Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
I’m excited to share with you how we find ourselves moving to the other side of the world.
Shortly after we decided to take the plunge and move our family to Indonesia, M casually remarked that I should start a blog. I laughed at his ridiculous comment and we moved on. Blogging is the very last thing I thought I’d ever find myself doing. I do not consider myself to be a writer, I do not consider myself to be eloquent, words are often not my friends. I at times feel that they run away from me when I need them the most. Seriously, I’ll just give you a random word if I can’t think of the right one. Putting all that aside, I realized this could be a really great way to keep friends and family up to date on the exciting, the new and the mundane. I write this blog, to acknowledge the great things God does. I also write in hopes that our experience can be helpful to others who may be thinking about or starting the process of moving to Jakarta.
Our life here in Niagara is pretty great. All of our siblings, their kids, and our parents live close by and are a big part of our lives. We have great friendships, our kids have friends that make this mother’s heart melt, amazing, loving teachers at a great Christian school, and our church is a safe community where we are able to grow, serve and fellowship with other Christians who are like family. As much as I dislike hate winter here, Niagara is a beautiful place and I do not take for granted the bountiful produce that grows around us each summer. Our neighbours are amazing (seriously the best) and we have a beautiful home. We have and do much more than many in the world and our lives are very rich because of the people who are a part of them.
So, if our lives are so great, why would we choose to make such a huge change? Great question. Let me tell you the story.
At the end of August, M finished his job as principal at a Christian school and began looking for a new job. It was time for something different, perhaps even a change in career. Needing a break, he took some time to rest and reflect and discovered that Christian education was still his passion and he would continue pursuing this field.
The job opportunities that would allow us to stay in our home in Niagara were few. In the past, we had talked about taking a couple of years to live overseas and get a new experience and perspective on the world. Thoughts of moving far away were with us right from the start, knowing we’d be making a big change, hoping we wouldn’t need to, yet kind of excited for the prospect of something entirely new.
We did not expect Indonesia.
After looking into and applying to a couple local options, this idea of looking overseas kept coming into our thoughts. While waiting for things to happen with one local option, we remembered that last February, while at a conference in Orlando, M met a Canadian who worked for a Christian school in Indonesia. M reached out to him and learned a little more about the school and life there. Encouraged, he looked into openings at the school and found a recent posting for Head of School at their campus in the Kemang area of Jakarta. We researched the school, the location, the country. He applied.
This began my mental and emotional rollercoaster (well, I guess it had really started the day Mark finished his previous job). M continued to research, telling us about his new findings at dinner each day, getting us excited (and nervous) for what could be our new home. We talked about temperatures, animals, city life, language, population, travel opportunities and so much more.
M and I, had processed the potential of having to leave our newly renovated home (actually, we were in the midst of a major renovation from August to November) and the community we have here. Although it wasn’t something we wanted to do, we had accepted that it may need to happen. J, seven at the time, did not want to hear anything about moving whatsoever. During our first conversations about this possibility, he literally covered his ears and left the room, saying he didn’t want to hear anything about moving. My sweet, sensitive boy, does not like change. He likes things predictable, usually asking me what the next days’ plans are before going to sleep. He also deeply loves his friends and family. They are familiar and safe and an amazing group of people. I totally get it buddy, change is hard. N, on the other hand, seemed quite interested in the idea of having monkeys around. Unfortunately, she got mixed messages about where the monkeys live. They would not be in our apartment or on our balcony, or porch as she envisioned. Not anywhere close by actually. It was fun learning and looking at pictures of the beautiful places this country has.
A couple of weeks later M had a video interview. That made it real and afterward, when thoughts of ‘maybe this won’t happen’ came to mind I found myself disappointed. I had always thought I was being realistic, knowing that applying for a job doesn’t equal getting a job. However, while even thinking about applying, we needed to picture ourselves there, to imagine if it would be something we could do. I liked what I pictured. The actual job seemed to be a great opportunity and fit for M. My thoughts and emotions were all over the place (and he may not admit it, but I think M’s were too.) So, when we got the email inviting us to visit the school, for a second round of interviews, we were thrilled!
About two weeks later, we found ourselves traveling to Indonesia, the kids lovingly looked after by my parents. We headed out, excited about learning more about this school and living in Jakarta, and about going somewhere warm at the end of a particularly cold February. After about 24 hours of travel, we were warmly welcomed by the current Head of School and his family. Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday M spent most of his days meeting with everyone from leadership and teachers to students and parents. Our evenings were spent more socially, being taken out for dinner by various staff members. I was able to spend time speaking with the current Head’s wife and one of the teacher’s wives who also tutors and helps with ESL. There were tours of the school and different housing options. The staff and families that we met were incredibly hospitable and friendly. Both of us felt so comfortable and welcome, even knowing, this was a three-day interview and we were ‘on’ the whole time.
I was nervous about how the city would feel. I like the convenience of city life, but my heart is in the country. I like my space, green things and fresh air, all of which are hard to come by in this city. Although we only experienced a tiny part of the city, I actually felt very comfortable. Though the small, two-lane streets were packed with cars and motorbikes filling every spare crack, the vehicles seemed to inch along. Everywhere we went there were security guards, those seeking a little cash, or even kids, stopping traffic for turning vehicles, or for pedestrians wanting to cross the street. I felt very taken care of. Walking the streets was a little less simple than at home since the sidewalks came and went and, when they were there, what they were made from changed from cement to bricks, to dirt, to cement blocks covering an open sewer below. I’ve already carved out a space in my heart for this city.
The people. Did I mention the people? They were so wonderful. Our goal was to learn about the school and what it is like to live in Jakarta and work at Sekolah Pelita Harapan (SPH) which means School of Light and Hope in Bahasa Indonesia. They shared their experiences with honesty. They shared that it is difficult to leave your home community and live somewhere foreign. They shared that your body takes a beating and people are often left quite uncomfortable by the digestive issues that are inevitable. They shared about the difficulty in being able to do anything quickly in the city. They shared their love of the school and students and the community that develops among this group of people living shared lives. They shared how difficult it can be to have colleagues and families you have grown close to move on and new people join in. They shared how everything is different, just different and you can’t compare because there’s no point. I admit, there was one point during one of our dinners that I had to fight the urge to get up and leave, feeling I had enough and didn’t want to subject my family to this place. Reflecting later, I realized I had been picturing my kids with their friends and realized how difficult it would be for them to leave those amazing people. As our time went on, that urge faded.
Overwhelmed, we departed Jakarta and on our way home spent a relaxing, touristy day on a layover in Taipei, Taiwan. Another completely different city surrounded by beautiful landscape. It was a lovely day that really allowed us to have some headspace, not to process our past week, but to turn the brain off for a bit and let it rest before making it do the work of processing. I would totally recommend this to anyone else who finds themselves in this position! Take more time if you can.
(I took way more photos in Taipei.)
Our day of being tourists over, we headed to the airport and home to do the work of waiting and processing.
(Come back soon for the rest of the story!)