Turn Left, From Perth
At eight o’clock in the evening in Western Australia, or past seven o’clock in the evening in Jakarta was when the customs and excise sheets were distributed by flight attendants in the cabin. Arrival in Jakarta within the next two or three hours. At least, that’s the last I remember from the flight status on the screen in front of the chair before I turned it off either a few minutes ago or a few dozen minutes ago.
It makes no difference either. No one picks me up at the airport, no phone or short message, nothing will wait for me after the landing so I do not pay too much attention to the time.
I flicked through a white sheet with a blue edge. Declaration of goods, alcohol or cigarettes, etc. Related to the limit of value all does not exist in my luggage. I think, usually I never carry a lot of luggage anywhere, so simple stuffing is generally sufficient.
I noticed other passengers around looking engrossed in the choice of movie in flight or listening to music. Some try to sleep. No one reads.
My gaze returned to the screen in front of the chair that I left dark. I was let it deliberately turned off.
“Excuse me ma’am, may I borrow the pen?”
I asked a woman next to me who appears to have finished the form. She’s around fifty years old, Indonesian, possibly a descendant from a tribe in the Sumatran region, but that’s just a guess, I’m not sure.
She turned to me, I smiled politely. She replied by inviting me to use the stationery. “Thank you” We got to know each other and had a chat about customs and how to fill out the form.
I excused myself briefly from the chat to start filling out the form, after which I pulled out the identity files and started writing in my full name and passport number.
“Here for college?”
I answered the question with a little laugh after returning the stationery. Not the first time I’ve been asked that during the trip. May have something to do with the appearance also that I was wearing FILA T-shirts and khaki trousers and sneakers.
“Hahaha, not really. I’m working,” I replied. “It’s just happened to be on Perth for something personal.”
“The city is comfortable,” I say. “Not too crowded, but modern, and neat too.” I said that the people were friendly, especially in the area I had been.
Perth, a city in the river estuary in Western Australia, traversed by the Swan River, dividing the city which is basically a lowland, is also the capital of the state of Western Australia, where most government affairs and business activities are concentrated for the region.
It was not the busiest or the most crowded city I had ever visited, but there is simplicity and an ancient identity with a modern city governance of developed countries.
“Me? I am granted permanent residence,” she said. “Settled down, work here too, but not in the city, my husband is Australian. “
It has been more than 10 years, she said, and she herself did not return to Indonesia very often. Even if she comes home, usually around Christmas, but this time, there’s something she needs to taken care of, so she’ll be home for at least three weeks. She said that sometimes, it’s a bit troublesome if she stays in Indonesia, but she also did not want to change citizenship to Australia. Not yet.
“My parents are still alive. If there is an inheritance business, it is difficult if I’m a foreigner. Maybe after everything settles, I can just change my citizenship.”
I understood what she said, if her parents died and the inheritance business had been taken care off, she would also break up her business as an Indonesian citizen. She may occasionally still be meeting the families, but it will not be more than that.
Understandable, very human as well as very personal. I listened for a while, some things were a bit too personal so I decided not to write them down here.
I remember when on the sidelines I decided to take a walk alone between Hay and Murray Street. I noticed that there are Indonesian restaurants, and an Asian grocery store with the word WELCOME above the glass doors. Not a strange thing, but what I was thinking at the time was how close it was -or so far- the Indonesians there felt a connection to their homes. It's also not a completely simple thing.
On another occasion I walked down Adelaide Terrace from Hill Street, and I saw the Consulate General of the Republic of Indonesia. The building didn't look too big. Such are office buildings in general, with a clean and neat design and a red-and-white flag mounted on the pole on the front page.
“If you’re still alone, it’s good thing to find work here, stay. Or do you have a lover already?”
“Currently, no,” I laughed “Just broke up recently, ouch..”
“Waaah … then maybe you can just trying to find a work visa. It’s better. Meet new atmosphere, new friends,” she said, tried to console me, maybe… “You can even find your soulmate here too, if you don’t want bule, there’s many Indonesian people who stay here, you know…”
I just laughed. I said that there used to be a similar colleague like that, after the breakup of his former girlfriend, he decided to go abroad and worked there. It may be good to prove myself, I said, it also crossed my mind.
“If you are young, still alone, if God give a chance, why not?”
I nodded affirmatively. Maybe later if God gives me the chance, I said.
Perth is a relatively modern city, but geographically it is isolated. The closest major city is Adelaide, about two thousand kilometers away. As well as distance, it's still closer to Perth than Sydney or Brisbane.
Modern cities that tend to be isolated, can be connected although not always easily. A place where buildings with classical identity coexist with new architecture and modern governance. I think in the end I understand it a little; there are indeed relationships there.
On the other hand, I think this city is also like a mirror to me.
The seat belt lights have been on for some time. Then the sound of wheels, and light shaking indicate that we’ve landed in Jakarta. Further announcements from the cabin crew convey that for this time, there’s no aerobridge to the international arrival terminal.
I thought, yeah.. whatever. For better or worse, welcome back to Indonesia.
I double-checked the interior of the cabin, made sure I had my passport and customs clearance, then for the last time said goodbye to her who still sat next to me.
“Goodbye ma’am.” I said “Thank you..”
She waved and we parted as I walked down the steps.
On the asphalt of the airport, I felt Jakarta was a little windy. No rain. The shuttle bus to the arrival terminal is within a few feet of where I stand. The lights of the towers seemed to twinkle in the distance.
At least this time it’s not raining.
I still leave my cell phone off. I’ll probably turn it on again. Or not…