Ch-ch-changes: Where Have I Been, Where Am I Now, and Where Do I Go from Here?

I haven’t posted a blog in almost four months, a new record for me since I first started blogging, at the outset of my first English Teaching Assistant (ETA)ship in Malang, Indonesia.  If you had told me then that two years later I would find myself returning to Indonesia for a third year, this time to live in the sprawling capital city and to work in an office, I would have laughed.  A small town farm girl turned English teacher leaving the classroom to become an office girl in the big city?  No. Way.

And yet, here I am.  I’m two months in to my new position, and I am still regularly in awe (the only word I can think of that adequately combines the feelings of uncontrolled excitement and debilitating terror that I wake up to each morning) that this is where I have ended up, in a place and a position so different from any I might have imagined myself in.


The very beginnings of sunset, as seen from our apartment balcony.

I wake up every day in an apartment that is part of a mega-complex (think three separate towers of apartments, each more than 40 stories: by far the biggest building I’ve ever been in, much less lived in).  The view from my window is an endless sea of rooftops, with tenacious spots of green pushing up through the tile and concrete, because in a Southeast Asian city mankind cannot win against nature: in this climate she can find a way to flourish anywhere.  Currents of cars and motorbikes and angkots and bajai pass by full of folks from all walks of life pushing towards work and fun and life in this flood of grey and green and glass and humanity that calls itself Jakarta.  Some mornings I wake up intimidated to join their numbers, navigating broken roads and potholes, as well as pristine brick sidewalks (both of which confuse me in their own fashion), on my pleasant 25-minute walk to work.  Other mornings I wake up inspired by the sheer number of stories I have the privilege to bear witness to, from 17 floors up, and I can’t wait to dive into the depths of it all.


A hazy sunset from the office.

My days are spent sitting in one of those wonderfully distracting spinning office chairs, in my own cubical.  I have a desk job.  I have an access key card that gets me into a building with security.  My sixteen-year-old self would be disgusted and also so very pleased with twenty-four-year-old me.

I am not back in Indonesia as an ETA this year.  I’m now the Researcher/Coordinator (RC) for AMINEF.  I coordinate training and support for the current cohort of ETAs, with the invaluable help of the AMINEF American Programs Team and the Senior ETAs (SETAs) who have returned for a second year as ETAs in Indonesia, as I did last year.  I also conduct research on the ETA Program in Indonesia, with the aim to provide a concrete set of recommendations to help improve our program and other programs like it.

I don’t teach.  I am not in a small Indonesian city.  I coordinate.  I research.  At a desk.  In a mega-city.

This is my new normal.


A rare bit of blue sky, captured from the windows of the Uber I took to the cafe to write this blog post (because living in Jakarta means that now I take Ubers and go to hipster cafes…)

It certainly doesn’t feel normal just yet, and a lot of that has to do with the initial responsibilities of my new position.  My RC-ship began with a visit to the Korean Fulbright Commission with Ceacealia, to observe part of their orientation and learn from their overall programming.  Six days after arriving in Jakarta (the trip to Korea took place on my way back to Indonesia), I was off to visit new ETA sites.  Over the course of two and a half weeks I visited Kendari in Sulawesi; Balige in Sumatra; Labuan Bajo in Flories; and Surabaya, Sidoarjo, and Kudus in Java.  I’m not sure when the fates decided that I would be granted a position that let me travel for my job, but I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity.  Then it was time to finish planning the ETA orientation in Bandung—a process began over the summer, but which wasn’t able to be truly finished until I was in Jakarta—and before I knew it the new ETAs had arrived and we were in the middle of orientation.  And just as quickly, orientation was over, the ETAs all headed off to their new homes, and I was back in Jakarta, this time more permanently[1].

My new normal, consequently, has really only been normal for about two weeks, and so is still a very new normal indeed.


The sitcom of our household, airing on Instagram at all possible hours.

I’ve been lucky in that, though living in Jakarta is a completely new experience for me, there are pieces of familiarity already here.  I’ve gotten to know several members of the AMINEF Team really well over the past few years, and working with them has been a fun and amusing ride (I should dedicate an entire post to our office shenanigans at some point).  I have several friends from my previous homes in Indonesia who have made the move to Jakarta, and being able to reconnect with them has been wonderful.  I even live with two of my closest friends from Malang: Sam and Novriska (affectionately known as Vriz).[2]  Having these two along for the journey has made adjusting to Jakarta life so much easier than if I was trying to do so on my own, and also means my life resembles a sitcom at times, which I love.

There are plenty of new places to explore and people to meet in Jakarta, and now that I am finally here more permanently, I can’t wait to start doing so.  After so much movement the past two months, I have spent much of the past two weeks giving my body the rest it needs, but it won’t be long before I am impatient for new adventures.

Jakarta is an insane and amazing place.  Who knows where I’ll end up?

[1] I do intend to write about all of these adventures in more detail, and I will link to those blog posts once they are up.

[2] When I asked her what she wanted to be called in my blog, Vriz said, “My name is Novriska Adini. You can call me Novriska, Novris, or Vriz.  Your choice!”  This gives you a pretty good idea as to how cute of a housemate she is, and Sam certainly gives her a run for her money.


2 thoughts on “Ch-ch-changes: Where Have I Been, Where Am I Now, and Where Do I Go from Here?

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