by Tabitha Kidwell

One of the most fun parts of moving to Indonesia is the fact that I get to have conversations like this one:

Random person from my running group: So, which race are you training for?
Me: Well. I’m moving, so I’m not really training for anything.
Random person: Oh? Where are you moving?
Me: Indonesia.
Random Person: ?!?!

It really throws them for a loop. Sometimes, though, it’s nice if we get distracted in the middle or if the person just doesn’t care and doesn’t ask where I’m moving, because it then inevitably leads to a barrage of questions. After almost 5 months of waiting to move to Indonesia, I’ve heard and answered most of these approximately one million times. Maybe if I answer them here, that will be it, now and forever. (Or maybe not)

Question: When do you leave?
My answer (for a long time): I don’t exactly know…

This is almost always the first question, and until the middle of June, the most aggravating one, because I was also nervously awaiting the answer. For most of the spring, I had to say “the end of August,” which put us all at ease because the end of August is an eternity away from the spring. In June, I finally received the answer: August 9th. I was informed by e-mail that I would be leaving directly from the pre-departure orientation, so about 3 weeks earlier than I expected. I read this e-mail in the middle of my 3rd period seventh grade Spanish class and I think I barely managed to conceal my panic attack over the loss of three weeks of summer. Since then, the date has been pushed up to August 8th, and I have adjusted to the earlier date. Now it’s even easier because I can answer “in a week” or “on Monday” and further freak out my interlocutor.

Question: Where will you live?
My answer (for a long time): I don’t exactly know…

This is almost always the second question, and I find that so interesting. Housing and security are so important to us! This was also aggravating because I myself didn’t know the answer for a long time, and people didn’t like the uncertainty. “You’re moving to Indonesia and you don’t even have a place to stay?!?!” But now I do – the university that I will work at is renting a house for me. It is fully furnished, with two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom, living room, and carport or garage.

Question: How will you get all your stuff here?
My answer: I won’t.

Another interesting question: people are so connected to “stuff!” Especially people who have not had to move much. There is nothing I hate more than schlepping stuff around. I love traveling, but I hate traveling. So I’ve gotten rid of everything except what I am taking with me and the ten boxes stored in my parents’ crawl space. My sister and I had an epic garage sale in June, where we made almost $900. And then for the entire month of June, there was an unending parade of junk and crap leaving the house. It was incredible how much we had accumulated that we didn’t use or need or even want. We sold our couches, our washer/dryer, our beds, her cat (well, I tried, but he wouldn’t sit still in the garage sale, so he went to live with our brother), until there was nothing left. And now I have the task of fitting what I can in two suitcases.

Question: Are you going to buy a car?
My answer: No.

No, there will be nothing to put in the afore-mentioned garage or carport. Probably a bike, but no car. Public transportation should be available, and I’m only 1 and 2 kilometers away from the campuses where I’ll work.

Question: Indonesia… where is that?
My answer: Between southeast Asia and Australia.

I don’t want to sound pedantic here, because I also had to brush up on my geography from this area of the world. My middle school students were the worst at this – one kid asked “Miss Kidwell, why are you moving to Africa?”, another, “Miss Kidwell, will you coach cross country in Taiwan?” People forget where I’m going and ask when I leave for Thailand, India, Korea, Madagascar, etc. A lot of people mention how close I’ll be to New Zealand, which seems to be routinely switched with New Guinea in their mental maps. I really enjoy all the screw-ups. It keeps it interesting.

Question: Do you speak… uh…?
My answer: Bahasa Indonesia? Not yet. But I’m studying (kind of… there has been a lot of procrastination).

This one is funny, too, because people generally have no idea what language is spoken in Indonesia – I also didn’t know until I was placed there! People think it is French because they think of the former French Indochina, but that’s different. Some people think Dutch since it’s a former Dutch colony, but it turns out Dutch colonies were more mercantile than their British or French counterparts, and Dutch didn’t really disseminate into the culture. After I answer, people ask “So, is that a dialect of Chinese/Dutch/Sanskrit?” No. It’s a real language of it’s own.

Question: How long will you be gone?
My answer: For a year… (silence indicating that it will probably be more than a year.)

The fellowship is 10 months, and my visa requires me to get the heck out of Indonesia by June 13th. But there is only the tiniest of possibilities that I will come back to Columbus, Ohio permanently next June. My sister moved to Denver, my best friend got married and moved away, I finished my masters degree, I quit my job, the kids I volunteered with at church graduated and went off to college – everything just wrapped up and it is time to move on. I have great friends and family that I will miss, but I just don’t feel like I belong in Columbus Ohio right now. Maybe I’ll like Indonesia and I’ll extend for another year. Maybe I’ll find a job at an international school. Maybe I’ll work for Barack Obama’s campaign. Maybe I’ll go to grad school in San Francisco or New York or DC. But I’ll be gone for a little while. Sorry, Mom.

Question: Why are you moving to Indonesia?

This doesn’t have the easiest answer, and it took a long time for me to figure it out myself. I’m not sure that I exactly know yet. I’ve made a lot of my major life decisions based on intuition. I didn’t have a long and grueling college search – I just knew that I liked Miami University, got in, got a good scholarship, and was going there. I didn’t agonize about whether to join the Peace Corps or get a real job or go to grad school – I just applied and got placed and went to Madagascar. It was just the next step and I knew it was the right one. This is the same way. I’ve been thinking about moving abroad for a few years, and I had always known about this program, but it just came on gradually, and I applied, and was placed, and am going. I’m nervous about it sometimes, but I never think it’s the wrong decision. It couldn’t be wrong because it is what I will do. I don’t have any idea why I put Indonesia as my first choice, but I felt a really strong calling to go there. There is something there for me. I’ll let you know what it is when I find it.

2 Comments to “FAQ”

  1. This blog is my new favorite bookmark! Can’t wait to see how this new advenyure of yours unfolds. Bisous! You know who

  2. Hey, senorita Kidwell i love your blog. We all miss you here at KMS somehow you always end up in our conversations its almost like you are still here with us. I love all your pictures especially the one with chuchu in it! Is his wife still around? Well nice “talking” to you hope you can see my email so you can email me and we can keep in touch. I miss you so so so so so much i wish you were still here. Give yourself a hug for me. It really is tough the year with out you. 😦 HAve fun in indonesia and keep us posted. After that section about cobra blood i want to taste it now!


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