Sunday, August 10, 2008
Well, our time here in Indonesia is now drawing to a close. We leave on Thursday, thus ending a 5 year stay here which has been full of highs and lows, fun and laughter, friendships and adventures. We have lived in two cities, Jakarta and then Surabaya. If you were to ask me which was my favourite I couldn’t say. Both have their merits. Jakarta is hugely fun to live in, with cafes, restaurants, odd shopping complexes, strange little areas you could get lost in all day, and there were times when I did. To see Jakarta you have to do it by foot, and there was many a time when I did just that. I would go in to a part of the city then set off. The sights you would see are the ones you miss from behind a car window, and everywhere you go, there is a new and interesting thing to see and think about.
Surabaya has its own attractions. It’s smaller, less traffic, and yet also has those pockets of interest that demand to be seen. It is well laid out, easy to get to places, and while not as vibrant as Jakarta has its own charm.
I am going to miss Indonesia, it will always remain as a second home. I’ve loved our time here, and having spent such a long time here have gotten to know its culture and people fairly well. I think Indonesia is a great place to live; it has everything you could want and then some. Its chaotic, difficult to understand at times, bureaucracy is maddening, traffic laws non existent, little organisation, terrible pollution issues, corrupt like you wouldn’t believe, and yet.
And yet, it has a vitality about it, a love of life, its gentle and welcoming, friendly and humorous, caring and thoughtful. The people, the food, the culture, the environment outside the cities are just brilliant. And in the cities it’s vital, hectic, and fun.
Our children have spent the best part of their lives here, with Lil C arriving here as a 3 year old and now leaving as a beautiful, vivacious and confident 8 year old. Lil D was brought here at the tender age of 3 months and has spent his four years here. They have become well rounded, inquisitive, well travelled little people, and they are a delight to be around. Not often you will see a 4 and 8 year old wandering through an airport with the practised ease of seasoned travellers, able to meet and greet people from any nation with confidence and courtesy, able to meet up and play with children they have only just met as if they had known them for years, and able to fit in where ever they go.
Lil C has more years than Lil D, so she has had the greater benefit of living overseas. I’m sure that her time here will not be a passing thought but rather an indelible series of experiences that have set her up well for her future life. For Lil D, his time here has been one of a multitude of experiences others will not have in a lifetime. He has grown up in a privileged state with maids and nannies and yet he has been taught that respect for others is paramount. They have both learnt that life is not always easy, that in a country like Indonesia they do stand out, sometimes to their detriment, yet they taken all this in their stride and then some. They have both grown, developed and become 3rd culture kids in so far that the values and attitudes of C’s and my respective countries are lived on a daily basis yet tempered by the influences of the environment around them.
And as for us? We have learnt a lot as well. Too much to try and describe here yet suffice to say that wherever we go from here, Indonesia will always remain a significant part of our lives and hearts.
My heart felt thanks to all those wonderful people we have met in our time here, the friendships extended, the generosity, care and thoughtfulness which has made our stay here so memorable. We have loved it here, and this is mainly due to the people we met during our stay.
I'm not sure whether I'm going to continue this blog in our new home, Dubai, but check back every now and then. You never know!
Until next time.
Mum at Besakih, learning the history of the oldest temple in Bali, and in Sanur, enjoying lunch by the beach.
My mother came out to Bali from a small country town outside Brisbane called Boonah, also known as the Scenic Rim. This was only her first second visit to Indonesia since we left in ’79, and she had a great time. She relaxed, got to see the markets, malls, sights, beaches, countryside etc. She went back last Friday and it was hard to see her go as we are not sure when we will be back in Australia again. It had been 3 years since she had seen the kids and they loved seeing their Oma. It was a good bonding time for them and for us.
You don’t realise how important family is until you sit down with someone like Mum and she begins to fill you in on all the doings. You miss a lot living overseas, family get-togethers, parties, dinners, birthdays and so on. You always email but it isn’t the same. So Mum comes along and has all the information at her finger tips, is able to give you all the background info, the little anecdotes, the humour and the difficulties, it’s like you have rejoined the family again.
In my family, connections have always been important. There are six kids, Pa died some years ago, the veritable patriarch of the family, leaving Mum to pick up the reins and ensure we don’t get so involved in our own lives that we forget each other. And to her great credit, we haven’t. She ensures that emails are sent along, forwards the important stuff, visits all my siblings and their families when she can, and still maintains her hectic life as a carer for old folk at a respite centre, speech making, choir singing, book club, bowls, Tai Chi, radio station volunteer, ticket selling, art gallery volunteer and so on. And most of these are on every week. Not bad for a 73 year old! So while we were a tad anxious at her travelling alone to a foreign country, Mum made it through with flying colours. I should know by now not to under estimate her.
So anyways, Mum brought us up on all the doings, and we spent ages rehashing old and new history, putting things into order in our own minds and learning what has been going on back home. For those expats who don’t get home very often, the service a relo like Mum provides is invaluable. Strongly recommend it!
We all had a lot of fun and it seemed like a fitting end to our own stay here in Indonesia, to see out the remaining days with someone from home, thus giving us a chance to see things with a fresh perspective and enjoy all that Bali has to offer all over again.
One of the things about Indonesian visa’s is that they are set to a strict time limit, i.e 30 days. So when you arrive at the airport, dash for the queue, pay your US$25.00 per head, then queue again for immigration, you already know that there will come a time when you will have to do this all over again. Such a time came for us on the 20th July when we flew to Kota KInabalu, sampled its delights for one night and day, then flew back to Bali. You see, to get an extension on your visa, the only way that I know of, though I’m sure there are other ways requiring white envelopes and discreet smiles, is to get out of the country then fly back in again. Some time go I had booked through Air Asia our seats to Kota Kinabalu, arriving in the mid afternoon, then flying back mid afternoon the following day. This was not to be. A week or two before intended departure I get an SMS from Air Asia telling us that our flight would not get in until 5.30pm, and would leave the following day at 6pm. Not good as this meant we had to either extend our time (after checkout) at the hotel or wander around for a few hours with tired kids. No contest. Pay the hotel.
So we took our leave from C’s sisters and flew out to Kinabalu. Once there we were pleasantly surprised. The airport is only a few kilometres away from the city centre and it only took a short taxi ride to a hotel I had already picked out on the web. This time I thought we would wing it a bit and check out the price at the door rather than pre-book. This turned out to be a good move. Got a suite for cheaper than the net. Recommend the hotel; it is called the Promenade Hotel. Thought it was a great option, had everything you need, was busy and very friendly.
While we only spent one night here, it was very nice to walk along the waterfront, visit the night market, have dinner along the boardwalk, and enjoy the evening.
Now I had all sorts of ideas of what the place would look like. I knew it was a port town and thought it would be the same as most port towns, crowded, rundown, teeming with people etc. Was I wrong! Kinabalu is a well laid out small city, wide streets, footpaths, clean, no litter, clear blue skies (now when I had last seen that?!), orderly traffic and so on. Just to give an example, the water off the boardwalk was so clear we could look down for a few meters and actually see schools of fish. Show me another fishing port that could say the same. It was hugely reminiscent of Darwin. Same sort of city. I loved it. It was a pleasure to be there and the fact that it was such an easy town to get around in made it enjoyable to wander its streets. I’d go back, and next time I would make tracks for the surrounding mountains etc. Apparently there are same great tracks to go on, and much more to do besides. I heard there is an orang utan rehab park, and there is always the fishing!
That night we wandered to the night markets which were set up in a huge car park right next to the water, with fishing trawlers parked a bit further along. What amazed me was how clean everything was. The market sold everything from fruit to vegies and further back, along the waterside, table after table of fresh fish, prawns etc. C mentioned that she couldn’t get over how clean everything was, the fish stalls were spotless. Not sure what prices the fish etc were going for, but they had a good variety.
Towards the street side all the food stalls were set up and they were doing a roaring trade. People everywhere congregating for a feed with friends. The food looked good but caution prevailed and we had dinner along the boardwalk at an Irish pub. Well, the kids did. Right next door to the Irish pub was an aussie one so I ordered a steak. Prices were okay, but more along tourist prices than local. The Guinness though from the Irish pub was lovely! Sitting on the boardwalk was very pleasant. It was a balmy night, with just a hint of a breeze, perfect for outdoor dining.
The following day we wandered some more on foot through town, ending up back at the boardwalk for lunch.
A short sleep for the kids at the hotel, then back to the airport for a fuss free trip back to Bali on Air Asia. All in all, a good trip, though far too short.