The ordinary


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The best seat on the football field in Canberra.

It has been well over seven or so months since I left Jakarta, and already nearly two months since I left DC.

Sometimes, glimpses of my Jakarta life pop into my brain and they seem so surreal that I can barely believe they happened, even though I was there.  I’ll be driving down the road here in the dark and all of a sudden in my mind I’ll be remembering riding on the back of an ojek (motorcycle taxi) trying to pull my skirt over my knees while cruising through the dark gangs (little streets) of Kemang in the dark after a night out at some smoky bar.  I’ll be swimming laps at the pool and remember the coral at Pulau Weh or Taman National Komodo.

Of course the not so great bits, like the frequent bronchial infections, the frequent stomach infections, don’t come back in such a rush of fuzzy-headed romanticism.  But overall, I am struck with some kind of rather phenomenal memory of Indonesia at least once a week, if not more so.  And being in Canberra now, a place so drenched in ordinaryness, despite being the nation’s capital, it’s kinda hard to deal with.

I think I knew that readjusting after Indonesia would be hard, and I think that is one of the reasons I ran off the US so headstrong that I was going there for some grand study opportunity, despite my financial calculations telling me that it was a bit foolhardy and despite the tantalising fringe benefits of being a student at home in Australia, where there are things such as Austudy and FEE-HELP (not to mention that we have pretty darn good unis here too).  I wanted to see the US.  But I think that a more honest appraisal of my decision to move over there was that I knew I needed to take a break from the Jak, but I didn’t want to go home yet.  Home was ordinary.  As long as I was away, wherever I was, I was doing something out of the ordinary… and I thought that by moving to Washington D.C., maybe I’d be putting myself in the path of more extraordinary opportunities.

But in Washington DC, I quickly realized that there were more talented people than there are opportunities right now, and someone without a work visa was in the bottom of the pile, and my restrictive student visa meant that I couldn’t even legally earn enough money to cover my expenses.  The thought of going into debt just to eat or pay rent, which would have been my predicament if I had stayed for the full program, gave me anxiety attacks.   The one shining beacon was my cool classmates and friends (DC was chock full of great people), and I loved the city itself, but academically I wasn’t blown away enough to warrant the expense.  Especially since, in moments of stress, I had calculated the expense of my lectures down to the price per minute… and how long I would be paying those minutes off for…

So here I am in Canberra.  I know I will have to work harder here to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.  And I will be pretty busy with my uni work as well.  But that’s the way it is.  Sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to find what makes you happy.

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