Kami sudah pulang

We are home – yet there are still a few things I haven’t covered, and will endeavour to touch on them as I have time.

Well – six months is a long time. When you are looking forwards, but now, from where I sit, back in Darwin, back at work, back in Australian culture – six months is an incredibly short amount of time. We went to Yogyakarta with some goals and aspirations, ideals and ideas, hopes and dreams. We learnt more than we ever thought possible and have come away with so much more of an understanding of who we are and how we fit in to Indonesian culture.

Before embarking on our journey, Jas and I thought she had a pretty good understanding of basic Javanese culture and we looked forward to filling in the gaps. We thought Jas only had one living relative in Indonesia. I hoped to, at the end of six months, be able to hold a basic conversation. We thought we’d just raise Jack as we would in Australia with a few flavourings of local custom here or there. What we found, discovered, learnt and adapted to was vastly different. After six months, we understand more about the Javanese culture than ever – and realise we know so very, very little. It proves the old saying: “you don’t know, what you don’t know”. In other words, until you truly explore an area, you won’t realise there is so much more to learn at depths only complete immersion can make possible. We met huge numbers of Jasmine’s extended family, including her aunty and cousin. All of this came about from learning the language and both of us being able to ask and guide conversations in Bahasa Indonesia – rather than one translating while the other sits confused (figure out who was who in that situation). That situation came about partly due to me picking up a huge amount of the language, far more than I had thought possible – due in part to studying at a fantastic language school and partly due to having no choice but learn. Only a few people in the kampung spoke English – I could not have survived without adapting and learning the language. Finally, raising Jack proved to be the trickiest part of the bargain. For instance, the concept of control crying, or even any crying does not compute in Javanese culture. If we left Jack to cry, for even minutes, Budhe (Jasmine’s aunty) would literally end up in tears and have to leave the house. Things like this came up daily and we had to adapt.

We explored Yogyakarta for really the first time, despite having been there before. We were living there – and had to fend for ourselves, not having Jas’ Mum around to orchestrate outings for us and pay for everything in advance. We found new and interesting places to visit and new restaurants to eat at. We made new friends and got to know old friends again. We learnt about the tourist traps and tricks, how to avoid them, and how to have a laugh with the scammers about it once they realised we weren’t orang turis. And probably most importantly, we learnt more about Budhe and her life.

Budhe was amazing to live with for six months. A strong and independent woman who never had children and was never married (though she was very close twice, but her beau’s families put an end to it based on religion – they were Catholic, she was Muslim). Despite never being a mother, Budhe does not lack the instinct, and children adore her. The anak-anak kampung (children of our village) come to see her daily and talk to her. Her manner with them is different to the other adults, she sees them as small people with ideas and feelings, and treats them accordingly. Her efforts in helping us with Jack were immense, and truly valued by us. Her sense of humour and cheeky side made her great fun to live with. Her amazing cooking kept us very well fed and her care for all of us was heartfelt and real. When our friend passed away in Darwin, Budhe helped us prepare a Javanese ceremony for her and cried true tears for us and our pain. Budhe may have never met our friend, but was kasihan for us and our loss. A truly remarkable woman.

When it came time for us to leave Yogya, our goodbyes were hard. We were surprised at the tears that others shed, but we had stayed for six months and had tried to be involved in the kampung as much as our energy levels would allow. At the airport, our goodbyes with Budhe were incredibly hard. I know call her my aunty in conversation with others, as our relationship went to a new stratosphere. Being able to say more than “thank you” and “yummy food”, plus the huge amounts of time just the two of us spent together led to a new relationship and bond. There were lots of tears. Most of them mine (what’s new?). We left Yogya and felt like we were leaving a member of our family behind. We have promised to return and due to Budhe’s relationship with Jack – we must. But most of all we want to.

There were times while we were in Yogya that it all got too much. Culture shock. Kampung living. Being surrounded by people. Foreign food and foreign culture. Having a small child overseas. However, what we learnt and gained, far out weighed any possible negatives.


A few photos from our final days in Yogya. Thanks to our friend Budi for the great photo shoot with Budhe too.

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2 Responses to Kami sudah pulang

  1. Mandy Gratzer says:

    Beautifully said Carl. A truly humbling experience.

  2. Tom says:

    Again, beautifully said.

    Makes me really miss the long periods of my childhood I spent there 🙂

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