Place is a funny thing. We can be happy in a place but not love the place. We can love the place we're in but still not be happy overall. There are places that we love but they aren't necessarily “our” place, there isn't an element of home, just of enjoyment. Place doesn't determine anything, but it is still something significant, something special. There are certain places that fit with certain people, like puzzle pieces to souls. I loved Chicago in a way I haven't loved any other place in America. It feels like home. I love Colorado, but not as my own. England feels like de ja vu, like the generations of my past that lived there feels something familiar when I'm there, as if there is something of that old earth that still recognizes me.
How do I describe this place to you, the things I see and feel each day? The 20 boys at the soccer fields flying their little homemade kites. The woman in her sarong, laboriously hauling her woven basket up the hill to make her sales. The way, at dusk, the villages up the mountain emerge like pockets of twinkle lights off in the distance. The city at night, smelling of satay and exhaust and the smoke of burning leaves. The sound of cicadas filling the evening. The feel of the afternoon rain sweeping in and the warming burn of the hot ginger drinks they serve on those cool rainy afternoons. The way the mountains look, layered in the mist, on rainy afternoons.
Life here has not been perfect and there has been plenty of stress with transition and language learning and parenting, but I have felt at peace with this place in a way I have not felt since I left this country nearly 15 years ago. A friend here commented about our house that it, “doesn't get much worse” than our place. And it's true, in way. The kitchen and bathroom layout and the critters that have come with it are distinctly uncomfortable by Western standards.... and yet this the home I have loved more than any of our homes before, simply because I love being here.
I wrote a whole post about how this place could be home. I said that if if I was here looking for a place to live that was comfortable-enough-for-a-Westerner in the midst of Javanese beauty, I would go no further. I said that when I drive around here I feel the potential to make this place my own. That would be “my” rock to watch the sunset. Merbabu would be “my” mountain the way Cyclops of my childhood was. I would claim ownership of my neighborhood, my RT, my vegetable seller, my satay vendor, I would find my stalls at the market. I already know my favorite Javanese desserts and our chicken soup restaurant and our favorite spot to stop for family dinner.
I said in that post that it's not mine, that this whole time I've known it's just a stopover. But that's a bit of a lie too. It is mine, at least for this little while. This town, neighborhood, and house have been my homecoming, in a way. I go to where we are called, to where we will work and build roots and a home. We will pack our bags and say our goodbyes and leave in a week and a half, on to Papua, finally settling in Manokwari.
But... Salatiga? I am so thankful for these beautiful ten months.