My final contribution to the Batam Happynings newsletter that I have been compiling for the past 2 1/2 years:
Well, dear readers, my time in Batam, and Indonesia, is coming to an end. For the past 2 ½ years, as a member of the Smiling Hill staff, I’ve compiled and mailed the newsletter you are currently reading. I hope you have found it interesting, maybe occasionally thought-provoking, and, most importantly, useful.
As some of you know, my even being in Indonesia is something of a fluke. This country was never on my radar as I traveled from country to country on my 2 Bags and a Pack World Tour (2bagsandapack.com). Then, I answered an online job posting and within a week was on a plane to a new adventure working with Doug Cole and the great staff at Smiling Hill in a country I knew literally nothing about, other than its Muslim nature.
To say my time here has been interesting, and informative, would not do credit to the experience. During my 2 ½ years here, I’ve been able to travel in-country– to Bali, Yogyakarta and Bintan – where I encountered an Indonesia quite different from Batam. I’ve also been able to visit Malaysia and, of course, Singapore. Each brought its own perspective on a part of the world few Americans experience.
With rare exceptions, my encounters with the Indonesian people have been interesting, entertaining, sometimes challenging (proper communication has been difficult), and mostly rewarding. I am grateful that they have welcomed me, and not just the “Halo mista, (insert sales pitch here)” greeting most expats encounter. On several occasions, I have had the opportunity to visit Indonesians in their homes or their businesses. Each and every time, I was treated with courtesy and genuine friendliness, not to mention curiosity. They do wonder about us Westerners.
Certain memories (and the images I was able to capture) will travel with me to my new home of St. Kitts-Nevis in the West Indies: the young girl in the bright blue Sunday-best dress on the island kampung off Barelang Bridge #1, part of an entourage of children who followed me around on my walking tour of the island; donning a sarong for a tour of Borobudur in Yogyakarta or the temples in Bali; Indonesian-style fishing off the south end of Batam, with a special lunch at a wedding reception on a remote island; kelong dining of fresh seafood; shopping at Mustafa’s in Singapore; attending a new baby celebration at a local Batam home, the only Westerner in sight; learning that there is no queue when boarding a plane or ferry, just push your way through the crowd; being invited into the village and the home of a Yogyakarta tour guide; the children, always smiling, always curious; and, of course, mingling with new friends in kampung bule.
Living at Smiling Hill also has afforded me the chance to meet people from all over the world, to exchange experiences, to learn about other countries, to try to interpret the various forms of English that one encounters. To my new Australian, New Zealander, Norwegian, English, Irish, Scottish, South African, Canadian, Middle Eastern, Italian and Spanish friends, thank you for your kindness and I hope we can remain in touch. The same goes for the many Americans I’ve met here – from Texas, Louisiana, Montana, Colorado and other U.S. states.
Mostly, I will miss the fine people working at Smiling Hill and Goodies Restaurant who welcomed me from Day 1 and have assisted me in so many ways during my time here – and, in particular, my “sisters,” the waitresses at Goodies; I call them the “Goodies Girls.” Their warmth, smiles and true friendship have been integral to my experience in Batam.
My new adventure takes me to two small islands in the Caribbean – St. Kitts & Nevis, population 50,000 – where I will be working on the staff of the local weekly newspaper, writing stories, taking photographs, editing copy, designing pages, and hoping the people there will be just as welcoming and genuinely friendly as they have been in Batam.
This is the last newsletter you will receive from me, but we are never more than a click away.
Selamat tinggal dan semoga sukses. – Ken Anderberg