Today I am grateful for the English language. I have been speaking English my entire life but never appreciated the sound of it until we were on our look-see preparing to move ten thousand miles away to Jakarta, Indonesia.
We took a whirlwind trip to Jakarta, from Pennsylvania, where it felt like our feet barely hit solid ground for a week, what with all of the “air” time. I don’t think the jet lag even had a chance to catch up until long after we were back on the east coast. Probably like many of you out there, when I’d hear a group of people speaking in their native language it made me uncomfortable. I always felt they were talking about me. Then we moved to Jakarta, where no part of the language sounded familiar and now I get it. It’s lonely and isolating and exhausting to talk in a language you have little use of.
As incentive to get my husband to take the job at Mulia Keramik Industrindo, the company put us up in a lovely spot for a few days following the look-see in Jakarta. The Bintang Bali resort in Bali, Indonesia is a breathtaking place, right on the ocean with palm trees and blooming shrubbery everywhere. In an outdoor arbor some kind of climbing, blooming orchid dripped down like stalactites.
I had gotten a pretty bad case of Soeharto’s revenge (guess) so I spent the first day in in the room, sick. Spending time in bed, my mind whirled and spun like a berserk Ferris Wheel. How could we move to Jakarta? I didn’t have a clue about the culture, the customs, the food, or the language. What would our kids say? Our friends? My mom? How does one communicate from ten thousand miles away? (This was pre-internet) I get lonely on the drive to work. I was going to a place where I would not have one friend. No one will understand a word I’m saying. Even if I do try and learn the language, that isn’t going to happen overnight. It’ll take time. I had myself worked into a complete state. I already felt isolated and alone and we hadn’t even moved yet.
By the second day I was able to go down to the deck chairs on the beach. Still wallowing in my morose gloom of the prior day, I watched two black haired Indonesian girls playing in the sand. Children help and they were gorgeous children, with tons of spirit and one even had dimples. I love dimples. I alternated between the personal pity party and my joy at kids being kids. Then they started to squabble. They were pretty far away, but I can tell a squabble when I see one. Soon they were running up the beach towards me and another woman sitting a few chairs away from me. In perfect English they shared their conflict with her. . .their mom. . .who also answered back in perfect English. My head spun around like Rosemary’s Baby and my jaw dropped.
“You speak English,” I said. The squabbling stopped while they all turned to look at the crazy woman. “I can’t believe how perfect your English is!” Then they laughed and that sounds the same in any language. It was the beginning. We became friends with Win Selby and her two children, Jackie and Lizzy. They were half Indonesian (mom’s side) and half American (dad’s side). John would do magic for them and I would listen to them talk about school and their desire to become famous actresses. We remained friends for the three years we lived in Jakarta and continued somewhat after we left.
Obviously I’ve never forgotten them, but like so many people who have had an impact on my life, they were tucked way back into a long ago space. Until yesterday when I got a message from LinkedIn and I started scrolling past faces. There was Jackie Selby!
I’d recognize those dimples anywhere. I immediately went on Facebook and sent a friend request to her and her mom, Win.
Before going to bed I usually check what’s new on FB. Win was probably getting up and preparing to go to work. We connected. She gave me permission to share this gorgeous picture of the three of them. The girls are all grown up and beautiful, yet Win, in the middle, will never age! The chatting begins and I am so grateful that it can be in English. . .because she speaks it better than I do! Sampai jumpa lagi!