Truth be told, I can’t wait to get back to the Pacific Northwest- three weeks and counting! The weather, the water and my beautiful, little doggy will welcome me back just in time for a glorious summer. Living in a foreign country has been enlightening and also had its share of challenges. But after almost two years, it’s started to feel like home and there are aspects of life in Indonesia that I’ll be missing once we’re back in Washington. Here are a couple at the top of my list.
Joel and I are both fascinated by geography and history, so we’ve done quite a bit of temple hopping. There are just so many to see! Borobudur and Prambanan are both amazing and colossal, but also jam packed with camera wielding tourists. It was well worth the sunburn we received spending the day riding around Jogja finding all the lesser known temples. It’s a distinct kind of architecture that we certainly aren’t likely to come across when driving around Washington state.
Being the bule
Bule is the Indonesian word for white people. Before moving here I remember Joel’s parents joking with him a lot about the bule phenomenon, but I couldn’t truly comprehend it until I experienced it first hand. It isn’t an everyday occurrence and mostly happens when we’re in rural areas, but every so often we’ll meet people that flip out over seeing a bule. For me it’s an awkward kind of recognition because I don’t feel like I deserve it. I’m not comfortable being in the limelight and certainly don’t think my complexion should give me celebrity status. But I’ve happily obliged when asked to pose with droves of teenaged girls and even held a strangers’ baby so they can get a selfie with their new bule friend. It makes me feel super silly, but also very special and welcome.
The shopping malls here have rotating expos showcasing anything from electronics to furniture to cars, which are not of much interest to me. But walking into the mall and seeing the fabric vendors setting up for a weekend textile sale made me feel like a kid in a candy store. Anyone who knows me knows that I can really blow a paycheck on fabric. I thought Joel might be apprehensive leaving me alone amongst the stalls containing stacks upon stacks of colorful fabrics, but he seemed just as interested as me to learn about the different motifs, where they originated and the stories behind them. As you might imagine we’re coming home with quite a bit (as in a suitcase full) of ikat and batik.
I’ve always been thrifty, but Indonesia has spoiled me when it comes to prices and the massages are no exception. There are quite a few reflexology salons around town and lucky for me one was located right across from our first apartment. I’ve been a regular customer to the point that I have a favorite masseuse that I request by name. An hour long massage runs between $5 to $8 here depending on the service. At that price a weekly indulgence wasn’t a splurge. With US massages typically being $80+ per hour, I think my massages will soon be limited to birthdays and special occasions.
My husband thinks it’s gross, but I’m seaweed addicted. Over here seaweed isn’t just for sushi; it’s for potato chips too! I figured if I like it wrapped with rice and fish, I’ll probably dig it on fried potatoes, right? So now I’m hooked on seaweed flavored Lay’s and Pringles and I’m going to be disappointed when they’re not available at every corner store in the US.
Discovering the private bus company JogloSemar was a game changer for our travel schedule. From a station just down the street from our house we can take hourly buses to Jogja or Solo for $4-$7 each way. There’s another similar company that offers service to Jepara for only $4. Prices like that coupled with the average hotel being $25-$35 per night lead to us being on the road quite frequently.
Bali is the most famous part of Indonesia, but for us there’s nowhere better to holiday than Jogja. Pretty much every long weekend (and some short ones too) we were on a bus headed down to our favorite cultural mecca to experience the music, arts, shopping and cuisine. It got to the point that we have a favorite Friday night live band who remembers us and would play our favorite songs by request. We’ve been to Jogja least ten times and still can’t get enough. There are tons of amazing weekend getaway locations in Washington (San Juan Islands! Port Townsend! Olympic Peninsula!), but none have quite the mystique and allure of Jogja.
As life as an expat comes to a close, it’s been fun to reminisce on our time here in Indonesia. I look forward to returning as a tourist and exploring even more of this country and its culture, but for now I’m starting to build my Washington/Oregon travel list. I’m eager to once again call that little PNW corner of the world home and to see what it has in store for Joel, me and our little doggy travel partner.