Thursday, July 12, 2012

Most of what I know, I learned in Indonesia

I sat on the edge of my chair, leaning in, trying to understand. I’d had this nightmare many times since finishing college. Sitting in class again, feeling unprepared, not understanding anything, being called on for the answer. Except this time, it wasn’t a dream.

It was language school.

Somehow I’d slipped onto a plane that would land on the other side of the world, then scooted into a taxi that terrorized my life in Jakarta traffic. Next I rumbled on a train past shacks, rice fields, volcanoes, and finally crept down a slippery path in the slums to my new home in the Indonesian city of Bandung, where we would spend a year of language school before moving to Tarakan.

Our house was an earthquake away from becoming rubble. Our neighbor beat his wife, who would show up at our door in tears, her garbled words ones I’d hadn’t learned yet. And my stomach always hurt from either dirty water or dirty food.

And I felt like a kindergartner again—trying to learn the basics of a new language, new culture—but without the gold stars for a job well done.

I still have that dream. Sometimes I’m in college, my kids in tow, confused as to why I was called back. Sometimes it’s high school and I forgot to put on clothes.

Sometimes—many times—even after I wake up, I feel unprepared, inadequate, confused as to how I am managing life.

But the reality is, I’ve come a long way from my nightmare being reality. I’ve learned so much—not just the difference between muda (Indonesian for young) and mudah (Indonesian for easy). I’ve spent half of my adult years in Indonesia. All of my years as a mom here. More than half of my marriage. And the period of six years on this little island of Tarakan is the longest time I’ve ever lived anywhere in my life.

Over the next few posts, I plan to reflect on lessons learned, questions answered, and a heart changed. On how much of what I’ve learned about being a grownup—being this Me who I now am—I learned in Indonesia.

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