Anna: Anna likes rice
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Indonesia, etc.
I was born in Japan, grew up in Arizona, and moved to California in 2010. I’ve been married to my husband for 9 years, and we have one little girl who is now 3 years old.
I first moved to Indonesia with my husband in 2007, when he was a Fulbright scholar studying a language in Sumatra. We’ve been back and forth between Indonesia and the US since then as he continues to study the language. We typically spend our time in Jakarta and a small village in Sumatra. I am a teacher back in the States, but when I am here in Indonesia, I take care of our young daughter and write about our overseas experiences. At the moment you will find me in Sumatra.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I started blogging at www.annalikesrice.com in 2007. A few weeks into our new life in Indonesia, I realized a blog was a fun way to keep in touch and write about all the little discoveries I was making. It was the perfect way to keep friends updated on our life while simultaneously processing it all through writing it all down.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
Tell us about the ways your new life in Indonesia differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
I have learned that I can never quite pin Jakarta down, or Indonesia, for that matter. Every time I think I am an expert on something, I find myself discovering whole new pockets of the culture I hadn’t been aware existed. My first year in Indonesia was tumultuous, as I inadvertently offended a few people and too often misunderstood the subtle nuances of the culture. Each year we’ve lived here has provided me with more insight. I’ve also learned to ask more questions to trusted friends and become a better observer of the culture.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Indonesia? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
When I first came to Indonesia, I was 23 and had maybe three-month worth of overseas experience to my name. I wasn’t prepared for the huge transition of moving to Indonesia –maybe because I had no idea what to expect. The first year was an awakening for me, and essentially marked a time in my life of major – and much needed – personal growth. I learned to quit being so sensitive, to give in to the mistakes that come with language and culture learning, and to get over feeling singled out for being a bule (foreigner). If I could go back to my first year here, I would have let go of control a bit more and enjoyed myself in all the new situations I found myself in.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The first morning in our new village in Sumatra, I walked down the front stairs of our house on stilts. The wood steps were slippery, and caused me to promptly slip and fall down the entire ladder-like staircase in front of probably 15-20 new neighbors. I was coming down to meet for the very first time. Of course they had all gathered around to meet me, this strange new outsider, and this was the first impression I gave them! I am clumsy to begin with, but this was a whole new level of embarrassment. They all gasped as I writhed in pain, and a few then helped my limping body back upstairs. Luckily that was six years ago, now, and I think I’ve managed to redeem myself since then!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Indonesia?
- Get WhatsApp on your phone to avoid text fees with friends in Indonesia as well as stay in touch with friends back in your home country, and while you’re at it, save the phone number for Blue Bird Taxi Group, too.
- Bring along a year’s supply of Q-tips. The Q-tips here are flimsy!
- Learn Indonesian. It’s the BEST way to feel at home here.
How is the expat community in Indonesia? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
I am honestly not too involved in the expat community at the moment, as most of my time in Indonesia is spent in a rural location in Sumatra where my family members and I are the only expats for miles and miles. The expat friends I do have are spread all over Indonesia and are lovely people with lots of terrific stories. Because expat life is often for a season, many of the expat friends I made when we first arrived here in 2007 are no longer in Indonesia, though I stay in touch with many through social media and email.
How would you summarize your expat life in Indonesia in a single, catchy sentence?
Embracing my life in Indonesia through story telling and saying yes to new experiences.