Last Jakarta News Note March 1, 2012
Seven years ago today I arrived in Jakarta to begin my Indonesian adventure. Curtis was already here, having arrived mid-January to begin his new position on the “BP Indonesia New Wells Delivery” Team. The next day we were handed the keys to our freshly painted, curtained, empty new house. Having signed up for a 3-year assignment (which morphed into 4 years seconds after Curtis said yes), we’d chosen a house quickly on our look-see trip in December. We weren’t buying it so what did it really matter we told ourselves. Settling into a new country, new customs, new people and language was an experience I wanted to capture and share, so I began writing Jakarta News that 1st day. As happens, different became familiar; unusual, customary; awkward, comfortable; Jl Pejaten Barat 1, No. 11, Kavling 5 became HOME. So, it’s been a while since my next-to-the-last Jakarta News posting.
Yesterday, a day shy of seven years later, I turned the keys back to the landlord, pulled the door closed and said goodbye to our Jakarta home.
Along with the house came staff: a housekeeper, Rusnati and her husband, Rohemon. “Try them out,” the HR rep told us. “At least while you get settled anyway.” There were several people in our garage that day, all brown, quiet, shy… some older, some in uniform, one hugely pregnant young woman. I recall wondering if she was, in fact, our maid, and if so, if she was going to expect to have her baby in our house and what I’d think about it…
Rusnati (not the pregnant one) stayed when the others left and so identified herself as our housekeeper. She didn’t speak much, nor did I, as I assumed she couldn’t speak English. Speaking wasn’t much of an issue at that point as the house was empty but for our suitcases, a rented bed, borrowed lamp and boxes for tables.
Every time I wandering into the garage or out those first few days, Rohemon was sitting in the garage. I’d smile; he’d smile. But we didn’t exchange words and I was clueless as to exactly what he was going to do, or when he’d begin doing in. After a few days later, our company-assigned driver, Aan, who did speak English (extremely well) set me straight. "Rohemon would," Aan explained, "clean up the garden—if he had scissors and a broom..."
Clean Rohemon did, and plant and prune and nurture. Having won the battle for ownership, Rohemon’ s pond now gurgles pleasantly as water tumbles down the waterfall where the fat rat drank. The orange and white pond fish, which replaced the monster ikan lele, which replaced the bobble headed goldfish, and the soap suds-poisoned fish and saltwater-suffocated fish before them are plump and fluttery. We’ve hatch a few batches of babies. And the few remaining ikan lele, descendants of the nasty, spotty monster fish that once lurked in the shadows, only darting out to terrorize their pond mates, are as tame and friendly as the rest. (Proof that it is nurture vs nature?) At last report, Chris’s blue-tongued lizard family was still romping about—even the one Joy’s dalmatian, Cale,mangled. And Andrea’s turtle still takes the occasional dip in the pond.
After the packers pulled away, while Rohemon swept the grass one last time, Rusnati, Curtis and I wandered through the rooms, straighten the curtains, checking cupboards, turning on fans and off lights.
Even empty, the once white-washed rooms, pulse with color, life, memories of parties and people, visitors, adventures, achievements. Rusnati’s two older daughters graduated college, as did Max and Lexi; Rusnati’s younger daughter, naughty Andrea, who it was feared wouldn’t be allowed into middle school because she wasn’t doing well, is now a computer ace with a paid high-school internship; Aan’s oldest son also graduated from Uni and is now a videographer traveling throughout Indonesia (including filming SBY, Indonesia’s President); Aan’s daughter is in her last semester in Uni, and his youngest son, Izwan, is top student in a multilingual honor school. Izwan is going to Singapore with his school this spring—the first in his family to hold a passport and travel out of the country!
When we first moved in, our voices echoed in the high-ceiling-ed rooms. I’d tilted back my head and yodeled once and Rusnati had come running, fearing the worst. Over the years, I yodeled many more times. Curtis hollered back, which always made Rusnati shake her head and laugh. Earlier today, when I was gone for a bit, Rusnati let out a yodel. She told me about it later, laughing about how the packers ran in from the garage to see what was wrong.
Last evening, after turning over the keys, Rusnati and I sat on the front steps as we have grown to work together, side-by-side, with a plant between us. The street cats, Ochie, Aan's pet, and a new younger one who looks like Ochie and is also learning to yowl for attention, lounged on the porch steps, taking turns nibbling snacks. (We left several full containers of food. Warjo, our pool man and relief gardener--the only one of us who'd return tomorrow--had promised to feed the cats, and the fish, and water the plants, too, until the new tenants moved in.) The sun was low, the call-to-prayer a low background chorus. Rusnati and I didn't say much, but not because we couldn't communicate; we speak the same language now, our own Pigeon Indo-English-Sign blend, a language of like minds, common goals, kindred spirits.
We’ll be in Jakarta a few more weeks, while Curtis wraps up his job. Then we’ll say farewell to our Jakarta Life. We’ll say it the Indonesian way: not “goodbye” but “sampai jumpa, nanti!, Until then…”