for them. The fact that we chose the move, and looked forward to it, meant that the transition was easier. I am not going to say it was all smooth sailing, but the reality is that one does what they have to do.
The laundry can only pile up for so long before you have to pick it up and take it to the washing machine and wash it. There are only so many days you can get up looking for your breakfast before you realise that you have to make your own. Similarly, it does not take all that long to recognise that there are no roving food stalls to satisfy that bakso craving at 2.00am as you finish writing that final op.ed piece.
Nevertheless, it was only this week as we were walking through the Pitt Street Mall in Sydney that my wife and I simultaneously looked at each other, had a knowing little smile, and meandered on. The captivating scent of a clove cigarette has that strange power to transport one back to a place that has been left far in the past. The old kretek gets us every time.
The truth is pretty plain and boring really. Life goes on. The transition was one that had to happen; good, bad, and ugly. We really did not linger. ponder, or dwell on the process. As individuals, as members of a family, as people we got on with it and did what we had. Do I find myself spending time thinking about the need for a maid or a gardener or a driver, no. Do I miss those parts of my / our previous existence, no.
If the point of the question was to find out whether I / we are happier here or were happier there, then the answer to that question is...well, that is like comparing good red wine and milk ;)
Now, if the question had been "how do you find living in the teeming metropolis of Jakarta and its satellite suburbs to the hustle and bustle of the 250 or so people that live in Collarenebri?" then my answer may well have been slightly different...