Tuesday, 9 September 2008

The Best and the Worst of it – Up to Now anyway

What is the best thing about living in Jakarta. My summary.

No. 1 – Holidays. I would be lying if I didn’t say this. Since living here we have been:
1. Christmas 2006 - 10 days - Lombok
2. Easter 2007 - 6 days - Bali
3. July 2007 - 2 weeks - Paris/London (just C girl and myself)
4. Aug 2007 - 3 weeks - Aus
5. Christmas 2007 - 3 weeks - Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France
6. March - 4 days - Sambolo (west Java) – like camping
7. March - 10 days - Australia
8. May - 8 days - Sambolo (2 separate long weekends)
9. July - 5 days - Sambolo
10. July/Aug - 4 weeks - Australia / NZ

And we are planning on going to Bali at end of Sep and Langkawi at the end of Oct and Canada for xmas. But what is great is this is normal. We took kids to Thailand/Germany when living in Aus and people thought we were a. wasting our money and b. insane for wasting our money. They could not see that we get pleasure out of seeing our kids get pleasure. And that is what holidays are to us....great family fun with all of us (at least as much as hubs job allows).

No. 2 – Attitude.
What am I talking about???? Well, on a recent visit to Australia, I had many a moment in the park contemplating life while the kids played happily. Well, have you ever noticed how people living in Suburbia just don’t look that happy? They look tired, bored, rushed, run hagged by living the life that they have. Do they get to chose this life, or is it the life that they have because there is no alternative?

In Jakarta, and I am only talking about myself and my friends (because the expat life is so different to the life of a local). We chose this life. This is the life we want to live. If the traffic annoys us to much, or something else happens that makes us feel angry or frustrated. We can, when all is said and done – leave. Go to a different life, in our home country or, more excitedly, to another country.

Personally I am a lot happier here than when I was in Aus. I have more time to spend with my family. All day Saturday can be sports day (yes with the kids). All day Sunday can be family day. There is no grocery shopping, washing, cooking, cleaning, mowing or maintaining the house to squeeze into the time that I could have spent with my kids or my husband. I chose this life. This is where I want to be and this is where I am. I live the life of a 1960’s husband. I come home, dinner is on the table, kids are clean and ready for bed. I get to read with them every night and enjoy their company. When they go to bed I then get to chose either to do something on the computer, watch tv, read a book or play a game. Sorry, but I love this life.

No 3. – Affect on the kids.
Have you ever said to your child – if you don’t eat that food I will take it outside and give it to a homeless people and explain that you were unable to eat it because it was the wrong colour/shape/etc.
Well , let me tell you – you only have to say it once before they realize what a great life they are living.
Living in Jakarta has had a great affect on my kids. They now understand that there are children who have nothing, not children who don’t have a Nintendo DS, but NOTHING. When we go somewhere and there is a child wearing rags begging at the car window, my kids understand that they are very, very lucky and that this luck occurred by way of chance (they were born in Australia to their parents).

Don’t get me wrong, they sit there listening to their ipod while playing their Nintendo DS, while looking at these kids, I didn’t say my kids were deep and meaningful. But, they really understand that they have a great life and that there are people a whole lot worse off. They can see outside their bubble enough to know they are on a good thing. Their compassionate side has come through on a few occasions and as they get older their understanding of what they can do to help with grow.

No 4. – Reading
I get to read every morning and every afternoon on the way to and from work. This is such a great thing to be able to do. I don’t have to drive, I can just sit there and read a book, without it cutting into leisure time.

No 5. – The people
It is amazing to see people who have nothing be so happy. Very few people have the worn out look of the Australian Suburban mum. They will happily work 12 hour days for US $100 a month and not even consider complaining. They don’t complain about anything.

The Worst side

No. 1 – The people
How can people be so happy all of the time? It’s unnatural. No, but seriously. Education levels here are very low. It costs about one months salary to put one child through school each year and if you haven’t got a home, you aren’t going to be able to go to school in the first place. Kids leave school at a very young age. Also, people marry very young and have babies straight away. Wives will be deserted by husbands. These women and children collect rubbish (scavengers). It is cruel to see. So the downside is that life here is so tough for a local person. The average salary is US$100 a month, sometimes US$400 if you are educated. Because education levels are low some things are done that a western person finds baffling. This leads to a lot of frustration at times, especially when your children are involved.

No. 2 – The traffic.
Can’t be a blog about Jakarta without traffic. Mind you, if I didn’t have traffic I wouldn’t be able to read so much (I get car sick going fast in a car). Ramadhan is the worst – takes two hours to get home (it’s only one month a year and right now is when it is on). I sit in the front seat with my book, or if we stop (I don’t mind going slow, I just hate stopping) with a road atlas and direct on new roads to try. My poor driver wishes he had someone else who would just sit in the back and fall asleep.

That said, I think driving in Australia is much more frustrating now. People don’t seem to have a gift for merging and there are traffic lights that won’t let you turn right when there is no traffic for 4 km. And what is it about a roundabout that says only 1 car fits?

No. 3 – The weather
30 degrees every day. Rains for 6-8 months, dry for 4 -6 months. The best storms during the rainy season. Sometimes floods that stop you going to work or school. Scrap that – put this up there with the things I like about living here.

Overall, I chose to live here. I don't regret it and I'm not ready to move yet, so don't even suggest it.


Shannon said...

I miss the people, they really are amazing! People in Germany, or at least people in Frankfurt don't smile. One of the neighbor kids, a girl about 17 is very outgoing and always smiling. She has actually had people stop her on the street and say "You aren't German are you? You smile too much." Good Grief!

Mrs Top Monkey said...

Came here via JenJen's blog. We have just moved to Jakarta ourselves and I find myself nodding to what you are writing. Keep posting, nice to hear what fellow expats think of our host city!