Those people following 2 Bags and a Pack know that my global journey has stalled in Indonesia for more than two years now. But while my yearning to see and live in new places has not waned (in fact, it’s kicking up a bit lately), it’s hard (and dumb) to quit a good job just to fulfill those yearnings.
Life’s circumstances can change dramatically and quickly. You never know what tomorrow may bring. But dealing with the boredom of “today” can be a constant challenge for an easily bored person like me.
I’ve tried to combat the normalcy of my current situation with occasional tourist-type trips when time allows, but the job comes first, and I’ve learned that I don’t really like visiting places as a tourist by myself anyway. So much more fun and interesting if a friend is along. So my excursions to new places are infrequent, although I have logged trips to Bali, Jogjakarta and Penang, Malaysia, in the past two years, not to mention a return to the U.S. Each of those has taken a bite out of savings, which requires time to rebuild my bank account.
The challenge seems to be in making everyday life more interesting, to begin looking on Batam as my home, not as a place I’m visiting for a short time.
For the longest time, I would not buy anything here; nothing for the bare walls of my apartment, few clothes, no vehicle, nothing that I couldn’t pack up and take with me. After all, why spend money on something you have to leave behind? I’m beginning to change that perspective.
During my trip to Bali almost two years ago, for example, I bought little for myself, although there were plenty of gift purchases. The same was true when I visited Penang in October 2013. Why buy it if you have to throw it away?
Jogjakarta was different, however, I did buy a number of handicrafts that now decorate my apartment. Batik paintings adorn the walls. A wooden carved Bali princess head, with headdress, sits on a cabinet, alongside three carved wooden elephants.
I’ve even raised a cat from kittenhood, now more than 12 pounds. I’m feeding two others, both feral (but they come into the apartment to eat), one a kitten who is now allowing me to touch it on occasion.
Still not enough, however, to quell the itch. So, I’ve started a hobby, or more accurately, I’ve taken up a hobby I used to have when there was space – a garden.
But this is not like any garden I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a few. Back in my Atlanta days, when I had a big yard, I carved out a corner in the back to grow just about anything I could – tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, squashes, herbs, cucumbers, beans, peas, asparagus. I planted strawberries around the house and fruit trees in the yard. I even grew some grapes, which made a nice jelly (when the birds didn’t eat the fruit before I got to it). In those days, I also canned vegetables and fruit, putting up maybe 30 quarts of tomatoes, making my own pickles and relish, and canning my own strawberry and blueberry jams.
At Christmas, I would give gifts of herbs and jam. It was a gift that people seemed to really like.
I don’t have the luxury of that kind of garden space in my current home, and I could not find any suitable piece of ground to plant. It turns out, however, that my 2nd-floor apartment has a back door. And outside that door is a 12-foot by 18-foot concrete terrace, with a 4-foot-high high wall. Another building connects to mine and has a similar terrace. This second building has not been renovated and is inhabited by Indonesians, some of whom work at Smiling hill and some who do not. They have clothes lines on their terrace to dry their laundry. My side had wires for the same purpose but I took them down.
So, I’ve started a container garden on my terrace. Now, I doubt I’m going to be able to grow many of the vegetables I used to, since I’ve found that container gardening is not conducive to tomatoes (at least the larger ones) or peppers, and certainly not potatoes or asparagus. But containers are good for herbs, and possibly a few select vegetables.
The paradox here is that I don’t need any herbs, or vegetables, for that matter. All my food is cooked and served to me at Goodies Restaurant, where I eat virtually all my meals (part of the job compensation). So why bother? And what am I going to do with anything I actually succeed in growing?
Unless you’ve ever gardened, it’s hard to explain. Eating what you grow is something of a bonus, a recognition that you managed to defeat all the challenges and created food. But the challenge is in making it grow, protecting the plants from many enemies, nurturing young seedlings, learning what works and what doesn’t.
All of which doesn’t mean there is not somewhere my produce can be used, even if it is just oregano, parsley and basil. Goodies, for example, can use fresh herbs. One of the Smiling Hill tenants says he wants some of my dill. Fresh herbs, especially such as parsley, dill and rosemary, are hard to find here, usually only available as dried commercial product, which is rarely any good. There are a number of western food restaurants here that might like a local source for such ingredients. And maybe if I can find the right packaging, my herbs can be sold at Goodies to customers, most of whom cook most of their meals at home.
At any rate, it’s something new to do after work to relieve the boredom. So every night, I go through the back door to my cement garden, watering my seedlings or fitting out new planters with rocks and soil and new seeds. Most everything right now is on the floor, or on the railings, or elevated with large buckets. The plan is to find or make several workshop-like tables to get everything at waist level. I’ve even bought a hose and can connect it to a spigot outside my wall on the neighbors’ side, which will negate me having to fill up a water sprinkling can inside and distributing it to the plants.
So what am I attempting to grow? In total, I’ve got 25 containers, all planted with oregano, thyme, basil, coriander, parsley, dill, rosemary, green pepper, tomato, catnip, sage. The first in the ground and already producing is large-leaf basil. I’ve already cut and dried several ounces. I’ve got some thyme started and some zucchini (not sure if it will produce in a small container, but we will see).
As the pictures below show, my space is somewhat “rustic” and there is still a great deal of space to fill up. Potting soil is available only sometimes in town but as I find it I plan to buy more containers and plant more herbs. Maybe even some flowers. Maybe even put a chair or two on the terrace. Maybe grow cucumbers up the wires I’ve saved from when I started. Maybe spend an evening or two under the stars and a bright moon, sipping on a JD and Diet and listening to some R&R.
Of course, as I said at the beginning of this message, which has expanded well beyond my original intentions, anything could change at any time. I could be in another country when my crops are ready to be harvested. In the meantime, however, gardening is something I love to do and it takes a bit of the boredom edge off.