Friday, August 15, 2014

On Being Home

Today in Indonesian class we did mock conversations about how feel about living here. I used a phrase I have been using with my neighbors. I may not be Indonesian, but in a way, this is my "tanah air", my "land and water", my place.

It's so surreal and so normal to be here. At the same time. Does that make sense? This afternoon Judah and Isaac hoped on our (new to us!) motorcycle and got groceries at the store. After dinner the local drum group paraded in front of our house practicing for Idul Fitru (which they also do at 2:30 in the morning every morning to wake people up for breakfast before the sun rises and fasting begins again). I just took a dipper bath surrounded by the noise of rain pouring down around me just feet away from my on-the-porch bathroom.

I can't believe I'm here, living this life.

There are cycles to culture shock, and I am through the first sense of disorientation. I recognize that I am probably in a honeymoon stage, where everything is new and fun and adventurous and seen through rose-colored glasses. It's hard to know what is just the honeymoon stage and what is really me feeling... at home.

Lots of people asked me if this would be like going home and I always hesitated and didn't know how to answer. The truth is that I have considered Indonesia home, but I have been afraid to claim that, because after 13 years away and returning as an adult with a family, I knew it would be different. I knew it could feel so lonely, much more difficult like in many ways, and perhaps just... not home?

So, with the caveat that I am speaking out of the honeymoon stage, I'll go ahead and say that right now, at the beginning, this feels not just like a cool adventure, but like.... home. Other friends are experiencing culture shock, loneliness, isolation, discouragement. I absolutely relate to all of it.... because it's exactly how I felt when I moved to Dallas.

I catch my breath constantly and marvel at the smallest things. I made cups of Sari Wangi extra-sugared tea for Isaac and his language tutor and looked down and thought... this is my life, my adult life. This thing from my childhood, Sari Wangi and hot too-sweet tea, is now just the acceptable hospitality practice for guests in my house.

I walk in our neighborhoods and nearly gasp when I pause, draw in a breath and smell that scent of flowers, tropical-greenery-decomposing, and neighborhood trash being burned. That smell has lingered with me for years from my high school afternoon walks, I have longed for it, and here it is, HERE IT IS!

To sit with my kids on my porch, surrounded by our neighbor kids as they play? It's just what I did as a kid. To have our babysitter sing to my daughter, "Satu-satu, aku sayang Ibu", just as I sang as a kid? To drive a motorcycle again, to marvel at how good basic Indonesian fried noodles and chicken soup really are.... it's all surreal. In between the daily life and raising kids and the fact that this is real adult life with responsibilities... it feels like a dream come true.

I usually shrink from a challenge but I am plowing into language school with great motivation. I delight in wrapping my mouth around words like "ngomong-ngomong", with those long unused "ng" and rolled r's just flowing off my tongue in familiarity. I want to KNOW this language, not just like I did as a kid, informally and with bad grammar. I want it to be a part of me. It's what is amazing about all of this, actually. Yes, it was my home as a child, but as the years stretched on, childhood grew further and further away. To have this place that I love as a part of my adult life too... it feels like it is legitimizing it. It really is my place. It really is the culture I know, the language I speak. It was.... and it is now.

I am not Indonesian. Indonesian is not my first language. This is not my own culture (though neither is America). I know I'm still a foreigner here

. But... it feels like home. And the beauty of that is that it gives me an even greater love for this place and people and desire to pour my life and heart into these people and what God is doing here.

No comments: