Ana: Stumble Abroad
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Jakarta, etc.
Hi, my name is Ana Gaby. I was born and raised in Mexico. After living, studying and working in four different countries I met my soul mate when I was working at an International Organization in Washington, DC. We got married in 2008 and embarked on a life-long adventure as expats moving every two to three years for his job. Four years, Three countries and Two amazing sons later, we call the Big Durian home since 2011.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
It all really started as a means to document our boys’ lives. After my son Joshua was born in late 2011, my family back home insisted on looking at pictures and learning more about our everyday life in Jakarta. It eventually evolved into a sort of guide to Jakarta for families and a travel guide for people with children. Every time I find a nice place the boys enjoy I write about it in hopes to give other families the chance to read more about them and encourage them to explore Jakarta and the world. At the end it is a diary of our lives overseas and a way to document our family adventures in hopes my two boys would someday be interested in reading about what their life was like when they lived abroad. If this is not the case, at least I’m accumulating precious material to embarrass them when they are teenagers or when I give a toast at their wedding.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I write about very diverse things. From settling down with kids when moving into a new place to travel guides for people with kids. My favorite travel guide thus far is the one for Bali since it’s so easy to visit from Jakarta. I sometimes make reflections about what living as an expat entails emotionally and write not only about raising my boys but about the lessons they have taught me in their short life thus far.
Tell us about the ways your new life in Jakarta differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?
Since I had already lived in Bangkok before Jakarta I was used to some of the customs and cultural present in South East Asia. However, I was not ready to deal with some other characteristics of Indonesian culture and life in Jakarta in general. The hardest part for me was not being able to drive and lacking public transportation. A big cultural shock for me was the fact that people have several helpers at home and would even hire one helper per child.
Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Jakarta? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?
I had visited Jakarta before moving here so I do think I was aware of the things I would need to bring. I was certainly not prepared to be stuck in traffic for hours at a time but I’m getting used to it little by little.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I was riding the local train not too long ago and a local lady sat on my lap in an attempt to sit by me. I stood up and let her have the sit but she kept insisting that I sit there. There was just not enough space ((I thought). Once I refused, two more ladies crammed in the same space. I enjoyed my ride standing up.
Anecdotes with the kids come in every flavor and color since Indonesians love babies. Foreign babies seem to be like celebrities in Indonesia. This is very funny but at times annoying. I’ve had people take pictures of the boys and even wake them up from napping in their strollers so that they can have pictures of them awake.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Jakarta?
- Pack lots of patience and get rid of expectations. Living in the Big Durian will be tough at times but overall a very gratifying and enriching experience.
- Get in touch with people who are already there. Ask as many questions as you need to know what you are getting into. Talk to people from the company you are working with or get in touch with the expat associations. You might find the helping hand you need and all the insight necessary for a smooth move.
- Whether planning to come to Jakarta (or anywhere else) or already there, make an effort to keep in touch with your family. They are the people who know you the best and will love you despite anything. They will be your strongest support team and will keep you grounded no matter what you are going thru.
How is the expat community in Jakarta? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Jakarta is thriving! There are hundreds of expats all around Jakarta and the community multiplies by the second with new companies embarking in new ventures in Indonesia. There are many expat associations and interest groups and I have found some very good friends that will remain close to us despite the distance.
How would you summarize your expat life in Jakarta in a single, catchy sentence?
Life in the Big Durian is all about finding the sweetness underneath the prickly surface.