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Wednesday, October 06, 2010
Winter in the Tropics
I’ve found a way to bring winter to Jakarta. It helps that it’s now the rainy season. It rains, strike that, it pours most afternoons, often for interminable hours. I quite enjoy it if I am inside because it makes the sky gray and dark, more like winter in Seattle. The clouds tend to sit really low in the trees around my school. I like the winter feeling it portends right up until I have to get on the motorbike in my plastic suit (refer to previous blog “When it rains, it pours” for more on ojeks, rain and plastic suit). It doesn’t get cold-cold, but it’s much cooler. It’s more a change in my mentality; it’s not sunny therefore it’s cold. If there’s no rain then it’s still hot, last week we had a couple of scorching days.
In addition to my mental state, I’ve brought the cold to my physical world. After work when I get home, I turn the air conditioning to cool my room while putting things away and eating dinner. After which I proceed to take a cold shower (this is not by choice). Next I hop into my sweats. My “buy of the week” last weekend was an over-sized gray hooded sweatshirt, American style. I’ve been in it three of the past five days. I bought it at a second hand shop, with thanks to a fantastic shopping partner. It’s still so thick and fluffy it’s hard to believe it’s not new. I suppose it’s a step up from my “buy of the week” last week- a splurge for celery and cottage cheese. You laugh but they’re not easy items to find here and much more expensive than at home. Before you go speculate, I did not eat them together.
Growing up I was never a snow bunny, or even a particular fan of the cold. My sister joined ski club in junior high. As far as I know, she’s gotten ski passes ever since. Beyond not being much a skier, I could never rationalize the cost for a chair lift, gas, food, gear, etc, etc. I’d tell my friends that in my family my dad and I were the sun worshippers (I still think the Egyptians may have been on to something) while my mom and sister were the snow fans. While I do love a beautiful sunny day, and I currently miss tanning at the pool, I have become conscious of how I enjoy the change of seasons. It threw me for a loop when I first arrived in January. I went from cold weather and short days to 12 hours of sunlight, with heat and humidity. It wasn’t until about May or so that I wasn’t sweltering. In the first several months I thought I was a fool for bringing jeans, now I’m in them several days a week. Aside from the rain, the days are always about 12 hours long. When I get on the ojek at 06:00 its light but the sun isn’t up yet. It gets dark about 18:00, rain aside.
As people mention the change of season, temperature and wardrobe in their facebook statuses, I sigh longing for my boots, scarves and sweaters. In the meantime, I’m making my own autumn and looking forward to December and January back in Seattle. La Niña means we might even have snow! Three weeks should be plenty for me to get tired of it and head back “home”.
An associated point-
One more point before I wrap this one up, it dovetails with the end of the previous paragraph. When I meet other expatriates there is a point not far into the first conversation when details about place of origin surface. The concept of HOME is close to home for me. It was interesting in Spain when I had to regularly explain the difference between ‘house’ and ‘home’ to my students as there is only one word- casa which is literally house-in Spanish that suffices for both in English. I tell people I’m ‘from’ Seattle; I was born and raised there. Seattle is also still HOME. My family lives there, it’s my permanent mailing address for important correspondence, it’s the place I go back to, not just go to. As of now, I haven’t lived there more than four months in six years. My mother is nice enough to let me store some stuff there, stuff I’ve been trying to whittle down each consecutive trip HOME. It’s a city I can still navigate in a car. I haven’t owned a car in over three years so that might be a feat. Seattle is a place full of memories and security, of fantastic locations, friendly people and variety. Seattle is a place I talk up to anyone who will listen. I have never heard a story from another traveler about how they hated Seattle; everyone likes it or if they haven’t been, they want to go. For this year and another Christmas, I am looking forward to being home, with family and my Seattle.