the inevitable

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hWe consider more precious what we will soon leave behind.

In the count-down to my final days of living in Indonesia, I am attempting to resist  the urge to make anything precious. However, like a crabby old auntie who inevitably loves the puppy her family thinks will be good jakartafor her, here’s what I’m trying not to miss in advance:

  • that warm blanket feeling of walking from crisp air conditioning into the humid air of every single day and night
  • the impassioned and consistent calls to prayer at 4 a.m. and throughout the day. Our neighborhood in New Jersey had a noon siren, as what I can only imagine was a throw-back to small town life when everybody stopped for lunch at the same time. Yet, this call is nothing like that. I always have an instinctual American, “Are you kidding me?!” reaction at the brink of dawn, with my head on my pillow staring at the time.
  • the stealthy mosquitos that bite and leave just as you begin to sense an itch and wonder, “Is this happening? Yeah, it’s happening!” as you are then forced to reach for the bug spray, always handy.
  • taxis with unpredictable freshness levels from drivers on long shifts, unpredictable seat belt availability in the back seat, unpredictable amounts of change, unpredictable familiarity with the locations in the surrounding areas–but driven by men with the predictable questions of where you’re from or how long you’ve been living in Indonesia
  • not ever going to or knowing where the post office is

But most of all, I am trying not to miss my pembantu–my helper–Atik. The idea of live-in help is absolutely laughable, pampered, indulgent in my middle class America.

Yet I can’t imagine living without her. I’m resisting the urge to tear up now. The list of things she does for me is too long to include here. Here are some random things that are so incredibly sweet:

  • If I run out of wrapping paper just before a baby shower, she hops on a motorbike and gets some more–with Bugs Bunny on it.
  • She most recently baked homemade pretzels, smashed some guacamame, and whirred up bean dip for colleagues and friends.
  • She mends things that rip or tear or just do not fit right, or finds someone who will.

michiganHumidity, mosquitos, early morning wake-ups . . . Atik. Indonesia has sunk into my pores. My mom has mentioned the possibility of my blood thinning due to the constant heat. That when I come back, it will be difficult to adjust.

When I left North America, I thought I would never let that happen since I truly love autumn and winter so much. But . . . it just might be inevitable.


About jaclynfre

Tech integration specialist, recipe adventurer, fast walker, sporadic writer, aunt, sister and daughter
This entry was posted in life and culture, transitions and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to the inevitable

  1. Oh my…your glimpse into life in Indonesia is amazing…while I would have predicted the mosquitos….never would I have predicted live in help!

    • jaclynfre says:

      Live-in help is one of those things that as an American you resist and resist . . . I actually don’t mind doing housework. In America. But anything I say to justify having live-in help here sounds slightly defensive. I will say this–that I appreciate having someone who speaks the language when I need repair work done on the house. Plus, Atik is just great. As you can see in this post. Thanks for reading.

  2. Wow. I heard YA author Jack Gantos last weekend at the SCBWI conference in NYC. He said that the reason why go to books is to change. What happens when we read something? Who/what changes? We change. The book doesn’t change. The book stays the same. I was reminded of this by your post. Gantos’ statement applies to any strong writing–and I felt that twang of change inside of me as I read your post. Well done.

  3. Max Maclay says:

    Such a wonderful pre-reflection on your time in Indonesia. Starting with “that warm blanket feeling” really brought me in to the experience, because I could relate to it, and then you gave so many wonderful examples that were unique and so well described. Atik sounds like one of those special, wonderful people that exist in the world. Thanks for sharing her with us.

    • jaclynfre says:

      Thank you for taking time to read this reflection. I resisted liking the heat here since it seems like everybody loves tropical climates so much, but I was someone who was more of an “autumn person.” There is something very comforting about the humidity that I would never ever have admitted when I first moved here. In fact, when I was home for the summer, I was surprised when people were commenting on the humidity. It felt bone dry to me. I guess we all do acclimatize to our environments. Looking forward to checking out your posts.

  4. Tara Smith says:

    You have built a rich life and many wonderful connections – those will always be with you. You made me remember my India of the distant past – the warmth, humidity, sense of buzzing life close by. So glad that you are slicing with us!

    • jaclynfre says:

      I’d love to hear more about your life in India. How long ago did you live there? Where did you live–in the country or suburb? Some friends just came back from India after attending a wedding and they were struck by the close perimeter of personal space that people in India have.

  5. aggiekesler says:

    Jackie, I can imagine how you feel. I, too, live abroad, and I know that when I decide to leave China I’ll have the same feelings–those things that annoy me now will be the things I miss once I’m gone. I have an ayi (helper) here, but mine isn’t live-in. It’s definitely one of the perks of living in Asia. My mom says I’m so spoiled that whenever I come home, I won’t remember how to clean! She may be right. 😉 Good luck on your next chapter!

    • jaclynfre says:

      I’m looking forward to reading your slices this year!! Unless you have lived this lifestyle, you don’t understand how essential it is to have a local person to help you out with the day to day. I told my parents when they came to visit that when Atik goes on holiday, usually for a few weeks during Idul Fitri, I usually have to book a hotel. One time she was gone, I got typhoid. On a side note, I have a live-in because very few Americans thought they needed a live-in and Atik needed a place to stay so now she has a homebase and she actually works part time as well for others at my school.

      • aggiekesler says:

        That’s really cool that you have given her a place to stay! I know she’s going to miss you when you’re gone.

        And I totally agree with you that if you haven’t been an expat, you can’t possibly understand our lifestyle! Looking forward to more of your slices this month. 🙂

  6. Karen Walker says:

    SO much fun to read your reflections Jackie! As others have said, you help us to experience it through your writings. I’m sure parts of Indonesia will go back to Michigan with you!! (altho not the weather) Live-in help…..wouldn’t that be wonderful?!!
    Love you, Aunt Karen

    • jaclynfre says:

      Aunt Karen, I would love for Atik to come back to America with me. Our family finds it ironic that the single gal with no kids is the one with the live-in help. Teaching has brought me to many places both personally and professionally–you were there at the beginning of it. Would love to catch up again sometime.

      • Karen Walker says:

        I forgot..but yes, we were at the beginning weren’t we?! You really should come to visit the East Coast! What are your plans when you return “home”? Do you have a job? I would also love to catch up!!! It is ironic that the single gal with no kids has live-in help, but I remember your Mom having some kind of help in Japan…and she was not working outside of the home if I remember correctly? Culture I’m sure has a lot to do with it. 🙂

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