The first time you travel out of your new country and then return to it, is surreal. I just got back from visiting Seoul for October break. Usually when I board Korean Air in Seoul I’m headed for Chicago. But this time, my destination was Jakarta again. It’s more disconcerting when some things are familiar but a few key things are slightly off. The creepiness seeps in when nobody else seems to notice the difference. It all proceeds as normal.
“Normal” had already begun to be redefined when I stepped off the plane in Seoul because I had gone there seeking autumn in October. I was leaving the up-side-down world of the tropics where meteorology is not an eventful profession since every day is the virtually the same temperature.
I found exactly what I longed for while in Korea: “crispy” air (my Korean friend’s phrase), colorful leaves, autumn fruit (daechu). In fact, this trip was to be my retirement vacation as I had always longed for an October break as an American teacher–and on top of that–to be able to experience autumn in Korea. Now that this goal proved unexpectedly attainable early, I can begin on other goals. Like reaching elite status on Korean Air which earns you the right to visit their Prestige Lounge. Check also on that one. What’s next?
As the wheels made contact with the ground in Jakarta, the airline attendants’ announcements went in this order: Korean, English and Indonesian. I braced myself for the warm temps, mosquito protection, transportation management, Indonesian bureaucracy and generally getting back into a routine.
Note to Boles (foreigners) with KITAs, don’t stand in the Foreigner line at the Jakarta airport. There is one line just for you further down. If you have complaints, you can register them with a bureau whose email address is a yahoo.com account. But you aren’t allowed to take pictures of this sign with the contact information.
A friendly taxi driver made lively conversation for the first 10 minutes of the hour ride home. Then at about 40 minutes into the trip, he became distressed–a possible asthma attack. His driving became erratic. He pushed through his distress at my rising concern. When we arrived at my place after some screeching and backing up since following directions became increasingly difficult for him–my pembantu rushed out with some warm water and later rubbed some eucalyptus on his back (a common remedy for many ailments in Indonesia).
The taxi driver and multiple hungry mosquitos welcomed me back “home.”
Pictures from Changdeok gung (palace) in Seoul: