Monday, Nov. 2, my last full day in Batam. I definitely have had some mixed feelings about leaving, but …
This sudden change in my adventures started about five weeks ago, when, first, I was unable to get any money from any ATM in Nagoya. This was not just my problem, as all the European, Australian, New Zealand and U.S. people I talked with were having the same problem. So, once again, the Indonesian government was making life hard on foreigners. They have been trying to make our lives miserable for about a year.
At about the same time, I was robbed of my emergency cash, as well as my camera. So there I was, less than $30 in my pocket and no way to get any money. I didn’t even have enough to ferry to Singapore to see if my bank cards worked there.
I decided to cancel my bank cards (since a bank person said the problem must be with my cards) and ask a friend in the U.S. to send me something to tide me over until the new cards arrived. This would have been just fine except the bank ignored my pleas for courier service so that they could get here in 10-12 days. Instead, the bank sent them regular mail. The last time they did that it took eight weeks to arrive. Luckily, it ONLY took 25 days this time, about the time I was getting desperate for money again and had gone through all the food in my apartment.
Then, my daughter tells me she has a crisis in North Carolina. So Dad needs to go to the U.S. to help out. And here I am, waiting for tomorrow, when I will take a 2:15 pm ferry to Singapore and then an 8:30 pm Qatar Airways flights westward to Philadelphia and then Charlotte, with a two-hour drive then to Asheville. About 40-42 hours door to door.
I’ve had weeks to think about what I am doing and to relive memories of my nearly four years on Batam. It will be sad to leave.
For one, I have to leave my cat, Spock, named after the Leonard Nimoy Star Trek character when Nimoy died early this year. Spock was picked up off the street, literally stolen from his mother and three siblings. He’s been a great cat. I found him a home here, though, with my regular taxi driver, Edi, and his family. He has two young children and they want a cat. I hope they can handle Spock during the difficult time he will have getting adjusted to life without Ken.
But as importantly, I will be leaving a neighborhood I have come to like and understand. People know me at least by sight on the streets, and many greet me with a hello or give a wave as I walk by. And I’m pretty well known in the bars below, where I have spent many hours playing pool.
I will miss the people. But I doubt I will miss the country.
Interestingly, as I tell people I’m leaving, the expats almost always ask what I plan to do with BatamExpat.com. My plan right now is to continue publishing news, albeit less frequently, from North Carolina, at least until I know what my next move will be.
Right now, I don’t even know how long I will be in the U.S., but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to stay. Why? Because living like a pauper is not appealing, which is what faces me in the U.S. Maybe even more important is I feel like if I settle in the U.S. I will become an old man. Living overseas makes you young, new things to do all the time, exciting challenges, different foods, all very affordable in places like Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines or Indonesia. In those places, my meager retirement check makes me almost rich.
So as I help my daughter, I will also be exploring on the Internet for my new home. In fact, I’ve already done a lot of research. Three places I like are Cebu and Palawan in Philippines and Hua Hin in Thailand. All three places offer walk-to beaches, warm weather and low cost of living. All three also have sizeable expat populations, which means western amenities are available, not to mention people to talk to (and maybe a new website to try).
There is no rush. The next place could be final (at least until I need to access the U.S. healthcare system). For now, my two bags and my pack are just about ready to go on another 2bagsandapack.com journey.
But tonight, I plan to go to the Aceh warung out front where I often eat and ask for a special, last Indonesian meal. Since the woman who owns the warung with her husband is almost ready to give birth, I am also bringing a couple of baby gifts for the parents. Then, maybe a few final games of pool with some of the bar girls before trying to get some sleep before my long trip.
(OK, update before posting. Had dinner at the Aceh warung, gave them the gifts and my translated request for an authentic Aceh dish for my final dinner. I was served a basic mei goring ayam, which is noodles in a spicy seafood sauce (small prawns and sliced squid) and apiece of very fried chicken on the side, The lady owner also brought me a mango frappe-like drink, and indicated it was a gift. Very tasty. And leaving me almost in tears, they wouldn’t accept my money to pay for my meal. The people I will miss.
Tomorrow, before going to the ferry terminal, there will be one final nasi kari ayam for lunch. That’s Padang-style rice with greens and curried chicken, with lots of extra curry sauce on the rice. Tonight, also, a little partying. There won’t be anything like it in North Carolina.
It will be a sad day, but necessary, and maybe it’s time for me to write another chapter in this saga anyway. I’ve done Indonesia, time to move on.