Indonesia has been my home since I was a munchkin. Three to be precise. And yes, I would describe myself as a munchkin, cause I was cute. Damn cute. Things change. Take that as you will, but Indonesia is no longer my home, in a sense. It’s a land of contrasts, of sickening wealth and indescribable beauty. It makes you insane, it puts doubt, frustration, and ecstasy in your brain, and it creates a curious mixture. From extreme poverty (over 40% of the population lives for under 2 dollars a day) to 6 star hotels complete with 24 hr room service and bomb dogs (adorable golden retrievers) to protect the people that appear to matter the most, the corrupt, the rich, and the expats. This country will make you redefine humanity, and you’ll have a hell of a ride along the way.
Perhaps I should start by describing who I am, as this will probably help in enticing you to read further. I am a 23 year old ‘Danish’ girl (young woman? Madame? Miss?), and yes, the cover on my passport tells the world that I am a Danish citizen, but my soul, heart, and head tell me differently. I was born in the land of vikings, and spent the first three years of my life as a red-blooded Scandinavian. Then things took a turn for the interesting. You may have expected me to write worse, but the opposite proved true. My mother (a young, vibrant, adventurous, and unemployed fresh graduate) was offered a job in Jakarta, Indonesia, a far cry from the cold, safe, and perhaps a little boring, Copenhagen. Jumping at the chance for an adventure and decent salary, our family of two moved to the largest Muslim country in the world, ready for anything.
My mother traveled to Jakarta a few months ahead of me, in order to get settled, find a decent place to live, and prepare for her munchkin’s arrival (I’m not sure if I will keep referring to myself as munchkin, but it has a ring to it). Having found a place to live close to her United Nations office, as well as two maids (a young man and woman, who, even at the ripe age of 3, I suspected were not having a platonic relationship) and no driver (the norm for expats in Indonesia, more on that later), I arrived with my uncle. I do not remember the actual trip from Copenhagen to Soekarno Hatta Jakarta, but from pictures I can see it went swimmingly, and that I, as usual, was an angel.
Arriving in Jakarta, dusk was upon us, and the suffocating humidity and heat had an intense impact on both my uncle and me. Arriving at the house that I was to call home, I ran into the kitchen, probably searching for water to quench my thirst and drench my sticky body. I was greeted to a sight that no one, child nor adult, man nor woman, cute or not, should be faced with. Especially after getting off a 16+ hour flight (and a three year old doesn’t have the same high standards as a frequent flier), and culture shock running through my veins, this sight horrified me. I still cringe to this day. Cockroaches. Everywhere. All over the linoleum floor. Even the poor lighting (apparently very normal back then, everything in our house had the feel of a dodgy nightclub) could not hide the illumination of these creatures coats, and even terrified screams couldn’t dull their hisses. I don’t remember quite what happened next, but I seem to have memories of fumigation and annihilation, but I’ve also been called a dreamer. Anyway, the cockroaches were gone the next day, and we began what would turn out to be a new life in downtown Jakarta.