I cannot say that I am sorry to go. Despite my moments of feeling bad, I’m actually very happy to leave, and I may actually shed a tear of relief once the plane wheels leave Indonesian soil. However, it would be unfair of me to pretend that the tear will be because of Indonesia itself. It won’t be. I am able to separate my negative feelings for the organisation to which I have given 10 of the roughest months my life from the country that gave me so many beautiful experiences while I lived here. So although I am relieved to go and would not want to stay any longer, I cannot leave without acknowledging all the good that has been Indonesia for me.
A big part of the good was made up of some really, really nice people. Starting close to home, there was the 7-Eleven crew. For months, I went there to get my coffee at least 5 mornings every week, and whoever was on duty greeted me with a smile and sometimes a cheery “Pagi!” (good morning). They mostly don’t speak English so we didn’t talk a lot or learn much about each other, but their unfailingly good and friendly customer service was always a wonderful way to start my day. One of them even gave me a free roll one morning because he said I was in there every day. That’s customer service that I don’t even get in my own country.
My food purveyors have also been good to me, like the fruit cart where I bought whatever they were selling. I know that they overcharged me but it’s so little money when I thought about it that I accepted their price, whatever they told me. The boys who usually man the cart were unfailingly polite and respectful to me, patiently helping me with my words when I had trouble communicating, and laughing with me when I said something stupid (yes, they were laughing at me sometimes but they did it in a nice way). The mie aceh guy and the ayam bakar guy were also good to me, getting to know my order even before I could speak, and always serving me with a joke (mie aceh guy) and a smile (ayam bakar guy).
My neighbourhood transportation experts must also be acknowledged. All the Go-Jek guys who unfailingly shouted, “Hallo, meeeeees!” and waved when I walked by, and Toto and his taxi compadres who greeted me with, “Hallo, Krrrreeeeeestin, how are you today?” whenever they saw me. They brought me little moments of pleasure, even when it was just a chuckle.
Four of the local volunteers here have stood out to me because of their kindness and generosity of spirit. There was the young woman who took me to her friend’s wedding; the lovely lady who took me for a night on the town; the volunteer who was trying to teach me bahasa Indonesia and who also invited me to her home to eat with her family and meet her students and neighbours; and the nice young lady with whom I had many informative and revealing conversations.
Then there was The Jamaican. This man has been so hospitable and so kind, in ways that I cannot write here but that have been very valuable to me. He has given to me – advice, respite, connections – freely and with no expectation of reciprocity. He has been good just to be good. Between him and those local volunteers I just talked about, my faith in the goodness of people – a faith I didn’t even know I had lost – has been restored. And he even gave me my first dog-sitting gig.
Besides restoring my faith in humanity, Indonesia has also given me some profound experiences. I have seen and done things here that never previously entered my realm of possibility to experience. I have sat (or hung off a mountain) and watched erupting volcanoes, visited an island within an island, and meandered around ancient temples. Indonesia has been a gateway to making lifetime memories in other Southeast Asian countries – Malaysia, Singapore, Cambodia and Laos. In Indonesia, I have had to confront the issue of colour and decide on how I should handle it; this was something I never had to deal with before and now I’m more prepared to deal with it in the future. In Indonesia, I learned that I can adapt even to the point of learning another language, maybe not to expert proficiency but at least enough to get by in daily life.
Indonesia, you did not take my heart, but being here unexpectedly helped to heal and expand it, and for that I say thank you. I don’t know if I shall pass this way again but I can say with all honesty and sincerity that it was very nice knowing you.