The last time I left Indonesia, people asked me, “Mal, kapan kamu akan balik ke Bandung?” And last time, I had an answer. This time around however? This time I don’t know when I’ll be returning to my country of islands, my home. And that’s heartbreaking. I don’t know when I’m coming back. I don’t know when I’ll see my closest friends. Or when I’ll be able to devour es kelapa muda and ayam madu. I don’t know when I’ll again return to the life that I love so much - the place where I stand as my best self. Like I said. It’s heartbreaking.
I knew that my return to my favorite archipelago would bring a wave of emotions. I anticipated weirdness - perhaps a bit of unease. In the time that I had been away, questions ran rampant in my homesick heart. Had things changed? Would my host family treat me differently when we reunited? Had the angkot routes been modified? Would my favorite martabak sellers still remember me? Could I still handle heaping amounts of the spicy sambal that my school friends devoured? I was worried, to say the least.
But the moment that the wheels of my plane dropped and touched down in Bali on the 1st of December, I abandoned every single concern I had, and relished in knowing that I was finally home.
On my flight from Sydney to Denpasar I was fortunate enough to meet another girl my age who was traveling to Indonesia for the first time where her “schoolies” friends were patiently waiting. When we touched down at the airport she had an Indonesian driver ready to take her to where her friends were staying. Me on the other hand? I had no idea of where I was going, how I was getting there, or what to make of the humidity that I so foolishly had forgotten about. When I accompanied her to her driver and began conversing in Bahasa, he was clearly stunned, and an enormous smile took to his face. He offered me, a random bule with no plans, a ride to my hostel, and I was once again reminded of the generosity of the Indonesian people.
|Whitewater rafting for the first time with a crazy doctor from Perth|
I checked into my hostel bedroom - a private all-girl dorm with two bunk-beds and about two extra square feet of walking space. Two minutes later, a platinum blonde girl from Finland checked into the same room. “So, are you traveling alone, too?” And from then on, Mari and I were attached at the hip for the entirety of my ten days on the island.
|Precious encounters like these are the ones I love most|
Over the course of ten short days, us two girls had made extraordinary memories. From our first night of dancing until 3:00 am, trekking to Ubud and prancing through the monkey forest, tea tasting, and surfing well past the sunset. We did it all, and then some. And not a moment was wasted.
My time in Bali reaffirmed a few things for me. The first, and debatably most important, is that everyone should stay in a hostel at least once in there lifetime. The sense of international community that is bred behind those walls is unmatchable, and I’ve gained lifelong friends. Rather they be crazy doctors from Perth, or sassy girls from China, friends are awaiting. You just have to go find them.
|Me and my soul sister from Finland|
At 8:00 am on December 9th, (after approximately fifteen minutes of sleep,) I managed to make my flight to Bandung. I had only 16 days, and I planned to embrace every one. My first day was spent adventuring with Agung in the green mountains of Lembang (surprise, surprise.) And then going home to my host family’s house in the evening. As the warm teh tarik hit my lips at home that night, I embraced the paradoxical feelings that came with. Everything was the same. Everything was different. But I was happy.
Over the course of the next few days I reunited with many old friends. Baya. Pandu. Hilfi. Lidya. Nabila. With each reunion, came more and more smiles. My being quickly succumbed to happiness. Pure, unadulterated, authentic happiness. And to be honest, it had been a while since I had felt that way.
On Tuesday evening, I took off on a trip to Yogyakarta. Baya joined me, and together we took a seven hour night train to the heart of Indonesia’s culture. Our first day we decided to go to my favorite beach; Pantai Kukup. We frolicked in the sand and splashed in the powerful ocean waves, basking in the joy that came from good company and strawberry-flavored Oreos. Just as we were preparing to leave, a ginormous wave came and swept up our bags containing both of our cameras, wallets, iPhones, clothes, shoes. Everything we had that was supposed to be of “value” had quickly been destroyed. But for once in my life, those things didn’t matter. “It’s okay. It’s just stuff.”
So we lost our ability to take photos for the rest of our time in Jogja, and for the rest of my time in Bandung. But it was okay. Because the memories we created were far too priceless to attempt to capture in a simple photograph.
|Turns out I can't handle spicy foods anymore|
After a return to Bandung, the rest of my limited days were spent eating way too much street food, having random jam sessions, exploring Bandung a bit, and getting heaps of Global Politics work done.
And just as quickly as it had come, my homecoming trip to Indonesia was complete. On Christmas Eve, I made my way to Jakarta for one last final pitstop to meet with Fuadi to deliver raised funds for Komunitas Menara, and then went out for a final dinner with my two closest friends.
|I'll see you soon, beautiful|
And now I’m here. Sitting in the airport in Kuala Lumpur. It’s Christmas. And the closest thing I have to family is the Sri Lankan man sitting next to me in this poorly lit Starbuck’s lounge. The tears want to come at the thought of being so close to Indonesia, yet now knowing that it is a thing of the past. But I think there’s a beauty in that. In loving a place so much that you’re moved to tears at the thought of not knowing that there’s an imminent return. That’s love.
So although this Christmas season may not have been traditional, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. Merry Christmas to everyone back home, everyone I’ve met along the way, and everyone that has yet to come. Much love from across the world!