Indonesia is often in the news: it is not only President Obama’s childhood home, but also has been the site of terrorist attacks. Yet, these are very rare: like the United States, most residents are peaceful, democratic, and not fanatic in their religious practice. (Indonesia is the world’s largest Islamic country). In addition, Mother Nature has not been kind to her. The world’s eyes and hearts tuned into Indonesia as the tsunami of December 2004 claimed over 150,000 lives in Aceh, and then again a few years later when a major earthquake in central Java devastated the region. I’ve lived and traveled throughout both Aceh and Java, and my heart broke beyond belief from each of tragedies. However, that hasn’t kept me away: since my initial visit in 1988, I have maintained a strong connection to this country I happily call my second home. Even through upheavals – natural and political – my husband and I return to Bali and Java regularly with our son, enjoying every visit, and feeling safe and renewed.
My love affair began with Indonesia in 1988, after discovering it on a spontaneous side trip while in Australia. It took hold of my heart, and I ended up spending the next six years living and working there, with annual visits back to the United States. In Bali I worked at Udyana University, with a small Non-Government Organization (NGO), on issues of sustainable development and tourism. In 1991, I moved to Yogyakarta, Java in order to pursue my painting, and to study with batik master Victor Sarjono in Indonesia’s batik center. On a visit back to the the United States in 1993, I serendipitously met my future husband, and then moved permanently to Philadelphia in 1994 to create my household. In order to keep Indonesia present in my daily life, I have created a lifestyle that allows me to take frequent trips back to the country. These trips, my painting, the teaching and shows – all allow me to keep the spirit of Indonesia current and alive in myself, as well as in others.
I can’t imagine my existence, my sense of identity, without having both America and Indonesia in my life. Indonesia and I have a lifelong love affair, much like the very nature of batik, which is a building up of layers and layers of flowing wax and dyes, creating a beautiful dynamic work of art.
Terimah Kasih (thank you) for joining me on this journey!