Growing up in Asia, and for the most part in Jakarta in the 1970’s, I’ve developed this minor dislike of large cities. Jakarta in the 70’s had a population of around 4 million. There was no Jalan Tol (highway you pay to use) or super mega shopping malls. We lived what was then still more like the outskirts of Jakarta in a big house with pool and garden. So yes Jakarta was my kampung (Indonesian for village) growing up in the 70’s.
Now Jakarta is an urban agglomeration of over 10 million people – the largest in the world. In plain English it is one large city of high rises, urban houses, apartments, slums, huge mansions, office buildings and roads of every category “growing” on the northwest coast of Java. Jakarta has grown not only around, but up and it seems as if any green spaces between roads or buildings has been claimed by the people of Jakarta. The city is offensive to the sense of smell, there seems to be a layer of grime on everything and is perpetually smothered by thick smog.
So back to the point; I dislike cities. I like to visit, but get restless after about a week and need to go home – or as we say here in Indonesia “Pulang kampung” – return home to the village. Did I really need to translate that? If anyone follows what Obama has said in his speeches they would know what it means (hint: he said it in a speech in Indonesia in 2010).
Where was I…………
On my way back from smog drenched Jakarta I realized how lucky I am. After many years of trying to fit into modern western society I realized my road to happiness was filled with too many obstacles. Maybe it was that Germany was the wrong country for me? I will never know if I could have found my kampung in another part of this world, but what I did know was that Ineeded mountains, ocean and loads of green. Besides that a more relaxed and community/family oriented society was what I missed in Germany. So in 2009 I decided to pack up my house and move my daughter and I to Indonesia. Bali was not the first choice, but having my sister here in the area made it easy to chose as my first stop on my way home.
So here I am on the east coast of Bali with no plans for any further moves. It has all that I need to call it my kampung. Kuhum is a village (yes a real kampung) on the edge of a mountain and our place has the view of the green valley below. In the far distance you can see the ocean and to the north Gunung Agung (Mount Agung) rises 3,031 m (9,944 ft) into the clouds. What more can I wish for: mountains, oceans, green and the laid back village life of Indonesia.
In 2012 I married a Balinese Hindu and with him became part of a large Balinese family. This is the laid back and community/family oriented society that I sorely missed in Europe. It may not be Utopia, we are all humans after all (humans are not perfect and jealousy, anger and drama exists here too), but this is home.
I have found my kampung!