Thursday, May 22, 2014

Next overseas post: Jakarta, Indonesia

Note: the photos in this blog post have absolutely nothing to do with the topic.  I just find them funny.  Addie informed me that "mustaches are popular at school right now among the 4th and 5th graders".  So we made some!

I'm not sure why I haven't written this blog post until now.  We've known about our next destination for almost a year now.  I guess as we get closer and closer to our new post, it seems vital I make an "announcement".

When we moved to Manila in 2008 we thought living in the Philippines for three years would be a good change of pace for us. We were not enjoying the rat race of two working parents and a baby in daycare full time. Life was not as enjoyable. We told our family we'd be home after Manila, and at the time we really thought we would be.  Then the opportunity to move to Ethiopia came up and we decided to go for it.   We'd definitely be home after two and a half years in Addis Ababa!  But when the time came to look for the next position we were eager to see where else in the world this adventure could take us.  To be honest, all the options available to Justin looked good and I was willing to move to any of them.  When we got word that he got the job in Jakarta we jumped for joy!
So our three year adventure has morphed into almost 9 years overseas.  I promise, after Jakarta, we're coming home!  At this point I've turned into the boy who cried wolf.  So maybe you won't believe it until it actually happens.  Fair enough! But this time really, I mean it.  We're moving back to Virginia after Indonesia.

There are lots of things we're excited about Jakarta.  We loved SE Asia while we lived in Manila.  The travel is wonderful, the food is great, people are friendly and love children, the lifestyle is not as difficult as living in Africa.  Culturally, Indonesia will be very interesting to experience. We've never lived in a mostly Muslim country so this will be new and exciting.  Indonesia will also be the most developed country we will have lived in (outside of the United States).
We've been assigned housing in South Jakarta (where we requested, which is closer to the schools, not the embassy) in a four bedroom high rise apartment that is close to the Jakarta American Club.  It has the benefit of a gym and pool on-site which is a great perk.  Ashlynn's preschool will be within walking distance from our apartment. This is huge!  One of my babies won't be commuting too far.  The apartment appears to be fairly new (although we all know that construction in the developing world can deteriorate quickly), newness isn't really an important factor for me.  The aesthetic of the apartment really isn't of interest to me either.  But the space seems big enough and livable for our family.  Most importantly the kitchen looks great.  It's very reminiscent of our housing in Manila.  Cold hard marble floors, lots of bathrooms, large windows, balconies to terrify me.  Overall, the place is absolutely livable and it will be fun to get creative with making the space our own. That's one of my favorite things about the blank slate of a new home.
If you're keeping up with International School news, you will have heard the tragic news about recent incidents at Jakarta International School (JIS).  It's a well known and highly touted school.  Both Addie and Bella (hopefully) will attend.  Right now, we have a Montessori school KG program as an alternative for Bella if it comes to that.  We're hoping it won't.  I've had it in my mind for a year now that my two older girls will be at the same school and ride the bus together.  The school situation has been the most stressful so far.

Another stressful issue with a move to Jakarta is taking into account the epic traffic and commute times we have awaiting us.  We're in for a rude awakening and I'm sure we will be humbled about what we considered "traffic" in Manila and Addis.  Both of which have pretty nasty traffic, if I'm being truthful.  But Jakarta traffic is in a whole new category of awful.  Addie, unfortunately has been placed at the JIS campus which is slightly farther away from our apartment due to space issues.  On google maps the distance is about 5km but the commute time on the bus we are told is anywhere from 40-60 minutes!  Our one desire for this post was to give our children a short commute to school.  As it is now, they both commute long times to and from school here in Addis (Addie 60-80 min one way, Bella and Ashlynn 30 min one way).  It was the same in Manila.  Kids at this age should be able to walk to school or take a bus ride that is about 15 minutes for elementary school.  Sadly, our girls have commute times that are more in line with grown-up nine to five office jobs.  It sounds like it will be the same in Jakarta, as much as we tried, we failed at getting them placed at the school campus that is only a 15-20 minute commute from our apartment.  I still find it unbelievable that it's so difficult to live close to school overseas.  Americans are used to having an elementary school within a 4 mile radius of their home, no matter where you live (in most suburban areas).  Throngs of kids walk to school or take yellow school buses short distances.  But not overseas.  I've decided that it just simply isn't the norm for international schools. At least it has not been our overseas experience. Or maybe at one time there was enough housing close to the school, but growth has changed that.   To be quite honest, I am heartbroken that my kindergartner and second grader will once again be sitting on a bus for more than two hours a day.  It just seems wrong on so many levels.

But the bright side to this situation is that the long commute to school isn't new to my girls.  They are accustomed to it.  They are troopers and will manage well.  I am sure of it.
Commuting from our apartment in South Jakarta to the US Embassy which is downtown will take anywhere from 40-60 minutes in the morning and anywhere from 60-90 minutes on the way home on a good day (non rainy season, non flood season, non protest season) the distance is 12.6 km.  Traffic is likely to be the single most difficult thing about adjusting to our life in Indonesia.  It's good we've had some practice traffic in Manila and Addis.  We're not newcomers to the challenges of driving in a developing country that happens to be developing faster than the infrastructure can handle.  I'm planning to use the commute time to work remotely.

Yes, work!  You heard me correctly.  I have been chosen as a candidate for a job at the embassy.  Which basically means I've been selected for the job but have some rigorous security clearance processes to go through before I can be officially offered the job.  But anyway, there is much more to say on the topic of me going "back to work" -as one says.  I am thrilled, terrified, and nervous all in one!  Probably to be expected.  It doesn't help that my daughters groan and protest at the mention of me going to work "like Daddy".  More on this topic later.

Also, the silver lining in commuting horrendous amounts of time to work for two years in Jakarta, will make ANY commute in the Northern Virginia/Washington DC area, either on the beltway or on 267 seem like a walk in the park.  We will laugh in the faces of whiny DC commuters after Jakarta!  Here I go with the bright side again!

Every one of our overseas moves has been a new adventure.  Both Manila and Addis Ababa have deeply shaped me as a person.  Both our posts have allowed me to grow in different ways.  I am certain that Jakarta, Indonesia will do the same.  I am thoroughly excited for this new adventure with my family.  We are eager for those first few days upon arrival in a new country where everything is new and a little scary and unknown.  But we get to look around and discover our new life and make it our home.  


Heather P. said...

Enjoy the rest of your time in Ethiopia. We are excited about your new family adventure! Miss you ;).

Kate Walton said...

Comparing the Indonesian and American situations for schooling isn't really appropriate. In America, you're comparing local schools with Indonesian international schools. Of course there will not be as many international schools within walking distance - simply for the fact that they are not needed everywhere.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy Jakarta. I've been here for a year now and love it.

Sara said...

Absolutely, comparing American public schools and Indonesian international schools is like comparing apples and oranges. Or even apples to chicken. I made the comparison mostly to give my friends and family who have never left America a feel of what the school experience of us is overseas. It's actually quite an interesting comparison to make if you want to clearly portray just how different our life is compared to our friends back home. My girls will be experienced commuters after all these years going to international schools! We can't wait to get settled in Jakarta. All the in between transitions are so hard.