Like 99.9% of expat wives this week I was looking forward to going home for the summer months. Delighted to be escaping the pollution and smog of Jakarta for a few weeks of fresh air and good food in vermin free surroundings I was beginning to daydream about the long evening walks, concerts in the marquee and cheese and O’Herlihy’s sausages.
I left Ireland four years ago, immigrated to Doha for a three to four year period to make my fortune and return. Now, four years and four countries later, we are no closer to returning and no fortune made either. Emigration is all very well but prepare for a rocky ride, particularly when relying on the construction industry……in any country.
Suddenly the summer holiday is tainted by the constant cloud of uncertainty that will loom large and suddenly I’m not so keen to get out of Jakarta. Despite scenes of crippling poverty and diabolical traffic, Jakarta has a way of getting under your skin. There is a sense of inclusion which doesn’t exist in the Middle East and a cost of living that doesn’t exist in Ireland. The Indonesian people are warm and personable and great friendships are made between expats and locals. Even the expats seem nicer in Indonesia, call it rose tinted glasses or maybe it’s because you need to have a certain attitude to make a life in Jakarta. All in all, a year in Jakarta is a leveller, if nothing else it puts the un-importance of designer handbags and what car you drive into perspective.
When I was leaving Doha I wanted to see the hotel beside Aspire, I wanted to see the swimming pool that hung outside the building. When I was leaving Abu Dhabi I wanted to see the Burj Khalifa in Dubai and now only days left in Jakarta the only thing I want to see are people. All the people that helped us call Jakarta home. All the nice Indonesian people that welcomed us with open arms and hearts and had patience with our pidgin Bahasa. Particularly the driver and maid, the pleasure of their friendship and their services I’ll probably never experience again. The thoughts of having to wash the floor and do the ironing myself not half as daunting as the thoughts of Yanti and Mamot being out of work and struggling. Even the weather was ideal, the glorious sunny mornings and the monsoon rainfall in the afternoon providing the perfect climate for an early morning swim and guilt free afternoon TV.
Suddenly Jakarta seemed like the best place in the world and I longed for one last nasi goreng in our local café, where a family of five could eat, drink and get merry for under twenty euro. And thank god we went, because only for I saw the two giant brown rats, playing happily together on the table of the café kitchen, I might not have left Jakarta at all, I might have been so crippled with nostalgia that it would prevent me from getting on the plane home.
After only nine months, I was back again in Soekarno-Hatta International Airport saying goodbye to Jakarta the only place I’ve been where I cried when I arrived and I cried when I left.