Sometimes living here has felt like making spice paste… hard work but overall worth the effort. (random segue I know :p)
So I’m back in Jakarta for a few days before flying out to Malaysia (if I don’t fly out soon, they’ll kick me out because my visa will be canceled). I don’t have a home here anymore, so it’s very different from when I arrived with 40 kg of luggage in September 2008 and went straight into the loving arms of a very posh hotel and straight into working on a newspaper that didn’t actually exist yet back then.
It’s nice to be back. I’d much rather the sofa of a good friend for a bed than a hotel and that’s one of the best things about visiting a place that used to be your home — seeing the friends and people who made you fall in love with the place and that make you (and will continue to make you) miss it like hell.
But this time, I very much feel like a visitor, just passing through. And I’m ok with that.
Living here for 1.5 years has been amazing. Interesting. Crazy. Sometimes frustrating. But I feel like I’ve made the right decision in moving on.
I would definitely not rule out a return, if a tempting opportunity arose. This country is so close to home yet in many ways so far removed that its the ideal place to escape from the sometimes stifling stability and predictability of Australia. I will be back to Indonesia as well in the next few months, as a language school student and as a traveler. I might even pass through Jakarta again, but it will likely be a short stay only.
I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing next and only have a rough ‘plan’ until the end of April, where the plan then dissolves into “travel around some more?? or something?? …” But that’s kind of fun. The first week I was in Bali, the idea of freedom completely stressed me out. I don’t sweat the small stuff too bad (shh :p) but when it comes to the big stuff I have a tendency to lean towards hyper-anxiety and hyper-competitiveness and hyper-being-hard-on-myself. But slowly I’ve gotten used to the concept. The fresh air in my lungs. Washing my knickers in the sinks of cheap guesthouses. Waiting for buses that are often late, using my backpack as a makeshift sofa. The naps in airports (thankfully, in Asia I don’t need to use them as a form of free accommodation like I did during my Eurotrip… yet). It all comes back. I almost feel like I’m 20 again, except less stupid and less able to bounce back from a hangover and no sleep. :p
The big questions still niggle on my mind — to go home or to not go home. To risk being a ‘forever expat.’ The fear of going home and being bored. Everyone tells you its hard to go back after an experience like this. The fear of staying as an expat and potentially losing touch with reality and always living in a state of otherness and transience. Nobody tells you about this, but you look around and see it and you feel it as the ‘weird’ becomes the norm and your relationships are defined by the lengths of people’s contracts. The never-ending ‘what the hell do I want to do next/with my life’ conundrum. I love journalism, but sometimes it feels like it will be forever or never before I get a job where I can do the journalism I want, and sometimes working in the media genuinely does not make me happy or fulfilled.
But for the next few months at least, I’m trying to let my comically huge backpack be the only thing weighing me down…
Thanks for everything Jakarta. You answered some of my questions and made me ask a million more. You introduced me to some amazing people and opened my eyes up to a lot of things. I’m going to miss you.