On Living Abroad in Indonesia
My husband and I have been married for 13 years and are the proud parents of Nick (11) and Maddie (9). We are both originally from New Orleans, and we were happily living in Bucktown and enjoying life in New Orleans. Our son is an avid soccer player and was thriving at an all-boys’ school, while our daughter kept busy with track and gymnastics. We really didn’t have any complaints about our day-to-day life, and the kids were keeping us insanely busy between birthday parties, sports, and homework. In short, life was pretty good!
At the same time, while we enjoyed our life in New Orleans, my husband had been wanting to move overseas for a position within his company for several years. Of course, that goal was not made easier when Covid happened. Fast forward to Mardi Gras 2022 at which point in time we decided to embark on a site visit to Tembagapura, Indonesia. Together we had not left the kids for more than a weekend, so I thought it was best to go when they were out of school. This did come with the sacrifice of missing my favorite time of the year, the first of many events to miss this year.
We have now been here in Indonesia for three months, and I can honestly say it is much better than I expected. The people, especially the women (known as “ibus” here) are wonderful and very inclusive. For the first time in my adult life, I am able to exercise, grocery shop, play cards, enjoy book club, and even work remotely for a few hours all before the kids get home from school. Knowing that we would only be here for a couple of years made the decision and move so much easier. We chose not to rent out our home in Bucktown and kept all of our furniture in NOLA. I do regret not sending more of our personal items to Indonesia, but it just made more sense for such a short-term move. Plus, when we go home to New Orleans for visits we will have our own space and home just like we left it. We also spoke to our kids’ schools in NOLA, both of whom agreed to hold spots for the kids for when we come back. That, of course, was a huge relief. Thankfully, my boss asked me to stay on and work as much as I wanted so that also made the move much less stressful. Knowing that I can come back to a stable job I enjoy and that the kids can go back to their schools is a great feeling that makes living abroad for this temporary time much more palatable.
Life is much different here in Indonesia than in New Orleans (obviously), but the weather is awesome. We have an average temperature in the 60s year-round, although it rains daily. I do not miss New Orleans weather, that is for sure. Indonesia wins the weather round!
But there are so many things I miss about New Orleans already.
First, I miss my busy life. Don’t get me wrong; it’s nice to have extra time on my hands to do things I enjoy, but I do miss the hustle and bustle of city life. Here in Indonesia, there is no running the kids around to soccer practice, gymnastics, or anywhere else after school. I do not even have to pick them up from school since there is a bus service, and only employees can drive here anyway. It may sound nuts as you pull your hair out coordinating logistics of American life, but I really do miss bringing the kids here and there, rushing to grab dinner before practice, and squeezing in a quick run in between pick-up times.
I actually really miss our busy New Orleans weekends, too. My son went from training 4 nights a week and playing in a soccer tournament nearly every weekend to absolutely no organized sports. That’s quite an adjustment for an 11-year-old (and his family). I truly miss traveling with his soccer team and spending the weekends watching him play. I’ve heard a few times over the years that we will miss it when the kids are older and don’t need us to run them around, but I just didn’t think it would happen so soon.
During this time of year in New Orleans, I miss the school fairs, festivals, and football. We have been watching the Saints and college football games the day after they are played since we are 14 hours ahead of NOLA time in Indonesia. However, I do appreciate the late-night games because I can watch them live during the day over here (instead of falling asleep by halftime in New Orleans).
I miss going out to dinner, as there are only a couple of restaurants here. And I really, really miss NOLA food! That is something that is hitting me hard and is not comparable over here. I am not a great cook, but I sure do miss eating good food, especially fried seafood, steak, sushi, red beans … pretty much anything and everything NOLA offers.
And, of course, I miss my family and friends. I miss leisurely New Orleans brunches and Friday lunches before any holiday in New Orleans, as well as the festivities and merriment that come with those.
While we miss New Orleans, I’d be remiss not to share some of the fun adventures this opportunity has given us. For starters, we traveled to Thailand and Bali during the October school break and are already planning where we will go in January (the kids are out for 6 weeks – yes, 6 weeks! – for Christmas). On the weekends in Indonesia, my husband and I look forward to hiking up and down the mountain (1200 ft elevation), which is quite the challenge for two New Orleanians. But the scenery here is simply beautiful. The views from our home are exquisite; mountains and waterfalls surround us. It is truly breathtaking at times. Exposing the kids to another culture will hopefully increase their awareness of the world, compassion for others, and sensitivity to diverse beliefs and cultures. I absolutely would you recommend this experience if you are ever given the opportunity. It is not always easy, but the experiences are truly once in a lifetime and also quite humbling at times.
So my advice to those of you rushing around every day, bringing kids here and there, is to give yourself a break and realize that you really will miss it one day. It sounds cliche, and I did not believe it myself, but it is true. Right now my family does not have the option of a traditional American life, and we really do miss a lot of the things that we used to complain about. So as you fight Veterans traffic and crowded stores and a jam-packed calendar, hang in there … and we will see you for Christmas, NOLA!
Heather Jovanovich is a CPA currently working remotely from Indonesia while her family enjoys the adventure of a lifetime. She’s also the proud mom of Nick and Maddie, ages 11 and 9. She’s been married to her husband Eric for 13 years, and they are both originally from the New Orleans area. When she’s not busy attending soccer games or school activities, she enjoys running or playing tennis and spending time with friends and family during Friday lunches Although her family is living abroad right now, she can’t wait to get back to her favorite Louisiana activity: crawfish/shrimp boils.