Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Life in Indonesia

Life in Indonesia continues to get interesting, they found a python in the parking garage here at the office. Needless to say I was not amused, the good thing is that I don't drive around here so I've never been in the garage and now with my death fear of snakes, will never go down there! 

We have been getting earthquakes nearly daily, but as the locals seem completely unfazed, it must not be something unusual. As they say, Indonesia is in the ring of fire (and here I thought that was just a Johnny Cash song, ha ha). 

Otherwise, nothing else too exciting, its weird to know that its fall in D.C. over here we are hitting monsoon season and the weather remains hot. Last Friday we had a torrential downpour, which wouldn't have been so bad except that the roads in Jakarta flood immediately and I had to miss my book club meeting because I couldn't even get a mile down the road (traffic came to a complete standstill). I was totally bummed as I was so excited to read my book. Thankfully, the next book club meeting will be in my building, so no chance of missing it (ha ha). 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Where have I been?

we are finally settling into Jakarta, its ok, my heart will always be in Sarajevo, the people and the country were just so kind and warm, here it is a big city with all the big city trappings. Its tough also with the Embassy because the town is so big to have any sense of community, you tend to just hang out in your neighborhood, traffic here is terrible, but we are exploring a tiny bit more, I went shopping with the baby this past Wednesday (Indonesian holiday) and had a blast at a local market, finally found a mall that is affordable (where all the locals go - Blok M!). We have made a few friends at the Embassy and where we live, people like us, with small children, so we can hang out together with ease. 

Thursday, October 01, 2015


Fall is upon America, a lovely time, though lets be honest, I was never a huge fan, spring/summer more my style. That is one thing good about Indonesia, never gets cold. But on the whole, I am still very much missing Sarajevo. Its a bit tougher to make friends and do things in Jakarta - because it is so huge and everything requires a bit more planning. Driving is impossible, so we are constantly arranging transportation. 

We have finally planned our first trip outside of the city, to Bali, for Thanksgiving weekend, so that should be fun! I'm looking forward to it.  And one thing I'm noticing is, time does fly, it seems just yesterday it was July, now October is upon us, before we know it, we will be moving. 

We did finally get our stuff (two months after arriving) so the apartment is feeling more like a home, which is nice. I've even felt comfortable enough in this city to finally join a book club! Its a work book club but in Sarajevo, with the kids being so small and hubby and I have a much more active social life,  I never joined one there. Here, the book club will be the one "Me" thing a month I get. The first meeting is this Friday, I'm super excited! 

Friday, September 18, 2015


 One thing I’ve noticed since being here in Jakarta is the grand difference in nationalism from what I saw in Bosnia and Herzegovina. There, in the Balkans it seems ethnicity is the most important thing, people are their ethnic background first, Bosnians second. Yet, here in Indonesia, pleasantly, they seem to be Indonesians first and then whatever religion or ethnic background second. To be honest, I don’t really know the history of Indonesia but I’m not sure if they have ever had long standing ethnic tensions, like in the Balkans. Indonesians were more subject to colonial rule, which I suppose under one oppressor unites all the different factions (though it didn’t work long term for India, but that’s a different story).

A good example of this pride in being Indonesian could be seen last Friday, when I went to a Bon Jovi concert here in Jakarta (that was mad fun, standing a crowd of thousands of Indonesians singing along to Bon Jovi, they knew every word). Right before the main act, the reigning Indonesian Idol winner came onto the stage and began singing the Indonesian national anthem. First, there are words (big difference from Bosnia, where they can’t agree on which language to use or what words to put so their national anthem is just music). Second, and the biggest surprise, EVERYONE in the stadium sang along and they sang with great joy and pride (similar to as I see at baseball games in the USA). 

It was heartwarming for sure!

That is one nice change about being in Indonesia; they see themselves as one country, one people, good for them!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Refugee Picture

Since seeing the picture of the little boy washed up on the beach, the dead 3 year old, I have been very disturbed. The picture greatly affected me, I saw it via social media last Friday in the am, sitting at my desk and I was in tears. I had to go to the bathroom twice during the day just to sob in private. Even now, I can't look at the picture without tearing up. It breaks my heart. And yet I wonder why does it affect me so? I think in large part, because the little boy could be my little boy (my 2-year old), the way the child is laying there, that is how my son sleeps.  Maybe it is the idea of that poor little thing being alone, being so innocent and having his life taken away by such a cruel fate. And than I wonder about where is the little boy now? In Islam, we consider the dead as sleeping, waiting for the day of judgement. Yet as a mother, I would like to think that somehow the little boy is with his mother and brother up in heaven, and that she is comforting him, holding him, hugging him. 

But still the image disturbs me, makes me so sad. Why is that? What would you say to a person mourning the loss of a child, I neither knew or ever met? Is this just an oddity in me? My make-up?

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Reached Jakarta

Still taking some time to settle in, Jakarta is very much the opposite of Sarajevo in many ways:
1. Huge city, tons of traffic!
2. Tropical and warm
3. Not as Westernized 
I'll be honest this email won't be much in glowing, we still don't have any of our home stuff besides that which we packed in our suitcases, finding and making friends is tough, there is a deep lack of community in the Embassy, getting around is tough, they don’t have public transportation that is easy to use and the cost of things over here are much more expensive than in Bosnia.   To top that off, for me, I was dropped off into the deep end of the pool work-wise and unlike in Sarajevo where my predecessor was amazing and the team close, here I was left with next to nothing in instructions and the person who was supposed to train me, less than enthusiastic about the job.  

The kids and I are adjusting as best we can. We have a nanny and a driver, both a must in this country, as one can’t drive in Jakarta (unless you want to take your life in your own hands). But not being able to get around freely, even walk around, makes connecting with the city and its people just that much harder! Here, I definitely feel like an outsider (which wasn’t the case in Sarajevo).
But then I think it will get better, we will figure things out and before you know it, two years are up, or on the flipside, if we never really like it, it won’t be hard to leave and move onto our next assignment.

One thing we can’t complain about is the housing, while smaller, it is in a luxurious apartment and the view from our 10th floor is amazing. The building has two pools and a playground, which the kids love, and the staff at the apartment complex is incredible, without their help in navigating around town and in the culture we would have been a lot worse off!

Someone told me to help stay positive I should think of things I enjoy about Jakarta.
Three things I like about Jakarta so far:
1. The weather, nice and warm!
2. Reminds me of India, good memories there.
3. Wide availability of Western goods, especially food! 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Leaving Sarajevo

Less than 2 days in Sarajevo, I’m feeling very sad. I love this city, I love the Bosnian people, and on the whole they have been amazingly kind and warm and welcoming. It could not have been a better start to my life as a Foreign Service Diplomat for the United States.
I don’t want to leave, the kids are so well settled here, as am I, even the husband has a great job at the Embassy. But even with me asking, the powers that be said, “no, it is time for you to move on to your next assignment.”
I can understand, Sarajevo is a fantastic post, people would be lucky to get it, we were lucky to get it. Everyone in the system has to get a turn at good posts and at bad posts. If those of us at good posts never left, it wouldn't be fair to those at bad posts, no?
I still remember my Flag Day ceremony, that was the day all of us newly hired diplomats were told our first overseas assignment. I had really wanted to stay in DC as my first assignment, dip my toe into this Foreign Service world, second on my family’s list was Abu Dhabi, third was Sarajevo and forth Baku, Azerbaijan. My husband and I were sure that if we didn’t get our top choice of DC, we would definitely get our second choice of Abu Dhabi or our 4th choice of Baku (as no one else in my orientation class wanted Azerbaijan). We didn’t even really consider Sarajevo, just stuck it on the list. When my name was called and they said “Congratulations you are going to Sarajevo!” I could not have been more dumbstruck – um…what? I vaguely remember going through the motions of the ceremony, going to the stage to receive my flag and shake hands with the visiting dignitary presiding over the event.  I do recall that as she handed me the flag, she said, “You are so lucky, you are going to love Sarajevo.” Needless to say I was skeptical.
Also on memory lane is the day we landed in Sarajevo, my heart sank on first impressions. The city was so gray, so communist looking and what wasn't communist looking was damaged by war. At that second, I wanted to scream to the Embassy driver, “turn around, I want to go home.”
It is so funny to me to think of those moments now, as I have fallen in love with city and its people. I love how I can walk down the street and see at least 5 people I know, smiling and saying hello. I love how people are so kind with the kids, playing and talking to them. I love how you are treated like a family member as soon as locals get to know you. Every evening I get a bit weepy at the thought of us leaving. Ilhan and Eyshal have grown so much while here.

There is so much I will miss about this lovely and haunting country: the people, the greenery, the fruit market, the endless shoe stores that I love to window shop in, Eyshie’s teachers, Ilhan’s nanny and her family, our next door neighbor who doesn’t speak English but is super sweet, the tiny grocery store next to our apartment with the kind ladies, my flower lady, my egg lady, the old couple I buy vegetables from who always ask about the kids, the other flower ladies with the proper shop, my Gypsy lady and her adorable baby Riyadh and all the other wonderful friends we have made here. 
This is not a goodbye to Sarajevo but a farewell for now.