Well, it’s really happening. My Year in Asia is almost over.
And I can’t quite believe it.
My heart is box of emotions and my brain is a tangle of memories.
Thank you so so so much for reading this little blog. It has given me an incredible amount of pleasure to share with you my experiences and myself. Recording my thoughts has been therapeutic and comforting, and it has meant so much to me to know that you are out there listening!
And thank you to every single one of you who has been part of my year – you are the colour to this painting.
Who knows – maybe I’ll start a new blog in the future, but for now…this one is my last!
Living with Colour
It’s January in Jakarta, which means rain, rain, flooding, and more rain.
Wet drops flick from trees and overhead electricity wires, sploshing my face as I power my way to work. The potholes I’ve been jumping are filled with who knows what – a banana peel? A flattened rat?
A Kaki Lima is serving out steaming bowls of Mie Ayam to fellow office workers, and an Ibu is quacking happily as she sweeps her front step.
As I reach the last few weeks of my year in Indonesia, I have home firmly in sight. But I’m also caught by moments of nostalgia for the year that was.
A fellow blogger wrote that travelling is a constant adrenalin rush – and in my experience it truly is. It isn’t always intense and overwhelming, but there aren’t many moments when you are really truly in your comfort zone. Language is a constant challenge (albeit an incredibly rewarding one), and daily life is fraught with unforeseen complications.
In Indonesia, those complications range from weaving along a broken road in the absence of an actual sidewalk, to trying to translate ‘grated coconut’ (anyone know what the word is?!). I look forward to the day when I walk with my gaze forward, instead of directly down at the giant potholes at my feet.
Skipping past food vendors and motorbikes, dodging trees and children and puddles constitute my morning walk to work in Jakarta. Pollution, noise and chatter cloud the air.
The funny thing is, you don’t reach a point when everything suddenly becomes easy. There is no plataeu of learning, no plateau of fluency in a language. It’s more like a giant mountain hike – you reach one peak only to walk down the other side, ready for the next steep incline.
This year has taught me a huge amount about humility. When someone gushes that “of COURSE you must be fluent by now!”, I can only look helplessly back. I don’t deny that my language has improved a huge amount, because it has, and I’m proud of it. But the sooner I reach a certain level of proficiency, the sooner I recognise how much I have to learn. A conversation in Indonesia is peppered with Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Gaul (slang), and a variety of local dialects. Not to mention jargon and unintelligible acronyms. Try reading an SMS from an Indonesian – because the jumble of letters you recieve apparently means something. And language doesn’t just rely on words, it relies on expression, and in my case, confidence. On a good day, words come easily, and on a bad day, I stumble on the most simple of sentences. Needless to say, it’s frustrating.
Sometimes I yearn for the gentleness I associate with home. Familiarity and family and friends are something that I undeniably miss – sometimes more than others. I miss the ease of routine, the ease of a country where I can use my mother tongue every day, all the time.
But I guess the point is that this adrenalin, this constant upward hike, is exhilerating. Those brilliant moments of fluency, those special moments of awe and that ultimate sense of achievement is worth working towards. My life could pass easily, gently…but it could also pass in a riot of colours.
From studying in the antiquated halls of Universitas Gadjah Mada in Yogyakarta, to the zippy, cosmopolitan campus at Universitas Katolik Parahyangan in Bandung, I’m now doing an internship with Mercy Corps in Jakarta. I’ve stepped into the world of Indonesia…..and from the inside, it’s safe to say it’s an exciting place to be.
I’ll soon be stepping back out again, to start a master’s in Sydney. But I’ve already applied for a job working for an Indonesian magazine, and I definitely plan on joining some kind of language class to keep what Bahasa I have learnt firmly in my brain!
I’m determined to make sure that the privileges I have been granted here in Indonesia are something I will utilise in the future. The connection I have with Indonesia has been hard-won, and it’s not something I plan on letting go.
So here is to a year well lived!
A few photos from my time in Jakarta!