Two years ago we came to you, a wayward orphan family escaping American suburbia to start a new chapter in life, and you took us in. We brought little and had few expectations, and you generously nurtured and provided for us. Our children now consider you their home. Because of a job offer we couldn’t refuse, it’s time for us to move on. I typed this to you on our flight back to New England for the summer. Sarah and the kids were sound asleep with the rest of the passengers under the dim, backlit glow in Qatar Airway’s fuselage. Just a few hours before we had our last meal with friends at La Piazza and said a tearful good-bye to our Indonesian family, Iin and Atik, after rushing to fit the last of Áine’s stuffed animals into the empty corners of our eight oversized suitcases and get to the airport on time. When the plane took off, I couldn’t get myself to look out the window as you faded into the distance.
The memories and experiences you have given us are irreplaceable. We watched your orang-utans move through the canopy of the Sumatran jungles and floated above your kaleidoscopic coral reefs in the Java Sea. We witnessed the spiritual devotion of Bali and explored the cultural history of Yogyakarta. My sand dollar from Pasir Panjang is still close by as a reminder of my brief hermitage in the Kei Islands and the lessons you taught me. Jakarta may not be the most romantic or picturesque of cities, but a small part of our hearts will always cherish the floods in the rainy season, the impressive malls of Kelapa Gading and the safety we felt walking the streets at any time day or night (you can keep the traffic, rats, and cockroaches). I will not forget standing on our balcony fifteen floors up, listening to the call to prayer as the sun set on the city and agile bats took the night shift, replacing jet-like swifts.
The students at NJIS are immensely respectful and incredibly fun to teach. When my upper school principal position evolved into administrating the whole school, teaching became a well earned respite from the daily and abundant crises. It feels like we are abandoning them, setting them adrift to unknown teacher replacements.
I will miss your people, some of the most gracious and generous on the planet. I loved trying to speak Indonesian and that sense of accomplishment when a conversation went almost smoothly. I’ll miss the pride I felt when my kids spoke your language, and the pride I could see in the eyes of Indonesians when we greeted them in Bahasa.
I’ll miss evenings crossing the canal to Tortuga’s, my “dojo”, where I would catch up and play darts with the staff or relax with my teacher friends. Even that pool hall above La Piazza, the dirty one full of smoke which only served disgusting Bali Hai beer, gives me a smile when I reminisce.
How could we ever begin to thank you.
You have big shoes to fill. We are headed to you for our next adventure.
Faithful readers, get ready for Africa.