An odd thing has been happening lately. I started mourning all of the losses I experienced all the times I moved.
I look back and realized how much I missed my childhood in Jakarta. How much I missed my cousins, aunts and uncles. Running around freely in the complex, with neighbors all making sure you are okay…feeling a sense of simple belonging.
The first time we moved to Tokyo, I was 10. I was lucky then because one of my new best friends lived literally right down the street, just a couple of houses away. We would come home from school and play badminton on the street, inevitably throwing the cock onto the neighbors’ yard. I would jump over the fence and ‘sneak’ around in their garden to retrieve it, whilst the owners were watching from the inside. One day, the man came out and said that I could just open the gate and walk in… We were both deathly afraid of him, and of course it turned out that he was perfectly nice. So then the next time, I used the gate.
When we moved to LA, I missed my Tokyo best friends, and I missed being around other Indonesians. My mother dropped me off at school one day and said I would get picked up later. There I stood, alone in a strange school, in a new country where I didn’t really speak the language. El Rodeo was way bigger than any school I’ve ever been to in Jakarta or Tokyo, and I couldn’t remember my way around. They assigned one guy, Adam, to chaperone me. He had freckles all over, was skinny, and kind. Though he did get annoyed about how long it took me to remember where to go. It was a few days before I memorized where the homeroom, the cafeteria, and my ESL classes were.
I do remember entering the homeroom and thinking that it smelled a little funny. The Americans smell like cheese, I told my parents. And now I wonder – What did I smell like to them?
I also remember one of the students Molly, who herself was a lanky girl, telling me that I was skinny, and me not understanding what she meant. I remember Mrs. Rosewall, the ESL teacher, trying to teach me what the word ‘almost’ meant. She used the word ‘nearly’ a few times, but nearly seemed like near to me, so I was even more confused. Whenever I asked my parents (who spoke/speak English perfectly) what something meant, they always told me to look it up in the dictionary. Now I use dictionary.com.
When we moved higher up into the hills, I missed being able to walk to school and to other people’s houses. Being far up meant I was stuck in our house, and dependent on others to drive me around. I was really unhappy then. I still feel like that, when I can’t move or walk on my own: trapped. Life is just not the same without public transport.
The second time we went to Tokyo, I missed my LA friends and my boyfriend. I resented my parents for moving me again, but that feeling didn’t last too too long. There was public transport, yeay. It took 5 trains to get to school. From Kuhombutsu to Jiyugaoka, from there to Shibuya, then to Shinjuku, then to Musashi-sakai, then to Tamabochi-mae. I made some of the best friends I ever made in ASIJ. We are still in touch, even if it’s mostly over FB.
My heart would break with each move. But then, I would meet new, great people, which would renew the spirit. And you know, that is something to cherish. I’ve had the luck to have made some amazing friendships through all that galavanting. Though it’s indeed a pity that everyone is so spread out, I can almost always say that I have a friend in some city or other.
It’s a double-edge sword, this lifestyle. A part of me would never want to trade it for anything in the world. I am flexible, I speak multiple languages, I can blend in like a chameleon when I want to, I understand and embrace differences. Sometimes though, I wonder what my life would’ve been like had I never left Jakarta at all. Would I be blogging this in Indonesian? Would gamelan even interest me? Would I find it suffocating flitting from one wedding and funeral to the other, or would I embrace it as part of the Indonesian identity? Would I be looking to Europe and the US with longing and envy? Would I have stayed on Java, or would inheriting my parents’ adventurous genes have made me move away on my own accord?
Today I went to the Consulate General in New York and registered myself. It’s been on my list of things to do for a while, I just hadn’t managed to get around to it. I brought in the forms, all filled in, with copies of my ID and visa, and one passport photo, and handed them in. I was told to wait for a few minutes. After some fussing about, papers shuffled from one table to the next, the man confirmed that it’s done and handed me back my passport. I checked the stamp and breathed a sigh of relief. I was officially in the registry of Indonesian nationals residing in this area. My main residency is Germany, and I live in the States, but the Indonesians are the ones to keep track of me.
That is my fate. Torn between loyalties, always fitting in, somehow never belonging, but yet a comfortable part of the big whole. And these days, when understanding what it means to be a global citizen is crucial to success, it’s a gift, all of it. So I can’t really complain, right?
Maybe this is just a long-winded way of saying that I miss those friends and family who are not currently nearby. I hope you’re all doing well, wherever you might be, and I hope to see you sometime soon.